« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
EVERY chronicle of manners has a certain value. When customs are connected with principles, in their origin, development, or end, such records have a double importance; and it is because we think we see such a connection between the facts and incidents of the Littlepage Manuscripts, and certain important theories of our own time, that we give the former to the world.
It is perhaps a fault of your professed historian, to refer too much to philosophical agencies, and too little to those that are humbler. The foundations of great events, are often remotely laid in very capricious and uncalculated passions, motives, or impulses. Chance has usually as much to do with the fortunes of states, as with those of individuals; or, if there be calculations connected with them at all, they are the calculations of a power superior to any that exists in man.
We had been led to lay these Manuscripts before the world, partly by considerations of the above nature, and partly on account of the manner in which the two works we have named, "Satanstoe" and the "Chainbearer," relate directly to the great New York question of the day, ANTI-RENTISM; which question will be found to be pretty fully laid bare, in the third and last book of the series. These three works, (5)
which contain all the Littlepage Manuscripts, do not form sequels to each other, in the sense of personal histories, or as narratives; while they do in that of principles. The reader will see that the early career, the attachment, the marriage, &c. of Mr. Cornelius Littlepage are completely related in the present book, for instance; while those of his son, Mr. Mordaunt Littlepage, will be just as fully given in the "Chainbearer," its successor. It is hoped that the connection, which certainly does exist between these three works, will have more tendency to increase the value of each, than to produce the ordinary effect of what are properly called sequels, which are known to lessen the interest a narrative might otherwise have with the reader. Each of these three books has its own hero, its own heroine, and its own picture of manners, complete; though the latter may be, and is, more or less thrown into relief by its pendants.
We conceive no apology is necessary for treating the subject of anti-rentism with the utmost frankness. Agreeably to our views of the matter, the existence of true liberty among us, the perpetuity of the institutions, and the safety of public morals, are all dependent on putting down, wholly, absolutely, and unqualifiedly, the false and dishonest theories and statements that have been boldly advanced in connection with this subject. In our view, New York is, at this moment, much the most disgraced state in the Union, notwithstanding she has never. failed to pay the interest on her public debt; and her disgrace arises from the fact that her laws are tram pled under foot, without any efforts, at all commensurate with the object, being made to enforce them.
If words and professions can save the character of a community, all may yet be well; but if states, like individuals, are to be judged by their actions, and the "tree is to be known by its fruit," God help us!
For ourselves, we conceive that true patriotism consists in laying bare everything like public vice, and in calling such things by their right names. The great enemy of the race has made a deep inroad upon us, within the last ten or a dozen years, under cover of a spurious delicacy on the subject of exposing national ills; and it is time that they who have not been afraid to praise, when praise was merited, should not shrink from the office of censuring, when the want of timely warnings may be one cause of the most fatal evils. The great practical defect of institutions like ours, is the circumstance that "what is everybody's business, is nobody's business;" a neglect that gives to the activity of the rogue a very dangerous ascendency over the more dilatory correctives of the honest man.
Who comes here: a young man, and an old, in solemn talk." As You Like It.
It is easy to foresee that this country is destined to un dergo great and rapid changes. Those that more properly belong to history, history will doubtless attempt to record, and probably with the questionable veracity and prejudice that are apt to influence the labours of that particular muse; but there is little hope that any traces of American society, in its more familiar aspects, will be preserved among us, through any of the agencies usually employed for such purposes. Without a stage, in a national point of view at least, with scarcely such a thing as a book of memoirs that relates to a life passed within our own limits, and totally without light literature, to give us simulated pictures of our manners and the opinions of the day, I see scarcely a mode by which the next generation can preserve any memorials of the distinctive usages and thoughts of this. It is true, they will have traditions of certain leading features of the colonial society, but scarcely any records; and, should the next twenty years do as much as the last, towards substituting an entirely new race for the descendants of our own immediate fathers, it is scarcely too much to, predict that even these traditions will be lost in the whirl and excitement of a throng of strangers. Under all the circumstances, therefore, I have come to a de, termination to make an effort, however feeble it may prove, to preserve some vestiges of household life in New York, at least; while I have endeavoured to stimulate certain friends in New Jersey, and farther south, to undertake simi. lar tasks in those sections of the country. What success