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iken from
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3 Library,
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vi any Member





Daughter of Faith, awake, arise, illume
The dread unknown, the chaos of the tomb ;
Melt, and dispel, ye spectre doubts that roil
Cimmerian darkness o'er the parting soul








Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1849, by

in the clerk's office of the District Court for the Northern District
of New York.


32 84 Bcekmim flt





IF any thing connected with the hardness of the
human heart could surprise us, it surely would be the
indifference with which men live on, engrossed by
their worldly objects, amid the sublime natural pheno
mena that so eloquently and unceasingly speak to their
imaginations, affections, and judgments. So com
pletely is the existence of the individual concentrated
in self, and so regardless does he get to be of all with
out that contracted circle, that it does not probably
happen to one man in ten, that his thoughts are drawn
aside from this intense study of his own immediate
wants, wishes, and plans, even once in the twenty-four
hours, to contemplate the majesty, mercy, truth, and
justice, of the Divine Being that has set him, as an
atom, amid the myriads of the hosts of heaven and

The physical marvels of the universe produce little
more reflection than the profoundest moral truths. A
million of eyes shall pass over the firmament, on a
cloudless night, and not a hundred minds shall be filled
with a proper sense of the power of the dread Being
that created all that is there not a hundred hearts
glow with the adoration that such an appeal to the
senses and understanding ought naturally to produce.
This indifference, in a great measure, comes of fami
liarity ; the things that we so constantly have before



us, becoming as a part of the air we breathe, and as
little regarded.

One of the consequences of this disposition to dis
regard the Almighty Hand, as it is so plainly visible
in all around us, is that of substituting our own pow
ers in its stead. In this period of the world, in en
lightened countries, and in the absence of direct idol
atry, few men are so hardy as to deny the existence
and might of a Supreme Being ; but, this fact admit
ted, how few really feel that profound reverence for
him that the nature of our relations justly demands !
It is the want of a due sense of humility, and a sad
misconception of what we are, and for what we were
created, that misleads us in the due estimate of our
own insignificance, as compared with the majesty of

Very few men attain enough of human knowledge
to be fully aware how much remains to be learned,
and of that which they never can hope to acquire.
We hear a great deal of god-like minds, and of the
far-reaching faculties we possess ; and it may all be
worthy of our eulogiums, until we compare ourselves
in these, as in other particulars, with Him who pro
duced them. Then, indeed, the utter insignificance of
our means becomes too apparent to admit of a cavil.
We know that we are born, and that we die ; science
has been able to grapple with all the phenomena of
these two great physical facts, with the exception of
the most material of all those which should tell us
what is life, and what is death. Something that we
cannot comprehend lies at the root of every distinct
division of natural phenomena. Thus far shalt thou


go and no farther, seems to be imprinted on every
great fact of creation. There is a point attained in
each and all of our acquisitions, where a mystery that
no human mind can scan takes the place of demon
stration and conjecture. This point may lie more
remote with some intellects than with others ; but it
exists for all, arrests the inductions of all, conceals all.

We are aware that the more learned among those
who disbelieve in the divinity of Christ suppose them
selves to be sustained by written authority, contending
for errors of translation, mistakes and misapprehen
sions in the ancient texts. Nevertheless, we are in
clined to think that nine-tenths of those who refuse the
old and accept the new opinion, do so for a motive no
better than a disinclination to believe that which they
cannot comprehend. This pride of reason is one of
the most insinuating of our foibles, and is to be watched
as a most potent enemy.

How completely and philosophically does the vene
rable Christian creed embrace and modify all these
workings of the heart ! We say philosophically, for
it were not possible for mind to give a juster analysis
of the whole subject than St. Paul's most comprehen
sive but brief definition of Faith. It is this Faith
which forms the mighty feature of the church on
earth. It equalizes capacities, conditions, means, and
ends, holding out the same encouragement and hope
to the least, as to the most gifted of the race ; count
ing gifts in their ordinary and more secular points of

It is when health, or the usual means of success
abandon us, that we are made to feel how totally we


are insufficient for the achievement of even our own
purposes, much less to qualify us to reason on the deep
mysteries that conceal the beginning and the end. It
has often been said that the most successful leaders of
their fellow men have had the clearest views of their
own insufficiency to attain their own objects. If Na
poleon ever said, as has been attributed to him, " Je
propose etje dispose" it must have been in one of those
fleeting moments in which success blinded him to the
fact of his own insufficiency. No man had % a deeper
reliance on fortune, cast the result of great events on
the decrees of fate, or more anxiously watched the
rising and setting of what he called his " star." This
was a faith that could lead to no good ; but it clearly
denoted how far the boldest designs, the most ample
means, and the most vaulting ambition, fall short of
giving that sublime consciousness of power and its
fruits that distinguish the reign of Omnipotence.

In this book the. design has been to pourtray man on
a novel field of action, and to exhibit his dependence
on the hand that does not suffer a sparrow to fall
unheeded. The recent attempts of science, which
employed the seamen of the four greatest maritime
states of Christendom, made discoveries that hav
rendered the polar circles much more familiar to
this age, than to any that has preceded it, so far as
existing records show. We say " existing records ;"
for there is much reason for believing that the ancients
had a knowledge of our hemisphere, though less for
supposing that they ever braved the dangers of
the high latitudes. Many are, just at this moment,
much disposed to believe that "Ophir" was on this


continent ; though for a reason no better than the cir
cumstance of the recent discoveries of much gold.
Such savans should remember that ' peacocks' came
from ancient Ophir. If this be in truth that land, the
adventurers of Israel caused it to be denuded of that
bird of beautiful plumage.

Such names as those of Parry, Sabine, Ross, Frank
lin, Wilkes, Hudson, Ringgold, &c., &c., with those
of divers gallant Frenchmen and Russians, command
our most profound respect ; for no battles or victories
can redound more to the credit of seamen than the
dangers they all encountered, and the conquests they
have all achieved. One of those named, a resolute and
experienced seaman, it is thought must, at this mo
ment, be locked in the frosts of the arctic circle, after
having passed half a life in the endeavour to push his
discoveries into those remote and frozen regions. He
bears the name of the most distinguished of the philo
sophers of this country ; and nature has stamped on
his features by one of those secret laws which just as
much baffle our means of comprehension, as the
greatest of all our mysteries, the incarnation of the
Son of God a resemblance that, of itself, would go to
show that they are of the same race. Any one who
has ever seen this emprisoned navigator, and who is
familiar with the countenances of the men of the same
name who are to be found in numbers amongst our
selves, must be struck with a likeness that lies as much
beyond the grasp of that reason of which we are so
proud, as the sublimest facts taught by induction,
science, or revelation. Parties are, at this moment,
out in search of him and his followers ; and it is to be


hoped that the Providence which has so singularly at-
tempered the different circles and zones of our globe,
placing this under a burning sun, and that beneath
enduring frosts, will have included in its divine fore
thought a sufficient care for these bold wanderers to
restore them, unharmed, to their friends and country,
[n a contrary event, their names must be transmitted
to posterity as the victims to a laudable desire to en
large the circle of human knowledge, and with it, we
trust, to increase the glory due to God.

.8 15 OUT Atf 8 JTIIT

.:I,l lo f



.". r :ojnK>.- hi-K Hr*':Bi

" When that 's gone

He shall drink naught but b riue.' '


WHILE there is less of that high polish in America that
is obtained by long intercourse with the great world, than
is to be found in nearly every European country, there is
much less positive rusticity also. There, the extremes of
eociety are widely separated, repelling rather than attract
ing each other ; while among ourselves, the tendency is to
gravitate towards a common centre. Thus it is, that all
things in America become subject to a mean law that is
productive of a mediocrity which is probably much above
the average of that of most nations; possibly of all, Eng
land excepted ; but which is only a mediocrity, after all.
In this way, excellence in nothing is justly appreciated,
nor is it often recognised ; and the suffrages of the nation
are pretty uniformly bestowed on qualities of a secondary
class. Numbers have sway, and it is as impossible to resist
them in deciding on merit, as it is to deny their power in
the ballot-boxes; time alone, with its great curative in
fluence, supplying the remedy that is to restore the public
mind to a healthful state, and give equally to the pretendei
and to him who is worthy of renown, his proper place in
the pages of history. '*V

The activity of American life, the rapidity and cheap
ness of intercourse, and the migratory habits both have
induced, leave little of rusticity and local character in any



particular sections of the country. Distinctions, that an
acute observer may detect, do certainly exist between the
eastern and the western man, between the northerner and
the southerner, the Yankee and middle states' man ; the
Bostonian, Manhattanese and Philadelphia!! ; the Tucka-
hoe and the Cracker ; the Buckeye or Wolverine, and the
Jersey Blue. Nevertheless, the world cannot probably
produce another instance of a people who are derived from
so many different races, and who occupy so large an extent
of country, who are so homogeneous in appearance, cha
racters and opinions. There is no question that the insti
tutions have had a material influence in producing this
uniformity, while they have unquestionably lowered the
standard to which opinion is submitted, by referring the
decisions to the many, instead of making the appeal to the
few, as is elsewhere done. Still, the direction is onward,
and though it may take time to carve on the social column
of America that graceful and ornamental capital which it
forms the just boast of Europe to possess, when the task
shall be achieved, the work will stand on a base so broad
as to secure its upright attitude for ages.

Notwithstanding the general character of identity and
homogenity that so strongly marks the picture of American
society, exceptions are to be met with, in particular dis
tricts, that are not only distinct and incontrovertible, but
which are so peculiar as to be worthy of more than a pass
ing remark in our delineations of national customs. Our
present purpose leads us into one of these secluded dis
tricts, and it may be well to commence the narrative of
certain deeply interesting incidents that it is our intention
to attempt to portray, by first referring to the place and
people where and from whom the principal actors in our
legend had their origin.

Every one at all familiar with the map of America knows
the position and general form of the two islands that shelter
the well-known harbour of the great emporium of the com
merce of the country. These islands obtained their names
from the Dutch, who called them Nassau and Staten ; but
the English, with little respect for the ancient house whence
the first of these appellations is derived, and consulting
only the homely taste which leads them to a practical rather


then to a poetical nomenclature in all things, have since
virtually dropped the name of Nassau, altogether substi
tuting that of Long Island in its stead.

Long Island, or the island of Nassau, extends from the
mouth of the Hudson to the eastern line of Connecticut ;
forming a sort of sea-wall to protect the whole coast of the
latter little territory against the waves of the broad Atlantic.
Three of the oldest New York counties, as their names
would imply, Kings, Clueens, and Suffolk, are on this
island. Kings was originally peopled by the Dutch, and
still possesses as many names derived from Holland as
from England, if its towns, which are of recent origin, be
taken from the account, dueens is more of a mixture,
having been early invaded and occupied by adventurers
from the other side of the Sound ; but Suffolk, which con
tains nearly, if not quite, two-thirds of the surface of the
whole island, is and ever has been in possession of a people
derived originally from the puritans of New England. Of
these three counties, Kings is much the smallest, though
next to New York itself, the most populous county in the
state ; a circumstance that is owing to the fact that two
suburban offsets of the great emporium, Brooklyn and Wil-
liamsburg, happen to stand, within its limits, on the waters
of what is improperly called the East River ; an arm of the
sea that has obtained this appellation, in contradistinction
to the Hudson, which, as all Manhattanese well know, is
as often called the North River, as by its proper name. In
consequence of these two towns, or suburbs of New York,
one of which contains nearly a hundred thousand souls,
while the other must be drawing on towards twenty thou
sand, Kings county has lost all it ever had of peculiar, or
local character. The same is true of dueens, though in a
diminished degree ; but Suffolk remains Suffolk still, and
it is with Suffolk alone that our present legend requires us
to deal. Of Suffolk, then, we purpose to say a few words
by way of preparatory explanation.

Although it has actually more sea-coast than all the rest
of New York united, Suffolk has but one sea-port that is
ever mentioned beyond the limits of the county itself. Nor
is this port one of general commerce, its shipping being
principally employed in the hardy and manly occupation


of whaling. As a whaling town, Sag Harbour is the third
or fourth port in the country, and maintains something like
that rank in importance. A whaling haven is nothing with
out a whaling community. Without the last, it is almost
hopeless to look for success. New York can, and has often
fitted whalers for sea, having sought officers in the regular
whaling ports; but it has been seldom that the enterprises
have been rewarded with such returns as to induce a se
cond voyage by the same parties.

It is as indispensable that a whaler should possess a cer
tain esprit de corps, as that a regiment, or a ship of war,
should be animated by its proper spirit. In the whaling
communities, this spirit exists to an extent, and in a de
gree that is wonderful, when one remembers the great ex
pansion of this particular branch of trade within the last
five-and-twenty years. It may be a little lessened of late,
but at the time of which we are writing, or about the year
1820, there was scarcely an individual who followed this
particular calling out of the port of Sag Harbour, whose
general standing on board ship was not as well known to
all the women and girls of the place, as it was to his ship
mates. Success in taking the whale was a thing that made
itself felt in every fibre of the prosperity of the town ; and
it was just as natural that the single-minded population of
that part of Suffolk should regard the bold and skilful har-
pooner, or lancer, with favour, as it is for the belle at a
watering-place to bestow her smiles on one of the young
heroes of Contreras or Churubusco. His peculiar merit,
whether with the oar, lance, or harpoon, is bruited about,
as well as the number of whales he may have succeeded in
" making fast to," or those which he caused to " spout
blood." It is true, that the great extension of the trade
within the last twenty years, by drawing so many from a
distance into its pursuits, has in a degree lessened this
local interest and local knowledge of character ; but at the
time of which we are about to write, both were at their
height, and Nantucket itself had not more of this " intelli
gence office" propensity, or more of the true whaling esprit
de corps, than were to be found in the district of country
that surrounded Sag Harbour.

Long Island forks at its eastern end, and may be said to


have two extremities. One of these, which is much the
shortest of the two legs thus formed, goes by the name of
Oyster Pond Point ; while the other, that stretches much
farther in the direction of Blok Island, is the well-known
cape called Montauk. Within the fork lies Shelter Island,
so named from the snug berth it occupies. Between Shelter
Island and the longest or southern prong of the fork, are
the waters which compose the haven of Sag Harbour, an
estuary of some extent ; while a narrow but deep arm of
the sea separates this island from the northern prong, that
terminates at Oyster Pond. __

The name of Oyster Pond Point was formerly applied to a
long, low, fertile and pleasant reach of land, that extended
several miles from the point itself, westward, towards the
spot where the two prongs of the fork united. It was not
easy, during the first quarter of the present century, to find
a more secluded spot on the whole island, than Oyster
Pond. Recent enterprises have since converted it into the
terminus of a railroad ; and Green Port, once called Ster
ling, is a name well known to travellers between New
York and Boston ; but in the earlier part of the present
century it seemed just as likely that the Santa Casa of
Loretto should take a new flight and descend on the point,
as that the improvement that has actually been made should
in truth occur at that out-of-the-way place. It required,
indeed, the keen eye of a railroad projector to bring this
spot in connection with anything; nor could it be done
without having recourse to the water by which it is almost
surrounded. Using the last, it is true, means have been
found to place it in a line between two of the great marts
of the country, and thus to put an end to all its seclusion,
its simplicity, its peculiarities, and we had almost said, its

It is to us ever a painful sight to see the rustic virtues
rudely thrown aside by the intrusion of what are termed
improvements. A railroad is certainly a capital invention
for the traveller, but it may be questioned if it is of any
other benefit than that of pecuniary convenience to the
places through which it passes. How many delightful
hamlets, pleasant villages, and even tranquil county towns,
are losing their primitive characters for simplicity and con-


tentment, by the passage of these fiery trains, thai drag
after them a sort of bastard elegance, a pretension that is
destructive of peace of mind, and an uneasy desire in all
who dwell by the way-side, to pry into the mysteries of the
whole length and breadth of the region it traverses !

We are writing of the year of our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and nineteen. In that day, Oyster Pond
was, in one of the best acceptations of the word, a rural
district. It is true that its inhabitants were accustomed
to the water, and to the sight of vessels, from the two-
decker to the little shabby-looking craft that brought ashes
from town, to meliorate the sandy lands of Suffolk. Only
five years before, an English squadron had lain in Gardi
ner's Bay, here pronounced 'Gar'ner's,' watching the Race,
or eastern outlet of the Sound, with a view to cut off the
trade and annoy their enemy. That game is up, for ever.
No hostile squadron, English, French, Dutch, or all united,
will ever again blockade an American port for any serious
length of time, the young Hercules passing too rapidly
from the gristle into the bone, any longer to suffer antics
of this nature to be played in front of his cradle. But
such was not his condition in the war of 1812, and the
good people of Oyster Pond had become familiar with
the checkered sides of two-deck ships, and the venerable
and beautiful ensign of Old England, as it floated above

Nor was it only by these distant views, and by means
of hostilities, that the good folk on Oyster Pond were ac
quainted with vessels. New York is necessary to all on
the coast, both as a market and as a place to procure sup
plies ; and every creek, or inlet, or basin, of any sort,
within a hundred leagues of it, is sure to possess one or
more craft that ply between the favourite haven and the
particular spot in question. Thus was it with Oyster Pond.
There is scarce a better harbour on the whole American
coast, than that which the narrow arm of the sea that di
vides the Point from Shelter Island presents ; and even in
the simple times of which we are writing, Sterling had its
two or three coasters, such as they were. But the true
maritime character of Oyster Pond, as well as that of all
Suffolk, was derived from the whalers, and its proper nu


cleus was across the estuary, at Sag Harbour. Thither the
youths of the whole region resorted for employment, and
to advance their fortunes, and generally with such success
as is apt to attend enterprise, industry and daring, when
exercised with energy in a pursuit of moderate gains.
None became rich, in the strict signification of the term,
though a few got to be in reasonably affluent circumstances;
many were placed altogether at their ease, and more were
made humbly comfortable. A farm in America is well
enough for the foundation of family support, but it rarely
suffices for all the growing wants of these days of indul
gence, and of a desire to enjoy so much of that which was
formerly left to the undisputed possession of the unques
tionably rich. A farm, with a few hundreds per annum,
derived from other sources, makes a good base of comfort

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 32) → online text (page 1 of 39)