Adams Papers

From John Quincy Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, 1 August 1800

No. 5.

Schreirbershau. 1. August. 1800

If your map of Silesia is a good one, the spot from which I date this will be marked upon it. If not you must make a point about half way between Hirschberg, & the Riesen gebirge, & you will hit the identical krestcham, or inn, from which I write. It is the first moment I have had for the purpose since I closed my last to you—We were told before we left Berlin, that the tour of these mountains was an excessively fatiguing journey, and from the specimen of the last two days, though we have by no means yet come to the worst, we find it was not misrepresented. The multiplicity of objects we have seen is such that you must be contented to take a very concise account of them, & perhaps you would have been better pleased had I pursued the same plan from the beginning. I return to the period of my journal where my last number left off—July. 29. In the forenoon we visited in company with our obliging friend, the post master, a Mr. Schäffer, one of the principal linen merchants of Hirschberg—It was our wish to have seen the manufactories of the linen themselves, but none of these are in town—That is merely the market. Almost every peasant’s hut in all the villages scattered round the mountains contains a linen weaver, & a large proportion of the fields are covered with it, to bleach—Every morning from 8 o’clock till noon, you see a number of these peasants in the large square of Hirschberg, which is the market place, with bags across their shoulders, containing one or more pieces of linen, which they have brought there for sale—It is bought of them the merchants, who give it the final dressing or as they call it appreture, & then send it to Berlin, or Breslau; Stettin or Hamburg. Here we find again the same system of manufacturing, which we had remarked with respect to broad cloths at Grünberg; the system, which will undoudtedly be the most suitable for the imitation of our own country, when it shall become a manufactoring land, as indeed it already prevails among us to a certain degree—There are a variety of different articles, which in the manufactories, pass under the general denomination of linen; but each of the considerable towns in Silesia, which carries on this trade, confines itself principally, or is at least noted for some one article, and furnished but little of the rest—Thus the article for which Hirschberg is chiefly distinguished is what they call in German Schüer, comprehending what in english passes under the name of Lawn, of long lawn & of cambric—Mr. Schäffer told me they had received within the two last years considerable commissions for their articles from Philadelphia & from Baltimore; but he made the usual complaint, which I scarcely ever knew an european merchant trading with America omit to make of bad payment. The linen manufactured here might doubtless be had in America fifty per cent cheaper than we pay for that of Ireland, but as the merchants here are not acquainted with the system of credit, upon [which] our commerce with England rests, and as they are probably not rich enough to give such credit to a large amount, I am apprehensive our direct trade with this country will not prosper so soon, or so much as I heartily wish it might—With ready cash however, or an equivalent for it; I am convinced single speculations in this article, as well as in several others of this country’s manufactures might be made from our country with great advantage.

In the afternoon we went upon a hill near the town, in an opposite direction to the Helicon, which we had ascended the day before. This hill goes by the name of the cavalier berg—Near its summit is a public house, where the citizens of Hirschberg, who go out there in numbers every afternoon, are furnished with refreshments—In our various places on the sides of the hills, are small summer houses, each of which belongs to a different person—The merchants, whose circumstances permit them to possess one of these, usually prefer going with their families to them & sending the refreshments by their servants to them, rather than repair to the public tavern. The prospects from this hill are nearly as diversified & as enchanting as those from the Helicon. The arrangements upon it were made by the same person, & were suggested to him by his wife, as the inscription upon a monument he has erected here to her memory testifies; it adds that she lent him a considerable sum of money to accomplish them—This inscription is in delicasy of taste so inferior to all those on the Helicon, that one would be led to suspect the taste of his wife had suggested all his improvements, but for some other inscriptions, which we met with, of a date subsequent to that of his wife’s death— Before these arrangements were made, the only decoration on the summit of the hill, was a gibbet, to [deter] evil doers by the most conspicuous exhibition of the fate awaiting them, that was possible. From the cavalier berg we went over to another elevation not far distant from it, on the top of which the same gentleman has built a small open rotunda, which he calls the temple of virtue, probably because it is rather a rock than a hill, & with a steep ascent—Not far from the summit, on one side of the steps, which have been hewed out, the position of the rocks has formed a deep, sheltered cavern, just of a size to contain two persons; over which is the inscription “Speluncam, Dido, dux,” meant no doubt, as a warning, never to step aside from the path leading to the temple of virtue, however rugged, to enter the cavern of temptation—The views of the country around are here again varied, from those of the two other hills, & are equally charming though less picturesque.

30. July—

Before 7 in the morning we took leave of Hirschberg for a few days, & after an hours ride through a continual village of linen weavers, reached Warmbrünn; a place noted as its name purports, for its hot-wells; which numbers of bathers & water drinkers at this season of the year are used to frequent—The bathing houses are fitted up in a better style, than those of Töplitz; and there is a large and elegant chateau just built by Count Schafgotsch, the proprietor of the place, and of the whole country round this neighbourhood. He purposes for the future to reside here—In this village there are likewise a number of glass-cutters, stone cutters and seal engravers, three of whom we visited—The glass is in every respect inferior to that made in Bohemia, though higher in price—Of course, it cannot compare with the english, which is still superior to that of Bohemia—The engraving though tolerably good is much inferior to the English, who it must be confessed are the only nation, who understand this art to perfection—The engraver however did not fail to find fault with my seal, engraved in London, which you know—The one with the arms, from which when it is finished, you shall judge what right the best engraver in Warmbrünn has to assume a censorship over those of England.

About one english mile on the side of Warmbrünn is situated in the village of Harmsdorf just at the foot of the Kÿnast, one of the most celebrated of the Silesian hills—In the vil[lage] itself there is nothing remarkable, but the county seat at which Count Schafgotsch has hitherto resided. He has a very fine library, & a good collection of pictures; but we heard they were now all displaced for the <sake of the rem> purpose of removal so that we could not see them. On the top of the Kÿnast, which it took us about an hour to ascend, are the ruins of an old castle, built in the year 1292, by one of the ancestors of Count Schafgotsch—It was the family residence untill an hundred & thirty years ago, when it was struck with lightening; & as that happened to be just about the period, when the feudal barons came down from their lofty fastnessess to inhabit the cities & the plains, the damage done by heaven to this castle was never repaired, & it has since then been uninhabited. The external walls are almost entire, & those within remain sufficiently to show the arrangement of the rooms and chambers; all which is pointed out by an old <wo>man, who keeps the keys and who calls himself the commandent of the castle—While we were picking a few of the raspberries, which grow wild within the compass of the apartments of this castle, the recollection occurred to us that it was just two hundred years older, than the discovery of America; and we moralized in thought, upon the revolutions of time, which in the course of five centuries had thus converted the abodes of social life here into a wild & desolate ruin, while at the same time they had changed in our country a howling desert into flourishing cities—The ruin of an old castle, a sight so frequent in this part of the world, always brings this train of ideas to mind, & it always recurs with a new pleasure, as it tends so powerfully to heighten by contrast the pleasure, we derive from contemplating the thriving condition of our country—The prospects from the top of the hill are extensive and delightful, for I must always use the same words to express things, of which the eye alone is competent to perceive and enjoy the difference. The best discription of landscapes can seldom convey an accurate idea of the original, except to persons, who have seen it; & as there is little probability that you will ever see the scenes, which now supply so much amusement to us, you will thank me for not entering into details, which could only be tedious to you—On one side of the ruins the declivity of the hill is almost perpendicular, and beyond the very narrow vale at the bottom another pine clad hill shoots up nearly to the same height, & equally steep; here you will judge of course there is an echo—It is so distant however that it will not return the loudest efforts of the human voice—But upon the firing of a musket, its report rattles, and rolls, and reverberates, & dies away like a heavy clap of thunder.

The commandant has coffee made on the hill to refresh the traveller after the fatigue of mounting it, and keeps a book in which all who wish to record their ascension hither, inscribe their names, & those, who feel, or think themselves inspired poetically by the keen air of the mountain, add lines adapted to the occasion, or to their feelings—In turning over the leaves of this book, we generally met with such effusions, as seemed to prove that the muses of the bards had “dictated to them slumbering,” for they still retained in an eminent degree their soporific qualities. The modest prose men, contented themselves with setting down some moral maxim, which was as wise, if not as applicable on the top of the Kynast, as in the busiest city—The humblest aspirants to this species of immortality, merely put down their names, which at least remain here, when they are forgotten everywhere else.

After descending the Kynast, & continuing our journey, about four of our miles further, we came to the vitriol works of Messrs: Preller & Schaul, to the latter of whom we had a letter; but he was absent upon a journey to Breslau—Mr. Preller however, who had been informed of our intended tour hither by the post master at Hirschberg, received us with great politeness, spewed us all over his works, & afterwards accompanied us to the Kochel fall, & to this inn, which is to be the centre of our excursions for several days.

The vitriol works are in the highest degree curious; but even if I were able from the cursory view of one hour to give you a detailed description, of the complicated process by which from two kinds of ore, produced at Kupferberg a town but a few miles distant from this place, the manufactury makes green, blue, & white vitriol, oil of vitriol, an ochre, which [they] commonly call Spanish brown, but which they call here english red, & sulpher, it is questionable whether you would understand it—To be thoroughly versed in such a succession of various operations as belongs to every great manufactory it is absolutely necessary to unite the information contained in books, with an occular inspection of the works themselves—I shall therefore content myself with telling you that by means of fire, the sulphur is first separated from the ore, after which there remains a sort of clay from which by a due mixture of water, the vitriolic lye is distilled, & this by a second application of fire, & a subsequent cooling is converted into a green or blue substance resembling alum, or a white one resembling loaf sugar, which are the different kinds of vitriol—The clayey remnants after the distillation from the iron ore, forms the english red, & a third application of fire to the vitriol produces the oil—Mr Preller, who has conducted this manufactory with great skill, & with a sagacity, which improves every circumstance the local situation of the place affords, has likewise a pottery connected with it to make all the earthern vessels, for which he has occasion in the process of his manufactory, or to hold the various articles when they are made—The vitriol is used, much as part of a composition for dying cloths, & likewise for making ink—The principal use of sulpher is but too well known.

The buildings stand on both sides of a little stream that falls into the Bober, called the Hockel; & this situation is essential, as it affords the means of receiving from the woods upon the mountains the immense quantities of fuel, which the manufactories consume. The wood is felled, cut up & split, ready for the oven, in the forests themselves close at the source of the river, & is thrown into it, to float down, when the waters are high, untill it comes immediately before Mr Preller’s door—Hence, when, as at the present time, the waters are very low, the bed in which this river uses to run, is streyed all along with sticks of this wood ready & split—

The Kockel fall is about 2 english miles from the vitriol work, up the river; the walk towards it is in the highest degree romantic; full of scenes of wild & sublime nature. The rocks on both sides of the stream resemble in a high degree those of the Elbe at Königstein, but here they are covered with large and lofty trees, which apparently start up from the bosom of the very granite, & of which one can scarcely conceive where they have thrust their roots—The fall of the water is perpendicular, upwards of fifty english feet, & affords a delightful view to the eye—But I have seen much higher water falls in Sweden; the stream here is now so low that there is scarcely water enough to dash over the rocks, & what there is, rolls as if it was ashamed of itself, without aspiring to the dignity of casting about, any spray. Your’s—

MHi: Adams Family Papers, Letterbooks.

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