An Anti-US Travelogue with Much on the Lost Tribes of Israel and a (Loose) Mormon Connection
Selections from Letters Written During a Tour Through the United States in the Summer and Autumn of 1819; illustrative of the character of the native Indians, and of the descent from the lost ten tribes of Israel; as well as descriptive of the present situation and sufferings of emigrants, and of the soil and state of agriculture
Notes: An anti-emigration guide to the US with a chapter exploring the theory that Native Americans were descendents of one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
In 1819, Howitt, a farmer from Nottinghamshire, explored the eastern seaboard of the United States between Washington, DC, to Boston, complaining about the conditions and people the entire way. A few examples:
"You hear of desperate characters in London; but these [backwoods] men beat them hollow in all species of crime" (p. xi).
In Patterson, New Jersey, "we were immediately known for old countrymen by the manufacturers who flocked around us making lamentable complaints of the deceptions practised upon them by false representations of this country—and saying that they would sacrifice every thing to get back to England" (p. 16).
"Our man did nothing but complain of the villainy of folks, who could entice people from England into such a country as this" (p. 25).
He devotes half of chapter V to the very liberal American bankruptcy laws which permitted the unscrupulous to take advantage of honest merchants. The other half of the chapter, written during a visit to the nation's capital, describes the horrors of slavery, even though conditions were better than he expected.
I'll spare you his views of rattlesnakes, yellow fever, vermin, wretched poverty, and American filth.
Howitt spent several weeks among Native Americans in upstate New York and devotes several chapters to his time there. Chapter IX offers evidence (linguistic, geographical, historical, and otherwise) that the native peoples of the United States were a lost tribe of Israel. He concludes that the Americas must have been populated by people from Asia crossing the Bering Strait. Howitt draws heavily on William Penn's theories, expounded as early as the 1650s, as well as those of other writers and his own observations. He concludes that if Native Americans are a lost tribe then Christian Americans have a lot of atoning to do for the terrible treatment they meted out to the children of ancient Israel.
While this theory of Native American origins was almost two centuries old, it was experiencing a revival at the time of Howitt's journey, particularly in western New York. Just 100 miles to the east from Cattaraugus County, New York, where Howitt was based during his time in the area, another young man became interested in the idea at the same time: Joseph Smith, who would include the Jewish origin of Native Americans in his Book of Mormon in 1830.
Howitt's travelogue is not particularly well known, but he was an observant visitor, even if he saw the young United States through a jaundiced eye.
xxi, , 230 pages. Howes US-iana H-740.
Edition + Condition: Bound in original blue paper over boards, with a spine label. Covers with old dampstains and evidence of a label removed from the spine. Outer joints cracking, but the binding is solid. The pages are untrimmed and quite clean.
A similar copy of this book sold at auction in 2019 for $3,000 (University Archives).
Publication: Nottingham: Printed and Sold by J. Dunn, .
Item No: #307594