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were no other than pirates, acting under the sanction of com missions; and the scenes that occurred among the marauders of the land, were often of a character to disgrace human na ture.
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.
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, NewYork 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
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 pecuiar practices, that are exhibited in the course of the 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.
“What, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse ?
ROMEO AND JULIET.
The fine estuary which penetrates the American coast, between the fortieth and forty-first degrees of latitude, is formed by the confluence of the Hudson, the Hackensack, the Passaic, the Raritan, and a multitude of smaller streams; all of which pour their tribute into the ocean, within the space named. The islands of Nassau and Staten are happily placed to exclude the tempests of the open sea, while the deep and broad arms of the latter offer every desirable facility for foreign trade and internal intercourse. To this fortunate disposition of land and water, with a temperate climate, a central position, and an immense interior, that is now penetrated, in every direction, either by artificial or by natural streams, the city of New-York is indebted for its extraordinary prosperity. Though not wanting in beauty, there are many bays that surpass this in the charms of scenery; but it may be questioned if the world possesses another site that unites so many natural advantages for the growth and support of a widely extended commerce. As if never wearied with her kindness, Nature has placed the island of Manhattan at the precise point that is most desirable for the position of a town. Millions might inhabit the spot, and yet a ship should load near every door; and while the surface of the land just possesses the inequalities that are required for health and cleanliness, its b'isom is filled with the material most needed in construction.
The consequences of so unusual a concurrence of favorable circumstances, are well known. A vigor. ous, healthful, and continued growth, that has no parallel even in the history of this extraordinary and fortunate country, has already raised the insignificant provincial town of the last century to the level of the second-rate cities of the other hemisphere. The New-Amsterdam of this continent already rivals its parent of the other; and, so far as human powers may pretend to predict, a few fleeting years will place her on a level with the proudest capitals of Europe.
It would seem that, as Nature has given its periods to the stages of animal life, it has also set limits to all moral and political ascendency. While the city of the Medici is receding from its crumbling walls, like the human form shrinking into “ the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,” the Queen of the Adriatic sleeping on her muddy isles, and Rome itself is only to be traced by fallen temples and buried columns, the youthful vigor of America is fast covering the wilds of the West with the happiest fruits of human industry.
By the Manhattanese, who is familiar with the forest of masts, the miles of wharves, the countless villas, the hundred churches, the castles, the smoking and busy vessels that crowd his bay, the daily increase and the general movement of his native town, the picture we are about to sketch will scarcely be recognized. He who shall come a generation later will probably smile, that subject of admiration should have been found in the existing condition of the city: and yet we shall attempt to carry the recollections of the reader but a century back, in the brief history of his country.
As the sun rose on the morning of the 3d of June, 171-, the report of a cannon was heard rolling along the waters of the Hudson. Smoke issued from an