Chapter 14

Inclination prompts me to give some account of the locus in quo, as the lawyers say, or the place where the Governor had pitched himself; I say pitched, which is a metaphor from the pitching tents by an army. It is expected that I am to describe the situation of the hill above, and dale below; shade of tree, or falling fountain by the house. Will it not be proper that I first describe the house itself; which I do not mean to do minutely; because I have no idea that it will stand many years; but that he will get a better, as the country improves, and saw-mills erected. What can be expected from early settlers, but the choice of a situation? and every thing is not always made with the best judgment-- For it is inconceivable by any one who is not acquainted with it, how little of the ground can be seen, and particularly explored, while it is under wood. The best situations will be overlooked; or, if they are seen, some less superb is chosen with a view to present convenience of water, or vicinity in some other particular. It was not such a mansion as would hurt the pride that is natural to the mind of man; and might lurk in the bosoms of other early settlers, not so well lodged themselves. I do not know that the builder had thought of the uneasiness occasioned to Valerius Publicola, by the loftiness of his dwelling on the Velian eminence. But his mind not running upon superb edifices, he had thought only of convenient accommodation. The simplicity of his taste was at a distance from every thing of show and splendour; so that, not from the reflection of a wise precaution, but from the natural disposition of his mind, he was satisfied with a structure that could not affect the less opulent. But what it wanted in grandeur, he endeavoured to make up in taste, if that can be predicated of a building where little cost had been expended. Taste there was in having it in such a style, that it would not have occurred to any one that taste had bee thought of; for there was no ornament, nor was there room for it.-- For what ornament could there be bestowed upon an oblong in the proportion of one hundred and twenty, by twenty feet; the sides and floor of hewn logs, and the roof of split timber? What was it but a suit of rooms under the same cover, divided by entries, or intervals, of ten feet transversely to the length; which had the appearance more of a range of barracks than of a farm house. The fact is, the humanity of the governor had intended it chiefly for that use, the accommodation of individual families for a night, in their emigration to a new settlement.

It stood east and west, upon a ridge of ground like a whale's back, with a stream on each side, running in a direction contrary from each other, but falling into two sister rivers on the east and west, which joined their silver currents at a small distance and in prospect of the building. As there was a suit of rooms, so there were stacks of chimneys on the north of the range, and these of stone, built strong to resist the tornados not uncommon in that country. These with a cellar underneath the whole length, walled with stone, and the timbers of the building laid half their depth in the wall, there being but one story above ground, rendered the structure pretty secure from the most violent blasts of wind.

Having given this outline, it may suffice. I shall say nothing of the subdivisions, because they may be imagined. Nor shall I describe the extent of level, or rising ground in view; or the bearing of the mountains at a distance, or the circling of the floods. What attracted my attention more, was a beautiful water fall in one of those springs that issued from the hill on which the mansion house stood. It was a perennial stream, and issued from a crevice in a moss-covered rock, with a current of about two inches in diameter. It was as clear as crystal, and as cool as the Hebrus. The projection was in its first pitch, clear of the rock, several feet, into a bason of pure white gravel large enough to bathe in, and shrouded with a group of wild cherry trees on the sides, but above with the shade of the tulip-bearing poplar and the oak. The spring on the other side of a small dividing ridge, and towards the west, at the distance of perhaps one hundred feet, issued more abundantly, and fell from one ledge to another, but with some murmur of the current, as dissatisfied to quit the fountain. The new town, as it was yet called, stood in sight, and had begun to show two streets of houses at the confluence of the two rivers, and parallel with each, with the public buildings at equi-distance from the banks; and towards the base of the right angle which the two streets formed. I shall say nothing of the garden grounds; for these were laid out but in imagination, save as to a kitchen garden, with such vegetables and essential roots as could immediately be cultivated and were the most necessary. The collection of indigenous plants and native flowers, or sought from abroad, could be the object of a more leisurely attention at a future day. People were thinking more of cutting down trees, than of planting them, which may be a fault. For individual trees as well as groves in some places, ought to be spared in removing a wilderness. The depth of a native grove in a hot day, surpasses all description in the sensations that it gives. The power of art, with all her skill, can never equal nature. I think it a great pity that we have lost so much of the ancient mythology as respects the Sylvan deities, such of them to whom no worship was addressed, unless in the figurative language of the poet, which we still use, but do not feel, as those who believed in the existence. It inspired a tenderness to rural scenery; and in sparing shades was favourable to taste. One could tell a rustic who had no conception of the pleasures of imagination, that, if he cut down this or that group, he would have all the Dryads on his back, the Hymadryeds would come to their assistance; the Oreades would not send him storms; the Naids would order the spring that furnished water to his reapers to be dried up. But now we have no hold upon him; and much pain has it given me to see a fringe of willows by the brook, or a semi-circle of trees on the brow of a hill, entirely cut away.

Nor is it only in matters of taste, that the settlers of a new country are, in most instances, deficient. They have not the most perfect judgment in the use of the small means they usually possess, to establish themselves. I do not mean to undervalue the good intentions of public bodies, in sending missionaries among the Indians, to teach the doctrines of supralapsarian predestination; but might not other funds be constituted to assist settlers in removing and in fixing themselves in a new settlement, and to instruct them in the principle of an agriculture adapted to the soil and climate? The thoughts of a scientific man of experience in agriculture, would be a great advantage in a district of country, to advise in the making improvements. Men of public spirit, in some instances, have combined their own interest with the benefit of others, in improvements in a new country. Disputed titles are the bane of settlements in new districts. This is owing to a want of specialty in the original granting, or correctness in the laying out the lands. Would not the salus populi justify in such instances, the settling disputes in a summary manner, by commissioners? Does not such a transcendental right of government exist in all cases? It is not enough that the rind of shrubs, or wild berries, and the juice of the maple, should constitute the principal part of the food of a settler for a time; that he should put up with the shelter of bark stript from the trees, for the first summer; but after he has cleared his ground, and has raised corn, his field is taken from him by an error of the survey, or the equivocal description of an office right. The soil of a new country is wet, the air moist, the winter longer, of course, in the bosom of a wooded country; hand-mills for a time must suffice, and every man must be something of a jack of all trades. He must be a worker in iron and in leather, and in wood. Invention, as well as industry, is requisite. But the principal defect, as in all other objects of human application, is the want of original thought, to adopt new modes to new circumstances. Things are rather done in this or that way, because they have been so done elsewhere, and heretofore. For this reason, I would wish to see missionary agriculturalists sent into the country; societies instituted for the propagation of agricultural knowledge among the people, and the relief of distressed inhabitants. There might not be just as many Indians brought into the pale of the church, but there might be more churches built amongst the whites on the frontier of the country.

The establishment of churches in the frontier country is not amiss; but, on the contrary, deserves commendation, where the preachers employ themselves in explaining and inculcating the intelligible principles of moral duty; and even when they take up the time of the people in supporting or overthrowing the speculative opinions of their adversaries, it amuses the congregation. That institution is not wholly useless, which supplies amusement. It reconciles the labouring part of the community very much, to hear the rich and the luxurious denounced, as not likely to come so well off hereafter, having had their good things in this life. Cold and heat, and fatigue are better borne under these impressions; there is less murmuring in the community. In a political point of view also, religious institutions have their use. Obedience to the laws, is a Christian duty, and the support of government is favourable to that settled state of society, in which alone any system of mental cultivation can be the object of attention.