In the fall of 1829, young Robert Wilmot Scott rode away from Frankfort Kentucky on a trip that would take him through nine states. His journal entries about those travels present a vivid picture of Jacksonian America and of the prominent people of that era. Excellent pen portraits of James and Dolly Madison, James Monroe, John Marshall, James Buchanan, Sam Houston, Edward Everett, John C. Calhoun, John Randolph, John Quincy Adams, and others show Scott to be a famous Webster-Hayne debate; he gives a rich account of that discussion and its personalities.
But not only people attracted Scott’s observations. In visits to Richmond New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Pittsburgh, among other places, he gave close attention to public buildings, universities, theaters, churches, and manufacturing establishments. His comments on culture and industry detail the quickening pulse of a burgeoning nation, and compare favorably with more familiar accounts by James Silk Buckingham or Thomas Hamilton.
In the second half of his work, author Thomas D. Clark traces the later life of this fascinating diarist. Scott became master of a model Kentucky plantation, “Locust Hill”, and proved to be an important agricultural reformer. He was active, as well, in education and in politics. In outlining the career of this agrarian, Dr. Clark has made an important contribution in the study of southern agriculture and the men who shaped it. Scott, in his diary comments, made his own contribution to history by offering fine insights about the world in which he lived.
By Thomas D. Clark