Although slavery, or perpetual servitude, was forbidden by the statute, there were many slaves in New England, Indians and whites as well as negroes. The first importation of the latter was in 1619, by the Dutch, it is said. No slave could be kept in bondage more than ten years; it was stipulated that they were to be brought from Africa, or elsewhere, only with their own consent; and when, in 1638, it appeared that a cargo of them had been forcibly introduced, they were sent back to Africa. Prisoners of war were condemned to servitude; and, altogether, the feeling on the subject of human bondage appears to have been both less and more fastidious than it afterward became. There was no such indifference as was shown in the Southern slave trade two centuries later, nor was there any of the humanitarian fanaticism exhibited by the extreme Abolitionists of the years before the Civil War. It may turn out that the attitude of the Puritans had more common-sense in it than had either of the others.
The great event of 1643 was the natural outcome of the growth and expansion of the previous time. It was the federation of the four colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut. Connecticut had been settled in 1680, but it was not till six years afterward that a party headed by the renowned Thomas Hooker, the "Son of Thunder," and one of the most judicious men of that age, journeyed from Boston with the deliberate purpose of creating another commonwealth in the desert. Connecticut did not offer assurances of a peaceful settlement; the Indians were numerous there, and not well-disposed; and in the south, the Dutch of New Amsterdam were complaining of an infringement of boundaries. These ominous conditions came to a head in the Pequot war; after which peace reigned for many years. A constitution of the most liberal kind was created by the settlers, some of the articles of which led to a correspondence between Hooker and Winthrop as to the comparative merits of magisterial and popular governments. Unlearned men, however religious, if elected to office, must needs call in the assistance of the learned ministers, who, thus burdened with matters not rightly within their function, might err in counseling thereon. Of the people, the best part was always the least, and of that best, the wiser is the lesser.—This was Winthrop's position. Hooker replied that to allow discretion to the judge was the way to tyranny. Seek the law at its mouth; it is free from passion, and should rule the rulers themselves; let the judge do according to the sentence of the law. In high matters, business should be done by a general council, chosen by all, as was the practice of the Jewish and other well-ordered states.—This is an example of the political discussions of that day in New England; both parties to it concerned solely to come at the truth, and free from any selfish aim or pride. The soundness of Hooker's view may be deduced from the fact that the constitution of Connecticut (which differed in no essential respect from those of the other colonies) has survived almost unchanged to the present day. Statesmanship, during two and a half centuries, has multiplied details and improved the nicety of adjustments; but it has not discerned any principles which had not been seen with perfect distinctness by the clear and venerable eyes of the Puritan fathers.
Eaton, another man of similar caliber, was the leading spirit in the New Haven settlement, assisted by the Reverend Mr. Davenport; many of the colonists were Second-Adventists, and they called the Bible their Statute-Book. The date of their establishment was 1638. The incoherent population of Rhode Island caused it to be excluded from the federation; but Williams, journeying to London, obtained a patent from the exiled but now powerful Vane, and took as the motto of his government, "Amor Vincet Omnia." New Hampshire, which had been united to Massachusetts in 1641, could have no separate part in the new arrangement; and Maine, an indeterminate region, sparsely inhabited by people who had come to seek not God, but fish in the western world, was not considered. The articles of federation of the four Calvinist colonies aimed to provide mutual protection against the Indians, against possible encroachment from England, against Dutch and French colonists: they declared a league not only for defense and offense, but for the promotion of spiritual truth and liberty. Nothing was altered in the constitutions of any of the contracting parties; and an equitable system of apportioning expenses was devised. Each partner sent two delegates to the common council; all affairs proper to the federation were determined by a three-fourths vote; a law for the delivery of fugitive slaves was agreed to; and the commissioners of the other jurisdictions were empowered to coerce any member of the federation which should break this contract. The title of The United Colonies of New England was bestowed upon the alliance. The articles were the work of a committee of the leading men in the country, such as Winthrop, Winslow, Haynes and Eaton; and the confederacy lasted forty years, being dissolved in 1684.
It was a great result from an experiment begun only about a dozen years before. It was greater even, than its outward seeming, for it contained within itself the forces which should control the future. This country is made up of many elements, and has been molded to no small extent by circumstances hardly to be foreseen; but it seems incontestable that it would never have endured, and continued to be the goal of all pilgrims who wish to escape from a restricted to a freer life, had not its corner-stone been laid, and its outline fixed, by these first colonists of New England. It has been calculated that in two hundred years the physical increase of each Puritan family was one thousand persons, dispersed over the territory of the United States; and the moral influence which this posterity exerted on the various communities in which they fixed their abode is beyond computation. But had the Puritan fathers been as ordinary men: had they come hither for ends of gain and aggrandizement: had they not been united by the most inviolable ties that can bind men—community in religious faith, brotherhood in persecution for conscience' sake, and an intense, inflexible enthusiasm for liberty—their descendants would have had no spiritual inheritance to disseminate. Many superficial changes have come upon our society; there is an absence of a fixed national type; there are many thousands of illiterate persons among us, and of those who are still ignorant of the true nature of democratic institutions; all the tongues of Europe and of other parts of the world may be heard within our boundaries; there are great bodies of our citizens who selfishly pursue ends of private enrichment and power, indifferent to the patent fact that multitudes of their fellows are thereby obstructed in the effort to earn a livelihood in this most productive country in the world; there are many who have prostituted the name of statesmanship to the gratification of petty and transient ambitions: and many more who, relieved by the thrift of their ancestors from the necessity to win their bread, have renounced all concern in the welfare of the state, and live trivial and empty lives: all this, and more, may be conceded. But such evil humors, be it repeated, are superficial, attesting the vigor, rather than the decay, of the central vitality. America still stands for an idea; there is in it an immortal soul. It was by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay that this soul was implanted; to inspire it was their work. They experienced the realities, they touched the core of things, us few men have ever done; for they were born in an age when the world was awakening from the spiritual slumber of more than fifteen hundred years, and upon its bewildered eyes was breaking the splendor of a great new light. The Puritans were the immediate heirs of the Reformation (so called; it might more truly have been named the New Incarnation, since the outward modifications of visible form were but the symptoms of a freshly-communicated informing intelligence). It transfigured them; from men sunk in the gross and sensual thoughts and aims of an irreligious and priest-ridden age—an age which ate and drank and slept and fought, and kissed the feet of popes, and maundered of the divine right of kings—from this sluggish degradation it roused and transfigured the Englishmen who came to be known as Puritans. It was a transfiguration, though its subjects were the uncouth, almost grotesque figures which chronicle and tradition have made familiar to us. For a people who were what the Puritans were before Puritanism, cannot be changed by the Holy Ghost into angels of light; their stubborn carnality will not evaporate like a mist; it clings to them, and being now so discordant with the impulse within, an awkwardness and uncouthness result, which suggest some strange hybrid: to the eye and ear, they are unlovelier and harsher than they were before their illumination; but Providence regards not looks; it knew what it was about when it chose these men of bone and sinew to carry out its purposes. Once enlisted, they never could be quelled, or seduced, or deceived, or wearied; they were in fatal earnest, and faithful unto death, for they believed that God was their Captain. They had got a soul; they put it into their work, and it is in that work even to this day.
It does not manifestly appear to our contemporary vision; it is overloaded with the rubbish of things, as a Greek statue is covered with the careless debris of ages; but, as the art of the sculptor is vindicated when the debris has been removed, so will the fair proportions of the State conceived by the Puritans, and nourished and defended by their sons, declare themselves when in the maturity of our growth we have assimilated what is good in our accretions, and disencumbered ourselves of what is vain. It is the American principle, and it will not down; it is a solvent of all foreign substances; in its own way and time it dissipates all things that are not harmonious with itself. No lesser or feebler principle would have survived the tests to which this has been subjected; but this is indestructible; even we could not destroy it if we would, for it is no inalienable possession of our own, but a gift from on High to the whole of mankind. But let us piously and proudly remember that it was through the Puritans that the gift was made. Other nations than the English have contributed to our substance and prosperity, and have yielded their best blood to flow in our veins. They are dear to us as ourselves, as how should they not be, since what, other than ourselves, are they? None the less is it true that what was worthiest and most unselfish in the impulse that drove them hither was a reflection of the same impulse that actuated the Puritans when America was not the most powerful of republics, but a wilderness. None of us all can escape from their greatness—from the debt we owe them: not because they were Englishmen, not because they made New England; but because they were men, inspired of God to make the earth free that was in bondage.
FROM HUDSON TO STUYVESANT
There are two scenes in the career of Henry Hudson which can never be forgotten by Americans. One is in the first week in September, 1609. A little vessel, of eighty tons, is lying on the smooth waters of a large harbor. She has the mounded stern and bluff bows of the ships of that day; one of her masts has evidently been lately stepped; the North American pine of which it is made shows the marks of the ship-carpenter's ax, and the whiteness of the fresh wood. The square sails have been rent, and mended with seams and patches; the sides and bulwarks of the vessel have been buffeted by heavy seas off the Newfoundland coast; the paint and varnish which shone on them as she dropped down the reaches of the Zuyder Zee from Amsterdam, five months ago, have become whitened with salt and dulled by fog and sun and driving spray. Across her stern, above the rudder of massive oaken plank clamped with iron, is painted the name "HALF MOON," in straggling letters. On her poop stands Henry Hudson, leaning against the tiller; beside him is a young man, his son; along the bulwark lounge the crew, half Englishmen, half Dutch; broad-beamed, salted tars, with pigtails and rugged visages, who are at home in Arctic fields and in Equatorial suns, and who now stare out toward the low shores to the north and west, and converse among themselves in the nameless jargon—the rude compromise between guttural Dutch, and husky English—which has served them as a medium of communication during the long voyage. It is a good harbor, they think, and a likely country. They are impatient for the skipper to let them go ashore, and find out what grows in the woods.
Meanwhile the great navigator, supporting himself, with folded arms, against the creaking tiller, absorbs the scene through his deep-set eyes in silence. Many a haven had he visited in his time; he had been within ten degrees of the North Pole; he had seen the cliffs of Spitzbergen loom through the fog, and had heard the sound of Greenland glaciers breaking into vast icebergs where they overhung the sea; he had lain in the thronged ports of the Netherlands, where the masts cluster like naked forests, and the commerce of the world seethes and murmurs continually; he had dropped anchor in quiet English harbors, under cool gray skies, with undulating English hills in the distance, and prosperous wharfs and busy streets in front. He had sweltered, no doubt, beneath the heights of Hong-Kong, amid a city of swarming junks; and further south had smelled the breeze that blows through the straits of the Spice Islands. He knew the surface of the earth, as a farmer knows his farm; but never, he thought, had he beheld a softer and more inviting prospect than this which spread before him now, mellowed by the haze of the mild September morning.
On all sides the shores were wooded to the water's edge: a giant forest, unbroken, dense and tall, flourishing from its own immemorial decay, matted with wild grape vine, choked with brush, wild as when the Creator made it; untouched, since then. It was as remote—as lost to mankind—as it was beautiful. The hum and turmoil of the civilized world was like the memory of a dream in this tranquil region, where untrammeled nature had worked her teeming will for centuries upon silent centuries. Here were such peace and stillness that the cry of the blue jay seemed audacious; the dive of a gull into the smooth water was a startling event. To the imaginative mind of Hudson this spot seemed to have been set apart by Providence, hidden away behind the sandy reaches of the outer coast, so that irreverent man, who turns all things to gain, might never discover and profane its august solitudes. Here the search for wealth was never to penetrate; the only gold was in the tender sunshine, and in the foliage of here and there a giant tree, which the distant approach of winter was lulling into golden slumber. But then, with a sigh, he reflected that all the earth was man's, and the fullness thereof; and that here too, perhaps, would one day appear clearings in the primeval forest, and other vessels would ride at anchor, and huts would peep out from beneath the overshadowing foliage on the shores. But it was hard to conjure up such a picture; it was difficult to imagine so untamed a wilderness subdued, in ever so small a degree, by the hand of industry and commerce.
Northwestward, across the green miles of whispering leaves, the land appeared to rise in long, level bluffs, still thronged with serried trees; a great arm of the sea, a mile or two in breadth, extended east of north, and thither, the mariner dreamed, might lie the long-sought pathway to the Indies. A tongue of land, broadening as it receded, and swelling in low undulations, divided this wide strait from a narrower one more to the east. All was forest; and eastward still was more forest, stretching seaward. Southward, the land was low—almost as low and flat as the Netherlands themselves; an unexplored immensity, whose fertile soil had for countless ages been hidden from the sun by the impervious shelter of interlacing boughs. No—never had Hudson seen a land of such enduring charm and measureless promise as this: and here, in this citadel of loneliness, which no white man's foot had ever trod, which, till then, only the eyes of the corsair Verrazano had seen, near a century before —here was to arise, like Aladdin's Palace, the metropolis of the western world; enormous, roaring, hurrying, trafficking, grasping, swarming with its millions upon millions of striving, sleepless, dauntless, exulting, despairing, aspiring human souls; the home of unbridled luxury, of abysmal poverty, of gigantic industries, of insolent idleness, of genius, of learning, of happiness and of misery; of far-reaching enterprise, of political glory and shame, of science and art; here human life was to reach its intensest, most breathless, relentless and insatiable expression; here was to stand a city whose arms should reach westward over a continent, and eastward round the world; here were to thunder the streets and tower the buildings and reek the chimneys and arch the bridges and rumble the railways and throb the electric wires of American New York, the supreme product of Nineteenth Century civilization, radiant with the virtues and grimy with the failings that mankind has up to this time developed.
On the 23d of June, two years later, Henry Hudson was the central figure in another scene. He sat in a small, open boat, hoary with frozen spray; he was muffled in the shaggy hide of a white bear, roughly fashioned into a coat; a sailor's oilskin hat was drawn down over his brow, and beneath its rim his eyes gazed sternly out over a wide turbulence of gray waters, tossing with masses of broken ice. His dark beard was grizzled with frost; his cheeks were gaunt with the privations of a long, arctic winter spent amid endless snows, in darkness unrelieved, smitten by storms, struggling with savage beasts and harried by more inhuman men. He sat with his hand at the helm; against his other shoulder leaned his son, his inseparable companion, now sinking into unconsciousness; the six rowers—the stanch comrades who, with him, had been thrust forth to perish by the mutineers —plied their work heavily and hopelessly; their rigid jaws were set; no words nor complaints broke from them, though was slowly settling round their valiant hearts. Overhead brooded a somber vault of clouds; the circle of the horizon, which seemed to creep in upon them, was one unbroken sweep of icy dreariness, save where, to the southeast, the dark hull of the "Discovery," and her pallid sails, rocked and leaned across the sullen heave of the waters. She was bound for Europe; but whither is Hudson bound?
His end befitted his life; he vanished into the unknown, as he had come from it. There is no record of the time or place of his birth, or of his early career, nor can any tell where lie his bones; we only know that his limbs were made in England, and that the great inland sea, called after him, ebbs and flows above his grave. He first comes into the ken of history, sailing on the seas, resolute to discover virgin straits and shores; and when we see him last, he is still toiling onward over the waves, peering into the great mystery. Possibly, as has been suggested, he may have been the descendant of the Hudson who was one of the founders of the Muscovy Company, in whose service the famous navigator afterward voyaged on various errands. It matters not; he lived, and did his work, and is no more; his strong heart burned within him; he saw what none had seen; he triumphed, and he was overcome. But the doubt that shrouds his end has given him to legend, and the thunder that rolls brokenly among the dark crags and ravines of the Catskills brings his name to the hearer's lips.
The Dutch had had many opportunities offered to them to discover New York, before they accepted the services of Henry Hudson, who was willing to go out of his own country to find backers, so only that he might be afloat. Almost every year, from 1581 onward, the mariners of the Netherlands strove, by east and by west, to pass the barrier that America interposed between them and the Eastern trade they coveted. The Dutch East India Company was the first trading corporation of Europe; and after the war with Spain, during the twelve years' truce, the little country was overflowing with men eager to undertake any enterprise, and with money to fit them out. The Netherlands suddenly bloomed out the most prosperous country in the world.
They would not be hurried; they took their time to think it over, as Dutchmen will; but at length they conceived an immense project for acquiring all the trade, or the best part of it, of both the West and the East. They studied the subject with the patient particularity of their race; they outclassed Spain on the seas, and they believed they could starve out her commerce. Some there were, however, who feared that in finding new countries they would lose their own; Europe was again in a turmoil, and they were again fighting Spain before New Amsterdam was founded. But meanwhile, in 1609, quite inadvertently, Henry Hudson discovered it for them at a moment when they supposed him to be battling with freezing billows somewhere north of Siberia. When he was stopped by Nova Zembla ice, he put about and crossed the Atlantic to Nova Scotia, and so down the coast, as we have seen, to the Chesapeake, the Delaware, and finally the Hudson. He told his tale in glowing words when he got back; but the Dutch merchants perhaps fancied he was spinning sailors' yarns, and heeded not his report till long after.
Hudson, after passing the Narrows, anchored near the Jersey shore, and received a visit from some Indians with native commodities to exchange for knives and beads. They presented the usual Indian aspect as regarded dress and arms; but they wore ornaments of red copper under their feather mantles, and carried pipes of copper and clay. They were affable, but untrustworthy, stealing what they could lay their hands on, and a few days later shooting arrows at a boatload of seamen from the ship, and killing one John Colman. Hudson went ashore, and was honored with dances and chants; upon the whole, the impression mutually created seems to have been favorable. An abundance of beans and oysters was supplied to the crew; and no doubt trade was carried on to the latter's advantage; we know that years afterward the whole of Manhattan Island was purchased of its owners for four-and-twenty dollars. The present inhabitants of New York City could not be so easily overreached.
Hudson now began the first trip ever made by white men up the great river. How many millions have made it since! But he, at this gentlest time of year, won with the magic not only of what he saw, but of the unknown that lay before him—what must have been his sensations! As reach after reach of the incomparable panorama spread itself out quietly before him, with its beauty of color, its majesty of form, its broad gleam of placid current, the sheer lift of its brown cliffs, its mighty headlands setting their titanic shoulders across his path, its toppling pinnacles assuming the likeness of giant visages, its swampy meadows and inlets, lovely with flowers and waving with rushes, its royal eagles stemming the pure air aloft, its fish leaping in the ripples—and then, as he sailed on, mute with enchantment, the blue magnificence of the mountains soaring heavenward and melting into the clouds that hung about their summits—as all this multifarious beauty unfolded itself, Hudson may well have thought that the lost Eden of the earth was found at last. And ere long, he dreamed, the vast walls through which the river moved would diverge and cease, like another Pillars of Hercules, and his ship would emerge into another ocean. It was verily a voyage to be remembered; and perhaps it returned in a vision to his dimming eyes, that day he steered his open boat through the arctic surges of Hudson's Bay.
For ten days or more he pressed onward before a southerly breeze, until, in the neighborhood of what now is Albany, it became evident that the Pacific was not to be found in northern New York. He turned, therefore, and drifted slowly downward with the steady current, while the matchless lines of the American autumn glowed every day more sumptuously from the far-billowing woods. What sunrises and what sunsets dyed the waters with liquid splendor: what moons, let us hope, turned the glories of day into the spiritual mysteries of fairyland! Hudson was not born for repose; his fate was to sail unrestingly till he died; but as he passed down through this serene carnival of opulent nature, he may well have wished that here, after all voyages were done, his lot might finally be cast; he may well have wondered whether any race would be born so great and noble as to merit the gift of such a river and such a land.
He landed at various places on the way, and was always civilly and hospitably welcomed by the red men, who brought him their wild abundance, and took in return what he chose to give. The marvelous richness of the vegetation, and the vegetable decay of ages, had rendered the margins of the stream as deadly as they were lovely; fever lurked in every glade and bower, and serpents whose bite was death basked in the sun or crept among the rocks. All was as it had always been; the red men, living in the midst of nature, were a part of nature themselves; nothing was changed by their presence; they altered not the flutter of a leaf or the posture of a stone, but stole in and out noiseless and lithe, and left behind them no trace of their passage. It is not so with the white man: before him, nature flies and perishes; he clothes the earth in the thoughts of his own mind, cast in forms of matter, and contemplates them with pride; but when he dies, another comes, and refashions the materials to suit himself. So one follows another, and nothing endures that man has made; for this is his destiny. And at length, when the last man has dressed out his dolls and built his little edifice of stones and sticks, and is gone: nature, who was not dead, but sleeping, awakes, and resumes her ancient throne, and her eternal works declare themselves once more; and she dissolves the bones in the grave, and the grave itself vanishes, with its record of what man had been. What says our poet?—
"How am I theirs, When they hold not me, But I hold them?"
In 1613, or thereabout, Christianson and Block visited the harbor and got furs, and also a couple of Indian boys to show the burghers of Amsterdam, since they could not fetch the great river to Holland. In 1614 they went again with five ships—the "Fortune of Amsterdam," the "Fortune of Hoorn," and the "Tiger of Amsterdam" (which was burned), and two others. Block built himself a boat of sixteen tons, and explored the Sound, and the New England coast as far as Massachusetts Bay; touched at the island known by his name, and forgathered with the Indian tribes all along his route. The explorers were granted a charter in the same year, giving them a three years' monopoly of the trade, and in this charter the title New Netherland is bestowed upon the region. The Dutch were at last bestirring themselves. Two years after, Schouten of Hoorn saw the southernmost point of Tierra del Fuego, and gave it the name of his home port as he swept by; and three other Netherlanders penetrated to the wilds of Philadelphia that was to be. A fortified trading post was built at Albany, where now legislation instead of peltries is the subject of barter. At this juncture internal quarrels in the Dutch government led to tragic events, which stimulated plans of western colonization, and the desire to start a commonwealth on Hudson River to forestall the English—for the latter as well as the Dutch and Spanish claimed everything in sight. The Dutch East India Company began business in 1621 with a twenty-four year charter, renewable. It was given power to create an independent nation; the world was invited to buy its stock, and the States-General invested a million guilders in it. Its field was the entire west coast of Africa, and the east coast of North and South America. Such schemes are of planetary magnificence; but of all this realm, the Dutch now hold the little garden patch of Dutch Guiana only, and the pleasant records of their sojourn on Manhattan Island between the years 1623 and 1664.
Indeed, the Dutch episode in our history is in all respects refreshing and agreeable; the burghers set us an example of thrift and steadiness too good for us to follow it; and they deeded to us some of our best citizens, and most engaging architectural traditions. But it is not after all for these and other material benefits that we are indebted to them; we thank them still more for being what they were (and could not help being): for their character, their temperament, their costume, their habits, their breadth of beam, their length of pipes, the deliberation of their courtships, the hardness of their bargains, the portentousness of their tea-parties, the industrious decorum of their women, the dignity of their patroons, the strictness of their social conduct, the soundness of their education, the stoutness of their independence, the excellence of their good sense, the simplicity of their prudence, and above all, for the wooden leg of Peter Stuyvesant. In a word, the humorous perception of the American people has made a pet of the Dutch tradition in New York and Pennsylvania; as, likewise, of the childlike comicalities of the plantation negro; the arch waggishness of the Irish emigrants, and the cherubic shrewdness of the newly-acquired German. The Dutch gained much, on the sentimental score, by transplantation; their old-world flavor and rich coloring are admirably relieved against the background of unbaked wilderness. We could not like them so much or laugh at them at all, did we not so thoroughly respect them; the men of New Amsterdam were worthy of their national history, which recounts as stirring a struggle as was ever made by the love of liberty against the foul lust of oppression. The Dutch are not funny anywhere but in Seventeenth Century Manhattan; nor can this singularity be explained by saying that Washington Irving made them so. It inheres in the situation; and the delightful chronicles of Diedrich Knickerbocker owe half their enduring fascination to their sterling veracity—the veracity which is faithful to the spirit and gambols only with the letter. The humor of that work lies in its sympathetic and creative insight quite as much as in the broad good-humor and imaginative whimsicality with which the author handles his theme. The caricature of a true artist gives a better likeness than any photograph.
The first ship containing families of colonists went out early in 1623, under the command of Cornelis May; he broke ground on Manhattan, while Joris built Fort Orange at Albany, and a little group of settlers squatted round it. May acted as director for the first year or two; the trade in furs was prosecuted, and the first Dutch-American baby was born at Fort Orange.
Fortune was kind. King Charles, instead of discussing prior rights, offered an alliance; at home, the bickerings of sects were healed. Peter Minuit came out as director-general and paid his twenty-four dollars for the Island—a little less than a thousand acres for a dollar. At all events, the Indians seemed satisfied from Albany to the Narrows. The Battery was designed, and there was quite a cluster of houses on the clearing back of it. An atmosphere of Dutch homeliness began to temper the thin American air. The honest citizens were pious, and had texts read to them on Sundays; but they did not torture their consciences with spiritual self-questionings like the English Puritans, nor dream of disciplining or banishing any of their number for the better heavenly security of the rest. The souls of these Netherlander fitted their bodies far better than was the case with the colonists of Boston and Salem. Instead of starving and rending them, their religion made them happy and comfortable. Instead of settling the ultimate principles of theology and government, they enjoyed the consciousness of mutual good-will, and took things as they came. The new world needed men of both kinds. It must, however, be admitted that the people of New Amsterdam were not wholly harmonious with those of Plymouth. Minuit and Bradford had some correspondence, in which, while professions of mutual esteem and love were exchanged, uneasy things were let fall about clear titles and prior rights. Minuit was resolute for his side, and the attitude of Bradford prompted him to send for a company of soldiers from home. But there was probably no serious anticipation of coming to blows on either part. There was space enough in the continent for the two hundred and seventy inhabitants of New Amsterdam and for the Pilgrim Fathers, for the present.
Spain was an unwilling contributor to the prosperity of the Dutch colonists, by the large profits which the latter gained from the capture of Spanish galleons; but in 1629 the charter creating the order of Patroons laid the foundation for abuses and discontent which afflicted the settlers for full thirty years. Upon the face of it, the charter was liberal, and promised good results; but it made the mistake of not securing popular liberties. The Netherlands were no doubt a free country, as freedom was at that day understood in Europe; but this freedom did not involve independence for the individual. The only recognized individuality was that of the municipalities, the rulers of which were not chosen by popular franchise. This system answered well enough in the old home, but proved unsuited to the conditions of settlers in the wilderness. The American spirit seemed to lurk like some subtle contagion in the remotest recesses of the forest, and those who went to live there became affected with it. It was longer in successfully vindicating itself than in New England, because it was not stimulated on the banks of the Hudson by the New England religious fervor; it was supported on grounds of practical expediency merely. Men could not prosper unless they received the rewards of industry, and were permitted to order their private affairs in a manner to make their labor pay. They were not content to have the Patroon devour their profits, leaving them enough only for a bare subsistence. The Dutch families scattered throughout the domain could not get ahead, while yet they could not help feeling that the bounty of nature ought to benefit those whose toil made it available, at least as much as it did those who toiled not, but simply owned the land in virtue of some documentary transaction with the powers above, and therefore claimed ownership also over the poor emigrant who settled on it—having nowhere else to go. The emigrants were probably helped to comprehend and formulate their own misfortunes by communications with stragglers from New England, who regaled them with tales of such liberties as they had never before imagined. But the seed thus sown by the Englishmen fell on fruitful soil, and the crop was reaped in due season.
The charter intended, primarily, the encouragement of emigration, and did not realize that it needed very little encouragement. The advantages offered were more alluring than they need have been. Any person who, within four years, could establish a colony of fifty persons, was given privileges only comparable to those of independent princes. They were allowed to take up tracts of land many square miles in area, to govern them absolutely (according to the laws of the realm), to found and administer cities, and in a word to drink from Baucis's pitcher to their hearts' content. In return, the home administration expected the benefit of their trade. Two stipulations only restrained them: they were to buy titles to their land from the Indians, and they were to permit, on penalty of removal, no cotton or woolen manufactures in the country. That was a monopoly which was reserved to the weavers in the old country.
This was excellent for such as could afford to become patroons; but what about the others? The charter provided that any emigrant who could pay for his exportation might take up what land he required for his needs, and cultivate it independently. Other emigrants, unable to pay their fare out, might have it paid for them, but in that case, of course, incurred a mortgage to their benefactors. In effect, they could not own the product of the work of their hands, until it had paid their sponsors for their outlay, together with such additions in the way of interest on capital as might seem to the sponsors equitable.
The Company further undertook to supply slaves to the colony, should they prove to be a paying investment; and it was chiefly because the climate of New York was less favorable to the Guinea Coast negro than was that further south, that African slavery did not take early and firm root in the former region. Philosophers have long recognized the influence of degrees of latitude upon human morality. The patroon planters could dispense with black slaves, since they had white men enough who cost them no more than their keep, and would, presumably, not involve the expense of overseers. Everything, therefore, seemed harmonious and sunshiny, and the Company congratulated itself.
But the patroons, through their agents, began buying up all the land that was worth having, and found it easy to evade the stipulation restricting them to sixteen miles apiece. One of them had an estate running twenty-four miles on either bank of the Hudson, below Albany (or Fort Orange as it was then), and forty-eight miles inland. It was superb; but it was as far as possible from being democracy; and the portly Van Rensselaer of Rennselaerwyck would have shuddered to his marrow, could he have cast a prophetic eye into the Nineteenth Century.
The Company at home presently discovered that its incautious liberality had injured its own interests, as well as those of poor settlers; for the estates of the patroons covered the trading posts where the Indians came to traffic, and all the profits from the latter swelled the pockets of the patroons. But the charter could not be withdrawn; the directors must be content with whatever sympathetic benefits might be conferred by the increasing wealth of the colony. The patroons were becoming more powerful than their creators, and took things more and more into their own lordly hands. Neither patroons nor Company concerned themselves about the people. The charter had, indeed, mentioned the subjects of schools and religious instructors for the emigrants, but had made no provision for the maintenance of such; and the patroons conceived that such luxuries were deserving of but the slightest encouragement. The more a poor man knows, the less contented is he. Such was the argument then, and it is occasionally heard to-day, when our trusts and corporations are annoyed by the complaints and disaffections of their only half ignorant employes.
Governor Minuit was not held to be the best man in the world for his position, and he was recalled in 1632, and Wouter Van Twiller, who possessed all of his predecessor's faults and none of his virtues, took his place. A governor with the American idea in him would have saved Manhattan a great deal of trouble, and perhaps have enabled the Dutch to keep their hold upon it; but no such governor was available, and worse than Van Twiller was yet to come. A colony had already been planted in Delaware, but unjust dealings with the Indians led to a massacre which left nothing of the Cape Henlopen settlement but bones and charred timbers. The English to the south were led to renew the assertion of their never-abandoned claim to the region; there were encroachments by the English settlers on the Connecticut boundary, and the Dutch, deprived by the wars in Europe of the support of their countrymen at home, were too feeble to do more than protest. But protests from those unable to enforce them have never been listened to with favor—not even by the English. Besides, the Dutch, though amenable to religious observances, were far from making them the soul and end of all thought and action; and this lack of aggressive religious fiber put them at a decided political disadvantage with their rivals. Man for man, they were the equals of the English, or of any other people; as they magnificently demonstrated, forty years afterward, by defeating allied and evil-minded Europe in its attempt to expunge them as a nation. But the indomitable spirit of Van Tromp and De Ruyter was never awakened in the New Netherlands; commercial considerations were paramount; and though the Dutch settlers remained, and were always welcome, the colony finally passed from the jurisdiction of their own government, with their own expressed consent.
Van Twiller vanished after eight years' mismanagement, and the sanguinary Kieft took the reins. But before his incumbency, Sweden, at the instance of Gustavus Adolphus, and by the agency of his chancellor Oxenstiern, both men of the first class, lodged a colony on Delaware Bay, which subsisted for seventeen years, and was absorbed, at last, without one stain upon its fair record. Minuit, being out of a job, offered his experienced services in bringing the emigrating Swedes and Finns to their new abode, and they began their sojourn in 1638. They were industrious, peaceable, religious and moral, and they declared against any form of slavery. They threw out a branch toward Philadelphia. But Gustavus Adolphus had died at Luetzen before the Swedes came over, and Queen Christina had not the ability to carry out his ideas, even had she possessed the power. The Dutch began to dispute the rights of the Scandinavians; Rysingh took their fort Casimir in 1654, and Peter Stuyvesant with six hundred men received their submission in the same year. But this success was of no benefit to the Dutch; the tyrannous monopolies which the Company tried to establish in Delaware, instead of creating revenues, caused the country to be deserted by the settlers, who betook themselves to the less oppressive English administrations to the southward; and it was not until the English took possession of both Delaware and the rest of the New Netherlands that it began to yield a fair return on the investment.
But we must return to the ill-omened Kieft. It was upon the Indian question that he made shipwreck, not only incurring their deadly enmity, but alienating from himself the sympathies and support of his own countrymen. The Algonquin tribe, which inhabited the surrounding country, had been constantly overreached in their trade with the Dutchmen; the principle upon which barter was carried on with the untutored savage being, "I'll take the turkey, and you keep the buzzard: or you take the buzzard, and I'll keep the turkey." This sounded fair; but when the Indian came to examine his assets, it always appeared that a buzzard was all he could make of it. Partly, perhaps, by way of softening the asperities of such a discovery, the Dutch merchant had been wont to furnish his victim with brandy (not eleemosynary, of course); but the results were disastrous. The Indians, transported by the alcohol beyond the anything-but-restricted bounds which nature had imposed upon them, felt the insult of the buzzard more keenly than ever, and signified their resentment in ways consistent with their instincts and traditions. In 1640 an army of them fell upon the colony in Staten Island, and slaughtered them, man, woman and child, with the familiar Indian accessories of tomahawk, scalping-knife and torch. The Staten Islanders, it should be stated, had done nothing to merit this treatment; but Indian logic interprets the legal maxim "Qui facit per alium, facit per se," as meaning that if one white man cheats him, he can get his satisfaction out of the next one who happens in sight. Staten Island was a definite and convenient area, and when its population had been exterminated, the Indians could feel relieved from their obligation. Not long afterward an incident such as romancers love to feign actually took place; an Indian brave who, as a child years before, had seen his uncle robbed and slain, and had vowed revenge, now having become of age, or otherwise qualified himself for the enterprise, went upon the warpath, and returned with the long-coveted scalp at his girdle. Evidently the time had come for Governor Kieft to assert himself.
It was of small avail to invade the wilds of New Jersey, or to offer rewards for Raritans, dead or alive. The sachems were willing to express their regret, but they would not surrender the culprits, and declared that the Dutchmen's own brandy was the really guilty party. Kieft would not concede the point, and the situation was strained. At this juncture, the unexpected happened. The Mohawks, a kingly tribe of red men, who claimed all Northeast America from the St. Lawrence to the Delaware, and who had already driven the Algonquins before them like chaff, sent down a war party from northern New York, and demanded tribute from them. There were more Algonquins than there were Mohawks; but one eagle counts for more than many kites. The kites came fluttering to Fort Orange for protection: not so much that they feared death or torture, but they were overawed by the spirit of the Mohawk, and could not endure to face him. Kieft fancied that he saw his opportunity. He would teach the red scoundrels a lesson they would remember. There was a company of soldiers in the Fort, and in the river were moored some vessels with crews of Dutch privateers on board. Kieft made up his party, and when night had fallen he sent them on their bloody errand, guided by one who knew all the camps and hiding-places of the doomed tribe. It was a revolting episode; a hundred Indians were unresistingly murdered. They would have made a stronger defense had they not been under the impression that it was the Mohawks who were upon them; and to be killed by a Mohawk was no more than an Algonquin should expect. But when it transpired that the Dutch were the perpetrators, the whole nation gave way to a double exasperation: first, that their friends had been killed, and secondly that they had suffered under a misapprehension. The settlers, in disregard of advice, were living in scattered situations over a large territory, and they were all in danger, and defenseless, even if New Amsterdam itself could escape. Kieft was heartily cursed by all impartially; he was compelled to make overtures for peace, and a pow-wow was held in Rockaway woods, in the spring of 1643. Terms were agreed upon, and, according to Indian usage, gifts were exchanged. But those of the chiefs so far exceeded in value the offerings of Kieft that these were regarded as a fresh insult; war was declared, and dragged along for two years more. It was not until 1645 that the grand meeting of the settlers and the Five Nations took place at Fort Amsterdam, and the treaty of lasting peace was ratified. Kieft sailed from New Amsterdam with the consciousness of having injured his countrymen more than had any enemy; but he was drowned off the Welsh coast, without having brought forth fruits meet for repentance.
Peter Stuyvesant is a favorite character in our history because he was a manly and straightforward man, faithful to his employers, fearless in doing and saying what he thought was right, and endowed with a full share of obstinate, homely, kindly human nature. He was not in advance of his age, or superior to his training; he was the plain product of both, but free from selfishness, malice, and unworthy ambitions. He was born in 1602, and came to America a warrior from honorable wars, seamed and knotty, with a famous wooden leg which all New Yorkers, at any rate love to hear stumping down the corridors of time. His administration, the last of the Dutch regime, wiped out the stains inflicted by his predecessors, and resisted with equal energy encroachments from abroad and innovations at home. He was a true Dutchman, with most of the limitations and all the virtues of his race; fond of peace and of dwelling in his own "Bowery," yet not afraid to fight when he deemed that his duty. His tenure of office lasted from 1647 till 1664, a period of seventeen active years; after the English took possession of the town and called it New York, Peter went back to Holland, unwilling to live in the presence of new things; but he found that, at the age of sixty-three, he could not be happy away from the home that he had made for himself in the new world; so he returned to Manhattan Island, and completed the tale of his eighty years on the farm which is now the most populous and democratic of New York's thoroughfares. There he smoked his long-stemmed pipe and drank his schnapps, and thought over old times, and criticised the new. After two and a half centuries, the memory of him is undimmed; and it is to be wished that some fitting memorial of him may be erected in the city which his presence honored.
The very next year after his arrival, free trade was established in New Amsterdam. There had been a strict monopoly till then; but in one way or another it was continually evaded, and the New Amsterdam merchants found themselves so much handicapped by the restrictions, that their inability reacted upon the managers at home. There were not at that time any infant industries in need of protection, and the colony was large and capacious enough to take what the mother country sent it, and more also. But in order to prevent loss, an export duty was enforced, which pressed lightly on those who paid it, and comforted those to whom it was paid. Commerce was greatly stimulated, and the merchants of old Amsterdam sent compliments and prophesies of future greatness to their brethren across the sea. Every new-hatched settlement that springs up on the borders of the wilderness is liable to be "hailed" by its promoters as destined to become the Queen City of its region; the wish fathers the word, and the word is an advertisement. But the merchant princes of Amsterdam spoke by the card; they perceived the almost unique advantages of geographical position and local facilities of their American namesake; with such a bay and water front, with such a river, with such a soil and such openings for trade, what might it not become! Yes: but—"Sic vos noa vobis aedificatis!" The English reaped what the Dutch had sown, and New York inherits the glory and power predicted for New Amsterdam.
The soil of Manhattan Island being comparatively poor, the place was destined to be used as a residence merely, and the houses of prosperous traders and burghers began to assemble and bear likeness to a town. The primeval forest still clothed the upper part of the island; but the visible presence of a municipality in the southern extremity prompted the inhabitants to suggest a remodeling of the government somewhat after the New England pattern, where patroons were unknown and impossible. It is not surprising that suggestions to this effect from the humbler members of the community were not cordially embraced by either the patroons or their creators at home; in fact, it was still-born. That the people should rule themselves was as good as to say that the horse should loll in the carriage while his master toiled between the shafts. The thing was impossible, and should be unmentionable. The people, however, continued to mention it, and even to neglect paying the taxes which had been imposed with no regard to their reasonable welfare. A deputation went to Holland to tell the directors that they could neither farm nor trade with profit unless the burdens were lightened; the directors thought otherwise, and the consequence was that devices were practiced to lighten them illicitly. This added to the interest of life, but subverted the welfare of the state. Where political rights are not secured to all men by constitutional right, those who are unable to get them by privilege, intrigue to steal what such rights would guarantee. At this rate, there would presently be a Council of Ten and an Inquisition in New Amsterdam. In 1653, the Governor was constrained to admit the deputies from the various settlements to an interview, in which they said their say, and he his. "We have come here at our own expense," they observed, "from various countries of Europe, expecting to be given protection while earning our living; we have turned your wilderness into a fruitful garden for you, and you, in return, impose on us laws which disable us from profiting by our labor. We ask you to repeal these laws, allow us to make laws to meet our needs, and appoint none to office who has not our approbation." Thus, in substance, spoke the people; and we, at the end of the Nineteenth Century, may think they were uttering the veriest axioms of political common sense. What sturdy Peter Stuyvesant thought is perfectly expressed in what he replied.
"The old laws will stand. Directors and council only shall be law-makers: never will they make themselves responsible to the people. As to officers of government, were their election left to the rabble, we should have thieves on horseback and honest men on foot." And with that, we may imagine, the Governor stamped his wooden toe.
The people shrugged their shoulders. "We aim but at the general good," said they. "All men have a natural right to constitute society, and to assemble to protect their liberties and property."
"I declare this assembly dissolved," Peter retorted. "Assemble again at your peril! The authority which rules you is derived not from the whim of a few ignorant malcontents." Alas! the seed of the American Idea had never germinated in Peter's soldierly bosom; and when the West India Company learned of the dialogue, they spluttered with indignation. "The people be d——d." was the sense of their message. "Let them no longer delude themselves with the fantasy that taxes require their assent." With that, they dismissed the matter from their minds. Yet even then, the Writing was on the wall. The flouted people were ripe to welcome England; and England, in the shape of Charles II., who had come at last to his own, meditated wiping the Dutch off the Atlantic seaboard. It availed not to plead rights: Lord Baltimore snapped his fingers. Lieutenant-governor Beekman, indeed, delayed the appropriation of Delaware; but Long Island was being swallowed up, and nobody except the government cared. The people may be incompetent to frame laws: but what if they decline to fight for you when called upon? If they cannot make taxes to please themselves, at all events they will not make war to please anybody else. If they are poor and ignorant, that is not their fault. The English fleet was impending; what was to be done? Could Stuyvesant but have multiplied himself into a thousand Stuyvesants, he knew what he would do; but he was impotent. In August, 1664, here was the fleet actually anchored in Gravesend Bay, with Nicolls in command. "What did they want?" the Governor inquired. "Immediate recognition of English sovereignty," replied Nicolls curtly; and the gentler voice of Winthrop of Boston was heard, advising surrender. "Surrender would be reproved at home," said poor Stuyvesant, refusing to know when he was beaten. He was doing his best to defeat the army and navy of England single-handed. But the burgomasters went behind him, and capitulated, and—Peter to the contrary for four days more notwithstanding —New Amsterdam became New York.
The English courted favor by liberal treatment of their new dependants on the western shore of the Hudson; whatever the Dutch had refused to do, they did. The Governor and Council were to be balanced by the people's representatives; no more arbitrary taxation; citizens might think and pray as best pleased them; land tenure was made easy, and seventy-five acres was the bounty for each emigrant imported, negroes included. By such inducements the wilderness of New Jersey, assigned to Berkeley and Carteret, was peopled by Scots, New Englanders and Quakers. Settlement proceeded rapidly, and in 1668 a colonial legislature met in the town named after Elizabeth Carteret. There were so many Puritans in the assembly, and their arguments were so convincing, that New Jersey law bore a strong family resemblance to that of New England. This had its effect, when, in 1670, the rent question came up for settlement. The Puritans contended that the Indians held from Noah, and as they were lawful heirs of the Indians, they declined to pay rents to the English proprietors. There was no means of compelling them to do so, and they had their way. The Yankees were already going ahead.
Manhattan did not get treated quite so well. The Governor had everything his own way, the council being his creatures, and the justices his appointees. The people were permitted no voice in affairs, and might as well have had Stuyvesant back again. After Nicolls had strutted his term, Lord Lovelace came, and outdid him. His idea of how to govern was formulated in his instructions to an agent: "Lay such taxes," said he, "as may give them liberty for no thought but how to discharge them." Lord Lovelace was an epigrammatist; but in the end he had to pay for his wit. He attempted to levy a tax for defense, and was met with refusal; the towns of Long Island had not one cent either for tribute or defense; his lordship swore at them heartily, but they heeded him not; and he found himself in the shoes of the ousted Dutch Governor in an another sense than he desired. And then was poetical justice made complete; for who should appear before the helpless forts but Evertsen with a Dutch fleet! New York, New Jersey and Delaware surrendered to him almost with enthusiasm, and the work of England seemed to be all undone.
But larger events were to control the lesser. France and England combined in an iniquitous conspiracy to destroy the Dutch Republic, and swooped down upon the coast with two hundred thousand men. The story has often been told how the Dutch, tenfold outnumbered, desperately and gloriously defended themselves. They finally swept the English from the seas, and patroled the Channel with a broom at the masthead. By the terms of the treaty of peace which Charles was obliged by his own parliament to make, all conquests were mutually restored, and New York consequently reverted to England. West Jersey was bought by the Quakers; the eastern half of the province was restored to the rule of Carteret. The Atlantic coast, from Canada down to Florida, continuously, was English ground, and so remained until, a century later, the transplanted spirit of liberty, born in England, threw down the gauntlet to the spirit of English tyranny, and won independence for the United States.
When we remember that the Dutch maintained their government in the new world for little more than fifty years, it is surprising how deep a mark they made there. It is partly because their story lends itself to picturesque and graphic treatment; it is so rich in character and color, and telling in incident. Then, too, it has a beginning, middle and end, which is what historians as well as romancers love. But most of all, perhaps, their brief chronicles as a distinct political phenomenon illustrate the profound problem of self-government in mankind. The Netherlander had proved, before any of them came hither, with what inflexible courage they could resent foreign tyranny; and the municipalities, as well as the nation, had grasped the principles of independence. But it was not until they erected their little commonwealth amid the forests of the Hudson that they awakened to the conception that every man should bear his part in the government of all. To attain this, it was necessary to break through a crust of conservatism almost as stubborn as that of Spain. The authority of their upper classes had never been questioned; the idea had never been entertained that a citizen in humble life could claim any right to influence the conditions under which his life should be carried on. That innate and inalienable right of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which Jefferson asserted, and which has become an axiom to every American school-boy, does not appear, upon investigation, to be either inalienable or innate. The history of mankind shows that it has been constantly alienated from them; and if we pass in review the population of the world, from the oldest to contemporary times, and from savages tribes to the most highly civilized nations, we find the plebeian bowing before the patrician, the poor man serving the wealthy. The conception of human equality before the law is not a congenital endowment, but an accomplishment, arduously acquired and easily forfeited. The first impulse of weakness in the presence of strength is to bow down before it; it is the impulse of the animal, and of the unspiritual, the unregenerate nature in man. The ability to recognize the solidarity of man, and therefore the equality of spiritual manhood, involves an uplifting of the mind, an illumination of the soul, which can be regarded as the result of nothing less than a revelation. It is not developed from below—it is received from above; it is a divine whisper in the ear of fallen man, transfiguring him, and opening before him the way of life. It postulates no loss of humility; it does not disturb the truth that some must serve and some must direct; that some shall have charge over many things, and some over but few. It does not supersede the outward order of society. But it affirms that to no man or body of men, no matter how highly endowed by nature or circumstance with intellect, position or riches, shall be accorded the right to dispose arbitrarily of the lives and welfare of the masses. Not elsewhere than in the hands of the entire community shall be lodged the reins of government. The administration shall be with the chosen ones whose training and qualifications fit them for that function; but the principles on which their administration is conducted shall be determined by the will and vote of all.
This is not lightly to be believed or understood; Peter Stuyvesant voiced the unenlightened thought when he said that, should the rabble rule, order and honesty must be overthrown. This is the inevitable conclusion of materialistic logic. Like produces like; evil, evil; ignorance, ignorance. Only by inspired faith will the experiment be tried of trusting the Creator to manifest His purposes, not by the conscious wisdom of any man or men, but through the unconscious, organic tendency, mental and moral, of universal man. We may call it "the tendency, not ourselves, which makes for righteousness"; or we may analyze it into the resultant of innumerable forces, taking a direction independent of them all; or we may say simply that it is the Divine method of leading us upward; it is all one. Universal suffrage is an act of faith; and, faithfully carried out, it brings political and religious emancipation to the people. How far it has been carried out in this country is a question we shall have to answer hereafter; we may say here that our forefathers realized its value, and gave to us in our Constitution the mechanism whereby to practice it. To it they added the memory of their courage and their sacrifices in its behalf; and more than this was not theirs to give.
The English Puritans received their revelation in one way; the Dutch traders and farmers in another; but it was the same revelation. To neither could it be imparted in Europe, but only in the virgin solitudes of an untrodden continent. There man, already civilized, was enabled to perceive the inefficiency and distortion of his civilization, and to grasp the cure. Hudson, an Englishman, but at the moment in Dutch service, opened the gates to the Netherlanders, and thus enabled their emigrants to perfect the work of emancipation which had been brought to the highest stage it could reach at home. They were opposed by the directors in Amsterdam, by their own governors and patroons, and by the errors which immemorial usage had ingrained in them as individuals. They overcame these forces, not by their own strength, nor by any violent act of revolution, but by the slow, irresistible energy of natural law, with which, as with a gravitative force, they had placed themselves in harmony. Thus they exemplified one of the several ways in which freedom comes to man, and took their place as a component element in the limitless cosmopolitanism of our population.
Their subsequent history shows that nothing truly valuable is lost in democracy. The high behavior and dignified manners which belonged to their patroons may be observed among their descendants in contemporary New York; the men whose ancestors controlled a thousand tenants have not lost the powers of handling large matters in a large spirit; but they exercise it now for worthier ends than of old. Similarly, the Dutch stolidity which amuses us in the chronicles, reappears to-day in the form of steadiness and judgment; the obstinacy of headstrong Peter, as self-confidence and perseverance; the physical grossness of the old burghers, as constitutional vigor. Many of their customs too have come down to us; their heavy afternoon teas are recalled in our informal receptions; their New Year's Day sociability in our calls, their Christmas celebrations in our festival of Santa Claus. Much of our domestic architecture reflects their influence: the gabled fronts, the tiled fireplaces, the high "stoops," and the custom of sitting on them in summer evenings. In general it is seen that the effect of democratic institutions is to save the grain and reject the chaff, because criticism becomes more close and punctual, abuses and license are not chartered, and the individual is bereft of artificial supports and disguises, and must appear more nearly as God made him.
LIBERTY, SLAVERY, AND TYRANNY
We left the colony at Jamestown emerging from thick darkness and much tribulation toward the light. Some distance was still to be traversed before full light and easement were attained; but fortune, upon the whole, was kinder to Virginia than to most of the other settlements; and though clouds gathered darkly now and then, and storms threatened, and here and there a bolt fell, yet deliverance came beyond expectation. Something Virginia suffered from Royal governors, something from the Indians, something too from the imprudence and wrong-headedness of her own people. But her story is full of stirring and instructive passages. It tells how a community chiefly of aristocratic constitution and sympathies, whose loyalty to the English throne was deep and ardent, and whose type of life was patrician, nevertheless were won insensibly and inevitably to espouse the principles of democracy. It shows how, with honest men, a king may be loved, and the system which he stands for reverenced and defended, while yet the lovers and apologists choose and maintain a wholly different system for themselves. The House of Stuart had none but friends in Virginia; when the son of Charles the First was a fugitive, Virginia offered him a home; and the follies and frailties of his father, and the grotesque chicaneries of his grandfather, could not alienate the colonists' affection. Yet, from the moment their Great Charter was given them, they never ceased to defend the liberties which it bestowed against every kingly effort to curtail or destroy them; and on at least one occasion they fairly usurped the royal prerogative. They presented, in short, the striking anomaly of a people acknowledging a monarch and at the same time claiming the fullest measure of political liberty till then enjoyed by any community in modern history. They themselves perceived no inconsistency in their attitude; but to us it is patent, and its meaning is that the sentiment of a tradition may be cherished and survive long after intelligence and experience have caused the thing itself to be consigned to the rubbish-heap of the past.
So long as Sir Thomas Smythe occupied the president's chair of the London Company, there could be no hope of substantial prosperity for the Jamestown emigrants. He was a selfish and conceited satrap, incapable of enlightened thought or beneficent action, who knew no other way to magnify his own importance than by suffocating the rights and insulting the self-respect of others. He had a protege in Argall, a disorderly ruffian who was made deputy-governor of the colony in 1617. His administration was that of a freebooter; but the feeble and dwindling colony had neither power nor spirit to do more than send a complaint to London. Lord Delaware had in the meantime sailed for Virginia, but died on the trip; Argall was, however, dismissed, and Sir George Yeardley substituted for him—a man of gracious manners and generous nature, but somewhat lacking in the force and firmness that should build up a state. He had behind him the best men in the company if not in all England: Sir Edward Sandys, the Earl of Southampton, and Nicolas Ferrar. Smythe had had resignation forced upon him, and with him the evil influences in the management retired to the background. Sandys was triumphantly elected governor and treasurer, with Ferrar as corporation counsel; Southampton was a powerful supporter. They were all young men, all royalists, and all unselfishly devoted to the cause of human liberty and welfare. Virginia never had better or more urgent friends.
Yeardley, on his arrival, found distress and discouragement, and hardly one man remaining in the place of twenty. The colonists had been robbed both by process of law and without; they had been killed and had died of disease; they had deserted and been deported; they had been denied lands of their own, or the benefit of their own labor; and they had been permitted no part in the management of their own affairs. The rumor of these injuries and disabilities had got abroad, and no recruits for the colony had been obtainable; the Indians were ill-disposed, and the houses poor and few. Women too were lamentably scanty, and the people had no root in the country, and no thought but to leave it. Like the emigrants to the Klondike gold-fields in our own day, they had designed only to better their fortunes and then depart. The former hope was gone; the latter was all that was left.
Yeardley's business, in the premises, was agreeable and congenial; he had a letter from the company providing for the abatement of past evils and abuses, and the establishment of justice, security and happiness. He sent messengers far and wide, summoning a general meeting to hear his news and confer together for the common weal.
Hardly venturing to believe that any good thing could be in store for them, the burgesses and others assembled, and crowded into the place of meeting. Twenty-two delegates from the eleven plantations were there, clad in their dingy and dilapidated raiment, and wide-brimmed hats; most of them with swords at their sides, and some with rusty muskets in their hands. Their cheeks were lank and their faces sunburned; their bearing was listless, yet marked with some touch of curiosity and expectation. There were among them some well-filled brows and strong features, announcing men of ability and thoughtfulness, though they had lacked the opportunity and the cue for action. Their long days on the plantations, and their uneasy nights in the summer heats, had given them abundant leisure to think over their grievances and misfortunes, and to dream of possible reforms and innovations. But of what profit was it? Their governors had no thought but to fill their own pockets, the council was powerless or treacherous, and everything was slipping away.
It was in the depths of summer—the 30th of July, 1619. More than a year was yet to pass before the "Mayflower" would enter the wintry shelter of Plymouth harbor. In the latitude of Jamestown the temperature was almost tropical at this season, and exhausting to body and spirit. The room in which they met, in the governor's house in Jamestown, was hardly spacious enough for their accommodation: four unadorned walls, with a ceiling that could be touched by an upraised hand. It had none of the aspect of a hall of legislature, much less of one in which was to take place an event so large and memorable as the birth of liberty in a new world. But the delegates thronged in, and were greeted at their entrance by Yeardley, who stood at a table near the upper end of the room, with a secretary beside him and a clergyman of the Church of England on his other hand. The colonists looked at his urbane and conciliating countenance, and glanced at the document he held in his hand, and wondered what would be the issue. Nothing of moment, doubtless; still, they could scarcely be much worse off than they were; and the new governor certainly had the air of having something important to communicate. They took their places, leaning against the walls, or standing with their hands clasped over the muzzles of their muskets, or supporting one foot upon a bench; and the gaze of all was concentrated on the governor. As he opened the paper, a silence fell upon the assembly.
Such, we may imagine, were the surroundings and circumstances of this famous gathering, the transactions of which fill so bright a page in the annals of the early colonies. The governor asked the clergyman for a blessing, and when the prayer was done suggested the choosing of a chairman, or speaker. The choice fell upon John Pory, a member of the former council. Then the governor read his letter from the company in London.
The letter, in few words, opened the door to every reform which could make the colony free, prosperous and happy, and declared all past wrongs at an end. It merely outlined the scope of the improvements, leaving it to the colonists themselves to fill in the details. "Those cruel laws were abrogated, and they were to be governed by those free laws under which his majesty's subjects in England lived." An annual grand assembly, consisting of the governor and council and two burgesses from each plantation, chosen by the people, was to be held; and at these assemblies they were to frame whatever laws they deemed proper for their welfare. These concessions were of the more value and effect, because they were advocated in England by men who had only the good of the colony at heart, and possessed power to enforce their will.
It seemed almost too good to be true: it was like the sun rising after the long arctic night. Those sad faces flushed, and the moody eyes kindled. The burgesses straightened their backs and lifted their heads; they looked at one another, and felt that they were once more men. There was a murmur of joy and congratulation; and thanks were uttered to God, and to the Company, for what had been done. And forthwith they set to work with life and energy, and with a judgment and foresight which were hardly to have been looked for in legislators so untried, to construct the platform of enactments upon which the commonwealth of Virginia was henceforth to stand.
From the body of the delegates, two committees were selected to devise the new laws and provisions, while the governor and the rest reviewed the laws already in existence, to determine what part of them, if any, was suitable for continuance. Among the articles agreed upon were regulations relating to distribution and tenure of land, which replaced all former patents and privileges, and set all holders on an equal footing: the recognition of the Church of England as governing the mode of worship in Virginia, with a good salary for clergymen and an injunction that all and sundry were to appear at church every Sunday, and bring their weapons with them—thus insuring Heaven a fair hearing, while at the same time making provision against the insecurity of carnal things. The wives of the planters as well as their husbands were capacitated to own land, because, in a new world, a woman might turn out to be as efficient as the man. This sounds almost prophetic; but it was probably intended to operate on the cultivation of the silkworm. Plantations of the mulberry had been ordered, and culture of the cocoon was an industry fitting to the gentler sex, who were the more likely to succeed in it on account of their known partiality for the product. On the other hand, excess in apparel was kept within bounds by a tax. The planting of vines was also ordered; but as a matter of fact the manufacture of neither wine nor silk was destined to succeed in the colony; tobacco and cotton were to be its staples, but the latter had not at this epoch been attempted. Order and propriety among the colonists were assured by penalties on gaming, drunkenness, and sloth; and the better to guard against the proverbial wiles of Satan, a university was sketched out, and direction was given that such children of the heathen as showed indications of latent talent should be caught, tamed and instructed, and employed as missionaries among their tribes. Finally, a fixed price of three shillings for the best quality of tobacco, and eighteen pence for inferior brands, was appointed; thus giving the colony a currency which had the double merit of being a sound medium for traffic, and an agreeable consolation and incense when the labors of the day were past.
It was a good day's work; and the assembly dissolved with the conviction that their time had never before been passed to such advantage. Yeardley, knowing the disposition of the managers in London, opposed no objection to the immediate practical enforcement of the new enactments; and indeed Sandys, when he had an opportunity of examining the digest, expressed the opinion that it had been "well and judiciously formed." The colonists, for their part, dismissed all anxieties and shadows from their minds, and fell to putting in crops and putting up dwellings as men will who have a stake in their country, and feel that they can live in it. Their confidence was not misplaced; within a year from this time the number of the colonists had been more than doubled, and all troubles seemed at an end.
So long, however, as James I. disgraced the throne of England, popular liberties could never be quite sure of immunity; and during the five or six years that he still had to live, he did his best to disturb the felicity of his Virginian subjects. He was unable to do anything very serious, and what he did do, was in contravention of law. He got Sandys out of the presidency; but Southampton was immediately put in his place; he tried to get away the patent which he himself had issued, and finally did so; but the colony kept its laws and its freedom, though the Throne thenceforward appointed the governors. He put a heavy tax on tobacco, which he professed to regard as an invention of the enemy; and he countenanced an attempt by Lord Warwick, in behalf of Argall, to continue martial law in the colony instead of allowing trial by Jury; but in this he was defeated. He sent out two commissioners to Virginia to discover pretexts for harassing it, and took the matter out of the hands of Parliament; but the Virginians maintained themselves until death stepped in and put a final stop to his majesty's industry, and Charles I. came to the throne.
The climate of Virginia does not predispose to exertion; yet farming involves hard physical work; and, beyond anything else, the wealth of Virginia was derived from farming. Manufactures had not come in view, and were discouraged or forbidden by English decree. But, as we saw in the early days of Jamestown, the settlers there were unused to work, and averse from it; although, under the stimulus of Captain John Smith, they did learn how to chop down trees. After the colony became popular, and populous, the emigrants continued to be in a large measure of a social class to whom manual labor is unattractive. A country in which laborers are indispensable, and which is inhabited by persons disinclined to labor, would seem to stand no good chance of achieving prosperity. How, then, is the early prosperity of Virginia to be explained? The charter did not make men work.
It was due to the employment of slave labor. Slaves in the Seventeenth Century were easily acquired, and were of several varieties. At one time, there were more white slaves than black. White captives were often sold into slavery; and there was also a regular trade in indentured slaves, or servants, sent from England. These were to work out their freedom by a certain number of years of labor for their purchaser. Convicts from the prisons were also utilized as slaves. In the same year that the Virginia charter bestowed political freedom upon the colonists, a Dutch ship landed a batch of slaves from the Guinea coast, where the Dutch had a footing. They were strong fellows, and the ardor of the climate suited them better than that of the regions further north. Negroes soon came to be in demand therefore; they did not die in captivity as the Indians were apt to do, and a regular trade in them was presently established. A negro fetched in the market more than twice as much as either a, red or a white man, and repaid the investment. There was no general sentiment against traffic in human beings, and it was not settled that negroes were human, exactly. Slavery at all events had been the normal condition of Guinea negroes from the earliest times, and they undoubtedly were worse treated by their African than by their European and American owners. They were born slaves, or at least in slavery. There had of course been enlightened humanitarians as far back as the Greek and Roman eras, who had opined that the principle of slavery was wrong; and such men were talking still; but ordinary people regarded their deliverances as being in the nature of a counsel of perfection, which was not intended to be observed in practice. There are fashions in humanitarianism, as in other matters, and multitudes who denounced slavery in the first half of this Nineteenth Century, were in no respect better practical moralists than were the Virginians two hundred years before. But the time had to come, in the course of human events, when negro slavery was to cease in America; and those whose business interests, or sentimental prejudices, were opposed to it, added the chorus of their disapproval to the inscrutable movements of a Power above all prejudices. Negro slavery, as an overt institution, is no more in these States; but he would be a bold or a blind man who should maintain that slavery, both black and white, has no existence among us to-day. Meanwhile the Seventeenth Century planters of Virginia bought and sold their human chattels with an untroubled conscience; and the latter, comprehending even less of the ethics of the question than their masters did, were reasonably happy. They were not aware that human nature was being insulted and degraded in their persons: they were transported by no moral indignation. When they were flogged, they suffered, but when their bodies stopped smarting, no pain rankled in their minds. They were treated like animals, and became like them. They had no anxieties; they looked neither forward nor backward; their physical necessities were provided for. White slavery gradually disappeared, but the feeling prevailed that slavery was what negroes were intended for. The planters, after a few generations, came to feel a sort of affection for their bondsmen who had been born on the estates and handed down from father to son. Self-interest, as well as natural kindliness, rendered deliberate cruelties rare. The negroes, on the other hand, often loved their masters, and would grieve to leave them. The evils of slavery were not on the surface, but were subtle, latent, and far more malignant than was even recently realized. The Abolitionists thought the trouble was over when the Proclamation of Emancipation was signed. "We can put on our coats and go home, now," said Garrison; and Wendell Phillips said, "I know of no man to-day who can fold his arms and look forward to his future with more confidence than the negro." We shall have occasion to investigate the intelligence of these forecasts by-and-by. But there is something striking in the fact that that country which claims to be the freest and most highly civilized in the world should be the last to give up "the peculiar institution." How can devotion to liberty co-exist in the mind with advocacy of servitude? This, too, is a subject to which we must revert hereafter. At the period we are now treating, there were more white than black slaves, and the princely estates of later times had not been thought of. Indeed, in spite of their marriage to liberty, the colonists did not yet feel truly at home. Marriage of a more concrete kind was needed for that.