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Aug 22, 2005 9:41 am

The Viking Tocqueville

As a Minnesota boy of Norwegian stock whose ancestors immigrated to America in 1857, I couldn't pass this up.

Via Colby Cosh comes this fascinating story about the True Account of America by Ole Rynning. Written in 1838, it tells of his travels around America. Like Tocqueville in the previous decade, Rynning's comments touch broadly on American life.

Readers of Liberty and Power should take particular interest in these observations:

For the comfort of the faint-hearted I can, therefore, declare with truth that here, as in Norway, there are laws, government, and authorities. But everything is designed to maintain the natural freedom and equality of men. In regard to the former, every one is free to engage in whatever honorable occupation he wishes, and to go wherever he wishes without having to produce a passport, and without being detained by customs officials. Only the real criminal is threatened with punishment by the law...[p.87]

An ugly contrast to this freedom and equality which justly constitute the pride of the Americans is the infamous slave [p. 88] traffic, which stills is tolerated and flourishing in

the southern states. Here is found a race of black people, with wooly hair on their heads, who are called negroes, and who are brought here from Africa, which is their native country; these poor beings are bought and sold in the southern states just as other horses or oxen. If a master whips his slave to death or shoots him dead in a rage, he is not looked upon as a murderer. The children born of a negress are slaves from birth, even if their father is a white man. The slave trade is still permitted in Missouri; but it is strictly forbidden and despised in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin territory. The northern states try in every congress to get slave trade abolished in the southern states; but as the latter always oppose these efforts, and appeal to their right to settle their internal affairs themselves, there will in all likelihood soon come either a separation between the northern and southern states, or else bloody civil disputes. [62]

The taxes, in America are very low. I have heard of only two kinds of taxes here; namely, land tax and property tax. No land tax is paid during the first after land has been bought from government. The property tax amounts to half a dollar on every hundred one owns in money or in chattels. Every man over twenty-one years owes the state four days of road work yearly.

In the event of war every man is in duty bound to bear arms for his country. In times of peace there is freedom from military service. [p. 89]

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