Success of the Doctor's southern Expedition: He is in Distress: Contemplates a School: Prefers a Surgeon's Birth, on board a Ship, bound to Africa, Via London.
I FOUND the southern states not more engaging, to a young practi|tioner, than the northern. In the sea ports of both, the business was engrossed by men of established practice and emi|nence. In the interiour country, the peo|ple could not distinguish, or encourage merit. The gains were small, and tardi|ly collected; and, in both wings of the union, and I believe every where else, Page 166 fortune and fame are generally to be ac|quired in the learned professions, solely, by a patient, undeviating application to local business.
If dissipation could have afforded pleas|ure, to a mind yearning after profession|al fame and independence, I might, so long as my money lasted, have been hap|py, at the southward. I was often invit|ed to the turf; and, might have had the honour of being intoxicated frequently, with the most respectable characters. An association with the well educated of the other sex was not so readily attained. There was a haughty reserve, in the manners of the young ladies. Every attempt at familiarity, in a young stran|ger, habituated to the social, but respect|ful intercourse, customary in the northern states, excited alarm. With my New Eng|land ideas, I could not help viewing, in the anxious efforts of their parents and relatives, to repel every approach to innocent and e|ven Page 167 chastened intercourse, a strong suspi|cion of that virtue, they were solicitous to protect.
Depressed by the gloomy view of my prospects; and determined never to face my parents again, under circumstances, which would be burthensome to them, I attempted to obtain practice in the town of F—, in Virginia, but in vain. The very decorum, prudence, and economy, which would have enhanced my charac|ter at home, were here construed into poverty of spirit. To obtain medical practice, it was expedient, to sport, bet, drink, swear, &c. with my patients. My purse forbad the former; my habits of life the latter. My cash wasted, and I was near suffering. I was obliged to dis|pose of my books, for present subsistance; and, in that country, books were not the prime articles of commerce. To avoid starving, I again contemplated keeping a school. In that country, knowledge was Page 168 viewed as a handicraft trade. The school masters, before the war, had been usually collected from unfortunate European youth, of some school learning, sold for their passage into America. So that to purchase a school master and a negro was almost synonimous. Mr. J—n, and some other citizens of the world, who had been cast among them, had by their writ|ings, influence, and example, brought the knowledge of letters into some repute, since the revolution; but, I believe, those excellent men have yet to lament the general inefficacy of their liberal efforts. This statement, and my own prior expe|rience in school keeping, would have de|termined me rather to have prefered la|bouring, with the slaves on their planta|tions, than sustaining the slavery and con|tempt of a school.
When reduced to my last dollar; and beginning to suffer, from the embarrass|ments of debt, I was invited, by a sea Page 169 captain, who knew my friends, to accept the birth of surgeon, in his ship. Every new pursuit has its flattering prospects. I was encouraged by handsome wages, and a privilege in the ship, to carry an ad|venture; for the purchase of which, the owners were to advance me, on account of my pay. I was to be companion to the captain, and have a fine chance of seeing the world. To quit my home, for all parts of the union I considered as home; to tempt the perilous ocean, and encoun|ter the severities of a sea faring life, the diseases of torrid climes, and perhaps a total separation from my friends and pa|rents, was melancholy; but the desire to see the world, to acquire practical knowl|edge, in my profession, to obtain proper|ty, added to the necessity of immediate subsistance, and the horrours of a jail, de|termined me to accept his offer. I ac|cordingly entered surgeon, on board the ship Freedom, Captain Sidney Russell Page 170 commander, freighted with tobacco, bound to London, and thence to the coast of Africa. I had little to do in my pas|sage to London. My destination, as a surgeon, being principally in the voyage from that city to the African coast, and thence to the West Indies; and, if I had not suffered from a previous nau|sea or sea sickness, the novelty of the scene would have rendered me tolerably happy. In the perturbation of my thoughts, I had omitted writing to my parents of the places of my destination. This careless omission afterwards, caused them and me much trouble. We ar|rived safely in the Downs.