WELD, Isaac (1774-1856). Travels through the States of North America, and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797. London: For John Stockdale, 1799.
4to., (11 x 8 ¾ inches). 8-page publisher’s Advertisement (pale stain to lower corner through p. 80). Fine folding engraved map of “Part of the United States of North America,” original hand coloring in outline; 4 full-page engraved maps and plans; fine engraved frontispiece “View of the Rock Bridge”; 10 engraved plates (light scattered spotting). Modern quarter morocco, marbled boards.
First edition. “In his account of the United States, Weld found more to criticize than to admire. He deplored slavery and the treatment of the Indians; Americans struck him as rude and covetous; farming methods were ‘slovenly.’ Although he praised aspects of Philadelphia and New York City, and declared himself to be ‘well pleased at having seen as much of [this continent] as I have done,’ nevertheless he concluded, ‘I shall leave it without a sigh, and without entertaining the slightest wish to revisit it.’ Nor did he.
“Weld was more favourably impressed by the Canadian provinces. Between July and November 1796 he travelled from Lake Champlain to Montreal and Quebec, returning through Montreal and continuing his journey to Kingston, Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), Malden (Amherstburg), Detroit, Fort Erie, and into western New York. He declared the scenery from the Upper Town of Quebec to surpass ‘all that I have hitherto seen in America, or indeed in any other part of the globe,’ and travelling conditions between Quebec and Montreal to be the best in North America. He argued that ‘a man of moderate property could provide for his family with much more ease in Canada than in the United States’ because the price of land was lower there. Like many other British travellers, then and later, Weld felt more at home in the provinces than in republican America.
“Although some of his judgements were obviously rather subjective, Weld’s book was a substantial piece of work. He spent more time in North America than did many other travel writers. He was fortunate in his timing: in the 1790s he was able to give an early, sometimes a first, account of many aspects of North American life. Finally, Weld had a special skill in describing the topographical and physical aspects of the country through which he travelled ‘on horseback, on foot, and by canoes.’ This aspect of the book was strengthened by good maps and by plates made from his own sketches” (G. M. Craig for DCB).