« НазадПродовжити »
Collections of the N. Y. Historical Society.
Creux, from the annual reports of the Jesuit missionaries themselves, many a tale will be revived to lend a new charm to a region which, by its very successes in agriculture and commerce, its enterprise and its wealth, will revert with ever-increasing interest to the wilderness wars, and missions, and embassies, and martyrdoms, that checked the earliest period of its existence in history. There is scarcely a great name among the early French in America, from Champlain, who was the first of white men to skim a bark on its inland waters, to La Salle, who launched the first vessel on Lake Erie, but blends itself with the recollections of New York ; while the destiny of the Iroquois confederacy, by its organization, its customs, its dominion over the wilderness, its brave and fruitless struggle against fate, demands of its successors at least a monument.
If the collisions of Holland, England, and France, and the alliances and wars with the Five Nations, give attractive variety to the earliest history of New York, again in the wars for supremacy between France and England, it was the chosen battle-ground in America; and the strife did not cease till her sons knew the war-path_to Canada as familiarly as did the heroes of the forest. In New York are the spots that gain an interest from the defeat of Dieskau, and the successes of Montcalm ; there, too, the scenes that gain a charm from the hearty resistance to Burgoyne, by the noble valor and patriotism of the people ; there the resting-place of Montgomery; there the height so gallantly defended by Clinton. There, too, is the ground on which Washington stood, when the news of disasters crowded on him so thickly, that, for the only time in his military career, they wrung from him an audible shriek of anguish : there is the acclivity rising over the Hudson,* where the father of his country won his greatest victory over the discontent of a triumphant army, and hushing their passions by the memorable words, "I have not only grown gray, but blind in your service," closed his military life by asserting the rights of humanity, the liberties and the peace of his country.
Since New York is so rich in events of universal interest, is it lo public indifference that we are to attribute the long interruption of the activity of its Historical Society ? Can it be that in our times of abundance, and even luxurious ease, we
* John C. Hamilton; Life of Hamilton, vol. ii., p. 72.
are careless of the hardships of those who won for us the pleasant heritage? In England and France the vast population concentrated in the cities, especially in London and Paris, quicken intellectual emulation by the easy access to a multitude of readers. The scattered population of America, in some parts of the south and the west, might appal a publisher, lest his book should hardly thread its way through field and forest to the homes of the curious; but the city of New York, in itself, has inhabitants enough to stimulate and to reward literary enterprise. Will not its dense population lend its cordial sympathy and aid to every effort for promoting an intimate acquaintance with the past ? Will not a generous love of letters, and a due regard for our ancestors, awaken on the part of the public a spirit in harinony with the zeal and ambition of the historical inquirer? Shall the New York Historical Society ever again have cause to complain that its volumes engage little attention in the busy haunts of commerce? Shall it be allowed again to be hushed into long silence, without public rebuke?
The first volume of this second series of the Collections of the New York Historical Society is not only the best it has ever published, but, in copiousness and historic value, excels any volume of historical collections as yet published by any society in the country. It is also ushered into the world with unpretending modesty. The publishing committee make no boasting claims to approbation; but, after gathering materials from various countries, most of them entirely new to the American public and some of them of exceeding rarity, they leave the reader to an unbiassed estimate of their worth.
We cannot pass by the discourse of Chancellor Kent, without expressing alike a wish for the long continuance and the happiness of his life, and a regret that he has not poured out
a his recollections more liberally. His mind is so clear and so placid, at once loving his fellow man and willing to admire merit, that we could not grow weary in hearing him illustrate it. Born among the highlands, and familiar from childhood with the men who acquired immortal renown in defending its acclivities, he commands our gratitude, when now, venerable with years and honors, he seeks to place before us in fresh remembrance the merits of our ancestors; and we leave his pages with a disposition to complain that he has
See Discourse, p. 20.
Collections of the N. Y. Historical Society,
not introduced us in greater detail to the brilliant deeds that illustrate the romantic regions round his birth-place.
Here follows an account of the voyages of Verazzano, the famed Italian, who was probably the first European to cast anchor in the harbor of New York. See the bonds that hold together different ages and communities in intellectual life. Some careful antiquarian centuries ago deposited in a library at Florence the homely narrative of the sailor, as in his unpolished language he painted the wonderful incidents of his voyage to a New World, which had not then obtained vulgarly a name, and now, after the manuscript had reposed for centuries in the dust of a library, it sees the light for the first time in an island in which the homes of hundreds of thousands rise above the waters which the mariner was the first of Europeans to enter, finding nothing to observe but the harbor in its solitude, the river running almost silently between the hills, and a family of Indians gay with ornaments of many-colored feathers. Strange, indeed, that this account of the voyage, at least in its present form, should be printed for the first time in the very scene of which the discovery was the most signal incident of the adventure. It is accompanied by a translation made with scrupulous care; the New York Society owes the
possession of the original to the present American consul at Rome, a gentleman who merits to be better known and more highly appreciated by his countrymen.
To the Indian tradition respecting the first arrival of the Dutch, we attach very little importance. Stories that are told from memory nearly two centuries after an event, are at best but a branch of mythology. The villages of the Mohegans were scattered, and those around New York have long been nearly or quite extinct. An Indian chief, when pressed for a narrative, may have willingly yielded to the importunate curiosity of the missionary ; the tradition speaks of the Great Mannitto, the Supreme Being, as already in his unity forming an article of the faith of the barbarians. All contemporary accounts agree that the natives, at the time of the discovery, worshipped an infinity of powers, and had not as yet obtained the distinct notion of unity.
We are glad to meet, as in this volume, (pp. 79–122,) with a translation of the work of Lambrechtsen. It is written by a Dutchman in a national spirit, and with warm regard NO. XIX.-VOL. X.
for our country. His work merited a hospitable introduction. Long since, in the North American Review, Verplanck did it honorable justice.
Here, too, we have the description of the New Netherlands by Adriaen van der Donck, never to be forgotten in the list of New York lawyers. But in his days the keepers of archives were chary of opening them to the vulgar eye of historians, and the historical value of his work falls below expectation.
So much the more do we welcome the Voyages of de Vries, (p. 243-272.) This work escaped the diligent research of Ebeling, and could not be found even in Holland by Lambrechtsen. It contains details of the utmost importance for the history of Delaware, and of great interest for that of New York. Of the original, it is not known that a single printed copy exists in America, or elsewhere, except in the royal library of Dresden, Saxony. Ought not the state library at Albany to be provided with an exact copy of it? The present version is from the manuscript copy of Du Simitière, preserved in Philadelphia. The translation is due to the inquisitive zeal of J. W. Moulton. Let a passing tribute be paid to his merit. Mr. Moulton was among the first to perceive the vast variety of interest that attaches to the history of his native commonwealth. He entered upon its study with enthusiastic zeal. He spared no toil or expense in acquiring materials; resolving to compose a bistory of New York, he, with unwearied patience, examined piles of documents and folios of manuscripts. In the first specimen of his work, he exhibited a mind ripening for his undertaking, though not as yet fully master of the materials which he had gathered together, and not fully possessed of the principles of historical criticism. But as he proceeded, his judgment ripened while his zeal did not flag; the last pages which he printed are decidedly the best, and it is much to be regretted that he did not meet with enough of that sympathy which is so dear to the man of letters to induce him to proceed in his undertaking; at the same time, he merits public gratitude for the readiness with which he has allowed his collections to be employed by others. Had he persevered, his book would, perhaps, have had the fault of redundancy, but we feel certain would have been a monument of patient research, of zeal and enthusiasm for his subject.
Among the papers which follow we notice the account of the
Collections of the N. Y. Historical Society.
New Netherlands by De Laet, translated by Mr. Folsom, the editor. The idea was a happy one. Mr. Folsom took care to go back to the earliest edition of De Laet, which was in Dutch, and was published in 1625. This is of the highest historic value, for it is but an abstract of all that had been reported in Holland by the early Dutch navigators themselves. Most interesting of all it contains a few extracts from the journal of Henry Hudson, giving a description of the country in the very words of the discoverer, and illustrating also the sources from which De Laet derived his information. To complete this part of the collection, a translation is added from the later editions of the same work ; and, for the sake of comparison, an extract from the journal or log-book of Juet, the mate, who accompanied Hudson, is annexed. The good judgment with which Mr. Folsom has selected precisely what is needed by the inquirer, deserves all commendation.*
We have not time to specify the papers which fill up the remainder of the volume. There is not one which could be spared. We particularly notice extracts from the work of Acrelius, wishing only with the editor that his whole work might be published among us in English. The History of New Sweden by Campanius, is rashly written, and is uncertain authority ; Acrelius was a careful, a judicious, and a persevering inquirer.
We have commented, perhaps too minutely, on the contents of this volume, for we wished to attract public attention to its merits. The man of business cannot find time to know that this single publication contains materials in search of which the student must, a year or two ago, have ransacked the country, and even troubled friends across the water. Let it have then a place in every considerable library. Let it be at hand where the younger members of a family may have access to it, and learn betimes, and from the sources, the early history of their native state. Let the public interest be expressed so decidedly, that the Historical Society of New York may be without excuse if its labors are again intermitted. Especially ought the diligence and honorable zeal of the editor not be allowed to rest unemployed. We have said,
* We observe in a note, pages 315, 316, some remarks are made respecting the year in which a fort at Albany was first erected. He that will read the state papers of Stuyvesant will not fail to perceive his scrupulous exactness in matters of reference ; it is a state paper of Stuyvesant which declares that the first fort at Albany was built in 1615. This authority is neither indefinite nor uncertain.