In visiting a rice plantation, my object was not so much to satisfy myself that the slave-owners of America are kind to their negroes, as to satisfy the public opinion of Charleston that English travelers are not prejudiced against Southern proprietors...
-from "A Rice Plantation"
Life and Liberty in America in America. The title is intentionally ironic-Charles Mackay was well aware of the paradox of studying liberty in a slave-holding nation; his biting wit and extraordinarily opinionated personality shines through in this intriguing work.
Subtitled "Sketches of a Tour in the United States and Canada in 1857-8" and first published in 1860, Mackay's impressions span the continent, from New York's Broadway at night-which is far less the boulevard of vice Mackay expected, and nothing, he assures, to compare to the decadence of London or Paris-to the Mormons of Utah-McKay bitterly wonders why America's freedom of religion should extend to a faith he deems "superstitious."
As a document of America just prior to the Civil War, seen through the eyes of an outsider, this is a fascinating and historically important book.
Also available from Cosimo Classics: Mackay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.
Scottish journalist CHARLES MACKAY (1814-1889) held an honorary law degree from Glasgow University, as well as a doctorate in literature. A renowned poet and songwriter, he also authored a Dictionary of Lowland Scotch.