James Fenimore Cooper
Part 1 out of 9
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THE LITTLEPAGE MANUSCRIPTS.
A TALE OF THE COLONY.
J. FENIMORE COOPER.
"The only amaranthine flower on earth
is virtue: the only treasure, truth."--SPENSER
Every chronicle of manners has a certain value. When customs are connected
with principles, in their origin, development, or end, such records have
a double importance; and it is because we think we see such a connection
between the facts and incidents of the Littlepage Manuscripts, and certain
important theories of our own time, that we give the former to the world.
It is perhaps a fault of your professed historian, to refer too much to
philosophical agencies, and too little to those that are humbler. The
foundations of great events, are often remotely laid in very capricious and
uncalculated passions, motives, or impulses. Chance has usually as much to
do with the fortunes of states, as with those of individuals; or, if there
be calculations connected with them at all, they are the calculations of a
power superior to any that exists in man.
We had been led to lay these Manuscripts before the world, partly by
considerations of the above nature, and partly on account of the manner
in which the two works we have named, "Satanstoe" and the "Chainbearer,"
relate directly to the great New York question of the day, ANTI-RENTISM;
which question will be found to be pretty fully laid bare, in the third
and last book of the series. These three works, which contain all the
Littlepage Manuscripts, do not form sequels to each other, in the sense of
personal histories, or as narratives; while they do in that of principles.
The reader will see that the early career, the attachment, the marriage,
&c. of Mr. Cornelius Littlepage are completely related in the present book,
for instance; while those of his son, Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage, will be just
as fully given in the "Chainbearer," its successor. It is hoped that the
connection, which certainly does exist between these three works, will have
more tendency to increase the value of each, than to produce the ordinary
effect of what are properly called sequels, which are known to lessen the
interest a narrative might otherwise have with the reader. Each of these
three books has its own hero, its own heroine, and its own---picture--of
manners, complete; though the latter may be, and is, more or less thrown
into relief by its _pendants_.
We conceive no apology is necessary for treating the subject of
anti-rentism with the utmost frankness. Agreeably to our views of the
matter, the existence of true liberty among us, the perpetuity of the
institutions, and the safety of public morals, are all dependent on putting
down, wholly, absolutely, and unqualifiedly, the false and dishonest
theories and statements that have been boldly advanced in connection with
this subject. In our view, New York is at this moment, much the most
disgraced state in the Union, notwithstanding she has never failed to pay
the interest on her public debt; and her disgrace arises from the fact that
her laws are trampled underfoot, without any efforts, at all commensurate
with the object, being made to enforce them. If _words_ and _professions_
can save the character of a community, all may yet be well; but if states,
like individuals, are to be judged by their actions, and the "tree is to be
known by its fruit," God help us!
For ourselves, we conceive that true patriotism consists in laying bare
everything like public vice, and in calling such things by their right
names. The great enemy of the race has made a deep inroad upon us, within
the last ten or a dozen years, under cover of a spurious delicacy on the
subject of exposing national ills; and it is time that they who have not
been afraid to praise, when praise was merited, should not shrink from the
office of censuring, when the want of timely warnings may be one cause of
the most fatal evils. The great practical defect of institutions like
ours, is the circumstance that "what is everybody's business, is nobody's
business;" a neglect that gives to the activity of the rogue a very
dangerous ascendency over the more dilatory correctives of the honest man.
Who comes here: a young man, and an old, in solemn talk."
_As You Like it_.
It is easy to foresee that this country is destined to undergo great and
rapid changes. Those that more properly belong to history, history will
doubtless attempt to record, and probably with the questionable veracity
and prejudice that are apt to influence the labours of that particular
muse; but there is little hope that any traces of American society, in
its more familiar aspects, will be preserved among us, through any of the
agencies usually employed for such purposes. Without a stage, in a national
point of view at least, with scarcely such a thing as a book of memoirs
that relates to a life passed within our own limits, and totally without
light literature, to give us simulated pictures of our manners, and the
opinions of the day, I see scarcely a mode by which the next generation can
preserve any memorials of the distinctive usages and thoughts of this.
It is true, they will have traditions of certain leading features of the
colonial society, but scarcely any records; and, should the next twenty
years do as much as the last, towards substituting an entirely new race for
the descendants of our own immediate fathers, it is scarcely too much to
predict that even these traditions will be lost in the whirl and excitement
of a throng of strangers. Under all the circumstances, therefore, I have
come to a determination to make an effort, however feeble it may prove, to
preserve some vestiges of household life in New York, at least; while I
have endeavoured to stimulate certain friends in New Jersey, and farther
south, to undertake similar tasks in those sections of the country. What
success will attend these last applications, is more than I can say, but,
in order that the little I may do myself shall not be lost for want of
support, I have made a solemn request in my will, that those who come after
me will consent to continue this narrative, committing to paper their own
experience, as I have here committed mine, down as low at least as my
grandson, if I ever have one. Perhaps, by the end of the latter's career,
they will begin to publish books in America, and the fruits of our joint
family labours may be thought sufficiently matured to be laid before the
It is possible that which I am now about to write will be thought too
homely, to relate to matters much too personal and private, to have
sufficient interest for the public eye; but it must be remembered that the
loftiest interests of man are made up of a collection of those that are
lowly; and, that he who makes a faithful picture of only a single important
scene in the events of single life, is doing something towards painting the
greatest historical piece of his day. As I have said before, the leading
events of my time will find their way into the pages of far more pretending
works than this of mine, in some form or other, with more or less of
fidelity to the truth, and real events, and real motives; while the humbler
matters it will be my office to record, will be entirely overlooked by
writers who aspire to enrol their names among the Tacituses of former ages.
It may be well to say here, however, I shall not attempt the historical
mood at all, but content myself with giving the feelings, incidents, and
interests of what is purely private life, connecting them no farther with
things that are of a more general nature, than is indispensable to render
the narrative intelligible and accurate. With these explanations, which are
made in order to prevent the person who may happen first to commence the
perusal of this manuscript from throwing it into the fire, as a silly
attempt to write a more silly fiction, I shall proceed at once to the
commencement of my proper task.
I was born on the 3d May, 1737, on a neck of land, called Satanstoe, in the
county of West Chester, and in the colony of New York; a part of the widely
extended empire that then owned the sway of His Sacred Majesty, George II.,
King of Great Britain, Ireland, and France; Defender of the Faith; and, I
may add, the shield and panoply of the Protestant Succession; God bless
him! Before I say anything of my parentage, I will first give the reader
some idea of the _locus in quo_, and a more precise notion of the spot on
which I happened first to see the light.
A "neck," in West Chester and Long Island parlance, means something that
might be better termed a "head and shoulders," if mere shape and dimensions
are kept in view. Peninsula would be the true word, were we describing
things on a geographical scale; but, as they are, I find it necessary to
adhere to the local term, which is not altogether peculiar to our county,
by the way. The "neck" or peninsula of Satanstoe, contains just four
hundred and sixty-three acres and a half of excellent West Chester land;
and that, when the stone is hauled and laid into wall, is saying as much in
its favour as need be said of any soil on earth. It has two miles of beach,
and collects a proportionate quantity of sea-weed for manure, besides
enjoying near a hundred acres of salt-meadow and sedges, that are not
included in the solid ground of the neck proper. As my father, Major
Evans Littlepage, was to inherit this estate from his father, Capt. Hugh
Littlepage, it might, even at the time of my birth, be considered old
family property, it having indeed, been acquired by my grandfather, through
his wife, about thirty years after the final cession of the colony to the
English by its original Dutch owners. Here we had lived, then, near half a
century, when I was born, in the direct line, and considerably longer if
we included maternal ancestors; here I now live, at the moment of writing
these lines, and here I trust my only son is to live after me.
Before I enter into a more minute description of Satanstoe, it may be well,
perhaps, to say a word concerning its somewhat peculiar name. The neck lies
in the vicinity of a well-known pass that is to be found in the narrow arm
of the sea that separates the island of Manhattan from its neighbour, Long
Island, and which is called Hell Gate. Now, there is a tradition, that I
confess is somewhat confined to the blacks of the neighbourhood, but
which says that the Father of Lies, on a particular occasion, when he was
violently expelled from certain roystering taverns in the New Netherlands,
made his exit by this well-known dangerous pass, and drawing his foot
somewhat hastily from among the lobster-pots that abound in those waters,
leaving behind him as a print of his passage by that route, the Hog's
Back, the Pot, and all the whirlpools and rocks that render navigation so
difficult in that celebrated strait, he placed it hurriedly upon the spot
where there now spreads a large bay to the southward and eastward of the
neck, just touching the latter with the ball of his great toe, as he passed
Down-East; from which part of the country some of our people used to
maintain he originally came. Some fancied resemblance to an inverted
toe (the devil being supposed to turn everything with which he meddles,
upside-down,) has been imagined to exist in the shape and swells of our
paternal acres; a fact that has probably had its influence in perpetuating
Satanstoe has the place been called, therefore, from time immemorial; as
time is immemorial in a country in which civilized time commenced not a
century and a half ago: and Satanstoe it is called to-day. I confess I am
not fond of unnecessary changes, and I sincerely hope this neck of land
will continue to go by its old appellation, as long as the House of Hanover
shall sit on the throne of these realms; or as long as water shall run
and grass shall grow. There has been an attempt made to persuade the
neighbourhood, quite lately, that the name is irreligious and unworthy of
an enlightened people, like this of West Chester; but it has met with no
great success. It has come from a Connecticut man, whose father they say is
a clergyman of the "_standing_ order;" so called, I believe, because they
stand up at prayers; and who came among us himself in the character of a
schoolmaster. This young man, I understand, has endeavoured to persuade the
neighbourhood that Satanstoe is a corruption introduced by the Dutch, from
Devil's Town; which, in its turn, was a corruption from Dibbleston; the
family from which my grandfather's father-in-law purchased having been,
as he says, of the name of Dibblee. He has got half-a-dozen of the more
sentimental part of our society to call the neck Dibbleton; but the attempt
is not likely to succeed in the long run, as we are not a people much given
to altering the language, any more than the customs of our ancestors.
Besides, my Dutch ancestors did not purchase from any Dibblee, no such
family ever owning the place, that being a bold assumption of the Yankee to
make out his case the more readily.
Satanstoe, as it is little more than a good farm in extent, so it is little
more than a particularly good farm in cultivation and embellishment.
All the buildings are of stone, even to the hog-sties and sheds, with
well-pointed joints, and field walls that would do credit to a fortified
place. The house is generally esteemed one of the best in the Colony, with
the exception of a few of the new school. It is of only a story and a half
in elevation, I admit; but the rooms under the roof are as good as any of
that description with which I am acquainted, and their finish is such as
would do no discredit to the upper rooms of even a York dwelling. The
building is in the shape of an L, or two sides of a parallelogram, one
of which shows a front of seventy-five, and the other of fifty feet.
Twenty-six feet make the depth, from outside to outside of the walls. The
best room had a carpet, that covered two-thirds of the entire dimensions
of the floor, even in my boyhood, and there were oil-cloths in most of the
better passages. The buffet in the dining-room, or smallest parlour, was
particularly admired; and I question if there be, at this hour, a handsomer
in the county. The rooms were well-sized, and of fair dimensions, the
larger parlours embracing the whole depth of the house, with proportionate
widths, while the ceilings were higher than common, being eleven feet, if
we except the places occupied by the larger beams of the chamber floors.
As there was money in the family, besides the Neck, and the Littlepages had
held the king's commissions, my father having once been an ensign, and my
grandfather a captain, in the regular army, each in the earlier portion of
his life, we always ranked among the gentry of the county. We happened to
be in a part of Westchester in which were none of the very large estates,
and Satanstoe passed for property of a certain degree of importance. It is
true, the Morrises were at Morrisania, and the Felipses, or Philipses, as
these Bohemian counts were then called, had a manor on the Hudson, that
extended within a dozen miles of us, and a younger branch of the de Lanceys
had established itself even much nearer, while the Van Cortlandts, or a
branch of them, too, dwelt near Kingsbridge; but these were all people who
were at the head of the Colony, and with whom none of the minor gentry
attempted to vie. As it was, therefore, the Littlepages held a very
respectable position between the higher class of the yeomanry and those
who, by their estates, education, connections, official rank, and
hereditary consideration, formed what might be justly called the
aristocracy of the Colony. Both my father and grandfather had sat in the
Assembly, in their time, and, as I have heard elderly people say, with
credit, too. As for my father, on one occasion, he made a speech that
occupied eleven minutes in the delivery,--a proof that he had something to
say, and which was a source of great, but, I trust, humble felicitation in
the family, down to the day of his death, and even afterwards.
Then the military services of the family stood us in for a great deal, in
that day it was something to be an ensign even in the militia, and a far
greater thing to have the same rank in a regular regiment. It is true,
neither of my predecessors served very long with the King's troops, my
father in particular selling out at the end of his second campaign; but
the military experience, and I may add the military glory each acquired
in youth, did them good service for all the rest of their days. Both were
commissioned in the militia, and my father actually rose as high as major
in that branch of the service, that being the rank he held, and the title
he bore, for the last fifteen years of his life.
My mother was of Dutch extraction on both sides, her father having been a
Blauvelt, and her mother a Van Busser. I have heard it said that there was
even a relationship between the Stuyvesants and the Van Cortlandts, and the
Van Bussers; but I am not able to point out the actual degree and precise
nature of the affinity. I presume it was not very near, or my information
would have been more minute. I have always understood that my mother
brought my father thirteen hundred pounds for dowry (currency, not
sterling), which, it must be confessed, was a very genteel fortune for
a young woman in 1733. Now, I very well know that six, eight, and ten
thousand pounds sometimes fall in, in this manner, and even much more in
the high families; but no one need be ashamed, who looks back fifty years,
and finds that his mother brought a thousand pounds to her husband.
I was neither an only child, nor the eldest-born. There was a son who
preceded me, and two daughters succeeded, but they all died in infancy,
leaving me in effect the only offspring for my parents to cherish and
educate. My little brother monopolised the name of Evans, and living
for some time after I was christened, I got the Dutch appellation of my
maternal grandfather, for my share of the family nomenclature, which
happened to be Cornelius--Corny was consequently the diminutive by which I
was known to all the whites of my acquaintance, for the first sixteen or
eighteen years of my life, and to my parents as long as they lived. Corny
Littlepage is not a bad name, in itself, and I trust they who do me the
favour to read this manuscript, will lay it down with the feeling that the
name is none the worse for the use I have made of it.
I have said that both my father and grandfather, each in his day, sat in
the assembly; my father twice, and my grandfather only once. Although we
lived so near the borough of West Chester, it was not for that place they
sat, but for the county, the de Lanceys and the Morrises contending for the
control of the borough, in a way that left little chance for the smaller
fishes to swim in the troubled water they were so certain to create.
Nevertheless, this political elevation brought my father out, as it
might be, before the world, and was the means of giving him a personal
consideration he might not have otherwise enjoyed. The benefits, and
possibly some of the evils of thus being drawn out from the more regular
routine of our usually peaceable lives, may be made to appear in the course
of this narrative.
I have ever considered myself fortunate in not having been born in the
earlier and infant days of the colony, when the interests at stake, and the
events by which they were influenced, were not of a magnitude to give the
mind and the hopes the excitement and enlargement that attend the periods
of a more advanced civilization, and of more important incidents. In this
respect, my own appearance in this world was most happily timed, as any one
will see who will consider the state and importance of the colony in the
middle of the present century. New York could not have contained many less
than seventy thousand souls, including both colours, at the time of my
birth, for it is supposed to contain quite a hundred thousand this day on
which I am now writing. In such a community, a man has not only the room,
but the materials on which to figure; whereas, as I have often heard him
say, my father, when he was born, was one of less than half of the smallest
number I have just named. I have been grateful for this advantage, and I
trust it will appear, by evidence that will be here afforded, that I have
not lived in a quarter of the world, or in an age, when and where, and to
which great events have been altogether strangers.
My earliest recollections, as a matter of course, are of Satanstoe and the
domestic fireside. In my childhood and youth, I heard a great deal said of
the Protestant Succession, the House of Hanover, and King George II.; all
mixed up with such names as those of George Clinton, Gen. Monckton, Sir
Charles Hardy, James de Lancey, and Sir Danvers Osborne, his official
representatives in the colony. Every age has its _old_ and its _last_ wars,
and I can well remember that which occurred between the French in the
Canadas and ourselves, in 1744. I was then seven years old, and it was an
event to make an impression on a child of that tender age. My honoured
grandfather was then living, as he was long afterwards, and he took a
strong interest in the military movements of the period, as was natural for
an old soldier. New York had no connection with the celebrated expedition
that captured Louisbourg, then the Gibraltar of America, in 1745; but this
could not prevent an old soldier like Capt. Littlepage from entering into
the affair with all his heart, though forbidden to use his hand. As the
reader may not be aware of all the secret springs that set public events
in motion, it may be well here to throw in a few words in the way of
There was and is little sympathy, in the way of national feeling, between
the colonies of New England and those which lie farther south. We are all
loyal, those of the east as well as those of the south-west and south; but
there is, and ever has been, so wide a difference in our customs, origins,
religious opinions, and histories, as to cause a broad moral line, in the
way of feeling, to be drawn between the colony of New York and those
that lie east of the Byram river. I have heard it said that most of the
emigrants to the New England states came from the west of England where
many of their social peculiarities and much of their language are still to
be traced, while the colonies farther south have received their population
from the more central counties, and those sections of the island that are
supposed to be less provincial and peculiar. I do not affirm that such is
literally the fact, though it is well known that we of New York have long
been accustomed to regard our neighbours of New England as very different
from ourselves, whilst, I dare say, our neighbours of New England have
regarded us as different from themselves, and insomuch removed from
Let all this be as it may, it is certain New England is a portion of the
empire that is set apart from the rest, for good or for evil. It got its
name from the circumstance that the English possessions were met, on its
western boundary by those of the Dutch, who were thus separated from the
other colonies of purely Anglo-Saxon origin, by a wide district that was
much larger in surface than the mother country itself. I am afraid there is
something in the character of these Anglo-Saxons that predisposes them to
laugh and turn up their noses at other races; for I have remarked that
their natives of the parent land itself, who come among us, show this
disposition even as it respects us of New York and those of New England,
while the people of the latter region manifest a feeling towards us, their
neighbours, that partakes of anything but the humility that is thought
to grace that Christian character to which they are particularly fond of
My grandfather was a native of the old country, however, and he entered but
little into the colonial jealousies. He had lived from boyhood, and had
married in New York, and was not apt to betray any of the overweening
notions of superiority that we sometimes encountered in native-born
Englishmen, though I can remember instances in which he would point out the
defects in our civilization, and others in which he dwelt with pleasure on
the grandeur and power his own island. I dare say this was all right, for
few among us have ever been disposed to dispute the just supremacy of
England in all things that are desirable, and which form the basis of human
I well remember a journey Capt. Hugh Littlepage made to Boston, in 1745,
in order to look at the preparations that were making for the great
expedition. Although his own colony had no connection with this enterprise,
in a military point of view, his previous service rendered him an object of
interest to the military men then assembled along the coast of New England.
It has been said the expedition against Louisbourg, then the strongest
place in America, was planned by a lawyer, led by a merchant, and executed
by husbandmen and mechanics; but this, though true as a whole, was a rule
that had its exceptions. There were many old soldiers who had seen the
service of this continent in the previous wars, and among them were several
of my grandfather's former acquaintances. With these he passed many a
cheerful hour, previously to the day of sailing, and I have often thought
since, that my presence alone prevented him from making one in the fleet.
The reader will think, I was young, perhaps, to be so far from home on such
an occasion, but it happened in this wise: My excellent mother thought I
had come out of the small-pox with some symptoms that might be benefited by
a journey, and she prevailed on her father-in-law to let me be of the party
when he left home to visit Boston in the winter of 1744-5. At that early
day moving about was not always convenient in these colonies, and my
grandfather travelling in a sleigh that was proceeding east with some
private stores that had been collected for the expedition, it presented a
favourable opportunity to send me along with my venerable progenitor, who
very good-naturedly consented to let me commence my travels under his own
The things I saw on this occasion have had a material influence on my
future life. I got a love of adventure, and particularly of military parade
and grandeur, that has since led me into more than one difficulty. Capt.
Hugh Littlepage, my grandfather, was delighted with all he saw until after
the expedition had sailed, when he began to grumble on the subject of the
religious observances that the piety of the Puritans blended with most
of their other movements. On the score of religion there was a marked
difference; I may say there _is_ still a marked difference between New
England and New York. The people of New England certainly did, and possibly
may still, look upon us of New York as little better than heathens; while
we of New York assuredly did, and for anything I know to the contrary may
yet, regard them as canters, and by necessary connection, hypocrites. I
shall not take it on myself to say which party is right; though it has
often occurred to my mind that it would be better had New England a little
less self-righteousness, and New York a little more righteousness, without
the self. Still, in the way of pounds, shillings and pence, we will not
turn our backs upon them any day, being on the whole rather the most
trustworthy of the two as respects money; more especially in all such cases
in which our neighbour's goods can be appropriated without having recourse
to absolutely direct means. Such, at any rate, is the New York opinion, let
them think as they please about it on the other side of Byram.
My grandfather met an old fellow-campaigner, at Boston, of the name of
Hight, Major Hight, as he was called, who had come to see the preparations,
too; and the old soldiers passed most of the time together. The Major was
a Jerseyman, and had been somewhat of a free-liver in his time, retaining
some of the propensities of his youth in old age, as is apt to be the case
with those who cultivate a vice as if it were a hot-house plant. The Major
was fond of his bottle, drinking heavily of Madeira, of which there was
then a good stock in Boston, for he brought some on himself; and I can
remember various scenes that occurred between him and my grandfather, after
dinner, as they sat discoursing in the tavern on the progress of things,
and the prospects for the future. Had these two old soldiers been of the
troops of the province in which they were, it would have been "Major" and
"Captain" at every breath; for no part of the earth is fonder of titles
than our eastern brethren;  whereas, I must think we had some claims to
more true simplicity of character and habits, notwithstanding New York has
ever been thought the most aristocratical of all the northern colonies.
Having been intimate from early youth, my two old soldiers familiarly
called each other Joey and Hodge, the latter being the abbreviation of
one of my grandfather's names, Roger, when plain Hugh was not used, as
sometimes happened between them. Hugh Roger Littlepage, I ought to have
said, was my grandfather's name.
"I should like these Yankees better, if they prayed less, my old friend,"
said the Major, one day, after they had been discussing the appearances of
things, and speaking between the puffs of his pipe. "I can see no great use
in losing so much time, by making these halts to pray, when the campaign is
"It was always their way, Joey," my grandfather answered, taking his time,
as is customary with smokers. "I remember when we were out together, in the
year '17, that the New England troops always had their parsons, who acted
as a sort of second colonels. They tell me His Excellency has ordered a
weekly fast, for public prayers, during the whole of this campaign."
"Ay, Master Hodge, praying and plundering; so they go on," returned the
Major, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, preparatory to filling it anew;
an employment that gave him an opportunity to give vent to his feelings,
without pausing to puff.--"Ay, Master Hodge, praying and plundering; so
they go on. Now, do you remember old Watson, who was in the Massachusetts
Levies, in the year '12?--old Tom Watson; he that was a sub under Barnwell,
in our Tuscarora expedition?"
My grandfather nodded his head in assent, that being the only reply the
avocation of smoking rendered convenient, just at that moment, unless a
sort of affirmatory grunt could be construed into an auxiliary.
"Well, he has a son going in this affair; and old Tom, or Colonel Watson,
as he is now very particular to be called, is down here with his wife and
two daughters, to see the ensign off. I went to pay the old fellow a visit,
Hodge; and found him, and the mother and sisters, all as busy as bees
in getting young Tom's baggage ready for a march. There lay his whole
equipment before my eyes, and I had a favourable occasion to examine it at
"Which you did with all your might, or you're not the Joe Hight of the
year '10," said my grandfather, taking his turn with the ashes and the
Old Hight was now puffing away like a blacksmith who is striving to obtain
a white heat, and it was some time before he could get out the proper reply
to this half-assertion, half-interrogatory sort of remark.
"You may be sure of that," he at length ejaculated; when, certain of his
light, he proceeded to tell the whole story, stopping occasionally to puff,
lest he should lose the "vantage ground" he had just obtained. "What d'ye
think of half-a-dozen strings of red onions, for one item in a subaltern's
My grandfather grunted again, in a way that might very well pass for a
"You're certain they were red, Joey?" he finally asked.
"As red as his regimentals. Then there was a jug, filled with molasses,
that is as big as yonder demijohn;" glancing at the vessel which contained
his own private stores. "But I should have thought nothing of these, a
large empty sack attracting much of my attention. I could not imagine what
young Tom could want of such a sack; but, on broaching the subject to the
Major, he very frankly gave me to understand that Louisbourg was thought to
be a rich town, and there was no telling what luck, or Providence--yes, by
George!--he called it _Providence!_--might throw in his son Tommy's way.
Now that the sack was empty, and had an easy time of it, the girls would
put his bible and hymn-book in it, as a place where the young man would be
likely to look for them. I dare say, Hodge, you never had either bible or
hymn-book, in any of your numerous campaigns?"
"No, nor a plunder-sack, nor a molasses-jug, nor strings of red onions,"
growled my grandfather in reply.
How well I remember that evening! A vast deal of colonial prejudice and
neighbourly antipathy made themselves apparent in the conversation of
the two veterans; who seemed to entertain a strange sort of contemptuous
respect for their fellow-subjects of New England; who, in their turn,
I make not the smallest doubt, paid them off in kind--with all the
superciliousness and reproach, and with many grains less of the respect.
That night, Major Hight and Capt. Hugh Roger Littlepage, both got a little
how-come-you-so, drinking bumpers to the success of what they called "the
Yankee expedition," even at the moment they were indulging in constant side
hits at the failings and habits of the people. These marks of neighbourly
infirmity are not peculiar to the people of the adjacent provinces of New
York and of New England. I have often remarked that the English think and
talk very much of the French, as the Yankees speak of us; while the French,
so far as I have been able to understand their somewhat unintelligible
language--which seems never to have a beginning nor an end--treat the
English as the Puritans of the Old World. As I have already intimated, we
were not very remarkable for religion in New York, in my younger days;
while it would be just the word, were I to say that religion was
_conspicuous_ among our eastern neighbours. I remember to have heard
my grandfather say, he was once acquainted with a Col. Heathcote, an
Englishman, like himself, by birth, and a brother of a certain Sir Gilbert
Heathcote, who was formerly a leading man in the Bank of England. This Col.
Heathcote came among us young, and married here, leaving his posterity
behind him, and was lord of the manor of Scarsdale and Mamaroneck, in our
county of West Chester. Well, this Col. Heathcote told my grandfather,
speaking on the subject of religion, that he had been much shocked, on
arriving in this country, at discovering the neglected condition of
religion in the colony; more especially on Long Island, where the people
lived in a sort of heathenish condition. Being a man of mark, and connected
with the government, The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in
Foreign Parts, applied to him to aid it in spreading the truths of the
bible in the colony. The Colonel was glad enough to comply; and I remember
my grandfather said, his friend told him of the answer he returned to these
good persons in England. "I was so struck with the heathenish condition of
the people, on my arriving here," he wrote to them, "that, commanding the
militia of the colony, I ordered the captains of the different companies to
call their men together, each Sunday at sunrise, and to drill them until
sunset; unless they would consent to repair to some convenient place, and
listen to morning and evening prayer, and to two wholesome sermons read by
some suitable person, in which case the men were to be excused from drill."
 I do not think this would be found necessary in New England at least,
where many of the people would be likely to prefer drilling to preaching.
But all this gossip about the moral condition of the adjacent colonies of
New York and New England is leading me from the narrative, and does not
promise much for the connection and interest of the remainder of the
[Footnote 1: It will be remembered Mr. Littlepage wrote more than seventy
years ago, when this distinction might exclusively belong to the _East_;
but the _West_ has now some claim to it, also.]
[Footnote 2: On the subject of this story, the editor can say he has seen a
published letter from Col. Heathcote, who died more than a century since,
at Mamaroneck, West Chester Co., in which that gentleman gives the Society
for the propagation of the gospel an account of his proceedings, that
agrees almost _verbatim_ with the account of the matter that is here given
by Mr. Cornelius Littlepage. The house in which Col. Heathcote dwelt was
destroyed by fire, a short time before the revolution; but the property
on which it stood, and the present building, belong at this moment to his
great-grandson, the Rt. Rev. Wm. _Heathcote_ de Lancey, the Bishop of
Western New York. On the subject of the _plunder_, the editor will remark,
that a near connection, whose grandfather was a Major at the taking of
Louisbourg, and who was subsequently one of the first Brigadiers appointed
in 1775, has lately shown him a letter written to that officer, during the
expedition, by _his_ father; in which, blended with a great deal of pious
counsel, and some really excellent religious exhortation, is an earnest
inquiry after the _plunder_.--EDITOR.]
"I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty;
or that youth would sleep out the rest."
It is not necessary for me to say much of the first fourteen years of
my life. They passed like the childhood and youth of the sons of most
gentlemen in our colony, at that day, with this distinction, however. There
was a class among us which educated its boys at home. This was not a very
numerous class, certainly, nor was it always the highest in point of
fortune and rank. Many of the large proprietors were of Dutch origin, as a
matter of course; and these seldom, if ever, sent their children to England
to be taught anything, in my boyhood. I understand that a few are getting
over their ancient prejudices, in this particular, and begin to fancy
Oxford or Cambridge may be quite as learned schools as that of Leyden; but,
no Van, in my boyhood, could have been made to believe this. Many of the
Dutch proprietors gave their children very little education, in any way or
form, though most of them imparted lessons of probity that were quite as
useful as learning, had the two things been really inseparable. For my
part, while I admit there is a great deal of knowledge going up and down
the land, that is just of the degree to trick a fellow-creature out of his
rights, I shall never subscribe to the opinion, which is so prevalent among
the Dutch portion of our population, and which holds the doctrine that the
schools of the New England provinces are the reason the descendants of the
Puritans do not enjoy the best of reputations, in this respect. I believe a
boy may be well taught, and made all the honester for it; though, I admit,
there may be, and is, such a thing as training a lad in false notions,
as well as training him in those that are true. But, we had a class,
principally of English extraction, that educated its sons well; usually
sending them home, to the great English schools, and finishing at the
universities. These persons, however, lived principally in town, or, having
estates on the Hudson, passed their winters there. To this class the
Littlepages did not belong; neither their habits nor their fortunes
tempting them to so high a flight. For myself, I was taught enough Latin
and Greek to enter college, by the Rev. Thomas Worden, an English divine,
who was rector of St. Jude's, the parish to which our family properly
belonged. This gentleman was esteemed a good scholar, and was very popular
among the gentry of the county; attending all the dinners, clubs, races,
balls, and other diversions that were given by them, within ten miles of
his residence. His sermons were pithy and short; and he always spoke of
your half-hour preachers, as illiterate prosers, who did not understand
how to condense their thoughts. Twenty minutes were his gauge, though
I remember to have heard my father say, he had known him preach all of
twenty-two. When he compressed down to fourteen, my grandfather invariably
protested he was delightful.
I remained with Mr. Worden until I could translate the two first AEneids,
and the whole of the Gospel of St. Matthew, pretty readily; and then my
father and grandfather, the last in particular, for the old gentleman had a
great idea of learning, began to turn over in their minds, the subject of
the college to which I ought to be sent. We had the choice of two, in both
of which the learned languages and the sciences are taught, to a degree,
and in a perfection, that is surprising for a new country. These colleges
are Yale, at New Haven, in Connecticut, and Nassau Hall, which was then at
Newark, New Jersey, after having been a short time at Elizabethtown, but
which has since been established at Princeton. Mr. Worden laughed at
both; said that neither had as much learning as a second-rate English
grammar-school; and that a lower-form boy, at Eton or Westminster, could
take a master's degree at either, and pass for a prodigy in the bargain.
My father, who was born in the colonies, and had a good deal of the right
colony feeling, was nettled at this, I remember; while my grandfather,
being old-country born, but colony educated, was at a loss how to view the
matter. The captain had a great respect for his native land, and evidently
considered it the paradise of this earth, though his recollections of it
were not very distinct; but, at the same time, he loved Old York, and West
Chester in particular, where he had married and established himself at
Satan's Toe; or, as he spelt it, and as we all have spelt it, now, this
many a day, Satanstoe. I was present at the conversation which decided the
question, as regarded my future education, and which took place in the
common parlour, around a blazing fire, about a week before Christmas, the
year I was fourteen. There were present Capt. Hugh Roger, Major Evans, my
mother, the Rev. Mr. Worden, and an old gentleman of Dutch designation and
extraction, of the name of Abraham Van Valkenburgh, but who was familiarly
called, by his friends, 'Brom Follock, or Col. Follock or Volleck, as the
last happen to be more or less ceremonious, or more or less Dutch. Follock,
I think, however was the favourite pronunciation. This Col. Van Valkenburgh
was an old brother-soldier of my father's, and, indeed, a relation, a
sort of a cousin through my greatgrandmother, besides being a man of much
consideration and substance. He lived in Rockland, just across the Hudson,
but never failed to pay a visit to Satanstoe at that season of the year. On
the present occasion, he was accompanied by his son, Dirck, who was _my_
friend, and just a year my junior.
"Vell, den,"--the colonel commenced the discourse by saying, as he tapped
the ashes out of his pipe for the second time that evening, having first
taken a draught of hot flip, a beverage much in vogue then, as well as
now,--"vell, den, Evans, vat is your intention as to ter poy? Vill he pe
college-l'arnt, like as his grant-fat'er, or only school-l'arnt, like as
his own fat'er?" The allusion to the grandfather being a pleasantry of the
colonel's, who insisted that all the old-country born were "college-l'arnt"
"To own the truth, 'Brom," my father answered, "this is a point that is not
yet entirely settled, for there are different opinions as to the place to
which he shall be sent, even admitting that he is to be sent at all."
The colonel fastened his full, projecting, blue eyes on my father, in a way
that pretty plainly expressed surprise.
"Vat, den, is dere so many colleges, dat it is hart to choose?" he said.
"There are but two that can be of any use to us, for Cambridge is much too
distant to think of sending the boy so far. Cambridge was in our thoughts
at one time, but that is given up."
"Vhere, den, ist Camprige?" demanded the Dutchman, removing his pipe to ask
so important a question, a ceremony he usually thought unnecessary.
"It is a New England college--near Boston; not half a day's journey
distant, I fancy."
"Don't sent Cornelius dere," ejaculated the colonel, contriving to get
these words out alongside of the stem of the pipe.
"You think not, Col. Follock," put in the anxious mother; "may I ask the
reason for that opinion?"
"Too much Suntay, Matam Littlepage--the poy wilt be sp'ilt by ter
ministers. He will go away an honest lat, and come pack a rogue. He will
l'arn how to bray and to cheat."
"Hoity toity! my noble colonel!" exclaimed the Rev. Mr. Worden, affecting
more resentment than he felt. "Then you fancy the clergy, and too much
Sunday, will be apt to convert an honest youth into a knave!"
The colonel made no answer, continuing to smoke very philosophically,
though he took occasion, while he drew the pipe out of his mouth, in one of
its periodical removals, to make a significant gesture with it towards the
rising sun, which all present understood to mean "down east," as it is
usual to say, when we mean to designate the colonies of New England. That
he was understood by the Rev. Mr. Worden, is highly probable; since that
gentleman continued to turn the flip of one vessel into another, by way of
more intimately blending the ingredients of the mixture, quite as coolly as
if there had been no reflection on his trade.
"What do you think of Yale, friend 'Brom?" asked my father, who understood
the dumb-show as well as any of them.
"No tifference, Evans; dey all breaches and brays too much. _Goot_ men have
no neet of so much religion. Vhen a man is _really_ goot, religion only
does him harm. I mean Yankee religion."
"I have another objection to Yale," observed Capt. Hugh Roger, "which is
"Och!" exclaimed the Colonel--"Deir English is horriple! Wuss dan ast to us
"Well, I was not aware of that," observed my father. "They are English,
sir, as well as ourselves, and why should they not speak the language as
well as we?"
"Why toes not a Yorkshireman, or a Cornishman, speak as veil as a Lonnoner?
I tell you what, Evans, I'll pet the pest game-cock on ter Neck, against
the veriest tunghill the parson hast, ter Presitent of Yale calls p e e n,
pen, ant roof, ruff--and so on."
"My birds are all game," put in the divine; "I keep no other breed."
"Surely, Mr. Worden, _you_ do not countenance cock-fights by your
presence!" my mother said, using as much of reproach in her manner as
comported with the holy office of the party she addressed, and with her own
gentle nature. The Colonel winked at my father, and laughed _through his
pipe_, an exploit he might have been said to perform almost hourly. My
father smiled in return; for, to own the truth, he _had_ been present
at such sports on one or two occasions, when the parson's curiosity had
tempted him to peep in also; but my grandfather looked grave and much in
earnest. As for Mr. Worden himself, he met the imputation like a man. To do
him justice, if he were not an ascetic, neither was he a whining hypocrite,
as is the case with too many of those who aspire to be disciples and
ministers of our blessed Lord.
"Why not, Madam Littlepage?" Mr. Worden stoutly demanded. "There are worse
places than cock-pits; for, mark me, I never bet--no, not on a horse-race,
even; and _that_ is an occasion on which any gentleman might venture a few
guineas, in a liberal, frank, way. There are so few amusements for people
of education in this country, Madam Littlepage, that one is not to be too
particular. If there were hounds and hunting, now, as there are at home,
you should never hear of me at a cock-fight, I can assure you."
"I must say I do not approve of cock-fights," rejoined my mother meekly;
"and I hope Corny will never be seen at one. No--never--never."
"Dere you're wrong, Matam Littlepage," the Colonel remarked, "for ter sight
of ter spirit of ter cocks wilt give ter boy spirit himself. My Tirck,
dere, goes to all in ter neighbourhood and he is a game-cock himself, let
me tell you. Come, Tirck--come--cock-a-doodle-doo!"
This was true all round, as I very well knew, young as I was. Dirck, who
was as slow-moving, as dull-seeming, and as anti-mercurial a boy to look at
as one could find in a thousand, was thorough game at the bottom, and he
had been at many a main, as he had told me himself. How much of his spirit
was derived from witnessing such scenes I will not take on me to affirm;
for, in these later times, I have heard it questioned whether such
exhibitions do really improve the spectator's courage or not. But Dirck had
pluck, and plenty of it, and in that particular, at least, his father was
not mistaken. The Colonel's opinion always carried weight with my
mother, both on account of his Dutch extraction, and on account of his
well-established probity; for, to own the truth, a text or a sentiment from
him had far more weight with her than the same from the clergyman. She was
silenced on the subject of cock-fighting for the moment, therefore, which
gave Capt. Hugh Roger further opportunity to pursue that of the English
language. The grandfather, who was an inveterate lover of the sport, would
have cut in to that branch of the discourse, but he had a great tenderness
for my mother, whom everybody loved by the way, and he commanded himself,
glad to find that so important an interest had fallen into hands as good as
those of the Colonel. _He_ would just as soon be absent from church as be
absent from a cock-fight, and he was a very good observer of religion.
"I should have sent Evans to Yale, had it not been for the miserable manner
of speaking English they have in New England," resumed my grandfather; "and
I had no wish to have a son who might pass for a Cornish man. We shall have
to send this boy to Newark, in New Jersey. The distance is not so great,
and we shall be certain he will not get any of your round-head notions of
religion, too, Col. 'Brom, you Dutch are not altogether free from these
"Debble a pit!" growled the Colonel, through his pipe; for no devotee of
liberalism and latitudinarianisrn in religion could be more averse to
extra-piety than he. The Colonel, however, was not of the Dutch Reformed;
he was an Episcopalian, like ourselves, his mother having brought this
branch of the Follocks into the church; and, consequently, he entered into
all our feelings on the subject of religion, heart and hand. Perhaps Mr.
Worden was a greater favourite with no member of the four parishes over
which he presided, than with Col. Abraham Van Valkenburgh.
"I should think less of sending Corny to Newark," added my mother, "was it
not for crossing the water."
"Crossing the water!" repeated Mr. Worden. "The Newark we mean, Madam
Littlepage, is not at home: the Jersey of which we speak is the adjoining
colony of that came."
"I am aware of that, Mr. Worden; but it is not possible to get to Newark,
without making that terrible voyage be tween New York and Powles' Hook. No,
sir, it is impossible; and every time the child comes home, that risk will
have to be run. It would cause me many a sleepless night!"
"He can go by Tobb's Ferry, Matam Littlepage," quietly observed the
"Dobb's Ferry can be very little better than that by Powles' Hook,"
rejoined the tender mother. "A ferry is a ferry; and the Hudson will be the
Hudson, from Albany to New York. So water is water."
As these were all self-evident propositions, they produced a pause in the
discourse; for men do not deal with new ideas as freely as they deal with
"Dere is a way, Evans, as you and I know py experience," resumed the
Colonel, winking again at my father, "to go rount the Hudson altoget'er. To
pe sure, it is a long way, and a pit in the woots; but petter to untertake
dat, than to haf the poy lose his l'arnin'. Ter journey might be made in
two mont's, and he none the wuss for ter exercise. Ter Major and I were
never heartier dan when we were operating on the he't waters of the Hutson.
I will tell Corny the roat."
My mother saw that her apprehensions were laughed at, and she had the good
sense to be silent. The discussion did not the less proceed, until it was
decided, after an hour more of weighing the _pros_ and the _cons_, that I
was to be sent to Nassau Hall, Newark, New Jersey, and was to move from
that place with the college, whenever that event might happen.
"You will send Dirck there, too," my father added, as soon as the affair in
my case was finally determined. "It would be a pity to separate the boys,
after they have been so long together, and have got to be so much used to
each other. Their characters are so identical, too, that they are more like
brothers than very distant relatives."
"Dey will like one anot'er all de petter for pein' a little tifferent,
den," answered the Colonel, drily.
Dirck and I were no more alike than a horse resembles a mule.
"Ay, but Dirck is a lad who will do honour to an education--he is solid and
thoughtful, and learning will not be thrown away on such a youth. Was he in
England, that sedate lad might get to be a bishop."
"I want no pishops in my family, Major Evans; nor do I want any great
l'arnin'. None of us ever saw a college, and we have got on fery vell. I
am a colonel and a memper; my fat'er was a colonel and a memper; and my
grand-fet'er _woult_ have peen a colonel and a memper, but dere vast no
colonels and no mempers in his time; though Tirck, yonter can be a colonel
and a memper, wit'out crosting dat terriple ferry that frightens Matam
Littlepage so much."
There was usually a little humour in all Col. Follock said and did, though
it must be owned it was humour after a very Dutch model; Dutch-built fun,
as Mr. Worden used to call it. Nevertheless, it was humour; and there was
enough of Holland in all the junior generations of the Littlepages to enjoy
it. My father understood him, and my mother did not hear the last of the
"terriple ferry" until not only I, but the college itself, had quitted
Newark; for the institution made another remove to Princeton, the place
where it is now to be found, some time before I got my degree.
"You have got on very well without a college education, as all must admit,
colonel," answered Mr. Worden; "but there is no telling how much _better_
you would have got on, had you been an A. M. You might, in the last case,
have been a general and a member of the King's council."
"Dere ist no yeneral in ter colony, the commander-in-chief and His
Majesty's representatif excepted," returned the colonel. "We are no
Yankees, to make yenerals of ploughmen."
Hereupon, the colonel and my father knocked the ashes out of their pipes at
the same instant, and both laughed,--a merriment in which the parson, my
grandfather, my dear mother, and I myself joined. Even a negro boy, who was
about my own age, and whose name was Jacob, or Jaap, but who was commonly
called Yaap, grinned at the remark, for he had a sovereign contempt for
Yankee Land, and all it contained; almost as sovereign a contempt as that
which Yankee Land entertained for York itself, and its Dutch population.
Dirck was the only person present who looked grave; but Dirck was
habitually as grave and sedate, as if he had been born to become a
"Quite right, Brom," cried my father; "_colonels_ are good enough for us;
and when we do make a man _that_, even, we are a little particular about
his being respectable and fit for the office. Nevertheless, learning will
not hurt Corny, and to college he shall go, let you do as you please with
Dirck. So that matter is settled, and no more need be said about it."
And it was settled, and to college I _did_ go, and that by the awful
Powles' Hook Ferry, in the bargain. Near as we lived to town, I paid my
first visit to the island of Manhattan the day my father and myself started
for Newark. I had an aunt, who lived in Queen Street, not a very great
distance from the fort, and she had kindly invited me and my father to
pass a day with her, on our way to New Jersey, which invitation had been
accepted. In my youth, the world in general was not as much addicted to
gadding about as it is now getting to be, and neither my grandfather nor my
father ordinarily went to town, their calls to the legislature excepted,
more than twice a year. My mother's visits were still less frequent,
although Mrs. Legge, my aunt, was her own sister. Mr. Legge was a lawyer of
a good deal of reputation, but he was inclined to be in the opposition,
or espoused the popular side in politics; and there could be no great
cordiality between one of that frame of mind and our family. I remember
we had not been in the house an hour, before a warm discussion took place
between my uncle and my father, on the question of the right of the subject
to canvass the acts of the government. We had left home immediately
after an early breakfast, in order to reach town before dark; but a long
detention at the Harlem Ferry, compelled us to dine in that village, and it
was quite night before we stopped in Queen Street. My aunt ordered supper
early, in order that we might get early to bed, to recover from our
fatigue, and be ready for sight-seeing next day. We sat down to supper,
therefore, in less than an hour after our arrival; and it was while we were
at table that the discussion I have mentioned took place. It would seem
that a party had been got up in town among the disloyal, and I might almost
say, the disaffected, which claimed for the subject the right to know in
what manner every shilling of the money raised by taxation was expended.
This very obviously improper interference with matters that did not belong
to them, on the part of the ruled, was resisted by the rulers, and that
with energy; inasmuch as such inquiries and investigations would naturally
lead to results that might bring authority into discredit, make the
governed presuming and prying in their dispositions, and cause much
derangement and inconvenience to the regular and salutary action of
government. My father took the negative of the proposition, while my uncle
maintained its affirmative. I well remember that my poor aunt looked
uneasy, and tried to divert the discourse by exciting our curiosity on a
"Corny has been particularly lucky in having come to town just as he has,
since we shall have a sort of gala-day, to-morrow, for the blacks and the
I was not in the least offended at being thus associated with the negroes,
for they mingled in most of the amusements of us young people; but I did
not quite so well like to be ranked with the children, now I was fourteen,
and on my way to college. Notwithstanding this, I did not fail to betray an
interest in what was to come next, by my countenance. As for my father, he
did not hesitate about asking an explanation.
"The news came in this morning, by a fast-sailing sloop, that the Patroon
of Albany is on his way to New York, in his coach-and-four, and with two
out-riders, and that he may be expected to reach town in the course of
to-morrow. Several of my acquaintances have consented to let their children
go out a little way into the country, to see him come in; and, as for the
blacks, you know, it is just as well to give them _permission_ to be of the
party, as half of them would otherwise go without asking it."
"This will be a capital opportunity to let Corny see a little of the
world," cried my father, "and I would not have him miss it on any account.
Besides, it is useful to teach young people early, the profitable lesson of
honouring their superiors and seniors."
"In that sense it may do," growled my uncle, who, though so much of a
latitudinarian in his political opinions never failed to inculcate all
useful and necessary maxims for private life; "the Patroon of Albany being
one of the most respectable and affluent of all our gentry. I have no
objections to Corny's going to see that sight; and, I hope, my dear, you
will let both Pompey and Caesar be of the party. It won't hurt the fellows
to see the manner in which the Patroon has his carriage kept and horses
Pompey and Caesar were of the party, though the latter did not join us
until Pompey had taken me all round the town, to see the principal sights;
it being understood that the Patroon had slept at Kingsbridge, and would
not be likely to reach town until near noon. New York was certainly not the
place, in 1751, it is to-day; nevertheless, it was a large and important
town, even when I went to college, containing not less than twelve thousand
souls, blacks included. The Town Hall is a magnificent structure, standing
at the head of Broad Street; and thither Pompey led me, even before my
aunt had come down to breakfast. I could scarcely admire that fine edifice
sufficiently; which, for size, architecture and position, has scarcely now
an equal in all the colonies. It is true, that the town has much improved,
within the last twenty years; but York was a noble place, even in the
middle of this century! After breakfast, Pompey and I proceeded up
Broadway, commencing near the fort, at the Bowling Green, and walking some
distance beyond the head of Wall Street, or quite a quarter of a mile. Nor
did the town stop here; though its principal extent is, or was then, along
the margin of the East River. Trinity Church I could hardly admire enough
either; for, it appeared to me, that it was large enough to contain all the
church-people in the colony.  It was a venerable structure, which had
then felt the heats of summer and the snows of winter on its roofs and
walls, near half a century, and it still stands a monument of pious zeal
and cultivated taste. There were other churches, belonging to other
denominations, of course, that were well worthy of being seen; to say
nothing of the markets. I thought I never should tire of gazing at the
magnificence of the shops, particularly the silversmiths'; some of which
must have had a thousand dollars' worth of plate in their windows, or
otherwise in sight. I might say as much of the other shops, too, which
attracted a just portion of my admiration.
About eleven, the number of children and blacks that were seen walking
towards the Bowery Road, gave us notice that it was time to be moving in
that direction. We were in the upper part of Broadway, at the time, and
Pompey proceeded forthwith to fall into the current, making all the haste
he could, as it was thought the traveller might pass down towards the East
River, and get into Queen Street, before we could reach the point at which
he would diverge. It is true, the old town residence of Stephen de Lancey,
which stood at the head of Broadway, just above Trinity,  had been
converted into a tavern, and we did not know but the Patroon might choose
to alight there, as it was then the principal inn of the town; still, most
people preferred Queen Street; and the new City Tavern was so much out of
the way, that strangers in particular were not fond of frequenting it.
Caesar came up, much out of breath, just as we got into the country.
Quitting Broadway, we went along the country road that then diverged to the
east, but which is now getting to contain a sort of suburb, and passing
the road that leads into Queen Street, we felt more certain of meeting the
traveller, whose carriage we soon learned had not gone by. As there were
and are several taverns for country people in this quarter, most of us went
quite into the country, proceeding as far as the villas of the Bayards, de
Lanceys, and other persons of mark; of which there are several along the
Bowery Road. Our party stopped under some cherry-trees, that were not
more than a mile from town, nearly opposite to Lt. Gov. de Lancey's
country-house;  but many boys &c. went a long long way into the country,
finishing the day by nutting and gathering apples in the grounds of
Petersfield and Rosehill, the country residences of the Stuyvesant and
Watt, or, as the last is now called the Watts, families. I was desirous of
going thus far myself, for I had heard much of both of those grand places;
but Pompey told me it would be necessary to be back for dinner by half-past
one, his mistress having consented to postpone the hour a little, in order
to indulge my natural desire to see all I could while in town.
We were not altogether children and blacks who were out on the Bowery
Road that day,--many tradesmen were among us, the leathern aprons making
a goodly parade on the occasion. I saw one or two persons wearing
swords, hovering round, in the lanes and in the woods,--proof that even
gentlemen had some desire to see so great a person as the Patroon of
Albany pass. I shall not stop to say much of the _transit_ of the
_Patroon_. He came by about noon, as was expected, and in his
coach-and-four, with two out-riders, coach-man, &c. in liveries, as is
usual in the families of the gentry, and with a team of heavy, black,
Dutch-looking horses, that I remember Caesar pronounced to be of the
true Flemish breed. The Patroon himself was a sightly, well-dressed
gentleman, wearing a scarlet coat, flowing wig, and cocked hat; and I
observed that the handle of his sword was of solid silver. But my father
wore a sword with a solid silver handle, too, a present from my
grandfather when the former first entered the army.  He bowed to the
salutations he received in passing, and I thought all the spectators
were pleased with the noble sight of seeing such an equipage pass into
the town. Such a sight does not occur every day in the colonies, and I
felt exceedingly happy that it had been my privilege to witness it.
A little incident occurred to myself that rendered this day long memorable
to me. Among the spectators assembled along the road on this occasion, were
several groups of girls, who belonged to the better class, and who had been
induced to come out into the country, either led by curiosity or by the
management of the different sable nurses who had them in charge. In one of
these groups was a girl of about ten, or possibly of eleven years of age,
whose dress, air, and mien, early attracted my attention. I thought her
large, bright, full, blue eye, particularly winning; and boys of fourteen
are not altogether insensible to beauty in the other sex, though they are
possibly induced oftener to regard it in those who are older than in those
who are younger than themselves. Pompey happened to be acquainted with
Silvy, the negress who had the care of my little beauty, to whom he bowed,
and addressed as Miss Anneke (Anna Cornelia abbreviated). Anneke I thought
a very pretty name too, and some little advances were made towards an
acquaintance by means of an offering of some fruit that I had gathered by
the way-side. Things were making a considerable progress, and I had asked
several questions, such as whether 'Miss Anneke had ever seen a patroon,'
which 'was the greatest personage, a patroon or a governor, whether 'a
nobleman who had lately been in the colony, as a military officer, or the
patroon, would be likely to have the finest coach,' when a butcher's boy,
who was passing, rudely knocked an apple out of Anneke's hand, and caused
her to shed a tear.
I took fire at this unprovoked outrage, and lent the fellow a dig in the
ribs that gave him to understand the young lady had a protector. My chap
was about my own age and weight, and he surveyed me a minute with a species
of contempt, and then beckoned me to follow him into an orchard that was
hard by, but a little out of sight. In spite of Anneke's entreaties I went,
and Pompey and Caesar followed. We had both stripped before the negroes
got up, for they were in a hot discussion whether I was to be permitted to
fight or not. Pompey maintained it would keep dinner waiting; but Caesar,
who had the most bottom, as became his name, insisted, as I had given a
blow, I was bound to render satisfaction. Luckily, Mr. Worden was very
skilful at boxing, and he had given both Dirck and myself many lessons, so
that I soon found myself the best fellow. I gave the butcher's boy a bloody
nose and a black eye, when he gave in, and I came off victor; not, however,
without a facer or two, that sent me to college with a reputation I hardly
merited, or that of a regular pugilist.
When I returned to the road, after this breathing, Anneke  had
disappeared, and I was so shy and silly as not to ask her family name from
Caesar the Great, or Pompey the Little.
[Footnote 3: The intelligent reader will, of course, properly appreciate
the provincial admiration of Mr. Littlepage, who naturally fancied his own
best was other people's best. The Trinity of that day was burned in the
great fire of 1776. The edifice that succeeded it, at the peace of 1783,
has already given place to a successor, that has more claim to be placed
on a level with modern, English, town church-architecture, than any other
building in the Union. When another shall succeed this, which shall be as
much larger and more elaborated than this is compared to its predecessor,
and still another shall succeed, which shall bear the same relation to
that, then the country will possess an edifice that is on a level with the
first-rate Gothic cathedral-architecture of Europe. It would be idle to
pretend that the new Trinity is without faults; some of which are probably
the result of circumstances and necessity; but, if the respectable
architect who has built it, had no other merit, he would deserve the
gratitude of every man of taste in the country, by placing church-towers of
a proper comparative breadth, dignity and proportions, before the eyes of
its population. The diminutive meanness of American church-towers, has been
an eye-sore to every _intelligent_, travelled American, since the country
[Footnote 4: The site of the present City Hotel.--ED.]
[Footnote 5: Now, de Lancey Street.--ED.]
[Footnote 6: This patroon must have been Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, who lived
to be a bachelor of forty before he married. If there be no anachrenism,
this gentleman married Miss Van Cortlandt, one of the seven daughters
of Stephanus Van Cortlandt, who was proprietor of the great manor of
Cortlandt, West Chester county, and who, in his day, was the principal
personage of the colony. The seven daughters of this Colonel Van Cortlandt,
by marrying into the families of de Lancey, Bayard, Van Rensellaer,
Beekman, M'Gregor--Skinner, &c. &c. brought together a connection that was
long felt in the political affairs of New York. The Schuylers were related
through a previous marriage, and many of the Long Island and other families
of weight by other alliances. This connection formed the court party, which
was resisted by an opposition led by the Livingstons, Morris, and other
names of _their_ connection. This old bachelor, Jeremiah Van Rensellaer,
believing he would never marry, alienated, in behalf of his next brother
and anticipated heir, the Greenbush and Claverack estates,--portions of
those vast possessions which, in our day, and principally through the
culpable apathy, or miserable demagogueism of those who have been entrusted
with the care of the public weal, have been the pretext for violating
some of the plainest laws of morality that God has communicated to
[Footnote 7: Pronounced On-na-_kay_, I believe.--EDITOR]
"Believe me, thou talkest of an admirable conceited fellow. Has
he any unbraided wares?"
"Pr'ythee, bring him in; and let him approach singing."
I have no intention of taking the reader with me through college, where
I remained the usual term of four years. These four years were not idled
away, as sometimes happens, but were fairly improved. I read all of the New
Testament, in Greek; several of Cicero's Orations; every line of Horace,
Satires and Odes; four books of the Iliad; Tully de Oratore, throughout;
besides paying proper attention to geography, mathematics, and other of the
usual branches. Moral philosophy, in particular, was closely attended to,
senior year, as well as Astronomy. We had a telescope that showed us all
four of Jupiter's moons. In other respects, Nassau might be called the seat
of learning. One of our class purchased a second-hand copy of Euripides, in
town, and we had it in college all of six months; though it was never
my good fortune to see it, as the young man who owned it, was not much
disposed to let profane eyes view his treasure. Nevertheless, I am certain
the copy of the work was in college; and we took good care to let the Yale
men hear of it more than once. I do not believe _they_ ever saw even the
outside of an Euripides. As for the telescope, I can testify of my own
knowledge; having seen the moons of Jupiter as often as ten times, with my
own eyes, aided by its magnifiers. We had a tutor who was expert among the
stars, and who, it was generally believed, would have been able to see the
ring of Saturn, could be have found the planet; which, as it turned out, he
was unable to do.
My four college years were very happy years. The vacations came often, and
I went home invariably; passing a day or two with my aunt Legge, in going
or coming. The acquisition of knowledge was always agreeable to me; and I
may say it without vanity, I trust, at this time of life, I got the third
honour of my class. We should have graduated four, but one of our class was
compelled to quit us at the end of junior year, on account of his health.
He was an unusually hard student, and it was generally admitted that he
would have taken the first honour had he remained. We were thought to
acquit ourselves with credit at the commencement; although I afterwards
heard my grandfather tell Mr. Worden, that he was of opinion the addresses
would have been more masculine and commendable, had less been said of
the surprising growth, prosperity, and power of the colonies. He had no
objection to the encouragement of a sound, healthful, patriotic feeling;
but to him it appeared that something more novel might have better pleased
the audience. This may have been true, as all three of us had something to
say on the subject; and it is a proof how much we thought alike, that our
language was almost as closely assimilated as our ideas.
As for the Powles Hook Ferry, it was an unpleasant place I will allow;
though by the time I was junior I thought nothing of it. My mother,
however, was glad when it was passed for the last time. I remember the very
first words that escaped her, after she had kissed me on my final return
from college, were, "Well, Heaven be praised, Corny! you will never again
have any occasion to cross that frightful ferry, now college is completely
done with!" My poor mother little knew how much greater dangers I was
subsequently called on to encounter, in another direction. Nor was she
minutely accurate in her anticipations, since I have crossed the ferry in
question, several times in later life; the distances not appearing to be as
great, of late years, as they certainly seemed to be in my youth.
It was a feather in a young man's cap to have gone through college in 1755,
which was the year I graduated. It is true, the University men, who had
been home for their learning, were more or less numerous; but they were of
a class that held itself aloof from the smaller gentry, and most of them
were soon placed in office, adding the dignity of public trusts to their
acquisitions--the former in a manner overshadowing the latter. But, I was
nearer to the body of the community, and my position admitted more of
comparative excellence, as it might be. No one thinks of certain habits,
opinions, manners, and tastes, in the circle where they are expected to
be found; but, it is a different thing where all, or any of these
peculiarities form the exception. I am afraid more was anticipated from my
college education than has ever been realized; but I will say this for my
_Alma Mater_, that I am not conscious my acquisitions at college have ever
been of any disadvantage to me; and I rather think they have, in some
degree at least, contributed to the little success that has attended my
I kept up my intimacy with Dirck Follock, during the whole time I remained
at college. He continued the classics with Mr. Worden, for two years after
I left the school; but I could not discover that his progress amounted
to anything worth mentioning. The master used to tell the Colonel, that
"Dirck's progress was slow and sure;" and this did not fail to satisfy a
man who had a constitutional aversion to much of the head-over-heels rate
of doing things among the English population. Col. Follock, as we always
called him, except when my father or grandfather asked him to drink a
glass of wine, or drank his health in the first glass after the cloth
was removed, when he was invariably styled Col. Van Valkenburgh, at full
length; but Col. Follock was quite content that his son and heir should
know no more than he knew himself, after making proper allowances for the
difference in years and experience. By the time I returned home, however,
a material change had been made in the school. Mr. Worden fell heir to a
moderate competency at home, and he gave up teaching, a business he had
never liked, accordingly. It was even thought he was a shade less zealous
in his parochial duties, after the acquisition of this fifty pounds
sterling a-year, than he had previously been; though I am far from
insisting on the fact's being so. At any rate, it was not in the power of
L50 per annum to render Mr. Worden apathetic on the subject of the church;
for he continued a most zealous churchman down to the hour of his death;
and this was something, even admitting that he was not quite so zealous as
a Christian. The church being the repository of the faith, if not the
faith itself, it follows that its friends are akin to religion, though not
absolutely religious. I have always liked a man the better for being what
I call a sound, warm-hearted churchman, though his habits may have been a
It was necessary to supply the place left vacant by the emigration of Mr.
Worden, or to abandon a school that had got to be the nucleus of knowledge
in Westchester. There was a natural desire, at first, to obtain another
scholar from home; but no such person offering, a Yale College graduate was
accepted, though not without sundry rebellions, and plenty of distrust.
The moment he appeared, Col. Follock, and Major Nicholas Oothout, another
respectable Dutch neighbour, withdrew their sons; and from that hour Dirck
never went to school again. It is true, Westchester was not properly a
Dutch county, like Rockland, and Albany, and Orange, and several others
along the river; but it had many respectable families in it, of that
extraction, without alluding to such heavy people as the Van Cortlandts,
Felipses, Beekmans, and two or three others of that stamp. Most of our
important county families had a different origin, as in the case of the
Morrises, of Morrisania, and of the Manor of Fordham, the Pells, of Pelham,
the Heathcotes, of Mamanneck, the branch of the de Lanceys, at West Farms,
the Jays, of Rye, &c., &c. All these came of the English, or the Huguenot
stock. Among these last, more or less Dutch blood was to be found, however;
though Dutch prejudices were a good deal weakened. Although few of these
persons sent their boys to this school, they were consulted in the
selection of a master; and I have always supposed that their indifference
was the cause that the county finally obtained the services of a Yankee,
The name of the new pedagogue was Jason Newcome, or, as he pronounced the
latter appellation himself, Noo-come. As he affected a pedantic way of
pronouncing the last syllable long, or as it was spelt, he rather called
himself Noo-comb, instead of Newcome, as is the English mode, whence he
soon got the nick-name of Jason Old Comb among the boys; the lank,
orderly arrangement of his jet-black, and somewhat greasy-looking locks,
contributing their share towards procuring for him the _sobriquet_, as I
believe the French call it. As this Mr. Newcome will have a material part
to play in the succeeding portions of this narrative, it may be well to be
a little more minute in his description.
I found Jason fully established in the school, on my return from college. I
remember we met very much like two strange birds, that see each other for
the first time on the same dunghill; or two quadrupeds, in their original
interview in a common herd. It was New Haven against Newark; though the
institution, after making as many migrations as the House of Loretto,
finally settled down at Princeton, a short time before I took my degree. I
was consequently entitled to call myself a graduate of Newark,--a sort of
scholar that is quite as great a curiosity in the country as a Queen Anne's
farthing, or a book printed in the fifteenth century. I remember the first
evening we two spent in company, as well as if the meeting occurred only
last night. It was at Satanstoe, and Mr. Worden was present. Jason had a
liberal supply of puritanical notions, which were bred in-and-in in his
moral, and I had almost said, in his physical system; nevertheless, he
could unbend; and I did not fail to observe that very evening, a gleam of
covert enjoyment on his sombre countenance, as the hot-stuff, the cards,
and the pipes were produced, an hour or two before supper,--a meal we
always had hot and comfortable. This covert satisfaction, however, was not
exhibited without certain misgiving looks, as if the neophyte in these
innocent enjoyments distrusted his right to possess his share. I remember
in particular, when my mother laid two or three new, clean packs of cards
on the table, that Jason cast a stealthy glance over his shoulder, as if
to make certain that the act was not noted by the minister, or the
"neighbours." The neighbours!--what a contemptible being a man becomes,
who lives in constant dread of the comments and judgments of these social
supervisors! and what a wretch, the habit of deferring to no principle
better than their decision has made many a being, who has had originally
the materials of something better in him, than has been developed by the
_surveillance_ of ignorance, envy, vulgarity, gossiping and lying! In those
cases in which education, social position, opportunities and experience
have made any material difference between the parties, the man who yields
to such a government, exhibits the picture of a giant held in bondage by a
pigmy. I have always remarked, too, that they who are best qualified to
sit in this neighbourhood-tribunal, generally keep most aloof from it, as
repugnant to their tastes and habits, thus leaving its decisions to the
portion of the community least qualified to make such as are either just or
I felt a disposition to laugh outright, at the manner in which Jason
betrayed a sneaking consciousness of crime, as he saw my meek, innocent,
simple-minded, just and warm-hearted mother lay the cards on the table that
evening. His sense of guilt was purely conventional, while my mother's
sense of innocence existed in the absence of false instruction, and in the
purity of her intentions. One had been taught no exaggerated and false
notion of sin,--nay, a notion that is impious, as it is clearly impious
in man to torture acts that are perfectly innocent, _per se_, into formal
transgressions of the law of God,--while the other had been educated under
the narrow and exaggerated notions of a provincial sect, and had obtained a
species of conscience that was purely dependent on his miserable schooling.
I heard my grandfather say that Jason actually showed the white of his eyes
the first time he saw Mr. Worden begin to deal, and he still looked, the
whole time we were at whist, as if he expected some one might enter, and
tell of his delinquency, I soon discovered that Jason had a much greater
dread of being told of, than of doing such things as taking a hand at
whist, or drinking a glass of punch, from which I inferred his true
conscience drew perceptible distinctions between the acts and the penalties
he had been accustomed to see inflicted on them. He was much disposed to a
certain sort of frailty; but it was a sneaking disposition to the last.
But, the amusing part of the exhibition, that first evening of our
acquaintance, was Mr. Worden's showing off his successor's familiarity
with the classics. Jason had not the smallest notion of quantity; and he
pronounced the Latin very much as one would read Mohawk, from a vocabulary
made out by a hunter, or a savant of the French Academy. As I had received
the benefit of Mr. Worden's own instruction, I could do better, and,
generally, my knowledge of the classics went beyond that of Jason's. The
latter's English, too, was long a source of amusement with us all, though
my grandfather often expressed strong disgust at it. Even Col. Follock did
not scruple to laugh at Newcome's English, which, as he frequently took
occasion to say, "hat a ferry remarkaple sount to it." As this peculiarity
of Jason's extended a good way into the Anglo-Saxon race, in the part of
the country in which he was born, it may be well to explain what I mean a
little more at large.
Jason was the son of an ordinary Connecticut farmer, of the usual
associations, and with no other pretension to education than such as was
obtained in a common school, or any reading which did not include the
Scriptures, some half-dozen volumes of sermons and polemical works, all the
latter of which were vigorously as well as narrowly one-sided, and a
few books that had been expressly written to praise New England, and to
undervalue all the rest of the earth. As the family knew nothing of the
world beyond the limits of its own township, and an occasional visit
to Hartford, on what is called "election-day," Jason's early life was
necessarily of the most contracted experience. His English, as a matter of
course, was just that of his neighbourhood and class of life; which was
far from being either very elegant or very Doric. But on this rustic,
provincial, or rather, hamlet foundation, Jason had reared a superstructure
of New Haven finish and proportions. As he kept school before he went to
college, while he was in college, and after he left college, the whole
energies of his nature became strangely directed to just such reforms of
language as would be apt to strike the imagination of a pedagogue of his
calibre. In the first place, he had brought from home with him a great
number of sounds that were decidedly vulgar and vicious, and with these in
full existence in himself, he had commenced his system of reform on other
people. As is common with all tyros, he fancied a very little knowledge
sufficient authority for very great theories. His first step was to improve
the language, by adapting sound to spelling and he insisted on calling
angel, _an_-gel, because a-n spelt an; chamber, _cham_-ber, for the same
reason; and so on through a long catalogue of similarly constructed words.
"English," he did not pronounce as "__lish" but as "_Eng_lish," for
instance; and "nothing" (anglice _nuth_ing), as _noth_-ing; or, perhaps, it
were better to say "_naw_thin'." While Jason showed himself so much of
a purist with these and many other words, he was guilty of some of the
grossest possible mistakes, that were directly in opposition to his own
theory. Thus, while he affectedly pronounced "none," (nun,) as "known," he
did not scruple to call "stone," "stun," and "home," "hum." The idea of
pronouncing "clerk," as it should be, or "clark," greatly shocked him, as
it did to call "hearth," "h'arth;" though he did not hesitate to call this
good earth of ours, the "'arth." "Been," he pronounced "ben," of course,
and "roof," he called "ruff," in spite of all his purism.
From the foregoing specimens, half a dozen among a thousand, the reader
will get an accurate notion of this weakness in Jason's character. It was
heightened by the fact that the young man commenced his education, such as
it was, late in life, and it is rare indeed that either knowledge or tastes
thus acquired are entirely free from exaggeration. Though Jason was several
years my senior, like myself he was a recent graduate, and it will be easy
enough to imagine the numberless discussions that took place between us, on
the subject of our respective acquisitions. I say 'respective,' instead of
mutual acquisitions, because there was nothing mutual about it, or _them_.
Neither our classics, our philosophy, nor our mathematics would seem to
have been the same, but each man apparently had a science, or a language of
his own, and which had been derived from the institution where he had been
taught. In the classics I was much the strongest, particularly in the
quantities, but Jason had the best of it in mathematics. In spite of his
conceit, his vulgarity, his English, his provincialism, and the awkwardness
with which he wore his tardily acquired information, this man had strong
points about him, and a native shrewdness that would have told much more in
his favour had it not been accompanied by a certain evasive manner, that
caused one constantly to suspect his sincerity, and which often induced
those who were accustomed to him, to imagine he had a sneaking propensity
that rendered him habitually hypocritical. Jason held New York in great
contempt; a feeling he was not always disposed to conceal, and of necessity
his comparisons were usually made with the state of things in Connecticut,
and much to the advantage of the latter. To one thing, however, he was much
disposed to defer, and that was money. Connecticut had not then, nor has it
now, a single individual who would be termed rich in New York; and Jason,
spite of his provincial conceit, spite of his overweening notions of moral
and intellectual superiority, could no more prevent this profound deference
for wealth, than he could substitute for a childhood of vulgarity and
neglect, the grace, refinement and knowledge which the boys of the more
fortunate classes in life obtain as it might be without knowing it. Yes,
Jason bowed down to the golden calf, in spite of his puritanism, his
love of liberty, his pretension to equality and the general strut of his
disposition and manner.
Such is an outline of the character and qualifications of the man whom I
found, on my return from college, at the head of Mr. Worden's school. We
soon became acquainted, and I do not know which got the most ideas from the
other, in course of the first fortnight. Our conversation and arguments
were free, almost to rudeness, and little mercy was shown to our respective
prejudices. Jason was ultra leveling in his notions of social intercourse,
while I had the opinions of my own colony, in which the distinctions of
classes are far more strongly marked than is usual in New England, out of
Boston, and its immediate association. Still Jason deferred to names, as
well as money, though it was in a way very different from my own. New
England was, and is, loyal to the crown; but having the right to name
many of its own governors, and possessing many other political privileges
through the charters that were granted to her people, in order to induce
them to settle that portion of the continent, they do not always manifest
the feeling in a way to be agreeable to those who have a proper reverence
for the crown. Among other points, growing out of this difference in
training, Jason and I had sundry arguments on the subject of professions,
trades and callings. It was evident he fancied the occupation of a
schoolmaster next in honour to that of a clergyman. The clergy formed a
species of aristocracy, according to his notions; but no man could commence
life under more favourable auspices, than by taking a school. The following
dialogue occurred between us, on this subject; and I was so much struck
with the novelty of my companion's notions, as to make a note of it, as
soon as we parted.
"I wonder your folks don't think of giving you suthin' to do, Corny,"
commenced Jason, one day, after our acquaintance had ripened into a sort
of belligerent intimacy. "You're near nineteen, now, and ought to begin to
think of bringing suthin' in, to pay for all the outgoings."
By "your folks," Jason meant the family of Littlepage; and the blood of
that family quickened a little within me, fit the idea of being profitably
employed, in the manner intimated, because I had reached the mature and
profitable age of nineteen.
"I do not understand you exactly, Mr. Newcome, by your bringing something
in," answered I, with dignity enough to put a man of ordinary delicacy on
"Bringing suthin' in is good English, I hope, Mr. Littlepage. I mean that
your edication has cost your folks enough to warrant them in calling on you
for a little interest. How much do you suppose, now, has been spent on your
edication, beginning at the time you first went to Mr. Worden, and leaving
off the day you quitted Newark?"
"Really, I have not the smallest notion; the subject has never crossed my
"Did the old folks never say anything to you about it?--never foot up the
"I am sure it is not easy to see how this could be done, for I could not
help them in the least."
"But your father's books would tell that, as doubtless it all stands
charged against you."
"Stands charged against me!--How, sir! do you imagine my father makes
a charge in a book against me, whenever he pays a few pounds for my
"Certainly; how else could he tell how much you have had?--though, on
reflection, as you are an only child, it does not make so much difference.
You probably will get all, in the end."
"And had I a brother, or a sister, do you imagine, Mr. Newcome, each
shilling we spent would be set down in a book, as charges against us?"
"How else, in natur', could it be known which had had the most, or any sort
of justice be done between you?"
"Justice would be done, by our common father's giving to each just as much
of his own money as he might see fit. What is it to me, if he chose to give
my brother a few hundred pounds more than he chose to give to me? The money
is his, and he may do with it as he choose."
"An hundred pounds is an awful sight of money!" exclaimed Jason, betraying
by his countenance how deeply he felt the truth of this. "If you have had
money in such large sums, so much the more reason why you should set about
doing suthin' to repay the old gentleman. Why not set up a school?"
"Why not set up a school, I say? You might have had this of mine, had you
been a little older; but once in, fast in, with me. Still, schools are
wanted, and you might get a tolerable good recommend. I dare say your tutor
would furnish a certificate."
This word "recommend" was used by Jason for "recommendation" the habit of
putting verbs in the places of substantives, and _vice versa_, being much
in vogue with him.
"And do you really think that one who is destined to inherit Satanstoe,
would act advisedly to set up a school? Recollect, Mr. Newcome, that my
father and grandfather have both borne the king's commission; and that
the last bears it, at this very moment, through his representative, the
"What of all that? What better business is there than keeping a good
school? If you are high in your notions, get to be made a tutor in that New
Jersey college. Recollect that a tutor in a college is somebody. I did hope
for such a place, but having a Governor's son against me, as a candidate,
there was no chance."
"A Governor's son a candidate for a tutorship in a college! You are pleased
to trifle with me, Mr. Newcome."
"It's true as the gospel. You thought some smaller fish put me down, but he
was the son of the Governor. But, why do you give that vulgar name to your
father's farm--Satanstoe is not decent; yet, Corny, I've heard you use it
before your own mother!"
"That you may hear every day, and my mother use it, too, before her own
son. What fault do you find with the name of Satanstoe?"
"Fault!--In the first place it is irreligious and profane; then it is
ungenteel and vulgar, and only fit to be used in low company. Moreover, it
is opposed to history and revelation, the Evil One having a huff, if you
will, but no toes. Such a name couldn't stand a fortnight before public
opinion in New England."
"Yes, that may be very true; but we do not care enough for His Satanic
Majesty in the colony of New York, to treat him with so much deference. As
for the 'huffs,' as you call them----"
"Why, what do _you_ call 'em, Mr. Littlepage?"
"Hoofs, Mr. Newcome; that is the New York pronunciation of the word."
"I care nothing for York pronunciation, which everybody knows is Dutch and
full of corruptions. You'll never do anything worth speaking of in this
colony, Corny, until you pay more attention to your schools."
"I do not know what you call attention, Mr. Jason, unless we have paid it
already. Here, I have the caption, or rather preamble of a law, on that
very subject, that I copied out of the statute-book on purpose to show you,
and which I will now read in order to prove to you how things really stand
in the colony."
"Read away," rejoined Jason, with an air of sufficient disdain.
Read I did, and in the following sententious and comprehensive language,
viz:--"Whereas the youth of this colony are found, by manifold experience,
to be not inferior in their natural geniuses to the youth of any other
country in the world, therefore be it enacted, &c." 
"There, sir," I said in exultation, "you have chapter and verse for the
true character of the rising generation in the colony of New York."
"And what does that preamble lead to?" demanded Jason, a little staggered
at finding the equality of our New York intellects established so clearly
by legislative enactment.
"It is the preamble to an act establishing the free schools of New York, in
which the learned languages have now been taught these twenty years; and
you will please to remember that another law has not long been passed
establishing a college in town."
"Well, curious laws sometimes do get into the statute-books, and a body
must take them as he finds them. I dare say Connecticut might have a word
to say on the same subject, if you would give her a chance. Have you heard
the wonderful news from Philadelphia, Corny, that has just come among us?"
"I have heard nothing of late; for you know I have been over in Rockland,
with Dirck Follock, for the last two weeks, and news never reaches that
family, or indeed that county."
"No, that is true enough," answered Jason, drily; "News and a Dutchman have
no affinity, or attraction, as we would say in philosophy; though there is
gravitation enough on one side, ha! boy?"
Here Jason laughed outright, for he was always delighted whenever he could
get a side-hit at the children of Holland, whom he appeared to regard as a
race occupying a position between the human family and the highest class of
the unintellectual animals. But it is unnecessary to dwell longer on this
dialogue, my object being merely to show the general character of Jason's
train of thought, in order to be better understood when I come to connect
his opinions with his acts.
Dirck and myself were much together after my return from college. I passed
weeks at a time with him, and he returned my visits with the utmost freedom
and good-will. Each of us had now got his growth, and it would have done
the heart of Frederick of Prussia good, to have seen my young friend after
he had ended his nineteenth year. In stature he measured exactly six feet
three, and he gave every promise of filling up in proportion. Dirck was
none of your roundly-turned, Apollo-built fellows, but he had shoulders
that his little, short, solid, but dumpy-looking mother, who was of the
true stock, could scarcely span, when she pulled his head down to give him
a kiss; which she did regularly, as Dirck told me himself, twice each year;
that is to say, Christmas and New-Year. His complexion was fair, his limbs
large and well proportioned, his hair light, his eyes blue, and his face
would have been thought handsome by most persons. I will not deny, however,
that there was a certain ponderosity, both of mind and body, about my
friend, that did not very well accord with the general notion of grace and
animation. Nevertheless, Dirck was a sterling fellow, as true as steel, as
brave as a game-cock, and as honest as noon-day light.
Jason was a very different sort of person, in many essentials. In figure,
he was also tall, but he was angular, loose-jointed and swinging--slouching
would be the better word, perhaps. Still, he was not without strength,
having worked on a farm until he was near twenty; and he was as active as a
cat; a result that took the stranger a little by surprise, when he regarded
only his loose, quavering sort of build. In the way of thought, Jason would
think two feet to Dirck's one; but I am far from certain that it was always
in so correct a direction. Give the Dutchman time, he was very apt to come
out right; whereas Jason, I soon discovered, was quite liable to come to
wrong conclusions, and particularly so in all matters that were a little
adverse, and which affected his own apparent interests. Dirck, moreover,
was one of the best-natured fellows that breathed; it being almost
impossible to excite him to anger; when it did come, however, the
earthquake was scarcely more terrific. I have seen him enraged, and would
as soon encounter a wild-boar in an open field, as run against his course,
while in the fit.
Modesty will hardly permit me to say much of myself. I was well-grown,
active, strong, for my years; and, I am inclined to think, reasonably
well-looking; though I would prefer that this much should be said by
any one but myself. Dirck and I often tried our manhood together, when
youngsters, and I was the better chap until my friend reached his
eighteenth year, when the heavy metal of the young Dutch giant told in our
struggles. After that period was past, I found Dirck too much for me, in a
close gripe, though my extraordinary activity rendered the inequality less
apparent than it might otherwise have proved. I ought not to apply the
term of "extraordinary" to anything about myself, but the word escaped
me unconsciously, and I shall let it stand. One thing I will say,
notwithstanding, let the reader think of it as he may: I was good-natured
and well-disposed to my fellow-creatures, and had no greater love of money
than was necessary to render me reasonably discreet.
Such is an outline of the characters and persons of three of the principal
actors in the scenes I am about to relate; scenes that will possess some
interest for those who love to read accounts of adventures in a new
country, however much they may fail in interesting others, when I speak of
the condition and events of the more civilized condition of society, that
was enjoyed, even in my youth, in such old counties as Westchester, and
such towns as York.
[Footnote 8: This quotation would seem to be accurate, and it is somewhat
curious to trace the reason why a preamble so singular should have been
prefixed to the law. Was it not owing to the oft-repeated and bold
assertions of Europeans, that man deteriorated in this hemisphere? Any
American who has been a near observer of European opinion, even in our day,
must have been frequently amused at the expression of surprise and doubt
that so often escapes the residents of the Old World, when they discover
anything that particularly denotes talent coming from the New. I make
little question that this extraordinary preamble is a sort of indirect
answer to an imputation that was known to be as general, in that age, as
it was felt to be unjust. My own experience would lead me to think native
capacity more abundant in America than in the midland countries of Europe,
and quite as frequently met with as in Italy itself; and I have often heard
teachers, both English and French, admit that their American and West-India
scholars were generally the readiest and cleverest in their schools. The
great evil under which this country labours, in this respect, is the sway
of numbers, which is constantly elevating mediocrity and spurious talent to
high places. In America we have a _higher average_ of intelligence, while
we have far less of the _higher class;_ and I attribute the latter fact
to the control of those who have never enjoyed the means of appreciating
"Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labour and to wait."
The spring of the year I was twenty, Dirck and myself paid our first visit
to town, in the characters of young men. Although Satanstoe was not more
than five-and-twenty miles from New York, by the way of King's-Bridge, the
road we always travelled in order to avoid the ferry, it was by no means as
common to visit the capital as it has since got to be. I know gentlemen who
pass in and out from our neighbourhood, now, as often as once a fortnight,
or even once a week; but thirty years since this was a thing very seldom
done. My dear mother always went to town twice a year; in the spring to
pass Easter week, and in the autumn to make her winter purchases. My father
usually went down four times, in the course of the twelve months, but he
had the reputation of a gadabout, and was thought by many people to leave
home quite as much as he ought to do. As for my grandfather, old age coming
on, he seldom left home now, unless it were to pay stated visits to certain
old brother campaigners who lived within moderate distances, and with whom
he invariably passed weeks each summer.
The visit I have mentioned occurred some time after Easter, a season of
the year that many of our country families were in the habit of passing
in town, to have the benefit of the daily services of Old Trinity, as the
Hebrews resorted to Jerusalem to keep the feast of the passover. My mother
did not go to town this year, on account of my father's gout, and I
was sent to supply her place with my aunt Legge, who had been so long
accustomed to have one of the family with her at that season, that I was
substituted. Dirck had relatives of his own, with whom he staid, and thus
every thing was rendered smooth. In order to make a fair start, my friend
crossed the Hudson the week before, and, after taking breath at Satanstoe
for three days, we left the Neck for the capital, mounted on a pair of as
good roadsters as were to be found in the county: and that is saying a good
deal; for the Morrises, and de Lanceys, and Van Cortlandts all kept racers,
and sometimes gave us good sport, in the autumn, over the county course.
West Chester, to say no more than she deserved, was a county with a
spirited gentry, and one of which no colony need be ashamed.
My mother was a tender-hearted parent, and full of anxiety in behalf of an
only child. She knew that travelling always has more or less of hazard,
and was desirous we should be off betimes, in order to make certain of our
reaching town before the night set in. Highway robbers, Heaven be praised!
were then, and are still, unknown to the colonies; but there were other
dangers that gave my excellent parent much concern. All the bridges were
not considered safe; the roads were, and are yet, very circuitous, and it
was possible to lose one's way; while it was said persons had been known to
pass the night on Harlem common, an uninhabited waste that lies some seven
or eight miles on our side of the city. My mother's first care, therefore,
was to get Dirck and myself off early in the morning; in order to do which
she rose with the light, gave us our breakfasts immediately afterwards, and
thus enabled us to quit Satanstoe just as the sun had burnished the eastern
sky with its tints of flame-colour.
Dirck was in high good-humour that morning, and, to own the truth, Corny
did not feel the depression of spirits which, according to the laws of
propriety, possibly ought to have attended the first really free departure
of so youthful an adventurer from beneath the shadows of the paternal roof.
We went our way laughing and chatting like two girls just broke loose from
boarding-school. I had never known Dirck more communicative, and I got
certain new insights into his feelings, expectations and prospects, as we
rode along the colony's highway that morning, that afterwards proved to
be matters of much interest with us both. We had not got a mile from the
chimney-tops of Satanstoe, ere my friend broke forth as follows:--
"I suppose you have heard, Corny, what the two old gentlemen have been at,
"Your father and mine?--I have not heard a syllable of any thing new."
"They have been suing out, before the Governor and Council, a joint claim
to that tract of land they bought of the Mohawks, the last time they were
out together on service in the colony militia."
I ought to mention, here, that though my predecessors had made but few
campaigns in the regular army, each had made several in the more humble
capacity of a militia officer.
"This is news to me, Dirck," I answered. "Why should the old gentlemen have
been so sly about such a thing?"
"I cannot tell you, lest they thought silence the best way to keep off the
yankees. You know, my father has a great dread of a yankee's getting a
finger into any of his bargains. He says the yankees are the locusts of the
"But, how came you to know any thing about it, Dirck?"
"I am no yankee, Corny."
"And your father told _you_ on the strength of this recommendation?"
"He told me, as he tells me most things that he thinks it best I should
know. We smoke together, and then we talk together."
"I would learn to smoke too, if I thought I should get any useful
information by so doing."
"Dere is much to be l'arnt from ter pipe!" said Dirck, dropping into a
slightly Dutch accent, as frequently happened with him, when his mind took
a secret direction towards Holland, though in general he spoke English
quite as well as I did myself, and vastly better than that miracle of
taste, and learning, and virtue, and piety, Mr. Jason Newcome, A.B., of
Yale, and prospective president of that, or some other institution.
"So it would seem, if your father is telling you secrets all the time you
are smoking together. But where is this land, Dirck?"
"It is in the Mohawk country--or, rather, it is in the country near the
Hampshire Grants, and at no great distance from the Mohawk country."
"And how much may there be of it?"
"Forty thousand acres; and some of it of good, rich flats, they say; such
as a Dutchman loves."
"And your father and mine have purchased all this land in company, you
say--share and share alike, as the lawyers call it."
"Pray how much did they pay for so large a tract of land?"
Dirck took time to answer this question. He first drew from his breast a
pocket-book, which he opened as well as he could under the motion of his
roadster, for neither of us abated his speed, it being indispensable to
reach town before dark. My friend succeeded at length in putting his hand
on the paper he wanted, which he gave to me.
"There," he said; "that is a list of the articles paid to the Indians,
which I have copied, and then there have been several hundred pounds of
fees paid to the Governor and his officers."
I read from the list, as follows; the words coming out by jerks, as the
trotting of my horse permitted. "Fifty blankets, each with yellow strings
and yellow trimmings; ten iron pots, four gallons each; forty pounds of
gunpowder; seven muskets; twelve pounds of small beads; ten strings of
wampum; fifty gallons of rum, pure Jamaica, and of high proof; a score of
jews-harps, and three dozen first quality English-made tomahawks."
"Well, Dirck," I cried, as soon as through reading, "this is no great
matter to give for forty thousand acres of land, in the colony of New York.
I dare say a hundred pounds currency ($250) would buy every thing here,
even to the rum and the first quality of English-made tomahawks."
"Ninety-six pounds, thirteen shillings, seven pence 't'ree fart'in's' was
the footing of the whole bill," answered Dirck deliberately, preparing to
light his pipe; for he could smoke very conveniently while trotting no
faster than at the rate of six miles the hour.
"I do not find that dear for forty thousand acres; I suppose the muskets,
and rum, and other things were manufactured expressly for the Indian
'Not they, Corny: you know how it is with the old gentlemen;--they are as
honest as the day."
"So much the better for them, and so much the better for us! But what is to
be done with this land, now they own it?"
Dirck did not answer, until we had trotted twenty rods; for by this time
the pipe was at work, and the moment that smoke was seen he kept his eye on
it, until he saw a bright light in front of his nose.
"The first thing will be to find it, Corny. When a patent is signed and
delivered, then you must send forth some proper person to find the land it
covers. I have heard of a gentleman who got a grant of ten thousand acres,
five years since; and though he has had a hunt for it every summer since,
he has not been able to find it yet. To be sure, ten thousand acres is a
small object to look for, in the woods."
"And our fathers intend to find this land as soon as the season opens?"
"Not so fast, Corny; not so fast! That was the scheme of your father's
Welsh blood, but mine takes matters more deliberately. Let us wait until
next year, he said, and then we can send the boys. By that time, too, the
war will take some sort of a shape, and we shall know better how to care
for the children. The subject has been fairly talked over between the two
patentees, and we are to go early _next_ spring, not this."
The idea of land-hunting was not in the least disagreeable to me; nor was
it unpleasant to think that I stood in reversion, or as heir, to twenty
thousand acres of land, in addition to those of Satanstoe. Dirck and I
talked the matter over, as we trotted on, until both of us began to regret
that the expedition was so far in perspective.
The war to which Dirck alluded, had broken out a few months before our
visit to town: a Mr. Washington, of Virginia--the same who has since become
so celebrated as the Col Washington of Braddock's defeat, and other events
at the south--having been captured, with a party of his men, in a small
work thrown up in the neighbourhood of the French, somewhere on the
tributaries of the Ohio; a river that is known to run into the Mississippi,
a vast distance to the west. I knew very little then, nor do I know much
now of these remote regions, beyond the fact that there are such places,
and that they are sometimes visited by detachments, war-parties, hunters,
and other adventurers from the colonies. To me, it seems scarce worth
fighting about such distant and wild territory; for ages and ages must
elapse before it can be of any service for the purposes of civilization.
Both Dirck and myself regretted that the summer would be likely to go by
without our seeing the enemy; for we came of families that were commonly
employed on such, occasions. We thought both our fathers might be out;
though even that was a point that still remained under discussion.
We dined and baited at Kingsbridge, intending to sup in town. While the
dinner was cooking, Dirck and I walked out on the heights that overlook the
Hudson; for I knew less of this noble river than I wished to know of it. We
conversed as we walked; and my companion, who knew the river much better
than myself, having many occasions to pass up and down it, between the
village of Haverstraw and town, in his frequent visits to his relatives
below, gave me some useful information.
"Look here, Corny," said Dirck, after betraying a good deal of desire to
obtain a view of some object in the distance, along the river-side; "Look
here, Corny, do you see yonder house, in the little bay below us, with the
lawn that extends down to the water; and that noble orchard behind it?"
I saw the object to which Dirck alluded. It was a house that stood near the
river, but sheltered and secluded, with the lawn and orchard as described;
though at the distance of some two or three miles all the beauties of the
spot could not be discovered, and many of them had to be received on the
faith of my companion's admiration. Still I saw very plainly, all the
principal objects named; and, among others, the house, the orchard, and the
lawn. The building was of stone--as is common with most of the better sort
of houses in the country--was long, irregular, and had that air of
solid comfort about it, which it is usual to see in buildings of that
description. The walls were not whitewashed, according to the lively tastes
of our Dutch fellow-colonists, who appear to expend all their vivacity in
the pipe and the brush, but were left in their native grey; a circumstance
that rendered the form and dimensions of the structure a little less
distinct, at a first glance, than they might otherwise have proved. As
I gazed at the spot, however, I began to fancy it a charm, to find the
picture thus sobered down; and found a pleasure in drawing the different
angles, and walls, and chimneys, and roofs, from this back-ground, by means
of the organ of sight. On the whole, I thought the little sequestered bay,
the wooded and rocky shores, the small but well distributed lawn, the
orchard, with all the other similar accessories, formed together one of the
prettiest places of the sort I had ever seen. Thinking so, I was not slow
in saying as much to my companion. I was thought to have some taste in
these matters, and had been consulted on the subject of laying out grounds
by one or two neighbours in the county.
"Whose house is it, Dirck?" I enquired; "and how came you to know anything
"That is Lilacsbush," answered my friend; "and it belongs to my mother's
cousin, Herman Mordaunt."
I had heard of Herman, or, as it is pronounced, Harmar Mordaunt. He was
a man of considerable note in the colony, having been the son of a Major
Mordaunt, of the British army, who had married the heiress of a wealthy
Dutch merchant, whence the name of Herman; which had descended to the son
along with the money. The Dutch were so fond of their own blood, that they
never failed to give this Mr. Mordaunt his Christian name; and he was
usually known in the colony as Herman Mordaunt. Further than this, I knew
little of the gentleman, unless it might be that he was reputed rich, and
was admitted to be in the best society, though not actually belonging to
the territorial or political aristocracy of the colony.
"As Herman Mordaunt is your mother's cousin, I suppose, Dirck," I resumed,
"that you have been at Lilacsbush, and ascertained whether the inside of
the house is as pleasant and respectable as the outside."
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