The Redskins, or, Indian and Injin,
Vol. 1 by James Fenimore Cooper
INDIAN AND INJIN:
BEING THE CONCLUSION OF THE
AUTHOR OF THE PATHFINDER, DEERSLAYER, TWO ADMIRALS, ETC.
In every work regard the writer's end;
None e'er ran compass more than they intend.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PUBLISHED BY BURGESS &STRINGER,
Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1846, by
J. FENIMORE COOPER,
in the clerk's office of the District Court for the Northern
District of New York.
STEREOTYPED BY J. FAGAN, PHILADELPHIA.
This book closes the series of the Littlepage Manuscripts, which
have been given to the world, as containing a fair account of the
comparative sacrifices of time, money and labour, made respectively by
the landlord and the tenants, on a New York estate; together with the
manner in which usages and opinions are changing among us; as well as
certain of the reasons of these changes. The discriminating reader will
probably be able to trace in these narratives the progress of those
innovations on the great laws of morals which are becoming so very
manifest in connection with this interest, setting at naught the
plainest principles that God has transmitted to man for the government
of his conduct, and all under the extraordinary pretence of favouring
liberty! In this downward course, our picture embraces some of the
proofs of that looseness of views on the subject of certain species of
property which is, in a degree perhaps, inseparable from the
semi-barbarous condition of a new settlement; the gradation of the
squatter, from him who merely makes his pitch to crop a few fields in
passing, to him who carries on the business by wholesale; and last,
though not least in this catalogue of marauders, the anti-renter.
It would be idle to deny that the great principle which lies at the
bottom of anti-rentism, if principle it can be called, is the
assumption of a claim that the interests and wishes of numbers are to
be respected, though done at a sacrifice of the clearest rights of the
few. That this is not liberty, but tyranny in its worst form, every
right-thinking and right-feeling man must be fully aware. Every one who
knows much of the history of the past, and of the influence of classes,
must understand, that whenever the educated, the affluent and the
practised, choose to unite their means of combination and money to
control the political destiny of a country, they become irresistible;
making the most subservient tools of those very masses who vainly
imagine they are the true guardians of their own liberties. The
well-known election of 1840 is a memorable instance of the power of
such a combination; though that was a combination formed mostly for the
mere purposes of faction, sustained perhaps by the desperate designs of
the insolvents of the country. Such a combination was necessarily
wanting in union among the affluent; it had not the high support of
principles to give it sanctity, and it affords little more than the
proof of the power of money and leisure, when applied in a very
doubtful cause, in wielding the masses of a great nation, to be the
instruments of their own subjection. No well-intentioned American
legislator, consequently, ought ever to lose sight of the fact, that
each invasion of the right which he sanctions is a blow struck against
liberty itself, which, in a country like this, has no auxiliary so
certain or so powerful as justice.
The State of New York contains about 43,000 square miles of land; or
something like 27,000,000 of acres. In 1783, its population must have
been about 200,000 souls. With such a proportion between people and
surface it is unnecessary to prove that the husbandman was not quite as
dependent on the landholder, as the landholder was dependent on the
husbandman. This would have been true, had the State been an island;
but we all know it was surrounded by many other communities similarly
situated, and that nothing else was so abundant as land. All notions of
exactions and monopolies, therefore, must be untrue, as applied to
those two interests at that day.
In 1786-7, the State of New York, then in possession of all powers
on the subject, abolished entails, and otherwise brought its law of
real estate in harmony with the institutions. At that time, hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of the leases which have since become so obnoxious,
were in existence. With the attention of the State drawn directly to
the main subject, no one saw anything incompatible with the
institutions in them. It was felt that the landlords had bought the
tenants to occupy their lands by the liberality of their concessions, and that the latter were the obliged parties. Had the landlords of
that day endeavoured to lease for one year, or for ten years, no
tenants could have been found for wild lands; but it became a different
thing, when the owner of the soil agreed to part with it for ever, in
consideration of a very low rent, granting six or eight years free from
any charge whatever, and consenting to receive the product of the soil
itself in lieu of money. Then, indeed, men were not only willing to
come into the terms, but eager; the best evidence of which is the fact,
that the same tenants might have bought land, out and out, in every
direction around them, had they not preferred the easier terms of the
leases. Now, that these same men, or their successors, have become rich
enough to care more to be rid of the encumbrance of the rent than to
keep their money, the rights of the parties certainly are not altered.
In 1789, the Constitution of the United States went into operation;
New York being a party to its creation and conditions. By that
Constitution, the State deliberately deprived itself of the power to
touch the covenants of these leases, without conceding the power to any
other government; unless it might be through a change of the
Constitution itself. As a necessary consequence, these leases, in a
legal sense, belong to the institutions of New York, instead of being
opposed to them. Not only is the spirit of the institutions in harmony
with these leases, but so is the letter also. Men must draw a
distinction between the spirit of the institutions and their own
spirits; the latter being often nothing more than a stomach that is
not easily satisfied. It would be just as true to affirm that domestic
slavery is opposed to the institutions of the United States, as to say
the same of these leases. It would be just as rational to maintain,
because A. does not choose to make an associate of B., that he is
acting in opposition to the spirit of the institutions, inasmuch as
the Declaration of Independence advances the dogmas that men are born
equal, as it is to say it is opposed to the same spirit, for B. to pay
rent to A. according to his covenant.
It is pretended that the durable leases are feudal in their nature.
We do not conceive this to be true; but, admitting it to be so, it
would only prove that feudality, to this extent, is a part of the
institutions of the State. What is more, it would become a part over
which the State itself has conceded all power of control, beyond that
which it may remotely possess as one, out of twenty-eight communities.
As respects this feudal feature, it is not easy to say where it must be
looked for. It is not to be found in the simple fact of paying rent,
for that is so general as to render the whole country feudal, could it
be true; it cannot be in the circumstance that the rent is to be paid
in kind, as it is called, and in labour, for that is an advantage to
the tenant, by affording him the option, since the penalty of a failure
leaves the alternative of paying in money. It must be, therefore, that
these leases are feudal because they run for ever! Now the length of
the lease is clearly a concession to the tenant, and was so regarded
when received; and there is not probably a single tenant, under lives,
who would not gladly exchange his term of possession for that of one of
these detestable durable leases!
Among the absurdities that have been circulated on this subject of
feudality, it has been pretended that the well-known English statute of
quia emptores has prohibited fines for alienation; or that the
quarter-sales, fifth-sales, sixth-sales, &c. of our own leases were
contrary to the law of the realm, when made. Under the common law, in
certain cases of feudal tenures, the fines for alienation were an
incident of the tenure. The statute of quia emptores abolished
that general principle, but it in no manner forbade parties to enter
into covenants of the nature of quarter-sales, did they see fit.
The common law gives all the real estate to the eldest son. Our statute
divides the real estate among the nearest of kin, without regard even
to sex. It might just as well be pretended that the father cannot
devise all his lands to his eldest son, under our statute, as to say
that the law of Edward I. prevents parties from bargaining for
quarter-sales. Altering a provision of the common law does not preclude
parties from making covenants similar to its ancient provisions.
Feudal tenures were originally divided into two great classes; those
which were called the military tenures, or knight's service, and
soccage. The first tenure was that which became oppressive in the
progress of society. Soccage was of two kinds; free and villian. The
first has an affinity to our own system, as connected with these
leases; the last never existed among us at all. When the knight's
service, or military tenures of England were converted into free
soccage, in the reign of Charles II., the concession was considered of
a character so favourable to liberty as to be classed among the great
measures of the time; one of which was the habeas corpus act!
The only feature of our own leases, in the least approaching
villian soccage, is that of the day's works. But every one
acquainted with the habits of American life, will understand that
husbandmen, in general, throughout the northern States, would regard it
as an advantage to be able to pay their debts in this way; and the law
gives them an option, since a failure to pay in kind, or in work,
merely incurs the forfeiture of paying what the particular thing is
worth, in money. In point of fact, money has always been received for
these day's works, and at a stipulated price.
But, it is pretended, whatever may be the equity of these leasehold
contracts, they are offensive to the tenants, and ought to be
abrogated, for the peace of the State. The State is bound to make all
classes of men respect its laws, and in nothing more so than in the
fulfilment of their legal contracts. The greater the number of the
offenders, the higher the obligation to act with decision and
efficiency. To say that these disorganizers ought not to be put
down, is to say that crime is to obtain impunity by its own extent; and
to say that they cannot be put down under our form of
government, is a direct admission that the government is unequal to
the discharge of one of the plainest and commonest obligations of all
civilized society. If this be really so, the sooner we get rid of the
present form of government the better. The notion of remedying such
an evil by concession, is as puerile as it is dishonest. The larger the
concessions become, the greater will be the exactions of a cormorant
cupidity. As soon as quiet is obtained by these means, in reference to
the leasehold tenures, it will be demanded by some fresh combination to
attain some other end.
When Lee told Washington, at Monmouth, Sir, your troops will not
stand against British grenadiers, Washington is said to have answered,
Sir, you have never tried them. The same reply might be given to
those miserable traducers of this republic, who, in order to obtain
votes, affect to think there is not sufficient energy in its government
to put down so bare-faced an attempt as this of the anti-renters to
alter the conditions of their own leases to suit their own convenience.
The county of Delaware has, of itself, nobly given the lie to the
assertion, the honest portion of its inhabitants scattering the knaves
to the four winds, the moment there was a fair occasion made for them
to act. A single, energetic proclamation from Albany, calling a spade
a spade, and not affecting to gloss over the disguised robbery of
these anti-renters, and laying just principles fairly before the public
mind, would of itself have crushed the evil in its germ. The people of
New York, in their general capacity, are not the knaves their servants
The assembly of New York, in its memorable session of 1846, has
taxed the rents on long leases; thus, not only taxing the same property
twice, but imposing the worst sort of income-tax, or one aimed at a few
individuals. It has thimble-rigged in its legislation, as Mr. Hugh
Littlepage not unaptly terms it; endeavouring to do that indirectly,
which the Constitution will not permit it to do directly. In other
words, as it can pass no direct law impairing the obligation of
contracts, while it can regulate descents, it has enacted, so
far as one body of the legislature has power to enact anything, that on
the death of a landlord the tenant may convert his lease into a
mortgage, on discharging which he shall hold his land in fee!
We deem the first of these measures far more tyrannical than the
attempt of Great Britain to tax her colonies, which brought about the
revolution. It is of the same general character, that of unjust
taxation; while it is attended by circumstances of aggravation that
were altogether wanting in the policy of the mother country. This is
not a tax for revenue, which is not needed; but a tax to choke off
the landlords, to use a common American phrase. It is clearly taxing
nothing, or it is taxing the same property twice. It is done to
conciliate three or four thousand voters, who are now in the market, at
the expense of three or four hundred who, it is known, are not to be
bought. It is unjust in its motives, its means and its end. The measure
is discreditable to civilization, and an outrage on liberty.
But, the other law mentioned is an atrocity so grave, as to alarm
every man of common principle in the State, were it not so feeble in
its devices to cheat the Constitution, as to excite contempt. This
extraordinary power is exercised because the legislature can
control the law of descents, though it cannot impair the obligation of
contracts! Had the law said at once that on the death of a landlord
each of his tenants should own his farm in fee, the ensemble of
the fraud would have been preserved, since the law of descents would
have been so far regulated as to substitute one heir for another; but
changing the nature of a contract, with a party who has nothing
to do with the succession at all, is not so very clearly altering, or
amending, the law of descents! It is scarcely necessary to say that
every reputable court in the country, whether State or Federal, would
brand such a law with the disgrace it merits.
But the worst feature of this law, or attempted law, remains to be
noticed. It would have been a premium on murder. Murder has
already been committed by these anti-renters, and that obviously to
effect their ends; and they were to be told that whenever you shoot a
landlord, as some have already often shot at them, you can
convert your leasehold tenures into tenures in fee! The mode of
valuation is so obvious, too, as to deserve a remark. A master was to
settle the valuation on testimony. The witnesses of course would be
the neighbours, and a whole patent could swear for each other!
As democrats we protest most solemnly against such bare-faced
frauds, such palpable cupidity and covetousness being termed anything
but what they are. If they come of any party at all, it is the party of
the devil. Democracy is a lofty and noble sentiment. It does not rob
the poor to make the rich richer, nor the rich to favour the poor. It
is just, and treats all men alike. It does not impair the obligations
of contracts. It is not the friend of a canting legislation, but,
meaning right, dare act directly. There is no greater delusion than to
suppose that true democracy has anything in common with injustice or
Nor is it an apology for anti-rentism, in any of its aspects, to say
that leasehold tenures are inexpedient. The most expedient thing in
existence is to do right. Were there no other objection to this
anti-rent movement than its corrupting influence, that alone should set
every wise man in the community firmly against it. We have seen too
much of this earth, to be so easily convinced that there is any
disadvantage, nay that there is not a positive advantage in the
existence of large leasehold estates, when they carry with them no
political power, as is the fact here. The common-place argument against
them, that they defeat the civilization of a country, is not sustained
by fact. The most civilized countries on earth are under this system;
and this system, too, not entirely free from grave objections which do
not exist among ourselves. That a poorer class of citizens have
originally leased than have purchased lands in New York, is probably
true; and it is equally probable that the effects of this poverty, and
even of the tenure in the infancy of a country, are to be traced on the
estates. But this is taking a very one-sided view of the matter. The
men who became tenants in moderate but comfortable circumstances, would
have been mostly labourers on the farms of others, but for these
leasehold tenures. That is the benefit of the system in a new country,
and the ultra friend of humanity, who decries the condition of a
tenant, should remember that if he had not been in this very condition,
he might have been in a worse. It is, indeed, one of the proofs of the
insincerity of those who are decrying leases, on account of their
aristocratic tendencies, that their destruction will necessarily
condemn a numerous class of agriculturists, either to fall back into
the ranks of the peasant or day-labourer, or to migrate, as is the case
with so many of the same class in New England. In point of fact, the
relation of landlord and tenant is one entirely natural and salutary,
in a wealthy community, and one that is so much in accordance with the
necessities of men, that no legislation can long prevent it. A state of
things which will not encourage the rich to hold real estate would not
be desirable, since it would be diverting their money, knowledge,
liberality, feelings and leisure, from the improvement of the soil, to
objects neither so useful nor so praiseworthy.
The notion that every husbandman is to be a freeholder, is as
Utopian in practice, as it would be to expect that all men were to be
on the same level in fortune, condition, education and habits. As such
a state of things as the last never yet did exist, it was probably
never designed by divine wisdom that it should exist. The whole
structure of society must be changed, even in this country, ere it
could exist among ourselves, and the change would not have been made a
month before the utter impracticability of such a social fusion would
make itself felt by all.
We have elsewhere imputed much of the anti-rent feeling to
provincial education and habits. This term has given the deepest
offence to those who were most obnoxious to the charge. Nevertheless,
our opinion is unchanged. We know that the distance between the
cataract of Niagara and the Massachusetts line is a large hundred
leagues, and that it is as great between Sandy Hook and the 45th
parallel of latitude. Many excellent things, moral and physical, are to
be found within these limits, beyond a question; but we happen to know
by an experience that has extended to other quarters of the world, for
a term now exceeding forty years, that more are to be found beyond
them. If honourable gentlemen at Albany fancy the reverse, they must
still permit us to believe they are too much under the influence of
Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
She saidThou wert my daughter; and thy father
Was duke of Milan; and his only heir
A princess;no worse issued.
My uncle Ro and myself had been travelling together in the East, and
had been absent from home fully five years, when we reached Paris. For
eighteen months neither of us had seen a line from America, when we
drove through the barriers, on our way from Egypt, viâ Algiers,
Marseilles, and Lyons. Not once, in all that time, had we crossed our
own track, in a way to enable us to pick up a straggling letter; and
all our previous precautions to have the epistles meet us at different
bankers in Italy, Turkey, and Malta, were thrown away.
My uncle was an old travellerI might almost say, an old
residentin Europe; for he had passed no less than twenty years of his
fifty-nine off the American continent. A bachelor, with nothing to do
but to take care of a very ample estate, which was rapidly increasing
in value by the enormous growth of the town of New York, and with
tastes early formed by travelling, it was natural he should seek those
regions where he most enjoyed himself. Hugh Roger Littlepage was born
in 1786the second son of my grandfather, Mordaunt Littlepage, and of
Ursula Malbone, his wife. My own father, Malbone Littlepage, was the
eldest child of that connexion; and he would have inherited the
property of Ravensnest, in virtue of his birthright, had he survived
his own parents; but, dying young, I stepped into what would otherwise
have been his succession, in my eighteenth year. My uncle Ro, however,
had got both Satanstoe and Lilacsbush; two country-houses and farms,
which, while they did not aspire to the dignity of being estates, were
likely to prove more valuable, in the long run, than the broad acres
which were intended for the patrimony of the elder brother. My
grandfather was affluent; for not only had the fortune of the
Littlepages centred in him, but so did that of the Mordaunts, the
wealthier family of the two, together with some exceedingly liberal
bequests from a certain Col. Dirck Follock, or Van Valkenburgh; who,
though only a very distant connexion, chose to make my
great-grandmother's, or Anneke Mordaunt's, descendants his heirs. We
all had enough; my aunts having handsome legacies, in the way of bonds
and mortgages, on an estate called Mooseridge, in addition to some lots
in town; while my own sister, Martha, had a clear fifty thousand
dollars in money. I had town-lots, also, which were becoming
productive; and a special minority of seven years had made an
accumulation of cash that was well vested in New York State stock, and
which promised well for the future. I say a special minority; for
both my father and grandfather, in placing, the one, myself and a
portion of the property, and the other the remainder of my estate,
under the guardianship and ward of my uncle, had made a provision that
I was not to come into possession until I had completed my twenty-fifth
I left college at twenty; and my uncle Ro, for so Martha and myself
always called him, and so he was always called by some twenty cousins,
the offspring of our three aunts;but my uncle Ro, when I was done
with college, proposed to finish my education by travelling. As this
was only too agreeable to a young man, away we went, just after the
pressure of the great panic of 1836-7 was over, and our lots were in
tolerable security, and our stocks safe. In America it requires almost
as much vigilance to take care of property, as it does industry
to acquire it.
Mr. Hugh Roger Littlepageby the way, I bore the same name, though
I was always called Hugh, while my uncle went by the different
appellations of Roger, Ro, and Hodge, among his familiars, as
circumstances had rendered the associations sentimental, affectionate,
or manlyMr. Hugh Roger Littlepage, Senior, then, had a system of his
own, in the way of aiding the scales to fall from American eyes, by
means of seeing more clearly than one does, or can, at home, let him
belong where he may, and in clearing the specks of provincialism from
off the diamond of republican water. He had already seen enough to
ascertain that while our country, as this blessed nation is very apt
on all occasions, appropriate or not, to be called by all who belong to
it, as well as by a good many who do not, could teach a great deal to
the old world, there was a possibilityjust a possibility,
remark, is my wordthat it might also learn a little. With a view,
therefore, of acquiring knowledge seriatim, as it might be, he was for
beginning with the hornbook, and going on regularly up to the
belles-lettres and mathematics. The manner in which this was effected
deserves a notice.
Most American travellers land in England, the country farthest
advanced in material civilization; then proceed to Italy, and perhaps
to Greece, leaving Germany, and the less attractive regions of the
north, to come in at the end of the chapter. My uncle's theory was to
follow the order of time, and to begin with the ancients and end with
the moderns; though, in adopting such a rule, he admitted he somewhat
lessened the pleasure of the novice; since an American, fresh from the
fresher fields of the western continent, might very well find delight
in memorials of the past, more especially in England, which pall on his
taste, and appear insignificant, after he has become familiar with the
Temple of Neptune, the Parthenon, or what is left of it, and the
Coliseum. I make no doubt that I lost a great deal of passing happiness
in this way, by beginning at the beginning, or by beginning in Italy,
and travelling north.
Such was our course, however; and, landing at Leghorn, we did the
peninsula effectually in a twelvemonth; thence passed through Spain up
to Paris, and proceeded on to Moscow and the Baltic, reaching England
from Hamburg. When we had got through with the British isles, the
antiquities of which seemed flat and uninteresting to me, after having
seen those that were so much more antique, we returned to Paris,
in order that I might become a man of the world, if possible, by
rubbing off the provincial specks that had unavoidably adhered to the
American diamond while in its obscurity.
My uncle Ro was fond of Paris, and he had actually become the owner
of a small hotel in the faubourg, in which he retained a handsome
furnished apartment for his own use. The remainder of the house was let
to permanent tenants; but the whole of the first floor, and of the
entresol, remained in his hands. As a special favour, he would
allow some American family to occupy even his own apartmentor rather
appartement, for the words are not exactly synonymouswhen he
intended to be absent for a term exceeding six months, using the money
thus obtained in keeping the furniture in repair, and his handsome
suite of rooms, including a salon, salle à manger,
ante-chambre, cabinet, several chambres à coucher,
and a boudoiryes, a male boudoir! for so he affected to
call itin a condition to please even his fastidiousness.
On our arrival from England, we remained an entire season at Paris,
all that time rubbing the specks off the diamond, when my uncle
suddenly took it into his head that we ought to see the East. He had
never been further than Greece, himself; and he now took a fancy to be
my companion in such an excursion. We were gone two years and a half,
visiting Greece, Constantinople, Asia Minor, the Holy Land, Petra, the
Red Sea, Egypt quite to the second cataracts, and nearly the whole of
Barbary. The latter region we threw in, by way of seeing something out
of the common track. But so many hats and travelling-caps are to be met
with, now-a-days, among the turbans, that a well-mannered Christian may
get along almost anywhere without being spit upon. This is a great
inducement for travelling generally, and ought to be so especially to
an American, who, on the whole, incurs rather more risk now of
suffering this humiliation at home, than he would even in Algiers. But
the animus is everything in morals.
We had, then, been absent two years and a half from Paris, and had
not seen a paper or received a letter from America in eighteen months,
when we drove through the barrier. Even the letters and papers received
or seen previously to this last term, were of a private nature, and
contained nothing of a general character. The twenty millionsit was
only the other day they were called the twelve millionsbut, the
twenty millions, we knew, had been looking up amazingly after the
temporary depression of the moneyed crisis it had gone through; and the
bankers had paid our drafts with confidence, and without extra charges,
during the whole time we had been absent. It is true, Uncle Ro, as an
experienced traveller, went well fortified in the way of credita
precaution by no means unnecessary with Americans, after the cry that
had been raised against us in the old world.
And here I wish to say one thing plainly, before I write another
line. As for falling into the narrow, self-adulatory, provincial
feeling of the American who has never left his mother's apron-string,
and which causes him to swallow, open-mouthed, all the nonsense that is
uttered to the world in the columns of newspapers, or in the pages of
your yearling travellers, who go on excursions before they are half
instructed in the social usages and the distinctive features of their
own country, I hope I shall be just as far removed from such a
weakness, in any passing remark that may flow from my pen, as from the
crime of confounding principles and denying facts in a way to do
discredit to the land of my birth and that of my ancestors. I have
lived long enough in the world, not meaning thereby the south-east
corner of the north-west township of Connecticut, to understand that we
are a vast way behind older nations, in thought as well as deed,
in many things; while, on the opposite hand, they are a vast way behind
us in others. I see no patriotism in concealing a wholesome truth; and
least of all shall I be influenced by the puerility of a desire to hide
anything of this nature, because I cannot communicate it to my
countrymen without communicating it to the rest of the world. If
England or France had acted on this narrow principle, where would have
been their Shakspeares, their Sheridans, their Beaumonts and Fletchers,
and their Molieres! No, no! great national truths are not to be treated
as the gossiping surmises of village crones. He who reads what I
write, therefore, must expect to find what I think of
matters and things, and not exactly what he may happen to think on the
same subjects. Any one is at liberty to compare opinions with me; but I
ask the privilege of possessing some small liberty of conscience in
what is, far and near, proclaimed to be the only free country on
the earth. By far and near, I mean from the St. Croix to the Rio
Grande, and from Cape Cod to the entrance of St. Juan de Fuca; and a
pretty farm it makes, the interval that lies between these limits!
One may call it far and near without the imputation of obscurity, or
that of vanity.
Our tour was completed, in spite of all annoyances; and here we were
again, within the walls of magnificent Paris! The postilions had been
told to drive to the hotel, in the rue St. Dominique; and we sat down
to dinner, an hour after our arrival, under our own roof. My uncle's
tenant had left the apartment a month before, according to agreement;
and the porter and his wife had engaged a cook, set the rooms in order,
and prepared everything for our arrival.
It must be owned, Hugh, said my uncle, as he finished his soup
that day, one may live quite comfortably in Paris, if he
possess the savoir vivre. Nevertheless, I have a strong desire
to get a taste of native air. One may say and think what he pleases
about the Paris pleasures, and the Paris cuisine, and all that
sort of things; but home is home, be it ever so homely. A 'd'Inde aux
truffes' is capital eating; so is a turkey with cranberry sauce. I
sometimes think I could fancy even a pumpkin pie, though there is not a
fragment of the rock of Plymouth in the granite of my frame.
I have always told you, sir, that America is a capital eating and
drinking country, let it want civilization in other matters, as much as
Capital for eating and drinking, Hugh, if you can keep clear of the
grease, in the first place, and find a real cook, in the second. There
is as much difference between the cookery of New England, for instance,
and that of the Middle States, barring the Dutch, as there is between
that of England and Germany. The cookery of the Middle States, and of
the Southern States, too, though that savours a little of the West
Indiesbut the cookery of the Middle States is English, in its best
sense; meaning the hearty, substantial, savoury dishes of the English
in their true domestic life, with their roast-beef underdone, their
beefsteaks done to a turn, their chops full of gravy, their
mutton-broth, legs-of-mutton, et id omne genus. We have some
capital things of our own, too; such as canvass-backs, reedbirds,
sheepshead, shad, and blackfish. The difference between New England and
the Middle States is still quite observable, though in my younger days
it was patent. I suppose the cause has been the more provincial
origin, and the more provincial habits, of our neighbours. By George!
Hugh, one could fancy clam-soup just now, eh!
Clam-soup, sir, well made, is one of the most delicious soups in
the world. If the cooks of Paris could get hold of the dish, it would
set them up for a whole season.
What is 'crême de Bavière,' and all such nick-nacks, boy, to a good
plateful of clam-soup? Well made, as you saymade as a cook of
Jennings used to make it, thirty years since. Did I ever mention that
fellow's soup to you before, Hugh?
Often, sir. I have tasted very excellent clam-soup, however, that
he never saw. Of course you mean soup just flavoured by the little
hard-clamnone of your vulgar potage à la soft-clam?
Soft-clams be hanged! they are not made for gentlemen to eat. Of
course I mean the hard-clam, and the small clam, too
Here's your fine clams,
As white as snow;
These clams do grow.
The cries of New York are quite going out, like everything else at
home that is twenty years old. Shall I send you some of this eternal
poulet à la Marengo? I wish it were honest American boiled fowl,
with a delicate bit of shoat-pork alongside of it. I feel amazingly
homeish this evening, Hugh!
It is quite natural, my dear uncle Ro; and I own to the 'soft
impeachment' myself. Here have we both been absent from our native land
five years, and half that time almost without hearing from it. We know
that Jacobthis was a free negro who served my uncle, a relic of the
old domestic system of the colonies, whose name would have been Jaaf,
or Yop, thirty years beforehas gone to our banker's for letters and
papers; and that naturally draws our thoughts to the other side of the
Atlantic. I dare say we shall both feel relieved at breakfast
to-morrow, when we shall have read our respective despatches.
Come, let us take a glass of wine together, in the good old York
fashion, Hugh. Your father and I, when boys, never thought of wetting
our lips with the half-glass of Madeira that fell to our share, without
saying, 'Good health, Mall!' 'Good health, Hodge!'
With all my heart, uncle Ro. The custom was getting to be a little
obsolete even before I left home; but it is almost an American custom,
by sticking to us longer than to most people.
This was my uncle's maitre d'hotel, whom he had kept at board-wages
the whole time of our absence, in order to make sure of his ease,
quiet, taste, skill, and honesty, on his return.
I dare saymy uncle spoke French exceedingly well for a
foreigner; but it is better to translate what he said as we goI dare
say this glass of vin de Bourgogne is very good; it looks good,
and it came from a wine-merchant on whom I can rely; but Mons. Hugh and
I are going to drink together, à l'Amèricaine, and I dare say you will
let us have a glass of Madeira, though it is somewhat late in the
dinner to take it.
Tres volontiers, Messieursit is my happiness to oblige you.
Uncle Ro and I took the Madeira together; but I cannot say much in
favour of its quality.
What a capital thing is a good Newtown pippin! exclaimed my uncle,
after eating a while in silence. They talk a great deal about their
poire beurrée, here at Paris; but, to my fancy, it will not compare
with the Newtowners we grow at Satanstoe, where, by the way, the fruit
is rather better, I think, than that one finds across the river, at
They are capital apples, sir; and your orchard at Satanstoe is one
of the best I know, or rather what is left of it; for I believe a
portion of your trees are in what is now a suburb of Dibbletonborough?
Yes, blast that place! I wish I had never parted with a foot of the
old neck, though I did rather make money by the sale. But money is no
compensation for the affections.
Rather make money, my dear sir! Pray, may I ask what
Satanstoe was valued at, when you got it from my grandfather?
Pretty well up, Hugh; for it was, and indeed is, a
first-rate farm. Including sedges and salt-meadows, you will remember
that there are quite five hundred acres of it, altogether.
Which you inherited in 1829?
Of course; that was the year of my father's death. Why, the place
was thought to be worth about thirty thousand dollars at that time; but
land was rather low in Westchester in 1829.
And you sold two hundred acres, including the point, the harbour,
and a good deal of the sedges, for the moderate modicum of one hundred
and ten thousand, cash. A tolerable sale, sir!
No, not cash. I got only eighty thousand down, while thirty
thousand were secured by mortgage.
Which mortgage you hold yet, I dare say, if the truth were told,
covering the whole city of Dibbletonborough. A city ought to be good
security for thirty thousand dollars?
It is not, nevertheless, in this case. The speculators who bought
of me in 1835 laid out their town, built a hotel, a wharf, and a
warehouse, and then had an auction. They sold four hundred lots, each
twenty-five feet by a hundred, regulation size, you see, at an average
of two hundred and fifty dollars, receiving one-half, or fifty thousand
dollars, down, and leaving the balance on mortgage. Soon after this,
the bubble burst, and the best lot at Dibbletonborough would not bring,
under the hammer, twenty dollars. The hotel and the warehouse stand
alone in their glory, and will thus stand until they fall, which will
not be a thousand years hence, I rather think.
And what is the condition of the town-plot?
Bad enough. The landmarks are disappearing; and it would cost any
man who should attempt it, the value of his lot, to hire a surveyor to
find his twenty-five by a hundred.
But your mortgage is good?
Ay, good in one sense; but it would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to
foreclose it. Why, the equitable interests in that town-plot, people
the place of themselves. I ordered my agent to commence buying up the
rights, as the shortest process of getting rid of them; and he told me
in the very last letter I received, that he had succeeded in purchasing
the titles to three hundred and seventeen of the lots, at an average
price of ten dollars. The remainder, I suppose, will have to be
Absorbed! That is a process I never heard of, as applied to land.
There is a good deal of it done, notwithstanding, in America. It is
merely including within your own possession, adjacent land for which no
claimant appears. What can I do? No owners are to be found; and then my
mortgage is always a title. A possession of twenty years under a
mortgage is as good as a deed in fee-simple, with full covenants of
warranty, barring minors and femmes covert.
You did better by Lilacsbush?
Ah, that was a clean transaction, and has left no drawbacks.
Lilacsbush being on the island of Manhattan, one is sure there will be
a town there, some day or other. It is true, the property lies quite
eight miles from the City Hall; nevertheless, it has a value, and can
always be sold at something near it. Then the plan of New York is made
and recorded, and one can find his lots. Nor can any man say when the
town will not reach Kingsbridge.
You got a round price for the Bush, too, I have heard, sir?
I got three hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, in hard cash.
I would give no credit, and have every dollar of the money, at this
moment, in good six per cent. stock of the States of New York and
Which some persons in this part of the world would fancy to be no
very secure investment.
More fools they. America is a glorious country, after all, Hugh;
and it is a pride and a satisfaction to belong to it. Look back at it,
as I can remember it, a nation spit upon by all the rest of
You must at least own, my dear sir, I put in, somewhat pertly,
perhaps, the example might tempt other people; for, if ever there was
a nation that is assiduously spitting on itself, it is our own beloved
True, it has that nasty custom in excess, and it grows worse
instead of better, as the influence of the better mannered and better
educated diminishes; but this is a spot on the suna mere flaw in the
diamond, that friction will take out. But what a countrywhat a
glorious country, in truth, it is! You have now done the civilized
parts of the old world pretty thoroughly, my dear boy, and must be
persuaded, yourself, of the superiority of your native land.
I remember you have always used this language, uncle Ro; yet have
you passed nearly one-half of your time out of that glorious
country, since you have reached man's estate.
The mere consequence of accidents and tastes. I do not mean that
America is a country for a bachelor, to begin with; the means of
amusement for those who have no domestic hearths, are too limited for
the bachelor. Nor do I mean that society in America, in its ordinary
meaning, is in any way as well-ordered, as tasteful, as well-mannered,
as agreeable, or as instructive and useful, as society in almost any
European country I know. I have never supposed that the man of leisure,
apart from the affections, could ever enjoy himself half as much at
home, as he may enjoy himself in this part of the world; and I am
willing to admit that, intellectually, most gentlemen in a great
European capital live as much in one day, as they would live in a week
in such places as New York, and Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
You do not include Boston, I perceive, sir.
Of Boston I say nothing. They take the mind hard, there, and we had
better let such a state of things alone. But as respects a man or woman
of leisure, a man or woman of taste, a man or woman of refinement
generally, I am willing enough to admit that, cæteris paribus,
each can find far more enjoyment in Europe than in America. But the
philosopher, the philanthropist, the political economistin a word,
the patriot, may well exult in such elements of profound national
superiority as may be found in America.
I hope these elements are not so profound but they can be dug up at
need, uncle Ro?
There will be little difficulty in doing that, my boy. Look at the
equality of the laws, to begin with. They are made on the principles of
natural justice, and are intended for the benefit of societyfor the
poor as well as the rich.
Are they also intended for the rich as well as the poor?
Well, I will grant you a slight blemish is beginning to appear, in
that particular. It is a failing incidental to humanity, and we must
not expect perfection. There is certainly a slight disposition to
legislate for numbers, in order to obtain support at the polls, which
has made the relation of debtor and creditor a little insecure,
possibly; but prudence can easily get along with that. It is erring on
the right side, is it not, to favour the poor instead of the rich, if
either is to be preferred?
Justice would favour neither, but treat all alike. I have always
heard that the tyranny of numbers was the worst tyranny in the world.
Perhaps it is, where there is actually tyranny, and for a very
obvious reason. One tyrant is sooner satisfied than a million, and has
even a greater sense of responsibility. I can easily conceive that the
Czar himself, if disposed to be a tyrant, which I am far from thinking
to be the case with Nicholas, might hesitate about doing that, under
his undivided responsibility, which one of our majorities would do,
without even being conscious of the oppression it exercised, or caring
at all about it. But, on the whole, we do little of the last, and not
in the least enough to counterbalance the immense advantages of the
I have heard very discreet men say that the worst symptom of our
system is the gradual decay of justice among us. The judges have lost
most of their influence, and the jurors are getting to be law-makers,
as well as law-breakers.
There is a good deal of truth in that, I will acknowledge, also;
and you hear it asked constantly, in a case of any interest, not which
party is in the right, but who is on the jury. But I contend for
no perfection; all I say is, that the country is a glorious country,
and that you and I have every reason to be proud that old Hugh Roger,
our predecessor and namesake, saw fit to transplant himself into it, a
century and a half since.
I dare say now, uncle Ro, it would strike most Europeans as
singular that a man should be proud of having been born an
AmericanManhattanese, as you and I both were.
All that may be true, for there have been calculated attempts to
bring us into discredit of late, by harping on the failure of certain
States to pay the interest on their debts. But all that is easily
answered, and more so by you and me as New Yorkers. There is not a
nation in Europe that would pay its interest, if those who are taxed to
do so had the control of these taxes, and the power to say whether they
were to be levied or not.
I do not see how that mends the matter. These countries tell us
that such is the effect of your system there, while we are too
honest to allow such a system to exist in this part of the
Pooh! all gammon, that. They prevent the existence of our system
for very different reasons, and they coerce the payment of the interest
on their debts that they may borrow more. This business of repudiation,
as it is called, however, has been miserably misrepresented; and there
is no answering a falsehood by an argument. No American State has
repudiated its debt, that I know of, though several have been unable to
meet their engagements as they have fallen due.
Unable, uncle Ro?
Yes, unablethat is the precise word. Take Pennsylvania,
for instance; that is one of the richest communities in the civilized
world; its coal and iron alone would make any country affluent, and a
portion of its agricultural population is one of the most affluent I
know of. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania, owing to a concurrence of events,
could not pay the interest on her debt for two years and a half,
though she is doing it now, and will doubtless continue to do it. The
sudden breaking down of that colossal moneyed institution, the
soi-disant Bank of the United States, after it ceased to be in
reality a bank of the government, brought about such a state of the
circulation as rendered payment, by any of the ordinary means known to
government, impossible. I know what I say, and repeat
impossible. It is well known that many persons, accustomed to
affluence, had to carry their plate to the mint, in order to obtain
money to go to market. Then something may be attributed to the
institutions, without disparaging a people's honesty. Our institutions
are popular, just as those of France are the reverse; and the people,
they who were on the spotthe home creditor, with his account unpaid,
and with his friends and relatives in the legislature, and present to
aid him, contended for his own money, before any should be sent
Was that exactly right, sir?
Certainly not; it was exactly wrong, but very particularly natural.
Do you suppose the King of France would not take the money for his
civil list, if circumstances should compel the country to suspend on
the debt for a year or two, or the ministers their salaries? My word
for it, each and all of them would prefer themselves as creditors, and
act accordingly. Every one of these countries has suspended in some
form or other, and in many instances balanced the account with the
sponge. Their clamour against us is altogether calculated with a view
to political effect.
Still, I wish Pennsylvania, for instance, had continued to pay, at
It is well enough to wish, Hugh; but it is wishing for an
impossibility. Then you and I, as New Yorkers, have nothing to do with
the debt of Pennsylvania, no more than London would have to do with the
debt of Dublin or Quebec. We have always paid our
interest, and, what is more, paid it more honestly, if honesty be the
point, than even England has paid hers. When our banks
suspended, the State paid its interest in as much paper as would buy
the specie in open market; whereas England made paper legal tender, and
paid the interest on her debt in it for something like five-and-twenty
years, and, that, too, when her paper was at a large discount. I knew
of one American who held near a million of dollars in the English debt,
on which he had to take unconvertible paper for the interest for a long
series of years. No, no! this is all gammon, Hugh, and is not to be
regarded as making us a whit worse than our neighbours. The equality of
our laws is the fact in which I glory!
If the rich stood as fair a chance as the poor, uncle Ro.
There is a screw loose there, I must confess; but it amounts
to no great matter.
Then the late bankrupt law?
Ay, that was an infernal procedurethat much I will acknowledge,
too. It was special legislation enacted to pay particular debts, and
the law was repealed as soon as it had done its duty. That is a much
darker spot in our history than what is called repudiation, though
perfectly honest men voted for it.
Did you ever hear of a farce they got up about it at New York, just
after we sailed?
Never; what was it, Hugh? though American plays are pretty much all
This was a little better than common, and, on the whole, really
clever. It is the old story of Faust, in which a young spendthrift
sells himself, soul and body, to the devil. On a certain evening, as he
is making merry with a set of wild companions, his creditor arrives,
and, insisting on seeing the master, is admitted by the servant. He
comes on, club-footed and behorned, as usual, and betailed, too, I
believe; but Tom is not to be scared by trifles. He insists on his
guest's being seated, on his taking a glass of wine, and then on Dick's
finishing his song. But, though the rest of the company had signed no
bonds to Satan, they had certain outstanding book-debts, which made
them excessively uncomfortable; and the odour of brimstone being rather
strong, Tom arose, approached his guest, and desired to know the nature
of the particular business he had mentioned to his servant. 'This bond,
sir,' said Satan, significantly. 'This bond? what of it, pray? It seems
all right.' 'Is not that your signature?' 'I admit it.' 'Signed in your
blood?' 'A conceit of your own; I told you at the time that ink was
just as good in law.' 'It is past due, seven minutes and fourteen
seconds.' 'So it is, I declare! but what of that?' 'I demand payment.'
'Nonsense! no one thinks of paying now-a-days. Why, even Pennsylvania
and Maryland don't pay.' 'I insist on payment.' 'Oh! you do, do you?'
Tom draws a paper from his pocket, and adds, magnificently, 'There,
then, if you're so urgentthere is a discharge under the new bankrupt
law, signed Smith Thompson.' This knocked the devil into a cocked-hat
My uncle laughed heartily at my story; but, instead of taking the
matter as I had fancied he might, it made him think better of the
country than ever.
Well, Hugh, we have wit among us, it must be confessed, he cried,
with the tears running down his cheeks, if we have some rascally laws,
and some rascals to administer them. But here comes Jacob with his
letters and papersI declare, the fellow has a large basket-full.
Jacob, a highly respectable black, and the great-grandson of an old
negro named Jaaf, or Yop, who was then living on my own estate at
Ravensnest, had just then entered, with the porter and himself lugging
in the basket in question. There were several hundred newspapers, and
quite a hundred letters. The sight brought home and America clearly and
vividly before us; and, having nearly finished the dessert, we rose to
look at the packages. It was no small task to sort our mail, there
being so many letters and packages to be divided.
Here are some newspapers I never saw before, said my uncle, as he
tumbled over the pile; 'The Guardian of the Soil'that must have
something to do with Oregon.
I dare say it has, sir. Here are at least a dozen letters from my
Ay, your sister is single, and can still think of her
brother; but mine are married, and one letter a-year would be a great
deal. This is my dear old mother's hand, however; that is something.
Ursula Malbone would never forget her child. Well, bon soir,
Hugh. Each of us has enough to do for one evening.
Au revoir, sir. We shall meet at ten to-morrow, when we can
compare our news, and exchange gossip.
Why droops my lord, like over-ripen'd corn,
Hanging the head at Ceres' plenteous load?
King Henry VI.
I did not get into my bed that night until two, nor was I out of it
until half-past nine. It was near eleven when Jacob came to tell me his
master was in the salle à manger, and ready to eat his
breakfast. I hastened up stairs, sleeping in the entresol, and
was at table with my uncle in three minutes. I observed, on entering,
that he was very grave, and I now perceived that a couple of letters,
and several American newspapers, lay near him. His Good morrow, Hugh,
was kind and affectionate as usual, but I fancied it sad.
No bad news from home, I hope, sir! I exclaimed, under the first
impulse of feeling. Martha's last letter is of quite recent date, and
she writes very cheerfully. I know that my grandmother was
perfectly well, six weeks since.
I know the same, Hugh, for I have a letter from herself, written
with her own blessed hand. My mother is in excellent health for a woman
of four-score; but she naturally wishes to see us, and you in
particular. Grandchildren are ever the pets with grandmothers.
I am glad to hear all this, sir; for I was really afraid, on
entering the room, that you had received some unpleasant news.
And is all your news pleasant, after so long a silence?
Nothing that is disagreeable, I do assure you. Patt writes in
charming spirits, and I dare say is in blooming beauty by this time,
though she tells me that she is generally thought rather plain. That
is impossible; for you know when we left her, at fifteen, she had every
promise of great beauty.
As you say, it is impossible that Martha Littlepage should be
anything but handsome; for fifteen is an age when, in America, one may
safely predict the woman's appearance. Your sister is preparing for you
an agreeable surprise. I have heard old persons say that she was very
like my mother at the same time of life; and Dus Malbone was a sort of
toast once in the forest.
I dare say it is all as you think; more especially as there are
several allusions to a certain Harry Beekman in her letters, at which I
should feel flattered, were I in Mr. Harry's place. Do you happen to
know anything of such a family as the Beekmans, sir?
My uncle looked up in a little surprise at this question. A thorough
New Yorker by birth, associations, alliances and feelings, he held all
the old names of the colony and State in profound respect; and I had
often heard him sneer at the manner in which the newcomers of my day,
who had appeared among us to blossom like the rose, scattered their
odours through the land. It was but a natural thing that a community
which had grown in population, in half a century, from half a million
to two millions and a half, and that as much by immigration from
adjoining communities as by natural increase, should undergo some
change of feeling in this respect; but, on the other hand, it was just
as natural that the true New Yorker should not.
Of course you know, Hugh, that it is an ancient and respected name
among us, answered my uncle, after he had given me the look of
surprise I have already mentioned. There is a branch of the Beekmans,
or Bakemans, as we used to call them, settled near Satanstoe; and I
dare say that your sister, in her frequent visits to my mother, has met
with them. The association would be but natural; and the other feeling
to which you allude is, I dare say, but natural to the association,
though I cannot say I ever experienced it.
You will still adhere to your asseverations of never having been
the victim of Cupid, I find, sir.
Hugh, Hugh! let us trifle no more. There is news from home
that has almost broken my heart.
I sat gazing at my uncle in wonder and alarm, while he placed both
his hands on his face, as if to exclude this wicked world, and all it
contained, from his sight. I did not speak, for I saw that the old
gentleman was really affected, but waited his pleasure to communicate
more. My impatience was soon relieved, however, as the hands were
removed, and I once more caught a view of my uncle's handsome, but
May I ask the nature of this news? I then ventured to inquire.
You may, and I shall now tell you. It is proper, indeed, that you
should hear all, and understand it all; for you have a direct interest
in the matter, and a large portion of your property is dependent on the
result. Had not the manor troubles, as they were called, been spoken of
before we left home?
Certainly, though not to any great extent. We saw something of it
in the papers, I remember, just before we went to Russia; and I
recollect you mentioned it as a discreditable affair to the State,
though likely to lead to no very important result.
So I then thought; but that hope has been delusive. There were some
reasons why a population like ours should chafe under the situation of
the estate of the late Patroon, that I thought natural, though
unjustifiable; for it is unhappily too much a law of humanity to do
that which is wrong, more especially in matters connected with the
I do not exactly understand your allusion, sir.
It is easily explained. The Van Rensselaer property is, in the
first place, of great extentthe manor, as it is still called and once
was, spreading east and west eight-and-forty miles, and north and south
twenty-four. With a few immaterial exceptions, including the sites of
three or four towns, three of which are cities containing respectively
six, twenty and forty thousand souls, this large surface was the
property of a single individual. Since his death, it has become the
property of two, subject to the conditions of the leases, of which by
far the greater portion are what are called durable.
I have heard all this, of course, sir, and know something of it
myself. But what is a durable lease? for I believe we have none of that
nature at Ravensnest.
No; your leases are all for three lives, and most of them renewals
at that. There are two sorts of 'durable leases,' as we term them, in
use among the landlords of New York. Both give the tenant a permanent
interest being leases for ever, reserving an annual rent, with the
right to distrain, and covenants of re-entry. But one class of these
leases gives the tenant a right at any time to demand a deed in
fee-simple, on the payment of a stipulated sum; while the other gives
him no such privilege. Thus one class of these leases is called 'a
durable lease with a clause of redemption;' while the other is a simple
And are there any new difficulties in relation to the manor rents?
Far worse than that; the contagion has spread, until the greatest
ills that have been predicted from democratic institutions, by their
worst enemies, seriously menace the country. I am afraid, Hugh, I shall
not be able to call New York, any longer, an exception to the evil
example of a neighbourhood, or the country itself a glorious country.
This is so serious, sir, that, were it not that your looks denote
the contrary, I might be disposed to doubt your words.
I fear my words are only too true. Dunning has written me a long
account of his own, made out with the precision of a lawyer; and, in
addition, he has sent me divers papers, some of which openly contend
for what is substantially a new division of property, and what in
effect would be agrarian laws.
Surely, my dear uncle, you cannot seriously apprehend anything of
that nature from our order-loving, law-loving, property-loving
Your last description may contain the secret of the whole movement.
The love of property may be so strong as to induce them to do a great
many things they ought not to do. I certainly do not apprehend that any
direct attempt is about to be made, in New York, to divide its
property; nor do I fear any open, declared agrarian statute; for what I
apprehend is to come through indirect and gradual innovations on the
right, that will be made to assume the delusive aspect of justice and
equal rights, and thus undermine the principles of the people, before
they are aware of the danger themselves. In order that you may not only
understand me, but may understand facts that are of the last importance
to your own pocket, I will first tell you what has been done, and then
tell you what I fear is to follow. The first difficultyor, rather,
the first difficulty of recent occurrencearose at the death of the
late Patroon. I say of recent occurrence, since Dunning writes me that,
during the administration of John Jay, an attempt to resist the payment
of rent was made on the manor of the Livingstons; but he put it
Yes, I should rather think that roguery would not be apt to
prosper, while the execution of the laws was entrusted to such a man.
The age of such politicians, however, seems to have ended among us.
It did not prosper. Governor Jay met the pretension as we all know
such a man would meet it; and the matter died away, and has been nearly
forgotten. It is worthy of remark, that he PUT THE EVIL DOWN.
But this is not the age of John Jays. To proceed to my narrative: When
the late Patroon died, there was due to him a sum of something like two
hundred thousand dollars of back-rents, and of which he had made a
special disposition in his will, vesting the money in trustees for a
certain purpose. It was the attempt to collect this money which first
gave rise to dissatisfaction. Those who had been debtors so long, were
reluctant to pay. In casting round for the means to escape from the
payment of their just debts, these men, feeling the power that numbers
ever give over right in America, combined to resist with others who
again had in view a project to get rid of the rents altogether. Out of
this combination grew what have been called the 'manor troubles.' Men
appeared in a sort of mock-Indian dress, calico shirts thrown over
their other clothes, and with a species of calico masks on their faces,
who resisted the bailiffs' processes, and completely prevented the
collection of rents. These men were armed, mostly with rifles; and it
was finally found necessary to call out a strong body of the militia,
in order to protect the civil officers in the execution of their
All this occurred before we went to the East. I had supposed
those anti-renters, as they were called, had been effectually put
In appearance they were. But the very governor who called the
militia into the field, referred the subject of the 'griefs' of
the tenants to the legislature, as if they were actually aggrieved
citizens, when in truth it was the landlords, or the Rensselaers, for
at that time the 'troubles' were confined to their property, who were
the aggrieved parties. This false step has done an incalculable amount
of mischief, if it do not prove the entering wedge to rive asunder the
institutions of the State.
It is extraordinary, when such things occur, that any man can
mistake his duty. Why were the tenants thus spoken of, while nothing
was said beyond what the law compelled in favour of the landlords?
I can see no reason but the fact that the Rensselaers were only
two, and that the disaffected tenants were probably two thousand. With
all the cry of aristocracy, and feudality, and nobility, neither of the
Rensselaers, by the letter of the law, has one particle more of
political power, or political right, than his own coachman or footman,
if the last be a white man; while, in practice, he is in many things
getting to be less protected.
Then you think, sir, that this matter has gained force from the
circumstance that so many votes depend on it?
Out of all question. Its success depends on the violations of
principles that we have been so long taught to hold sacred, that
nothing short of the over-ruling and corrupting influence of politics
would dare to assail them. If there were a landlord to each farm, as
well as a tenant, universal indifference would prevail as to the griefs
of the tenants; and if two to one tenant, universal indignation at
Of what particular griefs do the tenants complain?
You mean the Rensselaer tenants, I suppose? Why, they complain
of such covenants as they can, though their deepest affliction is to be
found in the fact that they do not own other men's lands. The Patroon
had quarter sales on many of his farmsthose that were let in the last
Well, what of that? A bargain to allow of quarter sales is just as
fair as any other bargain.
It is fairer, in fact, than most bargains, when you come to analyze
it, since there is a very good reason why it should accompany a
perpetual lease. Is it to be supposed that a landlord has no interest
in the character and habits of his tenants? He has the closest interest
in it possible, and no prudent man should let his lands without holding
some sort of control over the assignment of leases. Now, there are but
two modes of doing this; either by holding over the tenant a power
through his interests, or a direct veto dependent solely on the
The last would be apt to raise a pretty cry of tyranny and
feudality in America!
Pretty cries on such subjects are very easily raised in America.
More people join in them than understand what they mean. Nevertheless,
it is quite as just, when two men bargain, that he who owns every right
in the land before the bargain is made, should retain this right over
his property, which he consents to part with only with limitations, as
that he should grant it to another. These men, in their clamour, forget
that until their leases were obtained, they had no right in their lands
at all, and that what they have got is through those very leases of
which they complain; take away the leases, and they would have no
rights remaining. Now, on what principle can honest men pretend that
they have rights beyond the leases? On the supposition, even, that the
bargains are hard, what have governors and legislators to do with
thrusting themselves in between parties so situated, as special
umpires? I should object to such umpires, moreover, on the general and
controlling principle that must govern all righteous arbitrationyour
governors and legislators are not impartial; they are political
or party men, one may say, without exception; and such umpires, when
votes are in the question, are to be sorely distrusted. I would as soon
trust my interests to the decision of feed counsel, as trust them to
I wonder the really impartial and upright portion of the community
do not rise in their might, and put this thing downrip it up, root
and branch, and cast it away, at once.
That is the weak point of our system, which has a hundred strong
points, while it has this besetting vice. Our laws are not only made,
but they are administered, on the supposition that there are both
honesty and intelligence enough in the body of the community to see
them well made, and well administered. But the sad
reality shows that good men are commonly passive, until abuses become
intolerable; it being the designing rogue and manager who is usually
the most active. Vigilant philanthropists do exist, I will
allow; but it is in such small numbers as to effect little on the
whole, and nothing at all when opposed by the zeal of a mercenary
opposition. No, nolittle is ever to be expected, in a political
sense, from the activity of virtue; while a great deal may be looked
for from the activity of vice.
You do not take a very favourable view of humanity, sir.
I speak of the world as I have found it in both hemispheres, or, as
your neighbour the magistrate 'Squire Newcome has it, the 'four
hemispheres.' Our representation is, at the best, but an average of the
qualities of the whole community, somewhat lessened by the fact that
men of real merit have taken a disgust at a state of things that is not
very tempting to their habits or tastes. As for a quarter sale, I can
see no more hardship in it than there is in paying the rent itself;
and, by giving the landlord this check on the transfer of his lands, he
compels a compromise that maintains what is just. The tenant is not
obliged to sell, and he makes his conditions accordingly, when he has a
good tenant to offer in his stead. When he offers a bad tenant, he
ought to pay for it.
Many persons with us would think it very aristocratic, I cried,
laughingly, that a landlord should have it in his power to say, I will
not accept this or that substitute for yourself.
It is just as aristocratic, and no more so, than it would be to put
it in the power of the tenant to say to the landlord, you shall
accept this or that tenant at my hands. The covenant of the quarter
sale gives each party a control in the matter; and the result has ever
been a compromise that is perfectly fair, as it is hardly possible that
the circumstance should have been overlooked in making the bargain; and
he who knows anything of such matters, knows that every exaction of
this sort is always considered in the rent. As for feudality, so long
as the power to alienate exists at all in the tenant, he does not hold
by a feudal tenure. He has bought himself from all such tenures by his
covenant of quarter sale; and it only remains to say whether, having
agreed to such a bargain in order to obtain this advantage, he should
pay the stipulated price or not.
I understand you, sir. It is easy to come at the equity of this
matter, if one will only go back to the original facts which colour it.
The tenant had no rights at all until he got his lease, and can have no
rights which that lease does not confer.
Then the cry is raised of feudal privileges, because some of the
Rensselaer tenants are obliged to find so many days' work with their
teams, or substitutes, to the landlord, and even because they have to
pay annually a pair of fat fowls! We have seen enough of
America, Hugh, to know that most husbandmen would be delighted to have
the privilege of paying their debts in chickens and work, instead of in
money, which renders the cry only so much the more wicked. But what is
there more feudal in a tenant's thus paying his landlord, than in a
butcher's contracting to furnish so much meat for a series of years, or
a mail contractor's agreeing to carry the mail in a four-horse coach
for a term of years, eh? No one objects to the rent in wheat, and why
should they object to the rent in chickens? Is it because our
republican farmers have got to be so aristocratic themselves,
that they do not like to be thought poulterers? This is being
aristocratic on the other side. These dignitaries should remember that
if it be plebeian to furnish fowls, it is plebeian to receive them; and
if the tenant has to find an individual who has to submit to the
degradation of tendering a pair of fat fowls, the landlord has to find
an individual who has to submit to the degradation of taking them, and
of putting them away in the larder. It seems to me that one is an
offset to the other.
But, if I remember rightly, uncle Ro, these little matters were
always commuted for in money.
They always must lie at the option of the tenant, unless the
covenants went to forfeiture, which I never heard that they did; for
the failure to pay in kind at the time stipulated, would only involve a
payment in money afterwards. The most surprising part of this whole
transaction is, that men among us hold the doctrine that these
leasehold estates are opposed to our institutions when, being
guarantied by the institutions, they in truth form a part of
them. Were it not for these very institutions, to which they are said
to be opposed, and of which they virtually form a part, we should soon
have a pretty kettle of fish between landlord and tenant.
How do you make it out that they form a part of the institutions,
Simply because the institutions have a solemn profession of
protecting property. There is such a parade of this, that all our
constitutions declare that property shall never be taken without due
form of law; and to read one of them, you would think the property of
the citizen is held quite as sacred as his person. Now, some of these
very tenures existed when the State institutions were framed; and, not
satisfied with this, we of New York, in common with our sister States,
solemnly prohibited ourselves, in the constitution of the United
States, from ever meddling with them! Nevertheless, men are found hardy
enough to assert that a thing which in fact belongs to the
institutions, is opposed to them.
Perhaps they mean, sir, to their spirit, or to their tendency.
Ah! there may be some sense in that, though much less than the
declaimers fancy. The spirit of institutions is their legitimate
object; and it would be hard to prove that a leasehold tenure, with any
conditions of mere pecuniary indebtedness whatever, is opposed to any
institutions that recognise the full rights of property. The obligation
to pay rent no more creates political dependency, than to give credit
from an ordinary shop; not so much, indeed, more especially under such
leases as those of the Rensselaers; for the debtor on a book-debt can
be sued at any moment, whereas the tenant knows precisely when he has
to pay. There is the great absurdity of those who decry the system as
feudal and aristocratic; for they do not see that those very leases are
more favourable to the tenant than any other.
I shall have to ask you to explain this to me, sir, being too
ignorant to comprehend it.
Why, these leases are perpetual, and the tenant cannot be
dispossessed. The longer a lease is, other things being equal, the
better it is for the tenant, all the world over. Let us suppose two
farms, the one leased for five years, and the other for ever: Which
tenant is most independent of the political influence of his landlord,
to say nothing of the impossibility of controlling votes in this way in
America, from a variety of causes? Certainly he who has a lease for
ever. He is just as independent of his landlord, as his landlord can be
of him, with the exception that he has rent to pay. In the latter case,
he is precisely like any other debtorlike the poor man who contracts
debts with the same store-keeper for a series of years. As for the
possession of the farm, which we are to suppose is a desirable thing
for the tenant, he of the long lease is clearly most independent, since
the other may be ejected at the end of each five years. Nor is there
the least difference as to acquiring the property in fee, since the
landlord may sell equally in either case, if so disposed; and if NOT
DISPOSED, NO HONEST MAN, UNDER ANY SYSTEM, OUGHT TO DO ANYTHING TO
COMPEL HIM SO TO DO, either directly or indirectly; AND NO TRULY HONEST
I put some of the words of my uncle Ro in small capitals, as the
spirit of the times, not of the institutions, renders
such hints necessary. But, to continue our dialogue:
I understand you now, sir, though the distinction you make between
the spirit of the institutions and their tendencies is
what I do not exactly comprehend.
It is very easily explained. The spirit of the institutions is
their intention; their tendencies is the natural direction they
take under the impulses of human motives, which are always corrupt and
corrupting. The 'spirit' refers to what things ought to be; the
'tendencies,' to what they are, or are becoming. The
'spirit' of all political institutions is to place a check on the
natural propensities of men, to restrain them, and keep them within due
bounds; while the tendencies follow those propensities, and are
quite often in direct opposition to the spirit. That this outcry
against leasehold tenures in America is following the tendencies of our
institutions, I am afraid is only too true; but that it is in any
manner in compliance with their spirit, I utterly deny.
You will allow that institutions have their spirit, which ought
always to be respected, in order to preserve harmony?
Out of all question. The first great requisite of a political
system is the means of protecting itself; the second, to check its
tendencies at the point required by justice, wisdom and good faith. In
a despotism, for instance, the spirit of the system is to maintain that
one man, who is elevated above the necessities and temptations of a
nationwho is solemnly set apart for the sole purpose of government,
fortified by dignity, and rendered impartial by positionwill rule in
the manner most conducive to the true interests of his subjects. It is
just as much the theory of Russia and Prussia that their monarchs reign
not for their own good, but for the good of those over whom they are
placed, as it is the theory in regard to the President of the United
States. We all know that the tendencies of a despotism are to abuses of
a particular character; and it is just as certain that the tendencies
of a republic, or rather of a democratic republicfor republic of
itself means but little, many republics having had kingsbut it is
just as certain that the tendencies of a democracy are to abuses of
another character. Whatever man touches, he infallibly abuses; and this
more in connection with the exercise of political power, perhaps, than
in the management of any one interest of life, though he abuses all,
even to religion. Less depends on the nominal character of
institutions, perhaps, than on their ability to arrest their own
tendencies at the point required by everything that is just and right.
Hitherto, surprisingly few grave abuses have followed from our
institutions; but this matter looks frightfully serious; for I have not
told you half, Hugh.
Indeed, sir! I beg you will believe me quite equal to hearing the
It is true, anti-rentism did commence on the estate of the
Rensselaers, and with complaints of feudal tenures, and of days' works,
and fat fowls, backed by the extravagantly aristocratic pretension that
a 'manor' tenant was so much a privileged being, that it was beneath
his dignity, as a free man, to do that which is daily done by
mail-contractors, stage-coach owners, victuallers, and even by
themselves in their passing bargains to deliver potatoes, onions,
turkeys and pork, although they had solemnly covenanted with their
landlords to pay the fat fowls, and to give the days' works. The feudal
system has been found to extend much further, and 'troubles,' as they
are called, have broken out in other parts of the State. Resistance to
process, and a cessation of the payment of rents, has occurred on the
Livingston property, in Hardenbergin short, in eight or ten counties
of the State. Even among the bonâ fide purchasers, on the
Holland Purchase, this resistance has been organized, and a species of
troops raised, who appear disguised and armed wherever a levy is to be
made. Several men have already been murdered, and there is the strong
probability of a civil war.
In the name of what is sacred and right, what has the government of
the State been doing all this time?
In my poor judgment, a great deal that it ought not to have done,
and very little that it ought. You know the state of politics at home,
Hugh; how important New York is in all national questions, and how
nearly tied is her voteless than ten thousand majority in a canvass
of near half a million of votes. When this is the case, the
least-principled part of the voters attain an undue importancea truth
that has been abundantly illustrated in this question. The natural
course would have been to raise an armed constabulary force, and to
have kept it in motion, as the anti-renters have kept their 'Injins' in
motion, which would have soon tired out the rebels, for rebels they
are, who would thus have had to support one army in part, and the other
altogether. Such a movement on the part of the State, well and
energetically managed, would have drawn half the 'Injins' at once from
the ranks of disaffection to those of authority; for all that most of
these men want is to live easy, and to have a parade of military
movements. Instead of that, the legislature substantially did nothing,
until blood was spilt, and the grievance had got to be not only
profoundly disgraceful for such a State and such a country, but utterly
intolerable to the well-affected of the revolted counties, as well as
to those who were kept out of the enjoyment of their property. Then,
indeed, it passed the law which ought to have been passed the first
year of the 'Injin' systema law which renders it felony to appear
armed and disguised; but Dunning writes me this law is openly
disregarded in Delaware and Schoharie, in particular, and that bodies
of 'Injins,' in full costume and armed, of a thousand men, have
appeared to prevent levies or sales. Where it will end, Heaven knows!
Do you apprehend any serious civil war?
It is impossible to say where false principles may lead, when they
are permitted to make head and to become widely disseminated, in a
country like ours. Still, the disturbances, as such, are utterly
contemptible, and could and would be put down by an energetic executive
in ten days after he had time to collect a force to do it with. In some
particulars, the present incumbent has behaved perfectly well; while in
others, in my judgment, he has inflicted injuries on the right that it
will require years to repair, if, indeed, they are ever repaired.
You surprise me, sir; and this the more especially, as I know you
are generally of the same way of thinking, on political subjects, with
the party that is now in power.
Did you ever know me to support what I conceived to be wrong, Hugh,
on account of my political affinities? asked my uncle, a little
reproachfully as to manner. But, let me tell you the harm that I
conceive has been done by all the governors who have had anything to do
with the subject; and that includes one of a party to which I am
opposed, and two that are not. In the first place, they have all
treated the matter as if the tenants had really some cause of
complaint; when in truth all their griefs arise from the fact that
other men will not let them have their property just as they may want
it, and in some respects on their own terms.
That is certainly a grief not to be maintained by reason in a
civilized country, and in a christian community.
Umph! Christianity, like liberty, suffers fearfully in human hands;
one is sometimes at a loss to recognise either. I have seen ministers
of the gospel just as dogged, just as regardless of general morality,
and just as indifferent to the right, in upholding their
parties, as I ever saw laymen; and I have seen laymen manifesting
tempers, in this respect, that properly belong to devils. But our
governors have certainly treated this matter as if the tenants actually
had griefs; when in truth their sole oppression is in being obliged to
pay rents that are merely nominal, and in not being able to buy other
men's property contrary to their wishes, and very much at their own
prices. One governor has even been so generous as to volunteer a mode
of settling disputes with which, by the way, he has no concern, there
being courts to discharge that office, that is singularly presuming on
his part, to say the least, and which looks a confounded sight more
like aristocracy, or monarchy, than anything connected with leasehold
Why, what can the man have done?
He has kindly taken on himself the office of doing that for which I
fancy he can find no authority in the institutions, or in their
spiritno less than advising citizens how they may conveniently manage
their own affairs so as to get over difficulties that he himself
substantially admits, while giving this very advice, are difficulties
that the law sanctions!
This is a very extraordinary interference in a public functionary;
because one of the parties to a contract that is solemnly guarantied by
the law, chooses to complain of its nature, rather than of its
conditions, to pretend to throw the weight of his even assumed
authority into the scales on either side of the question!
And that in a popular government, Hugh, in which it tells so
strongly against a man to render him unpopular, that not one man in a
million has the moral courage to resist public opinion, even when he is
right. You have hit the nail on the head, boy; it is in the last degree
presuming, and what would be denounced as tyrannical in any monarch in
Europe. But he has lived in vain who has not learned that they who make
the loudest professions of a love of liberty, have little knowledge of
the quality, beyond submission to the demands of numbers. Our executive
has carried his fatherly care even beyond this; he has actually
suggested the terms of a bargain by which he thinks the difficulty can
be settled, which, in addition to the gross assumption of having a
voice in a matter that in no manner belongs to him, has the palpable
demerit of recommending a pecuniary compromise that is flagrantly wrong
as a mere pecuniary compromise.
You astonish me, sir! What is the precise nature of his
That the Rensselaers should receive such a sum from each tenant as
would produce an interest equal to the value of the present rent. Now,
in the first place, here is a citizen who has got as much property as
he wants, and who wishes to live for other purposes than to accumulate.
This property is not only invested to his entire satisfaction, as
regards convenience, security and returns, but also in a way that is
connected with some of the best sentiments of his nature. It is
property that has descended to him through ancestors for two centuries;
property that is historically connected with his nameon which he was
born, on which he has lived, and on which he has hoped to die;
property, in a word, that is associated with all the higher feelings of
humanity. Because some interloper, perhaps, who has purchased an
interest in one of his farms six months before, feels an
aristocratic desire not to have a landlord, and wishes to own a
farm in fee, that in fact he has no other right to than he gets through
his lease, the governor of the great State of New York throws the
weight of his official position against the old hereditary owner of the
soil, by solemnly suggesting, in an official document that is intended
to produce an effect on public opinion, that he should sell that which
he does not wish to sell, but wishes to keep, and that at a price which
I conceive is much below its true pecuniary value. We have liberty with
a vengeance, if these are some of its antics!
What makes the matter worse, is the fact that each of the
Rensselaers has a house on his estate, so placed as to be convenient to
look after his interests; which interests he is to be at the trouble of
changing, leaving him his house on his hands, because, forsooth, one of
the parties to a plain and equitable bargain wishes to make better
conditions than he covenanted for. I wonder what his Excellency
proposes that the landlords shall do with their money when they get it?
Buy new estates, and build new houses, of which to be dispossessed when
a new set of tenants may choose to cry out against aristocracy, and
demonstrate their own love for democracy by wishing to pull others down
in order to shove themselves into their places?
You are right again, Hugh; but it is a besetting vice of America to
regard life as all means, and as having no end, in a worldly point of
view. I dare say men may be found among us who regard it as highly
presuming in any man to build himself an ample residence, and to
announce by his mode of living that he is content with his present
means, and does not wish to increase them, at the very moment they view
the suggestions of the governor as the pink of modesty, and excessively
favourable to equal rights! I like that thought of yours about the
house, too; in order to suit the 'spirit' of the New York institutions,
it would seem that a New York landlord should build on wheels, that he
may move his abode to some new estate, when it suits the pleasure of
his tenants to buy him out.
Do you suppose the Rensselaers would take their money, the
principal of the rent at seven per cent., and buy land with it, after
their experience of the uncertainty of such possessions among us?
Not they, said my uncle Ro, laughing. No, no! they would sell the
Manor-House, and Beverwyck, for taverns; and then any one might live in
them who would pay the principal sum of the cost of a dinner; bag their
dollars, and proceed forthwith to Wall street, and commence the shaving
of notesthat occupation having been decided, as I see by the late
arrivals, to be highly honourable and praiseworthy. Hitherto they have
been nothing but drones; but, by the time they can go to the quick with
their dollars, they will become useful members of society, and be
honoured and esteemed accordingly.
What next might have been said I do not know, for just then we were
interrupted by a visit from our common banker, and the discourse was
O, when shall I visit the land of my birth,
The loveliest land on the face of the earth?
When shall I those scenes of affection explore,
Our forests, our fountains,
Our hamlets, our mountains,
With the pride of our mountains, the maid I adore?
It was truly news for an American, who had been so long cut off from
intelligence from home, thus suddenly to be told that some of the
scenes of the middle agesscenes connected with real wrongs and gross
abuses of human rightswere about to be enacted in his own land; that
country which boasted itself, not only to be the asylum of the
oppressed, but the conservator of the right. I was grieved at what I
had heard, for, during my travels, I had cherished a much-loved image
of justice and political excellence, that I now began to fear must be
abandoned. My uncle and myself decided at once to return home, a step
that indeed was required by prudence. I was now of an age to enter into
the full possession of my own property (so far as new laws and new
lords would permit); and the letters received by my late guardian, as
well as certain newspapers, communicated the unpleasant fact that a
great many of the tenants of Ravensnest had joined the association,
paid tribute for the support of Injins, and were getting to be as bad
as any of the rest of them, so far as designs and schemes to plunder
were concerned, though they still paid their rents. The latter
circumstance was ascribed by our agent to the fact that many leases
were about to fall in, and it would be in my power to substitute more
honest and better disposed successors for the present occupants of the
several farms. Measures were taken accordingly for quitting Paris as
soon as possible, so that we might reach home late in the month of May.
If we had time, I would certainly throw in a memorial or two to the
legislature, observed my uncle, a day or two before we proceeded to
Havre to join the packet. I have a strong desire to protest against
the invasion of my rights as a freeman that is connected with some of
their contemplated laws. I do not at all like the idea of being
abridged of the power of hiring a farm for the longest time I can
obtain it, which is one of the projects of some of the ultra reformers
of free and equal New York. It is wonderful, Hugh, into what follies
men precipitate themselves as soon as they begin to run into
exaggerations, whether of politics, religion, or tastes. Here are half
of the exquisite philanthropists who see a great evil affecting the
rights of human nature in one man's hiring a farm from another for as
long a term as he can obtain it, who are at the very extreme in their
opinions on free trade! So free-trade are some of the journals which
think it a capital thing to prevent landlords and tenants from making
their own bargains, that they have actually derided the idea of having
established fares for hackney-coaches, but that it would be better to
let the parties stand in the rain and higgle about the price, on the
free-trade principle. Some of these men are either active agents in
stimulating the legislature to rob the citizen of this very simple
control of his property, or passive lookers-on while others do it.
Votes, sir, votes.
It is, indeed, votes, sir, votes; nothing short of votes could
reconcile these men to their own inconsistencies. As for yourself,
Hugh, it might be well to get rid of that canopied pew
Of what canopied pew? I am sure I do not understand you.
Do you forget that the family-pew in St. Andrew's Church, at
Ravensnest, has a wooden canopy over ita relic of our colonial
opinions and usages?
Now you mention it, I do remember a very clumsy, and, to own the
truth, a very ugly thing, that I have always supposed was placed there,
by those who built the church, by way of ornament.
That ugly thing, by way of ornament, was intended for a sort of
canopy, and was by no means an uncommon distinction in the State and
colony, as recently as the close of the last century. The church was
built at the expense of my grandfather, Gen. Littlepage, and his bosom
friend and kinsman, Col. Dirck Follock, both good Whigs and gallant
defenders of the liberty of their country. They thought it proper that
the Littlepages should have a canopied pew, and that is the state in
which they caused the building to be presented to my father. The old
work still stands; and Dunning writes me that, among the other
arguments used against your interests, is the fact that your pew is
thus distinguished from those of the rest of the congregation.
It is a distinction no man would envy me, could it be known that I
have ever thought the clumsy, ill-shaped thing a nuisance, and
detestable as an ornament. I have never even associated it in my mind
with personal distinction, but have always supposed it was erected with
a view to embellish the building, and placed over our pew as the spot
where such an excrescence would excite the least envy.
In all that, with one exception, you have judged quite naturally.
Forty years ago, such a thing might have been done, and a majority of
the parishioners would have seen in it nothing out of place. But that
day has gone by; and you will discover that, on your own estate, and in
the very things created by your family and yourself, you will actually
have fewer rights of any sort, beyond those your money will purchase,
than any man around you. The simple fact that St. Andrew's Church was
built by your great-grandfather, and by him presented to the
congregation, will diminish your claim to have a voice in its affairs
with many of the congregation.
This is so extraordinary, that I musk ask the reason.
The reason is connected with a principle so obviously belonging to
human nature generally, and to American nature in particular, that I
wonder you ask it. It is envy. Did that pew belong to the Newcomes, for
instance, no one would think anything of it.
Nevertheless, the Newcomes would make themselves ridiculous by
sitting in a pew that was distinguished from those of their neighbours.
The absurdity of the contrast would strike every one.
And it is precisely because the absurdity does not exist in your
case, that your seat is envied. No one envies absurdity. However, you
will readily admit, Hugh, that a church, and a church-yard, are the two
last places in which human distinctions ought to be exhibited. All are
equal in the eyes of Him we go to the one to worship, and all are equal
in the grave. I have ever been averse to everything like worldly
distinction in a congregation, and admire the usage of the Romish
Church in even dispensing with pews altogether. Monuments speak to the
world, and have a general connexion with history, so that they may be
tolerated to a certain point, though notorious liars.
I agree with you, sir, as to the unfitness of a church for all
distinctions, and shall be happy on every account to get rid of my
canopy, though that has an historical connexion, also. I am quite
innocent of any feeling of pride while sitting under it, though I will
confess to some of shame at its quizzical shape, when I see it has
attracted the eyes of intelligent strangers.
It is but natural that you should feel thus; for, while we may miss
distinctions and luxuries to which we have ever been accustomed, they
rarely excite pride in the possessor, even while they awaken envy in
Nevertheless, I cannot see what the old pew has to do with the
rents, or my legal rights.
When a cause is bad, everything is pressed into it that it is
believed may serve a turn. No man who had a good legal claim for
property, would ever think of urging any other; nor would any
legislator who had sound and sufficient reasons for his
measuresreasons that could properly justify him before God and man
for his lawshave recourse to slang to sustain him. If these
anti-renters were right, they would have no need of secret
combinations, of disguises, blood-and-thunder names, and special agents
in the legislature of the land. The right requires no false aid to make
it appear the right; but the wrong must get such support as it can
press into its service. Your pew is called aristocratic, though it
confers no political power; it is called a patent of nobility, though
it neither gives nor takes away; and it is hated, and you with it, for
the very reason that you can sit in it and not make yourself
ridiculous. I suppose you have not examined very closely the papers I
gave you to read?
Enough so to ascertain that they are filled with trash.
Worse than trash, Hugh; with some of the loosest principles, and
most atrocious feelings, that degrade poor human nature. Some of the
reformers propose that no man shall hold more than a thousand acres of
land, while others lay down the very intelligible and distinct
principle that no man ought to hold more than he can use. Even
petitions to that effect, I have been told, have been sent to the
Which has taken care not to allude to their purport, either in
debate or otherwise, as I see nothing to that effect in the reports.
Ay, I dare say the slang-whangers of those honourable bodies will
studiously keep all such enormities out of sight, as some of them
doubtless hope to step into the shoes of the present landlords, as soon
as they can get the feet out of them which are now in. But these are
the projects and the petitions in the columns of the journals, and they
speak for themselves. Among other things, they say it is nobility to be
I see by the letter of Mr. Dunning, that they have petitioned the
legislature to order an inquiry into my title. Now, we hold from the
So much the worse, Hugh. Faugh! hold from a crown in a republican
country! I am amazed you are not ashamed to own it. Do you not know,
boy, that it has been gravely contended in a court of justice that, in
obtaining our national independence from the King of Great Britain, the
people conquered all his previous grants, which ought to be declared
void and of none effect?
That is an absurdity of which I had not heard, I answered,
laughing; why, the people of New York, who held all their lands under
the crown, would in that case have been conquering them for other
persons! My good grandfather and great-grandfather, both of whom
actually fought and bled in the revolution, must have been very silly
thus to expose themselves to take away their own estates, in order to
give them to a set of immigrants from New England and other parts of
Quite justly said, Hugh, added my uncle, joining in the laugh.
Nor is this half of the argument. The State, too, in its corporate
character, has been playing swindler all this time. You may not know
the fact, but I as your guardian do know, that the quit-rents reserved
by the crown when it granted the lands of Mooseridge and Ravensnest,
were claimed by the State; and that, wanting money to save the people
from taxes, it commuted with us, receiving a certain gross sum in
satisfaction of all future claims.
Ay, that I did not know. Can the fact be shown?
Certainlyit is well known to all old fellows like myself, for it
was a very general measure, and very generally entered into by all the
landholders. In our case, the receipts are still to be found among the
family-papers. In the cases of the older estates, such as those of the
Van Rensselaers, the equity is still stronger in their favour, since
the conditions to hold the land included an obligation to bring so many
settlers from Europe within a given time; conditions that were
fulfilled at great cost, as you may suppose, and on which, in truth,
the colony had its foundation.
How much it tells against a people's honesty to wish to forget such
facts, in a case like this!
There is nothing forgotten, for the facts were probably never known
to those who prate about the conquered rights from the crown. As you
say, however, the civilization of a community is to be measured by its
consciousness of the existence of all principles of justice, and a
familiarity with its own history. The great bulk of the population of
New York have no active desire to invade what is right in this
anti-rent struggle, having no direct interests at stake; their
crime is a passive inactivity, which allows those who are either
working for political advancement, or those who are working to obtain
other men's property, to make use of them, through their own laws.
But is it not an embarrassment to such a region as that directly
around Albany, to have such tenures to the land, and for so large a
body of people to be compelled to pay rent, in the very heart of the
State, as it might be, and in situations that render it desirable to
leave enterprise as unshackled as possible?
I am not prepared to admit this much, even, as a general principle.
One argument used by these anti-renters is, for instance, that the
patroons, in their leases, reserved the mill-seats. Now, what if they
did? Some one must own the mill-seats; and why not the Patroon as well
as another? To give the argument any weight, not as law, not as morals,
but as mere expediency, it must be shown that the patroons would not
let these mill-seats at as low rents as any one else; and my opinion is
that they would let them at rents of not half the amount that would be
asked, were they the property of so many individuals, scattered up and
down the country. But, admitting that so large an estate of this
particular sort has some inconveniences in that particular spot, can
there be two opinions among men of integrity about the mode of getting
rid of it? Everything has its price, and, in a business sense,
everything is entitled to its price. No people acknowledge this more
than the Americans, or practise on it so extensively. Let the
Rensselaers be tempted by such offers as will induce them to sell, but
do not let them be invaded by that most infernal of all acts of
oppression, special legislation, in order to bully or frighten them
from the enjoyment of what is rightfully their own. If the State think
such a description of property injurious in its heart, let the State
imitate England in her conduct towards the slave-holdersbuy
them out; not tax them out, and wrong them out, and
annoy them out. But, Hugh, enough of this at present; we shall have
much more than we want of it when we get home. Among my letters, I have
one from each of my other wards.
'Still harping on my daughter,' sir! I answered, laughing. I hope
that the vivacious Miss Henrietta Coldbrooke, and the meek Miss Anne
Marston, are both perfectly well?
Both in excellent health, and both write charmingly. I must really
let you see the letter of Henrietta, as I do think it is quite
creditable to her: I will step into my room and get it.
I ought to let the reader into a secret here that will have some
connexion with what is to follow. A dead-set had been made at me,
previously to leaving home, to induce me to marry either of three young
ladiesMiss Henrietta Coldbrooke, Miss Anne Marston, and Miss
Opportunity Newcome. The advances in the cases of Miss Henrietta
Coldbrooke and Miss Anne Marston came from my uncle Ro, who, as their
guardian, had a natural interest in their making what he was pleased to
think might be a good connexion for either; while the advances on
account of Miss Opportunity Newcome came from herself. Under such
circumstances, it may be well to say who these young ladies actually
Miss Henrietta Coldbrooke was the daughter of an Englishman of good
family, and some estate, who had emigrated to America and married,
under the impulse of certain theories in politics which induced him to
imagine that this was the promised land. I remember him as a
disappointed and dissatisfied widower, who was thought to be daily
growing poorer under the consequences of indiscreet investments, and
who at last got to be so very English in his wishes and longings, as to
assert that the common Muscovy was a better bird than the canvas-back!
He died, however, in time to leave his only child an estate which,
under my uncle's excellent management, was known by me to be rather
more than one hundred and seventy-nine thousand dollars, and which
produced a nett eight thousand a-year. This made Miss Henrietta a belle
at once; but, having a prudent friend in my grandmother, as yet she had
not married a beggar. I knew that uncle Ro went quite as far as was
proper, in his letters, in the way of hints touching myself; and my
dear, excellent, honest-hearted, straightforward old grandmother had
once let fall an expression, in one of her letters to myself, which
induced me to think that these hints had actually awakened as much
interest in the young lady's bosom, as could well be connected with
what was necessarily nothing but curiosity.
Miss Anne Marston was also an heiress, but on a very diminished
scale. She had rather more than three thousand a-year in buildings in
town, and a pretty little sum of about sixteen thousand dollars laid by
out of its savings. She was not an only child, however, having two
brothers, each of whom had already received as much as the sister, and
each of whom, as is very apt to be the case with the heirs of New York
merchants, was already in a fair way of getting rid of his portion in
riotous living. Nothing does a young American so much good, under such
circumstances, as to induce him to travel. It makes or breaks at once.
If a downright fool, he is plucked by European adventurers in so short
a time, that the agony is soon over. If only vain and frivolous,
because young and ill-educated, the latter being a New York endemic,
but with some foundation of native mind, he lets his whiskers grow,
becomes fuzzy about the chin, dresses better, gets to be much better
mannered, soon loses his taste for the low and vulgar indulgences of
his youth, and comes out such a gentleman as one can only make who has
entirely thrown away the precious moments of youth. If tolerably
educated in boyhood, with capacity to build on, the chances are that
the scales will fall from his eyes very fast on landing in the old
worldthat his ideas and tastes will take a new turnthat he will
become what nature intended him for, an intellectual man; and that he
will finally return home, conscious alike of the evils and blessings,
the advantages and disadvantages, of his own system and countrya
wiser, and it is to be hoped a better man. How the experiment had
succeeded with the Marstons, neither myself nor my uncle knew; for they
had paid their visit while we were in the East, and had already
returned to America. As for Miss Anne, she had a mother to take care of
her mind and person, though I had learned she was pretty, sensible and
Miss Opportunity Newcome was a belle of Ravensnest, a village on my
own property; a rural beauty, and of rural education, virtues, manners
and habits. As Ravensnest was not particularly advanced in
civilization, or, to make use of the common language of the country,
was not a very aristocratic place, I shall not dwell on her
accomplishments, which did well enough for Ravensnest, but would not
essentially ornament my manuscript.
Opportunity was the daughter of Ovid, who was the son of Jason, of
the house of Newcome. In using the term house, I adopt it
understandingly; for the family had dwelt in the same tenement, a
leasehold property of which the fee was in myself, and the dwelling had
been associated with the name of Newcome from time immemorial; that is,
for about eighty years. All that time had a Newcome been the tenant of
the mill, tavern, store and farm, that lay nearest the village of
Ravensnest, or Little Nest, as it was commonly called; and it may not
be impertinent to the moral of my narrative if I add that, for all that
time, and for something longer, had I and my ancestors been the
landlords. I beg the reader to bear this last fact in mind, as there
will soon be occasion to show that there was a strong disposition in
certain persons to forget it.
As I have said, Opportunity was the daughter of Ovid. There was also
a brother, who was named Seneca, or Sene_ky, as he always pronounced it
himself, the son of Ovid, the son of Jason, the first of the name at
Ravensnest. This Seneca was a lawyer, in the sense of a license granted
by the Justices of the Supreme Court, as well as by the Court of Common
Pleas, in and for the county of Washington. As there had been a sort of
hereditary education among the Newcomes for three generations,
beginning with Jason, and ending with Seneca; and, as the latter was at
the bar, I had occasionally been thrown into the society of both
brother and sister. The latter, indeed, used to be fond of visiting the
Nest, as my house was familiarly called, Ravensnest being its true
name, whence those of the patent and village; and as Opportunity had
early manifested a partiality for my dear old grandmother, and not less
dear young sister, who occasionally passed a few weeks with me during
the vacations, more especially in the autumns, I had many occasions of
being brought within the influence of her charmsopportunities that, I
feel bound to state, Opportunity did not neglect. I have understood
that her mother, who bore the same name, had taught Ovid the art of
love by a very similar demonstration, and had triumphed. That lady was
still living, and may be termed Opportunity the Great, while the
daughter can be styled Opportunity the Less. There was very little
difference between my own years and those of the young lady; and, as I
had last passed through the fiery ordeal at the sinister age of twenty,
there was not much danger in encountering the risk anew, now I was five
years older. But I must return to my uncle and the letter of Miss
Here it is, Hugh, cried my guardian, gaily; and a capital letter
it is! I wish I could read the whole of it to you; but the two girls
made me promise never to show their letters to any one, which could
mean only you, before they would promise to write anything to me beyond
commonplaces. Now, I get their sentiments freely and naturally, and the
correspondence is a source of much pleasure to me. I think, however, I
might venture just to give you one extract.
You had better not, sir; there would be a sort of treachery in it,
that I confess I would rather not be accessary to. If Miss Coldbrooke
do not wish me to read what she writes, she can hardly wish that you
should read any of it to me.
Uncle Ro glanced at me, and I fancied he seemed dissatisfied with my
nonchalance. He read the letter through to himself, however,
laughing here, smiling there, then muttering capital! good!
charming girl! worthy of Hannah More! &c. &c., as if just to
provoke my curiosity. But I had no desire to read Hannah More, as any
young fellow of five-and-twenty can very well imagine, and I stood it
all with the indifference of a stoic. My guardian had to knock under,
and put the letters in his writing-desk.
Well, the girls will be glad to see us, he said, after a moment of
reflection, and not a little surprised. In my very last letter to my
mother, I sent them word that we should not be home until October; and
now we shall see them as early as June, at least.
Patt will be delighted, I make no doubt. As for the other two young
ladies, they have so many friends and relations to care for, that I
fancy our movements give them no great concern.
Then you do both injustice, as their letters would prove. They take
the liveliest interest in our proceedings, and speak of my return as if
they look for it with the greatest expectation and joy.
I made my uncle Ro a somewhat saucy answer; but fair-dealing compels
me to record it.
I dare say they do, sir, was my reply; but what young lady does
not look with 'expectation and joy' for the return of a friend,
who is known to have a long purse, from Paris!
Well, Hugh, you deserve neither of those dear girls; and, if I can
help it, you shall have neither.
Poh! this is worse than sillyit is rude. I dare say neither would
accept you, were you to offer to-morrow.
I trust not, sir, for her own sake. It would be a singularly
palpable demonstration were either to accept a man she barely knew, and
whom she had not seen since she was fifteen.
Uncle Ro laughed, but I could see he was confoundedly vexed; and, as
I loved him with all my heart, though I did not love match-making, I
turned the discourse, in a pleasant way, on our approaching departure.
I'll tell you what I'll do, Hugh, cried my uncle, who was a good
deal of a boy in some things, for the reason, I suppose, that he was an
old bachelor; I'll just have wrong names entered on board the packet,
and we'll surprise all our friends. Neither Jacob nor your man will
betray us, we know; and, for that matter, we can send them both home by
the way of England. Each of us has trunks in London to be looked after,
and let the two fellows go by the way of Liverpool. That is a good
thought, and occurred most happily.
With all my heart, sir. My fellow is of no more use to me at sea
than an automaton would be, and I shall be glad to get rid of his
rueful countenance. He is a capital servant on terrâ firma, but a
perfect Niobe on the briny main.
The thing was agreed on; and, a day or two afterwards, both our
body-servants, that is to say, Jacob the black and Hubert the German,
were on their way to England. My uncle let his apartment again, for he
always maintained I should wish to bring my bride to pass a winter in
it; and we proceeded to Havre in a sort of incognito. There was little
danger of our being known on board the packet, and we had previously
ascertained that there was not an acquaintance of either in the ship.
There was a strong family resemblance between my uncle and myself, and
we passed for father and son in the ship, as old Mr. Davidson and young
Mr. Davidson, of Marylandor Myr-r-land, as it is Doric to call that
state. We had no concern in this part of the deception, unless
abstaining from calling my supposed father uncle, as one would
naturally do in strange society, can be so considered.
The passage itselfby the way, I wish all landsmen would be as
accurate as I am here, and understand that a voyage means out and
home, or thence and back again, while a passage means from
place to placebut our passage was pregnant with no events worth
recording. We had the usual amount of good and bad weather, the usual
amount of eating and drinking, and the usual amount of ennui. The
latter circumstance, perhaps, contributed to the digesting of a further
scheme of my uncle's, which it is now necessary to state.
A re-perusal of his letters and papers had induced him to think the
anti-rent movement a thing of more gravity, even than he had first
supposed. The combination on the part of the tenants, we learned also
from an intelligent New Yorker who was a fellow-passenger, extended
much further than our accounts had given us reason to believe; and it
was deemed decidedly dangerous for landlords, in many cases, to be seen
on their own estates. Insult, personal degradation, or injury, and even
death, it was thought, might be the consequences, in many cases. The
blood actually spilled had had the effect to check the more violent
demonstrations, it is true; but the latent determination to achieve
their purposes was easily to be traced among the tenants, in the face
of all their tardy professions of moderation, and a desire for nothing
but what was right. In this case, what was right was the letter and
spirit of the contracts; and nothing was plainer than the fact that
these were not what was wanted.
Professions pass for nothing, with the experienced, when connected
with a practice that flatly contradicts them. It was only too apparent
to all who chose to look into the matter, and that by evidence which
could not mislead, that the great body of the tenants in various
counties of New York were bent on obtaining interests in their farms
that were not conveyed by their leases, without the consent of their
landlords, and insomuch that they were bent on doing that which should
be discountenanced by every honest man in the community. The very fact
that they supported, or in any manner connived at, the so-called
Injin system, spoke all that was necessary as to their motives; and,
when we come to consider that these Injins had already proceeded to
the extremity of shedding blood, it was sufficiently plain that things
must soon reach a crisis.
My uncle Roger and myself reflected on all these matters calmly, and
decided on our course, I trust, with prudence. As that decision has
proved to be pregnant with consequences that are likely to affect my
future life, I shall now briefly give an outline of what induced us to
It was all-important for us to visit Ravensnest in person, while it
might be hazardous to do so openly. The 'Nest house stood in the very
centre of the estate, and, ignorant as we were of the temper of the
tenants, it might be indiscreet to let our presence be known; and
circumstances favoured our projects of concealment. We were not
expected to reach the country at all until autumn, or fall, as that
season of the year is poetically called in America; and this gave us
the means of reaching the property unexpectedly, and, as we hoped,
undetected. Our arrangement, then, was very simple, and will be best
related in the course of the narrative.
The packet had a reasonably short passage, as we were twenty-nine
days from land to land. It was on a pleasant afternoon in May when the
hummock-like heights of Navesink were first seen from the deck; and, an
hour later, we came in sight of the tower-resembling sails of the
coasters which were congregating in the neighbourhood of the low point
of land that is so very appropriately called Sandy Hook. The
light-houses rose out of the water soon after, and objects on the shore
of New Jersey next came gradually out of the misty back-ground, until
we got near enough to be boarded, first by the pilot, and next by the
news-boat; the first preceding the last for a wonder, news usually
being far more active, in this good republic, than watchfulness to
prevent evil. My uncle Ro gave the crew of this news-boat a thorough
scrutiny, and, finding no one on board her whom he had ever before
seen, he bargained for a passage up to town.
We put our feet on the Battery just as the clocks of New York were
striking eight. A custom-house officer had examined our carpet-bags and
permitted them to pass, and we had disburthened ourselves of the
effects in the ship, by desiring the captain to attend to them. Each of
us had a town-house, but neither would go near his dwelling; mine being
only kept up in winter, for the use of my sister and an aunt who kindly
took charge of her during the season, while my uncle's was opened
principally for his mother. At that season, we had reason to think
neither was tenanted but by one or two old family servants; and it was
our cue also to avoid them. But Jack Dunning, as my uncle always
called him, was rather more of a friend than of an agent; and he had a
bachelor establishment in Chamber Street that was precisely the place
we wanted. Thither, then, we proceeded, taking the route by Greenwich
Street, fearful of meeting some one in Broadway by whom we might be
Cit. Speak, speak.
1 Cit. You are all resolved rather to die than to
Cit. Resolved, resolved.
1 Cit. First you know, Caius Marcus is chief enemy to
Cit. We know't, we know't.
1 Cit. Let's kill him, and we'll have corn at our own
Is't a verdict?
The most inveterate Manhattanese, if he be anything of a man of the
world, must confess that New York is, after all, but a Rag-Fair sort of
a place, so far as the eye is concerned. I was particularly struck with
this fact, even at that hour, as we went stumbling along over an
atrociously bad side-walk, my eyes never at rest, as any one can
imagine, after five years of absence. I could not help noting the
incongruities; the dwellings of marble, in close proximity with
miserable, low constructions in wood; the wretched pavements, and,
above all, the country air, of a town of near four hundred thousand
souls. I very well know that many of the defects are to be ascribed to
the rapid growth of the place, which gives it a sort of hobbledehoy
look; but, being a Manhattanese by birth, I thought I might just as
well own it all, at once, if it were only for the information of a
particular portion of my townsmen, who may have been under a certain
delusion on the subject. As for comparing the Bay of New York with that
of Naples on the score of beauty, I shall no more be guilty of any such
folly, to gratify the cockney feelings of Broadway and Bond street,
than I should be guilty of the folly of comparing the commerce of the
ancient Parthenope with that of old New York, in order to excite
complacency in the bosom of some bottegajo in the Toledo, or on the
Chiaja. Our fast-growing Manhattan is a great town in its waya
wonderful placewithout a parallel, I do believe, on earth, as a proof
of enterprise and of the accumulation of business; and it is not easy
to make such a town appear ridiculous by any jibes and innuendoes that
relate to the positive things of this world, though nothing is easier
than to do it for itself by setting up to belong to the sisterhood of
such places as London, Paris, Vienna and St. Petersburg. There is too
much of the American notion of the omnipotence of numbers among us
Manhattanese, which induces us to think that the higher rank in the
scale of places is to be obtained by majorities. No, no; let us
remember the familiar axiom of ne sutor ultra crepidum. New York is
just the queen of business, but not yet the queen of the world. Every
man who travels ought to bring back something to the common stock of
knowledge; and I shall give a hint to my townsmen, by which I really
think they may be able to tell for themselves, as by feeling a sort of
moral pulse, when the town is rising to the level of a capital. When
simplicity takes the place of pretension, is one good rule; but, as it
may require a good deal of practice, or native taste, to ascertain this
fact, I will give another that is obvious to the senses, which will at
least be strongly symptomatic; and that is this: When squares
cease to be called parks; when horse-bazaars and fashionable
streets are not called Tattersalls and Bond street; when Washington
Market is rechristened Bear Market, and Franklin and Fulton and
other great philosophers and inventors are plucked of the unmerited
honours of having shambles named after them; when commercial is
not used as a prefix to emporium; when people can return from abroad
without being asked if they are reconciled to their country, and
strangers are not interrogated at the second question, how do you like
our city? then may it be believed that the town is beginning to go
alone, and that it may set up for itself.
Although New York is, out of all question, decidedly provincial,
labouring under the peculiar vices of provincial habits and provincial
modes of thinking, it contains many a man of the world, and some, too,
who have never quitted their own firesides. Of this very number was the
Jack Dunning, as my uncle Ro called him, to whose house in Chamber
street we were now proceeding.
If we were going anywhere but to Dunning's, said my uncle, as we
turned out of Greenwich street, I should have no fear of being
recognised by the servants; for no one here thinks of keeping a man six
months. Dunning, however, is of the old school, and does not like new
faces; so he will have no Irishman at his door, as is the case with two
out of three of the houses at which one calls, now-a-days.
In another minute we were at the bottom of Mr. Dunning's
stoupwhat an infernal contrivance it is to get in and out at the
door by, in a hotty-cold climate like ours!but, there we were, and I
observed that my uncle hesitated.
Parlez au SUISSE, said I; ten to one he is fresh from some
Bally-this, or Bally-that.
No, no; it must be old Garry the niggermy uncle Ro was of the
old school himself, and would say niggerJack can never have
parted with Garry.
Garry was the diminutive of Garret, a somewhat common Dutch
christian name among us.
We rang, and the door openedin about five minutes. Although the
terms aristocrat and aristocracy are much in men's mouths in
America just now, as well as those of feudal and the middle ages,
and this, too, as applied to modes of living as well as to leasehold
tenures, there is but one porter in the whole country; and he belongs
to the White House, at Washington. I am afraid even that personage,
royal porter as he is, is often out of the way; and the reception he
gives when he is there, is not of the most brilliant and
princely character. When we had waited three minutes, my uncle Ro
I am afraid Garry is taking a nap by the kitchen-fire; I'll try him
Uncle Ro did try again, and, two minutes later, the door opened.
What is your pleasure? demanded the Suisse, with a strong
My uncle started back as if he had met a sprite; but he asked if Mr.
Dunning was at home.
He is, indeed, sir.
Is he alone, or is he with company?
He is, indeed.
But what is he, indeed?
He is that.
Can you take the trouble to explain which that it is? Has he
company, or is he alone?
Just that, sir. Walk in, and he'll be charmed to see you. A
fine gentleman is his honour, and pleasure it is to live with him, I'm
How long is it since you left Ireland, my friend?
Isn't it a mighty bit, now, yer honour! answered Barney, closing
the door. T'irteen weeks, if it's one day.
Well, go ahead, and show us the way. This is a bad omen, Hugh, to
find that Jack Dunning, of all men in the country, should have changed
his servantgood, quiet, lazy, respectable, old, grey-headed Garry the
niggerfor such a bogtrotter as that fellow, who climbs those stairs
as if accustomed only to ladders.
Dunning was in his library on the second floor, where he passed most
of his evenings. His surprise was equal to that which my uncle had just
experienced, when he saw us two standing before him. A significant
gesture, however, caused him to grasp his friend and client's hand in
silence; and nothing was said until the Swiss had left the room,
although the fellow stood with the door in his hand a most inconvenient
time, just to listen to what might pass between the host and his
guests. At length we got rid of him, honest, well-meaning fellow that
he was, after all; and the door was closed.
My last letters have brought you home, Roger? said Jack, the
moment he could speak; for feeling, as well as caution, had
something to do with his silence.
They have, indeed. A great change must have come over the country,
by what I hear; and one of the very worst symptoms is that you have
turned away Garry, and got an Irishman in his place.
Ah! old men must die, as well as old principles, I find. My poor
fellow went off in a fit last week, and I took that Irishman as a
pis aller. After losing poor Garry, who was born a slave in my
father's house, I became indifferent, and accepted the first comer from
the intelligence office.
We must be careful, Dunning, not to give up too soon. But hear my
story, and then to other matters.
My uncle then explained his wish to be incognito, and his motive.
Dunning listened attentively, but seemed uncertain whether to dissent
or approve. The matter was discussed briefly, and then it was postponed
for further consideration.
But how comes on this great moral dereliction, called anti-rentism?
Is it on the wane, or the increase?
On the wane, to the eye, perhaps; but on the increase so far as
principles, the right, and facts, are concerned. The necessity of
propitiating votes is tempting politicians of all sides to lend
themselves to it; and there is imminent danger now that atrocious
wrongs will be committed under the form of law.
In what way can the law touch an existing contract? The
Supreme Court of the United States will set that right.
That is the only hope of the honest, let me tell you. It is folly
to expect that a body composed of such men as usually are sent to the
State Legislature, can resist the temptation to gain power by
conciliating numbers. That is out of the question. Individuals
of these bodies may resist, but the tendency there will be as against
the few, and in favour of the many, bolstering their theories by
clap-traps and slang political phrases. The scheme to tax the rents,
under the name of quit-rents, will be resorted to, in the first place.
That will be a most iniquitous proceeding, and would justify
resistance just as much as our ancestors were justified in resisting
the taxation of Great Britain.
It would more so, for here we have a written covenant to render
taxation equal. The landlord already pays one tax on each of these
farmsa full and complete tax, that is reserved from the rent in the
original bargain with the tenant; and now the wish is to tax the rents
themselves; and this not to raise revenue, for that is confessedly not
wanted, but most clearly with a design to increase the inducements for
the landlords to part with their property. If that can be done, the
sales will be made on the principle that none but the tenant must be,
as indeed no one else can be, the purchaser; and then we shall
see a queer exhibitionmen parting with their property under the
pressure of a clamour that is backed by as much law as can be pressed
into its service, with a monopoly of price on the side of the
purchaser, and all in a country professing the most sensitive love of
liberty, where the prevailing class of politicians are free-trade men!
There is no end of these inconsistencies among politicians.
There is no end of knavery when men submit to 'noses,' instead of
principles. Call things by their right names, Ro, as they deserve to
be. This matter is so plain, that he who runs can read.
But will this scheme of taxation succeed? It does not effect us,
for instance, as our leases are for three lives.
Oh! that is nothing; for you they contemplate a law that will
forbid the letting of land, for the future, for a period longer than
five years. Hugh's leases will soon be falling in, and then he can't
make a slave of any man for a longer period than five years.
Surely no one is so silly as to think of passing such a law, with a
view to put down aristocracy, and to benefit the tenant! I cried,
Ay, you may laugh, young sir, resumed Jack Dunning; but such
is the intention. I know very well what will be your course of
reasoning; you will say, the longer the lease, the better for the
tenant, if the bargain be reasonably good; and landlords cannot ask
more for the use of their lands than they are really worth in this
country, there happening to be more lands than there are men to work
it. No, no; landlords rather get less for their lands than they are
worth, instead of more, for that plain reason. To compel the tenant to
take a lease, therefore, for a term as short as five years, is to
injure him, you think; to place him more at the control of his
landlord, through the little interests connected with the cost and
trouble of moving, and through the natural desire he may possess to cut
the meadows he has seeded, and to get the full benefit of manure he has
made and carted. I see how you reason, young sir; but you are behind
the ageyou are sadly behind the age.
The age is a queer one, if I am! All over the world it is believed
that long leases are favours, or advantages, to tenants; and nothing
can make it otherwise, cæteris paribus. Then what good will the
tax do, after violating right and moral justice, if not positive law,
to lay it? On a hundred dollars of rent, I should have to pay some
fifty-five cents of taxes, as I am assessed on other things at
Ravensnest; and does anybody suppose I will give up an estate that has
passed through five generations of my family, on account of a tribute
Mighty well, sirmighty well, sir! This is fine talk; but I would
advise you not to speak of your ancestors at all. Landlords
can't name their ancestors with impunity just now.
I name mine only as showing a reason for a natural regard for my
That you might do, if you were a tenant; but not as a landlord. In
a landlord, it is aristocratic and intolerable pride, and to the last
degree offensiveas Dogberry says, 'tolerable and not to be endured.'
But it is a fact, and it is natural one should have some
feelings connected with it.
The more it is a fact, the less it will be liked. People associate
social position with wealth and estates, but not with farms; and
the longer one has such things in a family, the worse for them!
I do believe, Jack, put in my uncle Ro, that the rule which
prevails all over the rest of the world is reversed here, and that with
us it is thought a family's claim is lessened, and not increased, by
To be sure it is! answered Dunning, without giving me a chance to
speak. Do you know that you wrote me a very silly letter once, from
Switzerland, about a family called de Blonay, that had been seated on
the same rock, in a little castle, some six or eight hundred years, and
the sort of respect and veneration the circumstance awakened? Well, all
that was very foolish, as you will find when you pay your incognito
visit to Ravensnest. I will not anticipate the result of your
schooling; but, go to school.
As the Rensselaers and other great landlords, who have states on
durable leases, will not be very likely to give them up, except on
terms that will suit themselves, for a tax as insignificant as that
mentioned by Hugh, said my uncle, what does the legislature
anticipate from passing the law?
That its members will be called the friends of the people, and not
the friends of the landlords. Would any man tax his friends, if he
could help it?
But what will that portion of the people who compose the
anti-renters gain by such a measure?
Nothing; and their complaints will be just as loud, and their
longings as active, as ever. Nothing that can have any effect on what
they wish, will be accomplished by any legislation in the matter. One
committee of the assembly has actually reported, you may remember, that
the State might assume the lands, and sell them to the tenants, or some
one else; or something of the sort.
The constitution of the United States must be Hugh's ægis.
And that alone will protect him, let me tell you. But for that
noble provision of the constitution of the Federal Government, his
estate would infallibly go for one-half its true value. There is no use
in mincing things, or in affecting to believe men more honest than they
areAN INFERNAL FEELING OF SELFISHNESS IS SO MUCH TALKED OF, AND
CITED, AND REFERRED TO, ON ALL OCCASIONS, IN THIS COUNTRY, THAT A MAN
ALMOST RENDERS HIMSELF RIDICULOUS WHO APPEARS TO REST ON PRINCIPLE.
Have you heard what the tenants of Ravensnest aim at, in
They want to get Hugh's lands, that's all; nothing more, I can
On what conditions, pray? demanded I.
As you 'light of chaps,' to use a saying of their own. Some even
profess a willingness to pay a fair price.
But I do not wish to sell for even a fair price. I have no desire
to part with property that is endeared to me by family feeling and
association. I have an expensive house and establishment on my estate,
which obtains its principal value from the circumstance that it is so
placed that I can look after my interests with the least inconvenience
to myself. What can I do with the money but buy another estate? and I
prefer this that I have.
Poh! boy, you can shave notes, you'll recollect, said uncle Ro,
drily. The calling is decided to be honourable by the highest
tribunal; and no man should be above his business.
You have no right, sir, in a free country, returned the caustic
Jack Dunning, to prefer one estate to another, more especially when
other people want it. Your lands are leased to honest, hard-working
tenants, who can eat their dinners without silver forks, and whose
Stop! I cried, laughing; I bar all ancestry. No man has a right
to ancestry in a free country, you'll remember!
That means landlord-ancestry; as for tenant-ancestry, one can have
a pedigree as long as the Maison de Levis. No, sir; every tenant you
have has every right to demand that his sentiment of family feeling
should be respected. His father planted that orchard, and he loves the
apples better than any other apples in the world
And my father procured the grafts, and made him a present of them.
His grandfather cleared that field, and converted its ashes into
pots and pearls
And my grandfather received that year ten shillings of rent,
for land off which his received two hundred and fifty dollars for his
His great-grandfather, honest and excellent mannay, super-honest
and confiding creaturefirst 'took up' the land when a wilderness, and
with his own hands felled the timber, and sowed the wheat.
And got his pay twenty-fold for it all, or he would not have been
fool enough to do it. I had a great-grandfather, too; and I hope it
will not be considered aristocratic if I venture to hint as much. Hea
dishonest, pestilent knave, no doubtleased that very lot for six
years without any rent at all, in order that the 'poor, confiding
creature' might make himself comfortable, before he commenced paying
his sixpence or shilling an acre rent for the remainder of three lives,
with a moral certainty of getting a renewal on the most liberal terms
known to a new country; and who knew, the whole time, he could buy land
in fee, within ten miles of his door, but who thought this a
better bargain than that.
Enough of this folly, cried uncle Ro, joining in the laugh; we
all know that, in our excellent America, he who has the highest claims
to anything, must affect to have the least, to stifle the monster envy;
and, being of one mind as to principles, let us come to facts. What of
the girls, Jack, and of my honoured mother?
She, noble, heroic woman! she is at Ravensnest at this moment; and,
as the girls would not permit her to go alone, they are all with her.
And did you, Jack Dunning, suffer them to go unattended into a part
of the country that is in open rebellion? demanded my uncle,
Come, come! Hodge Littlepage, this is very sublime as a theory, but
not so clear when reduced to practice. I did not go with Mrs.
Littlepage and her young fry, for the good and substantial reason that
I did not wish to be 'tarred and feathered.'
So you leave them to run the risk of being 'tarred and feathered'
in your stead?
Say what you will about the cant of freedom that is becoming so
common among us, and from which we were once so free; say what you
will, Ro, of the inconsistency of those who raise the cry of
'feudality,' and 'aristocracy,' and 'nobility,' at the very moment they
are manifesting a desire for exclusive rights and privileges in their
own persons; say what you will of dishonesty, envy, that prominent
American vice, knavery, covetousness, and selfishness; and I will echo
all you can utter;but do not say that a woman can be in serious
danger among any material body of Americans, even if anti-renters, and
mock-redskins in the bargain.
I believe you are right there, Jack, on reflection. Pardon my
warmth; but I have lately been living in the old world, and in a
country in which women were not long since carried to the scaffold on
account of their politics.
Because they meddled with politics. Your mother is in no serious
danger, though it needs nerve in a woman to be able to think so. There
are few women in the State, and fewer of her time of life anywhere,
that would do what she has done; and I give the girls great credit for
sticking by her. Half the young men in town are desperate at the
thought of three such charming creatures thus exposing themselves to
insult. Your mother has only been sued.
Sued! Whom does she owe, or what can she have done to have brought
this indignity on her?
You know, or ought to know, how it is in this country, Littlepage;
we must have a little law, even when most bent on breaking it. A
downright, straight-forward rascal, who openly sets law at defiance, is
a wonder. Then we have a great talk of liberty when plotting to give it
the deepest stab; and religion even gets to share in no small portion
of our vices. Thus it is that the anti-renters have dragged in the law
in aid of their designs. I understand one of the Rensselaers has been
sued for money borrowed in a ferry-boat to help him across a river
under his own door, and for potatoes bought by his wife in the streets
But neither of the Rensselaers need borrow money to cross the
ferry, as the ferry-men would trust him; and no lady of the Rensselaer
family ever bought potatoes in the streets of Albany, I'll answer for
You have brought back some knowledge from your travels, I find!
said Jack Dunning, with comic gravity. Your mother writes me that
she has been sued for twenty-seven pairs of shoes furnished her by
a shoemaker whom she never saw, or heard of, until she received the
This, then, is one of the species of annoyances that has been
adopted to bully the landlords out of their property?
It is; and if the landlords have recourse even to the covenants of
their leases, solemnly and deliberately made, and as solemnly
guarantied by a fundamental law, the cry is raised of 'aristocracy' and
'oppression' by these very men, and echoed by many of the creatures who
get seats in high places among usor what would be high places,
if filled with men worthy of their trusts.
I see you do not mince your words, Jack.
Why should I? Words are all that is left me. I am of no more weight
in the government of this State than that Irishman, who let you in just
now, will be, five years henceless, for he will vote to suit a
majority; and, as I shall vote understandingly, my vote will probably
do no one any good.
Dunning belonged to a school that mingles a good deal of speculative
and impracticable theory, with a great deal of sound and just
principles; but who render themselves useless because they will admit
of no compromises. He did not belong to the class of American
doctrinaires, however, or to those who contendno, not contend, for no one does that any longer in this country, whatever may be his
opinion on the subjectbut those who think that political
power, as in the last resort, should be the property of the few; for he
was willing New York should have a very broad constituency.
Nevertheless, he was opposed to the universal suffrage, in its wide
extent, that does actually exist; as I suppose quite three-fourths of
the whole population are opposed to it, in their hearts, though no
political man of influence, now existing, has the moral calibre
necessary to take the lead in putting it down. Dunning deferred to
principles, and not to men. He well knew that an infallible whole was
not to be composed of fallible parts; and while he thought majorities
ought to determine many things, that there are rights and principles
that are superior to even such unanimity as man can manifest,
and much more to their majorities. But Dunning had no selfish views
connected with his political notions, wanting no office, and feeling no
motive to affect that which he neither thought nor wished. He never had
quitted home, or it is highly probable his views of the comparative
abuses of the different systems that prevail in the world would have
been essentially modified. Those he saw had unavoidably a democratic
source, there being neither monarch nor aristocrat to produce any
other; and, under such circumstances, as abuses certainly abound, it is
not at all surprising that he sometimes a little distorted facts, and
And my noble, high-spirited, and venerable mother has actually gone
to the Nest to face the enemy! exclaimed my uncle, after a thoughtful
She has, indeed; and the noble, high-spirited, though not
venerable, young ladies have gone with her, returned Mr. Dunning, in
his caustic way.
All three, do you mean?
Every one of themMartha, Henrietta, and Anne.
I am surprised that the last should have done so. Anne Marston is
such a meek, quiet, peace-loving person, that I should think she
would have preferred remaining, as she naturally might have done,
without exciting remark, with her own mother.
She has not, nevertheless. Mrs. Littlepage would brave the
anti-renters, and the three maidens would be her companions. I
dare say, Ro, you know how it is with the gentle sex, when they make up
My girls are all good girls, and have given me very little
trouble, answered my uncle, complacently.
Yes, I dare say that may be true. You have only been absent from
home five years, this trip.
An attentive guardian, notwithstanding, since I left you as a
substitute. Has my mother written to you since her arrival among the
hosts of the Philistines?
She has, indeed, Littlepage, answered Dunning, gravely; I have
heard from her three times, for she writes to urge my not appearing on
the estate. I did intend to pay her a visit; but she tells me that it
might lead to a violent scene, and can do no good. As the rents will
not be due until autumn, and Master Hugh is now of age and was to be
here to look after his own affairs, I have seen no motive for incurring
the risk of the tarring and feathering. We American lawyers, young
gentleman, wear no wigs.
Does my mother write herself, or employ another? inquired my
uncle, with interest.
She honours me with her own hand. Your mother writes much better
than you do yourself, Roger.
That is owing to her once having carried chain, as she would say
herself. Has Martha written to you?
Of course. Sweet little Patty and I are bosom friends, as you
And does she say anything of the Indian and the negro?
Jaaf and Susquesus? To be sure she does. Both are living still, and
both are well. I saw them myself, and even ate of their venison, so
lately as last winter.
Those old fellows must have each lived a great deal more than his
century, Jack. They were with my grandfather in the old French war, as
active, useful menolder, then, than my grandfather!
Ay! a nigger or a redskin, before all others, for holding on to
life, when they have been temperate. Let me seethat expedition of
Abercrombie's was about eighty years since; why, these fellows must be
well turned of their hundred, though Jaap is rather the oldest, judging
I believe no one knows the age of either. A hundred each has been
thought, now, for many years. Susquesus was surprisingly active, too,
when I last saw himlike a healthy man of eighty.
He has failed of late, though he actually shot a deer, as I told
you, last winter. Both the old fellows stray down to the Nest, Martha
writes me; and the Indian is highly scandalized at the miserable
imitations of his race that are now abroad. I have even heard that he
and Yop have actually contemplated taking the field against them.
Seneca Newcome is their especial aversion.
How is Opportunity? I inquired. Does she take any part in this
A decided one, I hear. She is anti-rent, while she wishes to keep
on good terms with her landlord; and that is endeavouring to serve God
and Mammon. She is not the first, however, by a thousand, that wears
two faces in this business.
Hugh has a deep admiration of Opportunity, observed my uncle, and
you had needs be tender in your strictures. The modern Seneca, I take
it, is dead against us?
Seneky wishes to go to the legislature, and of course he is on the
side of votes. Then his brother is a tenant at the mill, and naturally
wishes to be the landlord. He is also interested in the land himself.
One thing has struck me in this controversy as highly worthy of notice;
and it is the naïveté with which men reconcile the obvious
longings of covetousness with what they are pleased to fancy the
principles of liberty! When a man has worked a farm a certain number of
years, he boldly sets up the doctrine that the fact itself gives him a
high moral claim to possess it for ever. A moment's examination will
expose the fallacy by which these sophists apply the flattering unction
to their souls. They work their farms under a lease, and in virtue of
its covenants. Now, in a moral sense, all that time can do in such a
case, is to render these covenants the more sacred, and consequently
more binding; but these worthies, whose morality is all on one side,
imagine that these time-honoured covenants give them a right to fly
from their own conditions during their existence, and to raise
pretensions far exceeding anything they themselves confer, the moment
Poh, poh! Jack; there is no need of refining at all, to come at the
merits of such a question. This is a civilized country, or it is not.
If it be a civilized country, it will respect the rights of property,
and its own laws; and if the reverse, it will not respect them. As for
setting up the doctrine, at this late day, when millions and millions
are invested in this particular species of property, that the leasehold
tenure is opposed to the spirit of institutions of which it has
substantially formed a part, ever since those institutions have
themselves had an existence, it requires a bold front, and more
capacity than any man at Albany possesses, to make the doctrines go
down. Men may run off with the notion that the tendencies to
certain abuses, which mark every system, form their spirit; but this is
a fallacy that a very little thought will correct. Is it true that
proposals have actually been made, by these pretenders to liberty, to
appoint commissioners to act as arbitrators between the landlords and
tenants, and to decide points that no one has any right to raise?
True as Holy Writ; and a regular 'Star Chamber' tribunal it would
be! It is wonderful, after all, how extremes do meet!
That is as certain as the return of the sun after night. But let us
now talk of our project, Jack, and of the means of getting among these
self-deluded mendeluded by their own covetousnesswithout being
discovered; for I am determined to see them, and to judge of their
motives and conduct for myself.
Take care of the tar-barrel, and of the pillow-case of feathers,
I shall endeavour so to do.
We then discussed the matter before us at length and leisurely. I
shall not relate all that was said, as it would be going over the same
ground twice, but refer the reader to the regular narrative. At the
usual hour, we retired to our beds, retaining the name of Davidson, as
convenient and prudent. Next day Mr. John Dunning busied himself in our
behalf, and made himself exceedingly useful to us. In his character of
an old bachelor, he had many acquaintances at the theatre; and through
his friends of the green-room he supplied each of us with a wig. Both
my uncle and myself spoke German reasonably well, and our original plan
was to travel in the characters of immigrant trinket and essence
pedlars. But I had a fancy for a hand-organ and a monkey; and it was
finally agreed that Mr. Hugh Roger Littlepage, senior, was to undertake
this adventure with a box of cheap watches and gilded trinkets; while
Mr. Hugh Roger Littlepage, junior, was to commence his travels at home,
in the character of a music-grinder. Modesty will not permit me to say
all I might, in favour of my own skill in music in general; but I sang
well for an amateur, and played, both on the violin and flute, far
better than is common.
Everything was arranged in the course of the following day, our wigs
of themselves completely effecting all the disguises that were
necessary. As for my uncle, he was nearly bald, and a wig was no great
encumbrance; but my shaggy locks gave me some trouble. A little
clipping, however, answered the turn; and I had a hearty laugh at
myself, in costume, that afternoon, before Dunning's dressing-room
glass. We got round the felony law, about being armed and disguised, by
carrying no weapons but our tools in the way of trade.
And she hath smiles to earth unknown
Smiles, that with motion of their own
Do spread, and sink, and rise;
That come and go with endless play
And ever, as they pass away,
Are hidden in her eyes.
I was early in costume the following morning. I question if my own
mother could have known me, had she lived long enough to see the
whiskers sprout on my cheeks, and to contemplate my countenance as a
man. I went into Dunning's library, drew the little hurdy-gurdy from
its hiding-place, slung it, and began to play St. Patrick's Day in the
Morning, with spirit, and, I trust I may add, with execution. I was in
the height of the air, when the door opened, and Barney thrust his
high-cheeked-bone face into the room, his mouth as wide open as that of
a frozen porker.
Where the divil did ye come from? demanded the new footman, with
the muscles of that vast aperture of his working from grin to grim, and
grim to grin again. Yee's wilcome to the tchune; but how comes ye
I coomes vrom Halle, in Preussen. Vat isht your vaterland?
Be yees a Jew?
NeinI isht a goot Christian. Vilt you haf Yankee Tootle?
Yankee T'under! Ye'll wake up the masther, and he'll be displais'd,
else ye might work upon t'at tchune till the end of time. That I should
hear it here, in my own liberary, and ould Ireland t'ree thousand
A laugh from Dunning interrupted the dialogue, when Barney vanished,
no doubt anticipating some species of American punishment for a
presumed delinquency. Whether the blundering, well-meaning, honest
fellow really ascertained who we were that breakfasted with his master,
I do not know; but we got the meal and left the house without seeing
his face again, Dunning having a young yellow fellow to do the service
of the table.
I need scarcely say that I felt a little awkward at finding myself
in the streets of New York in such a guise; but the gravity and
self-possession of my uncle were a constant source of amusement to me.
He actually sold a watch on the wharf before the boat left it, though I
imputed his success to the circumstance that his price was what a
brother dealer, who happened to be trading in the same neighbourhood,
pronounced onconscionably low. We took a comfortable state-room
between us, under the pretence of locking-up our property, and strolled
about the boat, gaping and looking curious, as became our class.
Here are at least a dozen people that I know, said my uncle, as we
were lounging aroundloafing around, is the modern Doricabout the
time that the boat was paddling past Fort Washington; I have
reconnoitred in all quarters, and find quite a dozen. I have been
conversing with an old school-fellow, and one with whom I have ever
lived in tolerable intimacy, for the last ten minutes, and find my
broken English and disguise are perfect. I am confident my dear mother
herself would not recognise me.
We can then amuse ourselves with my grandmother and the young
ladies, I answered, when we reach the Nest. For my part, it strikes
me that we had better keep our own secret to the last moment.
Hush! As I live, there is Seneca Newcome this moment! He is coming
this way, and we must be Germans again.
Sure enough, there was 'Squire Seneky, as the honest farmers around
the Nest call him; though many of them must change their practices, or
it will shortly become so absurd to apply the term honest to them,
that no one will have the hardihood to use it. Newcome came slowly
towards the forecastle, on which we were standing; and my uncle
determined to get into conversation with him, as a means of further
proving the virtue of our disguises, as well as possibly of opening the
way to some communications that might facilitate our visit to the Nest.
With this view, the pretended pedlar drew a watch from his pocket, and,
offering it meekly to the inspection of the quasi lawyer, he said
Puy a vatch, shentlemans?
Hey! what? Oh! a watch, returned Seneca, in that high,
condescending, vulgar key, with which the salt of the earth usually
affect to treat those they evidently think much beneath them in
intellect, station, or some other great essential, at the very moment
they are bursting with envy, and denouncing as aristocrats all who are
above them. Hey! a watch, is it? What countryman are you, friend?
A Charmansein Teutscher.
A Germanine Tycher is the place you come from, I s'pose?
Neinein Teutscher isht a Charman.
Oh, yes! I understand. How long have you been in Ameriky?
Why, that's most long enough to make you citizens. Where do you
Nowhere; I lifs jest asht it happenssoometimes here, ant
Ay, ay! I understandno legal domicile, but lead a wandering life.
Have you many of these watches for sale?
YeesI haf asht many as twenty. Dey are as sheep as dirt, and go
like pig clocks.
And what may be your price for this?
Dat you can haf for only eight tollars. Effery poty wilt say it is
golt, dat doesn't know petter.
Oh! it isn't gold thenI swan!what this oath meant I never
exactly knew, though I suppose it to be a puritan mode of saying I
swear! the attempts to cheat the devil in this way being very common
among their pious descendants, though even Smith Thompson himself can
do no man any good in such a case of conscienceI swan! you come
plaguy near taking even me in! Will you come down from that price any?
If you wilt gif me some atfice, perhaps I may. You look like a goot
shentlemans, and one dat woultn't sheat a poor Charmans; ant effery
poty wants so much to sheat de poor Charmans, dat I will take six, if
you will drow in some atfice.
Advice? You have come to the right man for that! Walk a little this
way, where we shall be alone. What is the natur' of the matteraction
on the case, or a tort?
Nein, nein! it isht not law dat I wants, put atfice.
Well, but advice leads to law, ninety-nine times in a hundred.
Ya, ya! answered the pedlar, laughing; dat may be so; put it isht
not what I vantsI vants to know vere a Charman can trafel wit' his
goots in de coontry, and not in de pig towns.
I understand yousix dollars, hey! That sounds high for such a
looking watchhe had just before mistaken it for goldbut I'm
always the poor man's friend, and despise aristocracywhat Seneca
hated with the strongest hate, he ever fancied he despised the
most, and by aristocracy he merely understood gentlemen and ladies, in
the true signification of the wordswhy, I'm always ready to help
along the honest citizen. If you could make up your mind, now, to part
with this one watch for nawthin', I think I could tell you a part of
the country where you might sell the other nineteen in a week.
Goot! exclaimed my uncle, cheerfully. Take himhe ist your
broberty, and wilcome. Only show me de town where I canst sell de
Had my uncle Ro been a true son of peddling, he would have charged a
dollar extra on each of the nineteen, and made eleven dollars by his
It is no town at allonly a township, returned the literal
Seneca. Did you expect it would be a city?
Vat cares I? I woult radder sell my vatches to goot, honest,
country men, dan asht to de best burghers in de land.
You're my man! The right spirit is in you. I hope you're no
I don't know vat isht badroon, or vat isht arishtocrat.
No! You are a happy man in your ignorance. A patroon is a nobleman
who owns another man's land; and an aristocrat is a body that thinks
himself better than his neighbours, friend.
Well, den, I isht no badroon, for I don't own no land at all, not
even mine own; and I ishn't petter asht no poty at all.
Yes, you be; you've only to think so, and you'll be the greatest
gentleman of 'em all.
Well, den, I will dry and dink so, and be petter asht de greatest
shentlemans of dem all. But dat won't do, nudder, as dat vilt make me
petter dan you; for you are one of de greatest of dem all,
Oh! as for me, let me alone. I scorn being on their level. I go for
'Down with the rent!' and so'll you, too, afore you've been a week in
our part of the country.
Vat isht de rent dat you vants to git down?
It's a thing that's opposed to the spirit of the institutions, as
you can see by my feelin's at this very moment. But no matter! I'll
keep the watch, if you say so, and show you the way into that part of
the country, as your pay.
Agreet, shentlemans. Vat I vants is atfice, and vat you vants is a
Here uncle Ro laughed so much like himself, when he ought clearly to
have laughed in broken English, that I was very much afraid he might
give the alarm to our companion; but he did not. From that time, the
best relations existed between us and Seneca, who, in the course of the
day, recognised us by sundry smiles and winks, though I could plainly
see he did not like the anti-aristocratic principle sufficiently to
wish to seem too intimate with us. Before we reached the islands,
however, he gave us directions where to meet him in the morning, and we
parted, when the boat stopped alongside of the pier at Albany that
afternoon, the best friends in the world.
Albany! dear, good old Albany! exclaimed my uncle Ro, as we
stopped on the draw of the bridge to look at the busy scene in the
basin, where literally hundreds of canal-boats were either lying to
discharge or to load, or were coming and going, to say nothing of other
craft; dear, good old Albany! you are a town to which I ever return
with pleasure, for you at least never disappoint me. A first-rate
country-place you are; and, though I miss your quaint old Dutch church,
and your rustic-looking old English church from the centre of
your principal street, almost every change you make is
respectable. I know nothing that tells so much against you as changing
the name of Market street by the paltry imitation of Broadway; but,
considering that a horde of Yankees have come down upon you since the
commencement of the present century, you are lucky that the street was
not called the Appian Way. But, excellent old Albany! whom even the
corruptions of politics cannot change in the core, lying against thy
hillside, and surrounded with thy picturesque scenery, there is an air
of respectability about thee that I admire, and a quiet prosperity that
I love. Yet, how changed since my boyhood! Thy simple stoups have all
vanished; thy gables are disappearing; marble and granite are rising in
thy streets, too, but they take honest shapes, and are free from the
ambition of mounting on stilts; thy basin has changed the whole
character of thy once semi-sylvan, semi-commercial river; but it gives
to thy young manhood an appearance of abundance and thrift that promise
well for thy age!
The reader may depend on it that I laughed heartily at this
rhapsody; for I could hardly enter into my uncle's feelings. Albany is
certainly a very good sort of a place, and relatively a more
respectable-looking town than the commercial emporium, which,
after all, externally, is a mere huge expansion of a very marked
mediocrity, with the pretension of a capital in its estimate of itself.
But Albany lays no claim to be anything more than a provincial town,
and in that class it is highly placed. By the way, there is nothing in
which our people, to speak idiomatically, more deceive
themselves, than in their estimate of what composes a capital. It would
be ridiculous to suppose that the representatives of such a government
as this could impart to any place the tone, opinions, habits and
manners of a capital; for, if they did, they would impart it on the
novel principle of communicating that which they do not possess in
their own persons. Congress itself, though tolerably free from most
shackles, including those of the constitution, is not up to that. In my
opinion, a man accustomed to the world might be placed blindfolded in
the most finished quarter of New York, and the place has new quarters
in which the incongruities I have already mentioned do not exist, and,
my life on it, he could pronounce, as soon as the bandage was removed,
that he was not in a town where the tone of a capital exists. The last
thing to make a capital is trade. Indeed, the man who hears the words
business and the merchants ringing in his ears, may safely
conclude, de facto, that he is not in a capital. Now, a New-York
village is often much less rustic than the villages of the most
advanced country of Europe; but a New-York town is many degrees below
any capital of a large State in the old world.
Will New York ever be a capital? Yesout of all question, yes. But
the day will not come until after the sudden changes of condition which
immediately and so naturally succeeded the revolution, have ceased to
influence ordinary society, and those above again impart to those below
more than they receive. This restoration to the natural state of things
must take place, as soon as society gets settled; and there will be
nothing to prevent a town living under our own institutionsspirit,
tendencies and allfrom obtaining the highest tone that ever yet
prevailed in a capital. The folly is in anticipating the natural course
of events. Nothing will more hasten these events, however, than a
literature that is controlled, not by the lower, but by the higher
opinion of the country; which literature is yet, in a great degree, to
I had dispensed with the monkey, after trying to get along with the
creature for an hour or two, and went around only with my music. I
would rather manage an army of anti-renters than one monkey. With the
hurdy-gurdy slung around my neck, therefore, I followed my uncle, who
actually sold another watch before we reached a tavern. Of course we
did not presume to go to Congress Hall, or the Eagle, for we knew we
should not be admitted. This was the toughest part of our adventures. I
am of opinion my uncle made a mistake; for he ventured to a
second-class house, under the impression that one of the sort usually
frequented by men of our supposed stamp might prove too coarse for us,
altogether. I think we should have been better satisfied with the
coarse fare of a coarse tavern, than with the shabby-genteel of the
house we blundered into. In the former, everything would have reminded
us, in a way we expected to be reminded, that we were out of the common
track; and we might have been amused with the change, though it is one
singularly hard to be endured. I remember to have heard a young man,
accustomed from childhood to the better habits of the country, but who
went to sea a lad, before the mast, declare that the coarseness of his
shipmates, and there is no vulgarity about a true sailor, even when
coarsest, gave him more trouble to overcome, than all the gales,
physical sufferings, labour, exposures and dangers, put together. I
must confess, I have found it so, too, in my little experience. While
acting as a strolling musician, I could get along with anything better
than the coarse habits which I encountered at the table. Your
silver-forkisms, and your purely conventional customs, as a matter of
course, no man of the world attaches any serious importance to; but
there are conventionalities that belong to the fundamental principles
of civilized society, which become second nature, and with which it
gets to be hard, indeed, to dispense. I shall say as little as possible
of the disagreeables of my new trade, therefore, but stick to the
The morning of the day which succeeded that of our arrival at
Albany, my uncle Ro and I took our seats in the train, intending to go
to Saratoga, viâ Troy. I wonder the Trojan who first thought of playing
this travestie on Homer, did not think of calling the place Troyville,
or Troyborough! That would have been semi-American, at least, whereas
the present appellation is so purely classical! It is impossible to
walk through the streets of this neat and flourishing town, which
already counts its twenty thousand souls, and not have the images of
Achilles, and Hector, and Priam, and Hecuba, pressing on the
imagination a little uncomfortably. Had the place been called Try, the
name would have been a sensible one; for it is trying all it can to get
the better of Albany; and, much as I love the latter venerable old
town, I hope Troy may succeed in its trying to prevent the Hudson from
being bridged. By the way, I will here remark, for the benefit of those
who have never seen any country but their own, that there is a view on
the road between Schenectady and this Grecian place, just where the
heights give the first full appearance of the valley of the Hudson,
including glimpses of Waterford, Lansingburg and Albany, with a full
view of both Troys, which gives one a better idea of the affluence of
European scenery, than almost any other spot I can recall in America.
To my hurdy-gurdy:
I made my first essay as a musician in public beneath the windows of
the principal inn of Troy. I cannot say much in favour of the
instrument, though I trust the playing itself was somewhat respectable.
This I know full well, that I soon brought a dozen fair faces to the
windows of the inn, and that each was decorated with a smile. Then it
was that I regretted the monkey. Such an opening could not but awaken
the dormant ambition of even a patriot of the purest water, and I
will own I was gratified.
Among the curious who thus appeared, were two whom I at once
supposed to be father and daughter. The former was a clergyman, and, as
I fancied by something in his air, of the Church, begging
pardon of those who take offence at this exclusive title, and to whom I
will just give a hint in passing. Any one at all acquainted with
mankind, will at once understand that no man who is certain of
possessing any particular advantage, ever manifests much sensibility
because another lays claim to it also. In the constant struggles of the
jealous, for instance, on the subject of that universal source of
jealous feeling, social position, the man or woman who is conscious of
claims never troubles himself or herself about them. For them the
obvious fact is sufficient. If it be answered to this that the
pretension of the Church is exclusive, I shall admit it is,
and conclusive, too. It is not exclusive, however, in the sense
urged, since no one denies that there are many branches to the
Church, although those branches do not embrace everything. I would
advise those who take offence at our styling ourselves the
Church, to style themselves the Church, just as they call all
their parsons bishops, and see who will care about it. That is a
touchstone which will soon separate the true metal from the alloy.
My parson, I could easily see, was a Church clergymannot a
meeting-house clergyman. How I ascertained that fact at a glance, I
shall not reveal; but I also saw in his countenance some of that
curiosity which marks simplicity of character: it was not a vulgar
feeling, but one which induced him to beckon me to approach a little
nearer. I did so, when he invited me in. It was a little awkward, at
first, I must acknowledge, to be beckoned about in this manner; but
there was something in the air and countenance of the daughter that
induced me not to hesitate about complying. I cannot say that her
beauty was so very striking, though she was decidedly pretty;
but the expression of her face, eyes, smile, and all put together, was
so singularly sweet and feminine, that I felt impelled by a sympathy I
shall not attempt to explain, to enter the house, and ascend to the
door of a parlour that I saw at once was public, though it then
contained no one but my proper hosts.
Walk in, young man, said the father, in a benevolent tone of
voice. I am curious to see that instrument; and my daughter here, who
has a taste for music, wishes it as much as I do myself. What do you
Hurty-gurty, I answered.
From what part of the world do you come, my young friend?
continued the clergyman, raising his meek eyes to mine still more
Vrom Charmany; vrom Preussen, vere did reign so late de good Koenig
What does he say, Molly?
So the pretty creature bore the name of Mary! I liked the Molly,
too; it was a good sign, as none but the truly respectable dare use
such familiar appellations in these ambitious times. Molly sounded as
if these people had the aplomb of position and conscious
breeding. Had they been vulgar, it would have been Mollissa.
It is not difficult to translate, father, answered one of the
sweetest voices that had ever poured its melody on my ear, and which
was rendered still more musical by the slight laugh that mingled with
it. He says he is from Germanyfrom Prussia, where the good King
William lately reigned.
I liked the father, toothat sounded refreshing, after passing a
night among a tribe of foul-nosed adventurers in humanity, every one of
whom had done his or her share towards caricaturing the once pretty
appellatives of Pa and Ma. A young lady may still say Papa, or
even Mamma, though it were far better that she said Father and
Mother; but as for Pa and Ma, they are now done with in
respectable life. They will not even do for the nursery.
And this instrument is a hurdy-gurdy? continued the clergyman.
What have we herethe name spelt on it?
Dat isht de maker's nameHochstiel fecit.
Fecit! repeated the clergyman; is that German?
Neindat isht Latin; facio, feci, factum,
facerefeci, feciste, FECIT. It means make, I
suppose you know.
The parson looked at me, and at my dress and figure, with open
surprise, and smiled as his eye glanced at his daughter. If asked why I
made this silly display of lower-form learning, I can only say that I
chafed at being fancied a mere every-day street musician, that had left
his monkey at home, by the charming girl who stood gracefully bending
over her father's elbow, as the latter examined the inscription that
was stamped on a small piece of ivory which had been let into the
instrument. I could see that Mary shrunk back a little under the
sensitive feeling, so natural to her sex, that she was manifesting too
much freedom of manner for the presence of a youth who was nearer to
her own class than she could have supposed it possible for a player on
the hurdy-gurdy to be. A blush succeeded; but the glance of the soft
blue eye that instantly followed, seemed to set all at rest, and she
leaned over her father's elbow again.
You understand Latin, then? demanded the parent, examining me over
his spectacles from head to foot.
A leetle, sirjust a ferry leetle. In my coontry, efery mans isht
obliget to be a soldier some time, and them t'at knows Latin can be
made sergeants and corporals.
That is Prussia, is it?
YaPreussen, vere so late did reign de goot Koenig Wilhelm.
And is Latin much understood among you? I have heard that, in
Hungary, most well-informed persons even speak the tongue.
In Charmany it isht not so. We all l'arnts somet'ing, but not all
dost l'arn efery t'ing.
I could see a smile struggling around the sweet lips of that dear
girl, after I had thus delivered myself, as I fancied, with a most
accurate inaccuracy; but she succeeded in repressing it, though those
provoking eyes of hers continued to laugh, much of the time our
Oh! I very well know that in Prussia the schools are quite good,
and that your government pays great attention to the wants of all
classes, rejoined the clergyman; but I confess some surprise that
you should understand anything of Latin. Now, even in this country,
where we boast so much
Ye-e-s, I could not refrain from drawling out, dey does poast a
great teal in dis coontry!
Mary actually laughed; whether it was at my words, or at the
somewhat comical manner I had assumeda manner in which simplicity was
tant soit peu blended with ironyI shall not pretend to say. As
for the father, his simplicity was of proof; and, after civilly waiting
until my interruption was done, he resumed what he had been on the
point of saying.
I was about to add, continued the clergyman, that even in this
country, where we boast so muchthe little minx of a daughter passed
her hand over her eyes, and fairly coloured with the effort she made
not to laugh againof the common schools, and of their influence on
the public mind, it is not usual to find persons of your condition who
understand the dead languages.
Ye-e-s, I replied; it isht my condition dat misleats you, sir.
Mine fat'er wast a shentlemans, and he gifet me as goot an etication as
de Koenig did gif to de Kron Prinz.
Here, my desire to appear well in the eyes of Mary caused me to run
into another silly indiscretion. How I was to explain the circumstance
of the son of a Prussian gentleman, whose father had given him an
education as good as that which the King of his country had given to
its Crown Prince, being in the streets of Troy, playing on a
hurdy-gurdy, was a difficulty I did not reflect on for a moment. The
idea of being thought by that sweet girl a mere uneducated boor, was
intolerable to me; and I threw it off by this desperate
falsehoodfalse in its accessories, but true in its main factsas one
would resent an insult. Fortune favoured me, however, far more than I
had any right to expect.
There is a singular disposition in the American character to believe
every well-mannered European at least a count. I do not mean that those
who have seen the world are not like other persons in this respect; but
a very great proportion of the country never has seen any other world
than a world of business. The credulity on this subject surpasseth
belief; and, were I to relate facts of this nature that might be
established in a court of justice, the very parties connected with them
would be ready to swear that they are caricatures. Now, well-mannered I
trust I am, and, though plainly dressed and thoroughly disguised,
neither my air nor attire was absolutely mean. As my clothes were new,
I was neat in my appearance; and there were possibly some incongruities
about the last, that might have struck eyes more penetrating than those
of my companions. I could see that both father and daughter felt a
lively interest in me, the instant I gave them reason to believe I was
one of better fortunes. So many crude notions exist among us on the
subject of convulsions and revolutions in Europe, that I dare say, had
I told any improbable tale of the political condition of Prussia, it
would have gone down; for nothing so much resembles the ignorance that
prevails in America, generally, concerning the true state of things in
Europe, as the ignorance that prevails in Europe, generally, concerning
the true state of things in America. As for Mary, her soft eyes seemed
to me to be imbued with thrice their customary gentleness and
compassion, as she recoiled a step in native modesty, and gazed at me,
when I had made my revelation.
If such is the case, my young friend, returned the clergyman, with
benevolent interest, you ought, and might easily be placed in a
better position than this you are now in. Have you any knowledge of
CertainlyGreek is moch study in Charmany.
'In for a penny, in for a pound,' I thought.
And the modern languagesdo you understand any of them?
I speaks de five great tongues of Europe, more ast less well; and I
read dem all, easily.
The five tongues! said the clergyman, counting on his
fingers; what can they be, Mary?
French, and German, and Spanish, and Italian, I suppose, sir.
These make but four. What can be the fifth, my dear?
De yoong laty forgets de Englisch. De Englisch is das funf.
Oh! yes, the English! exclaimed the pretty creature, pressing her
lips together to prevent laughing in my face.
TrueI had forgotten the English, not being accustomed to think of
it as a mere European tongue. I suppose, young man, you naturally speak
the English less fluently than any other of your five languages?
Again the smile struggled to the lips of Mary.
I feel a deep interest in you as a stranger, and am sorry we have
only met to part so soon. Which way shall you be likely to direct your
steps, my Prussian young friend?
I go to a place which is callet Ravensnestgoot place to sell
vatch, dey tells me.
Ravensnest! exclaimed the father.
Ravensnest! repeated the daughter, and that in tones which put the
hurdy-gurdy to shame.
Why, Ravensnest is the place where I live, and the parish of which
I am the clergymanthe Protestant Episcopal clergyman, I mean.
This, then, was the Rev. Mr. Warren, the divine who had been called
to our church the very summer I left home, and who had been there ever
since! My sister Martha had written me much concerning these people,
and I felt as if I had known them for years. Mr. Warren was a man of
good connexions, and some education, but of no fortune whatever, who
had gone into the Churchit was the church of his ancestors,
one of whom had actually been an English bishop, a century or two
agofrom choice, and contrary to the wishes of his friends. As a
preacher, his success had never been great; but for the discharge of
his duties no man stood higher, and no man was more respected. The
living of St. Andrew's, Ravensnest, would have been poor enough, had it
depended on the contributions of the parishioners. These last gave
about one hundred and fifty dollars a-year, for their share of the
support of a priest. I gave another hundred, as regularly as
clock-work, and had been made to do so throughout a long minority; and
my grandmother and sister made up another fifty between them. But there
was a glebe of fifty acres of capital land, a wood-lot, and a fund of
two thousand dollars at interest; the whole proceeding from endowments
made by my grandfather, during his lifetime. Altogether, the living may
have been worth a clear five hundred dollars a year, in addition to a
comfortable house, hay, wood, vegetables, pasture, and some advantages
in the way of small crops. Few country clergymen were better off than
the rector of St. Andrew's, Ravensnest, and all as a consequence of the
feudal and aristocratic habits of the Littlepages, though I say it,
perhaps, who might better not, in times like these.
My letters had told me that the Rev. Mr. Warren was a widower; that
Mary was his only child; that he was a truly pious, not a
sham-pious, and a really zealous clergyman; a man of purest truth,
whose word was gospelof great simplicity and integrity of mind and
character; that he never spoke evil of others, and that a complaint of
this world and its hardships seldom crossed his lips. He loved his
fellow-creatures, both naturally and on principle; mourned over the
state of the diocese, and greatly preferred piety even to
high-churchism. High-churchman he was, nevertheless; though it was not
a high-churchmanship that outweighed the loftier considerations of his
Christian duties, and left him equally without opinions of his own in
matters of morals, and without a proper respect, in practice, for those
that he had solemnly vowed to maintain.
His daughter was described as a sweet-tempered, arch, modest,
sensible, and well-bred girl, that had received a far better education
than her father's means would have permitted him to bestow, through the
liberality and affection of a widowed sister of her mother's, who was
affluent, and had caused her to attend the same school as that to which
she had sent her own daughters. In a word, she was a most charming
neighbour; and her presence at Ravensnest had rendered Martha's annual
visits to the old house (built in 1785) not only less irksome, but
actually pleasant. Such had been my sister's account of the Warrens and
their qualities, throughout a correspondence of five years. I have even
fancied that she loved this Mary Warren better than she loved any of
her uncle's wards, herself of course excepted.
The foregoing flashed through my mind, the instant the clergyman
announced himself; but the coincidence of our being on the way to the
same part of the country, seemed to strike him as forcibly as it did
myself. What Mary thought of the matter, I had no means of
This is singular enough, resumed Mr. Warren. What has directed
your steps towards Ravensnest?
Dey tell mine ooncle 'tis goot place to sell moch vatch.
You have an uncle, then? Ah! I see him there in the street, showing
a watch at this moment to a gentleman. Is your uncle a linguist, too,
and has he been as well educated as you seem to be yourself?
Certainhe moch more of a shentleman dan ast de shentleman to whom
he now sell vatch.
These must be the very persons, put in Mary, a little eagerly, of
whom Mr. Newcome spoke, as thethe dear girl did not like to say
pedlars, after what I had told them of my origin; so she
addeddealers in watches and trinkets, who intended to visit our part
of the country.
You are right, my dear, and the whole matter is now clear. Mr.
Newcome said he expected them to join us at Troy, when we should
proceed in the train together as far as Saratoga. But here comes
Opportunity herself, and her brother cannot be far off.
At that moment, sure enough, my old acquaintance, Opportunity
Newcome, came into the room, a public parlour, with an air of great
self-satisfaction, and a nonchalance of manner that was not a
little more peculiar to herself than it is to most of her caste. I
trembled for my disguise, since, to be quite frank on a very delicate
subject, Opportunity had made so very dead a set at mesetting a cap
is but a pitiful phrase to express the assault I had to withstandas
scarcely to leave a hope that her feminine instinct, increased and
stimulated with the wish to be mistress of the Nest house, could
possibly overlook the thousand and one personal peculiarities that must
still remain about one, whose personal peculiarities she had made her
O, sic a geek she gave her head,
And sic a toss she gave her feather;
Man, saw ye ne'er a bonnier lass
Before, among the blooming heather?
Ah! here are some charming French vignettes! cried
Opportunity, running up to a table where lay some inferior coloured
engravings, that were intended to represent the cardinal virtues, under
the forms of tawdry female beauties. The workmanship was French, as
were the inscriptions. Now, Opportunity knew just enough French to
translate these inscriptions, simple and school-girl as they were, as
wrong as they could possibly be translated, under the circumstances.
La Vertue, cried Opportunity, in a high, decided way, as if
to make sure of an audience The Virtue; La Solitude,
pronouncing the last word in a desperately English accent, The
Solitude; La Charité, The Charity. It is really delightful,
Mary, as 'Sarah Soothings' would say, to meet with these glimmerings of
taste in this wilderness of the world.
I wondered who the deuce Sarah Soothings could be, but afterwards
learned this was the nom-de-guerre of a female contributor to the
magazines, who, I dare say, silly as she might be, was never silly
enough to record the sentiments Opportunity had just professed to
repeat. As for The la Charité, and The la Vertue, they
did not in the least surprise me; for Martha, the hussy, often made
herself merry by recording that young lady's tours de force in
French. On one occasion I remember she wrote me, that when Opportunity
wished to say On est venu me chercher, instead of saying I am
come for, in homely English, which would have been the best of all,
she had flown off in the high flight of Je suis venue pour.
Mary smiled, for she comprehended perfectly the difference between
la Solitude and the Solitude; but she said nothing. I must
acknowledge that I was so indiscreet as to smile also, though,
Opportunity's back being turned towards us, these mutual signs of
intelligence that escaped us both through the eyes, opened a species of
communication that, to me at least, was infinitely agreeable.
Opportunity, having shown the owner of the strange figure at which
she had just glanced on entering the room, that she had studied French,
now turned to take a better look at him. I have reason to think my
appearance did not make a very happy impression on her; for she tossed
her head, drew a chair, seated herself in the manner most opposed to
the descent of down, and opened her budget of news, without the least
regard to my presence, and apparently with as little attention to the
wishes and tastes of her companions. Her accent, and jumping, hitching
mode of speaking, with the high key in which she uttered her
sentiments, too, all grated on my ears, which had become a little
accustomed to different habits, in young ladies in particular, in the
other hemisphere. I confess myself to be one of those who regard an
even, quiet, graceful mode of utterance, as even a greater charm in a
woman than beauty. Its effect is more lasting, and seems to be directly
connected with the character. Mary Warren not only pronounced like one
accustomed to good society; but the modulations of her voice, which was
singularly sweet by nature, were even and agreeable, as is usual with
well-bred women, and as far as possible from the jerking, fluttering,
now rapid, now drawling manner of Opportunity. Perhaps, in this age of
loose attire, loose habits, and free and easy deportment, the speech
denotes the gentleman, or the lady, more accurately than any other
Sen is enough to wear out anybody's patience! exclaimed
Opportunity. We must quit Troy in half an hour; and I have visits that
I ought to pay to Miss Jones, and Miss White, and Miss Black, and Miss
Green, and Miss Brown, and three or four others; and I can't get him to
come near me.
Why not go alone? asked Mary, quietly. It is but a step to two or
three of the houses, and you cannot possibly lose your way. I will go
with you, if you desire it.
Oh! lose my way? no, indeed! I know it too well for that. I wasn't
educated in Troy, not to know something of the streets. But it looks
so, to see a young lady walking in the streets without a beau! I never
wish to cross a room in company without a beau; much less to cross a
street. No; if Sen don't come in soon, I shall miss seeing every one of
my friends, and that will be a desperate disappointment to us all; but
it can't be helped: walk without a beau I will not, if I never
see one of them again.
Will you accept of me, Miss Opportunity? asked Mr. Warren. It
will afford me pleasure to be of service to you.
Lord! Mr. Warren, you don't think of setting up for a beau at your
time of life, do you? Everybody would see that you're a clergyman, and
I might just as well go alone. No, if Sen don't come in at once, I must
lose my visits; and the young ladies will be so put out about it, I
know! Araminta Maria wrote me, in the most particular manner, never to
go through Troy without stopping to see her, if I didn't see
another mortal; and Kathe_rine Clotilda has as much as said she would
never forgive me if I passed her door. But Seneca cares no more for the
friendships of young ladies, than he doesMiss Newcome pronounced
this word doos, notwithstanding her education, as she did been,
ben, and fifty others just as much out of the common wayBut Seneca
cares no more for the friendships of young ladies, than he does for the
young patroon. I declare, Mr. Warren, I believe Sen will go crazy
unless the anti-renters soon get the best of it; he does nothing but
think and talk of 'rents,' and 'aristocracy,' and 'poodle usages,' from
morning till night.
We all smiled at the little mistake of Miss Opportunity, but it was
of no great consequence; and I dare say she knew what she meant as well
as most others who use the same term, though they spell it more
accurately. Poodle usages are quite as applicable to anything now
existing in America, as feudal usages.
Your brother is then occupied with a matter of the last importance
to the community of which he is a member, answered the clergyman,
gravely. On the termination of this anti-rent question hangs, in my
judgment, a vast amount of the future character, and much of the future
destiny, of Yew York.
I wonder, now! I'm surprised to hear you say this, Mr. Warren, for
generally you're thought to be unfriendly to the movement. Sen says,
however, that everything looks well, and that he believes the
tenants will get their lands throughout the State before they've done
with it. He tells me we shall have Injins enough this summer at
Ravensnest. The visit of old Mrs. Littlepage has raised a spirit that
will not easily be put down, he says.
And why should the visit of Mrs. Littlepage to the house of her
grandson, and to the house built by her own husband, and in which she
passed the happiest days of her life, 'raise a spirit,' as you call it,
in any one in that part of the country?
Oh! you're episcopal, Mr. Warren; and we all know how the
Episcopals feel about such matters. But, for my part, I don't think the
Littlepages are a bit better than the Newcomes, though I won't liken
them to some I could name at Ravensnest; but I don't think they are any
better than you, yourself; and why should they ask so much more of the
law than other folks?
I am not aware that they do ask more of the law than others; and,
if they do, I'm sure they obtain less. The law in this country is
virtually administered by jurors, who take good care to graduate
justice, so far as they can, by a scale suited to their own opinions,
and, quite often, to their prejudices. As the last are so universally
opposed to persons in Mrs. Littlepage's class in life, if there be a
chance to make her suffer, it is pretty certain it will be improved.
Sen says he can't see why he should pay rent to a Littlepage, any
more than a Littlepage should pay rent to him.
I am sorry to hear it, since there is a very sufficient reason for
the former, and no reason at all for the latter. Your brother uses the
land of Mr. Littlepage, and that is a reason why he should pay him
rent. If the case were reversed, then, indeed, Mr. Littlepage should
pay rent to your brother.
But what reason is there that these Littlepages should go on from
father to son, from generation to generation, as our landlords, when
we're just as good as they. It's time there was some change. Besides,
only think, we've been at the mills, now, hard upon eighty years,
grandpa having first settled there; and we have had them very mills,
now, for three generations among us.
High time, therefore, Opportunity, that there should be some
change, put in Mary, with a demure smile.
Oh! you're so intimate with Marthy Littlepage, I'm not surprised at
anything you think or say. But reason is reason, for all that. I
haven't the least grudge in the world against young Hugh Littlepage; if
foreign lands haven't spoilt him, as they say they're desperate apt to
do, he's an agreeable young gentleman, and I can't say that he
used to think himself any better than other folks.
I should say none of the family are justly liable to the charge of
so doing, returned Mary.
Well, I'm amazed to hear you say that, Mary Warren. To my
taste, Marthy Littlepage is as disagreeable as she can be. If the
anti-rent cause had nobody better than she is to oppose it, it would
May I ask, Miss Newcome, what particular reason you have for so
thinking? asked Mr. Warren, who had kept his eye on the young lady the
whole time she had been thus running on, with an interest that struck
me as somewhat exaggerated, when one remembered the character of the
speaker, and the value of her remarks.
I think so, Mr. Warren, because everybody says so, was the answer.
If Marthy Littlepage don't think herself better than other folks, why
don't she act like other folks. Nothing is good enough for her
in her own conceit.
Poor little Patt, who was the very beau idéal of nature and
simplicity, as nature and simplicity manifest themselves under the
influence of refinement and good-breeding, was here accused of fancying
herself better than this ambitious young lady, for no other reason than
the fact of the little distinctive peculiarities of her air and
deportment, which Opportunity had found utterly unattainable, after one
or two efforts to compass them. In this very fact is the secret of a
thousand of the absurdities and vices that are going up and down the
land at this moment, like raging lions, seeking whom they may devour.
Men often turn to their statutebooks and constitution to find the
sources of obvious evils, that, in truth, have their origin in some of
the lowest passions of human nature. The entrance of Seneca at that
moment, however, gave a new turn to the discourse, though it continued
substantially the same. I remarked that Seneca entered with his hat on,
and that he kept his head covered during most of the interview that
succeeded, notwithstanding the presence of the two young ladies and the
divine. As for myself, I had been so free as to remove my cap, though
many might suppose it was giving myself airs, while others would have
imagined it was manifesting a degree of respect to human beings that
was altogether unworthy of freemen. It is getting to be a thing so
particular and aristocratic to take off the hat on entering a house,
that few of the humbler democrats of America now ever think of it!
As a matter of course, Opportunity upbraided her delinquent brother
for not appearing sooner to act as her beau; after which, she permitted
him to say a word for himself. That Seneca was in high good-humour, was
easily enough to be seen; he even rubbed his hands together in the
excess of his delight.
Something has happened to please Sen, cried the sister, her own
mouth on a broad grin, in her expectation of coming in for a share of
the gratification. I wish you would get him to tell us what it is,
Mary; he'll tell you anything.
I cannot describe how harshly this remark grated on my nerves. The
thought that Mary Warren could consent to exercise even the most
distant influence over such a man as Seneca Newcome, was to the last
degree unpleasant to me; and I could have wished that she would openly
and indignantly repel the notion. But Mary Warren treated the whole
matter very much as a person who was accustomed to such remarks would
be apt to do. I cannot say that she manifested either pleasure or
displeasure; but a cold indifference was, if anything, uppermost in her
manner. Possibly, I should have been content with this; but I found it
very difficult to be so. Seneca, however, did not wait for Miss Warren
to exert her influence to induce him to talk, but appeared well enough
disposed to do it of his own accord.
Something has happened to please me, I must own, he
answered; and I would as lief Mr. Warren should know what it is, as
not. Things go ahead finely among us anti-renters, and we shall carry
all our p'ints before long!
I wish I were certain no points would be carried but those that
ought to be carried, Mr. Newcome, was the answer. But what has
happened, lately, to give a new aspect to the affair?
We're gaining strength among the politicians. Both sides are
beginning to court us, and the 'spirit of the institutions' will
shortly make themselves respected.
I am delighted to hear that! It is in the intention of the
institutions to repress covetousness, and uncharitableness, and all
frauds, and to do nothing but what is right, observed Mr. Warren.
Ah! here comes my friend the travelling jeweller, said Seneca,
interrupting the clergyman, in order to salute my uncle, who at that
instant showed himself in the door of the room, cap in hand. Walk in,
Mr. Dafidson, since that is your name: Rev. Mr. WarrenMiss Mary
WarrenMiss Opportunity Newcome, my sister, who will be glad to look
at your wares. The cars will be detained on some special business, and
we have plenty of time before us.
All this was done with a coolness and indifference of manner which
went to show that Seneca had no scruples whatever on the subject of
whom he introduced to any one. As for my uncle, accustomed to these
free and easy manners, and probably not absolutely conscious of the
figure he cut in his disguise, he bowed rather too much like a
gentleman for one of his present calling, though my previous
explanation of our own connexion and fallen fortunes had luckily
prepared the way for this deportment.
Come in, Mr. Dafidson, and open your boxmy sister may fancy some
of your trinkets; I never knew a girl that didn't.
The imaginary pedlar entered, and placed his box on a table near
which I was standing, the whole party immediately gathering around it.
My presence had attracted no particular attention from either Seneca or
his sister, the room being public, and my connexion with the vender of
trinkets known. In the mean time, Seneca was too full of his good news
to let the subject drop; while the watches, rings, chains, brooches,
bracelets, &c. &c., were passed under examination.
Yes, Mr. Warren, I trust we are about to have a complete
development of the spirit of our institutions, and that in futur' there
will be no privileged classes in New York, at least.
The last will certainly be a great gain, sir, the divine coldly
answered. Hitherto, those who have most suppressed the truth, and who
have most contributed to the circulation of flattering falsehoods, have
had undue advantages in America.
Seneca, obviously enough, did not like this sentiment; but I
thought, by his manner, that he was somewhat accustomed to meeting with
such rebuffs from Mr. Warren.
I suppose you will admit there are privileged classes now
among us, Mr. Warren?
I am ready enough to allow that, sir; it is too plain to be
Wa-all, I should like to hear you p'int 'em out; that I
might see if we agree in our sentiments.
Demagogues are a highly privileged class. The editors of newspapers
are another highly privileged class; doing things, daily and hourly,
which set all law and justice at defiance, and invading, with perfect
impunity, the most precious rights of their fellow-citizens. The power
of both is enormous; and, as in all cases of great and irresponsible
power, both enormously abuse it.
Wa-all, that's not my way of thinking at all. In my judgment, the
privileged classes in this country are your patroons and your
landlords; men that's not satisfied with a reasonable quantity of land,
but who wish to hold more than the rest of their fellow-creatur's.
I am not aware of a single privilege that any patroonof whom, by
the way, there no longer exists one, except in nameor any landlord,
possesses over any one of his fellow-citizens.
Do you call it no privilege for a man to hold all the land there
may happen to be in a township? I call that a great privilege; and such
as no man should have in a free country. Other people want land as well
as your Van Renssalaers and Littlepages; and other people mean to have
On that principle, every man who owns more of any one thing than
his neighbour is privileged. Even I, poor as I am, and am believed to
be, am privileged over you, Mr. Newcome. I own a cassock, and have two
gowns, one old and one new, and various other things of the sort, of
which you have not one. What is more, I am privileged in another sense;
since I can wear my cassock and gown, and bands, and do
wear them often; whereas you cannot wear one of them all without making
yourself laughed at.
Oh! but them are not privileges I care anything about; if I did I
would put on the things, as the law does not prohibit it.
I beg your pardon, Mr. Newcome; the law does prohibit you from
wearing my cassock and gown contrary to my wishes.
Wa-all, wa-all, Mr. Warren; we never shall quarrel about that; I
don't desire to wear your cassack and gown.
I understand you, then; it is only the things that you desire
to use that you deem it a privilege for the law to leave me.
I am afraid we shall never agree, Mr. Warren, about this anti-rent
business; and I'm very sorry for it, as I wish particularly to think as
you do, glancing his eye most profanely towards Mary as he spoke. I
am for the movement-principle, while you are too much for the
I am certainly for remaining stationary, Mr. Newcome, if progress
mean taking away the property of old and long established families in
the country, to give it to those whose names are not to be found in our
history; or, indeed, to give it to any but those to whom it rightfully
We shall never agree, my dear sir, we shall never agree; then,
turning towards my uncle with the air of superiority that the vulgar so
easily assumeWhat do you say to all this, friend
Dafidsonare you up-rent or down-rent?
Ja, mynheer, was the quiet answer; I always downs mit der rent
vens I leave a house or a garten. It is goot to pay de debts; ja, it
ist herr goot.
This answer caused the clergyman and his daughter to smile, while
Opportunity laughed outright.
You won't make much of your Dutch friend, Sen, cried this buoyant
young lady; he says you ought to keep on paying rent!
I apprehend Mr. Dafidson does not exactly understand the case,
answered Seneca, who was a good deal disconcerted, but was bent on
maintaining his point. I have understood you to say that you are a man
of liberal principles, Mr. Dafidson, and that you've come to America to
enjoy the light of intelligence and the benefits of a free government.
Ja; ven I might coome to America, I say, vell, dat 'tis a goot
coontry, vhere an honest man might haf vhat he 'arns, ant keep it, too.
Ja, ja! dat ist vhat I say, ant vhat I dinks.
I understand you, sir; you come from a part of the world where the
nobles eat up the fat of the land, taking the poor man's share as well
as his own, to live in a country where the law is, or soon will be, so
equal that no citizen will dare to talk about his estates, and
hurt the feelin's of such as haven't got any.
My uncle so well affected an innocent perplexity at the drift of
this remark as to make me smile, in spite of an effort to conceal it.
Mary Warren saw that smile, and another glance of intelligence was
exchanged between us; though the young lady immediately withdrew her
look, a little consciously and with a slight blush.
I say that you like equal laws and equal privileges, friend
Dafidson, continued Seneca, with emphasis; and that you have seen too
much of the evils of nobility and of feudal oppression in the old
world, to wish to fall in with them in the new.
Der nobles ant der feudal privileges ist no goot, answered the
trinket-pedlar, shaking his head with an appearance of great distaste.
Ay, I knew it would be so; you see, Mr. Warren, no man who has ever
lived under a feudal system can ever feel otherwise.
But what have we to do with feudal systems, Mr. Newcome? and what
is there in common between the landlords of New York and the nobles of
Europe, and between their leases and feudal tenures?
What is there? A vast deal too much, sir, take my word for it. Do
not our very governors, even while ruthlessly calling on one citizen to
Nay, nay, Mr. Newcome, interrupted Mary Warren, laughing, the
governors call on the citizens not to murder each other.
I understand you, Miss Mary; but we shall make anti-renters of you
both before we are done. Surely, sir, there is a great deal too much
resemblance between the nobles of Europe and our landlords, when the
honest and free-born tenants of the last are obliged to pay tribute for
permission to live on the very land that they till, and which they
cause to bring forth its increase.
But men who are not noble let their lands in Europe; nay, the very
serfs, as they become free and obtain riches, buy lands and let them,
in some parts of the old world, as I, have heard and read.
All feudal, sir. The whole system is pernicious and feudal, serf or
But, Mr. Newcome, said Mary Warren, quietly, though with a sort of
demure irony in her manner that said she was not without humour, and
understood herself very well, even you let your landland that you
lease, too, and which you do not own, except as you hire it from Mr.
Seneca gave a hem, and was evidently disconcerted; but he had too
much of the game of the true progressive movementwhich merely means
to lead in changes, though they may lead to the devilto give
the matter up. Repeating the hem, more to clear his brain than to clear
his throat, he hit upon his answer, and brought it out with something
very like triumph.
That is one of the evils of the present system, Miss Mary. Did I
own the two or three fields you mean, and to attend to which I have no
leisure, I might sell them; but now, it is impossible, since I
can give no deed. The instant my poor uncle diesand he can't survive
a week, being, as you must know, nearly gonethe whole property,
mills, tavern, farms, timber-lot and all, fall in to young Hugh
Littlepage, who is off frolicking in Europe, doing no good to himself
or others, I'll venture to say, if the truth were known. That is
another of the hardships of the feudal system; it enables one man to
travel in idleness, wasting his substance in foreign lands, while it
keeps another at home, at the plough-handles and the cart-tail.
And why do you suppose Mr. Hugh Littlepage wastes his substance,
and is doing himself and country no good in foreign lands, Mr. Newcome?
That is not at all the character I hear of him, nor is it the result
that I expect to see from his travels.
The money he spends in Europe might do a vast deal of good at
For my part, my dear sir, put in Mary again, in her quiet but
pungent way, I think it remarkable that neither of our late governors
has seen fit to enumerate the facts just mentioned by Mr. Newcome among
those that are opposed to the spirit of the institutions. It is,
indeed, a great hardship that Mr. Seneca Newcome cannot sell Mr. Hugh
I complain less of that, cried Seneca, a little hastily, than of
the circumstance that all my rights in the property must go with the
death of my uncle. That, at least, even you, Miss Mary, must
admit is a great hardship.
If your uncle were unexpectedly to revive, and live twenty years,
No, no, Miss Mary, answered Seneca, shaking his head in a
melancholy manner; that is absolutely impossible. It would not
surprise me to find him dead and buried on our return.
But, admit that you may be mistaken, and that your lease should
continueyou would still have a rent to pay?
Of that I wouldn't complain in the least. If Mr. Dunning,
Littlepage's agent, will just promise, in as much as half a sentence,
that we can get a new lease on the old terms, I'd not say a syllable
Well, here is one proof that the system has its advantages!
exclaimed Mr. Warren, cheerfully. I'm delighted to hear you say this;
for it is something to have a class of men among us whose simple
promises, in a matter of money, have so much value! It is to be hoped
that their example will not be lost.
Mr. Newcome has made an admission I am also glad to hear, added
Mary, as soon as her father had done speaking. His willingness to
accept a new lease on the old terms is a proof that he has been living
under a good bargain for himself hitherto, and that down to the present
moment he has been the obliged party.
This was very simply said, but it bothered Seneca amazingly. As for
myself, I was delighted with it, and could have kissed the pretty, arch
creature who had just uttered the remark; though I will own that as
much might have been done without any great reluctance, had she even
held her tongue. As for Seneca, he did what most men are apt to do when
they have the consciousness of not appearing particularly well in a
given point of view he endeavoured to present himself to the eyes of
his companions in another.
There is one thing, Mr. Warren, that I think you will admit ought
not to be, he cried, exultingly, whatever Miss Mary thinks about it;
and that is, that the Littlepage pew in your church ought to come
I will not say that much, Mr. Newcome, though I rather think my
daughter will. I believe, my dear, you are of Mr. Newcome's way of
thinking in respect to this canopied pew, and also in respect to the
I wish neither was in the church, answered Mary, in a low voice.
From that moment I was fully resolved neither should be, as soon as
I got into a situation to control the matter.
In that I agree with you entirely, my child, resumed the
clergyman; and were it not for this movement connected with the rents,
and the false principles that have been so boldly announced of late
years, I might have taken on myself the authority, as rector, to remove
the hatchments. Even according to the laws connected with the use of
such things, they should have been taken away a generation or two back.
As to the pew, it is a different matter. It is private property; was
constructed with the church, which was built itself by the joint
liberality of the Littlepages and mother Trinity; and it would be a
most ungracious act to undertake to destroy it under such
circumstances, and more especially in the absence of its owner.
You agree, however, that it ought not to be there? asked Seneca,
I wish with all my heart it were not. I dislike every thing like
worldly distinction in the house of God; and heraldic emblems, in
particular, seem to me very much out of place where the cross is seen
to be in its proper place.
Wa-all, now, Mr. Warren, I can't say I much fancy crosses about
churches either. What's the use in raising vain distinctions of any
sort. A church is but a house, after all, and ought so to be regarded.
True, said Mary, firmly; but the house of God.
Yes, yes, we all know, Miss Mary, that you Episcopalians look more
at outward things, and more respect outward things, than most of the
other denominations of the country.
Do you call leases 'outward things,' Mr. Newcome? asked Mary,
archly; and contracts, and bargains, and promises, and the rights of
property, and the obligation to 'do as you would be done by?'
Law! good folks, cried Opportunity, who had been all this time
tumbling over the trinkets, I wish it was 'down with the rent' for
ever, with all my heart; and that not another word might ever be said
on the subject. Here is one of the prettiest pencils, Mary, I ever did
see; and its price is only four dollars. I wish, Sen, you'd let the
rent alone, and make me a present of this very pencil.
As this was an act of which Seneca had not the least intention of
being guilty, he merely shifted his hat from one side of his head to
the other, began to whistle, and then he coolly left the room. My uncle
Ro profited by the occasion to beg Miss Opportunity would do him the
honour to accept the pencil as an offering from himself.
You an't surely in earnest! exclaimed Opportunity, flushing up
with surprise and pleasure. Why, you told me the price was four
dollars; and even that seems to me desperate little!
Dat ist de price to anudder, said the gallant trinket-dealer; but
dat ist not de price to you, Miss Opportunity. Ve shall trafel
togedder; ant vhen ve gets to your coontry, you vill dell me de best
houses vhere I might go mit my vatches ant drinkets.
That I will; and get you in at the Nest House, in the bargain,
cried Opportunity, pocketing the pencil without further parley.
In the mean time my uncle selected a very neat seal, the handsomest
he had, being of pure metal, and having a real topaz in it, and offered
it to Mary Warren, with his best bow. I watched the clergyman's
daughter with anxiety, as I witnessed the progress of this
galantérie, doubting and hoping at each change of the ingenuous and
beautiful countenance of her to whom the offering was made. Mary
coloured, smiled, seemed embarrassed, and, as I feared, for a single
moment doubting; but I must have been mistaken, as she drew back, and,
in the sweetest manner possible, declined to accept the present. I saw
that Opportunity's having just adopted a different course added very
much to her embarrassment, as otherwise she might have said something
to lessen the seeming ungraciousness of the refusal. Luckily for
herself, however, she had a gentleman to deal with, instead of one in
the station that my uncle Ro had voluntarily assumed. When this
offering was made, the pretended pedlar was ignorant altogether of the
true characters of the clergyman and his daughter, not even knowing
that he saw the rector of St. Andrew's, Ravensnest. But the manner of
Mary at once disabused him of an error into which he had fallen through
her association with Opportunity, and he now drew back himself with
perfect tact, bowing and apologizing in a way that I thought must
certainly betray his disguise. It did not, however; for Mr. Warren,
with a smile that denoted equally satisfaction at his daughter's
conduct, and a grateful sense of the other's intended liberality, but
with a simplicity that was of proof, turned to me and begged a tune on
the flute which I had drawn from my pocket and was holding in my hand,
as expecting some such invitation.
If I have any accomplishment, it is connected with music; and
particularly with the management of the flute. On this occasion I was
not at all backward about showing off, and I executed two or three
airs, from the best masters, with as much care as if I had been playing
to a salon in one of the best quarters of Paris. I could see that Mary
and her father were both surprised at the execution, and that the first
was delighted. We had a most agreeable quarter of an hour together; and
might have had two, had not Opportunitywho was certainly well named,
being apropos of everythingbegan of her own accord to sing, though
not without inviting Mary to join her. As the latter declined this
public exhibition, as well as my uncle Ro's offering, Seneca's sister
had it all to herself; and she sang no less than three songs, in quick
succession, and altogether unasked. I shall not stop to characterize
the music or the words of these songs, any further than to say they
were all, more or less, of the Jim Crow school, and executed in a way
that did them ample justice.
As it was understood that we were all to travel in the same train,
the interview lasted until we were ready to proceed; nor did it
absolutely terminate then. As Mary and Opportunity sat together, Mr.
Warren asked me to share his seat, regardless of the hurdy-gurdy;
though my attire, in addition to its being perfectly new and neat, was
by no means of the mean character that it is usual to see adorning
street-music in general. On the whole, so long as the instrument was
not en evidence, I might not have seemed very much out of place
seated at Mr. Warren's side. In this manner we proceeded to Saratoga,
my uncle keeping up a private discourse the whole way with Seneca, on
matters connected with the rent movement.
As for the divine and myself, we had also much interesting talk
together. I was questioned about Europe in general and Germany in
particular; and had reason to think my answers gave surprise as well as
satisfaction. It was not an easy matter to preserve the Doric of my
assumed dialect, though practice and fear contributed their share to
render me content to resort to it. I made many mistakes, of course, but
my listeners were not the persons to discover them. I say my listeners,
for I soon ascertained that Mary Warren, who sat on the seat directly
before us, was a profoundly attentive listener to all that passed. This
circumstance did not render me the less communicative, though it did
increase the desire I felt to render what I said worthy of such a
listener. As for Opportunity, she read a newspaper a little while,
munched an apple a very little while, and slept the rest of the way.
But the journey between modern Troy and Saratoga is not a long one, and
was soon accomplished.
I will tell you;
If you'll bestow a small (of what you have little),
Patience, a while, you'll hear the belly's answer.
At the springs we parted, Mr. Warren and his friends finding a
conveyance, with their own horses, in readiness to carry them the
remainder of the distance. As for my uncle and myself, it was
understood that we were to get on in the best manner we could, it being
expected that we should reach Ravensnest in the course of a day or two.
According to the theory of our new business, we ought to travel on
foot, but we had a reservation in petto that promised us also
the relief of a comfortable wagon of some sort or other.
Well, said my uncle, the moment we had got far enough from our new
acquaintances to be out of ear-shot, I must say one thing in behalf of
Mr. Seneky, as he calls himself, or Sen, as his elegant sister calls
him, and that is, that I believe him to be one of the biggest
scoundrels the state holds.
This is not drawing his character en beau, I answered,
laughing. But why do you come out so decidedly upon him at this
Because this particular moment happens to be the first in which I
have had an opportunity to say anything since I have known the rascal.
You must have remarked that the fellow held me in discourse from the
time we left Troy until we stopped here.
Certainly; I could see that his tongue was in motion unceasingly:
what he said, I have to conjecture.
He said enough to lay bare his whole character. Our subject was
anti-rent, which he commenced with a view to explain it to a foreigner;
but I managed to lead him on, step by step, until he let me into all
his notions and expectations on the subject. Why, Hugh, the villain
actually proposed that you and I should enlist, and turn ourselves into
two of the rascally mock redskins.
Enlist! Do they still persevere so far as to keep up that
organization, in the very teeth of the late law?
The law! What do two or three thousand voters care for any penal
law, in a country like this? Who is to enforce the law against them?
Did they commit murder, and were they even convicted, as might
happen under the excitement of such a crime, they very well know nobody
would be hanged. Honesty is always too passive in matters that do not
immediately press on its direct interests. It is for the interest of
every honest man in the State to set his face against this anti-rent
movement, and to do all he can, by his vote and influence, to put it
down into the dirt, out of which it sprang, and into which it should be
crushed; but not one in a hundred, even of those who condemn it toto
cælo, will go a foot out of their way even to impede its progress.
All depends on those who have the power; and they will exert that power
so as to conciliate the active rogue, rather than protect the honest
man. You are to remember that the laws are executed here on the
principle that 'what is everybody's business is nobody's business.'
You surely do not believe that the authorities will wink at an open
violation of the laws!
That will depend on the characters of individuals; most will, but
some will not. You and I would be punished soon enough, were there a
chance, but the mass would escape. Oh! we have had some precious
disclosures in our corner of the car! The two or three men who joined
Newcome are from anti-rent districts, and seeing me with their friend,
little reserve has been practised. One of those men is an anti-rent
lecturer; and, being somewhat didactic, he favoured me with some of his
How! Have they got to lectures? I should have supposed the
newspapers would have been the means of circulating their ideas.
Oh, the newspapers, like hogs swimming too freely, have cut their
own throats; and it seems to be fashionable, just at this moment, not
to believe them. Lecturing is the great moral lever of the nation at
But a man can lie in a lecture, as well as in a newspaper.
Out of all question; and if many of the lecturers are of the school
of this Mr. Holmes'Lecturer Holmes,' as Seneca called himbut, if
many are of his school, a pretty set of liberty-takers with the
truth must they be.
You detected him, then, in some of these liberties?
In a hundred: nothing was easier than for a man in my situation to
do that; knowing, as I did, so much of the history of the land-titles
of the State. One of his arguments partakes so largely of the weak side
of our system, that I must give it to you. He spoke of the gravity of
the disturbancesof the importance to the peace and character of the
State of putting an end to them; and then, by way of corollary to his
proposition, produced a scheme for changing the titles, IN ORDER TO
SATISFY THE PEOPLE!
The people, of course, meaning the tenants; the landlords and
their rights passing for nothing.
That is one beautiful feature of the moralityan eye, or a cheek,
if you willbut here is the nose, and highly Roman it is. A
certain portion of the community wish to get rid of the obligations of
their contracts; and finding it cannot be done by law, they resort to
means that are opposed to all law, in order to effect their purposes.
Public law-breakers, violators of the public peace, they make use of
their own wrong as an argument for perpetuating another that can be
perpetuated in no other way. I have been looking over some of the
papers containing proclamations, &c., and find that both law-makers and
law-breakers are of one mind as to this charming policy. Without a
single manly effort to put down the atrocious wrong that is meditated,
the existence of the wrong itself is made an argument for meeting it
with concessions, and thus sustaining it. Instead of using the means
the institutions have provided for putting down all such unjust and
illegal combinations, the combinations are a sufficient reason of
themselves why the laws should be altered, and wrong be done to a few,
in order that many may be propitiated, and their votes secured.
This is reasoning that can be used only where real grievances
exist. But there are no real grievances in the case of the tenants.
They may mystify weak heads in the instance of the Manor leases, with
their quarter sales, fat hens, loads of wood and days' works; but my
leases are all on three lives, with rent payable in money, and with
none of the conditions that are called feudal, though no more feudal
than any other bargain to pay articles in kind. One might just as well
call a bargain made by a butcher to deliver pork for a series of years
feudal. However, feudal or not, my leases, and those of most other
landlords, are running on lives; and yet, by what I can learn, the
discontent is general; and the men who have solemnly bargained to give
up their farms at the expiration of the lives are just as warm for the
'down-rent' and titles in fee, as the Manor tenants themselves! They
say that the obligations given for actual purchases are beginning to be
You are quite right; and there is one of the frauds practised on
the world at large. In the public documents, only the Manor leases,
with their pretended feudal covenants and their perpetuity, are kept in
view, while the combination goes to all leases, or nearly all,
and certainly to all sorts of leases, where the estates are of
sufficient extent to allow of the tenants to make head against the
landlords. I dare say there are hundreds of tenants, even on the
property of the Renssalaers, who are honest enough to be willing to
comply with their contracts if the conspirators would let them; but the
rapacious spirit is abroad among the occupants of other lands, as well
as among the occupants of theirs, and the government considers its
existence a proof that concessions should be made. The discontented
must be appeased, right or not!
Did Seneca say anything on the subject of his own interests?
He did; not so much in conversation with me, as in the discourse he
held with 'Lecturer Holmes.' I listened attentively, happening to be
familiar, through tradition and through personal knowledge, with all
the leading facts of the case. As you will soon be called on to act in
that matter for yourself, I may as well relate them to you. They will
serve, also, as guides to the moral merits of the occupation of half
the farms on your estate. These are things, moreover, you would never
know by public statements, since all the good bargains are smothered in
silence, while those that may possibly have been a little unfavourable
to the tenant are proclaimed far and near. It is quite possible that,
among the many thousands of leased farms that are to be found in the
State, some bad bargains may have been made by the tenants; but what
sort of a government is that which should undertake to redress evils of
this nature? If either of the Renssalaers, or you yourself, were to
venture to send a memorial to the Legislature setting forth the
grievances you labour under in connection with this very
'mill-lot'and serious losses do they bring to you, let me tell you,
though grievances, in the proper sense of the term, they are notyou
and your memorial would be met with a general and merited shout of
ridicule and derision. One man has no rights, as opposed to a dozen.
So much difference is there between 'de la Rochefocauld et de la
All the difference in the world: but let me give you the facts, for
they will serve as a rule by which to judge of many others. In the
first place, my great-grandfather Mordaunt, the 'patentee,' as he was
called, first let the mill-lot to the grandfather of this Seneca, the
tenant then being quite a young man. In order to obtain settlers, in
that early day, it was necessary to give them great advantages, for
there was vastly more land than there were people to work it. The first
lease, therefore, was granted on highly advantageous terms to that
Jason Newcome, whom I can just remember. He had two characters; the
one, and the true, which set him down as a covetous, envious,
narrow-minded provincial, who was full of cant and roguery. Some
traditions exist among us of his having been detected in stealing
timber, and in various other frauds. In public he is one of those
virtuous and hard-working pioneers who have transmitted to their
descendants all their claims, those that are supposed to be moral, as
well as those that are known to be legal. This flummery may do for
elderly ladies, who affect snuff and bohea, and for some men who have
minds of the same calibre, but they are not circumstances to influence
such legislators and executives as are fit to be legislators and
executives. Not a great while before my father's marriage, the said
Jason still living and in possession, the lease expired, and a new one
was granted for three lives, or twenty-one years certain, of which one
of the lives is still running. That lease was granted, on terms highly
favourable to the tenant, sixty years since, old Newcome, luckily for
himself and his posterity, having named this long-lived son as one of
his three lives. Now Seneky, God bless him! is known to lease a few of
the lots that have fallen to his share of the property for more money
than is required to meet all your rent on the whole. Such, in effect,
has been the fact with that mill-lot for the last thirty years, or even
longer; and the circumstance of the great length of time so excellent a
bargain has existed, is used as an argument why the Newcomes ought to
have a deed of the property for a nominal price; or, indeed, for no
price at all, if the tenants could have their wishes.
I am afraid there is nothing unnatural in thus perverting
principles; half mankind appear to me really to get a great many of
their notions dessus dessous.
Half is a small proportion; as you will find, my boy, when you grow
older. But was it not an impudent proposal of Seneca, when he wished
you and me to join the corps of 'Injins?'
What answer did you make? Though I suppose it would hardly do for
us to go disguised and armed, now that the law makes it a felony, even
while our motive, at the bottom, might be to aid the law.
Catch me at that act of folly! Why, Hugh, could they prove such a
crime on either of us, or any one connected with an old landed
family, we should be the certain victims. No governor would dare pardon
us. No, no; clemency is a word reserved for the obvious and
We might get a little favour on the score of belonging to a very
powerful body of offenders.
True; I forgot that circumstance. The more numerous the crimes and
the criminals, the greater the probability of impunity; and this, too,
not on the general principle that power cannot be resisted, but on the
particular principle that a thousand or two votes are of vast
importance, where three thousand can turn an election. God only knows
where this thing is to end!
We now approached one of the humbler taverns of the place, where it
was necessary for those of our apparent pretensions to seek lodgings,
and the discourse was dropped. It was several weeks too early in the
season for the Springs to be frequented, and we found only a few of
those in the place who drank the waters because they really required
them. My uncle had been an old stager at Saratogaa beau of the
purest water, as he laughingly described himselfand he was enabled
to explain all that it was necessary for me to know. An American
watering-place, however, is so very much inferior to most of those in
Europe, as to furnish very little, in their best moments, beyond the
human beings they contain, to attract the attention of the traveller.
In the course of the afternoon we availed ourselves of the
opportunity of a return vehicle to go as far as Sandy Hill, where we
passed the night. The next morning, bright and early, we got into a
hired wagon and drove across the country until near night, when we paid
for our passage, sent the vehicle back, and sought a tavern. At this
house, where we passed the night, we heard a good deal of the Injins
having made their appearance on the Littlepage lands, and many
conjectures as to the probable result. We were in a township, or rather
on a property that was called Mooseridge, and which had once belonged
to us, but which, having been sold, and in a great measure paid for by
the occupants, no one thought of impairing the force of the covenants
under which the parties held. The most trivial observer will soon
discover that it is only when something is to be gained that the
aggrieved citizen wishes to disturb a covenant. Now, I never heard any
one say a syllable against either of the covenants of his lease under
which he held his farm, let him be ever so loud against those which
would shortly compel him to give it up! Had I complained of the
factand such facts aboundedthat my predecessors had incautiously
let farms at such low prices that the lessees had been enabled to pay
the rents for half a century by subletting small portions of them, as
my uncle Ro had intimated, I should be pointed at as a fool. Stick to
your bond would have been the cry, and Shylock would have been
forgotten. I do not say that there is not a vast difference between the
means of acquiring intelligence, the cultivation, the manners, the
social conditions, and, in some senses, the social obligations of an
affluent landlord and a really hard-working, honest, well-intentioned
husbandman, his tenantdifferences that should dispose the liberal and
cultivated gentleman to bear in mind the advantages he has perhaps
inherited, and not acquired by his own means, in such a way as to
render him, in a certain degree, the repository of the interests of
those who hold under him; but, while I admit all this, and say that the
community which does not possess such a class of men is to be pitied,
as it loses one of the most certain means of liberalizing and enlarging
its notions, and of improving its civilization, I am far from thinking
that the men of this class are to have their real superiority of
position, with its consequences, thrown into their faces only when they
are expected to give, while they are grudgingly denied it on all other
occasions! There is nothing so likely to advance the habits, opinions,
and true interests of a rural population, as to have them all directed
by the intelligence and combined interests that ought to mark the
connection between landlord and tenant. It may do for one class of
political economists to prate about a state of things which supposes
every husbandman a freeholder, and rich enough to maintain his level
among the other freeholders of the State. But we all know that as many
minute gradations in means must and do exist in a community, as there
exists gradations in characters. A majority soon will, in the nature of
things, be below the level of the freeholder, and by destroying the
system of having landlords and tenants, two great evils are
createdthe one preventing men of large fortunes from investing in
lands, as no man will place his money where it will be insecure or
profitless, thereby cutting off real estate generally from the benefits
that might be and would be conferred by their capital, as well as
cutting it off from the benefits of the increased price which arise
from having such buyers in the market; and the other is, to prevent any
man from being a husbandman who has not the money necessary to purchase
a farm. But they who want farms now, and they who will want
votes next November, do not look quite so far ahead as that, while
shouting equal rights, they are, in fact, for preventing the poor
husbandman from being anything but a day-labourer.
We obtained tolerably decent lodgings at our inn, though the
profoundest patriot America possesses, if he know anything of other
countries, or of the best materials of his own, cannot say much in
favour of the sleeping arrangements of an ordinary country inn. The
same money and the same trouble would render that which is now the very
beau idéal of discomfort, at least tolerable, and in many instances
good. But who is to produce this reform? According to the opinions
circulated among us, the humblest hamlet we have has already attained
the highest point of civilization; and as for the people, without
distinction of classes, it is universally admitted that they are the
best educated, the acutest, and the most intelligent in
Christendom;no, I must correct myself; they are all this, except when
they are in the act of leasing lands, and then the innocent and
illiterate husbandmen are the victims of the arts of designing
landlords, the wretches!
We passed an hour on the piazza, after eating our supper, and there
being a collection of men assembled there, inhabitants of the hamlet,
we had an opportunity to get into communication with them. My uncle
sold a watch, and I played on the hurdy-gurdy, by way of making myself
popular. After this beginning, the discourse turned on the engrossing
subject of the day, anti-rentism. The principal speaker was a young man
of about six-and-twenty, of a sort of shabby genteel air and
appearance, whom I soon discovered to be the attorney of the
neighbourhood. His name was Hubbard, while that of the other principal
speaker was Hall. The last was a mechanic, as I ascertained, and was a
plain-looking working-man of middle age. Each of these persons seated
himself on a common kitchen chair, leaning back against the side of
the house, and, of course, resting on the two hind legs of the rickety
support, while he placed his own feet on the rounds in front. The
attitudes were neither graceful nor picturesque, but they were so
entirely common as to excite no surprise. As for Hall, he appeared
perfectly contented with his situation, after fidgeting a little to get
the two supporting legs of his chair just where he wanted them; but
Hubbard's eye was restless, uneasy, and even menacing, for more than a
minute. He drew a knife from his pocketa small, neat pen-knife only,
it is truegazed a little wildly about him, and just as I thought he
intended to abandon his nicely poised chair, and to make an assault on
one of the pillars that upheld the roof of the piazza, the innkeeper
advanced, holding in his hand several narrow slips of pine board, one
of which he offered at once to 'Squire Hubbard. This relieved the
attorney, who took the wood, and was soon deeply plunged in, to me, the
unknown delights of whittling. I cannot explain the mysterious pleasure
that so many find in whittling, though the prevalence of the custom is
so well known. But I cannot explain the pleasure so many find in
chewing tobacco, or in smoking. The precaution of the landlord was far
from being unnecessary, and appeared to be taken in good part by all to
whom he offered whittling-pieces, some six or eight in the whole. The
state of the piazza, indeed, proved that the precaution was absolutely
indispensable, if he did not wish to see the house come tumbling down
about his head. In order that those who have never seen such thing may
understand their use, I will go a little out of the way to explain.
The inn was of wood, a hemlock frame with a siding of clap-boards.
In this there was nothing remarkable, many countries of Europe, even,
still building principally of wood. Houses of lath and plaster were
quite common, until within a few years, even in large towns. I remember
to have seen some of these constructions, while in London, in close
connection with the justly celebrated Westminster Hall; and of such
materials is the much-talked-of miniature castle of Horace Walpole, at
Strawberry Hill. But the inn of Mooseridge had some pretensions to
architecture, besides being three or four times larger than any other
house in the place. A piazza it enjoyed, of course; it must be a
pitiful village inn that does not: and building, accessaries and all,
rejoiced in several coats of a spurious white lead. The columns of this
piazza, as well as the clap-boards of the house itself however,
exhibited the proofs of the danger of abandoning your true whittler to
his own instincts. Spread-eagles, five points, American flags, huzzahs
for Polk! the initials of names, and names at full length, with various
other similar conceits, records, and ebullitions of patriotic or
party-otic feelings, were scattered up and down with an affluence the
said volumes in favour of the mint in which they had been coined. But
the most remarkable memorial of the industry of the guests was to be
found on one of the columns; and it was one at a corner, too, and
consequently of double importance to the superstructureunless,
indeed, the house were built on that well-known principle of American
architecture of the last century, which made the architrave uphold the
pillar, instead of the pillar the architrave. The column in question
was of white pine, as usualthough latterly, in brick edifices, bricks
and stucco are much resorted toand, at a convenient height for the
whittlers, it was literally cut two-thirds in two. The gash was very
neatly madethat much must be said for itindicating skill and
attention; and the surfaces of the wound were smoothed in a manner to
prove that appearances were not neglected.
Vat do das? I asked of the landlord, pointing to this gaping wound
in the main column of his piazza.
That! Oh! That's only the whittlers, answered the host, with a
Assuredly the Americans are the best-natured people on earth!
Here was a man whose house was nearly tumbling down about his
earsalways bating the principle in architecture just namedand he
could smile as Nero may be supposed to have done when fiddling over the
conflagration of Rome.
But vhy might de vhittler vhittle down your house?
Oh! this is a free country, you know, and folks do pretty much as
they like in it, returned the still smiling host. I let 'em cut away
as long as I dared, but it was high time to get out 'whittling-pieces'
I believe you must own. It's best always to keep a ruff (roof) over a
man's head, to be ready for bad weather. A week longer would have had
the column in two.
Vell, I dinks I might not bear dat! Vhat ist mein house ist mein
house, ant dey shall not so moch vittles.
By letting 'em so much vittles there, they so much vittles in the
kitchen; so you see there is policy in having your under-pinnin'
knocked away sometimes, if it's done by the right sort of folks.
You're a stranger in these parts, friend? observed Hubbard,
complacently, for by this time his whittling-piece was reduced to a
shape, and he could go on reducing it, according to some law of the art
of whittling, with which I am not acquainted. We are not so particular
in such matters as in some of your countries in the old world.
Jadas I can see. But does not woot ant column cost money in
To be sure it does. There is not a man in the country who would
undertake to replace that pillar with a new one, paint and all, for
less than ten dollars.
This was an opening for a discussion on the probable cost of putting
a new pillar into the place of the one that was injured. Opinions
differed, and quite a dozen spoke on the subject; some placing the
expense as high as fifteen dollars, and others bringing it down as low
as five. I was struck with the quiet and self-possession with which
each man delivered his opinion, as well as with the language used. The
accent was uniformly provincial, that of Hubbard included, having a
strong and unpleasant taint of the dialect of New England in it; and
some of the expressions savoured a little of the stilts of the
newspapers; but, on the whole, the language was sufficiently accurate
and surprisingly good, considering the class in life of the speakers.
The conjectures, too, manifested great shrewdness and familiarity with
practical things, as well as, in a few instances, some reading. Hall,
however, actually surprised me. He spoke with a precision and knowledge
of mechanics that would have done credit to a scholar, and with a
simplicity that added to the influence of what he said. Some casual
remark induced me to put inVell, I might s'pose an Injin voult cut
so das column, but I might not s'pose a vhite man could. This opinion
gave the discourse a direction towards anti-rentism, and in a few
minutes it caught all the attention of my uncle Ro and myself.
This business is going ahead after all! observed Hubbard,
evasively, after others had had their say.
More's the pity, put in Hall. It might have been put an end to in
a month, at any time, and ought to be put an end to in a civilized
You will own, neighbour Hall, notwithstanding, it would be a great
improvement in the condition of the tenants all over the State, could
they change their tenures into freeholds.
No doubt 't would; and so it would be a great improvement in the
condition of any journeyman in my shop if he could get to be the boss.
But that is not the question here, the question is, what right has the
State to say any man shall sell his property unless he wishes to sell
it? A pretty sort of liberty we should have if we all held our houses
and gardens under such laws as that supposes!
But do we not all hold our houses and gardens, and farms, too, by
some such law? rejoined the attorney, who evidently respected his
antagonist, and advanced his own opinions cautiously. If the public
wants land to use, it can take it by paying for it.
Yes, to use; but use is everything. I've read that old
report of the committee of the House, and don't subscribe to its
doctrines at all. Public 'policy,' in that sense, doesn't at all mean
public 'use.' If land is wanted for a road, or a fort, or a canal, it
must be taken, under a law, by appraisement, or the thing could not be
had at all; but to pretend, because one side to a contract wishes to
alter it, that the State has a right to interfere, on the ground that
the discontented can be bought off in this way easier and cheaper than
they can be made to obey the laws, is but a poor way of supporting the
right. The same principle, carried out, might prove it would be easier
to buy off pickpockets by compromising than to punish them. Or it would
be easy to get round all sorts of contracts in this way.
But all governments use this power when it becomes necessary,
That word necessary covers a great deal of ground, 'Squire
Hubbard. The most that can be made of the necessity here is to say it
is cheaper, and may help along parties to their objects better. No man
doubts that the State of New York can put down these anti-renters; and,
I trust, will put them down, so far as force is concerned. There
is, then, no other necessity in the case, to begin with, than the
necessity which demagogues always feel, of getting as many votes as
After all, neighbour Hall, these votes are pretty powerful weapons
in a popular government.
I'll not deny that; and now they talk of a convention to alter the
constitution, it is a favourable moment to teach such managers they
shall not abuse the right of suffrage in this way.
How is it to be prevented? You are an universal suffrage man, I
Yes, I'm for universal suffrage among honest folks; but do not wish
to have my rulers chosen by them that are never satisfied without
having their hands in their neighbours' pockets. Let 'em put a clause
into the constitution providing that no town, or village, or county
shall hold a poll within a given time after the execution of process
has been openly resisted in it. That would take the conceit out of all
such law-breakers, in very short order.
It was plain that this idea struck the listeners, and several even
avowed their approbation of the scheme aloud. Hubbard received it as a
new thought, but was more reluctant to admit its practicability. As
might be expected from a lawyer accustomed to practise in a small way,
his objections savoured more of narrow views than of the notions of a
How would you determine the extent of the district to be
disfranchised? he asked.
Take the legal limits as they stand. If process be resisted openly
by a combination strong enough to look down the agents of the law in a
town, disfranchise that town for a given period; if in more than one
town, disfranchise the offending towns; if a county, disfranchise the
But, in that way you would punish the innocent with the guilty.
It would be for the good of all; besides, you punish the innocent
for the guilty, or with the guilty rather, in a thousand ways.
You and I are taxed to keep drunkards from starving, because it is
better to do that than to offend humanity by seeing men die of hunger,
or tempting them to steal. When you declare martial law you punish the
innocent with the guilty, in one sense; and so you do in a hundred
cases. All we have to ask is, if it be not wiser and better to disarm
demagogues, and those disturbers of the public peace who wish to
pervert their right of suffrage to so wicked an end, by so simple a
process, than to suffer them to effect their purposes by the most
flagrant abuse of their political privileges?
How would you determine when a town should lose the right of
By evidence given in open court. The judges would be the proper
authority to decide in such a case; and they would decide, beyond all
question, nineteen times in twenty, right. It is the interest of every
man who is desirous of exercising the suffrage on right principles, to
give him some such protection against them that wish to exercise the
suffrage on wrong. A peace-officer can call on the posse comitatus
or on the people to aid him; if enough appear to put down the rebels,
well and good; but if enough do not appear, let it be taken as proof
that the district is not worthy of giving the votes of freemen. They
who abuse such a liberty as man enjoys in this country are the least
entitled to our sympathies. As for the mode, that could easily be
determined, as soon as you settled the principle.
The discourse went on for an hour, neighbour Hall giving his
opinions still more at large. I listened equally with pleasure and
surprise. These, then, after all, I said to myself, are the real
bone and sinew of the country. There are tens of thousands of this sort
of men in the State, and why should they be domineered over, and made
to submit to a legislation and to practices that are so often without
principle, by the agents of the worst part of the community? Will the
honest for ever be so passive, while the corrupt and dishonest continue
so active? On my mentioning these notions to my uncle, he answered:
Yes; it ever has been so, and, I fear, ever will be so. There
is the curse of this country, pointing to a table covered with
newspapers, the invariable companion of an American inn of any size.
So long as men believe what they find there, they can be
nothing but dupes or knaves.
But there is good in newspapers.
That adds to the curse. If they were nothing but lies, the world
would soon reject them; but how few are able to separate the true from
the false! Now, how few of these papers speak the truth about this very
anti-rentism! Occasionally an honest man in the corps does come out;
but where one does this, ten affect to think what they do not believe,
in order to secure votes;votes, votes, votes. In that simple word
lies all the mystery of the matter.
Jefferson said, if he were to choose between a government without
newspapers, or newspapers without a government, he would take the
Ay, Jefferson did not mean newspapers as they are now. I am old
enough to see the change that has taken place. In his day, three or
four fairly convicted lies would damn any editor; now, there are men
that stand up under a thousand. I'll tell you what, Hugh, this country
is jogging on under two of the most antagonist systems
possibleChristianity and the newspapers. The first is daily hammering
into every man that he is a miserable, frail, good-for-nothing being,
while the last is eternally proclaiming the perfection of the people
and the virtues of self-government.
Perhaps too much stress ought not to be laid on either.
The first is certainly true, under limitations that we all
understand; but as to the last, I will own I want more evidence than a
newspaper eulogy to believe it.
After all, my uncle Ro is sometimes mistaken; though candour compels
me to acknowledge that he is very often right.
I see thee still;
Remembrance, faithful to her trust,
Calls thee in beauty from the dust;
Thou comest in the morning light,
Thou 'rt with me through the gloomy night;
In dreams I meet thee as of old:
Then thy soft arms my neck enfold,
And thy sweet voice is in my ear:
In every sense to memory dear
I see thee still.
It was just ten in the morning of the succeeding day when my uncle
Ro and myself came in sight of the old house at the Nest. I call it
old, for a dwelling that has stood more than half a century
acquires a touch of the venerable, in a country like America. To me it
was truly old, the building having stood there, where I then saw it,
for a period more than twice as long as that of my own existence, and
was associated with all my early ideas. From childhood I had regarded
that place as my future home, as it had been the home of my parents and
grand-parents, and, in one sense, of those who had gone before them for
two generations more. The whole of the land in sightthe rich bottoms,
then waving with grassthe side-hills, the woods, the distant
mountainsthe orchards, dwellings, barns, and all the other
accessaries of rural life that appertained to the soil, were mine, and
had thus become without a single act of injustice to any human being,
so far as I knew and believed. Even the red man had been fairly bought
off by Herman Mordaunt, the patentee, and so Susquesus, the Redskin of
Ravensnest, as our old Onondago was often called, had ever admitted the
fact to be. It was natural that I should love an estate thus inherited
and thus situated. NO CIVILIZED MAN, NO MAN, INDEED, SAVAGE OR NOT, HAD
EVER BEEN THE OWNER OF THOSE BROAD ACRES, BUT THOSE WHO WERE OF MY OWN
BLOOD. This is what few besides Americans can say; and when it
can be said truly, in parts of the country where the arts of life have
spread, and amid the blessings of civilization, it becomes the
foundation of a sentiment so profound, that I do not wonder those
adventurers-errant who are flying about the face of the country,
thrusting their hands into every man's mess, have not been able to find
it among their other superficial discoveries. Nothing can be less like
the ordinary cravings of avarice than the feeling that is thus
engendered; and I am certain that the general tendency of such an
influence is to elevate the feelings of him who experiences it.
And there were men among us, high in political stationhigh as such
men ever can get, for the consequence of having such men in power is to
draw down station itself nearer to their own natural levelbut men in
power had actually laid down propositions in political economy which,
if carried out, would cause me to sell all that estate, reserving,
perhaps, a single farm for my own use, and reinvest the money in such a
way as that the interest I obtained might equal my present income! It
is true, this theory was not directly applied to me, as my farms were
to fall in by the covenants of their leases, but it had been directly
applied to Stephen and William Van Rensselaer, and, by implication, to
others; and my turn might come next. What business had the Rensselaers,
or the Livingstons, or the Hunters, or the Littlepages, or the
Verplancks, or the Morgans, or the Wadsworths, or five hundred others
similarly placed, to entertain sentiments that interfered with
business, or that interfered with the wishes of any straggling Yankee
who had found his way out of New England, and wanted a particular farm
on his own terms? It is aristocratic to put sentiment in opposition to
trade; and TRADE ITSELF IS NOT TO BE TRADE ANY LONGER THAN ALL THE
PROFIT IS TO BE FOUND ON THE SIDE OF NUMBERS. Even the principles of
holy trade are to be governed by majorities!
Even my uncle Ro, who never owned a foot of the property, could not
look at it without emotion. He too had been born therehad passed his
childhood thereand loved the spot without a particle of the
grovelling feeling of avarice. He took pleasure in remembering that our
race had been the only owners of the soil on which he stood, and had
that very justifiable pride which belongs to enduring respectability
and social station.
Well, Hugh, he cried, after both of us had stood gazing at the
grey walls of the good and substantial, but certainly not very
beautiful dwelling, here we are, and we now may determine on what is
next to be done. Shall we march down to the village, which is four
miles distant, you will remember, and get our breakfasts there?shall
we try one of your tenants?or shall we plunge at once in medias
res, and ask hospitality of my mother and your sister?
The last might excite suspicion, I fear, sir. Tar and feathers
would be our mildest fate did we fall into the hands of the Injins.
Injins! Why not go at once to the wigwam of Susquesus, and get out
of him and Yop the history of the state of things. I heard them
speaking of the Onondago at our tavern last night, and while they said
he was generally thought to be much more than a hundred, that he was
still like a man of eighty. That Indian is full of observation, and may
let us into some of the secrets of his brethren.
They can at least give us the news from the family; and though it
might seem in the course of things for pedlars to visit the Nest House,
it will be just as much so for them to halt at the wigwam.
This consideration decided the matter, and away we went towards the
ravine or glen, on the side of which stood the primitive-looking hut
that went by the name of the wigwam. The house was a small cabin of
logs, neat and warm, or cool, as the season demanded. As it was kept
up, and was whitewashed, and occasionally furnished anew by the
landlordthe odious creature! he who paid for so many similar things
in the neighbourhoodit was never unfit to be seen, though never of a
very alluring, cottage-like character. There was a garden, and it had
been properly made that very season, the negro picking and pecking
about it, during the summer, in a way to coax the vegetables and fruits
on a little, though I well knew that the regular weedings came from an
assistant at the Nest, who was ordered to give it an eye and an
occasional half-day. On one side of the hut there was a hog-pen and a
small stable for a cow; but on the other the trees of the virgin
forest, which had never been disturbed in that glen, overshadowed the
roof. This somewhat poetical arrangement was actually the consequence
of a compromise between the tenants of the cabin, the negro insisting
on the accessories of his rude civilization, while the Indian required
the shades of the woods to reconcile him to his position. Here had
these two singularly associated beingsthe one deriving his descent
from the debased races of Africa, and the other from the fierce but
lofty-minded aboriginal inhabitant of this continentdwelt nearly for
the whole period of an ordinary human life. The cabin itself began to
look really ancient, while those who dwelt in it had little altered
within the memory of man! Such instances of longevity, whatever
theorists may say on the subject, are not unfrequent among either the
blacks or the natives, though probably less so among the last than
among the first, and still less so among the first of the northern than
of the southern sections of the republic. It is common to say that the
great age so often attributed to the people of these two races is owing
to ignorance of the periods of their births, and that they do not live
longer than the whites. This may be true, in the main, for a white man
is known to have died at no great distance from Ravensnest, within the
last five-and-twenty years, who numbered more than his six score of
years; but aged negroes and aged Indians are nevertheless so common,
when the smallness of their whole numbers is remembered, as to render
the fact apparent to most of those who have seen much of their
There was no highway in the vicinity of the wigwam, for so the cabin
was generally called, though wigwam, in the strict meaning of the word,
it was not. As the little building stood in the grounds of the Nest
House, which contain two hundred acres, a bit of virgin forest
included, and exclusively of the fields that belonged to the adjacent
farm, it was approached only by foot-paths, of which several led to and
from it, and by one narrow, winding carriage-road, which, in passing
for miles through the grounds, had been led near the hut, in order to
enable my grandmother and sister, and, I dare say, my dear departed
mother, while she lived, to make their calls in their frequent airings.
By this sweeping road we approached the cabin.
There are the two old fellows, sunning themselves this fine day!
exclaimed my uncle, with something like tremor in his voice, as we drew
near enough to the hut to distinguish objects. Hugh, I never see these
men without a feeling of awe, as well as of affection. They were the
friends, and one was the slave of my grandfather; and as long as I can
remember, have they been aged men! They seem to be set up here as
monuments of the past, to connect the generations that are gone with
those that are to come.
If so, sir, they will soon be all there is of their sort. It really
seems to me that, if things continue much longer in their present
direction, men will begin to grow jealous and envious of history
itself, because its actors have left descendants to participate in any
little credit they may have gained.
Beyond all contradiction, boy, there is a strange perversion of the
old and natural sentiments on this head among us. But you must bear in
mind the fact, that of the two millions and a half the State contains,
not half a million, probably, possess any of the true York blood, and
can consequently feel any of the sentiments connected with the
birth-place and the older traditions of the very society in which they
live. A great deal must be attributed to the facts of our condition;
though I admit those facts need not, and ought not to unsettle
principles. But look at those two old fellows! There they are, true to
the feelings and habits of their races, even after passing so long a
time together in this hut. There squats Susquesus on a stone, idle and
disdaining work, with his rifle leaning against the apple-tree; while
Jaafor Yop, as I believe it is better to call himis pecking about
in the garden, still a slave at his work, in fancy at least.
And which is the happiest, sirthe industrious old man or the
Probably each finds most happiness in indulging his own early
habits. The Onondago never would work, however, and I have heard
my father say, great was his happiness when he found he was to pass the
remainder of his days in otium cum dignitate, and without the
necessity of making baskets.
Yop is looking at us; had we not better go up at once and speak to
Yop may stare the most openly, but my life on it the Indian sees
twice as much. His faculties are the best, to begin with; and he is a
man of extraordinary and characteristic observation. In his best days
nothing ever escaped him. As you say, we will approach.
My uncle and myself then consulted on the expediency of using broken
English with these two old men, of which, at first, we saw no
necessity; but when we remembered that others might join us, and that
our communications with the two might be frequent for the next few
days, we changed our minds, and determined rigidly to observe our
As we came up to the door of the hut, Jaaf slowly left his little
garden and joined the Indian, who remained immoveable and unmoved on
the stone which served him for a seat. We could see but little change
in either during the five years of our absence, each being a perfect
picture, in his way, of extreme but not decrepit old age in the men of
his race. Of the two, the blackif black he could now be called, his
colour being a muddy greywas the most altered, though that seemed
scarcely possible when I saw him last. As for the Trackless, or
Susquesus, as he was commonly called, his temperance throughout a long
life did him good service, and his half-naked limbs and skeleton-like
body, for he wore the summer dress of his people, appeared to be made
of a leather long steeped in a tannin of the purest quality. His
sinews, too, though much stiffened, seemed yet to be of whip-cord, and
his whole frame a species of indurated mummy that retained its
vitality. The colour of the skin was less red than formerly, and more
closely approached to that of the negro, as the latter now was, though
Sagosago, cried my uncle, as we came quite near, seeing no risk
in using that familiar semi-Indian salutation. Sago, sago, dis
charmin' mornin; in my tongue, dat might be guten tag.
Sago, returned the Trackless, in his deep, guttural voice, while
old Yop brought two lips together that resembled thick pieces of
overdone beef-steak, fastened his red-encircled gummy eyes on each of
us in turn, pouted once more, working his jaws as if proud of the
excellent teeth they still held, and said nothing. As the slave of a
Littlepage, he held pedlars as inferior beings; for the ancient negroes
of New York ever identified themselves, more or less, with the families
to which they belonged, and in which they so often were born. Sago,
repeated the Indian, slowly, courteously, and with emphasis, after he
had looked a moment longer at my uncle, as if he saw something about
him to command respect.
Dis ist charmin' day, frients, said uncle Ro, placing himself
coolly on a log of wood that had been hauled for the stove, and wiping
his brow. Vat might you calls dis coontry?
Dis here? answered Yop, not without a little contempt. Dis is
York Colony; where you come from to ask sich a question?
Charmany. Dat ist far off, but a goot coontry; ant dis ist goot
Why you leab him, den, if he be good country, eh?
Vhy you leaf Africa, canst you dell me dat? retorted uncle Ro,
Nebber was dere, growled old Yop, bringing his blubber lips
together somewhat in the manner the boar works his jaws when it is
prudent to get out of his way. I'm York-nigger born, and nebber seen
no Africa; and nebber want to see him, nudder.
It is scarcely necessary to say that Jaaf belonged to a school by
which the term of coloured gentleman was never used. The men of his
time and stamp called themselves niggers; and ladies and gentlemen of
that age took them at their word, and called them niggers too; a term
that no one of the race ever uses now, except in the way of reproach,
and which, by one of the singular workings of our very wayward and
common nature, he is more apt to use than any other, when reproach is
My uncle paused a moment to reflect before he continued a discourse
that had not appeared to commence under very flattering auspices.
Who might lif in dat big stone house? asked uncle Ro, as soon as
he thought the negro had had time to cool a little.
Anybody can see you no Yorker, by dat werry speech, answered Yop,
not at all mollified by such a question. Who should lib dere
but Gin'ral Littlepage?
Vell, I dought he wast dead, long ago.
What if he be? It's his house, and he lib in it; and ole young
missus lib dere too.
Now, there had been three generations of generals among the
Littlepages, counting from father to son. First, there had been
Brigadier General Evans Littlepage, who held that rank in the militia,
and died in service during the revolution. The next was Brigadier
General Cornelius Littlepage, who got his rank by brevet, at the close
of the same war, in which he had actually figured as a colonel of the
New York line. Third, and last, was my own grandfather, Major General
Mordaunt Littlepage: he had been a captain in his father's regiment at
the close of the same struggle, got the brevet of major at its
termination, and rose to be a Major General of the militia, the station
he held for many years before he died. As soon as the privates had the
power to elect their own officers, the position of a Major General in
the militia ceased to be respectable, and few gentlemen could be
induced to serve. As might have been foreseen, the militia itself fell
into general contempt, where it now is, and where it will ever remain
until a different class of officers shall be chosen. The people can do
a great deal, no doubt, but they cannot make a silk purse out of a
sow's ear. As soon as officers from the old classes shall be
appointed, the militia will come up; for in no interest in life is it
so material to have men of certain habits, and notions, and education,
in authority, as in those connected with the military service. A great
many fine speeches may be made, and much patriotic eulogy expended on
the intrinsic virtue and intelligence of the people, and divers
projects entertained to make citizen-soldiers, as they are called;
but citizens never can be, and never will be turned into soldiers at
all, good or bad, until proper officers are placed over them. To return
Bray vhat might be der age of das laty dat you callet olt
young missus? asked my uncle.
Gosh! she nutten but galborn sometime just a'ter ole French war.
Remember her well 'nough when she Miss Dus Malbone. Young masser
Mordaunt take fancy to her, and make her he wife.
Vell, I hopes you hafn't any objection to der match?
Not I; she clebber young lady den, and she werry clebber young lady
And this of my venerable grandmother, who had fairly seen her
Who might be der master of das big house now?
Gin'ral Littlepage, doesn't I tell ye! Masser Mordaunt's name,
my young master. Sus, dere, only Injin; he nebber so lucky as hab a
good master. Niggers gettin' scarce, dey tells me, now-a-days, in dis
Injins, too, I dinks; dere ist no more redskins might be blenty.
The manner in which the Onondago raised his figure, and the look he
fastened on my uncle, were both fine and startling. As yet he had said
nothing beyond the salutation; but I could see he now intended to
New tribe, he said, after regarding us for half a minute intently;
what you call himwhere he come from?
Ja, jadas ist der anti-rent redskins. Haf you seen 'em,
Sartain; come to see meface in bagbehave like squaw; poor
Yees, I believes dat ist true enough. I can't bear soch
Injin!might not be soch Injin in world. Vhat you call 'em, eh?
Susquesus shook his head slowly, and with dignity. Then he gazed
intently at my uncle; after which he fastened his eyes, in a similar
manner on me. In this manner his looks turned from one to the other for
some little time, when he again dropped them to the earth, calmly and
in silence. I took out the hurdy-gurdy, and began to play a lively
airone that was very popular among the American blacks, and which, I
am sorry to say, is getting to be not less so among the whites. No
visible effect was produced on Susquesus, unless a slight shade of
contempt was visible on his dark features. With Jaaf, however, it was
very different. Old as he was, I could see a certain nervous twitching
of the lower limbs, which indicated that the old fellow actually felt
some disposition to dance. It soon passed away, though his grim, hard,
wrinkled, dusky, grey countenance continued to gleam with a sort of
dull pleasure for some time. There was nothing surprising in this, the
indifference of the Indian to melody being almost as marked as the
negro's sensitiveness to its power.
It was not to be expected that men so aged would be disposed to talk
much. The Onondago had ever been a silent man; dignity and gravity of
character uniting with prudence to render him so. But Jaaf was
constitutionally garrulous, though length of days had necessarily much
diminished the propensity. At that moment a fit of thoughtful and
melancholy silence came over my uncle, too, and all four of us
continued brooding on our own reflections for two or three minutes
after I had ceased to play. Presently the even, smooth approach of
carriage-wheels was heard, and a light, summer vehicle that was an old
acquaintance, came whirling round the stable, and drew up within ten
feet of the spot where we were all seated.
My heart was in my mouth, at this unexpected interruption, and I
could perceive that my uncle was scarcely less affected. Amid the
flowing and pretty drapery of summer shawls, and the other ornaments of
the female toilet, were four youthful and sunny faces, and one
venerable with years. In a word, my grandmother, my sister, and my
uncle's two other wards, and Mary Warren, were in the carriage; yes,
the pretty, gentle, timid, yet spirited and intelligent daughter of the
rector was of the party, and seemingly quite at home and at her ease,
as one among friends. She was the first to speak even, though it was in
a low, quiet voice, addressed to my sister, and in words that appeared
extorted by surprise.
There are the very two pedlars of whom I told you, Martha, she
said, and now you may hear the flute well played.
I doubt if he can play better than Hugh, was my dear sister's
answer. But we'll have some of his music, if it be only to remind us
of him who is so far away.
The music we can and will have, my child, cried my grandmother,
cheerfully; though that is not wanted to remind us of our
absent boy. Good morrow, Susquesus; I hope this fine day agrees with
Sago, returned the Indian, making a dignified and even graceful
forward gesture with one arm, though he did not rise. Weadder
goodGreat Spirit good, dat reason. How squaws do?
We are all well, I thank you, Trackless. Good morrow, Jaaf; how do
you do, this fine morning?
Yop, or Jaap, or Jaaf, rose tottering, made a low obeisance, and
then answered in the semi-respectful, semi-familiar manner of an old,
confidential family servant, as the last existed among our fathers:
T'ank 'ee, Miss Dus, wid all my heart, he answered. Pretty well
to-day; but ole Sus, he fail, and grow ol'er and ol'er desp'ate fast!
Now, of the two, the Indian was much the finest relic of human
powers, though he was less uneasy and more stationary than the black.
But the propensity to see the mote in the eye of his friend, while he
forgot the beam in his own, was a long-established and well-known
weakness of Jaaf, and its present exhibition caused everybody to smile.
I was delighted with the beaming, laughing eyes of Mary Warren in
particular, though she said nothing.
I cannot say I agree with you, Jaaf, returned my smiling
grandmother. The Trackless bears his years surprisingly; and I think I
have not seen him look better this many a day than he is looking this
morning. We are none of us as young as we were when we first became
acquainted, Jaafwhich is now near, if not quite, three-score years
You nuttin' but gal, nudder, growled the negro. Ole Sus be raal
ole fellow; but Miss Dus and Masser Mordaunt, dey get married only
tudder day. Why dat was a'ter de revylooshen!
It was, indeed, replied the venerable woman, with a touch of
melancholy in her tones; but the revolution took place many, many a
long year since!
Well, now, I be surprise, Miss Dus! How you call dat so
long, when he only be tudder day? retorted the pertinacious negro, who
began to grow crusty, and to speak in a short, spiteful way, as if
displeased by hearing that to which he could not assent. Masser Corny
was little ole, p'r'aps, if he lib, but all de rest ob you nuttin' but
children. Tell me one t'ing, Miss Dus, be it true dey's got a town at
An attempt was made, a few years since, to turn the whole country
into towns, and, among other places, the Neck; but I believe it will
never be anything more than a capital farm.
So besser. Dat good land, I tell you! One acre down dere
wort' more dan twenty acre up here.
My grandson would not be pleased to hear you say that, Jaaf.
Who your grandson, Miss Dus. Remember you hab little baby tudder
day; but baby can't hab baby.
Ah, Jaaf, my old friend, my babies have long since been men and
women, and are drawing on to old age. One, and he was my first born, is
gone before us to a better world, and his boy is now your young
master. This young lady, that is seated opposite to me, is the sister
of that young master, and she would be grieved to think you have
Jaaf laboured under the difficulty so common to old age; he was
forgetful of things of more recent date, while he remembered those
which had occurred a century ago! The memory is a tablet that partakes
of the peculiarity of all our opinions and habits. In youth it is
easily impressed, and the images then engraved on it are distinct, deep
and lasting, while those that succeed become crowded, and take less
root, from the circumstance of finding the ground already occupied. In
the present instance, the age was so great that the change was really
startling, the old negro's recollections occasionally coming on the
mind like a voice from the grave. As for the Indian, as I afterwards
ascertained, he was better preserved in all respects than the black;
his great temperance in youth, freedom from labour, exercise in the
open air, united to the comforts and abundance of semi-civilized
habits, that had now lasted for near a century, contributing to
preserve both mind and body. As I now looked at him, I remembered what
I had heard in boyhood of his history.
There had ever been a mystery about the life of the Onondago. If any
one of our set had ever been acquainted with the facts, it was Andries
Coejemans, a half-uncle of my dear grandmother, a person who has been
known among us by the sobriquet of the Chainbearer. My
grandmother had told me that uncle Chainbearer, as we all called the
old relative, did know all about Susquesus, in his timethe
reason why he had left his tribe, and become a hunter, and warrior, and
runner among the pale-facesand that he had always said the
particulars did his red friend great credit, but that he would reveal
it no further. So great, however, was uncle Chainbearer's reputation
for integrity, that such an opinion was sufficient to procure for the
Onondago the fullest confidence of the whole connection, and the
experience of four-score years and ten had proved that this confidence
was well placed. Some imputed the sort of exile in which the old man
had so long lived to love; others to war; and others, again, to the
consequences of those fierce personal feuds that are known to occur
among men in the savage state. But all was just as much a mystery and
matter of conjecture, now we were drawing near to the middle of the
nineteenth century, as it had been when our forefathers were receding
from the middle of the eighteenth! To return to the negro.
Although Jaaf had momentarily forgotten me, and quite forgotten my
parents, he remembered my sister, who was in the habit of seeing him so
often. In what manner he connected her with the family, it is not easy
to say; but he knew her not only by sight, but by name, and, as one
might say, by blood.
Yes, yes, cried the old fellow, a little eagerly, 'champing
' his thick lips together, somewhat as an alligator snaps his jaws,
yes, I knows Miss Patty, of course. Miss Patty is werry han'some, and
grows han'somer and han'somer ebbery time I sees heryah, yah, yah!
The laugh of that old negro sounded startling and unnatural, yet there
was something of the joyous in it, after all, like every negro's laugh.
Yah, yah, yah! Yes, Miss Patty won'erful han'some, and werry like Miss
Dus. I s'pose, now, Miss Patty wast born about 'e time dat Gin'ral
As this was a good deal more than doubling my sister's age, it
produced a common laugh among the light-hearted girls in the carriage.
A gleam of intelligence that almost amounted to a smile also shot
athwart the countenance of the Onondago, while the muscles of his face
worked, but he said nothing. I had reason to know afterwards that the
tablet of his memory retained its records better.
What friends have you with you to-day, Jaaf, inquired my
grandmother, inclining her head towards us pedlars graciously, at the
same time; a salutation that my uncle Ro and myself rose hastily to
As for myself, I own honestly that I could have jumped into the
vehicle and kissed my dear grandmother's still good-looking but
colourless cheeks, and hugged Patt, and possibly some of the others, to
my heart. Uncle Ro had more command of himself; though I could see that
the sound of his venerable parent's voice, in which the tremour was
barely perceptible, was near overcoming him.
Dese be pedlar, ma'am, I do s'pose, answered the black. Dey's got
box wid somet'in' in him, and dey's got new kind of fiddle. Come, young
man, gib Miss Dus a tunea libely one; sich as make an ole nigger
I drew round the hurdy-gurdy, and was beginning to flourish away,
when a gentle, sweet voice, raised a little louder than usual by
eagerness, interrupted me.
Oh! not that thing, not that; the flute, the flute! exclaimed Mary
Warren, blushing to the eyes at her own boldness, the instant she saw
that she was heard, and that I was about to comply.
It is hardly necessary to say that I bowed respectfully, laid down
the hurdy-gurdy, drew the flute from my pocket, and, after a few
flourishes, commenced playing one of the newest airs, or melodies, from
a favourite opera. I saw the colour rush into Martha's cheeks the
moment I had got through a bar or two, and the start she gave satisfied
me that the dear girl remembered her brother's flute. I had played on
that very instrument ever since I was sixteen, but I had made an
immense progress in the art during the five years just passed in
Europe. Masters at Naples, Paris, Vienna and London had done a great
deal for me; and I trust I shall not be thought vain if I add, that
nature had done something, too. My excellent grandmother listened in
profound attention, and all four of the girls were enchanted.
That music is worthy of being heard in a room, observed the
former, as soon as I concluded the air; and we shall hope to hear it
this evening, at the Nest House, if you remain anywhere near us. In the
mean time, we must pursue our airing.
As my grandmother spoke she leaned forward, and extended her hand to
me, with a benevolent smile. I advanced, received the dollar that was
offered, and, unable to command my feelings, raised the hand to my
lips, respectfully but with fervour. Had Martha's face been near me, it
would have suffered also. I suppose there was nothing in this
respectful salutation that struck the spectators as very much out of
the way, foreigners having foreign customs, but I saw a flush in my
venerable grandmother's cheek, as the carriage moved off. She
had noted the warmth of the manner. My uncle had turned away, I dare
say to conceal the tears that started to his eyes, and Jaaf followed
towards the door of the hut, whither my uncle moved, in order to do the
honours of the place. This left me quite alone with the Indian.
Why no kiss face of grandmodder? asked the Onondago, coolly
Had a clap of thunder broken over my head, I could not have been
more astonished! The disguise that had deceived my nearest
relationsthat had baffled Seneca Newcome, and had set at naught even
his sister Opportunityhad failed to conceal me from that Indian,
whose faculties might be supposed to have been numbed with age!
Is it possible that you know me, Susquesus! I exclaimed, signing
towards the negro at the same time, by way of caution; that you
remember me, at all! I should have thought this wig, these clothes,
would have concealed me.
Sartain, answered the aged Indian, calmly. Know young chief soon
as see him; know faderknow mudder; know gran'fader,
gran'muddergreat-gran'fader; his fader, too; know all. Why
forget young chief?
Did you know me before I kissed my grandmother's hand, or only by
Know as soon as see him. What eyes good for, if don't know? Know
uncle, dere, sartain; welcome home!
But you will not let others know us, too, Trackless? We have always
been friends, I hope?
Be sure, friends. Why ole eagle, wid white head, strike young
pigeon? Nebber hatchet in 'e path between Susquesus and any of de tribe
of Ravensnest. Too ole to dig him up now.
There are good reasons why my uncle and myself should not be known
for a few days. Perhaps you have heard something of the trouble that
has grown up between the landlords and the tenants, in the land?
What dat trouble?
The tenants are tired of paying rent, and wish to make a new
bargain, by which they can become owners of the farms on which they
A grim light played upon the swarthy countenance of the Indian: his
lips moved, but he uttered nothing aloud.
Have you heard anything of this, Susquesus?
Little bird sing sich song in my eardidn't like to hear it.
And of Indians who are moving up and down the country, armed with
rifles and dressed in calico?
What tribe, dem Injin, asked the Trackless, with a quickness and a
fire I did not think it possible for him to retain. What 'ey do,
marchin' 'bout?on war-path, eh?
In one sense they may be said to be so. They belong to the
anti-rent tribe; do you know such a nation?
Poor Injin dat, b'lieve. Why come so late?why no come when 'e
foot of Susquesus light as feather of bird?why stay away till
pale-faces plentier dan leaf on tree, or snow in air? Hundred year ago,
when dat oak little, sich Injin might be good; now, he good for
But you will keep our secret, Sus?will not even tell the negro
who we are?
The Trackless simply nodded his head in assent. After this he seemed
to me to sink back in a sort of brooding lethargy, as if indisposed to
pursue the subject. I left him to go to my uncle, in order to relate
what had just passed. Mr. Roger Littlepage was as much astonished as I
had been myself, at hearing that one so aged should have detected us
through disguises that had deceived our nearest of kin. But the quiet
penetration and close observation of the man had long been remarkable.
As his good faith was of proof, however, neither felt any serious
apprehension of being betrayed, as soon as he had a moment for
He saw a cottage with a double coach-house,
A cottage of gentility;
And the devil did grin, for his darling sin
Is the pride that apes humility.
It was now necessary to determine what course we ought next to
pursue. It might appear presuming in men of our pursuits to go to the
Nest before the appointed time; and did we proceed on to the village,
we should have the distance between the two places to walk over twice,
carrying our instruments and jewel-box. After a short consultation, it
was decided to visit the nearest dwellings, and to remain as near my
own house as was practicable, making an arrangement to sleep somewhere
in its immediate vicinity. Could we trust any one with our secret, our
fare would probably be all the better; but my uncle thought it most
prudent to maintain a strict incognito until he had ascertained the
true state of things in the town.
We took leave of the Indian and the negro, therefore, promising to
visit them again in the course of that or the succeeding day, and
followed the path that led to the farm-house. It was our opinion that
we might, at least, expect to meet with friends in the occupants of the
home farm. The same family had been retained in possession there for
three generations, and being hired to manage the husbandry and to take
care of the dairy, there was not the same reason for the disaffection,
that was said so generally to exist among the tenantry, prevailing
among them. The name of this family was Miller, and it consisted of the
two heads and some six or seven children, most of the latter being
still quite young.
Tom Miller was a trusty lad, when I knew much of him, said my
uncle, as we drew near to the barn, in which we saw the party
mentioned, at work; and he is said to have behaved well in one or two
alarms they have had at the Nest, this summer; still, it may be wiser
not to let even him into our secret as yet.
I am quite of your mind, sir, I answered; for who knows that he
has not just as strong a desire as any of them to own the farm on which
he lives? He is the grandson of the man who cleared it from the forest,
and has much the same title as the rest of them.
Very true; and why should not that give him just as good a right to
claim an interest in the farm, beyond that he has got under his
contract to work it, as if he held a lease? He who holds a lease gets
no right beyond his bargain; nor does this man. The one is paid for his
labour by the excess of his receipts over the amount of his annual
rent, while the other is paid partly in what he raises, and partly in
wages. In principle there is no difference whatever, not a particle;
yet I question if the veriest demagogue in the State would venture to
say that the man, or the family, which works a farm for hire, even for
a hundred years, gets the smallest right to say he shall not quit it,
if its owner please, as soon as his term of service is up!
'The love of money is the root of all evil;' and when that feeling
is uppermost, one can never tell what a man will do. The bribe of a
good farm, obtained for nothing, or for an insignificant price, is
sufficient to upset the morality of even Tom Miller.
You are right, Hugh; and here is one of the points in which our
political men betray the cloven foot. They write, and proclaim, and
make speeches, as if the anti-rent troubles grew out of the durable
lease system solely, whereas we all know that it is extended to all
descriptions of obligations given for the occupancy of landlife
leases, leases for a term of years, articles for deeds, and bonds and
mortgages. It is a wide-spread, though not yet universal attempt of
those who have the least claim to the possession of real estate, to
obtain the entire right, and that by agencies that neither the law nor
good morals will justify. It is no new expedient for partizans to place
en evidence no more of their principles and intentions than suits
their purposes. But, here we are within ear-shot, and must resort to
the High Dutch. Guten tag, guten tag, continued uncle Ro,
dropping easily into the broken English of our masquerade, as we walked
into the barn, where Miller, two of his older boys, and a couple of
hired men were at work, grinding scythes and preparing for the
approaching hay-harvest. It might be warm day, dis fine mornin'.
Good day, good day, cried Miller, hastily, and glancing his eye a
little curiously at our equipments. What have you got in your
Nein; vatches and drinkets; setting down the box and opening it at
once, for the inspection of all present. Von't you burchase a goot
vatch, dis bleasant mornin'?
Be they ra-al gold? asked Miller, a little doubtingly. And all
them chains and rings, be they gold too?
Not true golt; nein, nein, I might not say dat. But goot enough
golt for blain folks, like you and me.
Them things would never do for the grand quality over at the big
house! cried one of the labourers who was unknown to me, but whose
name I soon ascertained was Joshua Brigham, and who spoke with a sort
of malicious sneer that at once betrayed he was no friend. You
mean 'em for poor folks, I s'pose?
I means dem for any bodies dat will pay deir money for 'em,
answered my uncle. Vould you like a vatch?
That would I; and a farm, too, if I could get 'em cheap, answered
Brigham, with a sneer he did not attempt to conceal. How do you sell
I haf got no farms; I sells drinkets and vatches, but I doesn't
sell farms. Vhat I haf got I vill sell, but I cannot sells vhat I haf
Oh! you'll get all you want if you'll stay long enough in this
country! This is a free land, and just the place for a poor man; or it
will be, as soon as we get all the lords and aristocrats out of it.
This was the first time I had ever heard this political blarney with
my own ears, though I had understood it was often used by those who
wish to give to their own particular envy and covetousness a grand and
Vell, I haf heards dat in America dere might not be any noples ant
aristocrats, put in my uncle, with an appearance of beautiful
simplicity; and dat dere ist not ein graaf in der whole coontry.
Oh! there's all sorts of folks here, just as they are to be found
elsewhere, cried Miller, seating himself coolly on the end of the
grindstone-frame, to open and look into the mysteries of one of the
watches. Now, Josh Brigham, here, calls all that's above him in the
world aristocrats, but he doesn't call all that's below him his
I liked that speech; and I liked the cool, decided way in which it
was uttered. It denoted, in its spirit, a man who saw things as they
are, and who was not afraid to say what he thought about them. My uncle
Ro was surprised, and that agreeably, too, and he turned to Miller to
pursue the discourse.
Den dere might not be any nopility in America, after all? he
Yes, there's plenty of such lords as Josh here, who want to be
uppermost so plaguily that they don't stop to touch all the rounds of
the ladder. I tell him, friend, he wants to get on too fast, and that
he mustn't set up for a gentleman before he knows how to behave
Josh looked a little abashed at a rebuke that came from one of his
own class, and which he must have felt, in secret, was merited. But the
demon was at work in him, and he had persuaded himself that he was the
champion of a quality as sacred as liberty, when, in fact, he was
simply and obviously doing neither more nor less than breaking the
tenth commandment. He did not like to give up, while he skirmished with
Miller, as the dog that has been beaten already two or three times
growls over a bone at the approach of his conqueror.
Well, thank heaven, he cried, I have got some spirit in my
That's very true, Joshua, answered Miller, laying down one watch
and taking up another; but it happens to be an evil spirit.
Now, here's them Littlepages; what makes them better than other
You had better let the Littlepages alone, Joshua, seein' they're a
family that you know nothing at all about.
I don't want to know them; though I do happen to know all I
want to know. I despise 'em.
No you don't, Joshy, my boy; nobody despises folks they talk so
spitefully about. What's the price of this here watch, friend?
Four dollars, said my uncle, eagerly, falling lower than was
prudent, in his desire to reward Miller for his good feeling and sound
sentiments. Ja, jayou might haf das vatch for four dollars.
I'm afraid it isn't good for anything, returned Miller, feeling
the distrust that was natural at hearing a price so low. Let's have
another look at its inside.
No man, probably, ever bought a watch without looking into its works
with an air of great intelligence, though none but a mechanician is any
wiser for his survey. Tom Miller acted on this principle, for the good
looks of the machine he held in his hand, and the four dollars, tempted
him sorely. It had its effect, too, on the turbulent and envious
Joshua, who seemed to understand himself very well in a bargain.
Neither of the men had supposed the watches to be of gold, for though
the metal that is in a watch does not amount to a great deal, it is
usually of more value than all that was asked for the article now
under examination. In point of fact, my uncle had this very watch
invoiced to him at twice the price he now put it at.
And what do you ask for this? demanded Joshua, taking up another
watch of very similar looks and of equal value to the one that Miller
still retained open in his hand. Won't you let this go for three
No; der brice of dat is effery cent of forty dollars, answered
uncle Ro, stubbornly.
The two men now looked at the pedlar in surprise. Miller took the
watch from his hired man, examined it attentively, compared it with the
other, and then demanded its price anew.
You might haf eider of dem vatches for four dollars,
returned my uncle, as I thought, incautiously.
This occasioned a new surprise, though Brigham fortunately referred
the difference to a mistake.
Oh! he said, I understood you to say forty dollars. Four
dollars is a different matter.
Josh, interrupted the more observant and cooler-headed Miller, it
is high time, now, you and Peter go and look a'ter them sheep. The
conch will soon be blowing for dinner. If you want a trade, you can
have one when you get back.
Notwithstanding the plainness of his appearance and language, Tom
Miller was captain of his own company. He gave this order quietly, and
in his usual familiar way, but it was obviously to be obeyed without a
remonstrance. In a minute the two hired men were off in company,
leaving no one behind in the barn but Miller, his sons, and us two. I
could see there was a motive for all this, but did not understand it.
Now he's gone, continued Tom quietly, but laying an
emphasis that sufficiently explained his meaning, perhaps you'll let
me know the true price of this watch. I've a mind for it, and may be we
Four dollars, answered my uncle, distinctly. I haf said you might
haf it for dat money, and vhat I haf said once might always be.
I will take it, then. I almost wish you had asked eight, though
four dollars saved is suthin' for a poor man. It's so plaguy cheap I'm
a little afraid on 't; but I'll ventur'. There; there's your money, and
in hard cash.
Dank you, sir. Won't das ladies choose to look at my drinkets?
Oh! if you want to deal with ladies who buy chains and rings, the
Nest House is the place. My woman wouldn't know what to do with sich
things, and don't set herself up for a fine lady at all. That chap who
has just gone for the sheep is the only great man we have about this
Ja, ja; he ist a nople in a dirty shirt: ja, ja; why hast he dem
I believe you have named them just as they ought to be, pig's
feelin's. It's because he wishes to thrust his own snout all over the
trough, and is mad when he finds anybody else's in the way. We're
getting to have plenty of such fellows up and down the country, and an
uncomfortable time they give us. Boys, I do believe it will turn
out, a'ter all, that Josh is an Injin!
I know he is, answered the oldest of the two sons, a lad of
nineteen; where else should he be so much of nights and Sundays, but
at their trainin's?and what was the meanin' of the calico bundle I
saw under his arm a month ago, as I told you on at the time?
If I find it out to be as you say, Harry, he shall tramp off of
this farm. I'll have no Injins here!
Vell I dought I dit see an olt Injin in a hut up yonder ast by der
woots! put in my uncle, innocently.
Oh! that is Susquesus, an Onondago; he is a true Injin, and a
gentleman; but we have a parcel of the mock gentry about, who are a
pest and an eye-sore to every honest man in the country. Half on 'em
are nothing but thieves in mock Injin dresses. The law is ag'in 'em,
right is ag'in 'em, and every true friend of liberty in the country
ought to be ag'in 'em.
Vhat ist der matter in dis coontry? I hear in Europe how America
ist a free lant, ant how efery man hast his rights; but since I got
here dey do nothin' but talk of barons, and noples, and tenants, and
arisdograts, and all der bat dings I might leaf behint me, in der olt
The plain matter is, friend, that they who have got little, en_vy
them that's got much; and the struggle is to see which is the
strongest. On the one side is the law, and right, and bargains, and
contracts; and on the other thousandsnot of dollars, but of men.
Thousands of voters; d'ye understand?
Ja, jaI oonderstands; dat ist easy enough. But vhy do dey dalk so
much of noples and arisdograts?ist der noples and arisdograts in
Well, I don't much understand the natur' of sich things; there
sartainly is a difference in men, and a difference in their fortun's,
and edications, and such sort of things.
Und der law, den, favours der rich man at der cost of der poor, in
America, too, does it? Und you haf arisdograts who might not pay taxes,
and who holt all der offices, and get all der pooblic money, and who
ist petter pefore de law, in all dings, dan ast dem dat be not
arisdograts? Is it so?
Miller laughed outright, and shook his head at this question,
continuing to examine the trinkets the whole time.
No, no, my friend, we've not much of that, in this part of
the world, either. Rich men get very few offices, to begin with; for
it's an argooment in favour of a man for an office, that he's poor, and
wants it. Folks don't so much ask who the office wants, as who
wants the office. Then, as for taxes, there isn't much respect paid to
the rich, on that score. Young 'Squire Littlepage pays the tax on this
farm directly himself, and it's assessed half as high ag'in, all things
considered, as any other farm on his estate.
But dat ist not right.
Right! Who says it is?or who thinks there is anything right about
assessments, anywhere? I have heard assessors, with my own ears, use
such words as these:'Sich a man is rich, and can afford to pay,' and
'sich a man is poor, and it will come hard on him.' Oh! they kiver up
dishonesty, now-a-days, under all sorts of argooments.
But der law; der rich might haf der law on deir side, surely?
In what way, I should like to know? Juries be everything, and
juries will go accordin' to their feelin's, as well as other men. I've
seen the things with my own eyes. The county pays just enough a-day to
make poor men like to be on juries, and they never fail to attend,
while them that can pay their fines stay away, and so leave the law
pretty much in the hands of one party. No rich man gains his cause,
unless his case is so strong it can't be helped.
I had heard this before, there being a very general complaint
throughout the country of the practical abuses connected with the jury
system. I have heard intelligent lawyers complain, that whenever a
cause of any interest is to be tried, the first question asked is not
what are the merits? which has the law and the facts on his side?
but who is likely to be on the jury?thus obviously placing the
composition of the jury before either law or evidence. Systems may have
a very fair appearance on paper and as theories, that are execrable in
practice. As for juries, I believe the better opinion of the
intelligent of all countries is, that while they are a capital
contrivance to resist the abuse of power in narrow governments, in
governments of a broad constituency they have the effect, which might
easily be seen, of placing the control of the law in the hands of those
who would be most apt to abuse it; since it is adding to, instead of
withstanding and resisting the controlling authority of the State, from
which, in a popular government, most of the abuses must unavoidably
As for my uncle Ro, he was disposed to pursue the subject with
Miller, who turned out to be a discreet and conscientious man. After a
very short pause, as if to reflect on what had been said, he resumed
Vhat, den, makes arisdograts in dis coontry? asked my uncle.
Wa-a-lno man but an American of New England descent, as was the
case with Miller, can give this word its attic soundWa-a-l, it's
hard to say. I hear a great deal about aristocrats, and I read a great
deal about aristocrats, in this country, and I know that most folks
look upon them as hateful, but I'm by no means sartain I know what an
aristocrat is. Do you happen to know anything about it, friend?
Ja, ja; an arisdograt ist one of a few men dat hast all de power of
de government in deir own hands.
King! That isn't what we think an aristocrat in this part of the
world. Why, we call them critturs here DIMIGOGUES! Now, young 'Squire
Littlepage, who owns the Nest House, over yonder, and who is owner of
all this estate, far and near, is what we call an aristocrat,
and he hasn't power enough to be named town clerk, much less to
anything considerable, or what is worth having.
How can he be an arisdograt, den?
How, sure enough, if your account be true! I tell you 'tis the
dimigogues that be the aristocrats of America. Why, Josh Brigham, who
has just gone for the sheep, can get more votes for any office in the
country than young Littlepage!
Berhaps dis young Littlebage ist a pat yoong man?
Not he; he's as good as any on 'em, and better than most. Besides,
if he was as wicked as Lucifer, the folks of the country don't know
anything about it, sin' he's be'n away ever sin' he has be'n a man.
Vhy, den, gan't he haf as many votes as dat poor, ignorant fellow
might haf?das ist ott.
It is odd, but it's true as gospel. Why, it may not be so
easy to tell. Many men, many minds, you know. Some folks don't like him
because he lives in a big house; some hate him because they think he is
better off than they are themselves; others mistrust him because he
wears a fine coat; and some pretend to laugh at him because he got his
property from his father, and grand'ther, and so on, and didn't make it
himself. Accordin' to some folks' notions, now-a-days, a man ought to
enj'y only the property he heaps together himself.
If dis be so, your Herr Littlebage ist no arisdograt.
Wa-a-l, that isn't the idee, hereaway. We have had a great many
meetin's, latterly, about the right of the people to their farms; and
there has been a good deal of talk at them meetin's consarnin'
aristocracy and feudal tenors; do you know what a feudal tenor is,
Ja; dere ist moch of dat in Teutchlandin mine coontry. It ist not
ferry easy to explain it in a few vords, but der brincipal ding ist dat
der vassal owes a serfice to hist lort. In de olten dimes dis serfice
vast military, und dere ist someding of dat now. It ist de noples who
owe der feudal serfice, brincipally, in mine coontry, and dey owes it
to de kings and brinces.
And don't you call giving a chicken for rent feudal service, in
Uncle Ro and I laughed, in spite of our efforts to the contrary,
there being a pathos in this question that was supremely ridiculous.
Curbing his merriment, however, as soon as he could, my uncle answered
If der landlordt hast a right to coome and dake as many chickens as
he bleases, und ast often ast he bleases, den dat wouldt look like a
feudal right; but if de lease says dat so many chickens moost be paid
a-year, for der rent, vhy dat ist all der same as baying so much
moneys; und it might be easier for der tenant to bay in chicken ast it
might be to bay in der silver. Vhen a man canst bay his debts in vhat
he makes himself, he ist ferry interpentent.
It does seem so, I vow! Yet there's folks about here, and some at
Albany, that call it feudal for a man to have to carry a pair of fowls
to the landlord's office, and the landlord an aristocrat for asking
But der man canst sent a poy, or a gal, or a nigger, wid his fowls,
if he bleases?
Sartain; all that is asked is that the fowls should come.
Und vhen der batroon might owe hist tailor, or hist shoemaker, must
he not go to hist shop, or find him and bay him vhat he owes, or be
suet for der debt?
That's true, too; boys, put me in mind of telling that to Josh,
this evening. Yes, the greatest landlord in the land must hunt up his
creditor, or be sued, all the same as the lowest tenant.
Und he most bay in a partic'lar ding; he most bay in golt or
True; lawful tender is as good for one as 'tis for t'other.
Und if your Herr Littlebage signs a baper agreein' to gif der
apples from dat orchart to somebody on his landts, most he send or
carry der apples, too?
To be sure; that would be the bargain.
Und he most carry der ferry apples dat grows on dem ferry drees,
might it not be so?
All true as gospel. If a man contracts to sell the apples of one
orchard, he can't put off the purchaser with the apples of another.
Und der law ist der same for one ast for anudder, in dese t'ings?
There is no difference; and there should be none.
Und der batroons und der landlordts wants to haf der law changet,
so dat dey may be excuset from baying der debts accordin' to der
bargains, und to gif dem atfantages over der poor tenants?
I never heard anything of the sort, and don't believe they want any
Of vhat, den, dost der beople complain?
Of having to pay rent at all; they think the landlords ought to be
made to sell their farms, or give them away. Some stand out for the
But der landlordts don't vant to sell deir farms; und dey might not
be made to sell vhat ist deir own, and vhat dey don't vant to sell, any
more dan der tenants might be made to sell deir hogs and deir sheep,
vhen dey don't vant to sell dem.
It does seem so, boys, as I've told the neighbours, all along. But
I'll tell this Dutchman all about it. Some folks want the State to look
a'ter the title of young Littlepage, pretending he has no title.
But der State wilt do dat widout asking for it particularly, vill
I never heard that it would.
If anybody hast a claim to der broperty, vilt not der courts try
Yes, yesin that way; but a tenant can't set up a title ag'in his
Vhy should he? He canst haf no title but his landlort's, and it
vould be roguery and cheatery to let a man get into der bossession of a
farm under der pretence of hiring it, und den coome out und claim it as
owner. If any tenant dinks he hast a better right dan his landlort, he
can put der farm vhere it vast before he might be a tenant, und den der
State wilt examine into der title, I fancys.
Yes, yesin that way; but these men want it another way. What they
want is for the State to set up a legal examination, and turn the
landlords off altogether, if they can, and then let themselves have the
farms in their stead.
But dat would not be honest to dem dat hafen't nothing to do wid
der farms. If der State owns der farms, it ought to get as moch as it
can for dem, and so safe all der people from baying taxes. It
looks like roguery, all roundt.
I believe it is that, and nothing else! As you say, the State will
examine into the title as it is, and there is no need of any laws about
Would der State, dink you, pass a law dat might inquire into de
demandts dat are made against der batroons, vhen der tratesmen sent in
I should like to see any patroon ask sich a thing! He would be
laughed at, from York to Buffalo.
Und he would desarf it. By vhat I see, frient, your denants be der
arisdograts, und der landlordts der vassals.
Why you seewhat may your name be?as we're likely to become
acquainted, I should like to know your name.
My name is Greisenbach, und I comes from Preussen.
Well, Mr. Greisenbach, the difficulty about aristocracy is this.
Hugh Littlepage is rich, and his money gives him advantages that other
men can't enj'y. Now, that sticks in some folks' crops.
Oh! den it ist meant to divite broperty in dis coontry; und to say
no man might haf more ast anudder?
Folks don't go quite as far as that, yet; though some of their talk
does squint that-a-way, I must own. Now, there are folks about here
that complain that old Madam Littlepage and her young ladies don't
visit the poor.
Vell, if deys be hard-hearted, und hast no feelin's for der poor
No, no; that is not what I mean, neither. As for that sort of poor,
everybody allows they do more for them than anybody else about
here. But they don't visit the poor that isn't in want.
Vell, it ist a ferry coomfortable sort of poor dat ist not in any
vant. Berhaps you mean dey don't associate wid 'em, as equals?
That's it. Now, on that head, I must say there is some truth in the
charge, for the gals over at the Nest never come here to visit my gal,
and Kitty is as nice a young thing as there is about.
Und Gitty goes to visit the gal of the man who lives over yonter,
in de house on der hill? pointing to a residence of a man of the very
humblest class in the town.
Hardly! Kitty's by no means proud, but I shouldn't like her to be
too thick there.
Oh! you're an arisdograt, den, after all; else might your daughter
visit dat man's daughter.
I tell you, Grunzebach, or whatever your name may be, returned
Miller, a little angrily, though a particularly good-natured man in the
main, that my gal shall not visit old Steven's
Vell, I'm sure she might do as she bleases; but I dinks der
Mademoiselles Littlepage might do ast dey pleases, too.
There is but one Littlepage gal; if you saw them out this morning
in the carriage, you saw two York gals and parson Warren's da'ghter
Und dis parson Warren might be rich, too?
Not he; he hasn't a sixpence on 'arth but what he gets from the
parish. Why he is so poor his friends had to edicate his da'ghter, I
have heern say, over and over!
Und das Littlepage gal und de Warren gal might be goot friends?
They are the thickest together of any two young women in this part
of the world. I've never seen two gals more intimate. Now, there's a
young lady in the town, one Opportunity Newcome, who, one might think,
would stand before Mary Warren at the big house, any day in the week,
but she doesn't! Mary takes all the shine out on her.
Which ist der richest, Obbordunity or Mary?
By all accounts Mary Warren has nothing, while Opportunity is
thought to come next to Matty herself, as to property, of all the young
gals about here. But Opportunity is no favourite at the Nest.
Den it would seem, after all, dat dis Miss Littlebage does not
choose her friends on account of riches. She likes Mary Warren, who ist
boor, und she does not like Obbordunity, who ist vell to do in de
vorlt. Berhaps der Littlepages be not as big arisdograts as you
Miller was bothered, while I felt a disposition to laugh. One of the
commonest errors of those who, from position and habits, are unable to
appreciate the links which connect cultivated society together, is to
refer everything to riches. Riches, in a certain sense, as a means and
through their consequences, may be a principal agent in dividing
society into classes; but, long after riches have taken wings, their
fruits remain, when good use has been made of their presence. So untrue
is the vulgar opinionor it might be better to say the opinion of the
vulgarthat money is the one tie which unites polished society, that
it is a fact which all must know who have access to the better circles
of even our own commercial towns, that those circles, loosely and
accidentally constructed as they are, receive with reluctance, nay,
often sternly exclude, vulgar wealth from their associations, while the
door is open to the cultivated who have nothing. The young, in
particular, seldom think much of money, while family connections, early
communications, similarity of opinions, and, most of all, of tastes,
bring sets together, and often keep them together long after the golden
band has been broken.
But men have great difficulty in comprehending things that lie
beyond their reach; and money being apparent to the senses, while
refinement, through its infinite gradations, is visible principally,
and, in some cases, exclusively to its possessors, it is not surprising
that common minds should refer a tie that, to them, would otherwise be
mysterious, to the more glittering influence, and not to the less
obvious. Infinite, indeed, are the gradations of cultivated habits; nor
are as many of them the fruits of caprice and self-indulgence as men
usually suppose. There is a common sense, nay, a certain degree of
wisdom, in the laws of even etiquette, while they are confined to
equals, that bespeak the respect of those who understand them. As for
the influence of associations on men's manners, on their exteriors, and
even on their opinions, my uncle Ro has long maintained that it is so
apparent that one of his time of life could detect the man of the
world, at such a place as Saratoga even, by an intercourse of five
minutes; and what is more, that he could tell the class in life from
which he originally emerged. He tried it, the last summer, on our
return from Ravensnest, and I was amused with his success, though he
made a few mistakes, it must be admitted.
That young man comes from the better circles, but he has never
travelled, he said, alluding to one of a group which still remained at
table; while he who is next him has travelled, but commenced
badly. This may seem a very nice distinction, but I think it is easily
made. There are two brothers, of an excellent family in Pennsylvania,
he continued, as one might know from the name; the eldest has
travelled, the youngest has not. This was a still harder distinction
to make, but one who knew the world as well as my uncle Ro could do it.
He went on amusing me by his decisionsall of which were respectable,
and some surprisingly accuratein this way for several minutes. Now,
like has an affinity to like, and in this natural attraction is to be
found the secret of the ordinary construction of society. You shall put
two men of superior minds in a room full of company, and they will find
each other out directly, and enjoy the accident. The same is true as to
the mere modes of thinking that characterize social castes; and it is
truer in this country, perhaps, than most others, from the mixed
character of our associations. Of the two, I am really of opinion that
the man of high intellect, who meets with one of moderate capacity, but
of manners and social opinions on a level with his own, has more
pleasure in the communication than with one of equal mind, but of
That Patt should cling to one like Mary Warren seemed to me quite as
natural as that she should be averse to much association with
Opportunity Newcome. The money of the latter, had my sister been in the
least liable to such an influence, was so much below what she had been
accustomed, all her life, to consider affluence, that it would have had
no effect, even had she been subject to so low a consideration in
regulating her intercourse with others. But this poor Tom Miller could
not understand. He could only reason from what he knew, and he knew
little of the comparative notions of wealth, and less of the powers of
cultivation on the mind and manners. He was struck, however, with a
fact that did come completely within the circle of his own knowledge,
and that was the circumstance that Mary Warren, while admitted to be
poor, was the bosom friend of her whom he was pleased to call,
sometimes, the Littlepage gal. It was easy to see he felt the force
of this circumstance; and it is to be hoped that, as he was certainly a
wiser, he also became a better man, on one of the most common of the
weaknesses of human frailty.
Wa-a-l, he replied to my uncle's last remark, after fully a minute
of silent reflection, I don't know! It would seem so, I vow; and yet
it hasn't been my wife's notion, nor is it Kitty's. You're quite
upsetting my idees about aristocrats; for though I like the
Littlepages, I've always set 'em down as desp'rate aristocrats.
Nein, nein; dem as vat you calls dimigogues be der American
arisdograts. Dey gets all der money of der pooblic, and haf all der
power, but dey gets a little mads because dey might not force demselves
on der gentlemen and laties of der coontry, as vell as on der lands und
I swan! I don't know but this may be true! A'ter all, I don't know
what right anybody has to complain of the Littlepages.
Does dey dreat beoples vell, as might coome to see dem?
Yes, indeed! if folks treat them well, as sometimes doesn't
happen. I've seen hogs hereTom was a little Saxon in his figures,
but their nature will prove their justificationI've seen hogs about
here, bolt right in before old Madam Littlepage, and draw their chairs
up to her fire, and squirt about the tobacco, and never think of even
taking off their hats. Them folks be always huffy about their own
importance, though they never think of other people's feelin's.
We were interrupted by the sound of wheels, and looking round, we
perceived that the carriage of my grandmother had driven up to the
farm-house door, on its return home. Miller conceived it to be no more
than proper to go and see if he were wanted, and we followed him
slowly, it being the intention of my uncle to offer his mother a watch,
by way of ascertaining if she could penetrate his disguise.
Will you buy any tape,
Or lace for your cape?
Come to the pedlar,
Money's a medler
That doth utter all men's ware-a.
There they sat, those four young creatures, a perfect galaxy of
bright and beaming eyes. There was not a plain face among them; and I
was struck with the circumstance of how rare it was to meet with a
youthful and positively ugly American female. Kitty, too, was at the
door by the time we reached the carriage, and she also was a blooming
and attractive-looking girl. It was a thousand pities that she spoke,
however; the vulgarity of her utterance, tone of voice, cadences, and
accent, the latter a sort of singing whine, being in striking contrast
to a sort of healthful and vigorous delicacy that marked her
appearance. All the bright eyes grew brighter as I drew nearer,
carrying the flute in my hand; but neither of the young ladies spoke.
Buy a vatch, ma'ams, said uncle Ro, approaching his mother, cap in
hand, with his box open.
I thank you, friend; but I believe all here are provided with
Mine ist ferry sheaps.
I dare say they may be, returned dear grandmother, smiling;
though cheap watches are not usually the best. Is that very pretty
Yes, ma'ams; it ist of goot gold. If it might not be, I
might not say so.
I saw suppressed smiles among the girls; all of whom, however, were
too well-bred to betray to common observers the sense of the ridiculous
that each felt at the equivoque that suggested itself in my uncle's
What is the price of this pencil, asked my grandmother.
Uncle Roger had too much tact to think of inducing his mother to
make a purchase as he had influenced Miller, and he mentioned something
near the true value of the article, which was fifteen dollars.
I will take it, returned my grandmother, dropping three half
eagles into the box; when, turning to Mary Warren, she begged her
acceptance of the pencil, with as much respect in her manner as if she
solicited instead of conferred a favour.
Mary Warren's handsome face was covered with blushes; she looked
pleased, and she accepted the offering, though I thought she hesitated
one moment about the propriety of so doing, most probably on account of
its value. My sister asked to look at this little present, and after
admiring it, it passed from hand to hand, each praising its shape and
ornaments. All my uncle's wares, indeed, were in perfect good taste,
the purchase having been made of an importer of character, and paid for
at some cost. The watches, it is true, were, with one or two
exceptions, cheap, as were most of the trinkets; but my uncle had about
his person a watch, or two, and some fine jewelry, that he had brought
from Europe himself, expressly to bestow in presents, among which had
been the pencil in question, and which he had dropped into the box but
a moment before it was sold.
Wa-a-l, Madam Littlepage, cried Miller, who used the familiarity
of one born on the estate, this is the queerest watch-pedlar I've met
with, yet. He asks fifteen dollars for that pencil, and only four for
this watch! showing his own purchase as he concluded.
My grandmother took the watch in her hand, and examined it
It strikes me as singularly cheap! she remarked, glancing a little
distrustfully, as I fancied, at her son, as if she thought he might be
selling his brushes cheaper than those who only stole the materials,
because he stole them ready made. I know that these watches are made
for very little in the cheap countries of Europe, but one can hardly
see how this machinery was put together for so small a sum.
I has 'em, matam, at all brices, put in my uncle.
I have a strong desire to purchase a good lady's watch, but
should a little fear buying of any but a known and regular dealer.
You needn't fear us, ma'am, I ventured to say. If we might sheat
anypodies, we shouldn't sheat so goot a laty.
I do not know whether my voice struck Patt's ear pleasantly, or a
wish to see the project of her grandmother carried out at once, induced
my sister to interfere; but interfere she did, and that by urging her
aged parent to put confidence in us. Years had taught my grandmother
caution, and she hesitated.
But all these watches are of base metal, and I want one of good
gold and handsome finish, observed my grandmother.
My uncle immediately produced a watch that he had bought of Blondel,
in Paris, for five hundred francs, and which was a beautiful little
ornament for a lady's belt. He gave it to my grandmother, who read the
name of the manufacturer with some little surprise. The watch itself
was then examined attentively, and was applauded by all.
And what may be the price of this? demanded my grandmother.
One hoondred dollars, matam; and sheaps at dat.
Tom Miller looked at the bit of tinsel in his own hand, and at the
smaller, but exquisitely-shaped article that my grandmother held up
to look at, suspended by its bit of ribbon, and was quite as much
puzzled as he had evidently been a little while before, in his
distinctions between the rich and the poor. Tom was not able to
distinguish the base from the true; that was all.
My grandmother did not appear at all alarmed at the price, though
she cast another distrustful glance or two, over her spectacles, at the
imaginary pedlar. At length the beauty of the watch overcame her.
If you will bring this watch to yonder large dwelling, I will pay
you the hundred dollars for it, she said; I have not as much money
with me here.
Ja, jaferry goot; you might keep das vatch, laty, and I will
coome for der money after I haf got some dinners of somebodys.
My grandmother had no scruple about accepting of the credit, of
course, and she was about to put the watch in her pocket, when Patt
laid her little gloved hand on it, and cried
Now, dearest grandmother, let it be done at oncethere is no one
but us three present, you know!
Such is the impatience of a child! exclaimed the elder lady,
laughing. Well, you shall be indulged. I gave you that pencil for a
keep-sake, Mary, only en attendant, it having been my intention
to offer a watch, as soon as a suitable one could be found, as a
memorial of the sense I entertain of the spirit you showed during that
dark week in which the anti-renters were so menacing. Here, then, is
such a watch as I might presume to ask you to have the goodness to
Mary Warren seemed astounded! The colour mounted to her temples;
then she became suddenly pale. I had never seen so pretty a picture of
gentle female distressa distress that arose from conflicting, but
Oh! Mrs. Littlepage! she exclaimed, after looking in astonishment
at the offering for a moment, and in silence. You cannot have intended
that beautiful watch for me!
For you, my dear; the beautiful watch is not a whit too good for my
But, dear, dear Mrs. Littlepage, it is altogether too
handsome for my stationfor my means.
A lady can very well wear such a watch; and you are a lady in every
sense of the word, and so you need have no scruples on that account. As
for the means, you will not misunderstand me if I remind you that it
will be bought with my means, and there can be no extravagance in the
But we are so poor, and that watch has so rich an appearance! It
scarcely seems right.
I respect your feelings and sentiments, my dear girl, and can
appreciate them. I suppose you know I was once as poor, nay, much
poorer than you are, yourself.
You, Mrs. Littlepage! No, that can hardly be. You are of an
affluent and very respectable family, I know.
It is quite true, nevertheless, my dear. I shall not affect extreme
humility, and deny that the Malbones did and do belong to the gentry of
the land, but my brother and myself were once so much reduced as to
toil with the surveyors, in the woods, quite near this property. We had
then no claim superior to yours, and in many respects were reduced much
lower. Besides, the daughter of an educated and well-connected
clergyman has claims that, in a worldly point of view alone, entitle
her to a certain consideration. You will do me the favour to accept my
Dear Mrs. Littlepage! I do not know how to refuse you, or
how to accept so rich a gift! You will let me consult my father,
That will be no more than proper, my dear, returned my beloved
grandmother, quietly putting the watch into her own pocket; Mr.
Warren, luckily, dines with us, and the matter can be settled before we
sit down to table.
This ended the discussion, which had commenced under an impulse of
feeling that left us all its auditors. As for my uncle and myself, it
is scarcely necessary to say we were delighted with the little scene.
The benevolent wish to gratify, on the one side, with the natural
scruples on the other, about receiving, made a perfect picture for our
contemplation. The three girls, who were witnesses of what passed, too
much respected Mary's feelings to interfere, though Patt restrained
herself with difficulty. As to Tom Miller and Kitty, they doubtless
wondered why Warren's gal was such a fool as to hesitate about
accepting a watch that was worth a hundred dollars. This was another
point they did not understand.
You spoke of dinner, continued my grandmother, looking at my
uncle. If you and your companion will follow us to the house, I will
pay you for the watch, and order you a dinner in the bargain.
We were right down glad to accept this offer, making our bows and
expressing our thanks, as the carriage whirled off. We remained a
moment, to take our leave of Miller.
When you've got through at the Nest, said that semi-worthy fellow,
give us another call here. I should like my woman and Kitty to have a
look at your finery, before you go down to the village with it.
With a promise to return to the farm-house, we proceeded on our way
to the building which, in the familiar parlance of the country, was
called the Nest, or the Nest House, from Ravensnest, its true name, and
which Tom Miller, in his country dialect, called the Neest. The
distance between the two buildings was less than half a mile, the
grounds of the family residence lying partly between them. Many persons
would have called the extensive lawns which surrounded my paternal
abode a park, but it never bore that name with us. They were too large
for a paddock, and might very well have come under the former
appellation; but, as deer, or animals of any sort, except those that
are domestic, had never been kept within it, the name had not been
used. We called them the groundsa term which applies equally to large
and small enclosures of this naturewhile the broad expanse of verdure
which lies directly under the windows goes by the name of the lawn.
Notwithstanding the cheapness of land among us, there has been very
little progress made in the art of landscape gardening; and if we have
anything like park scenery, it is far more owing to the gifts of a
bountiful nature than to any of the suggestions of art. Thanks to the
cultivated taste of Downing, as well as to his well-directed labours,
this reproach is likely to be soon removed, and country life will
acquire this pleasure, among the many others that are so peculiarly its
own. After lying for more than twenty yearsa stigma on the national
tastedisfigured by ravines or gullies, and otherwise in a rude and
discreditable condition, the grounds of the White House have been
brought into a condition to denote that they are the property of a
civilized country. The Americans are as apt at imitation as the
Chinese, with a far greater disposition to admit of change; and little
beyond good models are required to set them on the right track. But it
is certain that, as a nation, we have yet to acquire nearly all that
belongs to the art I have mentioned that lies beyond avenues of trees,
with an occasional tuft of shrubbery. The abundance of the latter, that
forms the wilderness of sweets, the masses of flowers that spot
the surface of Europe, the beauty of curved lines, and the whole
finesse of surprises, reliefs, back-grounds and vistas, are things so
little known among us as to be almost arisdogratic, as my uncle Ro
would call the word.
Little else had been done at Ravensnest than to profit by the native
growth of the trees, and to take advantage of the favourable
circumstances in the formation of the grounds. Most travellers imagine
that it might be an easy thing to lay out a park in the virgin forest,
as the axe might spare the thickets, and copses, and woods, that
elsewhere are the fruits of time and planting. This is all a mistake,
however, as the rule; though modified exceptions may and do exist. The
tree of the American forest shoots upward toward the light, growing so
tall and slender as to be unsightly; and even when time has given its
trunk is due size, the top is rarely of a breadth to ornament a park or
a lawn, while its roots, seeking their nourishment in the rich alluvium
formed by the decayed leaves of a thousand years, lie too near the
surface to afford sufficient support after losing the shelter of its
neighbours. It is owing to reasons like these that the ornamental
grounds of an American country-house have usually to be commenced ab
origine, and that natural causes so little aid in finishing them.
My predecessors had done a little towards assisting nature, at the
Nest, and what was of almost equal importance, in the state of
knowledge on this subject as it existed in the country sixty years
since, they had done little to mar her efforts. The results were, that
the grounds of Ravensnest possess a breadth that is the fruit of the
breadth of our lands, and a rural beauty which, without being much
aided by art, was still attractive. The herbage was kept short by
sheep, of which one thousand, of the fine wool, were feeding on the
lawns, along the slopes, and particularly on the distant heights, as we
crossed the grounds on our way to the doors.
The Nest House was a respectable New York country dwelling, as such
buildings were constructed among us in the last quarter of the past
century, a little improved and enlarged by the second and third
generations of its owners. The material was of stone, the low cliff on
which it stood supplying enough of an excellent quality; and the shape
of the main corps de batiment as near a square as might be. Each
face of this part of the constructions offered five windows to view,
this being almost the prescribed number for a country residence in that
day, as three have since got to be in towns. These windows, however,
had some size, the main building being just sixty feet square, which
was about ten feet in each direction larger than was common so soon
after the revolution. But wings had been added to the original
building, and that on a plan which conformed to the shape of a
structure in square logs, that had been its predecessor on its
immediate site. These wings were only of a story and a half each, and
doubling on each side of the main edifice just far enough to form a
sufficient communication, they ran back to the very verge of a cliff
some forty feet in height, overlooking, at their respective ends, a
meandering rivulet, and a wide expanse of very productive flats, that
annually filled my barns with hay and my cribs with corn. Of this level
and fertile bottom-land there was near a thousand acres, stretching in
three directions, of which two hundred belonged to what was called the
Nest Farm. The remainder was divided among the farms of the adjacent
tenantry. This little circumstance, among the thousand-and-one other
atrocities that were charged upon me, had been made a ground of
accusation, to which I shall presently have occasion to advert. I shall
do this the more readily, because the fact has not yet reached the ears
and set in motion the tongues of legislatorsHeaven bless us, how
words do get corrupted by too much use!in their enumeration of the
griefs of the tenants of the State.
Everything about the Nest was kept in perfect order, and in a
condition to do credit to the energy and taste of my grandmother, who
had ordered all these things for the last few years, or since the death
of my grandfather. This circumstance, connected with the fact that the
building was larger and more costly than those of most of the other
citizens of the country, had, of late years, caused Ravensnest to be
termed an aristocratic residence. This word aristocratic, I find
since my return home, has got to be a term of expansive signification,
its meaning depending on the particular habits and opinions of the
person who happens to use it. Thus, he who chews tobacco thinks it
aristocratic in him who deems the practice nasty not to do the same;
the man who stoops accuses him who is straight in the back of having
aristocratic shoulders; and I have actually met with one individual who
maintained that it was excessively aristocratic to pretend not to blow
one's nose with his fingers. It will soon be aristocratic to maintain
the truth of the familiar Latin axiom of de gustibus non
As we approached the door of the Nest House, which opened on the
piazza that stretched along three sides of the main building, and the
outer ends of both wings, the coachman was walking his horses away from
it, on the road that led to the stables. The party of ladies had made a
considerable circuit after quitting the farm, and had arrived but a
minute before us. All the girls but Mary Warren had entered the house,
careless on the subject of the approach of two pedlars; she remained,
however, at the side of my grandmother, to receive us.
I believe in my soul, whispered uncle Ro, that my dear old mother
has a secret presentiment who we are, by her manifesting so much
respect.T'ousand t'anks, matam, t'ousand t'anks, he continued,
dropping into his half-accurate half-blundering broken English, for
dis great honour, such as we might not expect das laty of das house to
wait for us at her door.
This young lady tells me that she has seen you before, and that she
understands you are both persons of education and good manners, who
have been driven from your native country by political troubles. Such
being the case, I cannot regard you as common pedlars. I have known
what it was to be reduced in fortune,my dear grandmother's voice
trembled a littleand can feel for those who thus suffer.
Matam, dere might be moch trut' in some of dis, answered my uncle,
taking off his cap, and bowing very much like a gentleman, an act in
which I imitated him immediately. We haf seen petter tays; and
my son, dere, hast peen edicatet at an university. But we are now poor
pedlars of vatches, und dem dat might make moosic in der streets.
My grandmother looked as a lady would look under such circumstances,
neither too free to forget present appearances, nor coldly neglectful
of the past. She knew that something was due to her own household, and
to the example she ought to set it, while she felt that far more was
due to the sentiment that unites the cultivated. We were asked into the
house, were told a table was preparing for us, and were treated with a
generous and considerate hospitality that involved no descent from her
own character, or that of the sex; the last being committed to the
keeping of every lady.
In the mean time, business proceeded with my uncle. He was paid his
hundred dollars; and all his stores of value, including rings,
brooches, ear-rings, chains, bracelets, and other trinkets that he had
intended as presents to his wards, were produced from his pockets, and
laid before the bright eyes of the three girlsMary Warren keeping in
the back ground, as one who ought not to look on things unsuited to her
fortune. Her father had arrived, however, had been consulted, and the
pretty watch was already attached to the girdle of the prettier waist.
I fancied the tear of gratitude that still floated in her serene eyes
was a jewel of far higher price than any my uncle could exhibit.
We had been shown into the library, a room that was in the front of
the house, and of which the windows all opened on the piazza. I was at
first a little overcome, at thus finding myself, and unrecognized,
under the paternal roof, and in a dwelling that was my own, after so
many years of absence. Shall I confess it! Everything appeared
diminutive and mean, after the buildings to which I had been accustomed
in the old world. I am not now drawing comparisons with the palaces of
princes, and the abodes of the great, as the American is apt to fancy,
whenever anything is named that is superior to the things to which he
is accustomed; but to the style, dwellings, and appliances of domestic
life that pertain to those of other countries who have not a claim in
anything to be accounted my superiorsscarcely my equals. In a word,
American aristocracy, or that which it is getting to be the fashion to
stigmatize as aristocratic, would be deemed very democratic in most of
the nations of Europe. Our Swiss brethren have their chateaux and their
habits that are a hundred times more aristocratic than anything about
Ravensnest, without giving offence to liberty; and I feel persuaded,
were the proudest establishment in all America pointed out to a
European as an aristocratic abode, he would be very apt to laugh at it,
in his sleeve. The secret of this charge among ourselves is the innate
dislike which is growing up in the country to see any man distinguished
from the mass around him in anything, even though it should be in
merit. It is nothing but the expansion of the principle which gave rise
to the traditionary feud between the plebeians and patricians of
Albany, at the commencement of this century, and which has now
descended so much farther than was then contemplated by the
soi-disant plebeians of that day, as to become quite disagreeable
to their own descendants. But to return to myself
I will own that, so far from finding any grounds of exultation in my
own aristocratical splendour, when I came to view my possessions at
home, I felt mortified and disappointed. The things that I had fancied
really respectable, and even fine, from recollection, now appeared very
common-place, and in many particulars mean. Really, I found myself
saying sotto voce, all this is scarcely worthy of being the
cause of deserting the right, setting sound principles at defiance, and
of forgetting God and his commandments! Perhaps I was too
inexperienced to comprehend how capacious is the maw of the covetous
man, and how microscopic the eye of envy.
You are welcome to Ravensnest, said Mr. Warren, approaching and
offering his hand in a friendly way, much as he would address any other
young friend; we arrived a little before you, and I have had my ears
and eyes open ever since, in the hope of hearing your flute, and of
seeing your form in the highway, near the parsonage, where you promised
to visit me.
Mary was standing at her father's elbow, as when I first saw her,
and she gazed wistfully at my flute, as she would not have done had she
seen me in my proper attire, assuming my proper character.
I danks you, sir, was my answer. We might haf plenty of times for
a little moosic, vhen das laties shall be pleaset to say so. I canst
blay Yankee Doodle, Hail Coloombias, and der 'Star Spangled Banner,'
und all dem airs, as dey so moch likes at der taverns and on der road.
Mr. Warren laughed, and he took the flute from my hand, and began to
examine it. I now trembled for the incognito! The instrument had been
mine for many years, and was a very capital one, with silver keys,
stops, and ornaments. What if Pattwhat if my dear grandmother should
recognise it! I would have given the handsomest trinket in my uncle's
collection to get the flute back again into my own hands; but, before
an opportunity offered for that, it went from hand to hand, as the
instrument that had produced the charming sounds heard that morning,
until it reached those of Martha. The dear girl was thinking of the
jewelry, which, it will be remembered, was rich, and intended in part
for herself, and she passed the instrument on, saying, hurriedly,
See, dear grandmother, this is the flute which you pronounced the
sweetest toned of any you had ever heard!
My grandmother took the flute, started, put her spectacles closer to
her eyes, examined the instrument, turned palefor her cheeks still
retained a little of the colour of their youthand then cast a glance
hurriedly and anxiously at me. I could see that she was pondering on
something profoundly in her most secret mind, for a minute or two.
Luckily the others were too much occupied with the box of the pedlar to
heed her movements. She walked slowly out of the door, almost brushing
me as she passed, and went into the hall. Here she turned, and,
catching my eye, she signed for me to join her. Obeying this signal, I
followed, until I was led into a little room, in one of the wings, that
I well remembered as a sort of private parlour attached to my
grandmother's own bed-room. To call it a boudoir would be to
caricature things, its furniture being just that of the sort of room I
have mentioned, or of a plain, neat, comfortable, country parlour. Here
my grandmother took her seat on a sofa, for she trembled so she could
not stand, and then she turned to gaze at me wistfully, and with an
anxiety it would be difficult for me to describe.
Do not keep me in suspense! she said, almost awfully in tone and
manner, am I right in my conjecture?
Dearest grandmother, you are! I answered, in my natural voice.
No more was needed: we hung on each other's necks, as had been my
wont in boyhood.
But who is that pedlar, Hugh? demanded my grandmother, after a
time. Can it possibly be Roger, my son?
It is no other; we have come to visit you, incog.
And why this disguise?Is it connected with the troubles?
Certainly; we have wished to take a near view with our own eyes,
and supposed it might be unwise to come openly, in our proper
In this you have done well; yet I hardly know how to welcome you,
in your present characters. On no account must your real names be
revealed. The demons of tar and feathers, the sons of liberty and
equality, who illustrate their principles as they do their courage, by
attacking the few with the many, would be stirring, fancying themselves
heroes and martyrs in the cause of justice, did they learn you were
here. Ten armed and resolute men might drive a hundred of them, I do
believe; for they have all the cowardice of thieves, but they are
heroes with the unarmed and feeble. Are you safe, yourselves, appearing
thus disguised, under the new law?
We are not armed, not having so much as a pistol; and that will
I am sorry to say, Hugh, that this country is no longer what I once
knew it. Its justice, if not wholly departed, is taking to itself
wings, and its blindness, not in a disregard of persons, but in a
faculty of seeing only the stronger side. A landlord, in my opinion,
would have but little hope, with jury, judge, or executive, for doing
that which thousands of the tenants have done, still do, and will
continue to do, with perfect impunity, unless some dire catastrophe
stimulates the public functionaries to their duties, by awakening
This is a miserable state of things, dearest grandmother; and what
makes it worse, is the cool indifference with which most persons regard
it. A better illustration of the utter selfishness of human nature
cannot be given, than in the manner in which the body of the people
look on, and see wrong thus done to a few of their number.
Such persons as Mr. Seneca Newcome would answer, that the public
sympathises with the poor, who are oppressed by the rich, because the
last do not wish to let the first rob them of their estates! We hear a
great deal of the strong robbing the weak, all over the world, but few
among ourselves, I am afraid, are sufficiently clear-sighted to see how
vivid an instance of the truth now exists among ourselves.
Calling the tenants the strong, and the landlords the weak?
Certainly; numbers make strength, in this country, in which all
power in practice, and most of it in theory, rests with the majority.
Were there as many landlords as there are tenants, my life on it, no
one would see the least injustice in the present state of things.
So says my uncle: but I hear the light steps of the girlswe must
be on our guard.
At that instant Martha entered, followed by all three of the girls,
holding in her hand a very beautiful Manilla chain that my uncle had
picked up in his travels, and had purchased as a present to my future
wife, whomsoever she might turn out to be, and which he had had the
indiscretion to show to his ward. A look of surprise was cast by each
girl in succession, as she entered the room, on me, but neither said,
and I fancy neither thought much of my being shut up there with an old
lady of eighty, after the first moment. Other thoughts were uppermost
at the moment.
Look at this, dearest grandmamma! cried Patt, holding up the chain
as she entered the room. Here is just the most exquisite chain that
was ever wrought, and of the purest gold; but the pedlar refuses to
part with it!
Perhaps you do not offer enough, my child; it is, indeed, very,
very beautiful; pray what does he say is its value?
One hundred dollars, he says; and I can readily believe it, for its
weight is near half the money. I do wish Hugh were at home; I am
certain he would contrive to get it, and make it a present to me!
Nein, nein, young lady, put in the pedlar, who, a little
unceremoniously, had followed the girls into the room, though he knew,
of course, precisely where he was coming; dat might not be. Dat chain
is der broperty of my son, t'ere, und I haf sworn it shalt only be
gifen to his wife.
Patt coloured a little, and she pouted a good deal; then she laughed
If it is only to be had on those conditions, I am afraid I shall
never own it, she said, saucily, though it was intended to be uttered
so low as not to reach my ears. I will pay the hundred dollars out of
my own pocket-money, however, if that will buy it. Do say a good word
for me, grandmamma!
How prettily the hussy uttered that word of endearment, so different
from the paw and maw one hears among the dirty-noses that are to be
found in the mud-puddles! But our grand-parent was puzzled, for she
knew with whom she had to deal, and of course saw that money would do
nothing. Nevertheless, the state of the game rendered it necessary to
say and do something that might have an appearance of complying with
Can I have more success in persuading you to change your mind,
sir? she said, looking at her son in a way that let him know at once,
or at least made him suspect at once, that she was in his secret. It
would give me great pleasure to be able to gratify my grand-daughter,
by making her a present of so beautiful a chain.
My uncle Ro advanced to his mother, took the hand she had extended
with the chain in it, in order the better to admire the trinket, and he
kissed it with a profound respect, but in such a manner as to make it
seem to the lookers-on an act of European usage, rather than what it
was, the tempered salute of a child to his parent.
Laty, he then said, with emphasis, if anyboty might make me
change a resolution long since made, it would be one as fenerable, und
gracious, und goot as I am sartain you most be. But I haf vowet to gif
dat chain to das wife of mine son, vhen he might marry, one day, some
bretty young American; und it might not be.
Dear grandmother smiled; but now she understood that it was really
intended the chain was to be an offering to my wife, she no longer
wished to change its destination. She examined the bauble a few
moments, and said to me
Do you wish this, as well as your unfather, I should say? It is a
rich present for a poor man to make.
Ja, ja, laty, it ist so; but vhen der heart goes, golt might be
t'ought sheap to go wid it.
The old lady was half ready to laugh in my face, at hearing this
attempt at Germanic English; but the kindness, and delight, and
benevolent tenderness of her still fine eyes, made me wish to throw
myself in her arms again, and kiss her. Patt continued to bouder
for a moment or two longer, but her excellent nature soon gave in, and
the smiles returned to her countenance, as the sun issues from behind a
cloud in May.
Well, the disappointment may and must be borne, she said,
good-naturedly; though it is much the most lovely chain I have ever
I dare say the right person will one day find one quite as lovely
to present to you! said Henrietta Coldbrook, a little pointedly.
I did not like this speech. It was an allusion that a well-bred
young woman ought not to have made, at least before others, even
pedlars; and it was one that a young woman of a proper tone of feeling
would not be apt to make. I determined from that instant the chain
should never belong to Miss Henrietta, though she was a fine, showy
girl, and though such a decision would disappoint my uncle sadly. I was
a little surprised to see a slight blush on Patt's cheek, and then I
remembered something of the name of the traveller, Beekman. Turning
towards Mary Warren, I saw plain enough that she was disappointed
because my sister was disappointed, and for no other reason in the
Your grandmother will meet with another chain, when she goes to
town, that will make you forget this, she whispered, affectionately,
close at my sister's ear.
Patt smiled, and kissed her friend with a warmth of manner that
satisfied me these two charming young creatures loved each other
sincerely. But my dear old grandmother's curiosity had been awakened,
and she felt a necessity for having it appeased. She still held the
chain, and as she returned it to me, who happened to be nearest to her,
And so, sir, your mind is sincerely made up to offer this chain to
your future wife?
Yes, laty; or what might be better, to das yoong frau, before we
might be marriet.
And is your choice made? glancing round at the girls, who were
grouped together, looking at some other trinkets of my uncle's. Have
you chosen the young woman who is to possess so handsome a chain?
Nein, nein, I answered, returning the smile, and glancing also at
the group; dere ist so many peautiful laties in America, one needn't
be in a hurry. In goot time I shalt find her dat ist intended for me.
Well, grandmamma, interrupted Patt, since nobody can have the
chain, unless on certain conditions, here are the three other things
that we have chosen for Ann, Henrietta, and myself, and they are a
ring, a pair of bracelets, and a pair of ear-rings. The cost,
altogether, will be two hundred dollars; can you approve of that?
My grandmother, now she knew who was the pedlar, understood the
whole matter, and had no scruples. The bargain was soon made, when she
sent us all out of the room, under the pretence we should disturb her
while settling with the watch-seller. Her real object, however, was to
be alone with her son, not a dollar passing between them, of course.
Our life was changed. Another love
In its lone woof began to twine;
But oh! the golden thread was wove
Between my sister's heart and mine.
Half an hour later, uncle Ro and myself were seated at table, eating
our dinners as quietly as if we were in an inn. The footman who had set
the table was an old family servant, one who had performed the same
sort of duty in that very house for a quarter of a century. Of course
he was not an American, no man of American birth ever remaining
so long a time in an inferior station, or in any station so low as that
of a house-servant. If he has good qualities enough to render it
desirable to keep him, he is almost certain to go up in the world; if
not, one does not care particularly about having him. But Europeans are
less elastic and less ambitious, and it is no uncommon thing to find
one of such an origin remaining a long time in the same service. Such
had been the fact with this man, who had followed my own parents from
Europe, when they returned from their marriage tour, and had been in
the house on the occasion of my birth. From that time he had continued
at the Nest, never marrying, nor ever manifesting the smallest wish for
any change. He was an Englishman by birth; and what is very unusual in
a servant of that country, when transferred to America, the
letting-up, which is certain to attend such a change from the
depression of the original condition to that in which he is so suddenly
placed, had not made him saucy. An American is seldom what is called
impudent, under any circumstances; he is careless, nay ignorant of
forms; pays little or no purely conventional respect; does not
understand half the social distinctions which exist among the higher
classes of even his own countrymen, and fancies there are equalities in
things about which, in truth, there is great inequality between himself
and others, merely because he has been taught that all men are equal in
rights; but he is so unconscious of any pressure as seldom to feel a
disposition to revenge himself by impudence.
But, while John was not impudent either, he had a footman's feeling
towards those whom he fancied no better than himself. He had set the
table with his customary neatness and method, and he served the soup
with as much regularity as he would have done had we sat there in our
proper characters, but then he withdrew. He probably remembered that
the landlord, or upper servant of an English hotel, is apt to make his
appearance with the soup, and to disappear as that disappears. So it
was with John; after removing the soup, he put a dumb-waiter near my
uncle, touched a carving-knife or two, as much as to say help
yourselves, and quitted the room. As a matter of course, our dinner
was not a very elaborate one, it wanting two or three hours to the
regular time of dining, though my grandmother had ordered, in my
hearing, one or two delicacies to be placed on the table, that had
surprised Patt. Among the extraordinary things for such guests was
wine. The singularity, however, was a little explained by the quality
commanded, which was Rhenish.
My uncle Ro was a little surprised at the disappearance of John;
for, seated in that room, he was so accustomed to his face, that it
appeared as if he were not half at home without him.
Let the fellow go, he said, withdrawing his hand from the
bell-cord, which he had already touched to order him back again; we
can talk more freely without him. Well, Hugh, here you are, under your
own roof, eating a charitable dinner, and treated as hospitably as if
you did not own all you can see for a circle of five miles around you.
It was a lucky idea of the old lady's, by the way, to think of ordering
this Rudesheimer, in our character of Dutchmen! How amazingly well she
is looking, boy!
Indeed she is; and I am delighted to see it. I do not know why my
grandmother may not live these twenty years; for even that would not
make her near as old as Sus, who, I have often heard her say, was a
middle-aged man when she was born.
True; she seems like an elder sister to me, rather than as a
mother, and is altogether a most delightful old woman. But, if we had
so charming an old woman to receive us, so are there also some very
charming young womenhey, Hugh?
I am quite of your way of thinking, sir; and must say I have not,
in many a day, seen two as charming creatures as I have met with here.
Two!umph; a body would think one might suffice.
Pray, which may be the two, Master Padishah?
Patt and Mary Warren, of course. The other two are well enough, but
these two are excellent.
My uncle Ro looked grum, but he said nothing for some time. Eating
is always an excuse for a broken conversation, and he ate away as if
resolute not to betray his disappointment. But it is a hard matter for
a gentleman to do nothing but eat at table, and so was obliged to talk.
Everything looks well here, after all, Hugh, observed my uncle.
These anti-renters may have done an infinite deal of harm in the way
of abusing principles, but they do not seem to have yet destroyed any
It is not their cue, sir. The crops are their own; and as they hope
to own the farms, it would be scarcely wise to injure what, no doubt,
they begin to look on as their own property, too. As for the Nest
House, grounds, farm, &c., I dare say they will be very willing to
leave me them for a while longer, provided they can get everything else
away from me.
For a time longer, at least; though that is the folly of those who
expect to get along by concessions; as if men were ever satisfied with
the yielding of a part, when they ask that which is wrong in itself,
without sooner or later expecting to get the whole. As well might one
expect the pickpocket who had abstracted a dollar, to put back
two-and-sixpence change. But things really look well, around the
So much the better for us. Though, to my judgment and taste, Miss
Mary Warren looks better than anything else I have yet seen in
Another umph expressed my uncle's dissatisfactiondispleasure
would be too strong a wordand he continued eating.
You have really some good Rhenish in your cellar, Hugh, resumed
uncle Ro, after tossing off one of the knowing green glasses
fullthough I never could understand why any man should wish to drink
his wine out of green, when he might do it out of crystal. It must
have been a purchase of mine, made when we were last in Germany, and
for the use of my mother.
As you please, sir; it neither adds nor subtracts from the beauty
of Martha and her friend.
Since you are disposed to make these boyish allusions, be frank
with me, and say, at once, how you like my wards.
Meaning, of course, sir, my own sister exclusively. I will be as
sincere as possible, and say that, as to Miss Marston, I have no
opinion at all; and as to Miss Coldbrook, she is what, in Europe, would
be called a 'fine' woman.
You can say nothing as to her mind, Hugh, for you have had no
opportunity for forming an opinion.
Not much of a one, I will own. Nevertheless, I should have liked
her better had she spared the allusion to the 'proper person' who is
one day to forge a chain for my sister, to begin with.
Poh, poh; that is the mere squeamishness of a boy. I do not think
her in the least pert or forward, and your construction would be
tant soit peu vulgar.
Put your own construction on it, mon oncle; I do not
I do not wonder young men remain unmarried; they are getting to be
so ultra in their tastes and notions.
A stranger might have retorted on an old bachelor, for such a
speech, by some allusion to his own example; but I well knew that my
uncle Ro had once been engaged, and that he lost the object of his
passion by death, and too much respected his constancy and true
sentiments ever to joke on such subjects. I believe he felt the
delicacy of my forbearance rather more than common, for he immediately
manifested a disposition to relent, and to prove it by changing the
We can never stay here to-night, he said. It would be at once to
proclaim our namesour name, I might saya name that was once so
honoured and beloved in this town, and which is now so hated!
No, no; not as bad as that. We have done nothing to merit hatred.
Raison de plus for hating us so much the more heartily. When
men are wronged, who have done nothing to deserve it, the evil-doer
seeks to justify his wickedness to himself by striving all he can to
calumniate the injured party; and the more difficulty he finds in doing
that to his mind, the more profound is his hatred. Rely on it, we are
most sincerely disliked here, on the spot where we were once both much
beloved. Such is human nature.
At that moment John returned to the room, to see how we were getting
on, and to count his forks and spoons, for I saw the fellow actually
doing it. My uncle, somewhat indiscreetly, I fancied, but by merely
following the chain of thought then uppermost in his mind, detained him
Dis broperty, he said, inquiringly, is de broperty of one Yeneral
Littlepage, I hears say?
Not of the General, who was Madam Littlepage's husband, and who has
long been dead, but of his grandson, Mr. Hugh.
Und vhere might he be, dis Mr. Hugh?might he be at hand, or might
No; he's in Europe; that is to say, in Hengland. John thought
England covered most of Europe, though he had long gotten over his wish
to return. Mr. Hugh and Mr. Roger be both habsent from the country,
Dat ist unfortunate, for dey dells me dere might be moch troobles
here abouts, and Injin-acting.
There is, indeed; and a wicked thing it is, that there should be
anything of the sort.
Und vhat might be der reason of so moch troobles?and vhere ist
Well, that is pretty plain, I fancy, returned John, who, in
consequence of being a favoured servant at head-quarters, fancied
himself a sort of cabinet minister, and had much pleasure in letting
his knowledge be seen. The tenants on this estate wants to be
landlords; and as they can't be so, so long as Mr. Hugh lives and won't
let 'em, why they just tries all sorts of schemes and plans to frighten
people out of their property. I never go down to the village but I has
a talk with some of them, and that in a way that might do them some
good, if anything can.
Und vhat dost you say?und vid whom dost you talk, as might do dem
Why, you see, I talks more with one 'Squire Newcome, as they calls
him, though he's no more of a real 'squire than you beonly a sort of
an attorney, like, such as they has in this country. You come from the
old countries, I believe?
Ja, jadat ist, yeswe comes from Charmany; so you can say vhat
They has queer 'squires in this part of the world, if truth must be
said. But that's neither here nor there, though I give this Mr. Seneca
Newcome as good as he sends. What is it you wants, I says to him?you
can't all be landlordssomebody must be tenants; and if you didn't
want to be tenants, how come you to be so? Land is plenty in this
country, and cheap too; and why didn't you buy your land at first,
instead of coming to rent of Mr. Hugh; and now when you have
rented, to be quarrelling about the very thing you did of your own
Dere you didst dell 'em a goot t'ing; and vhat might der 'Squire
say to dat?
Oh! he was quite dumb-founded, at first; then he said that in old
times, when people first rented these lands, they didn't know as
much as they do now, or they never would have done it.
Und you could answer dat; or vast it your durn to be dum-founded?
I pitched it into him, as they says; I did. Says I, how's this,
says Iyou are for ever boasting how much you Americans knowand how
the people knows everything that ought to be done, about politics and
religionand you proclaim far and near that your yeomen are the salt
of the earthand yet you don't know how to bargain for your leases! A
pretty sort of wisdom is this, says I! I had him there; for the people
round about here is only too sharp at a trade.
Did he own dat you vast right, and dat he vast wrong, dis Herr
Not he; he will never own anything that makes against his own
doctrine, unless he does it ignorantly. But I haven't told you half of
it. I told him, says I, how is it you talk of one of the Littlepage
family cheating you, when, as you knows yourselves, you had rather have
the word of one of that family than have each other's bonds, says I.
You know, sir, it must be a poor landlord that a tenant can't and won't
take his word: and this they all know to be true; for a gentleman as
has a fine estate is raised above temptation, like, and has a pride in
him to do what is honourable and fair; and, in my opinion, it is good
to have a few such people in a country, if it be only to keep the
wicked one from getting it altogether in his own keeping.
Und did you say dat moch to der 'Squire?
No; that I just says to you two, seeing that we are here, talking
together in a friendly way; but a man needn't be ashamed to say it
anywhere, for it's a religious truth. But I says to him, Newcome, says
I, you, who has been living so long on the property of the Littlepages,
ought to be ashamed to wish to strip them of it; but you're not
satisfied with keeping gentlemen down quite as much out of sight as you
can, by holding all the offices yourselves, and taking all the money of
the public you can lay your hands on for your own use, but you wants to
trample them under your feet, I says, and so take your revenge for
being what you be, says I.
Vell, my friend, said my uncle, you vast a bolt man to dell all
dis to der beoples of dis coontry, vhere, I have heard, a man may say
just vhat he hast a mind to say, so dat he dost not sbeak too moch
That's itthat's it; you have been a quick scholar, I find. I told
this Mr. Newcome, says I, you're bold enough in railing at kings and
nobles, for you very well know, says I, that they are three thousand
miles away from you, and can do you no harm; but you would no more dare
get up before your masters, the people, here, and say what you really
think about 'em, and what I have heard you say of them in private, than
you would dare put your head before a cannon, as the gunner touched it
off. Oh! I gave him a lesson, you may be sure!
Although there was a good deal of the English footman in John's
logic and feeling, there was also a good deal of truth in what he said.
The part where he accused Newcome of holding one set of opinions in
private, concerning his masters, and another in public, is true
to the life. There is not, at this moment, within the wide reach of the
American borders, one demagogue to be found who might not, with
justice, be accused of precisely the same deception. There is not one
demagogue in the whole country, who, if he lived in a monarchy, would
not be the humblest advocate of men in power, ready to kneel at the
feet of those who stood in the sovereign's presence. There is not, at
this instant, a man in power among us a senator or a legislator, who is
now the seeming advocate of what he wishes to call the rights of the
tenants, and who is for overlooking principles and destroying law and
right, in order to pacify the anti-renters by extraordinary
concessions, that would not be among the foremost, under a monarchial
system, to recommend and support the freest application of the sword
and the bayonet to suppress what would then be viewed, ay, and be
termed, the rapacious longings of the disaffected to enjoy the
property of others without paying for it. All this is certain; for it
depends on a law of morals that is infallible. Any one who wishes to
obtain a clear index to the true characters of the public men he is
required to support, or oppose, has now the opportunity; for each
stands before a mirror that reflects him in his just proportions, and
in which the dullest eye has only to cast a glance, in order to view
him from head to foot.
The entrance of my grandmother put a stop to John's discourse. He
was sent out of the room on a message, and then I learned the object of
this visit. My sister had been let into the secret of our true
characters, and was dying to embrace me. My dear grandmother, rightly
enough, had decided it would be to the last degree unkind to keep her
in ignorance of our presence; and, the fact known, nature had longings
which must be appeased. I had myself been tempted twenty times, that
morning, to snatch Patt to my heart and kiss her, as I used to do just
after my beard began to grow, and she was so much of a child as to
complain. The principal thing to be arranged, then, was to obtain an
interview for me without awakening suspicion in the observers. My
grandmother's plan was arranged, however, and she now communicated it
There was a neat little dressing-room annexed to Martha's bed-room;
in that the meeting was to take place.
She and Mary Warren are now there, waiting for your appearance,
Mary Warren!Does she, then, know who I am?
Not in the least; she has no other idea than that you are a young
German, of good connections and well educated, who has been driven from
his own country by political troubles, and who is reduced to turn his
musical taste and acquisitions to account, in the way you seem to do,
until he can find some better employment. All this she had told us
before we met you, and you are not to be vain, Hugh, if I add, that
your supposed misfortunes, and great skill with the flute, and good
behaviour, have made a friend of one of the best and most true-hearted
girls I ever had the good fortune to know. I say good behaviour,
for little, just now, can be ascribed to good looks.
I hope I am not in the least revolting in appearance, in this
disguise. For my sister's sake
The hearty laugh of my dear old grandmother brought me up, and I
said no more; colouring, I believe, a little, at my own folly. Even
uncle Ro joined in the mirth, though I could see he wished Mary Warren
even safely translated along with her father, and that the latter was
Archbishop of Canterbury. I must acknowledge that I felt a good deal
ashamed of the weakness I had betrayed.
You are very well, Hugh, darling, continued my grandmother;
though I must think you would be more interesting in your own hair,
which is curling, than in that lank wig. Still, one can see enough of
your face to recognise it, if one has the clue; and I told Martha, at
the first, that I was struck with a certain expression of the eyes and
smile that reminded me of her brother. But, there they are, Mary and
Martha, in the drawing-room, waiting for your appearance. The first is
so fond of music, and, indeed, is so practised in it, as to have been
delighted with your flute; and she has talked so much of your skill as
to justify us in seeming to wish for a further exhibition of your
skill. Henrietta and Ann, having less taste that way, have gone
together to select bouquets, in the green-house, and there is now an
excellent opportunity to gratify your sister. I am to draw Mary out of
the room, after a little while, when you and Martha may say a word to
each other in your proper characters. As for you, Roger, you are to
open your box again, and I will answer for it that will serve to
amuse your other wards, should they return too soon from their visit to
Everything being thus explained, and our dinner ended, all parties
proceeded to the execution of the plan, each in his or her designated
mode. When my grandmother and I reached the dressing-room, however,
Martha was not there, though Mary Warren was, her bright but serene
eyes full of happiness and expectation. Martha had retired to the inner
room for a moment, whither my grandmother, suspecting the truth,
followed her. As I afterwards ascertained, my sister, fearful of not
being able to suppress her tears on my entrance, had withdrawn, in
order to struggle for self-command without betraying our secret. I was
told to commence an air, without waiting for the absent young lady, as
the strain could easily be heard through the open door.
I might have played ten minutes before my sister and grandmother
came out again. Both had been in tears, though the intense manner in
which Mary Warren was occupied with the harmony of my flute, probably
prevented her from observing it. To me, however, it was plain enough;
and glad was I to find that my sister had succeeded in commanding her
feelings. In a minute or two my grandmother profited by a pause to rise
and carry away with her Mary Warren, though the last left the room with
a reluctance that was very manifest. The pretence was a promise to meet
the divine in the library, on some business connected with the
You can keep the young man for another air, Martha, observed my
grandmother, and I will send Jane to you, as I pass her room.
Jane was my sister's own maid, and her room was close at hand, and I
dare say dear grandmother gave her the order, in Mary Warren's
presence, as soon as she quitted the room, else might Mary Warren well
be surprised at the singularity of the whole procedure; but Jane did
not make her appearance, nevertheless. As for myself, I continued to
play as long as I thought any ear was near enough to hear me; then I
laid aside my flute. In the next instant Patt was in my arms, where she
lay some time weeping, but looking inexpressibly happy.
Oh! Hugh, what a disguise was this to visit your own house in! she
said, as soon as composed enough to speak.
Would it have done to come here otherwise? You know the state of
the country, and the precious fruits our boasted tree of liberty is
bringing forth. The owner of the land can only visit his property at
the risk of his life!
Martha pressed me in her arms in a way to show how conscious she was
of the danger I incurred in even thus visiting her; after which we
seated ourselves, side by side, on a little divan, and began to speak
of those things that were most natural to a brother and sister who so
much loved each other, and who had not met for five years. My
grandmother had managed so well as to prevent all interruption for an
hour, if we saw fit to remain together, while to others it should seem
as if Patt had dismissed me in a few minutes.
Not one of the other girls suspect, in the least, who you are,
said Martha, smiling, when we had got through with the questions and
answers so natural to our situation. I am surprised that Henrietta has
not, for she prides herself on her penetration. She is as much
in the dark as the others, however.
And Miss Mary Warrenthe young lady who has just left the
roomhas she not some small notion that I am not a common Dutch
Patt laughed, and that so merrily as to cause the tones of her sweet
voice to fill me with delight, as I remembered what she had been in
childhood and girlhood five years before, and she shook her bright
tresses off her cheeks ere she would answer.
No, Hugh, she replied, she fancies you an uncommon Dutch
music-grinder; an artiste that not only grinds, but who dresses
up his harmonies in such a way as to be palatable to the most refined
taste. How came Mary to think you and my uncle two reduced German
And does the dear girl believethat is, does Miss Mary Warren do
us so much honour, as to imagine that?
Indeed she does, for she told us as much as soon as she got home;
and Henrietta and Ann have made themselves very merry with their
speculations on the subject of Miss Warren's great incognito. They call
you Herzog von Geige.
Thank them for that. I am afraid I answered a little too
pointedly, for I saw that Patt seemed surprised. But your American
towns are just such half-way things as to spoil young women; making
them neither refined and polished as they might be in real capitals,
while they are not left the simplicity and nature of the country.
Well, Master Hugh, this is being very cross about a very little,
and not particularly complimentary to your own sister. And why not
your American towns, as well as ours?are you no longer one
Certainly; one of yours, always, my dearest Patt, though not
one of every chattering girl who may set up for a belle, with
her Dukes of Fiddle! But, enough of this;you like the Warrens?
Very much so; father and daughter. The first is just what a
clergyman should be; of a cultivation and intelligence to fit him to be
any man's companion, and a simplicity like that of a child. You
remember his predecessorso dissatisfied, so selfish, so lazy, so
censorious, so unjust to every person and thing around him, and yet so
exacting; and, at the same time, so
What? Thus far you have drawn his character well; I should like to
hear the remainder.
I have said more than I ought already; for one has an idea that, by
bringing a clergyman into disrepute, it brings religion and the church
into discredit, too. A priest must be a very bad man to have
injurious things said of him, in this country, Hugh.
That is, perhaps, true. But you like Mr. Warren better than him who
has left you?
A thousand times, and in all things. In addition to having a most
pious and sincere pastor, we have an agreeable and well-bred
neighbour, from whose mouth, in the five years that he has dwelt here,
I have not heard a syllable at the expense of a single fellow-creature.
You know how it is apt to be with the other clergy and ours, in the
countryfor ever at swords' points; and if not actually quarrelling,
keeping up a hollow peace.
That is only too trueor used to be true, before I went abroad.
And it is so now, elsewhere, I'll answer for it, though it be so no
longer here. Mr. Warren and Mr. Peck seem to live on perfectly amicable
terms, though as little alike at bottom as fire and water.
By the way, how do the clergy of the different sects, up and down
the country, behave on the subject of anti-rent?
I can answer only from what I hear, with the exception of Mr.
Warren's course. He has preached two or three plain and severe
sermons on the duty of honesty in our worldly transactions, one of
which was from the tenth commandment. Of course he said nothing of the
particular trouble, but everybody must have made the necessary
application of the home-truths he uttered. I question if another voice
has been raised, far and near, on the subject, although I have heard
Mr. Warren say the movement threatens more to demoralize New York than
anything that has happened in his time.
And the man down at the village?
Oh, he goes, of course, with the majority. When was one of that set
ever known to oppose his parish, in anything?
And Mary is as sound and as high-principled as her father?
Quite so; though there has been a good deal said about the
necessity of Mr. Warren's removing, and giving up St. Andrew's, since
he preached against covetousness. All the anti-renters say, I hear,
that they know he meant them; and that they won't put up with
I dare say; each one fancying he was almost called out by name:
that is the way, when conscience works.
I should be very, very sorry to part with Mary; and almost as much
so to part with her father. There is one thing, however, that Mr.
Warren himself thinks we had better have done, Hugh; and that is to
take down the canopy from over our pew. You can have no notion of the
noise that foolish canopy is making up and down the country.
I shall not take it down. It is my property, and there it
shall remain. As for the canopy, it was a wrong distinction to place in
a church, I am willing to allow; but it never gave offence until it has
been thought that a cry against it would help to rob me of my lands at
half price, or at no price at all, as it may happen.
All that may be true; but if improper for a church, why keep it?
Because I do not choose to be bullied out of what is my own, even
though I care nothing about it. There might have been a time when the
canopy was unsuited to the house of God, and that was when those who
saw it might fancy it canopied the head of a fellow-creature who had
higher claims than themselves to divine favour; but, in times like
these, when men estimate merit by beginning at the other end of the
social scale, there is little danger of any one's falling into the
mistake. The canopy shall stand, little as I care about it: now, I
would actually prefer it should come down, as I can fully see the
impropriety of making any distinctions in the temple; but it shall
stand until concessions cease to be dangerous. It is a right of
property, and as such I will maintain it. If others dislike it, let
them put canopies over their pews, too. The best test, in such a
matter, is to see who could bear it. A pretty figure Seneca Newcome
would cut, for instance, seated in a canopied pew! Even his own set
would laugh at him; which, I fancy, is more than they yet do at me.
Martha was disappointed; but she changed the subject. We next talked
of our own little private affairs, as they were connected with smaller
For whom is that beautiful chain intended, Hugh? asked Patt,
laughingly. I can now believe the pedlar when he says it is reserved
for your future wife. But who is that wife to be? Will her name be
Henrietta or Ann?
Why not ask, also, if it will be Mary?why exclude one of your
companions, while you include the other two?
Patt startedseemed surprised; her cheeks flushed, and then I saw
that pleasure was the feeling predominant.
Am I too late to secure that jewel, as a pendant to my chain? I
asked, half in jest, half seriously.
Too soon, at least, to attract it by the richness and beauty of the
bauble. A more natural and disinterested girl than Mary Warren does not
exist in the country.
Be frank with me, Martha, and say at once; has she a favoured
Why, this seems really serious! exclaimed my sister, laughing.
But, to put you out of your pain, I will answer, I know of but one.
One she has certainly, or female sagacity is at fault.
But is he one that is favoured? You can never know how much depends
on your answer.
Of that you can judge for yourself. It is 'Squire Seneky Newcome,
as he is called hereaboutsthe brother of the charming Opportunity,
who still reserves herself for you.
And they are as rank anti-renters as any male and female in the
They are rank Newcomites; and that means that each is for himself.
Would you believe it, but Opportunity really gives herself airs with
And how does Mary Warren take such an assumption?
As a young person shouldquietly and without manifesting any
feeling. But there is something quite intolerable in one like
Opportunity Newcome's assuming a superiority over any true lady! Mary
is as well educated and as well connected as any of us, and is quite as
much accustomed to good company; while Opportunity here Patt
laughed, and then added, hurriedly, but you know Opportunity as well
as I do.
Oh! yes; she is la vertue, or the virtue, and je
suis venue, pour.
The latter allusion Patt understood well enough, having laughed over
the story a dozen times; and she laughed again when I explained the
affair of the solitude.
Then came a fit of sisterly feeling. Patt insisted on taking off my
wig, and seeing my face in its natural dress. I consented to gratify
her, when the girl really behaved like a simpleton. First she pushed
about my curls until they were arranged to suit the silly creature,
when she ran back several steps, clapped her hands in delight, then
rushed into my arms and kissed my forehead and eyes, and called me her
brotherher only brotherher dear, dear Hugh, and by a
number of other such epithets, until she worked herself, and me too,
into such an excess of feeling that we sat down, side by side, and each
had a hearty fit of crying. Perhaps some such burst as this was
necessary to relieve our minds, and we submitted to it wisely.
My sister wept the longest, as a matter of course; but, as soon as
she had dried her eyes, she replaced the wig, and completely restored
my disguise, trembling the whole time lest some one might enter and
You have been very imprudent, Hugh, in coming here at all, she
said, while thus busy. You can form no notion of the miserable state
of the country, or how far the anti-rent poison has extended, or the
malignant nature of its feeling. The annoyances they have attempted
with dear grandmother are odious; you they would scarcely leave
The country and the people must have strangely altered, then, in
five years. Our New York population has hitherto had very little of the
assassin-like character. Tar and feathers are the blackguards', and
have been the petty tyrants' weapons, from time immemorial, in this
country; but not the knife.
And can anything sooner or more effectually alter a people than
longings for the property of others? Is not the 'love of money the root
of all evil?'and what right have we to suppose our Ravensnest
population is better than another, when that sordid feeling is
thoroughly aroused? You know you have written me yourself, that all the
American can or does live for is money.
I have written you, dear, that the country, in its present
condition, leaves no other incentive to exertion, and therein it is
cursed. Military fame, military rank, even, are unattainable, under our
system: the arts, letters and science, bring little or no reward; and
there being no political rank that a man of refinement would care for,
men must live for money, or live altogether for another state of being.
But I have told you, at the same time, Martha, that, notwithstanding
all this, I believe the American a less mercenary being, in the
ordinary sense of the word, than the European; that two men might be
bought, for instance, in any European country, for one here. This last
I suppose to be the result of the facility of making a living, and the
habits it produces.
Never mind causes; Mr. Warren says there is a desperate intention
to rob existing among these people, and that they are dangerous. As yet
they do a little respect women, but how long they will do that one
It may all be so. It must be so, respecting what I have
heard and read; yet this vale looks as smiling and as sweet, at this
very moment, as if an evil passion never sullied it! But, depend on my
prudence, which tells me that we ought now to part. I shall see you
again and again before I quit the estate, and you will, of course, join
us somewhereat the Springs, perhapsas soon as we find it necessary
or expedient to decamp.
Martha promised this, of course, and I kissed her, previously to
separating. No one crossed my way as I descended to the piazza, which
was easily done, since I was literally at home. I lounged about on the
lawn a few minutes, and then, showing myself in front of the library
windows, I was summoned to the room, as I had expected.
Uncle Ro had disposed of every article of the fine jewelry that he
had brought home as presents for his wards. The pay was a matter to be
arranged with Mrs. Littlepage, which meant no pay at all; and, as the
donor afterwards told me, he liked this mode of distributing the
various ornaments better than presenting them himself, as he was now
certain each girl had consulted her own fancy.
As the hour of the regular dinner was approaching, we took our leave
soon after, not without receiving kind and pressing invitations to
visit the Nest again ere we left the township. Of course we promised
all that was required, intending most faithfully to comply. On quitting
the house we returned towards the farm, though not without pausing on
the lawn to gaze around us on a scene so dear to both, from
recollection, association, and interest. But I forget, this is
aristocratical; the landlord has no right to sentiments of this nature,
which are feelings that the sublimated liberty of the law is beginning
to hold in reserve solely for the benefit of the tenant!
There shall be, in England, seven halfpenny loaves sold for a
penny: the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will
it felony to drink small beer: all the realm shall be in
in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass.
I do not see, sir, I remarked, as we moved on from the last of
these pauses, why the governors and legislators, and writers on this
subject of anti-rentism, talk so much of feudality, and chickens, and
days' works, and durable leases, when we have none of these, while we
have all the disaffection they are said to produce.
You will understand that better as you come to know more of men. No
party alludes to its weak points. It is just as you say; but the
proceedings of your tenants, for instance, give the lie to the theories
of the philanthropists, and must be kept in the back-ground. It is true
that the disaffection has not yet extended to one-half, or to
one-fourth of the leased estates in the country, perhaps not to
one-tenth, if you take the number of the landlords as the standard,
instead of the extent of their possessions, but it certainly will, should the authorities tamper with the rebels much longer.
If they tax the incomes of the landlords under the durable rent
system, why would not the parties aggrieved have the same right to take
up arms to resist such an act of oppression as our fathers had in
Their cause would be better; for that was only a constructive
right, and one dependent on general principles, whereas this is an
attempt at a most mean evasion of a written law, the meanness of the
attempt being quite as culpable as its fraud. Every human being knows
that such a tax, so far as it has any object beyond that of an
election-sop, is to choke off the landlords from the maintenance of
their covenants, which is a thing that no State can do directly,
without running the risk of having its law pronounced unconstitutional
by the courts of the United States, if, indeed, not by its own courts.
The Court of Errors, think you?
The Court of Errors is doomed, by its own abuses. Catiline never
abused the patience of Rome more than that mongrel assembly has abused
the patience of every sound lawyer in the State. 'Fiat justitia,
ruat coelum,' is interpreted, now, into 'Let justice be done, and
the court fall.' No one wishes to see it continued, and the approaching
convention will send it to the Capulets, if it do nothing else to be
commended. It was a pitiful imitation of the House of Lords system,
with this striking difference; the English lords are men of education,
and men with a vast deal at stake, and their knowledge and interests
teach them to leave the settlement of appeals to the legal men of their
body, of whom there are always a respectable number, in addition to
those in possession of the woolsack and the bench; whereas our Senate
is a court composed of small lawyers, country doctors, merchants,
farmers, with occasionally a man of really liberal attainments. Under
the direction of an acute and honest judge, as most of our true judges
actually are, the Court of Errors would hardly form such a jury as
would allow a creditable person to be tried by his peers, in a case
affecting character, for instance, and here we have it set up as a
court of the last resort, to settle points of law!
I see it has just made a decision in a libel suit, at which the
It has, indeed. Now look at that very decision, for instance, as
the measure of its knowledge. An editor of a newspaper holds up a
literary man to the world as one anxious to obtain a small sum of
money, in order to put it into Wall street, for 'shaving purposes.'
Now, the only material question raised was the true signification of
the word 'shaving.' If to say a man is a 'shaver,' in the sense in
which it is applied to the use of money, be bringing him into
discredit, then was the plaintiff's declaration sufficient; if not, it
was insufficient, being wanting in what is called an 'innuendo.' The
dictionaries, and men in general, understand by 'shaving,' 'extortion,'
and nothing else. To call a man a 'shaver' is to say he is an
'extortioner,' without going into details. But, in Wall street, and
among money-dealers, certain transactions that, in their eyes, and by
the courts, are not deemed discreditable, have of late been brought
within the category of 'shaving.' Thus it is technically, or by
convention among bankers, termed 'shaving' if a man buy a note at less
than its face, which is a legal transaction. On the strength of this
last circumstance, as is set forth in the published opinions,
the highest Court of Appeals in New York has decided that it does not
bring a man into discredit to say he is a 'shaver!'thus making a
conventional signification of the brokers of Wall street higher
authority for the use of the English tongue than the standard
lexicographers, and all the rest of those who use the language! On the
same principle, if a set of pickpockets at the Five Points should
choose to mystify their trade a little by including the term 'to filch'
the literal borrowing of a pocket-handkerchief, it would not be
a libel to accuse a citizen of 'filching his neighbor's handkerchief!'
But the libel was uttered to the world, and not to the
brokers of Wall Street only, who might possibly understand their own
Very true; and was uttered in a newspaper that carried the
falsehood to Europe; for the writer of the charge, when brought up for
it, publicly admitted that he had no ground for suspecting the literary
man of any such practices. He called it a 'joke.' Every
line of the context, however, showed it was a malicious charge. The
decision is very much as if a man who is sued for accusing another of
'stealing' should set up a defense that he meant 'stealing' hearts, for
the word is sometimes used in that sense. When men use epithets
that convey discredit in their general meaning, it is their business to
give them a special signification in their own contexts, if such be
their real intention. But I much question if there be a respectable
money-dealer, even in Wall street, who would not swear, if called on in
a court of justice so to do, that he thought the general charge
of 'shaving' discreditable to any man.
And you think the landlords whose rents were taxed, sir, would have
a moral right to resist?
Beyond all question; as it would be an income tax on them only, of
all in the country. What is more, I am fully persuaded that two
thousand men embodied to resist such tyranny would look down the whole
available authority of the State; inasmuch as I do not believe citizens
could be found to take up arms to enforce a law so flagrantly unjust.
Men will look on passively and see wrongs inflicted, that would never
come out to support them by their own acts. But we are approaching the
farm, and there is Tom Miller and his hired men waiting our arrival.
It is unnecessary to repeat, in detail, all that passed in this our
second visit to the farm-house. Miller received us in a friendly
manner, and offered us a bed, if we would pass the night with
him. This business of a bed had given us more difficulty than
anything else, in the course of our peregrinations. New York has long
got over the two-man and three-man bed system, as regards its best
inns. At no respectable New York inn is a gentleman now asked to share
even his room, without an apology and a special necessity, with
another, much less his bed; but the rule does not hold good as respects
pedlars and music-grinders. We had ascertained that we were not only
expected to share the same bed, but to occupy that bed in a room filled
with other beds. There are certain things that get to be second nature,
and that no masquerading will cause to go down; and, among others, one
gets to dislike sharing his room and his tooth-brush. This little
difficulty gave us more trouble that night, at Tom Miller's, than
anything we had yet encountered. At the taverns, bribes had answered
our purpose; but this would not do so well at a farm residence. At
length the matter was got along with by putting me in the garret, where
I was favoured with a straw bed under my own roof, the decent Mrs.
Miller making many apologies for not having a feather-smotherer, in
which to squash me. I did not tell the good woman that I never used
feathers, summer or winter; for, had I done so, she would have set me
down as a poor creature from oppressed Germany, where the folks did
not know how to live. Nor would she have been so much out of the way
quoad the beds, for in all my journeyings I never met with such
uncomfortable sleeping as one finds in Germany, off the Rhine and out
of the large towns.
While the negotiation was in progress I observed that Josh Brigham,
as the anti-rent disposed hireling of Miller's was called, kept a
watchful eye and an open ear on what was done and said. Of all men on
earth, the American of that class is the most distrustful, as he
calls it himself, and has his suspicions the soonest awakened. The
Indian on the war-paththe sentinel who is posted in a fog, near his
enemy, an hour before the dawn of daythe husband that is jealous, or
the priest that has become a partisan, is not a whit more apt to fancy,
conjecture, or assert, than the American of that class who has become
distrustful. This fellow, Brigham, was the very beau idéal of the
suspicious school, being envious and malignant, as well as shrewd,
observant, and covetous. The very fact that he was connected with the
Injins, as turned out to be the case, added to his natural
propensities the consciousness of guilt, and rendered him doubly
dangerous. The whole time my uncle and myself were crossing over and
figuring in, in order to procure for each a room, though it were only a
closet, his watchful, distrustful looks denoted how much he saw in our
movements to awaken curiosity, if not downright suspicion. When all was
over, he followed me to the little lawn in front of the house, whither
I had gone to look at the familiar scene by the light of the setting
sun, and began to betray the nature of his own suspicions by his
The old man (meaning my uncle Ro) must have plenty of gold
watches about him, he said, to be so plaguy partic'lar consarnin' his
bed. Pedlin' sich matters is a ticklish trade, I guess, in some parts?
Ja; it ist dangerous somevhere, but it might not be so in dis goot
Why did the old fellow, then, try so hard to get that little room
all to himself, and shove you off into the garret? We hired men don't
like the garret, which is a hot place in summer.
In Charmany one man hast ever one bed, I answered, anxious to get
rid of the subject.
I bounced a little, as one has one-half of a bed would be nearer
to the truth, though the other half might be in another room.
Oh! that's it, is't? Wa-a-l, every country has its ways, I s'pose.
Jarmany is a desp'ate aristocratic land, I take it.
Ja; dere ist moch of de old feudal law, and feudal coostum still
remaining in Charmany.
Landlords a plenty, I guess, if the truth was known. Leases as long
as my arm, I calkerlate?
Vell, dey do dink, in Charmany, dat de longer might be de lease, de
better it might be for de denant.
As that was purely a German sentiment, or at least not an American
sentiment, according to the notions broached by statesmen among
ourselves, I made it as Dutch as possible by garnishing it well with
That's a droll idee! Now, we think, here, that a lease is a bad
thing; and the less you have of a bad thing, the better.
Vell, dat ist queer; so queer ast I don't know! Vhat vill
dey do as might help it?
Oh! the Legislature will set it all right. They mean to pass a law
to prevent any more leases at all.
Und vill de beople stand dat? Dis ist a free coontry, effery body
dells me, and vilt der beoples agree not to hire lands if dey vants
Oh! you see we wish to choke the landlords off from their present
leases; and, by and bye, when that is done, the law can let up
But ist dat right? Der law should be joost, and not hold down and
let oop, as you calls it.
You don't understand us yet, I see. Why that's the prettiest and
the neatest legislation on airth! That's just what the bankrupt law
Vhat did der bankroopt law do, bray? Vhat might you mean now?I
Do! why it did wonders for some on us, I can tell you! It paid our
debts, and let us up when we was down; and that's no trifle, I can tell
you. I took 'the benefit,' as it is called, myself.
You!you might take der benefit of a bankroopt law! You, lifing
here ast a hiret man, on dis farm!
Sartain; why not? All a man wanted, under that law, was
about $60 to carry him through the mill; and if he could rake and
scrape that much together, he might wipe off as long a score as he
pleased. I had been dealin' in speckylation, and that's a make or break
business, I can tell you. Well, I got to be about $423.22 wuss than
nothin'; but, having about $90 in hand, I went through the mill without
getting cogged the smallest morsel! A man doos a good business, to my
notion, when he can make 20 cents pay a whull dollar of debt.
Und you did dat goot business?
You may say that; and now I means to make anti-rentism get me a
farm cheapwhat I call cheap; and that an't none of your $30 or
$40 an acre, I can tell you!
It was quite clear that Mr. Joshua Brigham regarded these
transactions as so many Pragmatic Sanctions, that were to clear the
moral and legal atmospheres of any atoms of difficulty that might exist
in the forms of old opinions, to his getting easily out of debt, in the
one case, and suddenly rich in the other. I dare say I looked
bewildered, but I certainly felt so, at thus finding myself face to
face with a low knave, who had a deliberate intention, as I now found,
to rob me of a farm. It is certain that Joshua so imagined, for,
inviting me to walk down the road with him a short distance, he
endeavoured to clear up any moral difficulties that might beset me, by
pursuing the subject.
You see, resumed Joshua, I will tell you how it is. These
Littlepages have had this land long enough, and it's time to give poor
folks a chance. The young spark that pretends to own all the farms you
see, far and near, never did any thing for 'em in his life; only
to be his father's son. Now, to my notion, a man should do suthin' for
his land, and not be obligated for it to mere natur'. This is a free
country, and what right has one man to land more than another?
Or do his shirt, or do his dobacco, or do his coat, or do anyding
Well, I don't go as far as that. A man has a right to his clothes,
and maybe to a horse or a cow, but he has no right to all the land in
creation. The law gives a right to a cow as ag'in' execution.
Und doesn't der law gif a right to der landt, too? You most not
depend on der law, if you might succeed.
We like to get as much law as we can on our side. Americans like
law: now, you'll read in all the booksour books, I mean, them
that's printed herethat the Americans be the most lawful people on
airth, and that they'll do more for the law than any other folks
Vell, dat isn't vhat dey says of der Americans in Europe; nein,
nein, dey might not say dat.
Why, don't you think it is so? Don't you think this the greatest
country on airth, and the most lawful?
Vell, I don'ts know. Das coontry ist das coontry, and it ist vhat
it ist, you might see.
Yes; I thought you would be of my way of thinking, when we got to
understand each other. Nothing is easier than to mislead an American
on the estimate foreigners place on them: in this respect they are the
most deluded people living, though, in other matters, certainly among
the shrewdest. That's the way with acquaintances, at first; they don't
always understand one another: and then you talk a little thick, like.
But now, friend, I'll come to the p'intbut first swear you'll not
Ja, jaI oonderstandst; I most schwear I won't bedray you: das ist
But, hold up your hand. Stop; of what religion be you?
Gristian, to be sure. I might not be a Chew. Nein, nein; I am a
ferry bat Gristian.
We are all bad enough, for that matter; but I lay no stress on
that. A little of the devil in a man helps him along, in this
business of ourn. But you must be suthin' more than a Christian, I
s'pose, as we don't call that bein' of any religion at all, in
this country. Of what supportin' religion be you?
Soobortin'; vell, I might not oonderstands dat. Vhat ist soobortin'
religion? Coomes dat vrom Melanchton and Luther?or coomes it vrom der
Pope? Vhat ist dat soobortin' religion?
Why, what religion do you patronize? Do you patronize the
standin' order, or the kneelin' order?or do you patronize neither?
Some folks thinks its best to lie down at prayer, as the least likely
to divert the thoughts.
I might not oonderstand. But nefer mindt der religion, and coome to
der p'int dat you mentioned.
Well, that p'int is this. You're a Jarman, and can't like
aristocrats, and so I'll trust you; though, if you do betray me, you'll
never play on another bit of music in this country, or any other! If
you want to be an Injin, as good an opportunity will offer to-morrow as
ever fell in a man's way!
An Injin! Vhat goot vill it do to be an Injin? I dought it might be
better to be a vhite man, in America?
Oh! I mean only an anti-rent Injin. We've got matters so nicely
fixed now, that a chap can be an Injin without any paint at all, or any
washin' or scrubbin', but can convart himself into himself ag'in, at
any time, in two minutes. The wages is good and the work light; then we
have rare chances in the stores, and round about among the farms. The
law is that an Injin must have what he wants, and no grumblin', and we
take care to want enough. If you'll be at the meetin', I'll tell you
how you'll know me.
Ja, jadat ist goot; I vill be at der meetin', sartainly. Vhere
might it be?
Down at the village. The word came up this a'ternoon, and we shall
all be on the ground by ten o'clock.
Vilt der be a fight, dat you meet so bunctually, and wid so moch
Fight! Lord, no; who is there to fight, I should like to know? We
are pretty much all ag'in the Littlepages, and there's none of them on
the ground but two or three women. I'll tell you how it's all settled.
The meetin' is called on the deliberative and liberty-supportin' plan.
I s'pose you know we've all sorts of meetin's in this country?
Nein; I dought dere might be meetin's for bolitics, vhen der beople
might coome, but I don't know vhat else.
Is't possible! What, have you no 'indignation meetin's' in Jarmany?
We count a great deal on our indignation meetin's, and both sides
have'em in abundance, when things get to be warm. Our meetin' to-morrow
is for deliberation and liberty-principles generally. We may pass some
indignation resolutions about aristocrats, for nobody can bear them
critturs in this part of the country, I can tell you.
Lest this manuscript should get into the hands of some of those who
do not understand the real condition of New York society, it may be
well to explain that aristocrat means, in the parlance of the
country, no other than a man of gentleman-like tastes, habits, opinions
and associations. There are gradations among the aristocracy of the
State, as well as among other men. Thus he who is an aristocrat in a
hamlet, would be very democratic in a village; and he of the village
might be no aristocrat in the town, at all; though, in the towns
generally, indeed always, when their population has the least of a town
character, the distinction ceases altogether, men quietly dropping into
the traces of civilized society, and talking or thinking very little
about it. To see the crying evils of American aristocracy, then, one
must go into the country. There, indeed, a plenty of cases exist. Thus,
if there happen to be a man whose property is assessed at twenty-five
per cent. above that of all his neighbourswho must have right on his
side bright as a cloudless sun to get a verdict, if obliged to appeal
to the lawswho pays fifty per cent. more for everything he buys, and
receives fifty per cent. less for everything he sells, than any other
person near himwho is surrounded by rancorous enemies, in the midst
of a seeming state of peacewho has everything he says and does
perverted, and added to, and lied aboutwho is traduced because his
dinner-hour is later than that of other folkswho don't stoop, but
is straight in the backwho presumes to doubt that this country in
general, and his own township in particular, is the focus of
civilizationwho hesitates about signing his name to any flagrant
instance of ignorance, bad taste, or worse morals, that his neighbours
may get up in the shape of a petition, remonstrance, or
resolutiondepend on it that man is a prodigious aristocrat, and one
who, for his many offences and manner of lording it over mankind,
deserves to be banished. I ask the reader's pardon for so abruptly
breaking in upon Joshua's speech, but such very different notions exist
about aristocrats, in different parts of the world, that some such
explanation was necessary in order to prevent mistakes. I have
forgotten one mark of the tribe that is, perhaps, more material than
all the rest, which must not be omitted, and is this:If he happen to
be a man who prefers his own pursuits to public life, and is regardless
of popularity, he is just guilty of the unpardonable sin. The
people will forgive anything sooner than this; though there are
folks who fancy it as infallible a sign of an aristocrat not to chew
tobacco. But, unless I return to Joshua, the reader will complain that
I cause him to stand still.
No, no, continued Mr. Brigham; anything but an aristocrat for me.
I hate the very name of the sarpents, and wish there warn't one in the
land. To-morrow we are to have a great anti-rent lecturer out
A lecturer; one that lectur's, you understand, on anti-rentism,
temperance, aristocracy, government, or any other grievance that may
happen to be uppermost. Have you no lecturers in Jarmany?
Ja, ja; dere ist lecturers in das universitiesblenty of dem.
Well, we have 'em universal and partic'lar, as we happen to want
'em. To-morrow we're to have one, they tell me, the smartest man that
has appeared in the cause. He goes it strong, and the Injins mean to
back him up, with all sorts of shrieks and whoopin's. Your hurdy-gurdy,
there, makes no sort of music to what our tribe can make when we fairly
open our throats.
Vell, dis ist queer! I vast told dat der Americans vast all
philosophers, und dat all dey didt vast didt in a t'oughtful and sober
manner; und now you dells me dey screams deir arguments like Injins!
That we do! I wish you'd been here in the hard-cider and log-cabin
times, and you'd a seen reason and philosophy, as you call it! I was a
whig that summer, though I went democrat last season. There's about
five hundred on us in this county that make the most of things, I can
tell you. What's the use of a vote, if a body gets nothin' by it? But
to-morrow you'll see the business done up, and matters detarmined for
this part of the world, in fine style. We know what we're about, and we
mean to carry things through quite to the end.
Und vhat do you means to do?
Well, seein' that you seem to be of the right sort, and be so
likely to put on the Injin shirt, I'll tell you all about it. We mean
to get good and old farms at favourable rates. That's what we mean to
do. The people's up and in 'arnest, and what the people want they'll
have! This time they want farms, and farms they must have. What's the
use of havin' a government of the people, if the people's obliged to
want farms? We've begun ag'in' the Renssalaers, and the durables, and
the quarter-sales, and the chickens; but we don't, by no manner of
means, think of eending there. What should we get by that? A man wants
to get suthin' when he puts his foot into a matter of this natur'. We
know who's our fri'nds and who's our inimies! Could we have some men I
could name for governors, all would go clear enough the first winter.
We would tax the landlords out, and law 'em about in one way and
another, so as to make 'em right down glad to sell the last rod of
their lands, and that cheap, too!
Und who might own dese farms, all oop and down der coontry, dat I
As the law now stands, Littlepage owns 'em; but if we alter the law
enough, he wun't. If we can only work the Legislature up to the
stickin' p'int, we shall get all we want. Would you believe it, the man
wun't sell a single farm, they say; but wishes to keep every one on 'em
for himself! Is that to be borne in a free country? They'd hardly stand
that in Jarmany, I'm thinkin'. A man that is such an aristocrat us to
refuse to sell anything, I despise.
Veil, dey stand to der laws in Charmany, and broperty is respected
in most coontries. You vouldn't do away wid der rights of broperty, if
you mights, I hopes?
Not I. If a man owns a watch, or a horse, or a cow, I'm for having
the law such that a poor man can keep 'em, even ag'in execution. We're
getting the laws pretty straight on them p'ints, in old York, I can
tell you; a poor man, let him be ever so much in debt, can hold on to a
mighty smart lot of things, now-a-days, and laugh at the law right in
its face! I've known chaps that owed as much as $200, hold on to as
good as $300; though most of their debts was for the very things they
held on to!
What a picture is this, yet is it not true? A state of society in
which a man can contract a debt for a cow, or his household goods, and
laugh at his creditor when he seeks his pay, on the one hand; and on
the other, legislators and executives lending themselves to the
chicanery of another set, that are striving to deprive a particular
class of its rights of property, directly in the face of written
contracts! This is straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel, with
a vengeance; and all for votes! Does any one really expect a community
can long exist, favoured by a wise and justice-dispensing Providence,
in which such things are coolly attempteday, and coolly done? It is
time that the American began to see things as they are, and not as they
are said to be, in the speeches of governors, fourth of July
orations, and electioneering addresses. I write warmly, I know, but I
feel warmly; and I write like a man who sees that a most flagitious
attempt to rob him is tampered with by some in power, instead of being
met, as the boasted morals and intelligence of the country would
require, by the stern opposition of all in authority. Cursesdeep,
deep cursesere long, will fall on all who shrink from their duty in
such a crisis. Even the very men who succeed, if succeed they should,
will, in the end, curse the instruments of their own success.
A first-rate lecturer on feudal tenors, (Joshua was not in the
least particular in his language, but, in the substance, he knew what
he was talking about as well as some who are in high places,) chickens
and days' works. We expect a great deal from this man, who is paid well
Und who might bay him?der State?
Nowe haven't got to that yet; though some think the State
will have to do it, in the long run. At present the tenants are
taxed so much on the dollar, accordin' to rent, or so much an acre, and
that way the needful money is raised. But one of our lecturers told us,
a time back, that it was money put out at use, and every man ought to
keep an account of what he give, for the time was not far off when he
would get it back, with double interest. 'It is paid now for a reform,'
he said, 'and when the reform is obtained, no doubt the State would
feel itself so much indebted to us all, that it would tax the late
landlords until we got all our money back again, and more too.
Dat vould pe a bretty speculation; ja, dat might be most bootiful!
Why, yes; it wouldn't be a bad operation, living on the inimy, as a
body might say. But you'll not catch our folks livin' on themselves, I
can tell you. That they might do without societies. No, we've an
object; and when folks has an object, they commonly look sharp a'ter
it. We don't let on all we want and mean openly: and you'll find folks
among us that'll deny stoutly that anti-renters has anything to do with
the Injin system; but folks an't obliged to believe the moon is all
cheese, unless they've a mind to. Some among us maintain that no man
ought to hold more than a thousand acres of land, while others think
natur' has laid down the law on that p'int, and that a man shouldn't
hold more than he has need on.
Und vich side dost you favour?vich of dese obinions might not be
I'm not partic'lar, so I get a good farm. I should like one with
comfortable buildin's on 't, and one that hasn't been worked to death.
For them two principles I think I'd stand out; but, whether there be
four hundred acres, or four hundred and fifty, or even five hundred,
I'm no way onaccomadatin'. I expect there'll be trouble in the eend,
when we come to the division, but I'm not the man to make it. I s'pose
I shall get my turn at the town offices, and other chances, and, givin'
me my rights in them, I'll take up with almost any farm young
Littlepage has, though I should rather have one in the main valley
here, than one more out of the way; still, I don't set myself down as
at all partic'lar.
Und vhat do you expect to bay Mr. Littlepage for der farm, ast you
That depends on sarcumstances. The Injins mainly expect to come in
cheap. Some folks think it's best to pay suthin', as it might stand
ag'in' law better, should it come to that; while other some see no
great use in paying anything. Them that's willing to pay, mainly hold
out for paying the principal of the first rents.
I doesn't oonderstandt vhat you means py der brincipal of der first
It's plain enough, when you get the lay on 't. You see, these lands
were let pretty low, when they were first taken up from the forest, in
order to get folks to live here. That's the way we're obliged to do in
America, or people won't come. Many tenants paid no rent at all for
six, eight, or ten years; and a'ter that, until their three lives run
out, as it is called, they paid only sixpence an acre, or six dollars
and a quarter on the hundred acres. That was done, you see, to buy men
to come here at all; and you can see by the price that was paid, how
hard a time they must have had on 't. Now, some of our folks hold that
the whull time ought to be countedthat which was rent free, and that
which was notin a way that I'll explain to you; for I'd have you to
know I haven't entered into this business without looking to the right
and the wrong on't.
Exblain, exblain; I might hear you exblain, and you most exblain.
Why, you're in a hurry, friend Griezenbach, or whatever your name
be. But I'll explain, if you wish it. S'pose, now, a lease run thirty
yearsten on nothin', and twenty on sixpences. Well, a hundred
sixpences make fifty shillings, and twenty times fifty make a thousand,
as all the rent paid in thirty years. If you divide a thousand by
thirty, it leaves thirty-three shillings and a fractionJoshua
calculated like an American of his class, accurately and with
rapidityfor the average rent of the thirty years. Calling
thirty-three shillings four dollars, and it's plaguy little more, we
have that for the interest, which, at 7 per cent., will make a
principal of rather more than fifty dollars, though not as much as
sixty. As sich matters ought to be done on liberal principles, they say
that Littlepage ought to take fifty dollars, and give a deed for the
Und vhat might be der rent of a hoondred acres now?he might get
more dan sixpence to-day?
That he does. Most all of the farms are running out on second, and
some on third leases. Four shillings an acre is about the average of
the rents, accordin' to circumstances.
Den you dinks der landtlort ought to accept one year's rent for der
I don't look on it in that light. He ought to take fifty dollars
for a hundred acres. You forget the tenants have paid for their farms,
over and over again, in rent. They feel as if they have paid
enough, and that it was time to stop.
Extraordinary as this reasoning may seem in most men's minds, I have
since found it is a very favourite sentiment among anti-renters. Are
we to go on, and pay rent for ever? they ask, with logical and
Und vhat may be der aferage value of a hoondred acre farm, in dis
part of de coontry? I inquired.
From two thousand five hundred to three thousand dollars. It would
be more, but tenants won't put good buildings on farms, you know,
seein' that they don't own them. I heard one of our leaders lamentin'
that he didn't foresee what times was comin' to, when he repaired his
old house, or he would have built a new one. But a man can't foretell
everything. I dare say many has the same feelin's, now.
Den you dinks Herr Littlebage ought to accept $50 for vhat is worth
$2500? Das seem ferry little.
You forget the back rent that has been paid, and the work the
tenant has done. What would the farm be good for without the work that
has been done on it?
Ja, jaI oonderstandst; and vhat vould der work be goot for vidout
der landt on vhich it vast done?
This was rather an incautious question to put to a man as
distrustful and rogueish as Joshua Brigham. The fellow cast a lowering
and distrustful look at me; but ere there was time to answer, Miller,
of whom he stood in healthful awe, called him away to look after the
Here, then, I had enjoyed an opportunity of hearing the opinions of
one of my own hirelings on the interesting subject of my right to my
own estate. I have since ascertained that, while these sentiments are
sedulously kept out of view in the proceedings of the government, which
deals with the whole matter as if the tenants were nothing but martyrs
to hard bargains, and the landlords their task-masters, of greater or
less lenity, they are extensively circulated in the infected
districts, and are held to be very sound doctrines by a large number
of the bone and sinew of the land. Of course the reasoning is varied
a little, to suit circumstances, and to make it meet the facts. But of
this school is a great deal, and a very great deal, of the reasoning
that circulates on the leased property; and, from what I have seen and
heard already, I make no doubt that there are quasi legislators
among us who, instead of holding the manly and only safe doctrine which
ought to be held on such a subject, and saying that these deluded men
should be taught better, are ready to cite the very fact that such
notions do exist as a reason for the necessity of making concessions,
in order to keep the peace at the cheapest rate. That profound
principle of legislation, which concedes the right in order to maintain
quiet, is admirably adapted to forming sinners; and, if carried out in
favour of all who may happen to covet their neighbour's goods, would,
in a short time, render this community the very paradise of knaves.
As for Joshua Brigham, I saw no more of him that night; for he
quitted the farm on leave, just as it got to be dark. Where he went I
do not know; but the errand on which he left us could no longer be a
secret to me. As the family retired early, and we ourselves were a good
deal fatigued, everybody was in bed by nine o'clock, and, judging from
myself, soon asleep. Previously to saying good night, however, Miller
told us of the meeting of the next day, and of his intention to attend
He knows the game; how true he keeps the wind!
King Henry VI.
After an early breakfast, next morning, the signs of preparation for
a start became very apparent in the family. Not only Miller, but his
wife and daughter, intended to go down to Little Neest, as the hamlet
was almost invariably called in that fragment of the universe, in
contradistinction to the Neest proper. I found afterwards that this
very circumstance was cited against me in the controversy, it being
thought lèse majesté for a private residence to monopolize the
major of the proposition, while a hamlet had to put up with the minor;
the latter, moreover, including two taverns, which are exclusively the
property of the public, there being exclusiveness with the public as
well as with aristocratsmore especially in all things that pertain to
power or profit. As to the two last, even Joshua Brigham was much more
of an aristocrat than I was myself. It must be admitted that the
Americans are a humane population, for they are the only people who
deem that bankruptcy gives a claim to public favour.
As respects the two Nests, had not so much more serious matter
been in agitation, the precedence of the names might actually have been
taken up as a question of moment. I have heard of a lawsuit in France,
touching a name that has been illustrious in that country for a period
so long as to extend beyond the reach of manas, indeed, was apparent
by the matter in controversyand which name has obtained for itself a
high place in the annals of even our own republic. I allude to the
House of Grasse, which was seated, prior to the revolution, and may be
still, at a place called Grasse, in the southern part of the kingdom,
the town being almost as famous for the manufacture of pleasant things
as the family for its exploits in arms. About a century since, the
Marquis de Grasse is said to have had a procés with his
neighbours of the place, to establish the fact whether the family gave
its name to the town, or the town gave its name to the family. The
Marquis prevailed in the struggle, but greatly impaired his fortune in
achieving that new victory. As my house, or its predecessor, was
certainly erected and named while the site of Little Nest was still in
the virgin forest, one would think its claims to the priority of
possession beyond dispute; but such might not prove to be the case on a
trial. There are two histories among us, as relates to both public and
private things; the one being as nearly true as is usual, while the
other is invariably the fruits of the human imagination. Everything
depending so much on majorities, that soon gets to be the most
authentic tradition which has the most believers; for, under the system
of numbers, little regard is paid to superior advantages, knowledge, or
investigation, all depending on 3 as against 2, which makes 1 majority.
I find a great deal of this spurious history is getting to be mixed up
with the anti-rent controversy, facts coming out daily that long have
lain dormant in the graves of the past. These facts affect the whole
structure of the historical picture of the State and colony, leaving
touches of black where the pencil had originally put in white, and
placing the high lights where the shadows have before always been
understood to be. In a word, men are telling the stories as best agrees
with their present views, and not at all as they agree with fact.
It was the intention of Tom Miller to give my uncle Ro and me a
dearborn to ourselves, while he drove his wife, Kitty and a help, as far as the Little Neest, in a two-horse vehicle that was better
adapted to such a freight. Thus disposed of, then, we all left the
place in company, just as the clock in the farm-house entry struck
nine. I drove our horse myself; and mine he was, in fact, every
hoof, vehicle and farming utensil on the Nest farm, being as much my
property, under the old laws, as the hat on my head. It is true,
the Millers had now been fifty years or more, nay, nearly sixty, in
possession, and by the new mode of construction it is possible
some may fancy that we had paid them wages so long for working the
land, and for using the cattle and utensils, that the title, in a moral
sense, had passed out of me, in order to pass into Tom Miller. If use
begets a right, why not to a wagon and horse, as well as to a farm.
As we left the place I gazed wistfully towards the Nest House, in
the hope of seeing the form of some one that I loved, at a window, on
the lawn, or in the piazza. Not a soul appeared, however, and we
trotted down the road a short distance in the rear of the other wagon,
conversing on such things as came uppermost in our minds. The distance
we had to go was about four miles, and the hour named for the
commencement of the lecture, which was to be the great affair of the
day, had been named at eleven. This caused us to be in no hurry, and I
rather preferred to coincide with the animal I drove, and move very
slowly, than hurry on, and arrive an hour or two sooner than was
required. In consequence of this feeling on our part, Miller and his
family were soon out of sight, it being their wish to obtain as much of
the marvels of the day as was possible.
The road, of course, was perfectly well known to my uncle and
myself; but, had it not been, there was no danger of missing our way,
as we had only to follow the general direction of the broad valley
through which it ran. Then Miller had considerately told us that we
must pass two churches, or a church and a meetin'-'us', the spires of
both of which were visible most of the way, answering for beacons.
Referring to this term of meeting-house, does it not furnish
conclusive evidence, of itself, of the inconsistent folly of that
wisest of all earthly beings, man? It was adopted in contradistinction
from, and in direct opposition to, the supposed idolatrous association
connected with the use of the word church, at a time when certain
sects would feel offended at hearing their places of worship thus
styled; whereas, at the present day, those very sectarians are a little
disposed to resent this exclusive appropriation of the proscribed word
by the sects who have always adhered to it as offensively presuming,
and, in a slight degree, arisdogradic! I am a little afraid that your
out-and-outers in politics, religion, love of liberty, and other human
excellences, are somewhat apt to make these circuits in their eccentric
orbits, and to come out somewhere quite near the places from which they
The road between the Nest House and Little Nest, the hamlet, is
rural, and quite as agreeable as is usually found in a part of the
country that is without water-views or mountain scenery. Our New York
landscapes are rarely, nay, never grand, as compared with the noble
views one finds in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and the finer parts of
Europe; but we have a vast many that want nothing but a finish to their
artificial accessories to render them singularly agreeable. Such is the
case with the principal vale of Ravensnest, which, at the very moment
we were driving through it, struck my uncle and myself as presenting a
picture of rural abundance, mingled with rural comfort, that one seldom
sees in the old world, where the absence of enclosures, and the
concentration of the dwellings in villages, leave the fields naked and
with a desolate appearance, in spite of their high tillage and crops.
This is an estate worth contending for, now, said my uncle, as we
trotted slowly on, although it has not hitherto been very productive
to its owner. The first half century of an American property of this
sort rarely brings much to its proprietor beyond trouble and vexation.
And after that time the tenant is to have it, pretty much at his
own price, as a reward for his own labour!
What evidences are to be found, wherever the eye rests, of the
selfishness of man, and his unfitness to be left to the unlimited
control of his own affairs! In England they are quarrelling with the
landlords, who do compose a real aristocracy, and make the laws,
about the manner in which they protect themselves and the products of
their estates; while here the true owner of the soil is struggling
against the power of numbers, with the people, who are the only
aristocrats we possess, in order to maintain his right of property in
the simplest and most naked form! A common vice is at the bottom of
both wrongs, and that is the vice of selfishness.
But how are abuses like those of which we complain hereabuses of
the most formidable character of any that can exist, since the
oppressors are so many, and so totally irresponsible by their
numbersto be avoided, if you give the people the right of
God help the nation where self-government, in its literal sense,
exists, Hugh! The term is conventional, and, properly viewed, means a
government in which the source of authority is the body of the nation,
and does not come from any other sovereign. When a people that has been
properly educated by experience calmly selects its agents, and coolly
sets to work to adopt a set of principles to form its fundamental law
or constitution, the machine is on the right track, and will work well
enough so long as it is kept there; but this running off, and altering
the fundamental principles every time a political faction has need of
recruits, is introducing tyranny in its worst forma tyranny that is
just as dangerous to real liberty as hypocrisy is to religion!
We were now approaching St. Andrew's church and the rectory, with
its glebe, the latter lying contiguous to the church-yard, or, as it is
an Americanism to say, the graveyard. There had been an evident
improvement around the rectory since I had last seen it. Shrubbery had
been planted, care was taken of the fences, the garden was neatly and
well worked, the fields looked smooth, and everything denoted that it
was new lords and new laws. The last incumbent had been a whining,
complaining, narrow-minded, selfish and lazy priest, the least
estimable of all human characters, short of the commission of the
actual and higher crimes; but his successor had the reputation of being
a devout and real Christianone who took delight in the duties of his
holy office, and who served God because he loved him. I am fully aware
how laborious is the life of a country priest, and how contracted and
mean is the pittance he in common receives, and how much more he merits
than he gets, if his reward were to be graduated by things here. But
this picture, like every other, has its different sides, and
occasionally men do certainly enter the church from motives as little
as possible connected with those that ought to influence them.
There is the wagon of Mr. Warren, at his door, observed my uncle,
as we passed the rectory. Can it be that he intends visiting the
village also, on an occasion like this?
Nothing more probable, sir, if the character Patt has given of him
be true, I answered. She tells me he has been active in endeavouring
to put down the covetous spirit that is getting uppermost in the town,
and has even preached boldly, though generally, against the principles
involved in the question. The other man, they say, goes for popularity,
and preaches and prays with the anti-renters.
No more was said, but on we went, soon entering a large bit of wood,
a part of the virgin forest. This wood, exceeding a thousand acres in
extent, stretched down from the hills along some broken and otherwise
little valuable land, and had been reserved from the axe to meet the
wants of some future day. It was mine, therefore, in the fullest sense
of the word; and, singular as it may seem, one of the grounds of
accusation brought against me and my predecessors was that we had
declined leasing it! Thus, on the one hand, we were abused for
having leased our land, and, on the other, for not having leased it.
The fact is, we, in common with other extensive landlords, are expected
to use our property as much as possible for the particular benefit of
other people, while those other people are expected to use their
property as much as possible for their own particular benefit.
There was near a mile of forest to pass before we came out again in
the open country, at about a mile and a half's distance from the
hamlet. On our left this little forest did not extend more than a
hundred rods, terminating at the edge of the rivuletor creek,
as the stream is erroneously called, and for no visible reason but the
fact that it was only a hundred feet widewhich swept close under the
broken ground mentioned at this point. On our right, however, the
forest stretched away for more than a mile, until, indeed, it became
lost and confounded with other portions of wood that had been reserved
for the farms on which they grew. As is very usual in America, in cases
where roads pass through a forest, a second growth had shot up on each
side of this highway, which was fringed for the whole distance with
large bushes of pine, hemlock, chestnut and maple. In some places these
bushes almost touched the track, while in others a large space was
given. We were winding our way through this wood, and had nearly
reached its centre, at a point where no house was visibleand no
house, indeed, stood within half a mile of uswith the view in front
and in rear limited to some six or eight rods in each direction by the
young trees, when our ears were startled by a low, shrill,
banditti-like whistle. I must confess that my feelings were anything
but comfortable at that interruption, for I remembered the conversation
of the previous night. I thought by the sudden jump of my uncle, and
the manner he instinctively felt where he ought to have had a pistol,
to meet such a crisis, that he believed himself already in the hands of
A half minute sufficed to tell us the truth. I had hardly stopped
the horse, in order to look around me, when a line of men, all armed
and disguised, issued in single file from the bushes, and drew up in
the road, at right angles to its course. There were six of these
Injins, as they are called, and, indeed, call themselves, each
carrying a rifle, horn and pouch, and otherwise equipped for the field.
The disguises were very simple, consisting of a sort of loose calico
hunting-shirt and trowsers that completely concealed the person. The
head was covered by a species of hood, or mask, equally of calico, that
was fitted with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth, and which completed
the disguise. There were no means of recognizing a man thus equipped,
unless it might be by the stature, in cases in which the party was
either unusually tall or unusually short. A middle-sized man was
perfectly safe from recognition, so long as he did not speak and could
keep his equipments. Those who did speak altered their voices, as we
soon found, using a jargon that was intended to imitate the imperfect
English of the native owners of the soil. Although neither of us had
ever seen one of the gang before, we knew these disturbers of the
public peace to be what in truth they were, the instant our eyes fell
on them. One could not well be mistaken, indeed, under the
circumstances in which we were placed; but the tomahawks that one or
two carried, the manner of their march, and other pieces of mummery
that they exhibited, would have told us the fact, had we met them even
in another place.
My first impulse was to turn the wagon, and to endeavour to lash the
lazy beast I drove into a run. Fortunately, before the attempt was
made, I turned my head to see if there was room for such an exploit,
and saw six others of these Injins drawn across the road behind us.
It was now so obviously the wisest course to put the best face on the
matter, that we walked the horse boldly up to the party in front, until
he was stopped by one of the gang taking him by the bridle.
Sago, sago, cried one who seemed to act as a chief, and whom I
shall thus designate, speaking in his natural voice, though affecting
an Indian pronunciation. How do, how do?where come from, eh?where
go, eh?What you say, tooup rent or down rent, eh?
Ve ist two Charmans, returned uncle Ro, in his most desperate
dialect, the absurdity of men who spoke the same language resorting to
such similar means of deception tempting me sorely to laugh in the
fellows' faces; Ve ist two Charmans dat ist goin' to hear a man's
sbeak about bayin' rent, und to sell vatches. Might you buy a vatch,
Although the fellows doubtless knew who we were, so far as our
assumed characters went, and had probably been advised of our approach,
this bait took, and there was a general jumping up and down, and a
common pow-wowing among them, indicative of the pleasure such a
proposal gave. In a minute the whole party were around us, with some
eight or ten more who appeared from the nearest bushes. We were helped
out of the wagon with a gentle violence that denoted their impatience.
As a matter of course, I expected that all the trinkets and watches,
which were of little value, fortunately, would immediately disappear;
for who could doubt that men engaged in attempting to rob on so large a
scale as these fellows were engaged in, would hesitate about doing a
job on one a little more diminutive. I was mistaken, however; some sort
of imperceptible discipline keeping those who were thus disposed, of
whom there must have been some in such a party, in temporary order. The
horse was left standing in the middle of the highway, right glad to
take his rest, while we were shown the trunk of a fallen tree, near by,
on which to place our box of wares. A dozen watches were presently in
the hands of as many of these seeming savages, who manifested a good
deal of admiration at their shining appearance. While this scene, which
was half mummery and half nature, was in the course of enactment, the
chief beckoned me to a seat on the further end of the tree, and,
attended by one or two of his companions, he began to question me as
Mind tell truth, he said, making no very expert actor in the way
of imitation. Dis 'Streak o' Lightning,' laying his hand on his own
breast, that I might not misconceive the person of the warrior who bore
so eminent a title; no good lie to himknow ebbery t'ing afore he
ask, only ask for funwhat do here, eh?
Ve coomes to see der Injins and der beoples at der village, dat ve
might sell our vatches.
Dat all; sartain?can call 'down rent,' eh?
Dat ist ferry easy; 'down rent, eh?'
Sartain Jarman, eh?you no spy?you no sent here by gubbernor,
eh?landlord no pay you, eh?
Vhat might I spy? Dere ist nothin' do spy, but mans vid calico
faces. Vhy been you afraid of der governor?I dinks der governors be
ferry goot frients of der anti-rents.
Not when we act this way. Send horse, send foot a'ter us, den.
T'ink good friend, too, when he dare.
He be dd! bawled out one of the tribe, in as good, homely,
rustic English as ever came out of the mouth of a clown. If he's our
friend, why did he send the artillery and horse down to Hudson?and
why has he had Big Thunder up afore his infarnal courts? He be dd!
There was no mistaking this outpouring of the feelings; and so
Streak o' Lightning seemed to think too, for he whispered one of the
tribe, who took the plain-speaking Injin by the arm and led him away,
grumbling and growling, as the thunder mutters in the horizon after the
storm has passed on. For myself, I made several profitable reflections
concerning the inevitable fate of those who attempt to serve God and
Mammon. This anti-rentism is a question in which, so far as a governor
is concerned, there is but one course to pursue, and that is to enforce
the laws by suppressing violence, and leaving the parties to the
covenants of leases to settle their differences in the courts, like the
parties to any other contracts. It is a poor rule that will not work
both ways. Many a landlord has made a hard bargain for himself; and I
happen to know of one case in particular, in which a family has long
been, and is still, kept out of the enjoyment of a very valuable
estate, as to any benefit of importance, purely by the circumstance
that a weak-minded possessor of the property fancied he was securing
souls for paradise by letting his farms on leases for ninety-nine
years, at nominal rents, with a covenant that the tenant should go
twice to a particular church! Now, nothing is plainer than that it is a
greater hardship to the citizen who is the owner of many farms so
situated, than to the citizen who is the lessee of only one with a hard
covenant; and, on general principles, the landlord in question would be
most entitled to relief, since one man who suffers a good deal is more
an object of true commiseration than many who suffer each a little.
What would a governor be apt to say if my landlord should go with his
complaints to the foot of the executive chair, and tell him that the
very covenant which had led his predecessor into the mistake of thus
wasting his means was openly disregarded; that farms worth many
thousands of dollars had now been enjoyed by the tenants for near a
century for mere nominal rents, and that the owner of the land in fee
had occasion for his property, &c. &c. Would the governor recommend
legislative action in that case? Would the length of such
leases induce him to recommend that no lease should exceed five years
in duration? Would the landlords who should get up a corps of Injins to
worry their tenants into an abandonment of their farms be the objects
of commiseration?and would the law slumber for years over their
rebellions and depredations, until two or three murders aroused public
indignation? Let them answer that know. As a landlord, I should be
sorry to incur the ridicule that would attend even a public complaint
of the hardships of such a case. A common sneer would send me to the
courts for my remedy, if I had one, and the whole difference between
the if and ifs of the two cases would be that a landlord gives but
one vote, while his tenants may be legion.
He be dd, muttered the plain-speaking Injin, as long as I
could hear him. As soon as released from his presence, Streak of
Lightning continued his examination, though a little vexed at the
undramatical character of the interruption.
Sartain no spy, eh?sartain gubbernor no send him, eh?sartain
come to sell watch, eh?
I coomes, as I tell ye, to see if vatches might be solt, und not
for der gubbernor; I neffer might see der mans.
As all this was true, my conscience felt pretty easy on the score of
whatever there might be equivocal about it.
What folks think of Injin down below, eh?what folks say of
anti-rent, eh?hear him talk about much?
Vell, soome does dink anti-rent ist goot, und soome does dink
anti-rent ist bad. Dey dinks as dey wishes.
Here a low whistle came down the road, or rather down the bushes,
when every Injin started up; each man very fairly gave back the watch
he was examining, and in less than half a minute we were alone on the
log. This movement was so sudden that it left us in a little doubt as
to the proper mode of proceeding. My uncle, however, coolly set about
replacing his treasures in their box, while I went to the horse, which
had shaken off his head-stall, and was quietly grazing along the
road-side. A minute or two might have been thus occupied, when the
trotting of a horse and the sound of wheels announced the near approach
of one of those vehicles which have got to be almost national; a
dearborn, or a one-horse wagon. As it came out from behind a screen of
bushes formed by a curvature in the road, I saw that it contained the
Rev. Mr. Warren and his sweet daughter.
The road being narrow, and our vehicle in its centre, it was not
possible for the newcomers to proceed until we got out of the way, and
the divine pulled up as soon as he reached the spot where we stood.
Good morning, gentlemen, said Mr. Warren, cordially, and
using a word that, in his mouth, I felt meant all it expressed.
Good morning, gentlemen. Are you playing Handel to the
wood-nymphs, or reciting eclogues?
Neider, neider, Herr Pastor; we meet wid coostomers here, und dey
has joost left us, answered uncle Ro, who certainly enacted his part
with perfect àplomb, and the most admirable mimicry as to
manner. Guten tag, guten tag. Might der Herr Pastor been going
to der village?
We are. I understand there is to be a meeting there of the
misguided men called anti-renters, and that several of my parishioners
are likely to be present. On such an occasion I conceive it to be my
duty to go among my own particular people, and whisper a word of
advice. Nothing can be farther from my notions of propriety than for a
clergyman to be mingling and mixing himself up with political concerns
in general, but this is a matter that touches morality, and the
minister of God is neglectful of his duty who keeps aloof when a word
of admonition might aid in preventing some wavering brother from the
commission of a grievous sin. This last consideration has brought me
out to a scene I could otherwise most heartily avoid.
This might be well enough, I said to myself, but what has your
daughter to do in such a scene? Is the mind of Mary Warren, then, after
all, no better than vulgar minds in general?and can she find a
pleasure in the excitement of lectures of this cast, and in that of
public meetings? No surer test can be found of cultivation, than the
manner in which it almost intuitively shrinks from communion
unnecessarily with tastes and principles below its own level; yet here
was the girl with whom I was already half in loveand that was saying
as little as could be said, tooactually going down to the Little
Neest to hear an itinerant lecturer on political economy utter his
crudities, and to see and be seen! I was grievously disappointed, and
would at the moment have cheerfully yielded the best farm on my estate
to have had the thing otherwise. My uncle must have had some similar
notion, by the remark he made.
Und doost das jung frau go to see der Injins, too; to
bersuade 'em dey ist fery vicked?
Mary's face had been a little pale for her, I thought, as the wagon
drew up; but it immediately became scarlet. She even suffered her head
to droop a little, and then I perceived that she cast an anxious and
tender glance at her father. I cannot say whether this look were or
were not intended for a silent appeal, unconsciously made; but the
father, without even seeing it, acted as if he fancied it might be.
No, no, he said, hurriedly; this dear girl is doing violence to
all her feelings but one, in venturing to such a place. Her filial
piety has proved stronger than her fears and her tastes, and when she
found that go I would, no argument of mine could persuade her to remain
at home. I hope she will not repent it.
The colour did not quit Mary's face, but she looked grateful at
finding her true motives appreciated; and she even smiled, though she
said nothing. My own feelings underwent another sudden revulsion. There
was no want of those tastes and inclinations that can alone render a
young woman attractive to any man of sentiment, but there was high
moral feeling and natural affection enough to overcome them in a case
in which she thought duty demanded the sacrifice! It was very little
probable that anything would or could occur that day to render the
presence of Mary Warren in the least necessary or useful; but it was
very pleasant to me and very lovely in her to think otherwise, under
the strong impulses of her filial attachment.
Another idea, however, and one far less pleasant, suggested itself
to the minds of my uncle and myself, and almost at the same instant; it
was this: the conversation was carried on in a high key, or loud enough
to be heard at some little distance, the horse and part of the wagon
interposing between the speakers; and there was the physical certainty
that some of those whom we knew to be close at hand, in the bushes,
must hear all that was said, and might take serious offence at it.
Under this apprehension, therefore, my uncle directed me to remove our
own vehicle as fast as possible, in order that the clergyman might
pass. Mr. Warren, however, was in no hurry to do this, for he was
utterly ignorant of the audience he had, and entertained that feeling
towards us that men of liberal acquirements are apt to feel when they
see others of similar educations reduced by fortune below their proper
level. He was consequently desirous of manifesting his sympathy with
us, and would not proceed, even after I had opened the way for him.
It is a painful thing, continued Mr. Warren, to find men
mistaking their own cupidity for the workings of a love of liberty. To
me nothing is more palpable than that this anti-rent movement is
covetousness incited by the father of evil; yet you will find men among
us who fancy they are aiding the cause of free institutions by joining
in it, when, in truth, they are doing all they can to bring them into
discredit, and to insure their certain downfall, in the end.
This was sufficiently awkward; for, by going near enough to give a
warning in a low voice, and have that warning followed by a change in
the discourse, we should be betraying ourselves, and might fall into
serious danger. At the very moment the clergyman was thus speaking I
saw the masked head of Streak o' Lightning appearing through an opening
in some small pines that grew a little in the rear of the wagon, a
position that enabled him to hear every syllable that was uttered. I
was afraid to act myself, and trusted to the greater experience of my
uncle. Whether the last also saw the pretended chief was more than I
knew, but he decided to let the conversation go on, rather leaning to
the anti-rent side of the question, as the course that could do no
serious evil, while it might secure our own safety. It is scarcely
necessary to say all these considerations glanced through our minds so
swiftly as to cause no very awkward or suspicious pause in the
B'rhaps dey doosn't like to bay rent? put in my uncle, with a
roughness of manner that was in accordance with the roughness of the
sentiment. Beoples might radder haf deir landts for nuttin', dan bay
rents for dem.
In that case, then, let them go and buy lands for themselves; if
they do not wish to pay rent, why did they agree to pay rent?
May be dey changes deir minds. Vhat is goot to-day doosn't always
seem goot to-morrow.
That may be true; but we have no right to make others suffer for
our own fickleness. I dare say, now, that it might be better for the
whole community that so large a tract of land as that included in the
Manor of Rensselaerwyck, for instance, and lying as it does in the very
heart of the State, should be altogether in the hands of the occupants,
than have it subject to the divided interest that actually exists; but
it does not follow that a change is to be made by violence, or by
fraudulent means. In either of the latter cases the injury done the
community would be greater than if the present tenures were to exist a
thousand years. I dare say much the larger portion of those farms can
be bought off at a moderate advance on their actual money-value; and
that is the way to get rid of the difficulty; not by bullying owners
out of their property. If the State finds a political consideration of
so much importance for getting rid of the tenures, let the State tax
itself to do so, and make a liberal offer, in addition to what the
tenants will offer, and I'll answer for it the landlords will not stand
so much in their own way as to decline good prices.
But, maybes dey won't sell all der landts; dey may wants to keep
some of dem.
They have a right to say yes or no, while we have no right to
juggle or legislate them out of their property. The Legislature of this
State has quite lately been exhibiting one of the most pitiable sights
the world has seen in my day. It has been struggling for months to find
a way to get round the positive provisions of laws and constitutions,
in order to make a sacrifice of the rights of a few, to secure the
votes of the many.
Votes ist a goot ding, at election dimehaw, haw, haw! exclaimed
Mr. Warren looked both surprised and offended. The coarseness of
manner that my uncle had assumed effected its object with the Injins,
but it almost destroyed the divine's previous good opinion of our
characters, and quite upset his notions of our refinement and
principles. There was no time for explanations, however; for, just as
my uncle's broad and well-acted haw, haw, haw was ended, a shrill
whistle was heard in the bushes, and some forty or fifty of the Injins
came whooping and leaping out from their cover, filling the road in all
directions, immediately around the wagons.
Mary Warren uttered a little scream at this startling scene, and I
saw her arm clinging to that of her father, by a sort of involuntary
movement, as if she would protect him at all hazards. Then she seemed
to rally, and from that instant her character assumed an energy, an
earnestness, a spirit and an intrepidity that I had least expected in
one so mild in aspect, and so really sweet in disposition.
All this was unnoticed by the Injins. They had their impulses, too,
and the first thing they did was to assist Mr. Warren and his daughter
to alight from their wagon. This was done, not without decorum of
manner, and certainly not without some regard to the holy office of one
of the parties, and to the sex of the other. Nevertheless, it was done
neatly and expeditiously, leaving us all, Mr. Warren and Mary, my uncle
and myself, with a cluster of some fifty Injins around us, standing in
the centre of the highway.
No toil in despair,
No tyrant, no slave,
No bread-tax is there,
With a maw like the grave.
All this was so suddenly done as scarce to leave us time to think.
There was one instant, notwithstanding, while two Injins were assisting
Mary Warren to jump from the wagon, when my incognito was in great
danger. Perceiving that the young lady was treated with no particular
disrespect, I so far overcame the feeling as to remain quiet, though I
silently changed my position sufficiently to get near her elbow, where
I could and did whisper a word or two of encouragement. But Mary
thought only of her father, and had no fears for herself. She saw none
but him, trembled only for him, dreaded and hoped for him alone.
As for Mr. Warren himself, he betrayed no discomposure. Had he been
about to enter the desk, his manner could not have been more calm. He
gazed around him, to ascertain if it were possible to recognise any of
his captors, but suddenly turned his head away, as if struck with the
expediency of not learning their names, even though it had been
possible. He might be put on the stand as a witness against some
misguided neighbour, did he know his person. All this was so apparent
in his benevolent countenance, that I think it struck some among the
Injins, and still believe it may have had a little influence on their
treatment of him. A pot of tar and a bag of feathers had been brought
into the road when the gang poured out of the bushes, but whether this
were merely accidental, or it had originally been intended to use them
on Mr. Warren, I cannot say. The offensive materials soon and silently
disappeared, and with them every sign of any intention to offer
What have I done that I am thus arrested in the public highway, by
men armed and disguised, contrary to law? demanded the divine, as soon
as the general pause which succeeded the first movement invited him to
speak. This is a rash and illegal step, that may yet bring
No preachee now, answered Streak o' Lightning; preachee for
meetin', no good for road.
Mr. Warren afterwards admitted to me that he was much relieved by
this reply, the substitution of the word meeting for church giving
him the grateful assurance that this individual, at least, was
not one of his own people.
Admonition and remonstrance may always be useful when crime is
meditated. You are now committing a felony, for which the State's
prison is the punishment prescribed by the laws of the land, and the
duties of my holy office direct me to warn you of the consequences. The
earth itself is but one of God's temples, and his ministers need never
hesitate to proclaim his laws on any part of it.
It was evident that the calm severity of the divine, aided, no
doubt, by his known character, produced an impression on the gang, for
the two who had still hold of his arms released them, and a little
circle was now formed, in the centre of which he stood.
If you will enlarge this circle, my friends, continued Mr. Warren,
and give room, I will address you here, where we stand, and let you
know my reasons why I think your conduct ought to be
No, nono preachee here, suddenly interrupted Streak o'
Lightning; go to village, go to meetin'-'us'preachee there.Two
preacher, den.Bring wagon and put him in. March, march; path open.
Although this was but an Injin imitation of Indian
sententiousness, and somewhat of a caricature, everybody understood
well enough what was meant. Mr. Warren offered no resistance, but
suffered himself to be placed in Miller's wagon, with my uncle at his
side, without opposition. Then it was, however, that he bethought
himself of his daughter, though his daughter had never ceased to think
of him. I had some little difficulty in keeping her from rushing into
the crowd, and clinging to his side. Mr. Warren rose, and, giving her
an encouraging smile, bade her be calm, told her he had nothing to
fear, and requested that she would enter his own wagon again and return
home, promising to rejoin her as soon as his duties at the village were
Here is no one to drive the horse, my child, but our young German
acquaintance. The distance is very short, and if he will thus oblige
me, he can come down to the village with the wagon, as soon as he has
seen you safe at our own door.
Mary Warren was accustomed to defer to her father's opinions, and
she so far submitted, now, as to permit me to assist her into the
wagon, and to place myself at her side, whip in hand, proud of and
pleased with the precious charge thus committed to my care. These
arrangements made, the Injins commenced their march, about half of them
preceding, and the remainder following the wagon that contained their
prisoner. Four, however, walked on each side of the vehicle, thus
preventing the possibility of escape. No noise was made, and little was
said; the orders being given by signs and signals, rather than by
Our wagon continued stationary until the party had got at least a
hundred yards from us, no one giving any heed to our movements. I had
waited thus long for the double purpose of noting the manner of the
proceedings among the Injins, and to obtain room to turn at a spot in
the road a short distance in advance of us, and which was wider than
common. To this spot I now walked the horse, and was in the act of
turning the animal's head in the required direction, when I saw Mary
Warren's little gloved hand laid hurriedly on the reins. She
endeavoured to keep the head of the horse in the road.
No, no, said the charming girl, speaking earnestly, as if she
would not be denied, we will follow my father to the village. I may
not, must not, cannot quit him!
The time and place were every way propitious, and I determined to
let Mary Warren know who I was. By doing it I might give her confidence
in me at a moment when she was in distress, and encourage her with the
hope that I might also befriend her father. At any rate, I was
determined to pass for an itinerant Dutch music-grinder with her
Miss Mary, Miss Warren, I commenced, cautiously, and with quite as
much hesitation and diffidence of feeling as of manner, I am not what
I seemthat is, I am no music-grinder.
The start, the look, and the alarm of my companion, were all
eloquent and natural. Her hand was still on the reins, and she now drew
on them so hard as actually to stop the horse. I thought she intended
to jump out of the vehicle, as a place no longer fit for her.
Be not alarmed, Miss Warren, I said, eagerly, and, I trust, so
earnestly as to inspire a little confidence. You will not think the
worse of me at finding I am your countryman instead of a foreigner, and
a gentleman instead of a music-grinder. I shall do all you ask, and
will protect you with my life.
This is so extraordinary!so unusual!The whole country appears
unsettled! Pray, sir, if you are not the person whom you have
represented yourself to be, who are you?
One who admires your filial love and couragewho honours you for
them both. I am the brother of your friend, MarthaI am Hugh
The little hand now abandoned the reins, and the dear girl turned
half round on the cushion of the seat, gazing at me in mute
astonishment! I had been cursing in my heart the lank locks of the
miserable wig I was compelled to wear, ever since I had met with Mary
Warren, as unnecessarily deforming and ugly, for one might have as well
a becoming as a horridly unbecoming disguise. Off went my cap,
therefore, and off went the wig after it, leaving my own shaggy curls
for the sole setting of my face.
Mary made a slight exclamation as she gazed at me, and the deadly
paleness of her countenance was succeeded by a slight blush. A smile,
too, parted her lips, and I fancied she was less alarmed.
Am I forgiven, Miss Warren? I asked; and will you recognise me
for the brother of your friend?
Does Marthadoes Mrs. Littlepage know of this? the charming girl
at length asked.
Both; I have had the happiness of being embraced by both my
grandmother and my sister. You were taken out of the room, yesterday,
by the first, that I might be left alone with the last, for that very
I see it all, now; yes, I thought it singular then, though I felt
there could be no impropriety in any of Mrs. Littlepages' acts. Dearest
Martha! how well she played her part, and how admirably she has kept
It is very necessary. You see the condition of the country, and
will understand that it would be imprudent in me to appear openly, even
on my own estate. I have a written covenant authorizing me to visit
every farm near us, to look after my own interests; yet, it may be
questioned if it would be safe to visit one among them all, now that
the spirits of misrule and covetousness are up and doing.
Replace your disguise at once, Mr. Littlepage, said Mary, eagerly;
dodo not delay an instant.
I did as desired, Mary watching the process with interested, and, at
the same time, amused eyes. I thought she looked as sorry as I felt
myself when that lank, villanous wig was again performing its office.
Am I as well arranged as when we first met, Miss Warren? Do I
appear again the music-grinder?
I see no difference, returned the dear girl, laughing. How musical
and cheering to me were the sounds of her voice in that little burst of
sweet, feminine merriment. Indeed, indeed, I do not think even Martha
could know you now, for the person you the moment before seemed.
My disguise is, then, perfect. I was in hopes it left a little that
my friends might recognise, while it effectually concealed me from my
It doesoh! it does. Now I know who you are, I find no difficulty
in tracing in your features the resemblance to your portrait in the
family gallery, at the Nest. The eyes, too, cannot be altered without
artificial brows, and those you have not.
This was consoling; but all that time Mr. Warren and the party in
front had been forgotten. Perhaps it was excusable in two young persons
thus situated, and who had now known each other a week, to think more
of what was just then passing in the wagon, than to recollect the tribe
that was marching down the road, and the errand they were on. I felt
the necessity, however, of next consulting my companion as to our
future movements. Mary heard me in evident anxiety, and her purpose
seemed unsettled, for she changed colour under each new impulse of her
If it were not for one thing, she answered, after a thoughtful
pause, I should insist on following my father.
And what may be the reason of this change of purpose?
Would it be altogether safe for you, Mr. Littlepage, to
venture again among those misguided men?
Never think of me, Miss Warren. You see I have been among them
already undetected, and it is my intention to join them again, even
should I first have to take you home. Decide for yourself.
I will, then, follow my father. My presence may be the means of
saving him from some indignity.
I was rejoiced at this decision, on two accounts; of which one might
have been creditable enough to me, while the other, I am sorry to say,
was rather selfish. I delighted in the dear girl's devotion to her
parent, and I was glad to have her company as long as possible that
morning. Without entering into a very close analysis of motives,
however, I drove down the road, keeping the horse on a very slow gait,
being in no particular hurry to quit my present fair companion.
Mary and I had now a free, and, in some tense, a confidential
dialogue. Her manner towards me had entirely changed; for, while it
maintained the modesty and retenue of her sex and station, it
displayed much of that frankness which was the natural consequence of
her great intimacy at the Nest, and; as I have since ascertained, of
her own ingenuous nature. The circumstance, too, that she now felt she
was with one of her own class, who had opinions, habits, tastes and
thoughts like her own, removed a mountain of restraint, and made her
communications natural and easy. I was near an hour, I do believe, in
driving the two miles that lay between the point where the Injins had
been met and the village, and in that hour Mary Warren and I became
better acquainted than would have been the case, under ordinary
circumstances, in a year.
In the first place, I explained the reasons and manner of my early
and unexpected return home, and the motives by which I had been
governed in thus coming in disguise on my own property. Then I said a
little of my future intentions, and of my disposition to hold out to
the last against every attempt on my rights, whether they might come
from the open violence and unprincipled designs of those below, or the
equally unprincipled schemes of those above. A spurious liberty and
political cant were things that I despised, as every intelligent and
independent man must; and I did not intend to be persuaded I was an
aristocrat, merely because I had the habits of a gentleman, at the very
moment when I had less political influence than the hired labourers in
my own service.
Mary Warren manifested a spirit and an intelligence that surprised
me. She expressed her own belief that the proscribed classes of the
country had only to be true to themselves to be restored to their just
rights, and that on the very principle by which they were so fast
losing them. The opinions she thus expressed are worthy of being
Everything that is done in that way, said this gentle, but
admirable creature, has hitherto been done on a principle that is
quite as false and vicious as that by which they are now oppressed. We
have had a great deal written and said, lately, about uniting people of
property, but it has been so evidently with an intention to make money
rule, and that in its most vulgar and vicious manner, that persons of
right feelings would not unite in such an effort; but it does seem to
me, Mr. Littlepage, that if the gentlemen of New York could form
themselves into an association in defence of their rights, and for
nothing else, and let it be known that they would not be robbed with
impunity, they are numerous enough and powerful enough to put down this
anti-rent project by the mere force of numbers. Thousands would join
them for the sake of principles, and the country might be left to the
enjoyment of the fruits of liberty, without getting any of the fruits
of its cant.
This is a capital idea, and might easily be carried out. It requires
nothing but a little self-denial, with the conviction of the necessity
of doing something, if the downward tendency is to be ever checked
short of civil war, and a revolution that is to let in despotism in its
more direct form; despotism, in the indirect, is fast appearing among
us, as it is.
I have heard of a proposition for the Legislature to appoint
special commissioners, who are to settle all the difficulties between
the landlords and tenants, I remarked, a scheme in the result of
which some people profess to have a faith. I regard it as only one of
the many projects that have been devised to evade the laws and
institutions of the country, as they now exist.
Mary Warren seemed thoughtful for a moment; then her eye and face
brightened, as if she were struck with some thought suddenly; after
which the colour deepened on her cheek, and she turned to me as if half
doubting, and yet half desirous of giving utterance to the idea that
You wish to say something, Miss Warren?
I dare say it will be very sillyand I hope you won't think it
pedantic in a girl, but really it does look so to mewhat difference
would there be between such a commission and the Star-Chamber judges of
the Stuarts, Mr. Littlepage?
Not much in general principles, certainly, as both would be the
instruments of tyrants; but a very important one in a great essential.
The Star-Chamber courts were legal, whereas this commission would be
flagrantly illegal; the adoption of a special tribunal to effect
certain purposes that could exist only in the very teeth of the
constitution, both in its spirit and its letter. Yet this project comes
from men who prate about the 'spirit of the institutions,' which they
clearly understand to be their own spirit, let that be what it may.
Providence, I trust, will not smile on such desperate efforts to do
wrong! said Mary Warren, solemnly.
One hardly dare look into the inscrutable ways of a Power that has
its motives so high beyond our reach. Providence permits much evil to
be done, and is very apt to be, as Frederic of Prussia expressed it, on
the side of strong battalions, so far as human vision can penetrate. Of
one thing, however, I feel certain, and that is that they who are now
the most eager to overturn everything to effect present purposes, will
be made to repent of it bitterly, either in their own persons, or in
those of their descendants.
That is what is meant, my father says, by visiting 'the sins of the
fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generations.' But
there is the party, with their prisoners, just entering the village.
Who is your companion, Mr. Littlepage?One hired to act as an
It is my uncle, himself. You have often heard, I should think, of
Mr. Roger Littlepage?
Mary gave a little exclamation at hearing this, and she almost
laughed. After a short pause she blushed brightly, and turned to me as
And my father and I have supposed you, the one a pedlar, and the
other a street-musician!
But bedlars and moosic-grinders of goot etications, as might be
panishet for deir bolitics.
Now, indeed, she laughed out, for the long and frank dialogue we had
held together made this change to broken English seem as if a third
person had joined us. I profited by the occasion to exhort the dear
girl to be calm, and not to feel any apprehension on the subject of her
father. I pointed out how little probable it was that violence would be
offered to a minister of the gospel, and showed her, by the number of
persons that had collected in the village, that it was impossible he
should not have many warm and devoted friends present. I also gave her
permission to, nay, requested she would, tell Mr. Warren the fact of my
uncle's and my own presence, and the reasons of our disguises, trusting
altogether to the very obvious interest the dear girl took in our
safety, that she would add, of her own accord, the necessary warning on
the subject of secresy. Just as this conversation ended we drove into
the hamlet, and I helped my fair companion to alight.
Mary Warren now hastened to seek her father, while I was left to
take care of the horse. This I did by fastening him to the rails of a
fence, that was lined for a long distance by horses and wagons drawn up
by the way-side. Surprisingly few persons in the country, at this day,
are seen on horseback. Notwithstanding the vast difference in the
amount of the population, ten horsemen were to be met with forty years
ago, by all accounts, on the highways of the State, for one to-day. The
well-known vehicle, called a dearborn, with its four light wheels and
mere shell of a box, is in such general use as to have superseded
almost every other species of conveyance. Coaches and chariots are no
longer met with, except in the towns; and even the coachee, the English
sociable, which was once so common, has very generally given way to a
sort of carriage-wagon, that seems a very general favourite. My
grandmother, who did use the stately-looking and elegant chariot in
town, had nothing but this carriage-wagon in the country; and I
question if one-half of the population of the State would know what to
call the former vehicle, if they should see it.
As a matter of course, the collection of people assembled at Little
Nest on this occasion had been brought together in dearborns, of which
there must have been between two and three hundred lining the fences
and crowding the horse-sheds of the two inns. The American countryman,
in the true sense of the word, is still quite rustic in many of his
notions; though, on the whole, less marked in this particular than his
European counterpart. As the rule, he has yet to learn that the little
liberties which are tolerated in a thinly-peopled district, and which
are of no great moment when put in practice under such circumstances,
become oppressive and offensive when reverted to in places of much
resort. The habits of popular control, too, come to aid in making them
fancy that what everybody does in their part of the country can have no
great harm in it. It was in conformity with this tendency of the
institutions, perhaps, that very many of the vehicles I have named were
thrust into improper places, stopping up the footways, impeding the
entrances to doors, here and there letting down bars without
permission, and garnishing orchards and pastures with one-horse wagons.
Nothing was meant by all these liberties beyond a desire to dispose of
the horses and vehicles in the manner easiest to their owners.
Nevertheless, there was some connection between the institutions and
these little liberties which some statesmen might fancy existed in the
spirit of the former. This, however, was a capital mistake,
inasmuch as the spirit of the institutions is to be found in the
laws, which prohibit and punish all sorts of trespasses, and which are
enacted expressly to curb the tendencies of human nature! No,
no, as my uncle Ro says, nothing can be less alike, sometimes, than the
spirit of institutions and their tendencies.
I was surprised to find nearly as many females as men had collected
at the Little Nest on this occasion. As for the Injins, after escorting
Mr. Warren as far as the village, as if significantly to admonish him
of their presence, they had quietly released him, permitting him to go
where he pleased. Mary had no difficulty in finding him, and I saw her
at his side, apparently in conversation with Opportunity and her
brother, Seneca, as soon as I moved down the road, after securing the
horse. The Injins themselves kept a little aloof, having my uncle in
their very centre; not as a prisoner, for it was clear no one suspected
his character, but as a pedlar. The watches were out again, and near
half of the whole gang seemed busy in trading, though I thought that
some among them were anxious and distrustful.
It was a singular spectacle to see men who were raising the cry of
aristocracy against those who happened to be richer than themselves,
while they did not possess a single privilege or power that,
substantially, was not equally shared by every other man in the
country, thus openly arrayed in defiance of law, and thus violently
trampling the law under their feet. What made the spectacle more
painful was the certainty that was obtained by their very actions on
the ground, that no small portion of these Injins were mere boys, led
on by artful and knavish men, and who considered the whole thing as a
joke. When the laws fall so much into disrepute as to be the subjects
of jokes of this sort, it is time to inquire into their mode of
administration. Does any one believe that fifty landlords could have
thus flown into the face of a recent enactment, and committed felony
openly, and under circumstances that had rendered their intentions no
secret, for a time long enough to enable the authorities to collect a
force sufficient to repress them? My own opinion is, that had Mr.
Stephen Rensselaer, and Mr. William Rensselaer, and Mr. Harry
Livingston, and Mr. John Hunter, and Mr. Daniel Livingston, and Mr.
Hugh Littlepage, and fifty more that I could name, been caught armed
and disguised, in order to defend the rights of property that
are solemnly guarantied in these institutions, of which it would seem
to be the notion of some that it is the spirit to dispossess them, we
should all of us have been the inmates of States' prisons, without
legislators troubling themselves to pass laws for our liberation! This
is another of the extraordinary features of American aristocracy, which
almost deprives the noble of the every-day use and benefit of the law.
It would be worth our while to lose a moment in inquiring into the
process by which such strange results are brought about, but it is
fortunately rendered unnecessary by the circumstance that the principle
will be amply developed in the course of the narrative.
A stranger could hardly have felt the real character of this meeting
by noting the air and manner of those who had come to attend it. The
armed and disguised kept themselves in a body, it is true, and
maintained, in a slight degree, the appearance of distinctness from
the people, but many of the latter stopped to speak to these men, and
were apparently on good terms with them. Not a few of the gentler sex,
even, appeared to have acquaintances in the gang; and it would have
struck a political philosopher from the other hemisphere with some
surprise, to have seen the people thus tolerating fellows who were
openly trampling on a law that the people themselves had just
enacted! A political philosopher from among ourselves, however, might
have explained the seeming contradiction by referring it to the spirit
of the institutions. If one were to ask Hugh Littlepage to solve the
difficulty, he would have been very apt to answer that the people of
Ravensnest wanted to compel him to sell lands which he did not wish to
sell, and that not a few of them were anxious to add to the compulsory
bargains conditions as to price that would rob him of about one-half of
his estate; and that what the Albany philosophers called the spirit of
the institutions, was, in fact, a spirit of the devil, which the
institutions were expressly designed to hold in subjection!
There was a good deal of out-door management going on, as might be
seen by the private discussions that were held between pairs, under
what is called the horse-shedding process. This horse-shedding
process, I understand, is well known among us, and extends not only to
politics, but to the administration of justice. Your regular
horse-shedder is employed to frequent taverns where jurors stay, and
drops hints before them touching the merits of causes known to be on
the calendars; possibly contrives to get into a room with six or eight
beds, in which there may accidentally be a juror, or even two, in a
bed, when he drops into a natural conversation on the merits of some
matter at issue, praises one of the parties, while he drops dark hints
to the prejudice of the other, and makes his own representations of the
facts in a way to scatter the seed where he is morally certain it will
take root and grow. All this time he is not conversing with a juror,
not he; he is only assuming the office of the judge by anticipation,
and dissecting evidence before it has been given, in the ear of a
particular friend. It is true there is a law against doing anything of
the sort; it is true there is law to punish the editor of a newspaper
who shall publish anything to prejudice the interests of litigants; it
is true the horse-shedding process is flagrantly wicked, and intended
to destroy most of the benefits of the jury-system; but,
notwithstanding all this, the spirit of the institutions carries
everything before it, and men regard all these laws and provisions, as
well as the eternal principles of right, precisely as if they had no
existence at all, or as if a freeman were above the law. He makes the
law, and why should he not break it? Here is another effect of the
spirit of the institutions.
At length the bell rang, and the crowd began to move towards the
meetin'-us. This building was not that which had been originally
constructed, and at the raising of which, I have heard it said, my dear
old grandmother, then a lovely and spirited girl of nineteen, had been
conspicuous for her coolness and judgment, but a far more pretending
successor. The old building had been constructed on the true model of
the highest dissenting spirita spirit that induced its advocates to
quarrel with good taste as well as religious dogmas, in order to make
the chasm as wide as possiblewhile in this, some concessions had been
made to the temper of the times. I very well remember the old
meetin'-us at the Little Nest, for it was pulled down to give place
to its more pretending successor after I had attained my sixteenth
year. A description of both may let the reader into the secret of our
rural church architecture.
The old Neest meetin'-us, like its successor, was of a hemlock
frame, covered with pine clap-boards, and painted white. Of late years,
the paint had been of a most fleeting quality, the oil seeming to
evaporate, instead of striking in and setting, leaving the colouring
matter in a somewhat decomposed condition, to rub off by friction and
wash away in the rains. The house was a stiff, formal parallelogram,
resembling a man with high shoulders, appearing to be stuck up. It
had two rows of formal, short and ungraceful windows, that being
a point in orthodoxy at the period of its erection. It had a tower,
uncouth, and in some respects too large and others too small, if one
can reconcile the contradiction; but there are anomalies of this sort
in art, as well as in nature. On top of this tower stood a long-legged
belfry, which had got a very dangerous, though a very common,
propensity in ecclesiastical matters; in other words, it had begun to
cant. It was this diversion from the perpendicular which had
suggested the necessity of erecting a new edifice, and the building in
which the lecture on feudal tenures and aristocracy was now to be
The new meeting-house at Little Nest was a much more pretending
edifice than its predecessor. It was also of wood, but a bold diverging
from first principles had been ventured on, not only in physical, but
in the moral church. The last was new-school; as, indeed, was the
first. What new-school means, in a spiritual sense, I do not exactly
know, but I suppose it to be some improvement on some other improvement
of the more ancient and venerable dogmas of the sect to which it
belongs. These improvements on improvements are rather common among us,
and are favourably viewed by a great number under the name of progress;
though he who stands at a little distance can, half the time, discover
that the parties in progress very often come out at the precise spot
from which they started.
For my part, I find so much wisdom in the bibleso profound a
knowledge of human nature, and of its tendenciescounsel so
comprehensive and so safe, and this solely in reference to the things
of this life, that I do not believe everything is progress in the right
direction because it sets us in motion on paths that are not two
thousand years old! I believe that we have quite as much that ought to
be kept, as of that which ought to be thrown away; and while I admit
the vast number of abuses that have grown up in the old world, under
the spirit of their institutions, as our philosophers would
say, I can see a goodly number that are also growing up here, certainly
not under the same spirit, unless we refer them both, as a truly wise
man would, to our common and miserable nature.
The main departure from first principles, in the sense of material
things, was in the fact that the new meeting-house had only one
row of windows, and that the windows of that row had the pointed arch.
The time has been when this circumstance would have created a schism in
the theological world; and I hope that my youth and inexperience will
be pardoned, if I respectfully suggest that a pointed arch, or any
other arch in wood, ought to create another in the world of
But in we went, men, women and children; uncle Ro, Mr. Warren, Mary,
Seneca, Opportunity, and all, the Injins excepted. For some reason
connected with their policy, those savages remained outside, until the
whole audience had assembled in grave silence. The orator was in, or on
a sort of stage, which was made, under the new-light system in
architecture, to supersede the old, inconvenient, and ugly pulpit,
supported on each side by two divines, of what denomination I shall not
take on myself to say. It will be sufficient if I add Mr. Warren was
not one of them. He and Mary had taken their seats quite near the door,
and under the gallery. I saw that the rector was uneasy the moment the
lecturer and his two supporters entered the pulpit, and appeared on the
stage; and at length he arose, and followed by Mary, he suddenly left
the building. In an instant I was at their side, for it struck me
indisposition was the cause of so strange a movement. Fortunately, at
this moment, the whole audience rose in a body, and one of the
ministers commenced an extempore prayer.
At that instant, the Injins had drawn themselves up around the
building, close to its sides, and under the open windows, in a position
that enabled them to hear all that passed. As I afterwards learned,
this arrangement was made with an understanding with those within, one
of the ministers having positively refused to address the throne of
Grace so long as any of the tribe were present. Well has it been said,
that man often strains at a gnat, and swallows a camel!
I tell thee, Jack Cade, the clothier means to dress the
and turn it, and put a new nap upon it.
King Henry VI.
As I knew Mary must have communicated to her father my real name, I
did not hesitate, as I ought to have done in my actual dress and in my
assumed character, about following them, in order to inquire if I could
be of any service. I never saw distress more strongly painted in any
man's countenance than it was in that of Mr. Warren, when I approached.
So very obvious, indeed, was his emotion, that I did not venture to
obtrude myself on him, but followed in silence; and he and Mary slowly
walked, side by side, across the street to the stoop of a house, of
which all the usual inmates had probably gone in the other direction.
Here, Mr. Warren took a seat, Mary still at his side, while I drew
near, standing before him.
I thank you, Mr. Littlepage, the divine at length said, with a
smile so painful it was almost haggard, for, so Mary tells me you
should be calledI thank you for this attention, sirbut, it will be
over in another minuteI feel better now, and shall be able to command
No more was then said, concerning the reason of this distress; but
Mary has since explained to me its cause. When her father went into the
meeting-house, he had not the smallest idea that anything like a
religious service would be dragged into the ceremonies of such a day.
The two ministers on the stage first gave him the alarm; when a most
painful struggle occurred in his mind, whether or not he should remain,
and be a party to the mockery of addressing God in prayer, in an
assembly collected to set at naught one of the plainest of his
lawsnay, with banded felons drawn up around the building, as
principal actors in the whole mummery. The alternative was for him, a
minister, of the altar, to seem to quit those who were about to join in
prayer, and to do this moreover under circumstances which might appear
to others as if he rejected all worship but that which was in
accordance with his own views of right, a notion that would be certain
to spread far and near, greatly to the prejudice of his own people. But
the first, as he viewed the matter, involved a species of blasphemy;
and yielding to his feelings, he took the decided step he had,
intending to remain out of the building, until the more regular
business of the day commenced.
It is certain Mr. Warren, who acted under the best impulse of
christian feeling, a reverence for God, and a profound wish not to be a
party in offending him with the mockery of worship under such
circumstances, has lost much influence, and made many enemies, by the
step he then took. The very same feeling which has raised the cry of
aristocracy against every gentleman who dwells in sufficiently near
contact with the masses to distinguish his habits from those around
him; which induces the eastern emigrant, who comes from a state of
society where there are no landlords, to fancy those he finds here
ought to be pulled down, because he is not a landlord himself; which
enables the legislator to stand up in his place, and unblushingly talk
about feudal usages, at the very instant he is demonstrating that equal
rights are denied to those he would fain stigmatize as feudal lords,
has extended to religion, and the church of which Mr. Warren was a
minister, is very generally accused of being aristocratic, too! This
charge is brought because it has claims which other churches affect to
renounce and reject as forming no part of the faith; but the last
cannot remain easy under their own decisions; and while they shout, and
sing that they have found a church without a bishop, they hate the
church that has a bishop, because it has something they do not possess
themselves, instead of pitying its deluded members, if they believe
them wrong. This will not be admitted generally, but it is nevertheless
true; and betrays itself in a hundred ways. It is seen in the attempt
to call their own priests bishops, in the feeling so manifest
whenever a cry can be raised against their existence, and in the
general character of these theological rallies, whenever they do
For one, I see a close analogy between my own church, as it exists
in this country, and comparing it with that from which it sprung, and
to those which surround it, and the true political circumstances of the
two hemispheres. In discarding a vast amount of surplusage, in reducing
the orders of the ministry, in practice, as well as in theory, to their
primitive number ... three and in rejecting all connection with the
State, the American branch of the Episcopal Church has assumed the
position it was desirous to fill; restoring, as near as may be, the
simplicity of the apostolical ages, while it does not disregard the
precepts and practices of the apostles themselves. It has not set
itself above antiquity and authority, but merely endeavoured to sustain
them, without the encumbrances of more modern abuses. Thus, too, has it
been in political things. No attempt has been made to create new
organic social distinctions in this country, but solely to disencumber
those that are inseparable from the existence of all civilized society,
of the clumsy machinery with which the expedients of military
oppressors had invested them. The real sages of this country, in
founding its institutions, no more thought of getting rid of the
landlords of the country, than the Church thought of getting rid of its
bishops. The first knew that the gradations of property were an
inevitable incident of civilization; that it would not be wise, if it
were possible, to prevent the affluent from making large investments in
the soil; and that this could not be done in practice, without leaving
the relation of landlord and tenant. Because landlords, in other parts
of the world, possessed privileges that were not necessary to the
natural or simple existence of the character, was no reason for
destroying the character itself; any more than the fact that the
bishops of England possess an authority the apostles knew nothing of,
rendered it proper for the American branch of the church to do away
with an office that came from the apostles. But, envy and jealousy do
not pause to reflect on such things; it is enough for them, in
the one case that you and yours have estates, and occupy social
positions, that I and mine do not, and cannot easily, occupy and
possess; therefore I will oppose you, and join my voice to the
cry of those who wish to get their farms for nothing; and in the other,
that you have bishops when we can have none, without abandoning our
present organization and doctrines.
I dwell on these points at some little length, because the movements
of Mr. Warren and myself, at that moment, had a direct influence on the
circumstances that will soon be related. It is probable that fully
one-half of those collected in the Little Nest meeting-house, that
morning, as they stood up, and lent a sort of one-sided and listless
attention to the prayer, were thinking of the scandalous and
aristocratical conduct of Mr. Warren, in goin' out o' meetin' just as
meetin' went to prayers! Few, indeed, were they who would be likely to
ascribe any charitable motive for the act; and probably not one of
those present thought of the true and conscientious feeling that had
induced it. So the world wags! It is certain that a malignant and
bitter feeling was got up against the worthy rector on that occasion,
and for that act, which has not yet abated, and which will not abate in
many hundreds, until the near approach of death shall lay bare to them
the true character of so many of their own feelings.
It was some minutes before Mr. Warren entirely regained his
composure. At length he spoke to me, in his usual benevolent and mild
way, saying a few words that were complimentary, on the subject of my
return, while he expressed his fears that my uncle Ro and myself had
been imprudent in thus placing ourselves, as it might be, in the lion's
You have certainly made your disguises so complete, he added,
smiling, as to have escaped wonderfully well so far. That you should
deceive Mary and myself is no great matter, since neither of us ever
saw you before; but, the manner in which your nearest relatives have
been misled, is surprising. Nevertheless, you have every inducement to
be cautious, for hatred and jealousy have a penetration that does not
belong even to love.
We think we are safe, sir, I answered, for we are certainly
within the statute. We are too well aware of our miserable
aristocratical condition to place ourselves within the grasp of the
law, for such are our eminent privileges as a landed nobility, that we
are morally certain either of us would not only be sent to the state's
prison were he to be guilty of the felony those Injins are committing,
and will commit, with perfect impunity, but that he would be kept
there, as long as a single tear of anguish could be wrung from one of
those who are classed with the aristocracy. Democracy alone finds any
sympathy in the ordinary administration of American justice.
I am afraid that your irony has only too much truth in it. But the
movement around the building would seem to say that the real business
of the day is about to commence, and we had better return to the
Those men in disguise are watching us, in a most unpleasant and
alarming manner, said Mary Warren, delighting me far more by the
vigilance she thus manifested in my behalf, than alarming me by the
That we were watched, however, became obviously apparent, as we
walked towards the building, by the actions of some of the Injins. They
had left the side of the church where they had posted themselves during
the prayer, and head was going to head, among those nearest to us; or,
it would be nearer to appearances, were I to say bunch of calico was
going to bunch of calico, for nothing in the form of a head was visible
among them. Nothing was said to Mr. Warren and Mary, however, who were
permitted to go into the meeting-house, unmolested; but two of these
disguised gentry placed themselves before me, laying their rifles
across my path, and completely intercepting my advance.
Who you? abruptly demanded one of the two;where gowhere come
The answer was ready, and I trust it was sufficiently steady.
I coomes from Charmany, und I goes into der kerch, as dey say in
mine coontry; what might be callet meetin'-us, here.
What might have followed, it is not easy to say, had not the loud,
declamatory voice of the lecturer just then been heard, as he commenced
his address. This appeared to be a signal for the tribe to make some
movement, for the two fellows who had stopped me, walked silently away,
though bag of calico went to bag of calico, as they trotted off
together, seemingly communicating to each other their suspicions. I
took advantage of the opening, and passed into the church, where I
worked my way through the throng, and got a seat at my uncle's side.
I have neither time, room, nor inclination to give anything like an
analysis of the lecture. The speaker was fluent, inflated, and anything
but logical. Not only did he contradict himself, but he contradicted
the laws of nature. The intelligent reader will not require to be
reminded of the general character of a speech that was addressed to the
passions and interests of such an audience, rather than to their
reason. He commented, at first, on the particular covenants of the
leases on the old estates of the colony, alluding to the quarter-sales,
chickens, days' work, and durable tenures, in the customary way. The
reservation of the mines, too, was mentioned as a tyrannical covenant,
precisely as if a landlord were obliged to convey any more of the
rights that were vested in him, than he saw fit; or the tenant could
justly claim more than he had hired! This man treated all these
branches of the subject, as if the tenants had acquired certain
mysterious interests by time and occupation, overlooking the fact that
the one party got just as good a title as the other by this process;
the lease being the instrument between them, that was getting to be
venerable. If one party grew old as a tenant, so did the other as a
landlord. I thought that this lecturer would have been glad to confine
himself to the Manor leases, that being the particular branch of the
subject he had been accustomed to treat; but, such was not the precise
nature of the job he was now employed to execute. At Ravensnest, he
could not flourish the feudal grievance of the quarter-sales, the four
fat fowls, the days' works, and the length of the leases.
Here it was clearly his cue to say nothing of the three first, and to
complain of the shortness of the leases, as mine were about to
fall in, in considerable numbers. Finding it was necessary to take new
ground, he determined it should be bold ground, and such as would give
him the least trouble to get along with.
As soon as the lecturer had got through with his general heads, and
felt the necessity of coming down to particulars, he opened upon the
family of Littlepage, in a very declamatory way. What had they ever
done for the country, he demanded, that they should be lords in
the land? By some process known to himself, he had converted landlords
into lords in the land, and was now aiming to make the tenants occupy
the latter stationnay, both stations. Of course, some services of a
public character, of which the Littlepages might boast, were not
touched upon at all, everything of that nature being compressed into
what the lecturer and his audience deemed serving the people, by
helping to indulge them in all their desires, however rapacious or
wicked. As everybody who knows anything of the actual state of matters
among us, must be aware how rarely the people hear the truth, when
their own power and interests are in question, it is not surprising
that a very shallow reasoner was enabled to draw wool over the eyes of
the audience of Ravensnest on that particular subject.
But my interest was most awakened when this man came to speak of
myself. It is not often that a man enjoys the same opportunity as that
I then possessed to hear his own character delineated, and his most
private motives analyzed. In the first place, the audience were told
that this young Hugh Littlepage had never done anything for the land
that he proudly, and like a great European noble, he calls his
'estate.' Most of you, fellow-citizens, can show your hard hands, and
recall the burning suns under which you have opened the swarth, through
those then lovely meadows yonder, as your titles to these farms.
But, Hugh Littlepage never did a day's work in his lifeten minutes
before he had been complaining of the days' work in the Manor leases
as indignities that a freeman ought not to submit tono,
fellow-citizens, he never had that honour, and never will have it,
until by a just division of his property, or what he now calls
his property, you reduce him to the necessity of labouring to raise the
crops he wants to consume.
Where is this Hugh Littlepage at this very moment? In Paris,
squandering your hard earnings in riotous living, according to
the best standards of aristocracy. He lives in the midst of abundance,
dresses richly and fares richly, while you and yours are
eating the sweat of your brows. He is no man for a pewter spoon and
two-pronged fork! No, my countrymen! He must have a gold spoon
for some of his dishes, and you will find it hard to believeplain,
unpretending, republican farmers as you are, but it is not the less
truehe must have forks of silver! Fellow-citizens, Hugh
Littlepage would not put his knife into his mouth, as you and I do, in
eatingas all plain, unpretending republicans dofor the world. It
would choke him; no, he keeps silver forks to touch his anointed
lips! Here there was an attempt to get up something like applause, but
it totally failed. The men of Ravensnest had been accustomed all their
lives to see the Littlepages in the social station they occupied; and,
after all, it did not seem so very extraordinary that we should have
silver forks, any more than that others should have silver spoons. The
lecturer had the tact to see that he had failed on this point, and he
turned to another.
The next onset was made against our title. Whence did it come?
demanded the lecturer. From the king of England; and the people had
conquered the country from that sovereign, and put themselves in his
place. Now, is it not a good principle in politics, that to the victors
belong the spoils? He believed it was; and that in conquering America,
he was of opinion that the people of America had conquered the land,
and that they had a right to take the land, and to keep it. Titles from
kings he did not respect much; and he believed the American people,
generally, did not think much of them. If Hugh Littlepage wished an
estate, as he called it, let him come to the people and sarve
them, and see what sort of an estate they would give him.
But there was one portion of his speech which was so remarkable,
that I must attempt to give it, as it was uttered. It was while the
lecturer was expatiating on this subject of titles, that he broke out
in the following language:Don't talk to me, he bellowedfor by
this time his voice had risen to the pitch of a methodist's, in a
camp-meetingDon't talk to me of antiquity, and time, and length of
possession, as things to be respected. They're nawthinjest nawthin'
at all. Possession's good in law, I'll admit; and I contind that's jest
what the tenants has. They've got the lawful possession of this very
property, that layeth (not eggs, but) up and down, far and near, and
all around; a rich and goodly heritage, when divided up among
hard-working and honest folks; but too much, by tens of thousands of
acres, for a young chap, who is wasting his substance in foreign lands,
to hold. I contind that the tenants has this very, precise, lawful
possession, at this blessed moment, only the law won't let 'em enj'y
it. It's all owing to that accursed law, that the tenant can't set up a
title ag'in his landlord. You see by this one fact, fellow-citizens,
that they are a privileged class, and ought to be brought down to the
level of gin'ral humanity. You can set up title ag'in anybody else, but
you shan't set up title ag'in a landlord. I know what is said in the
primisis, shaking his head, in derision of any arguments on the other
side of this particular point; I know that circumstances alter cases.
I can see the hardship of one neighbour's coming to another, and asking
to borrow or hire his horse for a day, and then pretendin' to hold him
on some other ketch. But horses isn't land; you must all allow that. No, if horses was land, the case would be altered. Land is an
element, and so is fire, and so is water, and so is air. Now, who will
say that a freeman hasn't a right to air, hasn't a right to water, and,
on the same process, hasn't a right to land? He has,
fellow-citizenshe has. These are what are called in philosophy
elementary rights; which is the same thing as a right to the elements,
of which land is one, and a principal one. I say a principal one; for,
if there was no land to stand on, we should drop away from air, and
couldn't enj'y that; we should lose all our water in vapour, and
couldn't put it to millin' and manafacterin' purposes; and where could
we build our fires? No; land is the first elementary right, and
connected with it comes the first and most sacred right to the
I do not altogether disregard antiquity, neither. No; I respect and
revere pre-emption rights; for they fortify and sustain the right to
the elements. Now, I do not condemn squattin', as some doos. It's
actin' accordin' to natur', and natur' is right. I respect and venerate
a squatter's possession; for it's held under the sacred principle of
usefulness. It says, 'go and make the wilderness blossom as the rose,'
and means 'progress.' That's an antiquity I respect. I respect the
antiquity of your possessions here, as tenants; for it is a
hard-working and useful antiquityan antiquity that increases and
multiplies. If it be said that Hugh Littlepage's ancestorsyour noble
has his 'ancestors,' while us 'common folks' are satisfied with
forefathers[this hit took with a great many present, raising a very
general laugh]but if this Hugh's ancestors did pay anything for the
land, if I was you, fellow-citizens, I'd be gin'rous, and let him have
it back ag'in. Perhaps his forefathers gave a cent an acre to the
kingmay be, two; or say sixpence, if you will. I'd let him have his
sixpence an acre back again, by way of shutting his mouth. No; I'm for
nawthin' that's ungin'rous.
Fellow-citizens, I profess to be what is called a Democrat. I know
that many of you be what is called Whigsbut I apprehend there is'nt
much difference between us on the subject of this system of leasing
land. We are all republicans, and leasing farms is anti-republican.
Then, I wish to be liberal even to them I commonly oppose at elections,
and I will freely admit, then, on the whull, the Whigs have rather
out-done us Democrats, on the subject of this anti-rentism. I am sorry
to be obliged to own in it, but it must be confessed that, while in the
way of governors, there hasn't been much differenceyes, put 'em in a
bag, and shake 'em up, and you'd hardly know which would come out
firstwhich has done himself the most immortal honour, which has shown
himself the most comprehensive, profound and safe statesman; I know
that some of our people complain of the governors for ordering out
troops ag'in the Injins, but they could not help thatthey
wouldn't have done it, in my judgment, had there been any way of
getting round it; but the law was too strong for them, so they druv' in
the Injins, and now they join us in putting down aristocracy, and in
raising up gin'ral humanity. No; I don't go ag'in the governors, though
But I profess to be a Democrat, and I'll give an outline of my
principles, that all may see why they can't, and don't, and never will
agree with aristocracy or nobility, in any form or shape. I believe one
man is as good as another in all things. Neither birth, nor law, nor
edication, nor riches, nor poverty, nor anything else can ever make any
difference in this principle, which is sacred, and fundamental, and is
the chief stone of the corner in true Democracy. One man is as good as
another, I say, and has just the same right to the enj'yment of 'arth
and its privileges, as any other man. I think the majority ought to
rule in all things, and that it is the duty of the minority to submit.
Now, I've had this here sentiment thrown back upon me, in some places
where I have spoken, and been asked 'how is thisthe majority must
rule, and the minority must submitin that case, the minority is'nt as
good as the majority in practice, and hasn't the same right. They are
made to own what they think ought not to be done?' The answer to this
is so plain, I wonder a sensible man can ask the question, for all the
minority has to do, is to join the majority, to have things as they
want 'em. The road is free, and it is this open road that makes true
liberty. Any man can fall in with the majority, and sensible folks
commonly do, when they can find it, and that makes a person not only a
man, as the saying is, but a FREEMAN, a still more honourable title.
Fellow-citizens, a great movement is in progress, Go ahead! is
the cry, and the march is onward; our thoughts already fly about on the
wings of the lightning, and our bodies move but little slower, on the
vapour of steamsoon our principles will rush ahead of all, and let in
the radiance of a glorious day of universal reform, and loveliness, and
virtue and charity, when the odious sound of rent will never be
heard, when every man will set down under his own apple, or cherry
tree, if not under his own fig tree.
I am a Democrat,yes, a Democrat. Glorious appellation! I delight
in it! It is my pride, my boast, my very virtue. Let but the people
truly rule, and all must come well. The people has no temptation to do
wrong. If they hurt the state, they hurt themselves, for they are the
state. Is a man likely to hurt himself? Equality is my axiom. Nor, by
equality, do I mean your narrow pitiful equality before the law, as it
is sometimes tarmed, for that may be no equality at all; but, I mean an
equality that is substantial, and which must be restored, when the
working of the law has de_ran_ged it. Fellow-citizens, do you know what
leap-year means? I dare say some of you don't, the ladies in partic'lar
not giving much attention to astronomy. Well, I have inquired, and it
is this:The 'arth revolves around the sun in a year, as we all know.
And we count three hundred and sixty-five days in a year, we all know.
But, the 'arth is a few hours longer than three hundred and sixty-five
days, in making its circuitnearly six hours longer. Now, everybody
knows that 4 times 6 makes 24, and so a twenty-ninth day is put into
February, every fourth year, to restore the lost time; another change
being to be made a long distance ahead to settle the fractions. Thus
will it be with Democracy. Human natur' can't devise laws yet, that
will keep all things on an exactly equal footing, and political
leap-years must be introduced into the political calendar, to restore
the equilibrium. In astronomy, we must divide up anew the hours and
minutes; in humanity, we must, from time to time, divide up the land.
But, I cannot follow this inflated fool any longer; for he was quite
as much of fool as of knave, though partaking largely of the latter
character. It was plain that he carried many of his notions much
farther than a good portion of his audience carried theirs; though,
whenever he touched upon anti-rentism, he hit a chord that vibrated
through the whole assembly. That the tenants ought to own their farms,
and pay no more rents, AND POCKET ALL THE BENEFITS OF THEIR OWN
PREVIOUS LABOURS, THOUGH THESE LABOURS HAD BEEN CONSIDERED IN THE
EARLIER RENTS, AND WERE, INDEED, STILL CONSIDERED, IN THE LOW RATES AT
WHICH THE LANDS WERE LET, was a doctrine all could understand; and few
were they, I am sorry to say, who did not betray how much self-love and
self-interest had obscured the sense of right.
The lecture, such as it was, lasted more than two hours; and when it
was done, an individual rose, in the character of a chairmanwhen did
three Americans ever get together to discuss anything, that they had
not a chairman and secretary, and all the parliamentary forms?and
invited any one present, who might entertain views different from the
speaker, to give his opinion. Never before did I feel so tempted to
speak in public. My first impulse was to throw away the wig, and come
out in my own person, and expose the shallow trash that had just been
uttered. I believe even I, unaccustomed as I was to public speaking,
could easily have done this, and I whispered as much to my uncle, who
was actually on his feet, to perform the office for me, when the sound
of Mr. Chairman, from a different part of the church, anticipated
him. Looking round, I recognised at once the face of the intelligent
mechanic, named Hall, whom we had met at Mooseridge, on our way to the
Nest. I took my seat, at once, perfectly satisfied that the subject was
in good hands.
This speaker commenced with great moderation, both of manner and
tone, and, indeed, he preserved them throughout. His utterance, accent
and language, of course, were all tinctured by his habits and
associations; but his good sense and his good principles were equally
gifts from above. More of the true image of his maker was to be found
in that one individual than existed in fifty common men. He saw
clearly, spoke clearly, and demonstrated effectively. As he was well
known in that vicinity and generally respected, he was listened to with
profound attention, and spoke like a man who stood in no dread of tar
and feathers. Had the same sentiments been delivered by one in a fine
coat, and a stranger, or even by myself, who had so much at stake, very
many of them would have been incontinently set down as aristocratic,
and not to be tolerated, the most sublimated lover of equality
occasionally falling into these little contradictions.
Hall commenced by reminding the audience that they all knew him, and
knew he was no landlord. He was a mechanic, and a labouring man, like
most of themselves, and had no interest that could be separate from the
general good of society. This opening was a little homage to prejudice,
since reason is reason, and right right, let them come whence they
will. I, too, am a democrat, he went on to say, but I do not
understand democracy to mean anything like that which has been
described by the last speaker. I tell that gentleman plainly, that if
he is a democrat, I am none; and if I am a democrat, he is none. By
democracy I understand a government in which the sovereign power
resides in the body of the nation; and not in a few, or in one. But
this principle no more gives the body of the people authority to act
wrong, than in a monarchy, in which the sovereign power resides in one
man, that one man has a right to act wrong. By equality, I do not
understand anything more than equality before the lawnow, if the law
had said that when the late Malbone Littlepage died, his farms should
go not to his next of kin, or to his devisee, but to his neighbours,
then that would have been the law to be obeyed, although it would be a
law destructive of civilization, since men would never accumulate
property to go to the public. Something nearer home is necessary to
make men work, and deny themselves what they like.
The gentleman has told us of a sort of political leap-year that is
to regulate the social calender. I understand him to mean that when
property has got to be unequal, it must be divided up, in order that
men may make a new start. I fear he will have to dispense with leap
years, and come to leap months, or leap weeks, ay, or even to leap
days; for, was the property of this township divided up this very
morning, and in this meetin'-us, it would get to be unequal before
night. Some folks can't keep money when they have it; and others can't
keep their hands off it.
Then, again, if Hugh Littlepage's property is to be divided, the
property of all of Hugh Littlepage's neighbours ought to be divided
too, to make even an appearance of equality; though it would be
but an appearance of equality, admitting that were done, since
Hugh Littlepage has more than all the rest of the town put together.
Yes, fellow-citizens, Hugh Littlepage pays, at this moment,
one-twentieth of the taxes of this whole county. That is about the
proportion of Ravensnest; and that tax, in reality, comes out of his
pockets, as much the greater part of the taxes of Rensselaer and Albany
counties, if you will except the cities they contain, are paid by the
Rensselaers. It won't do to tell me the tenants pay the taxes, for I
know better. We all know that the probable amount of the taxes is
estimated in the original bargain, and is so much deducted from the
rent, and comes out of the landlord if it come out of anybody. There is
a good reason why the tenant should pay it, and a reason that is
altogether in his interest; because the law would make his oxen, and
horses, and carts liable for the taxes, should the landlord neglect to
pay the taxes. The collector always sells personals for a tax if he can
find them on the property; and by deducting it from the rent, and
paying it himself, the tenant makes himself secure against that loss.
To say that a tenant don't take any account of the taxes he will be
likely to pay, in making his bargain, is as if one should say he is
non com. and not fit to be trusted with his own affairs. There are
men, in this community, I am sorry to say, who wish a law passed to tax
the rents on durable leases, or on all leases, in order to choke the
landlords off from their claims, but such men are true friends to
neither justice nor their country. Such a law would be a tax on the
incomes of a particular class of society, and on no other. It is a law
that would justify the aggrieved parties in taking up arms to resist
it, unless the law would give 'em relief, as I rather think it would.
By removing into another State, however, they would escape the tax
completely, laugh at those who framed it, who would incur the odium of
doing an impotent wrong, and get laughed at as well as despised,
besides injuring the State by drawing away its money to be spent out of
its limits. Think, for one moment, of the impression that would be made
of New York justice, if a hundred citizens of note and standing were to
be found living in Philadelphia or Paris, and circulating to the world
the report that they were exiles to escape a special taxation! The more
the matter was inquired into, the worse it must appear; for men may say
what they please, to be ready ag'in election time, as there is but one
piece, or parcel of property to tax, it is an income tax, and nothing
else. What makes the matter still worse is, that every man of sense
will know that it is taxing the same person twice, substantially for
the same thing, since the landlord has the direct land tax deducted
from the rent in the original bargain.
As for all this cry about aristocracy, I don't understand it. Hugh
Littlepage has just as good a right to his ways as I have to mine. The
gentleman says he needs gold spoons and silver forks to eat with. Well,
what of that? I dare say the gentleman himself finds a steel knife and
fork useful, and has no objection to a silver, or, at least, to a
pewter spoon. Now, there are folks that use wooden forks, or no forks,
and who are glad to get horn spoons; and they might call that
gentleman himself an aristocrat. This setting of ourselves up as the
standard in all things is anything but liberty. If I don't like to eat
my dinner with a man who uses a silver fork, no man in this country can
compel me. On the other hand, if young Mr. Littlepage don't like a
companion who chews tobacco, as I do, he ought to be left to follow his
Then, this doctrine that one man's as good as another has got two
sides to it. One man ought to have the same general rights as another,
I am ready to allow; but if one man is as good as another, why
do we have the trouble and cost of elections? We might draw lots, as we
do for jurors, and save a good deal of time and money. We all know
there is ch'ice in men, and I think that so long as the people have
their ch'ice in sayin' who shall and who shall not be their agents,
they've got all they have any right to. So long as this is done, the
rest of the world may be left to follow their own ways, provided they
obey the laws.
Then, I am no great admirer of them that are always telling the
people they're parfect. I know this county pretty well, as well as most
in it; and if there be a parfect man in Washington county, I have not
yet fallen in with him. Ten millions of imparfect men won't make one
parfect man, and so I don't look for perfection in the people any more
than I do in princes. All I look for in democracy is to keep the reins
in so many hands as to prevent a few from turning everything to their
own account; still, we mustn't forget that, when a great many do go
wrong, it is much worse than when a few go wrong.
If my son didn't inherit the property of Malbone Littlepage,
neither will Malbone Littlepage's son inherit mine. We are on a footing
in that respect. As to paying rent, which some persons think so hard,
what would they do if they had no house to live in, or farm to work? If
folks wish to purchase houses and farms, no one can prevent them if
they have money to do it with; and if they have not, is it expected
other people are to provide them with such things out of their own
Here the speaker was interrupted by a sudden whooping, and the
Injins came pressing into the house in a way to drive in all the aisles
before them. Men, women and children leaped from the windows, the
distance being trifling, while others made their escape by the two
side-doors, the Injins coming in only by the main entrance. In less
time than it takes to record the fact, the audience had nearly all
END OF VOL. I.
 Mr. Hugh Littlepage writes a little sharply, but there is truth
in all he says, at the bottom. His tone is probably produced by the
fact that there is so serious an attempt to deprive him of his old
paternal estate, an attempt which is receiving support in high
quarters. In addition to this provocation, the Littlepages, as the
manuscript shows farther on, are traduced, as one means of effecting
the objects of the anti-renters; no man, in any community in which it
is necessary to work on public sentiment in order to accomplish such a
purpose, ever being wronged without being calumniated. As respects the
inns, truth compels me, as an old traveller, to say that Mr. Littlepage
has much reason for what he says. I have met with a better bed in the
lowest French tavern I ever was compelled to use, and in one instance I
slept in an inn frequented by carters, than in the best purely country
inn in America. In the way of neatness, however, more is usually to be
found in our New York village taverns than in the public hotels of
Paris itself. As for the hit touching the intelligence of the people,
it is merited; for I have myself heard subtle distinctions drawn to
show that the people of a former generation were not as knowing as
the people of this, and imputing the covenants of the older leases to
that circumstance, instead of imputing them to their true cause, the
opinions and practices of the times. Half a century's experience would
induce me to say that the people were never particularly dull in
making a bargain.EDITOR.
 The editor has often had occasion to explain the meaning of
terms of this nature. The colonists caught a great many words from the
Indians they first knew, and used them to all other Indians, though not
belonging to their languages; and these other tribes using them as
English, a sort of limited lingua frança has grown up in the
country that everybody understands. It is believed that moccasin,
squaw, pappoose, sago, tomahawk, wigwam, &c. &c. all belong
to this class of words. There can be little doubt that the sobriquet
of Yankees is derived from Yengeese, the manner in which the tribes
nearest to New England pronounced the word English. It is to this
hour a provincialism of that part of the country to pronounce this word
Eng-lish instead of Ing-lish, its conventional sound.
The change from Eng-lish to Yen-geese is very
 As the honourable gentleman from Albany does not seem to
understand the precise signification of provincial, I can tell him
that one sign of such a character is to admire a bed at an American
 That Mr. Hugh Littlepage does not feel or express himself too
strongly on the state of things that has now existed among us for long,
long years, the following case, but one that illustrates the melancholy
truth among many, will show. At a time when the tenants of an extensive
landlord, to whom tens of thousands were owing for rent, were openly
resisting the law, and defeating every attempt to distrain, though two
ordinary companies of even armed constables would have put them down,
the sheriff entered the house of that very landlord, and levied on his
furniture for debt. Had that gentleman, on the just and pervading
principle that he owed no allegiance to an authority that did not
protect him, resisted the sheriff's officer, he would have gone
to the State's prison; and there he might have staid until his last
hour of service was expended.EDITOR.
 Absurd as this may seem, it is nevertheless true, and for a
reason that is creditable, rather than the reversea wish to help
along the unfortunate. It is a great mistake, however, as a rule, to
admit of any other motive for selecting for public trusts, than
 This is no invented statement, but strictly one that is true,
the writer having himself a small interest in a property so situated;
though he has not yet bethought him of applying to the Legislature for