From my cousin, a new immigrant, to his family back to Germany:
June 22, 1846
" I deem it my duty to let you know where I am and how I am faring. In the first place, there is but little to write concerning the voyage, because these voyages are so frequently described . We were on the ocean for seven weeks, suffered and experienced many heavy storms, and yet the danger is by no means so great as people imagine. I would advise no one to give up his intentions of coming to America for fear of the voyage which I have discussed with many and the majority were satisfied...
All men are equal here and no one thinks that he should have greater respect shown him or that he should enjoy some higher title than his neighbor; it is all the same whether he fills some office or whether he lives by hard work. All stand on common footing. Officials are chosen for one or two years from among the people. The president of the country is elected for four years. Every man who has lived here five years can become a citizen. It costs him one dollar and he can vote on all questions and help elect public officials. There are two parties; democrats and aristocrats, the latter known as Whigs. There is great excitement when there is a governor to be elected, the excitement becomes greater at the time of a presidential election, for the election depends on the majority of votes. As you all know what democracy means, you may know that the greater number here are democrats because they have never been aristocrats anyway. There was a presidential election last year at which the democrats were the victors by a considerable majority. It was said during the campaign that if the Whigs should gain the victory, no German could thereafter become a citizen after less than a twenty-five year residence. Indeed the views of the Whigs are such as to limit our freedom.
The newspaper men really control the situation, especially in a presidential election. Everything comes of reading the newspaper. I wish greatly that the people of Germany might be able to read newspapers of this kind so that they might appreciate the future action of the Whigs. It is certainly necessary, therefore, that the presidential candidate must be a man of spotless, blameless character, for each party tries to belittle the candidate of the opposing party, and even the record of his earliest youth is carefully studied to discover whether he had made any serious mistakes or committed any wrong. At the last election the Whigs went so far as to publish a caricature representing their candidate as a fox, because they thought their party would be successful, and that of the Democrats as a rooster which was already in the clutches of the fox. The Democrats were not frightened and awaited the results. When the election decided in favor of the Democrats, the processions that usually turn out to celebrate such an event marched through the streets and instead of hurrahing, they all imitated the rooster's crowing and the foxes retreated to their holes.
Independence is the greatest of earthly blessings, and when one goes in to the cities on the Fourth of July, the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, one finds such festivities going on as excel all similar celebrations in Germany. It is a celebration that declares Independence over again, speeches are held in English and German, and the people exhorted to do all in their power that this freedom may be preserved; a heartfelt tribute is paid to the men who gained the precious freedom of our land. After the conclusion of the speeches, it is not the custom to give three cheers for the public officials, but all affirm that the United States form a nation of sovereign citizens who recognize no superior power but God. Expressions of this character are so numerous that they might fill whole pages and everyone is filled with enthusiasm, especially a German who hears all this for the first time. It seems impossible to him that there is really a country on earth where the worth of the individual is so recognized as it is to him a delight to hear people say, "Thank God, I am an American!"..."
Finally he closes as I do on this most special of days:
"Many thousand greetings to you from me, my children, and my friends as well as yours. My dearest wish remains that we may soon meet. "
The 'Kan EWA