In the last chapter I have given a faithful and unprejudiced account of th_rigin of that singular race of people inhabiting the country eastward of th_ieuw Nederlandts, but I have yet to mention certain peculiar habits whic_endered them exceedingly annoying to our ever-honored Dutch ancestors.
The most prominent of these was a certain rambling propensity with which, lik_he sons of Ishmael, they seem to have been gifted by Heaven, and whic_ontinually goads them on to shift their residence from place to place, s_hat a Yankee farmer is in a constant state of migration, tarryin_ccasionally here and there, clearing lands for other people to enjoy,
building houses for others to inhabit, and in a manner may be considered th_andering Arab of America.
His first thought, on coming to the years of manhood, is to settle himself i_he world—which means nothing more nor less than to begin his rambles. To thi_nd he takes unto himself for a wife some buxom country heiress, passing ric_n red ribbons, glass beads, and mock-tortoiseshell combs, with a white gow_nd morocco shoes for Sunday, and deeply skilled in the mystery of makin_pple sweetmeats, long sauce, and pumpkin pie.
Having thus provided himself, like a pedlar, with a heavy knapsack, wherewit_o regale his shoulders through the journey of life, he literally sets out o_he peregrination. His whole family, household furniture, and farming utensil_re hoisted into a covered cart; his own and his wife's wardrobe packed up i_ firkin; which done, he shoulders his axe, takes his staff in hand, whistles
"Yankee doodle," and trudges off to the woods, as confident of the protectio_f Providence, and relying as cheerfully upon his own resources, as did ever _atriarch of yore, when he journeyed into a strange country of the Gentiles.
Having buried himself in the wilderness, he builds himself a log hut, clear_way a corn-field and potato patch, and, Providence smiling upon his labors,
is soon surrounded by a snug farm and some half a score of flaxen-heade_rchins, who, by their size, seem to have sprung all at once out of the eart_ike a crop of toadstools.
But it is not the nature of this most indefatigable of speculators to res_ontented with any state of sublunary enjoyment; improvement is his darlin_assion, and having thus improved his lands, the next care is to provide _ansion worthy the residence of a landholder. A huge palace of pine board_mmediately springs up in the midst of the wilderness, large enough for _arish church, and furnished with windows of all dimensions, but so ricket_nd flimsy withal, that every blast gives it a fit of the ague.
By the time the outside of this mighty air castle is completed, either th_unds or the zeal of our adventurer are exhausted, so that he barely manage_o half finish one room within, where the whole family burrow together, whil_he rest of the house is devoted to the curing of pumpkins, or storing o_arrots and potatoes, and is decorated with fanciful festoons of dried apple_nd peaches. The outside, remaining unpainted, grows venerably black wit_ime; the family wardrobe is laid under contribution for old hats, petticoats,
and breeches, to stuff into the broken windows, while the four winds of heave_eep up a whistling and howling about this aerial palace, and play as man_nruly gambols as they did of yore in the cave of old Æolius.
The humble log hut which whilom nestled this improving family snugly withi_ts narrow but comfortable walls, stands hard by, in ignominious contrast,
degraded into a cow-house or pig-sty; and the whole scene reminds one forcibl_f a fable, which I am surprised has never been recorded, of an aspiring snai_ho abandoned his humble habitation, which he had long filled with grea_espectability, to crawl into the empty shell of a lobster, where he would n_oubt have resided with great style and splendor, the envy and the hate of al_he painstaking snails in the neighborhood, had he not perished with cold i_ne corner of his stupendous mansion.
Being thus completely settled, and, to use his own words, "to rights," on_ould imagine that he would begin to enjoy the comforts of his situation, t_ead newspapers, talk politics, neglect his own business, and attend to th_ffairs of the nation like a useful and patriotic citizen; but now it is tha_is wayward disposition begins again to operate. He soon grows tired of a spo_here there is no longer any room for improvement—sells his farm, air castle,
petticoat windows and all, reloads his cart, shoulders his axe, puts himsel_t the head of his family, and wanders away in search of new lands—again t_ell trees—again to clear corn-fields—again to build a shingle palace, an_gain to sell off and wander.
Such were the people of Connecticut, who bordered upon the eastern frontier o_ieuw Nederlandts, and my readers may easily imagine what uncomfortabl_eighbors this light-hearted but restless tribe must have been to our tranqui_rogenitors. If they cannot, I would ask them if they have ever known one o_ur regular, well-organized Dutch families, whom it hath pleased Heaven t_fflict with the neighborhood of a French boarding-house? The honest ol_urgher cannot take his afternoon's pipe on the bench before his door but h_s persecuted with the scraping of fiddles, the chattering of women, and th_qualling of children; he cannot sleep at night for the horrible melodies o_ome amateur, who chooses to serenade the moon, and display his terribl_roficiency in execution on the clarionet, hautboy, or some other soft-tone_nstrument; nor can he leave the street door open, but his house is defiled b_he unsavory visits of a troop of pug dogs, who even sometimes carry thei_oathsome ravages into the _sanctum sanctorum_ , the parlor.
If my readers have ever witnessed the sufferings of such a family, s_ituated, they may form some idea how our worthy ancestors were distressed b_heir mercurial neighbors of Connecticut.
Gangs of these marauders, we are told, penetrated into the New-Netherlan_ettlements, and threw whole villages into consternation by their unparallele_olubility, and their intolerable inquisitiveness—two evil habits hithert_nknown in those parts, or only known to be abhorred; for our ancestors wer_oted as being men of truly Spartan taciturnity, and who neither knew no_ared aught about anybody's concerns but their own. Many enormities wer_ommitted on the highways, where several unoffending burghers were brought t_ stand, and tortured with questions and guesses, which outrages occasioned a_uch vexation and heart-burning as does the modern right of search on the hig_eas.
Great jealousy did they likewise stir up by their intermeddling and successe_mong the divine sex, for being a race of brisk, likely, pleasant-tongue_arlets, they soon seduced the light affections of the simple damsels fro_heir ponderous Dutch gallants. Among other hideous customs, they attempted t_ntroduce among them that bundling, which the Dutch lasses of the Nederlandts,
with that eager passion for novelty and foreign fashions natural to their sex,
seemed very well inclined to follow, but that their mothers, being mor_xperienced in the world, and better acquainted with men and things,
strenuously discountenanced all such outlandish innovations.
But what chiefly operated to embroil our ancestors with these strange folk wa_n unwarrantable liberty which they occasionally took of entering in horde_nto the territories of the New Netherlands, and settling themselves down,
without leave or license, to improve the land in the manner I have befor_oticed. This unceremonious mode of taking possession of new land wa_echnically termed squatting, and hence is derived the appellation o_quatters, a name odious in the ears of all great landholders, and which i_iven to those enterprising worthies who seize upon land first, and take thei_hance to make good their title to it afterward.
All these grievances, and many others which were constantly accumulating,
tended to form that dark and portentious cloud which, as I observed in _ormer chapter, was slowly gathering over the tranquil province of Ne_etherlands. The pacific cabinet of Van Twiller, however, as will be perceive_n the sequel, bore them all with a magnanimity that redounds to thei_mmortal credit, becoming by passive endurance inured to this increasing mas_f wrongs, like that mighty man of old, who by dint of carrying about a cal_rom the time it was born, continued to carry it without difficulty when h_ad grown to be an ox.