A. D. (Amory Dwight) Mayo.

Symbols of the capital or, Civilization in New York online

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoSymbols of the capital or, Civilization in New York → online text (page 1 of 20)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year lb5y, by

THATCHER & H (J T C H I 2> S O N ,

In the C!eri<'s Office of the Districi Cur.rt ni tiie United Status, for the Southern D strict of New Ycrk.


W'. H. t'lNSOX, Stereotyper and Printer,
Rear of i'i & 45 Centre street, N'. Y.


• • •

The subject of the following pages is American
Civilization, as symbolized by the institutions of the
chief State in the Republic. Xo State so completely
represents the characteristic tendencies of society in
our country as 'New York. Superior to all others in
population, wealth and executive pow6r ; containing
a representative of every style of character and abil-
ity at Avork in our new confederacy; closely linked
with every interest in the Union ; its condition is,
perhaps, the best mirror in which we can behold the
reflection of our present progress, and the obstacles
that hinder our more rapid advancement.

The writer has selected the chief representative
ir.stitutions of the cajiital city of Now York, as sug-
"cstive of what lifi^ shonltl \>v in t'verv free cumnion-



wealth. The work is, therefore, concerned Avith loca^
themes, only as they lead the mind to the considera
tion of the great privileges and obligations of Ameri-
can citizenship. It is a sincere endeavor to aid the
young men and women of our land in their attempt
to realize a character that shall justify our professions
of republicanism, and to establish a civilization which,
m becoming national, shall illustrate every principle
of a pure Christianity.






















THE studios; OR, ART IN NEW YORK, . . . ', . 223




WOMAN IN AMERICA, «. . . . , . . .275










There are many great rivers on tlie western conti-
nent ; but nowhere w^ithin a valley of three Inin-
drecl miles is there such an appeal to the love of
nature and the higher love of man, as in the glo-
rious region of the Hudson. Its springs hide
themselves amid the secrets of that mysterious
wiklerness, whose " cloud-splitting " summit soars
above a wide sweeping circle of primitive woods
and hills, and glistening lakes and streams, with a
faint gleam of civilizatiDU (piivcring in the far-ofl*
horizon. Within the hroad bav, where its males-
tic tide lapses into the Atlantic, are rellected the



masts of a commerce tliat searches the ends of the
earth, and the spires of that citj which represents
in all its wondrons phases the new civilization of
the western world. Midway between the Adiron-
dack and the ocean, scaling the hills and nestling
amid the ravines of its superb shores, rises the
Capital City of the greatest Republican State. And
every mile of its joyous current above, or its stately
tide below, is crowded with nature's grandeur or
loveliness. Whether it reflects the swelling hills
and wooded islands that smile over its marriasre
with the beautiful Mohawk ; or lingers reverently
where the Catskills build their sapphire wall,
terrace above terrace, along the western sky ; or
washes the lazy feet of old quiet villages, and
foams around the wharves of busy towns ; or glides
by fertile fields that scale broad eastern uplands,
shining like gardens of Paradise in the light of the
sinking sun; or ripples at the end of shadowed
paths, that lead to the embowered homes of culture
and wealth and worth; or writhes through the
girding Highlands ; or diffuses itself in inland bays ;
or rolls by the solemn Palisades, to breast the
ascending waves of the sea ; its journey is every-
where a jubilee ; the triumphal march of nature
out of her primeval wilderness to her mystic union
with the noblest works of man.


For glorious as may be this valley of the Hud-
son, yet around the least man that looks upon its
waves, or treads its soil, lingers a charm as far
above tlie magic of forest and sunset as the sky is
lifted above the ground — the charm of an immor-
tal spiritual existence. And nature's splendor
alono; these three hundred wondrous miles is but
a faint type of the grandeur of that human des-
tiny wrought out amid her scenes. Two hundred
and fifty years ago the little ship " Half Moon "
first disturbed the waters of this unknown stream,
bearing the heroic navigator whose name it has
inherited. Seven years later a trading-post arose
on one of its islands, and in 1623 were laid the
foundations of Albany, the second town in those
original colonies wdiose revolt from England cre-
ated our Republic. Its junction with the sea wit-
nessed the ceremonies that sealed its transmission
to the English power in 1GG4 ; while on the region
washed by its northern waters, the tide of French
invasion was met and broken by the united bravery
of New York and New England. Along its de-
voted banks ebbed and flowed the wave of the
Hevolutionary struggle ; on the plains of Saratoga
was struck the decisive blow that broke the spell
of British success ; under the shadows of the High-
lands watched and thought and commanded our



Wasliiugton ; here, at tlie end of tlie long and
dreaiy war, was disbanded tlie army of the Thir-
teen Independent States ; and in full view of its
waters was the Father of his Country inaugurated
first President of the Republic.

Just fifty years ago Robert Fulton opened its
second great era of human interest, and stowed in
the hull of his little steamer, that crawled up to
Albany, were the mighty agencies of civilization
that have changed this wilderness to the garden
valley it has become. Thrice since that day has
the mighty West reached out a long arm and
seized its shores with a giant grasp ; and now,
along these avenues of wave and iron, surges the
noise of nations going to their destiny beyond our
sinking sun ; while the genius of I^ew England,
from her long line of mountain ridges, looks down
with hope and" pride into its fruitful valleys. JSTew
York has arisen, like a city in a fairy tale, repre-
sentative of the best and the worst of American life ;
and in the ofiices and halls of the buildings that
crown the hills of Albany, has been elaborated the
policy that has brought our State to its eminent
position among the communities of men.

In all the elements of human interest no river
can surpass our own ; for while the plains of the
liber and the Danube reflect the lino-erlno' o-lories


of empires that have gone, or totter on the giddy
snmmit of despotic misrule, and the Seine and the
Thames mirror the host results of that civilization
based on the contempt for the natural rights of man,
our Hudson is stirred from her Atlantic vrave to
lier mountain springs by the great conflict of free-
dom for the soul. Though the cannon of the old
JRevolution no longer awake the echoes of onr liills,
yet the American revolution now rages at its full
nocn-tide heat along these valleys ; and wlien the
armies of this revolution are disbanded on its
shores, from the Capital City must go forth the joy-
ous word that declares the people of the Empire
State free from political oppression, and the more
subtle tyranny of superstition, and tlie deadliest
slavery of ignorance and social degeneracy. So
does our Hudson flow towards the future, bearing
on its swelling waves the hopes of a longing world
for the final emancipation of man. And most fit-
ting is it that the moral teacher who would point to
the sii^ns in the eastern heavens of this cominj}: dav
of light and love should stand in the Capital City,
of the most powerful commonwealth in the great
ro])uhlic, and mal<e it, through its chief representa-
tive institutions, preach those Christian lessons
that are the essence of tlie best culturi' of our time.
Ihit as the cities that fill o\ir lovelv vallev arc


enfolded and shadowed on every liand by the coun-
try, so is their glory only representative, and they
are only what they are made by those who till the
plains, and toil npon the hillsides that stretch
away from ns to the limits of onr State. Along
the banks of the Hudson the cities and villages
are but dots ; while the country is the ever present
object of view. Therefore let our estimate of the
forces that cluster in the Capital City be ]3refaced
by an estimate of the country life of our great State.
With the Hudson for a text, let the teacher speak
of the capabilities of that country life for the pro-
duction of a civilization which shall be the Amer-
ican version of Christ's kingdom of heaven among

Every wise observer of the affairs of the Repub-
lic must confess that our hope of a Christian
Democracy is in the country life of the nation.
America cannot be ruled by her great cities except
by the substitution of the interests of a class for
the elevation of the whole. The influence of our
great capitals is comparatively small in the array
of public forces. In the southern half of the Union
they are an insignificant element of power. The
West has extemporized huge villages in the wilder-
ness which, spite of their metropolitan pretensions,
are onlv commercial depots erected bv the imme-


diate wants of a developing conntrj. Even the
older cities of the East, not excepting 'New York,
are still gigantic caravansaries, so fluctuating in
their population and tendencies that they cannot
be estimated as a fixed power in the State. Their
wealth, culture and moral enterprise are rivalled
by thousands of smaller towns, bound together by
rail-track and telegraph, which represent in turn a
country population of landholders and indepen-
dent laborers such as the world never before saw ;
and whose enlightened watchfulness will not per-
mit the conceit of citizen aristocracy, or the
brutality of citizen barbarism to dictate terms to
our new civilization. While therefore the man of
mature power may choose a city platform ou
which to work the machinery of his influence, yet
his mission is not so much among the fickle crowds
of the towns as out among the villages and
farms. Whoever can make his mark decj) and
broad over the hills and fields of our Empire
State can well afford to dispense with the homage
paid by the metropolitan fashion of the huur to
its favorite ; for whatever idea of life rules tlie
country must inevitably shape the destiny of the

In speaking of cuiintry life we shall therefore
avoid that irreeiniess in wliich the hackneved citi-



zen so often clotlies himself when pronouncing his
oracles for the entertainment of his rural brethren.
We shall avoid that sentimental Arcadian view
which lures young ladies and gentlemen, deep in the
mysteries of pastoral poetry and the latest raode^
to invade the rural districts in midsummer, and
display their innocent and verdant fancies for the
entertainment of the farmers' sons and the village
housewives ; for though a pardonable hallucina-
tion in certain seasons of early adolescence, this
pastoral view of country life can be dismissed by
grown up men and women without serious damage
to their mental integrity. "We must also avoid the
notion of a section of the mercantile world, whose
views of the country have uniformly been througli
the telescope of speculation, and to whom the
whole continent outside the pavement resolves
itself into a universe of mill privileges, mercantile
agencies, ups and downs of breadstuffs, and pro-
spective corner-lots in cities yet hovering in the
air. Equally useless for our purpose is that idea
which painfully occupies the soul of the retired
man of the town, who having recovered from the
excitement of building his palace on the most
inaccessible hill in the country, awakes to the direful
apprehension that he has put himself into a fort-
ress and must spend the remainder of his days in


foraging for supplies of food and fuel and society.
It is becoming quite unnecessary to dispel the fond
dream of the city ecclesiastic or politician, that on
the pulling of a certain wire above the chair of
his sanctum whole districts of agricultural patriots
and saints will dance most vigorously to his tune,
since the cry of both these gentlemen is no v to gods
and men for relief against the oppression of these
dwellers on farms who are bent on makino^ their
vocation a smeciire. "We can do justice to the
artistic view of country life and still understand
that the chief end of the laborer or villa2:e maid
is not to lig^ure in a smock-frock or flower-decked
flat in his charming landscape. In contemplating
the country life of l^Tew York, such views must
only be considered as glimpses of the real world,
like those caught while swiftly ci'ossing one of
the hill streets of the Capital City. But we shall
transport ourselves to tlie homes of the people, and
consider the case of those, who, born into the
whole circle of country toils, trials and advanta-
ges, will live and die outside of city walls. How
does life appear to this vast majority of the Ameri-
can people ; what opportunities aid and what liin-
derances discouraire tlieir elibrts for Christian
manhood ; aii<l how shall they solve the radical
probloin of our national destiny; — to combine


individual freedom in every department of human
existence with the duties of a citizen in our great
general confederac j of independent States ?

The advantages of country life will always bear
repeating. First is health, which must deteriorate
amid the poisonous vapors and artificial habits that
now make our cities the graveyards of so much
youth and beauty imported from the fields. I^ext
is j)hysical comfort, for a sober man will prefer the
country where all things grow for his support and
he can afford to be a hospitable neighbor to the
city, where every addition of outward happiness
must be bargained for and dearly bought. Better
still is the opportunity for personal consideration
in a community that soon understands the real
worth of its every member and assigns him the
position his character demands, while the city
must to a great degree live in ignorance of
character, and promote men and women accord-
ing to their strength in achieving a special success.
The alternation of labor and leisure in the life of
the farmer or dweller in villages secures time for
mental improvement, and if the masses in the
country are not more enlightened in literature than
the overdriven and excited crowds that throng the
pavement, it is their own deep disgrace. Art is the
advantage of the town, but in the present state of


American art and manners we sliall not be thought
singular if we maintain that the privilege of look-
ing from one of the hills that overshadow tlie valley
of the Hudson, or contemplating the pictures framed
by the window-sash of the householder among the
western lakes, is superior to the attraction of a re-
served seat at the Academy of Music, a ticket to the
Art Galleries, a promenade down Broadway, or a
carriage once a fortnight, with the invitation to
occupy six square inches of an uptown saloon, for
two fearful hours contending for j)ersonal safety in
a mob of dress coats and a wilderness of crinoline.
And when the lover of Christianity is brought to
know the unveracities and obscenities and inhuman-
ities that deep below deep undermine our gilded
metropolitan life, he will see that the hope of a
purer religion in America is given to those whose
independent country life makes social servility and
moral depravity an unpardonable offence. The
sum of this advantage is that in the country the
individual man is a more prominent object in the
landscape of life than in the city : and while cor-
])orations and institutions are the rulers of the
town it is easier fur the dweller with nature to pos-
sess himself and decide the great American prob-
lem between man and the state according to his
best intelligence.


Yet in many sections of the country there are
great drawbacks to these advantages. The mono-
tony of lonely life often stupefies rather than
deepens the character. The want of society repre-
senting varied interests and styles of thought may
easily breed a conceit of superiority, w^hich, alter-
nating with the shyness of pride nourished in
seclusion, shuts the door on improvement. The
lack of that indefinable power we call manner or
personal presence, which few can preserve away
from intercom'se with all varieties of people, is a
great hinderance to the reserved countryman. Tlie
absence of these powerful excitements which awake
the latent energies and introduce a man to himself is
also injurious to many a sleepy soul that suns its
life away on green banks and lets nature over-
power and demoralize the w^ill. The remoteness
from the centres of concentrated influence often
begets a mischievous dependence in thought and
habit. There is danger that the rural mind will
fall into the ruts, and live and die unconscious of
its decided advantages of position ; and many a
one has doubtless been galvanized into a noble
manhood by the shocks of city life, who would
have glided down the slow current of a country
career hardly disturbing the waters till the final


The upshot of this controversy between country
and town is, that each has great advantages for a
strong sonL It is time that onr people w^ere de-
livered from the cant that agricnlture is an essen-
tially ennobling pursuit, and that one has only to
live in a farmhouse to be a worthy man. Selfish-
ness as withering, meanness and craft as belittling,
sensuality as brutalizing as any that dwells in city
courts, often curses the farmer's home. ]N"either
the land nor the pavement makes the man, but
a high spirit makes both the theatre of life's
grandest achievement. Every honest and useful
profession is good for the best uses of the soul.
Labor is not confined to the field or the shop, but
is the severe angel that stands by the elbow of him
who thinks, or traffics, or guides society, and when-
ever welcomed bestows her great rewards. Both
countrymen and citizen need less false pride in
their profession, more just pride to make that pro-
fession the means of human elevation. The best
product of the farm and plantation is not wheat
and cotton, but man ; and our teeming prairies and
rich uplands will only become a curse, unless the
world values the planter above his bales, and the
farmer beyond liis grains. The especial need of
the great agricultural classes in this land is more
self-respect, founded not on their grounds, but on


their nature as souls created in the image of God ;
and along with this a more rational estimate of
their great opportunities to cultivate the best char-
acter in their position, with an unobtrusive inde-
pendence in forming their habits of life on the basis
of the country. A sham city in the rural districts
is a painful sight which too often offends the eyes
of the American. For, just now, commerce is flaunt-
ing her sudden successes and intolerable follies of
luxury in the eyes of the country, inflaming young
men with the aspiration to exchange the honors of
health and independence at home for slavery and
effeminacy in the town ; and changing the good
old race of country women into feeble imitators of
the fashion plates, who sigh among the groves and
gardens of the Hudson for the splendors of Broad-
way millinery and the exhausting pleasm'es of a
city career. "When our country youth come to
their senses, and with no affectation of contempt
for the town, devote themselves to the growth of
their own manhood and womanhood in the ample
spaces of their enviable lot, we shall be nearer the
end of our American Hevolution, and see more
clearly how to organize upon our prairies, and
river banks, and mountain sides, that Christian
freedom of which they are the magnificent types
and shadows.


This idea of a life of Cliristian independence,
amid the circumstances of the conntiy wonld,
doubtless, introduce extensive reforms in every
department of rural existence. Beginning in the
unobtrusive freedom of good families, it would
gradually make its way through neighborhoods
and districts, till the whole aspect of country life
would be elevated and refined.

First, it would remodel the physical arrange-
ments of many of our country friends, and inaugu-
rate a style of living which would secure a larger
degree of health and comfort. It is melancholy
that a people with such abundant means for health
and comfort as the rural j)opulation of ]^ew York,
should so often pervert the benevolent gifts of God
into curses. Besides the intemperance in the use
of alcoholic drinks, and that poisonous weed whose
vile mark is seen over the whole face of America,
there is a great neglect of the simplest laws of
dress, diet, housing and labor by our country folks,
which is laying the seeds of permanent physical de-
generacy. Our capricious climate demands per-
petual watchfulness, and the habit of reckless ex-
posure, which in men is the result of carelessness,
and in women of imitation of city fashions, lies at
tlie foundation of our declining health. One would
suppose that the daughters of the most intelligent


Datioii of farmers in tlie world would perceive
the folly of arraying themselves in apparel which
can hardly be excused in the drawing-rooms of the
cities, and bravin^: the terrors of a I^ew York win-
ter and the caprice of its spring and summer with
the gossamer contrivances denominated fashionable
shoes and hats and drapery ; but the country wo-
men dress on the whole, more unsuitably for their
exposure than those of the city. As a result, fe-
male health, the source of national health, is at a
fearfully low ebb in our villages and rural districts.
The wholesome preparation of good food, and the
method of eating and drinkiug are yet an unknown
science to millions of our countrvmen. We know
the depth and breadth of this stolid American pre-
judice against the religion of the kitchen. Many
a family that worships God sincerely in morning
and evening devotions is poisoning itself by a trans-
gression of His laws around its daily table. Tlie
greed for more land often keeps the home of the
farmer destitute of many essentials to the healthy
education of the family. The habits of toil un-
cheered by amusements, or the higher culture of
the soul, cut short the days of hosts of our earnest
countrymen. "We cannot suggest the details of this
physical reformation. It will come when the more
sensible inhabitants of every district begin to think


of the best way to prolong life and increase com-
fort in their particular locality.

Every state and region has peculiarities of cli-
mate and circumstance to which the physical habits
must be adjusted. We have outgrown the primi-
tive pioneer life which hardened the bodies of our
ancestors; we must live in a more elegant style
than they : and the question for the country people
in our State is, shall the town tailors, milliners,
architects and cooks, dress your sons and daughters,
build your houses, spread your tables, and dictate
habits of labor and amusement, after some wretched
imitations of old world folly ; or will you exercise

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoSymbols of the capital or, Civilization in New York → online text (page 1 of 20)