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Footnotes

[1] It may not be amiss to remark, in passing, that Horace Walpole, in one of his recently published letters, speaks of a Horatio Gates as his godson. Walpole was born in 1718, and Gates in 1728.

[2] The reader will recollect that Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage must have written his account of himself and his times about the close of the last, or the beginning of this century. Since that time, education has certainly advanced among us; sophomores, pursuing branches of learning to-day that were sealed from seniors a few years since. Learning, however, advances in this country on the great American principle of imparting a little to a great many, instead of teaching a good deal to a few.—Editor.

[3] This man is indiscriminately called Yaf, or Yop—York Dutch being far from severe.

[4] [This short dialogue is given in the text, because it is found in Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage's manuscript, and not because the state of feeling in this country to-day has any connection with the opinions expressed. The American nation, as a whole, is now as completely emancipated from English political influence, as if the latter never had an existence. The emancipation is too complete, indeed, the effect having brought with it a reaction that is, on many points, running into error in a contrary direction; the third of our manuscripts having something to do with these excesses of opinion. But Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage appears to have some near glimmerings of the principles which lay at the root of the American revolution, though the principle itself does not appear to have been openly recognized anywhere at the time. The king of England was originally king of America, as he was king of Ireland, and king of Scotland. It is true, there was no American flag, the system excluding the colonies from any power on the ocean; then each colony existed as independent of the others, except through their common allegiance. The revolution of 1688 slowly brought parliament into the ascendant; and by the time George III. ascended the throne, that ascendancy had got to be almost undisputed. Now, America had no proper connection with parliament, which, in that day, represented England and Wales only; and this was a state of things which made one country dependent on the other, a subserviency of interests that clearly could last only so long as the party governed was too weak to take care of itself.]

[5] Such were the notions of Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage, at the commencement of this century, and such his feeling shortly after the peace of 1783. Nothing of the sort more completely illustrates the general change that has come over the land, in habits and material things, than the difference between the movements of that day and those of our own. Then, the departure of a sloop, or the embarkation of a passenger along the shore, brought parties to the wharves, and wavings of handkerchiefs, as if those who were left behind felt a lingering wish to see the last of their friends. Now, literally thousands come and go daily, passing about as many hours on the Hudson as their grandfathers passed days; and the shaking of hands and leave-takings are usually done at home. It would be a bold woman who would think now of waving a handkerchief to a Hudson River steamboat!—Editor.

[6] More than two millions at the present day.

[7] This must pass for one of the hits the republic is exposed to, partly because it deserves them, and partly because it is a republic. One hears a great deal of this ingratitude of republics, but few take the trouble of examining into the truth of the charge, or its reason, if true. I suppose the charge to be true in part, and for the obvious reason that a government founded on the popular will, is necessarily impulsive in such matters, and feels no necessity to be just, in order to be secure. Then, a democracy is always subject to the influence of the cant of economy, which is next thing to the evil of being exposed to the waste and cupidity of those who take because they have the power. As respects the soldiers of the revolution, however, America, under the impulsive feeling, rather than in obedience to a calm, deliberate desire to be just, has, since the time of Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage, made such a liberal provision for pensioning them, as to include a good many of her enemies, as well as all her friends.—Editor.

[8] This allusion is evidently to a German officer, who introduced the Prussian drill into the American army, Baron Steuben—or Stuyben, as I think he must have been called in Germany—Steuben, as he is universally termed in this country.—Editor.

[9] Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage would seem to have got hold of the only plausible palliative for a custom that originated in those times when abuses could only be corrected by the strong arm; and which, in our own days, is degenerating into the merest system of chicanery and trick. The duellist who, in his "practice," gets to be "certain death to a shingle" and then misses his man, instead of illustrating his chivalry, merely lets the world into the secret that his nerves are not equal to his drill! There was something as respectable as anything can be in connection with a custom so silly, in the conduct of the Englishman who called out to his adversary, a near-sighted man, "that if he wished to shoot at him, he must turn his pistol in another direction."—Editor.

[10] The Manor of Rensselaerwick virtually extends forty-eight miles east and west, and twenty-four north and south. It is situated in the very heart of New York, with three incorporated cities within its limits, built, in part, on small, older grants. Albany is a town of near, if not of quite, 40,000 souls; and Troy must now contain near 28,000. Yet the late patroon, in the last conversation he ever held with the writer, only a few months before he died, stated that his grandfather was the first proprietor who ever reaped any material advantage from the estate, and his father the first who received any income of considerable amount. The home property, farms and mills, furnished the income of the family for more than a century.—Editor.

[11] The fact here stated by Mr. Littlepage should never be forgotten; inasmuch as it colors the entire nature of the pretension now set up as to the exactions of leases. No man in New York need ever have leased a farm for the want of an opportunity of purchasing, there never having been a time when land for farms in fee has not been openly on sale within the bounds of the State; and land every way as eligible as that leased. In few cases have two adjoining estates been leased; and where such has been the fact, the husbandman might always have found a farm in fee, at the cost of half a day's travelling. The benefits to the landlord have usually been so remote on the estate leased, that by far the greater proportion of the proprietors have preferred selling at once, to waiting for the tardy operations of time.—Editor.

[12] If Mr. Littlepage wrote thus, thirty or forty years since, how would he have written to-day, when we have had loud protestations flourishing around us in the public journals, that this or that sectarian polity was most in unison with a republican form of government? What renders this assumption as absurd as it is presuming, is the well-known fact that it comes from those who have ever been loudest in their declamations of a union between church and state!

[13] At the time of which Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage is here speaking, it was far less the fashion to extol the institutions than it is to-day. Men then openly wrote and spoke against them, while few dare, at the present time, point out faults that every person of intelligence knows and feels to be defects. A few years since, when Jackson was placed in the White House, it was the fashion of Europe to predict that we had elevated a soldier to power, and that the government of the bayonet was at hand. This every intelligent American knew to be rank nonsense. The approach of the government of the bayonet among us, if it is ever to come, may be foreseen by the magnitude of popular abuses, against which force is the only remedy. Every well-wisher of the freedom this country has hitherto enjoyed, should now look upon the popular tendencies with distrust, as, whenever it is taken away, it will go as their direct consequence; it being an inherent principle in the corrupt nature of man to misuse all his privileges; even those connected with religion itself. If history proves anything, it proves this.—Editor.

[14] The commoner dialect of New England is as distinct from the language of the rest of the republic, cases of New England descent excepted, as those of many of the English counties are from that of London. One of the peculiarities of the former, is to pronounce the final of a word like y; calling America, Ameriky; Utica, Utiky; Ithaca, Ithaky. Thus, Lavinia would be very apt to be pronounced Lavinny, Lavyny, or Lowiny. As there is a marked ambition for fine names, the effect of these corruptions on a practised ear is somewhat ludicrous. The rest of the nation is quite free from the peculiarity. Foreigners often mistake New Englandisms for Americanisms; the energy, importance, and prominency of the people of the former portion of the country, giving them an influence that is disproportioned to their numbers.

[15] Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage writes here with prophetic accuracy. Small depredations of this nature have got to be so very common that few now think of resorting to the law for redress. Instead of furnishing the prompt and useful punishment that was administered by our fathers, the law is as much adorned with its cavillings and delays in the minor as in the more important cases; and it often takes years to bring a small depredator even to trial, if he can find money to fee a sagacious lawyer.—Editor.

[16] In order to understand Mr. Littlepage in what he says of "esquires," a word of explanation may be necessary. The term "esquire" is, as every well-informed person knows, a title of honor, standing next in degree below that of knight. On the continent of Europe the "écuyer" properly infers nobility, I believe, as nobility is there considered, which is little if any more than the condition of the old English gentry, or of the families having coat-armor. By the English law, certain persons are born esquires, and others have the rank ex officio. Among the last is a justice of the peace, who is legally an "esquire" during his official term. Now this rule prevailed in the colonies, and American magistrates were, perhaps legally, esquires, as well as the English. But titles of honor were abolished at the revolution, and it is a singular contradiction, in substance, to hold that the principle is destroyed while the incident remains. The rank of esquire can no more legally exist in America, than that of knight. In one sense, neither is noble, it is true: but in that broad signification by which all constitutions are, or ought to be interpreted both would come within the proscribed category, as set forth in art. 7th, sect. 9th, and art. 1st, sect. 10th, Const. U. S. Nevertheless, so much stronger is custom than positive law, that not only every magistrate, but every lawyer in the country fancies himself peculiarly an "esquire!" It is scarcely necessary to add that, by usage, the appellation is given by courtesy, wherever the English language is spoken, to all who are supposed to belong to the class of gentlemen. This, after all, is the only true American use of the word.—Editor.

[17] Lest the reader should suppose Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage is here recording uselessly the silly sayings of a selfish, ignorant, and vulgar robber, it may be well to add, that doctrines of a calibre, considered in respect of morals and logic, similar to this, though varying according to circumstances and the points it is desired to establish, are constantly published in journals devoted to anti-rentism in the State of New York, and men have acted on these principles even to the shedding of blood. We purpose, when we come to our third manuscript, which relates to movements of our immediate time, to distinctly lay before the reader some of these strange doctrines; entertaining little doubt that those who originally promulgated them will scarcely admire their own theories, when they see them introduced into a work that will contain the old-fashioned notions of honesty and right.—Editor.

[18] At the present day, the cooking-stove has nearly superseded the open fireplace.

[19] I am a little apprehensive that the profound political philosophers who have sprung up among us within a few years, including some in high places, and who virtually maintain that the American is so ineffably free, that it is opposed to the spirit of the institutions of the country to suffer him to be either landlord or tenant, however much he may desire it himself (and no one pretends that either law or facts compel him to be either, contrary to his own wishes), will feel mortified at discovering that they have not the merit of first proposing their own exquisite theory; Aaron Thousandacres having certainly preceded them by sixty years. There is no great secret on the subject of the principle which lies at the bottom of this favorite doctrine, the Deity himself having delivered to man, as far back as the days of Moses, the tenth commandment, with the obvious design of controlling it. An attempt to prove that the institutions of this country are unsuited to the relations of landlord and tenant, is an attempt to prove that they are unsuited to meet the various contingencies of human affairs, and is an abandonment of their defence, as that defence can only be made on broad, manly, and justifiable grounds. As a political principle, it is just as true that the relations of debtor and creditor are unsuited to the institutions, and ought to be abolished.—Editor.

[20] Thousandacres speaks here like a veritable prophet.—Editor.

[21] Mr. Hugh Littlepage writes a little sharply, but there is truth in all he says, at the bottom. His tone is probably produced by the fact that there is so serious an attempt to deprive him of his old paternal estate, an attempt which is receiving support in high quarters. In addition to this provocation, the Littlepages, as the manuscript shows farther on, are traduced, as one means of effecting the objects of the anti-renters; no man, in any community in which it is necessary to work on public sentiment in order to accomplish such a purpose, ever being wronged without being calumniated. As respects the inns, truth compels me, as an old traveller, to say that Mr. Littlepage has much reason for what he says. I have met with a better bed in the lowest French tavern I ever was compelled to use, and in one instance I slept in an inn frequented by carters, than in the best purely country inn in America. In the way of neatness, however, more is usually to be found in our New York village taverns than in the public hotels of Paris itself. As for the hit touching the intelligence of the people, it is merited; for I have myself heard subtle distinctions drawn to show that the "people" of a former generation were not as knowing as the "people" of this, and imputing the covenants of the older leases to that circumstance, instead of imputing them to their true cause, the opinions and practices of the times. Half a century's experience would induce me to say that the "people" were never particularly dull in making a bargain.—Editor.

[22] The editor has often had occasion to explain the meaning of terms of this nature. The colonists caught a great many words from the Indians they first knew, and used them to all other Indians, though not belonging to their language; and these other tribes using them as English, a sort of limited lingua franca has grown up in the country that everybody understands. It is believed that "moccason," "squaw," "pappoose," "sago," "tomahawk," "wigwam," etc., etc., all belong to this class of words. There can be little doubt that the sobriquet of "Yankees" is derived from "Yengees," the manner in which the tribes nearest to New England pronounced the word "English." It is to this hour a provincialism of that part of the country to pronounce this word "Eng-lish" instead of "Ing-lish," its conventional sound. The change from "Eng-lish" to "Yengees" is very trifling.—Editor.

[23] As the "honorable gentleman from Albany" does not seem to understand the precise signification of "provincial," I can tell him that one sign of such a character is to admire a bed at an American country inn.—Editor.

[24] That Mr. Hugh Littlepage does not feel or express himself too strongly on the state of things that has now existed among us for long, long years, the following case, but one that illustrates the melancholy truth among many, will show. At a time when the tenants of an extensive landlord, to whom tens of thousands were owing for rent, were openly resisting the law, and defeating every attempt to distrain, though two ordinary companies of even armed constables would have put them down, the sheriff entered the house of that very landlord, and levied on his furniture for debt. Had that gentleman, on the just and pervading principle that he owed no allegiance to an authority that did not protect him, resisted the sheriff's officer, he would have gone to the State's prison; and there he might have staid until his last hour of service was expended.—Editor.

[25] Absurd as this may seem, it is nevertheless true, and for a reason that is creditable, rather than the reverse—a wish to help along the unfortunate. It is a great mistake, however, as a rule, to admit of any other motive for selecting for public trusts, than qualification.—Editor.

[26] This is no invented statement, but strictly one that is true, the writer having himself a small interest in a property so situated; though he has not yet bethought him of applying to the legislature for relief.—Editor.

[27] In order that the reader may understand Mr. Hugh Littlepage is not inventing, I will add that propositions still more extravagant than these, have been openly circulated among the anti-renters, up and down the country.—Editor.

[28] In order that the reader who is not familiar with what is passing in New York may not suppose that exaggerated terms are here used, the writer will state a single expedient of the anti-renters in the Legislature to obtain their ends. It is generally known that the Constitution of the United States prevents the separate States from passing laws impairing the obligations of contracts. But for this provision of the Federal Constitution, it is probable, numbers would have succeeded, long ago, in obtaining the property of the few on their own terms, amid shouts in honor of liberty! This provision, however, has proved a stubborn obstacle, until the world, near the middle of the nineteenth century, has been favored with the following notable scheme to effect the ends of those who "want farms and must have them." The State can regulate, by statute, the laws of descents. It has, accordingly, been solemnly proposed in the Legislature of New York, that the statute of descents should be so far altered, that when a landlord, holding lands subject to certain leasehold tenures, dies, or a descent is cast, that it shall be lawful for the tenants, on application to the chancellor, to convert these leasehold tenures into mortgages, and to obtain the fee-simple of the estates in payment of the debt! In other words, A leases a farm to B forever, reserving a ground-rent, with covenants of re-entry, etc., etc. B wishes a deed, but will not pay A's price. The United States says the contract shall not be impaired, and the Legislature of New York is illustrated by the expedient we have named, to get over the provision of the Constitution!

Since writing the foregoing, this law has actually passed the Assembly, though it has not been adopted by the Senate. The provision included all leased property, when the leases were for more than twenty-one years, or were on lives.—Editor.

[29] The prevalence of the notion of the omnipotence of majorities, in America, is so wide-spread and deep, among the people in general, as to form a distinctive trait in the national character. It is doing an infinity of mischief, by being mistaken for the governing principle of the institutions, when in fact it is merely a necessary expedient to decide certain questions which must be decided by somebody, and in some mode or other. Kept in its proper sphere, the use of majorities is replete with justice, so far as justice can be exercised among men; abused, it opens the highway to the most intolerable tyranny. As a matter of course, the errors connected with this subject vary through all the gradations of intellect and selfishness. The following anecdote will give the reader some notion how the feeling impressed a stranger shortly after his arrival in this country.

A year or two since the writer had in his service an Irishman who had been only two years in the country. It was a part of this man's duty to look after the welfare of certain pigs, of which one occupied the position of a "runt." "Has your honor looked at the pigs lately?" said the honest fellow, one day. "No, not lately, Pat; is there any change?" "That there is, indeed, sir, and a great change. The little fellow is getting the majority of the rest, and will make the best hog of 'em all!"—Editor.

[30] The editor may as well say here, that, for obvious reasons, the names, counties, etc., used in these manuscripts are feigned, the real localities being close enough to those mentioned for the double purposes of truth and fiction. As one of the "honorable gentlemen" of the Legislature has quoted our references to "provincial" feelings and notions, with a magnificence that proves how thoroughly he is a man of the world himself, we will tell all the rest of the human race, who may happen to read this book, that we have made this explanation lest that comprehensive view of things, which has hitherto been so eager, because a street and a house are named in the pages of a fiction, to suppose that everybody is to believe they know the very individual who dwelt in it, should fancy that our allusions are to this or that particular functionary.—Editor.

[31] The frightful propensity to effect its purposes by lying has come to such a head in the country, as seriously to threaten the subversion of all justice. Without adverting to general facts, two circumstances directly connected with this anti-rent question force themselves on my attention. They refer to large estates that were inherited by an Englishman, who passed half of a long life in the country. In public legislative documents it has been pretended that the question of his title to his estates is still open, when the published reports of the highest court of the country show that a decision was made in his favor thirty years since; and, in reference to his heir, it has been officially stated that he has invariably refused to give any leases but such as run on lives. Now it is of little moment whether this be true or not, since the law allows every man to do as he may please in this respect. But the fact, as I understand from the agent who draws the leases, is precisely the reverse of that which has been openly stated in this legislative document; THE PRESENT POSSESSOR OF THE ESTATE IN QUESTION HAVING BEEN EARNESTLY SOLICITED BY THE TENANTS TO GRANT NEW LEASES ON LIVES AND ABSOLUTELY REFUSED TO COMPLY! In this instance the Legislature, doubtless, have been deceived by the interested representations of anti-renters.—Editor.





James Fenimore Cooper