James Fenimore Cooper.

Works (Volume 29) online

. (page 30 of 42)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 30 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


mediately he had Bridget folded to his heart.

Foreigners are apt to say that we children of this western
world do not submit to the tender emotions with the same
self-abandonment as those who are born nearer to the rising
sun ; that our hearts are as cold and selfish as our manners ;
and that we live more for the lower and grovelling passions,
than for sentiment and the affections. Most sincerely do
we wish that every charge which European jealousy, and
Eu'opean superciliousness, have brought against the Ame
rican character, was as false as this. That the people of
this country are more restrained in the exhibition of all
their emotions, than those across the great waters, we be
lieve ; but, that the last feel the most, we shall be very
unwilling to allow. Most of all shall we deny that the
female form contains hearts more true to all its affections,
sprits more devoted to the interests of its earthly head, or
an identity of existence more perfect than those with which



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK.

the American wife clings to her husband. She is literally
* c bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh." It is seldom
that her wishes cross the limits of the domestic circle,
which to her is earth itself, and all that it contains which
is most desirable. Her husband and children compose her
little world, and beyond them and their sympathies, it is
rare indeed that her truant affections ever wish to stray.
A part of this concentration of the American wife's exist
ence in these domestic interests, is doubtless owing to the
simplicity of American life and the absence of temptation.
Still, so devoted is the female heart, so true to its impulses,
and so little apt to wander from home-feelings and home-
duties, that the imputation to which there is allusion, is
just that, of all others, to which the wives of the republic
ought not to be subject.

It was even-tide before the governor was again seen
among his people. By this time, the immigrants had taken
their first survey of the Reef, and the nearest islands,
which the least sanguine of their numbers admitted quite
equalled the statements they had originally heard of the
advantages of the place. It was, perhaps, fortunate that
the fruits of the tropics were so abundant with Socrates
and his companions. By this time, oranges abounded, more
than a thousand trees having, from time to time, been
planted in and around the crater, alone. Groves of them
were also appearing in favourable spots, on the adjacent
islands. It is true, these trees were yet too young to pro
duce very bountifully ; but they had begun to bear, and it
was thought a very delightful thing, among the fresh arri
vals from Pennsylvania, to be able to walk in an orange
grove, and to pluck the fruit at pleasure !

As for figs, melons, limes, shaddocks, and even cocoa-
nuts, all were now to be had, and in quantities quite suffi
cient for the population. In time, the colonists craved the
apples of their own latitude, and the peach ; those two
fruits, so abundant and so delicious in their ancient homes ;
but the novelty was still on them, and it required time to
learn the fact that we tire less of the apple, and the peach,
and the potato, than of any other of the rarest gifts of
nature. That which the potato has become among vege
tables, is the apple among fruits ; and when we rise into



322 THE CRATER;

the mere luscious and temporary of the bountiful products
of horticulture, the peach (in its perfection) occupies a
place altogether apart, having no rival in its exquisite fla
vour, while it never produces satiety. The peach and the
grape are the two most precious of the gifts of Providence,
in the way of fruits.

That night, most of the immigrants slept in the ship ;
nearly all of them, however, for the last time. About ten
in the forenoon, Brown came running down to the Reef,
through the eastern passage, to report Waally well off, hav
ing quitted the group to-windward, and made the best of
his way towards his own islands, without turning aside to
make a starting-point of Rancocus. It was a good deal
questioned whether the chief would find his proper domi
nions, after a run of four hundred miles ; for a very trifling
deviation from the true course at starting, would be very
apt to bring him out wide of his goal. This was a matter,
however, that gave the colonists very little concern. The
greater the embarrassments encountered by their enemies,
the less likely would they be to repeat the visit ; and should
a few perish, it might be all the better for themselves. The
governor greatly approved of Brown's course in not follow
ing the canoes, since the repulse was sufficient as it was,
and there was very little probability that the colony would
meet with any further difficulty from this quarter, now that
it had got to be so strong.

That day and the next, the immigrants were busy in
landing their effects, which consisted of furniture, tools
and stores, of one sort and another. As the governor
intended to send, at once, forty select families over to the
Peak, the Abraham was brought alongside of the quay, and
the property of those particular families was, as it came
ashore, sent on board the schooner. Males and females
were all employed in this duty, the Reef resembling a bee
hive just at that point. Bill Brown, who still commanded
the Abraham, was of course present ; and he made an
occasion to get in company with the governor, with whom
he held the following short dialogue :

"A famous ship's company is this, sir, you 've landed
among us, and some on 'em is what I calls of the right
ort!"



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 323

**I understand you, Bill," answered Mark, smiling.
* Your commission has been duly executed ; and Phoebe is
here, ready to be spliced as soon as there shall be an op
portunity."

"That is easily enough made, when people's so in
clined," said Bill, fidgeting. "If you'd be so good, sir,
as just to point out the young woman to me, I might be
beginning to like her, in the meanwhile."

" Young 1 Nothing was said about that in the order,
Bill. You wished a wife, invoiced and consigned to your
self; and one has been shipped, accordingly. You must
consider the state of the market, and remember that the
article is in demand precisely as it is youthful."

" Well, well, sir, I '11 not throw her on your hands, if
she 's old enough to be my mother ; though I do rather sup
pose, Mr. Woolston, you stood by an old shipmate in a
foreign land, and that there is a companion suitable for a
fellow of only two-and-thirty sent out ?"

" Of that you shall judge for yourself, Bill. Here she
comes, carrying a looking-glass, as if it were to look at
her own pretty face ; and if she prove to be only as good
as she is good-looking, you will have every reason to be
satisfied. What is more, Bill, your wife does not come
empty-handed, having a great many articles that will help
to set you up comfortably in housekeeping."

Brown was highly pleased with the governor's choice,
which had been made with a due regard to the interests
and tastes of the absent shipmate. Phrebe appeared well
satisfied with her allotted husband ; and that very day the
couple was united in the cabin of the Abraham. On the
same occasion, the ceremony was performed for Unus and
Juno, as well as for Peters and his Indian wife ; the go
vernor considering it proper that regard to appearances and
all decent observances, should be paid, as comported with
their situation.

About sunset of the third day after the arrival of the
Rancocus, the Abraham sailed for the Peak, having on
board somewhat less than a hundred of the immigrants,
including females and children. The Neshamony pre-*
eeded her several hours, taking across the governor and



324 THE CRATER;

his family. Mark longed to see his sister Anne, and Ms
two brothers participated in this wish, if possible, in a stilJ
more lively manner.

The meeting of these members of the same family was
of the most touching character. The young men found
their sister much better established than they had antici
pated, and in the enjoyment of very many more comforts
than they had supposed it was in the power of any one to
possess in a colony still so young. Heaton had erected a
habitation for himself, in a charming grove, where there
were water, fruits, and other conveniences, near at hand,
and where his own family was separated from the rest of
the community. This distinction had been conferred on
him, by common consent, in virtue of his near affinity to
the governor, whose substitute he then was, and out of
respect to his education and original rank in life. Sea
men are accustomed to defer to station and authority, and
are all the happier for the same ; and the thought of any
jea'ousy on account of this privilege, which as yet was
confined to Mark and Heaton, and their respective fami
lies, had not yet crossed the mind of any one on the
island.

About twelve, or at midnight, the Abraffam entered the
cove. Late as was the hour, each immigrant assumed a
load suited to his or her strength, and ascended the Stairs,
favoured by the sweet light of a full moon. That night
mobt of the new-comers passed in the groves, under tents
or in an arbour that had been prepared for them ; and sweet
was the repose that attended happiness and security, in a
climate so agreeable.

Next morning, when the immigrants came out of their
temporary dwellings, and looked upon the fair scene before
th. -n, they could scarcely believe in its reality ! It is true,
nothing remarkable or unexpected met their eyes in the
shape of artificial accessories ; but the bountiful gifts of
Providence, and the natural beauties of the spot, as much
exceeded their anticipations as it did their power of ima
gining such glories ! The admixture of softness and mag
nificence made a whole that they had never before beheld
in any other portion of the globe ; and there was not one



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 325

among them all that did not, for the moment, feel and
speak as if he or she had been suddenly transformed to an
earthly paradise.



CHAPTER XXII.

" You have said they are men ;
As such their hearts are something."

BYRON.

THE colony had now reached a point when it became
necessary to proceed with method and caution. Certain
great principles were to be established, on which the gover
nor had long reflected, and he was fully prepared to set
them up, and to defend them, though he knew that ideas
prevailed among a few of his people, which might dispose
them to cavil at his notions, if not absolutely to oppose
him. Men are fond of change ; half the time, for a reason
no better than that it is change ; and, not unfrequently,
they permit this wayward feeling to unsettle interests that
are of the last importance to them, and which find no
small part of their virtue in their permanency.

Hitherto, with such slight exceptions as existed in de
ference to the station, not to say rights of the gove r nor,
everything of an agricultural character had been possessed
in common among the colonists. But this was a state of
things which the good sense of Mark told him could not,
and ought not to last. The theories which have come
into fashion in our own times, concerning the virtues of
association, were then little known and less credited.
Society, as it exists in a legal form, is association o^ough
for all useful purposes, and sometimes too much ; and the
governor saw no use in forming a wheel within a wheel.
If men have occasion for each other's assistance to effect a
particular object, let them unite, in welcome, for that pur^
pose ; but Mark was fully determined that there should be
but one government in his land, and that this government
should be of a character to encourage and not to depress
exertion. So long as a man toiled for himself and those
28



326 THE CRATER;

nearest and dearest to him, society had a security for hii
doing much, that would be wanting where the proceeds
of the entire community were to be shared in common;
and, on the knowledge of this simple and obvious truth,
did our young legislator found his theory of government.
Protect all in their rights equally, but, that done, let every
man pursue his road to happiness in his own way ; con
ceding no more of his natural rights than were necessary
to the great ends of peace, security, and law. Such was
Mark's .theory. As for the modern crotchet that men
yielded no natural right to government, but were to receive
all and return nothing, the governor, in plain language,
was not fool enough to believe it. He was perfectly aware
that when a man gives authority to society to compel him
to attend court as a witness, for instance, he yields just so
much of his natural rights to society, as might be necessary
to empower him to stay away, if he saw fit; and, so on,
through the whole of the very long catalogue of the claims .
which the most indulgent communities make upon the ser
vices of their citizens. Mark understood the great deside
ratum to be, not the setting up of theories to which every
attendant fact gives the lie, but the ascertaining, as near as
human infirmity will allow, the precise point at which con
cession to government ought to terminate, and that of uncon
trolled individual freedom commence. He was not visionary
enough to suppose that he was to be the first to make this
great discovery ; but he was conscious of entering on the
task with the purest intentions. Our governor had no
relish for power for power's sake, but only wielded it for
the general good. By nature, he was more disposed to
seek happiness in a very small circle, and would have been
just as well satisfied to let another govern, as to rule him
self, had there been another suited to such a station. But
there was not. His own early habits of command, the
peculiar circumstances which had first put him in posses
sion of the territory, as if it were a special gift of Provi
dence to himself, his past agency in bringing about the
actual state of things, and his property, which amounted to
more than that of all the rest of the colony put together,
contributed to give him a title and authority to rule, which
would have set the claims of any rival at defiance, had such



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 327

a person existed. But there was no rival ; not a being pre
sent desiring to see another in his place.

The first step of the governor was to appoint his brother,
Abraham Woolston, the secretary of the colony. In that
age America had very different notions of office, and of its
dignity, of the respect due to authority, and of the men who
wielded it, from what prevail at the present time. The
colonists, coming as they did from America, brought with
them the notions of the times, and treated their superiors
accordingly. In the last century a governor was " the go
vernor," and not " our governor," and a secretary " the
secretary," and not " our secretary," men now taking more
liberties with what they fancy their own, than was theii
wont with what they believed had been set over them foi
their good. Mr. Secretary Woolston soon became a per
sonage, accordingly, as did all the other considerable func
tionaries appointed by the governor.

The very first act of Abraham Woolston, on being sworn
into office, was to make a registry of the entire population.
We shall give a synopsis of it, in order that the reader
may understand the character of the materials with which
the governor had room to work, viz :



Males, 147

Adults ...113

Children, ..34

Married, 101

Widowers 1

Seamen, .



Females, 158

Adults, 121

Children, 37

Married, 101

Widows, 4

38



Mechanics, '. 26

Physician, 1

Student in Medicine, 1

Lawyer, 1

Clergyman, 1

Population 305

Here, then, was a community composed already of three
hundred and five souls. The governor's policy was not to
increase this number by further immigration, unless in
special cases, and then only after due deliberation and in
quiry. Great care had been taken with the characters of
the present settlers, and careless infusions of new members
might undo a great deal of good that had already been



328 THE CRATER;

done. This matter was early laid before the new council,
and the opinions of the governor met with a unanimous
concurrence.

On the subject of the council, it may be well to say a
word. It was increased to nine, and a new election was
made, the incumbents holding their offices for life. This
last provision was made to prevent the worst part, and the
most corrupting influence of politics, viz., the elections,
from getting too much sway over the public mind. The
new council was composed as follows, viz :

Messrs. Heaton,
Pennock,
Belts,

C. Woolston, ? , , , if _

A. Woolston, 5 the gOVem r S br0ther8 '
Charlton,
Saunders,
Wilmot, and
Warrington.

These names belonged to the most intelligent men of the
colony, Betts perhaps excepted ; but his claims were too
obvious to be slighted. Betts had good sense moreover,
and a great deal of modesty. All the rest of the council
had more or less claims to be gentlemen, but Bob never
pretended to that character. He knew his own qualifica
tions, and did not render himself ridiculous by aspiring to
be more than he really was; still, his practical knowledge
made him a very useful member of the council, where his
opinions were always heard with attention and respect.
Charlton and Wilmot were merchants, and intended to
embark regularly in trade ; while Warrington, who possessed
more fortune than any of the other colonists, unless it
might be the governor, called himself a farmer, though he
had a respectable amount of general science, and was well
read in most of the liberal studies.

Warrington was made judge, with a small salary, all of
which he gave to the clergyman, the Rev. Mr. White.
This was done because he had no need of the money him
self, and there was no other provision for the parson than
free contributions. John Woolston, who had read law,
was named Attorney-General, or colony's attorney, as the



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 329

office was more modestly styled ; to which duties he added
those of surveyor-general. Charles received his salary, which
was two hundred and fifty dollars, being in need of it.
The question of salary, as respects the governor, was also
settled. Mark had no occasion for the money, owning all
the vessels, with most of the cargo of the Rancocus, as
well as having brought out with him no less a sum than
five thousand dollars, principally in change halves, quar
ters, shillings and six-pences. Then a question might
well arise, whether he did not own most of the stock ; a
large part of it was his beyond all dispute, though some
doubts might exist as to the remainder. On this subject
the governor came to a most wise decision. He was fully
awa'e that nothing was more demoralizing to a people
than to suffer them to get loose notions on the subject of
property. Property of all kinds, he early determined,
should be most rigidly respected, and a decision that he
made shortly after his return from America, while acting
in his capacity of chief magistrate, and before the new
court went into regular operation, was of a character to
show how he regarded this matter. The case was as fol
lows :

Two of the colonists, Warner and Harris, had bad blood
between them. Warner had placed his family in an ar
bour within a grove, and to " aggravate" him, Harris came
and walked before his door, strutting up and down like a
turkey-cock, and in a way to show that it was intended to
annoy Warner. The last brought his complaint before
the governor. On the part of Harris, it was contended
that no injury had been done the property of Harris, and
that, consequently, no damages could be claimed. The
question of title was conceded, ex necessitate rerum. Go
vernor Woolston decided, that a man's rights in his pro
perty were not to be limited by positive injuries to its
market value. Although no grass or vegetables had been
destroyed by Harris in his walks, he had molested Warner
in such an enjoyment of his dwelling, as, in intendment of
law, every citizen was entitled to in his possessions. The
trespass was an aggravated one, and damages were given
accordingly. In delivering his judgment, the governor
took occasion to state, that in the administration of the
28*



330 THE CRATER;

law, the rights of every man would be protected in the
fullest extent, not only as connected with pecuniary con
siderations, but as connected with all those moral uses
and feelings which contribute to human happiness. This
decision met with applause, and was undoubtedly right
in itself. It was approved, because the well-intentioned
colonists had not learned to confound liberty with licen
tiousness ; but understood the former to be the protection
of the citizen in the enjoyment of all his innocent tastes,
enjoyments and personal rights, after making such con
cessions to government as are necessary to its mainte
nance. Thrice happy would it be for all lands, whether
they are termed despotisms or democracies, coul-d they
thoroughly feel the justice of this definition, and carry out
its intention in practice.

The council was convened the day succeeding its elec
tion. After a few preliminary matters were disposed of,
the great question was laid before it, of a division of pro
perty, and the grant of real estate. Warrington and Charles
Woolston laid down the theory, that the fee of all the land
was, by gift of Providence, in the governor, and that his
patent, or sign-manual, was necessary for passing the title
into other hands. This theory had an affinity to that of
the Common Law, which made the prince the suzerain, and
rendered him the heir of all escheated estates. But Mark's
humility, not to say his justice, met this doctrine on the
threshold. He admitted the sovereignty and its right, but
placed it in the body of the colony, instead of in himself.
As the party most interested took this view of the case,
they who were disposed to regard his rights as more
sweeping, were fain to submit. The land was therefore
declared to be the property of the state. Ample grants,
however, were made both to the governor and Betts, as ori
ginal possessors, or discoverers, and it was held in law that
their claims were thus compromised. The grants to Go
vernor Woolston included quite a thousand acres on the
Peak, which was computed to contain near thirty thousand,
and an island of about the saire extent in the group, which
was beautifully situated near its centre, and less than a
league from the crater. Betts had one hundred acres
granted to him, near the crater also. He refused any other



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 331

grant, as a right growing out of original possession. Nor
was his reasoning bad on the occasion. When he was
driven off, in the Neshamony, the Reef, Loam Island,
Guano Island, and twenty or thirty rocks, composed all the
dry land. He had never seen the Peak until Mark was in
possession of it, and had no particular claim there. When
the council came to make its general grants, he was wil
ling to come in for his proper share with the rest of the
people, and he wanted no more. Heaton had a special
grant of two hundred acres made to him on the Peak, and
another in the group of equal extent, as a reward for his
early and important services. Patents were made out, at
once, of these several grants, under the great seal of the
colony ; for the governor had provided parchment, and
wax, and a common seal, in anticipation of their being
all wanted. The rest of the grants of land were made on
a general principle, giving fifty acres on the Peak, and one
hundred in the group, to each male citizen of the age of
twenty-one years; those who had not yet attained their
majority being compelled to wait. A survey was made,
and the different lots were numbered, and registered by
those numbers. Then a lottery was made, each man's
name being put in one box, and the necessary numbers in
another. The number drawn against any particular name
was the lot of the person in question. A registration of
the drawing was taken, and printed patents were made
out, signed, sealed, and issued to the respective parties.
We say printed, a press and types having been brought
over in the Rancocus, as well as a printer. In this way,
then, every male of full age, was put in possession of one
hundred and fifty acres of land, in fee.

As the lottery did not regard the wishes of parties,
many private bargains were made, previously to the issuing
of the patents, in order that friends and connections might
be placed near to each other. Some sold their rights, ex



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 30 of 42)