This Town existed as an Independent Settlement or Plantation until 1657,
a period of eight years. In that year it united with the Colony of Connecticut
in an alliance for the purpose of counsel and defence. Southampton had
joined the same confederacy. Southold was attached to the colony of New-Haven.
Our fathers often sought counsel and advice of these neighbouring towns in difficult cases. Their attachment to New-England was exceedingly strong. With the Dutch inhabitants of New-York they had less affinity and intercourse. When the Dutch, in 1664, surrendered their Colony of New-York to the English, the whole Island was claimed by the Duke of York as included in his grant and under his Jurisdiction. And after unavailing remonstrances against it, in despite of their entreaties they came under the Duke's Government and formed a part of his Colony. From that time they remained under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Colony of New-York.
After the revolution of these American States, Gardiner's Island, which until then had remained an independent manor or Lordship, was annexed to and has since remained a part of the Town of East-Hampton.
The limits of an address forbid my dwelling as minutely upon the minor traits of character and the habits of our ancestors as might otherwise be desirable.
It will now be my chief object as I trace the history of the Town to bring more vividly before the mind the ardent love of liberty and devotion to their religion, which our fore-fathers have ever manifested.
For the first few years it does not appear that our ancestors had any written Constitution or compact as a foundation for their Government. They probably lived together under the tacit and implied contract of a people bound only by the great principles of natural equity, justice and reason, aided by their knowledge of divine revelation.
In 1654, however, and on the 18th of September, they passed the following resolve:
"It is ordered that there shall be a copie of the Connecticut Combination drawn forth as is convenient for us, and yt all men shall set to their hands."--Book 2, p. 32.
Their constitution was copied accordingly from the preamble of their model. They added to the original, however, the last quarter, referring to the obligations of conscience, and the covenant to stand by their officers. The following was their covenant or constitution.
East-Hampton, October 24, 1654.
Forasmuch as it has Pleased the Almighty God by the wise dispensation of his providence, so to Order and Dispose of things that we, the Inhabitants of East-Hampton are now dwelling together; the word of God requires that to maintain the Peace and Union of such a people there should be an Orderly and Decent Government established according to God--to Order and Dispose as Occasion shall require:--We Do therefore associate and conjoin ourselves to be one Town or Corporation; and Do for ourselves and successors, and such as shall be adjoined to us at any time hereafter, enter into combination and confederation together to maintain and preserve the Purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which we now possess, as also the Discipline of the Church, which, according to the Truth of said Gospel, is now practised among us. As also in our civil affairs to be guided and Governed by such Laws and Orders as shall be made according to God, and which by vote of the Major Part shall be in force among us. [Furthermore we do engage ourselves that in all votes for choosing Officers or making Orders that it be according to Conscience and our best Light. And Also we do engage ourselves by this combination to stand to and maintain the authority of the several Officers of the Town in their Determination and actions according to their Orders and Laws that either are or shall be made, not swerving therefrom.(*)] In Witness whereof, each accepted Inhabitant set to our hand."
Their recognition of the "Providence" of "Almighty God," and acknowledgment of their obligation to obey the requisitions of his word, are too conspicuous to demand our notice Their determination to be governed by such Laws and Orders as were passed by vote of "the Major Part" "among us," bespeak as clearly their understanding of the superior right of the majority of the people; and their engagement that "in all votes for choosing officers or making orders" "it be according to conscience and our best light," reflects as from a mirror, the high sense of moral obligation which pervaded them.
The pursuits of public and of private life--the affairs of utmost or ordinary importance were to be conducted according to "CONSCIENCE." What a lesson to the people of our day did they leave on record two centuries ago. When will their descer dants enter into the affairs of government and of public life, discharging their duties according to "Conscience"--when (*)The lines inclosed in brackets are the part added. disown the principle that a Christian cannot discharge his high duties as a citizen and elector in a free country, without contamination from the pervading corruption? Why slumbers the spirit of our fathers amid our fathers' home?
Their religion was free, comparatively, from the errors and superstition of the day. In the year 1657 complaint was made to the magistrates of the Town that "Goodwife Garlicke" had practised witchcraft. An investigation of the charge was had, but the people finally concluded to send her to Hartford for trial. Perhaps they were distrustful of their skill and knowledge of Witchcraft. Enough appears upon the records to show that the "Goodwife" had many and powerful friends. Lion Gardiner strenuously maintained her innocence--Whether any further order was made in her case does not appear. It is highly creditable to them that amid the prevalent belief and superstitions of the day, entertained alike by the ignorant and the learned--the King and the People--this was the only case of accusation for Witchcraft. It is probable nothing further was ever done in the complaint than as above stated.(*)
It has already been seen that as early as 1651 they took measures for erecting a church. That church was enlarged in 167??; and again, after some difference of opinion, it was enlarged in 1698. The present church was erected in 1717; was remodelled and repaired in 1822.
The illustrious succession of Ministers who flourished for the first 150 years in this town, are too widely known, and too familiar to us all to require enlargement here.
(*)The conduct of Goodwife Garlicke was not such as to disarm and quiet suspicion. Upon her examination it was, among other things, proved that she had used various herbs to bewitch with; that she had said she had no objection to be thought a witch, and had said she "had as good please the Devil as anger him."
The historian has already recorded the genius, originality, and resolution
that lived in the character of Thomas James, the first semi-centenarian
Pastor of this town. The learning, ability, and devotion of Nathaniel Huntting,
the second semi-centenarian Pastor.
The third Pastor, for a like period, the Rev'd Samuel Buell, D. D., was probably the cause and author of the erection of Clinton Academy. He lives upon the historians' pages,--lives in the remembrances of his venerable survivors. His sound judgment, clear perception, vivid fancy, impressive power and manner, have left their influence behind him.
The fourth Pastor, the Rev'd Lyman Beecher, D. D., is known by fame in every land. We send up our prayers that this venerable spiritual warrior may yet be able, for many a long year, to wear and wield the armor of his manhood's prime, so well and often proved.
We shrink from our honoured position, as speaker of the day, when we remember that forty-four years since he stood up here in the maturity of his genius, and the fire of his eloqence, and drew, in living lines, the character and history of our forefathers. Happy alike in the achievements they had won and in him who spoke their praise.
The fifth Pastor, the Rev'd Ebenezer Philips has passed from this earthly stage. His solemn, deliberate, clear address, replete with truth and doctrine, are among the remembrances of our boyhood days.
The sixth Pastor, the Rev'd Joseph D. Condit, mild, tender, and pathetic, is also deceased. His child-like spirit fled to the children's home on high.
The seventh Pastor, the Rev'd Samuel R. Ely, supplied this Pulpit for about nine years. He removed some years since on account of declining health.
The ninth Pastor, the Rev'd Samuel Huntting, stood up here for a little while to minister to this People, at that altar
where a hundred and fifty years before, his honored ancestor had kindled and fed the holy altar's flame. He rose, and, quickly struck by the fatal arrow, fell, and his spirit joined in high communion with his ascended fathers.(*)
We now call your attention to the patriotism of our ancestors; to their adherence to free institutions, and the resolute, unflinching tenacity with which they maintained their rights.
As their religion was free, in a great degree, from superstition and bigotry, so their principles of politics and government were, comparatively, free from persecution and untolerance.
When their country demanded their assistance, feeble and exposed as
they were, they generously proffered it. They say-- "June 29th, 1654.
"Having considered the Letters that came from Keneticut, wherein we are required to assist the power of England, against the Dutch: we Doe think ourselves called to assist the sd Power."
Subsequently, throughout their whole history, it does not (*)The following
list of Ministers, with the time of settlement in East-Hampton, time of
removal, decease, and age, is as complete as I have been able to compile.
|1. THOMAS JAMES||1650||(???)||1696||(???)|
|2. NATHANIEL HUNTTING||1699||(???)||1753||78 years|
|3. SAMUEL BUELL, D. D.,||1746||(???)||1798||82 years|
|4. LYMAM BEECHER, D. D.||1799||1810||(???)||now living|
|5. EBENEZER PHILLIPS||1811||1830||1840||(???)|
|6. JOSEPH D.CONDIT||1830||1835||1847||(???)|
|7. SAMUEL R. ELY||1836||1846||(???)||(???)|
|8. ALEXANDER BULLIONS||1846||1848||(???)||(???)|
|9. SAMUEL HUNTTING||1848||(???)||1849||27 years|
The three years intervening between the decease of Mr. James and the settlement of Mr. Huntting, were supplied by a Mr. Jones.
The Rev'd Samuel R. Ely was never settled here, but officiated as a stated supply appear that their country ever raised the cry for her sons to arm for battle, unheard by them.
The Colony of New-Haven adopted a Covenant or Constitution excluding all who were not members of the Church from the privileges of Electors. Our fathers, disliking this narrow and exclusive spirit, joined the confederacy of Connecticut, consisting of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield, which admitted all their citizens to equal rights and privileges.
The Royal Duke of York, by his deputized Governors, swayed the sceptre of government over the Colony of New-York, with arbitrary power.
They oftentimes excluded the people altogether from choosing Representatives of their own to pass laws in a General Assembly. Sometimes, after yielding to the popular demand, they disobeyed the Assembly which they had chosen of their own arbitrary will. Hence the sympathy of our fathers with their early friends of Connecticut, and their attachment to the free and chartered Government of that Colony. Hence their earnest appeal in 1664 to that colony to continue them under their goverment and jurisdiction. Hence, in the same year, their determination not to pay their taxes to the Government of New-York.
It was in June, 1682, at a General Training of the Militia, that they
drew up and signed their petition to Anthony Brockholst, the then Governor
of New-York. In this memorable petition they recite their grant and charter
from Governor Nicolls, in 1666. They refer to the promises of Freedom and
Liberty, then made to them when they received that Patent. And they go
on to say--"But, may it Please your Honour to understand that since this
time wee are deprived and prohibited of our Birthright, Freedoms, and Privileges
to which both wee and our ancestors were borne; although we have neither
forfeited them by any misconduct of ours, nor have we at any time been
forbidden the due use and exercise of them, by command of our Gratious
King, that we know of. And as yet neither we nor the rest of his Majesty's
subjects uppon this Island have been at any time admitted since then, to
enjoy a general and free Assembly of our Representatives, as others of
his Majestie's subjects have had the priviledge of. But Lawes and Orders
have been imposed uppon us from time to time without our consent, (and
therein we are totally deprived of a fundamental priviledge of our English
Nation,) together with the obstruction of Trafficke and Negotiation with
others of his Majestie's subjects; so that we are become very unlike other
of his Majestie's subjects in all other colonies here in America, and cannot
but much resent our grievances in this Respect, and Remain discouraged
with Respect to the Settlement of ourselves and posteritie after us."
They then go on to recite the payment of their taxes as a further reason why they were entitled to the privileges of a free assembly, which they declared to be one of the "Fundamentall Lawes of England," and they conclude with the bold determination that if the Governor refused them their rights they would present to the throne itself their petition for redress.
Thus, more than ninety years before the Declaration of American Independence, they proclaimed the free principles upon which it was based.(*)
It is believed that no people in this country saw farther, or earlier than they, the correct principles of a Free Representative Government. None placed them upon the records before them. We wonder! We admire the wisdom of our fathers. (*)See a copy of this petition in the Appendix.
In 1683 Governor Dongan, who succeeded Anthony Brockholst as Governor, landed on the east end of Long-Island. Upon his first arrival we are told he here heard the language of discontent and dissatisfaction. Perhaps he saw then, good reason to conclude as he declared in his report to the committee of Trade, of 22nd February, 1687, that "most part of the people of that Island, especially towards the east end, are of the same stamp with those of New-England. Refractory and very loath to have any commerce with this Place to the great Detr'm't of his Ma'tys Revenue and ruin of our merchants."--Vide Doc. His. N. Y., p. 166.
In page 151 of the same report he urges that Connecticut should be annexed to New-York, and says, "Wee found by experience, if that Place bee not annexed to that Government, it will bee impossible to make any thing considerable of his Ma'tys Customs and Revenues in Long-Island; they carry away with't entering all our Oyles, which is the greatest part of what wee have to make returns of from this Place."
These loud petitions of the people procured temporary relief. The General Assembly of the Representatives met in 1683, 1684, and 1685, when the Assembly was discontinued by the despotic mandate of Gov'r Dongan.
In the year 1686 the present Town Patent was granted by Gov'r Dongan, confirming that of Gov'r Nicolls, and giving authority to the Trustees of the Town to purchase the yet unpurchased part of Montauk, which was effected of the Indians, and a conveyance given by them, dated July 25th, 1687. This conveyance covers all the land east of Fort-Pond, extending to the Point. Thus, by various purchases, the Indian title to the lands was extinguished, and a final conveyance was taken from them in 1702-3, when a lease, not transferable, was executed to them, vesting in them the limited enjoyments of a certain part of their ancient inheritance, on which the few remaining families of the tribe now reside.
The subsequent history of the town cannot be more clearly exhibited than by reference to the life of the celebrated Samuel Mulford.
Samuel Mulford was the eldest son of John Mulford--was born in 1645; and for a period of twenty years, from 1700 to 1720, represented this County in the Provincial Assembly. From his father he inherited the strong, reflecting mind; the stern principles and unyielding determination of the early Puritans. He was attached to the Government of Connecticut, and remonstrated against the annexation of the town to New York. That Colony was then in the hands of the High-Church Episcopalians, and upon them alone the patronage of Government bestowed its offices and honors. He watched the abuses of Government with a jealous eye, and no combatant ever maintained his post more unflinchingly than he.
In the year 1716, the Assembly, subservient to the wishes of Gov'r Hunter, ordered a speech of Mulford's to be put into the hands of the Speaker. Mulford boldly published his speech and circulated it. It denounced the corruption and governmental misrule of the finances--the usurpations in collecting the revenue, and its disbursement. The Governor commenced an oppressive and harrassing lawsuit against him in the Supreme court, whose judges he himself had appointed. Mulford was a farmer and not possessed of a large property. He had gained his estate and support by his daily toil; and the House, in sympathy for him, on the 21st August, with their Speaker, attended the Governor, and presented to him a resolve which they had passed, soliciting the discharge of Mulford from the suit. The suit was suspended, and Mulford was permitted to return home. On his return here he resolved to petition the King in person, for redress.
Among other grievances the towns of East Hampton and Southampton complained bitterly of a duty of one-tenth on whale oil, exacted from them by the Governors of the Colony. Whaling was to them an important interest, and Mulford desired to procure a bounty for its encouragement.
He concealed his departure lest he should be arrested by the Governor--landed at Newport--walked to Boston, and embarked for the Court of St. James. He presented his memorial, which, it is said, attracted much attention, and was read by him to the House of Commons. The tax on oil was "ordered to be discontinued," and Mulford returned home, trtumphant, at the age of 71 years.(*)
Picture to yourself the homely apparel; the simple manners; the stern bearing; the lofty, unquailing appearance of that self taught, high minded man, and you have a noble exhibition of what our ancestors were.
Capt'n Mulford returned, took his seat in the House of Representatives, and again the old question of his speech was called up. Perhaps the Governor was stung by the success of Mulford, and his bold exposition in England, of his cupidity and injustice. The war was renewed with fiercer feeling than before. The compliant House called upon him to give the reasons for printing his speech. He gave them, and withdrew,--a motion having been made and carried to that effect. Mulford had the honour of being expelled from the House. A new election was held to supply the vacancy, and the people, true to themselves, notwithstanding all the influence of power, patronage, and wealth, again elected Mulford as their representative,--an act worthy of themselves and the champion of their cause. They were not to be bought, deceived, or terrified. (*) Songs and rejoicings took place among the whalemen of Suffolk County upon his arrival, on account of his having succeeded in getting the King's share given up.--MSS. of J. Lyon Gardiner, dec'd.
In the autumn of 1717 he again took his seat in the House; and again, alone waged the unequal contest in defence of the people. What was there in pride, pomp, power, pretension or station, that should deter him from exposing fraud or corruption wherever he found it?
In 1720 Governor Burnet succeeded Gov'r Hunter. And the bold denunciations of Capt'n Mulford, again drew down upon him the censure of the officers of Government. On the 26th October, 1720 having refused to act with the old Assembly, then in session, upon the ground that a new one should have been chosen, and that the acting Assembly was unconstitutional, he was again expelled from the House.
Thus, 50 years before the time of Wilkes, Capt'n Mulford ran the same career in America, with purer motives, and had been as nobly sustained by his constituents.
Thus ended Capt'n Mulford's public life. His great age deterred him from farther services. He died August 21st, 1725, aged almost 81 years.
The very grievances which Mulford complained of were afterwards redressed by the King, and the people finally triumphed. Why sleeps his memory, unrecorded on the historians' page?
In the war ending in the conquest of Canada, in 1760 Captains Elias Hand and Jonathan Baker of this town were engaged, commanding companies raised by them in their vicinity. They were both at the attack of Ticonderoga, by General Abercrombie; and were present, under General Amherst, at the capture of Crown Point. At the close of the war they returned to their homes.
At the very commencement of difficulty between Great Britain and these United States, this town sent her pledge to abide by the cause and interests of their countrymen. The Boston Port Bill was passed in March 1774, interdicting all commerce with that part. With reference to that we find the following proceeding:
"At a meeting of the Inhabitants of East-Hampton, legally warned by the Trustees, June 17, '74; Eleazar Miller, Esq., Moderator.
1st. Voted, That we will, to the utmost of our abilities, assert, and in a lawful manner,, defend the liberties and immunities of British America. That we will co-operate with our Brethren in this Colony in such measures as shall appear best adapted to save us from the burdens we fear, and in a measure already feel, from the principles adopted by the British Parliament, respecting the Town of Boston in Particular, and the British Colonies in North America in General.
2nd. Voted, That a non-importation agreement through the Colonies is the most likely means to save us from the present and future troubles.
3d. Voted, That John Chatfield, Esq., Col. Abm. Gardiner, Burnett Miller, Stephen Hedges, Tho's Wickham, Esq., John Gardiner, Esq., and David Mulford be a Standing Committee for keeping up a correspondence with the City of N. Y., and the Towns of this Colony, and if there is occasion, with other Colonies; and that they transmit a copy of these votes to the committee of Correspondence for the City of N. Y.
Voted, Unanimously, not one dissenting voice.
BURNET MILLER, Town Clerk."
Some of the first and haviest blows struck in the war of our Independence, fell upon this town.
"Whilst the British were at Boston their vessels occasionally carried off stock from Suffolk County."
The Journals of the Provincial Congress contain the following:
"July 5th, '75.--The people of E. and S. Hampton pray Congress that
Capt'n Hulbert's company, now raising for Schuyler's army, may remain to
guard the Stock on the common Lands of Montauk, (2,000 cattle and 3 or
4,000 sheep,) from the ravages of the enemy."--"Jour. 75."
"July 31st, '75.--Congress allow Griffin and Hulbert's companies to remain to guard Stock."--"Jour: 95."
It appears from the Journal and correspondence of Capt'n Hulbert, that his Company was stationed at Shagwonnuck; that they were supplied with arms, ammunition, and provisions, by the people of the town, through Burnet Miller and Stephen Hedges, their committee. And that on the 7th, September, '75, the company marched off of Montauk, and Hulbert and his men were supplied with guns and ammunition; and were afterwards stationed at Fort Constitution.
"In consideration of the defenceless state of E. part of Suffolk Co., the 3 companies raised for Continental service were continued there."--Ap. 3, "'76."
The return of Col. Smith's Regiment, May 30, '76, shows Ezekiel Mulford, Captain of a Company of 40 privates, "complete in arms." Another account is as follows:
"12th Comp., Capt. Ezekiel Mulford; 1st Lt., Sayre; 2d Lt., Nath'l Hand; Serg'ts, M. Mulford, Pierson, Domini; Corp's, Henry Sherrel, Benj. Crook, Ludlam Parsons."
As early as the Spring of 1776, an invasion of the British forces upon New-York City had been anticipated. The fate of Long Island was readily seen to be linked with that of the City. Remote, exposed, defenceless, save by their own strong arms, but few volunteers could have been expected from this neighborhood. Yet East-Hampton had her full proportion of minute men in the field.
The battle of Long Island was fought August 27, 1776, and its whole extent came under the control of the British forces. Those forces, in part, made the east end of the Island their winter quarters, and levied supplies upon the country. There are now, even a few venerable, living veterans, who remember the sufferings, the scenes of robbery, and violence which were perpetrated by the enemy, and endured by the inhabitants,--remember how the pulse beat high and joyful at the news of Burgoyne's defeat,--remember the lively, heartfelt sympathy with their brethren in the field.
It was not until the 25th of November, 1783, that the British troops evacuated New-York City. During all this seven years the Island groaned under the oppressive occupation of their soil by the hostile Invader.
Their circumstances exposed them, however, to sufferings and outrages from both parties. Their forced submission to the Royal Army, (their misfortune, not their fault,) caused them to be viewed with suspicion by their brethren upon the continent; and often invited parties of plunder from that quarter. Multitudes fled for shelter and protection, to the shores of Connecticut.
I find this memorandum, in 1776:
"Sep. 15.--Wharves at Sag-Harbor crowded with emigrants."
"Dr. Buell writes from E Hampton, Sept'r 22, '76, that the People are as a torch on fire at both ends, which will speedily be consumed, for the Cont. Whigs carry off their stock and produce, and the British punish them for allowing it to go,--hopes the Whigs will not oppress the oppressed, but let the stock alone."
The history of that seven years' suffering will never be told. Philosophy has no adequate remedy for silent, unknown, unpitied suffering. Man may brave every danger and endure every evil, perhaps, if human sympathy be ministered
to him in life, and human immortality and applause crown his tomb. But the display of passive virtues is a sublimer field--a spiritual elevation above our sphere. It rises into being only when upheld by the Divinity; and His aid withdrawn, we fall.
Throughout this period, it is not known that a single Tory lived in the bounds of the town.
Left to the tender mercies of the foe; plundered by country-man and stranger, of their property and ripened harvest; robbed of the stores which they had reaped and garnered; slandered by suspicious brethren; taunted and scoffed at by the mercenary victors, they never wavered. Their hearts were in their country's cause; and in the memorable language of their great compatriot, "Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish," they were true to their country, unterrified, unalterable, devoted Americans.
The events of that memorable struggle are fast becoming matters of tradition only But tradition has still her unrecorded events. We might instance many a feat of personal prowess. We might tell how, often and again our fathers, pressed, insulted, attacked by the presumptuous foe, felt their blood boil within them, and enduring until human nature could endure no more, turned with club or pitchfork upon the sword of the invader, and drove him from their sight.
In their difficulties Dr. Buell, their minister, did not abandon them. His talents, ingenuity, wit and mingled prudence and firmness, often averted threatened perils, and rendered important service to his people.
Tradition has however handed down no name more illustrious than that of Capt. John Dayton, a lineal descendant of Ralph, the first settler of that name.
Capt. Dayton was one of nature's uneducated heroes; reckless, daring, shrewd, sanguine, he often succeeded when others dared not hope. His lonely dwelling, two miles west from the centre of the town, was an inviting location for the miscreant and coward to attack or plunder. His house was several times beset. It was once attacked in the night by the enemy, and while he was in the act of lighting a candle, a musket was discharged at him. This was no time for hesitation; the ball missed him and passed in the beam of his weaver's loom. Putting his little son, (Josiah,) out of the back door, in the midst of a deep snow, and directing him to flee for shelter and safety, he snatched that long, famous, deadly carabine of his from its resting place, sallied out of the house, returned the enemy's fire, and withdrew in the house. He immediately began to call all imaginary names, as if he had a regiment of assistance sleeping in his chamber--loudly daring the British, meanwhile, to come on. The shot or the deception, or perhaps both, were successful. The enemy retired and left the marks of blood behind them.
The next day the Captain, while in the yard was visited by the officer of the regiment. The officer leaped his horse astride him--brandished his cutlass--loaded the Captain with abuse, and threatened to slay him for killing one of his men. To use the Captain's own language, as in after years he related it, "His blood boiled within him, and his hair stood on end." Discovering a pitchfork near, he sprang for it, faced his adversary, brandished his rustic weapon, and ordered him to "be off." It needed no second command. The horse bounded with his rider over the pickets, and left the hero master of the field.
We cannot forbear relating one other incident equally characteristic. During the revolution a British fleet anchored off Montauk. It was supposed by the inhabitants that they were about to land there and seize the hordes of cattle and sheep which then as now were there depastured and fatted.
The Captain thought he could prevent their landing, and save the cattle. He offered to lead forty of his neighbors, if so many would go, and save their flocks. Forty volunteered to accompany the Captain, and they marched on to Montauk. He selected a hill, marched over it at the head of his company--descended into a hollow, where he was out of sight from the fleet. Shifting the position of his men, and each exchanging his coat, he again led them back, through a hollow, unobserved by the fleet, to the starting place and over the hill; and thus the company continued their march over and around the hill. The manouvre was calculated to produce the impression upon the fleet that a large army were marching and encamping in the vale below. Whether this stratagem was the cause or not, the result was that the British did not land and the flocks were saved.
The bold artifice reflects equal credit upon the warrior's courage and fertile brain.
This venerable chieftain and mighty hunter died in 1825, aged 98 years.
The war of the Revolution left our town like the rest of the country, worse in morals; wasted in property; burdened with national debts, and groaning under taxes. Agriculture had declined; commerce had been ruined; estates swept away; and when the first thrilling, triumphant transports of a free, victorious people were over, they wept at the surrounding desolation.
But the spirit that had stood the test of war and conquest was not the spirit to fail in the arts of peace. By degrees prosperity returned; commerce and agriculture flourished; education revived, and within a year after the British troops evacuated New-York, Clinton Academy was erected. It was incorporated by the authorities, and received under the patronage of the Government, being the first chartered Academy in the State.
We feel that we are tresspassing upon your time and patience; that however pleasing it might have been to continue them, we must now break off these reminiscences of the past. Even in the relation of our early history, we have been compelled to omit much that is interesting, much that is essential to a thorough knowledge of the character of our ancestors.
We could not describe, even briefly, the Maidstone they left, and the river Medway, upon the grassy banks of which they had sported. We had intended to relate more minutely the origin and nature of the early controversies of the Puritans in their own native country. We had designed to vindicate their laws from the slanders of many a prejudiced historian and writer--to have shown more fully with what wisdom they laid the foundations of a free and equitable jurisprudence. How many of us think you, unskilled in the practice and unstudied in the law, would in our day frame a better or wiser code than they? We had intended to have shown how, (imperfect as they were,) they stood upon an intellectual eminence head and shoulders above the rest of the world in the knowledge of the principles of a free government.
The question is not whether their laws and simple machinery of government is applicable to us. Was it a wise system for them? We doubt whether up to their day in this world's history any community had ever enacted laws more appropriate or established a government better suited to their wants, wishes and welfare, than were theirs to them. We doubt whether any courts ever worked better or dispensed more impartial justice, or rendered more suitable redress than theirs.
We have heard of "illiberality," of "canting hypocrisy," of "narrow-minded bigotry," of "blue laws," and "Salem witchcraft," and a thousand other flings and sneers at the honest old Puritans of this country, until by the constant repetition of some faults which the Puritans shared in common with their opponents of that day, and by the imputation of many which they never had, many a weak minded man has been ashamed of those worthy ancestors who founded the institutions which secure us our political and religious freedom.(*)
Let England thank God that the Puritans lived--thank the Puritans under God for many of the free principles which were engrafted in her constitution.
Let America own them as the fathers of education, piety and freedom.
We might have told how from time immemorial until within the last half century the simple manners of the early planters of this colony remained unimpaired the manners and customs of their descendants.
We might have told how regularly Monday morning was devoted by the matrons to washing, and how with equal regularity Monday afternoon was devoted to social visits. And if it was so, is there any thing particularly sinful or ludicrous in their order and method. I have yet to learn that there is any better day of the week for that purpose than the one they chose.
We are well aware that there is a sickly silly sentimentality afloat, which looks with conceited contempt upon every thing connected with Puritanism. We well know how much wiser some of their descendants feel themselves to be than their Puritan ancestors were.
It may have been that their broad backs and stiff knees bent with less grace and pliancy than ours to the mandate (*)The wilful and superlative mendacity of Peter's History of Connecticut is fully exposed in the Historical Discourses of Prof. Kingsley and Leonard Bacon of New-Haven, Ct. of human custom. It may have been that they felt constrained by their understanding of revealed truth to adopt a more strict and faithful parental control than we. Perhaps their coats were more for use and less for show; perhaps they were broader in some places, and coarser and plainer than ours.
But those same queer old men and women in their antique apparel built America. They cleared her forests; exterminated her wild beasts; founded schools and colleges; fought the Revolution; established the Republic; framed the best Government under Heaven for a free people, and transmitted those immunities and institutions unsullied and unimpaired to their descendants.
As we are bound to maintain and defend our institutions and privileges, our invaluable inheritance; so are we bound to honour and defend whatever was high and manly in their character, and cherish with a filial tenderness their fame and memory.
Standing amid the graves of our ancestors, collected in their ancient temple of worship, what thrilling recollections rush along the memory. While we are reminded by the crumbled dust of former generations, that we hold our existence by the frailest tenure, and that we too shall soon pass away from this stage of living action, and our departed dust will mingle with theirs; we are also reminded of the proper objects and purposes of life; we are incited to act faithfully our part in the several spheres in which we move:
"In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife."
Where shall the spiritual aspirations of our nature rise if not upon the graves of our sires? Where if not there shall the high resolve and noble purpose of the soul be formed?
Well may we lay the passions, the prejudices and the selfishness
of our nature by the tomb of our ancestors. We may there learn the lessons of a high and holy patriotism of a purer and more elevated piety.
We feel our souls kindle in generous emulation of their example. We feel above the limited recollections and interests of every days pursuit. We break through the present objects of sight and sense. We feel our relation to the venerable past, to the pious dead. We contemplate our connection as one of tne links that stretch along the chain of the boundless future.
Our ancestors; who has fully comprehended the meaning of those words?
They lived when this world's bright but transient morn began. They lived when sin began its reign.
"Earth felt the wound, and Nature from her seat,
Sighing through all her works gave signs of woe
That all was lost."
In that long night of wretchedness which followed, they lived. They lived when Heaven sent its Saviour down to earth. When Cesar stormed the Northern Isles they met him like heroes on the very shore. They fought at Hastings when the invaders wrenched their dearest liberties and rights.--Through all past time they lived.
Our posterity; they will extend through all coming time. Another centennial anniversary of the planting of this little commonwealth, you and I shall never see. But our children that rise up after us we trust will rejoice at its return and pay the tribute of respectful gratitude to our memory and the memory of those who have now long since passed away. Changes will come--kingdoms and nations be overturned--and yet the waves of successive generations will rise and roll onward, far onward until the winding up this world's affairs.
We are not severed fragments--broken remnants of a disjointed race--but connected, closely, intimately connected with all that is past--with all in this world yet to come.
Matrons and maidens of my native town:--Worthy were your mothers of their noble partners in the vicissitudes and perils of their earthly career--meet helps in laying the foundations of learning, liberty and morals--fit in rearing the finished and tasteful superstructure. We admire their courage, their constancy, their devotion. Tradition has told us of their simple habits, their pure desires. Despise not ye their bright example. What though the fashion of their day has passed away--what though we smile at the antiquated equipage and costume of their time. The fashion and the paraphernalia of our day will also soon be past forever. The attire of the living will be put off, and the habiliments of the dead will enclose our dust; and in your turn ye will be the departed mothers of future generations. So live that the graces and simple habits and worthy pursuits of the early mothers of our village shall survive and adorn the life of our descendants.
And now, ye fellow townsmen, ye have looked upon the graves of your departed sires. We have recounted their deeds--we have lived in the historic remembrances of the past--we have traced the origin of its early settlement--we have seen the deep foundations of permanency, prosperity and peace, in the life and habits of the Pilgrim band. That ardent, patriotic fire burned in as bright a flame the first three half centuries in the breasts of their descendants. That spirit assisted in rearing the imposing edifice of our National Liberty. It built our Academic Hall,--illustrious in its name--illustrious as the first that flourished with a chartered life within the confines of our state,--proud and thrice happy in the annual cohorts that it dismissed with its parting blessing, to adorn the land. That spirit reared the venerable temple of the living God.
Still longer do we love to linger around the remembrances of the past. Are our fathers dead? Do we look at all that remains of them when we survey their departed dust? No! ah! no! Their memory lives! Their deeds survive! Their labours speak their fame. Their institutions, founded in toil and built in sacrifice, are the inheritance of their descendants.
They live.--They, the spirits of the just, perchance to-day look down upon us from their high abode--blest in the inheritance of the Saints! Blest in the welcome of the Highest! Blest in the homage of the Living!
They speak to us to-day--"For you we did maintain our birthright and our liberties. For you we raised the Hall of science and of learning; enlarge its walls; adorn its portals; fill its alcoves. For you we reared a holy Church to our High King--that church, that dear, blest Church, maintain. Fulfil your mission on the earth; live for the world as we have lived; live for the boundless future. Beyond this day, this present fleeting day, will generations rise; they feel your impress; they are moulded by your character; they are destined to move onward as your impulses have directed them. Live then as men, as patriots, and as Christians. Leave the impress and the memory of your noble efforts with your posterity, and join us in His good time, this side the swelling Jordan, in our promised, everlasting Home."
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