« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
to be a little troubled in mind. To complete the astonishment of the good folks, she undertook, in the course of a jig, to describe some astonishing figures in algebra, which she had learned from a dancing master in Rotterdam. Whether she was too animated in flourishing her feet, or whether some vagabond Zephyr took the liberty of intruding his services, certain it is, that in the course of a grand evolution which would not have disgraced a modern ball room, she made a most unexpected display-whereat the whole assembly was thrown into great admiration, several grave country members were not a little moved, and the good Peter himself, who was a man of unparallelled modesty, felt himself grievously scandalized.
The shortness of the female dresses, which had continued in fashion ever since the days of William Kieft, had long offended his eye; and though extremely adverse to meddling with the petticoats of the ladies, yet he immediately recommended that every one should be furnished with a flounce to the bottom. He likewise ordered that the ladies, and indeed the gentlemen, should use no cther step in dancing than shuffle and turn, and double trouble; and forbade under pain of his high displeasure, any young lady thenceforth to attempt what was termed exhibiting the graces.”
These were the only restrictions he ever imposed upon the sex; and these were considered by them as tyrannical oppressions, and resisted with that becoming spirit always manifested by the gentle sex whenever their privileges are invaded. In fact, Peter Stuyvesant plainly perceived, that if he attempted to push the matter any farther, there was danger of their leaving off petticoats altogether; so, like a wise man, experienced in the
women, he held his peace, and suffered them ever after to wear their petticoats and cut their capers as high as they pleased.
Showing the great Difficulty Philosophers have had in
peopling America-and how the Aborigines came to be begotien by Accident, to the great relief and Satisfaction of the Author.
The next inquiry at which we arrive in the regular course of our history, is to ascertain, if possible, how this country was originally peopled; a point fruitful of incredible embarrassments; for unless we prove that the aborigines did absolutely come from somewhere, it will be immediately asserted in this age of skepticism, that they did not come at all; and, if they did not come at all, then was this country never populated—a conclusion perfectly agreeable to the rules of logic, but wholly irreconcilable to every feeling of humanity, inasmuch as it must syllogistically prove fatal to the innumerable aborigines of this populous region.
To avert so dire a sophism, and to rescue from logical annihilation so many millions of fellow creatures, how many wings of geese have been plundered! what oceans of ink have been benevolently drained ! and how many capacious heads of learned historians have been addled and for ever confounded! I pause with reverential awe, when I contemplate the ponderous tomes in different languages, with which they have endeavoured to solve this question, so important to the happiness of society, but so involved in clouds of impenetrable obscurity. Historian after historian has engaged in the endless circle of hypothetical argument, and after leading us a weary chase through octavos, quartos, and folios, has let us out, at the end of his work, just as wise as we were at the beginning. It was doubtless some philosophical wild goose chase of the kind, that made the old poet Macrobius rail in such a passion at curiosity, which he anathematizes most heartily as “an irksome, agonizing care, a superstitious industry about unprofitable things, an itching humour to see what is not to be seen, and to be doing what signifies nothing when it is done.” But to proceed:
Of the claims of the children of Noah to the original population of this country, I shall say nothing, as they have already been touched upon in my last chapter. The claimants next in celebrity are the descendants of Abraham. Thus Christoval Colon (vulgarly called Columbus,) when he first discovered the gold mines of Hispaniola, immediately concluded, with a shrewdness that would have done honour to a philosopher, that he had found the ancient Ophir, from whence Solomon procured the gold for embellishing the temple at Jerusalem: nay, Colon even imagined that he saw the remains of furnaces of veritable Hebraic construction, employed in refining the precious ore.
So golden a conjecture, tinctured with such fascinating extravagance, was too tempting not to be immediately snapped at by the gudgeons of learning; and accordingly, there were divers profound writers, ready to swear to its correctness, and bring in their usual load of authorities and wise surmises, wherewithal to prop it up. Vatablus and Robertus Stephens declared nothing could be more clear; Arius Montanus, without the least hesitation, asserts that Mexico was the true Ophir, and the Jews the early settlers of the country: while Possevin, Becan, and several other sagacious writers, lug in a supposed prophecy of the fourth book of Esdras, which being inserted in the mighty hypothesis, like the key. stone of an arch, gives it, in their opinion, perpetual durability.
Scarce, however, have they completed their goodly superstructure, than in trudges a phalanx of opposite authors, with Hans de Laet, the great Dutchman, at their head; and at one blow tumbles the whole fabric about their ears. Hans, in fact, contradicts outright all the Israelitish claims to the first settlements of this country, attributing all those equivocal symptoms, and traces of Christianity and Judaism, which have been said to be found in divers provinces of the New World, to the Devil, who has always affected to counterfeit the worship of the true Deity. "A remark,” says the knowing old Padre d’Acosta, “ made by all good authors who have spoken of the religion of nations newly discovered, and founded besides on the authority of the fathers of the church.”
Some writers again, among whom it is with great regret I am compelled to mention Lopes de Gomora and Juan de Leri, insinuate that the Canaanites, being driven from the land of promise by the Jews, were seized with such a panic that they fled, without looking behind them, until stopping to take breath, they found themselves safe in America. As they brought neither their national language, manners, nor features with them, it is supposed they left them behind in the hurry of their flight. I cannot give my faith to this opinion.
I pass over the supposition of the learned Grotius, who being both an ambassador and a Dutchmen to boot, is entitled to great respect; that North America was peopled by a strolling company of Norwegians, and that Peru was founded by a colony from China - Manco, or Mungo Capac, the first Incas, being himself a Chinese. Nor shall I more than barely mention, that father Kircher ascribes the settlement of America
to the Egyptians, Budbeck to the Scandinavians, Charron to the Gauls, Juffredus Petri to a skating party from Friesland, Milius to the Celta, Marinocus the Sicilian to the Romans, Le Comté to the Phænicians, Postel to the Moors, Martin d'Angleria to the Abyssinians, together with the sage surmise of De Laet, that England, Ireland, and the Orcades may contend for that honour.
Nor will I bestow any more attention or credit to the idea that America is the fairy region of Zipangri, described by that dreaming traveller Marco Polo the Venetian; or that it comprises the visionary island of Atlantus, described by Plato. Neither will I stop to investigate the heathenish assertion of Para. celsus, that each hemisphere of the globe was originally furnished with an Adam and Eve; or the more flattering opinion of Dr. Romayne, supported by many nameless authorities, that Adam was of the Indian race; or the startling conjecture of Buffon, Helvetius, and Darwin, so highly honourable to mankind, that the whole human species is acciden- tally descended from a remarkable family of the monkeys!
This last conjecture, I must own, came upon me very suddenly and very ungraciously. I have often beheld the clown in a pantomime, while gazing in stupid wonder at the extravagant gambols of a harlequin, all at once electrified by a sudden stroke of the wooden sword across his shoulders. Little did I think at such times that it would ever fall to my ·lot to be treated with equal discourtesy, and that while I was quietly beholding these grave philosophers emulating the eccentric transformations of the hero of pantomime, they would on a sudden turn upon me and my readers, and with one hypothetical flourish metamorphose us into beasts! I determined from that moment not to burn my fingers with any more of their theories, but content myself with detailing the different methods by which they transported the descendants of these ancient and respectable monkeys, to this great field of theoretical warfare.
This was done either by migrations by land or transmigrations by water. Thus Padre Joseph d’Acosto enumerates three passages by land, first by the north of Europe, secondly by the north of Asia, and thirdly by regions southward of the straits of Magellan. The learned Grotius marches his Norwegians by a pleasant route across frozen rivers and arms of the sea, through Iceland, Greenland, Estotiland, and Naremberga. And various writers, among whom are Angleria, De Hornn, and Buffon, anxiou for the accommodation of these travellers, have fas tened the two continents together by a strong chain