Oscar Wilde.

Lady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest online

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portant factor in determining the uniformity of the gait, as well
as the diminutive size. The other consideration that I will
present is the fact that the pacer was more fashionable in and
about Philadelphia, then the leading city of the continent, than
in any other section or portion of the colonies. It is a fact that
seems to be fully established, that early in the last century the
breeding of pacing horses was carried on in the region of Phila-
delphia, with much spirit and intelligence, and that pacing
stallions for public service were carefully selected for their shape-
linesss and speed. It is also a fact that all horses that could not
pace were, in the public estimation, classed as basely bred.

The Swedes and Finns planted a colony on the west bank of
the Delaware in 1G38, and as they were an industrious and
thrifty people they prospered and extended their plantation up
the river as far as Philadelphia. This territory was then claimed
by the Dutch of New Netherlands, and they overcame the
Swedes in 1655, and ten years later they in turn had to surren-
der to the English. Of the early Swedes, the Rev. Acrelins
wrote and published, in the Swedish language, a very valuable
account of his people. In speaking of their horses he says: "The
horses are real ponies and are seldom over sixteen hands high


[evidently a misprint and should read ''thirteen" instead of
"sixteen"]. He who has a good riding horse never employs him
for draft; which is also the less necessary, as journeys are for the
most part made on horseback. It must be the result of this,
more than of any particular breed in the horses, that tlje country
excels in fast horses, so that horse races are often made for very
high stakes." Such horses often sold for sixty dollars in our
modern money. The question of the pacers of Philadelphia will
be considered more at length in the chapters devoted to the his-
tory of the pacer.

New Jersey is not known to have made any direct importa-
tions of horses from the old country. Lying between New York
on the east and Pennsylvania on the west, she had abundant op-
portunity to get her supply of horses from her neighbors on
either side, to say nothing of the overflow from Virginia about
1G69. Like all the other colonies, as early as 1668 her horses
were ordered to be branded and then suifered to roam at large
and find their own living. Not much attention seems to have
been given to the idea of improvement in the size and quality of
the stock till 1731, when it was provided by law that all colts of
eighteen months old, running at large and under fourteen hands
high, should be gelded. I have not made any attempt to get at
the exact average size of the Jersey horses, nor to ascertain the
ratio of pacers among them, for we know the environments and
the sources of supply, and in knowing these we know just what
the Jersey horses were — a large majority of them were pacers and
they were not over fourteen hands high.

The statutes of this colony, enacted 1748, furnished the first
real evidence of record, with one exception, going to show that
pacing and trotting races, as well as running races, were the com-
mon amusement of the peoj)le in the first half of the last cen-
tury. They were so common, indeed, that the legislative authori-
ties declared them a nuisance and restricted them to certain days
in the year. That this was not a "moral spasm," as some might
call it, that had seized the legislative authorities of that particu-
lar year, is evident from the fact that, afterward and from time
to time, this statute was amended, and always in the direction of
greater restrictions and greater severity. This is sufficient evi-
dence that the moral sense of the community sustained the law-
makers in pronouncing it a nuisance, to be abated. It is not
probable that pacing and trotting races were any more common


or more demoralizing in New Jersey than in some of the other
colonies, but they seem to have been content with fulminating
against "horse racing" without specifying the different gaits at
which the horses might go in the race. Until this old colonial
istatute was discovered, it was not possible to prove by contem-
poraneous evidence that there had been any pacing or trotting
races before the first decade of the present century. This, how-
ever, adds to their antiquity more than a hundred years.

Maryland was really the first in point of time to legislate for
the suppression of pacing, as well as running races, but the old
statute, enacted in 1747, was not discovered till very recently.
This proves that pacing races were very common in Maryland one
liundred and sixty years ago, but it says nothing about trotting
races. It will be observed that in the New Jersey statute the
different kinds of racing are placed in this order: "Racing, pac-
ing and trotting," and I take this to mean the order of their
prominence. Ajjplying this method to Maryland, it may be in-
ferred that trotting races were infrequent and practically un-
known, and hence not enumerated as offensive. Taking these two
cases together, I think we are justified in concluding that the
pacer antedated and preceded the trotter in all turf sports. No
doubt he was faster then than the trotter, and he has maintained
his superiority, in that respect at least, to this day. Maryland
was a great racing colony and it was afterward a great racing
State. This statute did not sweep over the whole colony, but
applied only to the race course at Newmarket, and Anne Arundel
and Talbot counties. As I understand the matter, this statute
was enacted specially at the request of the Society of Friends,
and for the protection of their yearly meetings.

With Pennsylvania on the one side and Virginia on the other,
it is not necessary to spend any time on the sizes and gaits of the
horses of Maryland, for they were simply duplicates of those in
the two colonies with which they were in constant intercourse
and trade. In the matter of undersized stallions running at
large Maryland was more in earnest and more savage than any of
the other colonies. For, by an act of Legislature, passed 1715,
it was provided that any person finding an entire colt eighteen
months old, or au unbroken stoned horse, running at large, no dif-
ference what his size, might shoot him upon the spot.

North Carolina was first permanently settled by a colony from
Virginia, led by Eoger Green, July, 1653. For some years pre-


vious to this it bad been the refuge of Quakers and others fleeing
from the persecutions and proscriptions that prevailed in Virginia
at that time, against all who did not conform to the ritual of the
English church. These refugees and colonists took their horses
and all they had with them, and as this was but a few years be-
fore there was an overproduction of horses in Virginia, and great
droves were running wild without an owner, we may conclude
they cost but little and that they spread rapidly in the new
colony. As we thus know whence they came, we necessarily
know what they were in size and gait, and we need not trace
them any further.

South Carolina received her colonial charter in 1663, and the
earliest newspaper that I have found was for the year 1744, from the
advertisements in which I have extracted the following data as to
size and gait. In the first four and the last four months of the
South Carolina Gazette for 1744 I find thirty horses advertised
as strayed or stolen, in whicli the size is given, and they average
within a small fraction of an inch of thirteen and one-half hands,
and of this number three are given as fifteen hands, which was
considered, in that day, a large horse. Out of this number the
gait is given in only twelve cases, ten of which were pacers, one
paced and trotted, and one trotted only. The foundation horse
stock of South Carolina was obtained chiefly, if not wholly, from
Virginia, and the practice of branding and turning out, to roam
at large, prevailed everywhere.

In the issues of the Gazette for this year (1744) I find but one
advertisement of a stallion for public service, and he is called the
"famous racing horse named Roger," and is advertised as a great
race horse, but there is no attempt to give a pedigree or to claim
that he possessed any blood that was not the inheritance of all
others. Another advertisement is a lengthy challenge from
Joseph Butler to run his gelding Chestnut against any horse,
mare or gelding for five hundred or one thousand pounds ''inch
and weight," the lowest horse carrying thirteen stone. No men-
tion or reference is made to his blood, and from these two facts
we may reasonably infer that at that time there were no strains
of blood, known to the Carolinians, specially bred to run. The
distance to be run is not definitely mentioned, but it was on a
road from one point to another, and I suppose it was about two
and a half, or possibly three miles. This was tliree years before
the first English race horse was imported into Virginia. It has


been represented that an old gentleman, whose name is forgotten,
imported into South Carolina a number of English race horses at
a period long anterior to this, but that claim has never been in a
shape that placed it above very grave suspicion and doubt; and
the claim accompanying it, in the way of apology, that the old
man would never allow any of his horses to race, did not improve
its credibility. From the advertisements just referred to, it
seems evident that there was no distinctively English running
blood in the colony till after this date.

This review of the horses of the colonial period embraces all
that I have been able to glean of the character, qualifications,
size and habit of action of the earliest importations and their de-
scendants. Their diminutive size will be a surprise to my read-
ers as it has been to me, and the overwhelming ratio of pacers to
trotters will be a still greater surprise. The importance of in-
creasing the size by judicious selections of the largest seems to
have been ever present to the minds of the colonists, but not
much could be accomplished in that direction, under the system
prevalent everywhere of roaming at large. The little pacers
Avere great saddle horses, and down to the days of good roads and
wheeled vehicles they were deemed indispensable. That there
were race horses among them at the running, pacing and trotting
gaits there is indisjjutable evidence, covering about a hundred
years of the colonial period, but there is no record of the rate of
speed. The pacer was the favorite and fashionable horse of that
period, and after something has been said about the Canadian
horse we Avill take up his history and treat it with that fullness
its importance demands.



Settlement and capture of Port Royal — Farly plantations — First Frencb
liorses brought over 1665 — Possibly illicit trading — Sire of " Old Tippoo "^
— His history — "Scape Goat " and his descendants — Horses of the Mari-
time Provinces.

Before taking up the two provinces of the Dominion — Quebec
and Ontario — to which reference is made in this volume as-
"Canada," there is an incident in the history of Nova Scotia,
full of sadness, that I cannot pass over without mention. The
•French made a settlement here in 160^, and named the country
New France. The settlement to which I refer was at Port Royal,
afterward named Annapolis by the English. This seems to have
been a thrifty and flourishing little plantation, far removed from
all outside associations, except the savages of the forests, with
whom they lived in peace. The first horses brought to North
America were owned and bred by the people of Port Royal. In
November, 1613, Captain Argall, of Virginia, organized a plun-
dering expedition, and having learned of the defenseless condi-
tion of Port Royal from Captain John Smith, he sailed up there-
with two or three ships, captured the place and carried away
horses, cattle, sheep, wheat, farming utensils, and indeed every-
thing their ships would carry, and then sailed away to Virginia.
This raid was without authority or orders, but it was winked at
by the officials, and forthwith a second raid was made by Argall,
and all that had been left in the first was carried away in the
second, as well as some of the inhabitants.

The pacer of Canada, generally believed to be of French origin,
has long been an object of diligent investigation, without reach-
ing any satisfactory results. Again and again I have gone over
the first half-century of the history of the French plantations
on the St. Lawrence; examining everything in the English
language that held out any hope of throwing light upon the ques-
tion, but nothing was revealed. The trouble was that my search


stopped a little short of the date when the first horses arrived.
The management of the affairs of the plantations on the St.
Lawrence being in a company located in France, there was a
lack of vigor, not much growth, and still less profits to the pro-
jectors of the colony. The energies of the people seemed to be
directed almost wholly to collecting and trading in peltry in-
stead of building up a commonwealth from the productions of
the soil. For half a century these primitive people lived with-
out horses. Their farms, if they could be called farms, all had a
frontage on the water, running back in narrow strij)s to the
highlands. They did their plowing with cattle and their canoes
supplied the place of the saddle horse, the family carriage and
the lumber wagon to carry the scanty surplus of their little farms
to market. At last the company in France, holding direction
and control, got out of the way, and the king of France assumed
direct authority over the affairs of the plantation. On June 30,
1665, the Marquis de Tracy arrived at Quebec, as viceroy, with a
numerous suite of retainers and a regiment of French soldiers.
Two months later a large fleet arrived bringing many colonists,
embracing artisans, farmers, peasants, etc., with their families,
and a good number of horses, the first that had ever been seen
on the St. Lawrence. There is a tradition that a horse had been
sent over to the governor in 1642, but it is probable he was lost
on the voyage, as the older people of the colony had no recollec-
tion or knowledge of any such animal. These colonists came
from the ancient province of Picardy, not now to be found on
the modern maps of France, but it lay on the English Channel
in the extreme northwest of France. As it is expressly stated
that these colonists came from Picardy, it is fair to conclude
that the horses came from that portion of the kingdom also.
At this period in history there had been no wars between France
and England for many years, and commercial as well as social
intercourse had long been cultivated between the people on both
sides of the channel. We know but little of the early horse history
of France, but in oui' own time we know that France has been
largely benefited by the diffusion of the English blood among
her horse stock, so we may conclude that if a man in Kent had a
horse that a man in Picardy wanted, he very soon got him in the
way of legitimate trade. I think, therefore, it is safe to con-
clude that the horse stock of Northwestern France and the horse
stock of England were very much the same in appearance, action


and blood. On this basis of reasoning, which involves no im-
probabilities, we may conclude that the same proportion of the
horses from Picardy were natural pacers.

There is another theory, giving the Canadian pacer an Anglo-
American origin, that commends itself to the unbiased judgment
with even greater force than the one just suggested.' Various
writers have talked about the ''French characteristics" of the
Canadian pacer, and all that, when probably not one of them ever
saw a horse that he Icnew to be French. The early pacers — the
pacing-bred pacers — ^all have more or less strongly marked resem-
blances, especially in conformation, and it makes no difference
whether they come from Canada or whether their habitat has
been south of Mason and Dixon's line for two hundred and fifty
years. When we look at a pacer, therefore, we may as well be
honest and say we don't know whether he resembles the horses
that reached the St. Lawrence in 1665, or those that reached
Massachusetts Bay in 1629. The theory that the French Cana-
dians got the foundation of their pacing stock from the New
England colonies rests upon two well-known facts. First, the
colonies had a great abundance of such horses for sale; and second,
they were within reach of and purchasable by the Canadians. To
these two facts rendering the theory possible, we have others
which render it probable. The jealous restrictions sought to be
imposed on both the English and French colonists by the home
governments of both people strongly indicate that there was no
small amount of illicit trading, and this trading, in the very
nature of things, must have been between the English and French.
Toward the close of the seventeenth century the English colo-
nies, especially Rhode Island, had far more horses than they
needed for home use, and they did a thriving business in export-
ing them to different parts. These were just the kind of horses
the Canadians needed for their wild life in the wilderness; they
were cheaper than they could be brought from France; the
water way of Lake Champlain was convenient; pelts and furs
were a deisirable commodity of exchange, and there was no cordon
of customs officers to keep the willing traders apart. Of these
theories we consider the second the more probable of the two,
and if we accept it we reach the conclusion that the so-called
"French" Canadian pacer is merely a descendant of the old Eng-
lish pacer brought over by the early New England colonists.
Objection has been presented to this theory, on the grounds that


the powerful confederation of the Six Nations Indians interposed
an nnsurraountable barrier to all trade, whether legitimate or
illicit, between the Canadians and the colonists of New England.
This objection is certainly conclusive as applied to the different
periods of hostilities, but the hostilities were not continuous.
During both the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries there
were periods of years at a stretch when there were no hostilities,
and when there was nothing to prevent the Canadian and the
Yankee from coming together and exchanging what they each
had that the other wanted. The border abounds in traditions of
the incidents connected with this illicit trading, but we need not
go to the border in the wilderness to learn that the desire to
"beat the customs" is almost universal. We can see it mani-
fested every day at the docks in New York, when a steamer
arrives from abroad. The fine lady, with her gloves and lots of
other lingerie that she has been contriving all the way across how
best to keep from the sight of the officer, is no better and no
worse than the "Canuck," who in a retired place at midnight
trades his peltry to the Yankee for his horse. If the Canadian
pacer did not have his origin in New England it was not because
he could not be carried across the border.

When we enter upon the consideration of the actual performers
descended from the original Canadian stock, we find both pacers
and trotters of speed and merit, but in attempting to trace them
to their particular ancestors we find ourselves in a labyrinth
from which there seems to be no deliverance. Iii the midst of
this darkness I am glad to be able to say there is a ray of light
that illumines much that has been obscure. The greatest pro-
genitor of trotters and pacers that Canada has produced, "Old
Tippoo," has been fully identified in his true origin, and he has
been well named "The Messenger of Canada." He seemed to be
known all over Canada as the greatest of their trotting and pac-
ing sires, and many attempts were made through several years to
give his pedigree, but in all these attempts there were elements
of weakness and in many of them very bald absurdities.

AVhen the roan gelding Tacony made his record of 2:27, away
back in 1853, the performance was looked upon as something that
would not be surpassed in a generation at least. Then when
Toronto Chief made his saddle record of 2:24^, ten or twelve
years later, and it was found that he and Tacony were both
descended from a Canadian horse called Tippoo, the inquiry be-


came quite active as to what Tiispoo was, and all kinds of imaginable^
stories were told about him. In the search for the history and
breeding of the horse Tippoo, extending through more than
twenty years, many curious and some impossible things were
developed, and as these old "fads" may come as new discoveries in
future generations, I will mention two or three of fhem here.
The first of these untruthful statements to assume tangible form-
was to the effect that Tippoo was imported from England, and
that he was got there by Nesthall's Messenger. I never could
tell how or where this story originated, but it first appeared in the
pedigree given to Toronto Chief when he went into the stud on
Long Island. This was settled by the facts, expressed in very
few words, that the horse was not imported, but bred in Canada,
and that there was no such horse in England as "Nesthall's.

The next representation came from an old horseman, Mr. V.
Sheldon, of Canton, New York, a very intelligent and careful
correspondent, who had given much labor to the question. He
had learned from different sources, that were satisfactory to his-
mind, that a Mr. Howard, a traveling preacher, had ridden a
mare from Lowville, New York, over into Canada; that this mare
was in foal "by a very noted horse that stood at Lowville;" that
when the mare became too heavy for his use under the saddle he
sold her to Isaac Morden, and that the foal she dropped was the
famous Tippoo. The name of the "very famous horse that stood
at Lowville" was not remembered, but as Ogden's Messenger
was there at that time — 1816-17 — the conclusion followed that
he was the horse. This representation was far from complete,
but as there was nothing unreasonable about it, and nothing
known to be untrue, I accepted it for a time, awaiting further light.

The third representation came from Mr. Lewis T. Leavens, of
Bloomfield, Ontario, who was born 1792, and was, therefore, old
enough to have had some personal knowledge of the horse. But
whether his knowledge was personal or only traditional cannot
now be made to appear. He says that Tippoo was got by a horse
called Escape, and I will ask the reader to note this name
"Escape" as we progress. He says that "when Escape was on
the ocean, the vessel encountered a severe gale, and the horse
had to be thrown overboard, and he was picked up the ninth day
off the coast of Newfoundland, on a bar, eating rushes." This
silly and ridiculous story had been told and possibly believed by


some fools more than a hundred years before the dates here im-
plied by Mr. Leavens. It is probable it was first told as a joke,
by some wag in Rhode Island, when asked about the origin of
the Narragansett pacers. He replied that the original Narragan-
sett "was caught swimming in mid-ocean, when a ship came
along, lassoed him, pulled him on board, and landed him safely
in Narragansett Bay." The vitality of the joke probably had its
origin in the exjjerience of Eip Van Dam, when in ITll he went
up to Narragansett for a flying pacer, which is related in another
part of this volume. Mr. Leavens speaks of the Rev. Erastus as
the owner of the dam, and the breeder of the horse; but he says
the horse did not come into possession of Isaac Morden till he
Avas six or eight years old. The date of his death is fixed by Mr.
Leavens in 1835, and while he is more definite than our informa-
tion from other sources, all agree he died from a kick about that

The next representation that seems to be worthy of noticing
is a communication that apjaeared in the New York Sportsman,
written by somebody who signs himself "Dick." Whether
"Dick" is in earnest and believes what he writes, or whether he is
merely trying to "sell" somebody, we will leave for him to decide.

Online LibraryOscar WildeLady Windermere's fan, and The importance of being Earnest → online text (page 16 of 61)