Welcome to PhiloLogic  
   home |  the ARTFL project |  download |  documentation |  sample databases |   
Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1831], The water-witch, volume 1 (Carey & Lea, Philadelphia) [word count] [eaf061v1].
To look up a word in a dictionary, select the word with your mouse and press 'd' on your keyboard.

Previous section


[figure description] Page iii.[end figure description]

Christendom is gradually extricating itself from the ignorance,
ferocity, and crimes of the middle ages. It is no longer
subject of boast, that the hand which wields the sword, never
held a pen, and men have long since ceased to be ashamed of
knowledge. The multiplied means of imparting principles
and facts, and a more general diffusion of intelligence, have
conduced to establish sounder ethics and juster practices,
throughout the whole civilized world. Thus, he who admits
the conviction, as hope declines with his years, that man deteriorates,
is probably as far from the truth, as the visionary
who sees the dawn of a golden age, in the commencement of
the nineteenth century. That we have greatly improved on
the opinions and practices of our ancestors, is quite as certain
as that there will be occasion to meliorate the legacy of morals
which we shall transmit to posterity.

When the progress of civilization compelled Europe to correct
the violence and injustice which were so openly practised,
until the art of printing became known, the other hemisphere
made America the scene of those acts, which shame prevented
her from exhibiting nearer home. There was little of a lawless,
mercenary, violent, and selfish nature, that the self-styled
masters of the continent hesitated to commit, when removed
from the immediate responsibilities of the society in which
they had been educated. The Drakes, Rogers', and Dampiers
of that day, though enrolled in the list of naval heroes,

-- iv --

[figure description] Page iv.[end figure description]

were no other than pirates, acting under the sanction of commissions;
and the scenes that occurred among the marauders
of the land, were often of a character to disgrace human nature.

That the colonies which formed the root of this republic
escaped the more serious evils of a corruption so gross and so
widely spread, can only be ascribed to the characters of those
by whom they were peopled.

Perhaps nine-tenths of all the white inhabitants of the
Union are the direct descendants of men who quitted Europe,
in order to worship God according to conviction and conscience.
If the Puritans of New-England, the Friends of
Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the Catholics of Maryland,
the Presbyterians of the upper counties of Virginia and
of the Carolinas, and the Huguenots, brought with them the
exaggeration of their peculiar sects, it was an exaggeration
that tended to correct most of their ordinary practices. Still
the English Provinces were not permitted, altogether, to escape
from the moral dependency that seems nearly inseparable
from colonial government, or to be entirely exempt from the
wide contamination of the times.

The State of New-York, as is well known, was originally a
colony of the United Provinces. The settlement was made
in the year 1613; and the Dutch East India Company, under
whose authority the establishment was made, claimed the
whole country between the Connecticut and the mouth of
Delaware-bay, a territory which, as it had a corresponding
depth, equalled the whole surface of the present kingdom of
France. Of this vast region, however, they never occupied
but a narrow belt on each side of the Hudson, with, here and
there, a settlement on a few of the river flats, more inland.

-- v --

[figure description] Page v.[end figure description]

There is a providence in the destiny of nations, that sets at
nought the most profound of human calculations. Had the
dominion of the Dutch continued a century longer, there
would have existed in the very heart of the Union a people
opposed to its establishment, by their language, origin, and
habits. The conquest of the English in 1663, though unjust
and iniquitous in itself, removed the danger, by opening the
way for the introduction of that great community of character
which now so happily prevails.

Though the English, the French, the Swedes, the Dutch,
the Danes, the Spaniards, and the Norwegians, all had colonies
within the country which now composes the United States,
the people of the latter are more homogeneous in character,
language, and opinions, than those of any other great nation
that is familiarly known. This identity of character is owing to
the early predominance of the English, and to the circumstance
that New-England and Virginia, the two great sources of internal
emigration, were entirely of English origin. Still, New-York
retains, to the present hour, a variety of usages that were
obtained from Holland. Her edifices of painted bricks, her
streets lined with trees, her inconvenient and awkward stoops,
and a large proportion of her names, are equally derived from
the Dutch. Until the commencement of this century, even
the language of Holland prevailed in the streets of the capital,
and though a nation of singular boldness and originality in all
that relates to navigation, the greatest sea-port of the country
betrays many evidences of a taste which must be referred to
the same origin.

The reader will find in these facts a sufficient explanation
of most of the peculiar customs, and of some of the peculiar
practices, that are exhibited in the course of the

-- vi --

[figure description] Page vi.[end figure description]

following tale. Slavery, a divided language, and a distinct
people, are no longer to be found, within the fair regions of
New-York; and, without pretending to any peculiar exemption
from the weaknesses of humanity, it may be permitted us
to hope, that these are not the only features of the narrative,
which a better policy, and a more equitable administration of
power, have made purely historical.

Early released from the fetters of the middle ages, fetters
that bound the mind equally with the person, America has
preceded rather than followed Europe, in that march of improvement
which is rendering the present era so remarkable.
Under a system, broad, liberal, and just as hers, though she
may have to contend with rivalries that are sustained by a
more concentrated competition, and which are as absurd by
their pretension of liberality as they are offensive by their
monopolies, there is nothing to fear, in the end. Her political
motto should be Justice, and her first and greatest care to see
it administered to her own citizens.

The reader is left to make the application.

Previous section

Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1831], The water-witch, volume 1 (Carey & Lea, Philadelphia) [word count] [eaf061v1].
Powered by PhiloLogic