The Project Gutenberg eBook of Old Cape Cod; the land, the men, the sea, by Mary Rogers Bangs
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Title: Old Cape Cod; the land, the men, the sea
Author: Mary Rogers Bangs
Release Date: April 6, 2023 [eBook #70480]
Produced by: Bob Taylor, Steve Mattern and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)
*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK OLD CAPE COD; THE LAND, THE MEN, THE SEA ***
OLD CAPE COD
THE LAND: THE MEN
MARY ROGERS BANGS
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1920, BY MARY ROGERS BANGS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
S. A. B.
|II.||The Old Colony||19|
|IV.||The French Wars||97|
|V.||The English Wars||118|
|VI.||Theology and Whaling||158|
|VII.||Storms and Pirates||176|
|VIII.||Old Sea Ways||203|
|The Old Figurehead||Frontispiece|
|The Shore Road||6|
|A First Comer||58|
|The Pasture Bars||294|
The end-paper maps are (1) a modern map of Cape Cod and(2) a facsimile of a part of Captain Cyprian Southack’smap (see page 300)
OLD CAPE COD
Cape Cod had its Age of Romance in a half-centurybest placed, perhaps, in the years between 1790 and1840. Then certainly the picture of it was charming:a picture unblemished by the paper-box architectureof a later period, or the alien hotels, the villas, bungalows,and portable-houses of to-day. Then roads,with no necessity laid upon them to be the servantsof speed, were honest native sand, and, gleaming likeyellow ribbons across hills and meadows, linked farmto farm and went trailing on to the next townshipwhere houses nestled behind their lilacs in a shelteredhollow, or stood four-square on the village street. Asif by instinct, the early settlers from Saugus andScituate and Plymouth, accustomed as their youthhad been to the harmonies of Old England, hit upona style of building best suited to the genius of thecountry. And if, consciously, they only planned forcomfort and used the materials at hand, the result,inevitably, bears the test of fitness to environment.Their low slant-roof wooden houses were set withbacks to the north wind and a singularly wide-awake[Pg 2]aspect to the south. The watershed of the roof sometimesran with an equal slope to the eaves of theground floor; but as frequently, yielding barely roomfor pantry and storeroom at the north, it lifted infront to a second story. And in either case the “upperchambers,” with irregular ceilings and windows lookingto the sunrise and sunset, were packed tautly intothe apex of the roof. Ornament centred in the frontdoor—a symbol, one might think, of the determinationto preserve, in the enforced privations of pioneerlife, the gentle ceremonials of their past; and howeversmall or remote, there is not such a house to be recalledthat does not thus offer its dignified best for theoccasions of hospitality. The doors are often beautifulin themselves: their panels of true proportionsframed in delicately moulded pilasters with a line ofglazing to light the tiny hall; frequently a pedimentabove protects the whole from the dripping of eaves.And before paint was used to mask the wood, thewhole structure, played upon by sun and storm, woreto a tone of silver-gray that made a house as familiarto the soil as a lichen-covered rock. The squareGeorgian mansions came later, with the prosperity ofreviving trade after the Revolution. They were builtto a smaller scale than those of Newburyport or Salemor Portsmouth; and the Cape Cod aristocrat seems tohave been content with two stories to live in and avast garret above to store superfluous treasure. Therewas not a jarring note in the scene; and the old houses,set in neighborly fashion on the village street or approachedby a winding cart-track “across the fields,”[Pg 3]with garden and orchard merging into pasture, suitto perfection the gentle undulating configuration ofthe land, which is never level, but swells into uplandsthat recall the memory of Scotch moors or somedenuded English “Forest,” and sinks away intomeadow, or marsh, or hollows overflowing with thewarm perfumes of blossomy growth.
And everywhere there is color: in hill and lowland,in circles of swampy bush, in salt creek and dune.Even the motorist, projected through the countrywith a slip, a flash, a change too swift for the eye tonote its intimate charm, is caught by the cheerfulnessof green and blue and dazzling white, and moreblue, the blue of salt water, clasping all. One may concedeat once that it is a country adapted to the pleasureof summer folk, if they be not set upon takingtheir pleasure too seriously where there are neithermountains to climb nor big game to hunt, and the softair does not invite to endeavor. But the wind sweepsclean from ocean to bay and picks up in passing resinousscents of the pine; sands reflect magic lights ofrose and pearl; the townships to the north, as RobertCushman reported of Plymouth, are “full of dalesand meadow ground as England is”; and the longsweep of the outer shore, south, east, and north, isextraordinarily varied and broken; deep inlets coolthe air of the warmest months, islands that yesterdaywere not and to-morrow may be destroyed by thetides interlace the coast with shallow lagoons wherechildren sail their boats, bluffs carry the eye out tothe clear distances of the ocean, and there are harbors[Pg 4]where, on a misty day, buildings loom like “tower’dCamelot.” Tides rise and fall in the salt riversthat wander through marshlands to give changingbeauty to the scene; lakes tempt the fisherman; andfor more ambitious sport one may put to sea andreturn at night, whether lucky or not, with the finephilosophy engendered by a ravenous appetite andthe sure prospect of excellent food to stay it.
But perhaps the ultimate charm of the Cape is that,like a child, it is small enough to be loved. For thenative-born, returning here in middle age, there is thedelight of coming back to little things that memoryhad held as stupendous: a dim foreign township thatused to be reached in a day’s journey with “carryalland pair” is only five miles distant by the LowerRoad; the Great Square proves to be within the swingof an hour’s stroll; the “cap’n’s” a modest mid-Victorianmansion with library and drawing-room thathad the remembered vista of Versailles. Yet, in theirdegree, this charm is free to the stranger. The Capehas a whimsical and endearing smallness: its greatestamplitude can boast but a few miles; and the mosttortuous wood road that promised a day’s excursionthrough an uncharted wilderness will soon show you,from some gentle eminence, the true north to bereckoned by the curve of the bay.
It is such a jaunt inland to the woods that shouldinvite the traveller, in any season, to forsake hismotor-car for a sober “horse and team” as the betterequipment to circumvent obstacles of unbridgedstream or fallen tree. If even as he threads the[Pg 5]crowded village street he can occupy his imaginationwith the leisurely past that matches the rate of hisprogress, his pleasure will be the greater; and theeffort prove not too difficult when, as of old, poplarand willows shade the road and elms droop impartiallyover gray homesteads and the passer-by, orbehind decent screens of shrub and hedge housesblink with a modest air of being sufficient for alldesirable comfort. Farther afield wayside tangles ofwild rose and cherry, and scented racemes of thelocust-tree, in their season, make the air sweet; orin a later month, bright companies of orange liliesare drawn up at attention by the rail fence that hasworn to a beautiful silvery hue, and Joe Pyeweednods at thoroughwort in the swamp. Fields of warm-tonedgrass roll down to the blur of willows in ameadow; in pastures intersected by crumbling stonewalls stalwart purple and white blooms rout thefading mists of succory. And there on the outskirtsof the village, hills are dressed in homespun wovenof sparse grasses and crisp gray moss buttoned downwith clumps of bayberry and juniper, adorned insummer by the filmy lace of the indigo-plant, and inautumn with a lovely cloak of dwarf goldenrod andasters.
Far to the north, now, lies the silver shield of thebay; inland, beyond the hills, deep-set in woodedbanks is a glint of blue water, and near at hand afarm guarded by the spear of a pine that tops theroof twice over. The road dips sharply to a brook thatbubbles along with a force that once turned mill[Pg 6]wheels, and rises again in a graceful curve to a hillwhere stands a weather-beaten house as if a-tiptoe tosurvey in the meadows of the farther view the secretbeauties of a lake. A few miles more, and there, amongthe wooded uplands that make the watershed betweensea and bay, lies a network of interlacingroads: “blind roads” where scrub oaks and pines lashthe traveller and the horse proceeds with a carefulfoot among the springes of a vigorous younger growth;narrow tracks that lead to the cul-de-sac of a cranberryswamp or a woodlot where the axe has beenbusy with its work of denudation; or long archedaisles of green, with here a little bay a-dance withferns washing out into the woodland, and there avista of hills opening through mullioned windowsbuilt by the straight trunks of the pines. And hereare the great ponds with bold sandy bluffs andcurves that cheat us into believing them larger thanthey are. They are pictures of security as theirwaves sparkle in the sun and break idly on theminiature beaches, but quick squalls may come cuttingdown from the hills to lash them into a suddenugly fury that bodes ill for any stray craft plyingthese waters, where, even to-day, there is nevertraffic sufficient to disturb the pleasing atmosphereof solitude. On a wooded shore there may be a shooting-lodgeor a bungalow, a pier with a few boatsbobbing at anchor on one lake or another; but for themost part they seem more remote from man thanwhen Indians followed the forest trails and beachedtheir canoes under a shelving bank.
There are riches enough for all who love the land: forthose who come to play, and those who come chiefly torefresh their memory of the past; for those of the fineold stock who live here year in and year out onthe modest competence inherited from seafaring ancestors;and those who fish, or farm, or engage in theimportant modern industry of ministering to the“summer people.” The quality of the riches, as inany community, may vary with the individual. Butsave among a negligible few of the idlers—wherethere is a sinister strain of vice in a “petered-out”neighborhood, or a foolish and incongruous displayamong some visitors—there is a recognizable inheritancefrom the men who settled the land: an atmosphereof simplicity, a sturdy instinct of judging onefor what he is rather than for what he has, a predilectionfor healthy pleasures. It is folk of this kindwhom the Cape attracts—plain people, if you will;and it is perhaps significant that potent as the landmight be to stimulate the imagination, it is only thebeguiling “foreign” atmosphere of Provincetownthat has fostered anything like a School.
Cape Cod: a sandbar, one may have the more excusefor judging, as the land lifts to the wind-sweptplains of Truro. There is a change in the aspect of theCape as it turns due north to brace itself against thethunderous approach of the Atlantic. Straight anddefiant, it holds its own to the Clay Pounds at HighlandLight, the Indians’ Tashmuit, and then, little[Pg 8]by little, the ocean pushes it back and folds it over inthe graceful curve of the tip at Provincetown. Fromthe frayed edge of Chatham on the south shore—brokenas it is into deep bays with outer shoals andbeaches that may alter their whole contour in a winter’sstorms—and on the north the snug village ofOrleans where the by-roads are the prettiest, we enterupon a new country. It may be remarked in passingthat Orleans offers something of martial interestto the traveller there: for at Rock Harbor on the baywas fought the famous Battle of Orleans, an engagementof 1812; and at Nauset Harbor, in the GreatWar, a German submarine, with some idea, apparently,of defeating a tow of empty coal barges,planted a stray shot on the sandbar at its mouth tothe considerable alarm of cottagers in the vicinity.
At Nauset Beach we look out over the ocean, andturning, see behind us the Harbor that lies there as ifbent upon offering every variety of inlet—bay, lagoon,cove, and salt river threading the marshes—thatmay be crowded into a small compass of miles.In its progress it all but meets the equally erraticinlets of Chatham, and also the waters of Cape CodBay, with the result that any breeze there is from thesea. To the south stretches the Beach, a low straightwall of sand between Harbor and ocean, moulded bythe Atlantic, worried by its storms, yet somehowwithstanding the impact, and linking up at the sharpapex of Chatham with the sands of Monomoy that,again, are in line with Nantucket Shoals and theIsland. It needs a wary seaman to know the safe[Pg 9]entrance to Vineyard Sound. To the north the shorerises steadily to the great bluffs at Highland Light—theNorsemen’s Gleaming Strands, a name best appreciatedby the seafarer proceeding, on a fair morning,to the port of Boston, when the hours spentin running by that line of golden cliffs may be thepleasantest of his voyage. And wherever one maypenetrate to the coast—unless one has the enterpriseof Thoreau to tramp along shore, he must returnto a town and take the next road eastward—there isalways a difference in the scene. Perhaps at no pointis it more lovely than at Wellfleet, where the bluffscurve gently to a promontory and the surf, touched bya stray shaft of sunlight, breaks into crystal and jade.In and out, they trend away again to the north; andthe sea at our feet, forward flow and backward clutch,even on a cold day of spring sounds the whole gamutof blue, light, dark, bewilderingly mingled, out tothe intense purple of our farthest reach of vision—literally,the Purple Sea. There is little break in theline of bluffs, but sometimes one of the valleys, thatnow begin to cut transversely across the Cape, persiststo the coast; and one of the prettiest drives isto Cahoon’s Hollow by way of a typical Cape Codwood-road, winding up hill and down, with vistasof blue ponds glinting through the trees. The roaddebouches on dunes, covered with a low, shrubbygrowth; and everywhere there has been an amazingquantity of the wild cranberry covering acre afteracre with its glossy green mat of leaves. The landbillows down to the water’s edge, yielding flashing[Pg 10]glimpses of blue water long before we reach it,and rises then on either hand into deeply indentedcliffs.
The country, as we follow the main road inlandonce more, swells into rounded hills that seem underbonds to crowd as many of their company as possibleinto the narrow confines between sea and bay. Thedeep valleys among them conceal many snug homesteadsbuilt there by the First Comers; and the atmosphereis indescribably pure blending, by the winds thatalways blow, the bracing qualities natural to ocean andupland. It is easy to share the enthusiasm of a physiciantravelling this way who exclaimed: “It’s the bestair in North America.” The hills now merge into highmoors that narrow to the Clay Pounds where HighlandLight finds a firm foundation. One overlooksboth sea and bay and walks poised aloft as on a roof-tree.Thoreau is master there, and has written discursivelyof flora and birds and humans, and, withthe wonder appropriate to an inlander, of the sea. Intruth “a man may stand there and put all Americabehind him.” As for the name, a triangular plot ofsome ten acres composed of a blue clay cuts transverselythrough the sand; “pounds” is variously explainedas a corruption of ponds or as suggested bythe pounding of the surf. The land slopes up from theinner bay to the great shining bluffs that are singularlybold and picturesque, with escarpment and overhang,bastion and turret built by their architect, thesea. Below them on calm days the polished surface ofthe Atlantic breaks into foam on the ivory beaches.[Pg 11]But in winter there is a different story of savage surfand an ocean that flings up its spume near two hundredfeet to the starved grass of the upland. Suchclamor is unbelievable in the pearly haze of summer;but even then an infrequent nor’easter may whip theAtlantic into a hungry rage as if to send it leapingover the puny barrier that divides the outer uproarfrom the gray dogs of the bay that are showing theirteeth to the gale.
Provincetown is a story in itself. The village, withits ingredients of old Cape Cod and a large proportionof handsome, gentle-mannered folk from theEast Atlantic Islands, is curled comfortably about theedge of its harbor. It has been said that Provincetownhas the “privilege of turning to look at itself like ahappy child who has donned a long train,” and thereis an evening picture of the “circlet of lights with abackground of slender spires and hills, a friendlybeacon shining over the narrow spit of land at WoodEnd.” Picturesque and picturesque: one wears thewords threadbare—picturesque in summer, withthe flicker of shadow and sun, sharp-cut, exotic,the brightly dressed folk thronging the streets orhailing one another from the windows above; picturesque,with a difference, in the less exciting atmosphereof winter when the town is comfortablyfull of its own people busy about their affairs, whichmore often than not means preparing for the harvestthat summer is to bring them. The harbor is apicture at high tide or low, with the boats anchoredin the roadstead or moored to the wharves; or the[Pg 12]sun slanting across the sandflats where a dory isstranded by the tide, and its master, dark-ringletted,slouch-hatted, a red kerchief knotted at his throat, ared flower in his shirt, strides shorewards with hiscatch dripping in its creel. The fish-wharves makea painter’s fingers itch to be at work, and many arethose who respond to the impulse. No small partof the vivacity of the summer scene is furnished bythe artists and their easels and their colors—artistswho express what they see after a method thatwould horrify the ladies of the earlier era that is ourparticular affair.
The soil is sand, and it is said that the gardens ofthe town were imported by returning shipmasterswho, in more fertile regions, steved their holds withloam for ballast and dumped it in their own frontyards. However that may be, the little gardens are aspretty as in any English village; a vista harborwardsthrough bright plantations of hollyhock is somethingto remember. And there are many trees shelteringthe houses and yards: silver abeles, and elms, andwillows,—the old willows “Way up along.” Thescene to-day is perhaps unduly dominated by theMonument, which with time may develop a closerfamiliarity with its environment. Springing from clusteringtrees on a low eminence above the town, gracefulin itself, it is as much a memorial to the indefatigablewill of one of the last of the deep-water captainsas to his forbears, the Pilgrims. In season and out heworked for its accomplishment, with the result that acolossal Sienese bell-tower, supplementing as it were[Pg 13]the enterprise of Columbus, the Genoan, pins firmlyin place the sands of Cape Cod.
The village is bounded by wooded hills, and a driveoceanward brings us to the dunes where the State,year after year, has waged war with the drifting sandof its Province Lands. Life-saving stations and beaconsare set at short intervals, and are needed, on thisshore, and out there lie the great shoals of the PeakedHill Bar, the cruellest of all the coast, where shipafter ship has piled her bones, and men by the hundredhave gone to their death. To the eye, in a crispnorth wind, they present only lines of vivid jade-greenwater set in the wide field of blue; and here seaand shore give such promise of variety as makes onelong to watch the seasons through in sun and stormand shrouding mists. The dunes that are no othercolor than that of sand, ever responsive to the changingmood of the atmosphere, are covered now and thenby carpets of growth that run from dull green to thepurple of winter; and they and the bluffs beyond themare no more constant in aspect than their neighborthe sea. Far from depressing the spirit, they stimulatekeen anticipation of what the hour shall bringforth and a sense that whatever its fruit one shallbe great enough to share it. Of all the places one hasseen here it is most fitting that man should dare tobe free.
From the slender tip of Champlain’s Cap Blanc toWareham one is never out of sight of water: salt here[Pg 14]and salt there, ocean and inlet and bay; and the greatponds of the uplands, or deep in its swampy coverta lake dropped from the jewelled chain among thehills. In the towns nearer the mainland are creeksand brooks and tiny runlets, flooded cranberryswamps, a ditch choked with the lush growth it nourishes;or near the beach a peat bog may wink unexpectedlyfrom its bosky rim where a colony ofnight heron have nested to be near their feeding-groundin the bay. And when the tide is at ebb theyand the seagulls wheel out there in airy platoons thatmanœuvre as if to catch the light on their ermine orsleek surtouts of gray. On the drying sands the gullsteeter about like high-heeled ladies on an esplanadeuntil a stranded minnow changes the play and theypounce and cuff and scream like boys greedy for apenny. There are rich harvests for the hungry on thesewide reaches of the sandflats, and even a glutton birdcould gorge his fill upon the prey entrapped in thefish-weirs that dot the inner coast.
There, at one point, the tide marches out a longmile to the Great Bar and back again, by appointedchannels, unhurrying, punctual to the minute, tokeep its tryst with the shore. Sailors, unless they havea care to the time, are likely to be “hung up” on theBar; but for one ashore who looks out to the whiteline of breaking foam, every moment of the ebb andturn has its special beauty. In bright days the shoalingwaters show a lovely interlacement of greens andblue; but when the sky is shrouded in gray, fold uponfold, and the sun, invisible, steps softly westward,[Pg 15]their surface is like burnished metal, although apainter’s eye would discern there a pastel of mauvesand pink and blue and a whole chromatic scale ofgreen. White sandflats, disclosed by the ebb, arecarved in whorls like a shell by the hand of the tide.Inshore plumy grasses fringe them; here and there infinitesimalforms of life stain them amethyst or green.But the wide sweep of them responds to some subtilequality in the day, and they are plains of pearl wherecloudy shadows drift, or, in certain golden hours, theyburn with color like some jewelled marquetry of theEast. A flaming sunset walks them with feet of blood.And day after day they, or the waters above them,surprise us with some new sweet diversity.
A scarf of gray tops the sand bluffs of the oppositeshore, and when the land looms, miragelike, scatteredvillages appear; or on certain clear eveningswe may catch the twinkle of friendly lights. And insummer days when the languid creeks threading themarshlands add a brighter blue to the picture thatthrobs in the sun—water and sky and the dazzlingcollar of sand that yokes land and sea—the bay,seeming all but landlocked in its honey-colored bluffs,deceives us with a look of inland waters and lies assoftly there as Long Pond among the hills. Above thebeaches, now and again, stand groves of pines, homelythurifers that incense the breeze as it passes. Andwhere the line of shore dips to a lowland, the saltmarshes, with their exquisite adjustment to the season,are a treasury of beauty—rich greens flushingand dying to the bronze, studded with haycocks[Pg 16]like the bosses of an ancient shield, that challengesencroaching autumn tides.
Winter drains the scene of color, but salt windscheat the lower temperatures of their rigor, and it is ahard season when snow lies in the meadows throughconsecutive weeks. Then there are days of brave sunlightwhen whitecaps feather over the surface of thebay, and ice-cakes churn in with the tide and pile uplike opals on the beach: days when the air is wine-clear,and the land is dressed in its best of warmrusset brown, and hoofs strike the frozen roads withthe resonance of Piccadilly pavements. Then sunsetjewels woodland interstices with mellow cathedrallight; high on a bluff above the crystal plane of alake regiments of militant pines salute the dying day;and up in the south, when night hangs the stars low,Orion will be calling his dogs for the hunting. Butmore beautiful are the gray days in winter whenearth meets heaven with the justly modulated valuesof a Japanese print, and the hills, clothed in the softfur of leafless woods, crouch under a pale sky; whenin swamps the lances of dead reeds clash, and by astagnant pool stands a cluster of brown cat-tails likecandles that have lighted some past banquet of theyear.
In spring, long before the tardy oaks unsheathetheir foliage, the sudden scarlet of swamp mapleflames in a hollow, and we are off to the woods to huntthe stout fresh leaves which betray hiding-places ofthe arbutus, the mayflower, under the waste of a deadyear. Near by, wintergreen in sturdy companies[Pg 17]shoulders the red berries that have eluded hungrywinter birds, and graceful runnels of wild cranberryflow through the open spaces. Here pretty colonies ofwindflowers will soon be swinging their bells, ladies’-slipperand Jack-in-the-pulpit dispute the season’sclemency; and when summer brings red lilies to surprisethe eye in some green chamber of the wood, ourjourney should end at the beach of an inland lakewhere spicy sabbatia sways delicately in the warm airand genesta grows on the bank.
From spring around to winter, the months arepacked with flowers—roadside beauties, shy littlecreatures of the fields, waxen Indian-pipes in the pinegroves; even on the dunes are flowering mosses, theyellow lace of the poverty-grass, the pretty gray velvetleaf of “dusty-miller,” pink lupin, wild grapesand roses crowding a secret hollow where the soil isenriched, perhaps, by an ancient shell-heap of theIndians. And among the depressions of the hills areswamps where a lovely progression, exquisitely disposedas if by conscious art, walks through the year.Color dies hard in these sheltered nooks, and hardlyis dun winter lord of all, with stripped bushes huddlinglike sheep in the hollow, than spring breaks hisrule and
“Along an edge of marshy ground
The shad-bush enters like a bride.”
Again the march begins: huckleberry, Clethra, honeysuckle,the dull smear of Joe Pyeweed, the whiteweb of elderberry blossoms turning to fruity umbelsthat promise homely brews, swinging goldenrod and[Pg 18]feather-grass, the decorative intent of cat-tails that,with certain engaging brown velvet buttons noddingon their stems in a swamp and the firm coral of alderberries,brings us around to winter again.
And there are choristers a-plenty: the remote sweetpiping of hylas piercing the velvet darkness of a nightin spring, the melodious booming of bull-frogs, thechallenge of Bob White; and all the dear homely NewEngland birds, twittering, chirping, chattering, pouringout their hearts in song as they swing with thetrees that the wind sweeps into endless motion. Andin summer and winter, from north, south, east, orwest, the wind brings us news from the sea: thesavor of salt, gray billows of cloud and fog, clearstark bright days following one another through aseason. The southwest gales of summer beat downripe grasses in the field and feather willow and poplarwith silver; the great autumn gales go trumpetingthrough the land; the nor’easter sends surf thunderingon the outer shore; and there are the soft moistwinds that relax the high-wrought tension of humans,and melt the rigors of winter.
The free winds,—and contour, sound, color: withnothing superfluous, yet satisfying and ever present.And from flowers and fruit and woodland and thesharp tang of the sea there is distilled a draught correctiveof morbid humors and the wandering will,—astanch pledge of sobriety.
THE OLD COLONY
It is a welcoming country, and easily enough some ofthe Pilgrims, after they had established their settlementat Plymouth, returned to the sandy shores, thewoods and meadows that had first offered them thepossibility of home. They must have had a peculiarsentiment for the place: for here began their adventurein the great free country of the wilderness, andthe chronicles of Bradford and Winslow show an ingenuouspleasure in the recital of it. They were for themost part yeomen and farmers, exiles from the prettyvalley of the Trent, who for some eleven years hadlived restricted in small Dutch cities; and for sixty-sevendays all of them, yeomen and artisans, men,women, and children, many more than the Mayflowercould well accommodate, had been buffetted aboutthe Atlantic by autumn gales. Driven out of theircalculated course to the southward, they made theirlandfall at Cape Cod, “the which being certainlyknown to be it,” no wonder that they were “not alittle joyful.” “Being thus arrived in a good harborand brought safe to land,” writes William Bradford,“they fell upon their knees and blessed ye God ofHeaven, who had brought them over ye vast and furiousocean, and delivered them from all ye periles[Pg 20]and miseries thereof, againe to set their feete on yefirme and stable earth, their proper elemente.”
Nor was it a country unknown to them. SinceCabot’s voyage of discovery more than a hundredyears earlier, the whole coast from Cape Breton tothe Hudson had been increasingly visited by Frenchand English seamen who were attracted chiefly bythe rich fishing-grounds. It is even said that the greatDrake was the first Englishman to set foot in NewEngland, and that it was upon Cape Cod he landed.There are stories of ancient adventurers voyaging,as it might be, to the rhythm of Masefield’s Galley-Rowers:
“... bound sunset-wards, not knowing,
Over the whale’s way miles and miles,
Going to Vine-Land, haply going
To the Bright Beach of the Blessed Isles.
“In the wind’s teeth and the spray’s stinging
Westward and outward forth we go,
Knowing not whither nor why, but singing
An old old oar-song as we row—”
Madoc of Wales, Saint Brendan the Irishman, Icelanders,Phœnicians even; and, more certainly, acompany of Norsemen who set up a wrecked boat onthe Cape Cod bluffs, the Long Beaches, to guide thelandfall of later visitors to their Keel Cape.
French, Dutch, Spanish, English, all had theirnames for the Cape, but in 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold,examining the coast of New England with a viewto colonization, was to give it the predestined and[Pg 21]only right name: “Cape Cod.” Making across MassachusettsBay “with a fresh gale of wind,” writes hischronicler, “in the morning we found ourselves embayedwith a mightie headland” with “a whitesandie and very bolde shore,” where, landing, theymet an Indian “of proper stature, and of a pleasingcountenance; and after some familiaritie with him,we left him at the seaside and returned to our ship.”Another scribe of the party remarks that the Indianhad plates of copper hanging from his ears and“shewed willingness to help us in our occasions.”“From this place, we sailed round about this headland,almost all the points of the compass,” and so onto Cuttyhunk, “amongst many faire Islands.” Butthe significant point for us is that they “pestered”their ship so with codfish that they threw numbersof them overboard, and thereupon named the landCape Cod.
In 1604, and for several years thereafter, Champlainwas much upon the New England coast, helpingDu Monts in a colonizing scheme under a charter ofHenri Quatre; had they succeeded, New France wouldhave reached Long Island Sound. Champlain landedat Barnstable and named the harbor “Port aux Huistres,”“for the many good oysters there.” He judged,also, that it would have been “an excellent place toerect buildings and lay the foundations of a state, ifthe harbor were somewhat deeper and the entrancesafer.” The tip of the Cape he called “Cap Blanc,”the treacherous shoals at the elbow “Mallebarre,”and at Chatham he was like to have been swamped[Pg 22]in the shoals had the Indians not dragged his boatsover into the harbor—“Port Fortune” he calledit. But it held no good fortune for him: for his menquarrelled with their rescuers, and after two of themhad been killed, he sailed away. Champlain, a scientificman, the king’s geographer, wrote interestinglyof the savages, their appearance, customs, agriculture,dwellings, and weighed the advantages ofcolonization there, but French the land was notto be.
After Gosnold came several Englishmen, MartinPring among them, searching for sassafras, whichhe knew was to be found in sandy soil, and was thenmuch esteemed in pharmacy as of “sovereigne vertueagainst the Plague and many other Maladies.” Pringcoasted along to Plymouth, where at last he found“sufficient quantitie” of his sassafras, and campedfor several months. There one of his company playedthe “gitterne” to the joy of the savages who dancedabout him “twentie in a Ring, ... singing lo la lo lala and him that first brake the ring the rest wouldknocke and cry out upon.” Henry Hudson spent anight off the Cape and had some difficulty with shoalsand tides and mists; but he testified that “the land isvery sweet,” and some of his men brought away wildgrapes and roses; as did also Edward Braunde, whohoped to discover “sertayne perell which is told bythe Sauvages to be there,” and found near Race Point,where he landed, only some “goodly grapes and Rose-Trees.”It should be noted that as Hudson cruisedthereabouts, Thomas Hilles and Robert Rayney of[Pg 23]his crew saw “the mermaid.” And in 1614 CaptainJohn Smith set sail for these shores to look for whalesand gold-mines, failing which they would take “Fishand Furres,” as the event proved to an amount ofsome fifteen hundred pounds. Smith, with eightmen in an open boat, explored and charted thecoast and dedicated his map to Prince Charles, withthe request that he change “the barbarous names”thereon. “As posteritie might say,” writes Smith,“Prince Charles was their godfather.” New England,the river Charles, Plymouth retain the royalnomenclature. But his Stuart Bay and Cape Jamesare still Cape Cod and Cape Cod Bay, and MilfordHaven is Provincetown Harbor. Cape Cod, “a name,I suppose, it will never lose,” said Cotton Mather,“till the shoals of codfish be seen swimming on thehighest hills.” “This Cape,” wrote Smith, “is madeby the maine Sea on the one side, and a great Bayon the other in forme of a Sickell.” “A headland ofhigh hills, over growne with shrubby Pines, hurts[huckleberries] and such trash, but an excellent harbourfor all weathers.”
And while Smith was engaged in his scientific expedition,Captain Thomas Hunt, whom he had placedin command of the larger boat, after lading her with fishand furs, put his time to profit by capturing twenty-foursavages, Nauset and Patuxet Indians amongthem; and setting sail for Malaga, he sold the cargofor his masters and the savages at twenty pounds thehead for the advantage of his own pocket. “This vildeact,” wrote Smith, “kept him ever after from any more[Pg 24]employment in these parts.” But such commerce wasnot unknown: in 1611, Harlow, sailing for the Earlof Southampton, with “five Salvages returned forEngland,” and one of these men “went a Souldier tothe Warres of Bohemia.” The Cape Cod Indians seemto have been a gentle, even a forgiving race, but theyhad a long memory for such perfidy, which was toprove a bad business for all later visitors to the region.Yet more often than not whites and natives fought,however friendly the first overtures might have been;and Smith reports, as a matter of course, of the Indiansabout Plymouth: “After much kindnesse weefought also with them, though some were hurt, someslaine, yet within an houre after they became friends.”But kidnapping seems to have been the unforgivableoffence.
Only the summer before the Pilgrims arrived cameThomas Dermer, sailing for Fernando Gorges, Governorof Old Plymouth, and returned the IndianTasquantum or Squanto, captured by Hunt and survivorof many vicissitudes, to the end that he mightserve as interpreter and find out the truth about talesof treasure in the country. Dermer thought favorablyof Plymouth for a settlement, and rescued a Frenchmanwho had been wrecked three years before on CapeCod and was living with the Indians. He brought back,with Squanto, Epenow, one of Harlow’s victims, who,however, succeeded in escaping at Martha’s Vineyard.Epenow, during his exile, had been somethingof a personage: “being of so great stature he wasshewed up and downe London for money as a wonder,[Pg 25]and it seemes of no lesse courage and authoritie,than of wit, strength and proportion.”
It is reasonably certain that some of these adventures,perhaps all of them, were known to the Pilgrims.They would have been common talk in Plymouth,the city of Fernando Gorges, and in London;and the Pilgrims were come to a region familiar atleast to their captain or his pilot, who is said to havesailed once with Dermer. But every man aboard theMayflower, as they rounded the tip of Cape Cod,knew that they were about to land beyond the boundsof their permission to colonize, which lay within thejurisdiction of the North Virginia Company and “notfor New England, which belonged to another government”;and “some of the strangers amongst them hadlet fall mutinous speeches—that when they camashore they would use their own libertie.”
Not for such liberty had Brewster, Bradford,Winslow, Carver, come upon their pilgrimage; theywere men who meant to be free only within lawfulbounds; and they were true pioneers, men who in anunforeseen perplexity could make a just decision.Hardly had they sighted the golden dunes of theCape, and fetched short about to escape its treacherousshoals, than they were meeting their first test.As they made the “good harbor and pleasant bay”of Provincetown, “wherein a thousand sail of shipsmight safely ride,” the famous Compact was written,and forty-one men of the company signed it ere theyset foot to land. It was a simple act, and none couldhave been more amazed than the Pilgrims had they[Pg 26]known its historical significance. But because theymeant to be both free and obedient, their Compactcontained the germ of all just government: “It wasthought good that we should combine together inone body, and to submit to such government andgovernors as we should by common consent agree tomake and choose.”
“In ye name of God, Amen. We whose names areunderwritten, the loyall subjects of our dread soveraigne,King James, ... haveing undertaken, for yeglorie of God and advancemente of ye Christian faith,and honour of our king and countrie, a voyage toplant ye first colonie in ye Northerne parts of Virginia,doe by these presents solemnly and mutualyin ye presence of God and one of another, covenantand combine ourselves togeather into a civill bodypolitick, for our better ordering and preservationand furtherance of ye ends aforesaid, and by vertuehearof to enacte, constitute and frame such justand equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions andoffices, from time to time, as shall be thought mostmeete and convenient for ye generall good of ye colonie,unto which we promise all due submission andobedience.”
There is the Compact. Freedom within due limitsset by the consent of the governed, these men whohad chosen exile rather than submission to a tyrannousreading of the law proclaimed as the rule of theirfuture, a principle vital to the spirit of the nationthat was to be. And their Compact signed, and JohnCarver chosen governor for the ensuing year, the[Pg 27]captain anchored offshore and they proceeded uponthe next step of their adventure.
After the cramped wretchedness of the Mayflower,they must have been eager for release. “Being pestrednine weeks in the leaking unwholsome shipe, lyingwet in their cabins, most of them grew very weake andweary of the Sea,” John Smith wrote of their passagethither. In any case there could be no question as tothe necessity of landing: they must have wood andwater; the women wanted to wash, the men to stretchtheir legs and replenish the larder with fish and gameand corn. If in the process they found a spot suitablefor settlement and offering a prospect of fair returnon the investment made by their financial backers,the “Merchant Adventurers” of London, so muchthe better.
That first day, November 11, Old Style, after theCompact was signed, some fifteen men landed ratherto gather firewood than to explore. They saw no Indians,and found the “sand hills much like the downsof Holland, but better, the crust of the earth a spit’sdepth excellent black earth all wooded with oaks,pines, sassafras, juniper, birch, holly, vines, some ash,walnut; the wood for the most part open and withoutunderwood, fit either to go or ride in.” Commentwhich would ill describe the present appearance ofProvincetown and Truro; but then the whole innershore of the Cape, at least, seems to have been woodedto the water’s edge. The party returned with a boatloadof juniper, “which smelled very sweet andstrong.” The Sunday they kept aboard ship, with[Pg 28]what thankful hearts for their “preservation on thegreat deep,” and steadfast hope of the future as wemay imagine. On Monday the men went ashore todo some boat-building, and the women to wash.These landing parties had an uncomfortable time ofit, for the water was too shallow to beach a boat,and they “were forced to wade a bow-shot or twoin going a-land, which caused many to get colds andcoughs, for it was many times freezing weather.”
On the fifteenth an exploring party set off underthe command of Captain Miles Standish. For drink,wrote Edward Winslow, there was “a little bottle ofaqua vitæ—and having no victuals save biscuit andHolland cheese—at last we came into a deep valleyfull of brush, wood gaile [bayberry] and long grassthrough which we found little paths or tracts; andthere we saw a deer, and found springs of fresh water,and sat us down and drank our first New Englandwater with as much delight as we ever drank drinkin all our lives.” They sighted a few Indians, who“ran into the woods and whistled their dogge afterthem”; and William Bradford, lagging behind toexamine a deer-trap, was caught by the leg for hispains. “It was a pretty device made with a rope ofthe Indians’ own making which we brought away withus.” They were as eager as boys on a Scout trail; andwhen they came upon an old palisado, they were sureit must have been the work of Christians; and onwhat is still known as Corn Hill they found a cacheof corn packed in baskets, and an old ship’s kettle.Whereupon they took a kettleful of corn along with[Pg 29]them—they meant to pay for it when they foundthe owners, they said, and, moreover, many monthsafter, they did so. They saw flocks of geese and ducks,and also three fat bucks, but would rather have hadone. And they camped in the open near Stout’s Creekat East Harbor, and next day kept on to Pamet Harborin Truro. Altogether a satisfying expedition forMiles Standish and his men who had been cooped upfor so many weeks in the Mayflower, but they hadfound no spot to their taste for a settlement. Theywanted not only good farm lands, but an adequateharbor for the trade that was to be: Pamet Harborthey dismissed on account of the “insufficiency of theplace for the accommodation of large vessels and theuncertainty as to the supply of fresh water.” Theseway-worn stragglers were entirely sure they were toneed accommodation for large vessels; fresh water,by the way, was there a-plenty, although they didnot find it.
On the twenty-seventh they set out on their SecondDiscovery, this time by boat under the command ofMaster Jones, the Mayflower skipper, who landedthem short of their destination at Pamet River. Theycamped in a freezing sleet, and taking boat again in themorning kept on to Pamet. That night they campedunder some pines and supped on “three fat geese andsix ducks which we ate with souldiers’ stomachs, forwe had eaten little that day.” Next morning, on theway to Corn Hill, they killed a brace of geese at a singleshot. “And sure it was God’s good providence that wefound the corn, for else we know not how we should[Pg 30]have done.” Again they camped in the open, andagain marched on by Indian wood paths until theycame upon a broad trail leading to a settlement. Andalthough they saw no Indians—no doubt keen eyeswere watching them from woodland coverts—theypoked into the wigwams that were low wattled hutswith doorways scarce a yard high hung with mats;and they noted the wooden bowls and trays, earthenwarepots, and baskets of wrought crab-shells, and“harts’ horns and eagles’ claws.” They seem, hereand there, to have taken a sample of the best, and regrettedthat they had nothing to leave in exchange.“We intended to have brought some beads and otherthings to have left in their homes in sign of peaceand that we meant to truck with them, but it was notdone; but as soon as we can conveniently meet withthem, we will give them full satisfaction.” They discoveredthe grave of a white man, they thought, decentlyburied, with his sailor’s clothes and treasuresbeside him, and a child’s grave, from which they tooka few pretty ornaments. Some burial mounds theyleft undisturbed, saying sententiously that “it mightbe odious unto them to ransack their sepulchres,”which very likely was no more than truth. And stillthey found no place to strike root.
But the Third Discovery was to have a better result.On December 6 they set out, again by boat, androunded Billingsgate Point before they landed tocamp for the night. About five in the morning, theirpicket rushed in with cries of “Indians! Indians!”and they roused to savage war-whoops and arrows[Pg 31]rattling down upon the camp. But when they firedtheir muskets the Indians, probably some of theNausets whom Thomas Hunt had despoiled of men,ran away as they had come, with no one harmed oneither side. The place, situated near Great MeadowCreek in Eastham, was named “The First Encounter.”Again the explorers took boat, and passing theharbor and fertile lands of Barnstable in a drivingnortheast gale and snowstorm, drenched with the freezingspray that made their clothes “many times likecoats of iron,” they pressed on to Plymouth Bay. Sothick was the weather that their pilot, who had probablysailed with Smith or Dermer, lost his bearings.“Lord be merciful, my eyes never saw this place before,”cried he as they passed the Gurnet. He wouldthere and then have beached the boat, but one ofstouter heart shouting, “About with her, or we areall dead men,” they turned and ran under the lee ofClark’s Island where they landed. There, in storm andwet, they miserably bivouacked over the next day,a Sunday; and on the Monday exploring the mainlandand finding harbor, meadow, and brook to their mind,they determined to make here at Plymouth their permanentsettlement. Very likely they had bethoughtthem of Dermer’s commendation of it to FernandoGorges, although they seem not to have been amenableto advice from John Smith, who cites them asa warning in his “advertisemente to UnexperiencedPlanters.” “For want to good take heede,” writes heof them in 1630, “thinking to finde all things betterthan I advised them, spent six or seven weekes in[Pg 32]wandering up and downe in frost and snow, windeand raine, among the woods, cricks, and swamps.”On December 16, Old Style, the whole company, reunitedat Plymouth, set about the building of theirnew home.
The Pilgrims had been little more than a month atProvincetown, but, beside the great achievement ofthe Compact, history had been making to open theannals of Anglo-Saxon New England: Edward Thompson,Jasper Moore, and James Chilton had died; Dorothy,the young wife of William Bradford, had fallenoverboard to her death; and Mrs. William White hadbeen delivered of a son, fittingly named Peregrine, thefirst born of English parents in New England. Notunreasonably does Cape Cod claim precedence of Plymouthwhen homage is paid the Pilgrim Fathers.
The Compact sprang into being by no magic of inspiration:it was the fruit of minds that had fosteredthe intention to be free through years of just living,and the winning simplicity of the Pilgrims’ severaldeclarations of faith was the natural outcome of thespirit that framed them. For eighteen years or moretheir leaders had believed and practised the preceptsof John Robinson whom they had chosen as pastorof their little congregation at Scrooby; and Robinsoncharged them, according to Edward Winslow, to keepan open mind: “for he was very confident the Lordhad more truth and light yet to break forth out of Hisholy word. He took occasion, also, miserably to bewail[Pg 33]the state of the Reformed Churches” who stuckwhere Luther and Calvin had left them. “Yet Godhad not revealed His whole will to them.... It isnot possible ... that full perfection of knowledgeshould break forth at once.” Men who held that conceptof life—the progressive revelation of truth—wereas little likely to cramp the just liberties of othermen as they were to submit themselves to the unjustimposition of law. And when England persecutedthem, it was fitting that they should flee to Holland,the country of William the Silent, who had declared:“You have no right to trouble yourself with anyman’s conscience, so long as nothing is done to causeprivate harm or public scandal.” That might havebeen the motto of their new government. It has beentruly said that the Plymouth Church was “free ofblood.” They never hanged a Quaker or burned awitch, and refugees from the Massachusetts BayColony constantly found asylum with them. It mustbe remembered that they were so-called “Separatists,”the Independents, men who set religion aboveany church, a very different folk from those uncompromisingprotestants of the Church of England, thePuritans. Yet, wisely, John Robinson had counselledthem to be “ready to close with the godly party ofthe Kingdom of England and rather to study unionthan disunion” with their neighbors in the NewWorld. That “union” was meant to include no abandonmentof principle, and when unwillingly enoughthey were forced to merge with the richer colony ofMassachusetts Bay, they were sufficiently powerful[Pg 34]to expand somewhat its rigid theocracy; though thePuritan influence, in turn, did much to curdle theearly tolerance of the Pilgrims.
In the seventy years of their independence, thePilgrims worked out, by sober and deliberate progression,a plan of government that was a model of statehood,and they had the advantage over other coloniesthat they were constrained by no formal royal patent.When their agents had gone over from Holland toobtain the king’s consent to their undertaking, Jameswas ready to concede that “the advancement of hisdominions” and “the enlargement of the gospel” werean honorable motive; the idea of fishery profits was noless to his liking. “So God have my soul,” quoth he,“an honest trade. ’Twas the Apostles’ own calling.”But a formal grant to the despised Separatists wasanother matter, and they had to be content with ahint that “the king would connive at them and notmolest them provided they behaved themselves peaceably.”They were willing to take the chance that theking’s word was as good as his bond: for if later thereshould be a purpose to injure them, they shrewdlyreasoned, though they had a seal “as broad as the housefloor,” there would be “means enow found to recallor reverse it.” And they secured financial backing inLondon, obtained permission from the North VirginiaCompany to settle on their coast, then “casting themselveson the care of Divine Providence, they venturedto America.” Divine Providence, apparently, decreedthat they should be free of even such slight restraintas the permission of the North Virginia Company, and[Pg 35]instead of settling near the Hudson they were drivento the New England coast.
But they took care in the Compact and in all succeedinglegislation to affirm their loyalty to the EnglishGovernment. Though England had been none tootender in her treatment of them, they recognized andmeant to abide by the essential justice of English law,and to profit by the stability that a strong bond withthe Home Government could give them. Moreover,in these men flourished the British instinct to makewhatever spot of the globe they should elect as home“forever England.” They themselves for eleven longyears had fretted as expatriates in an alien land.“They grew tired of the indolent security of theirsanctuary,” wrote Burke of them, although as a factthey had worked hard enough for their daily bread,“and they chose to remove to a place where theyshould see no superior.” In any case they meant thattheir children should be English rather than Dutch,and they had refused overtures from Holland to settlein Dutch territory.
The machinery of their government was of thesimplest, and expanded, as necessity came, with theirgrowth. As provided in the Compact, the Governorwas elected yearly by general manhood suffrage. Hisone assistant was soon replaced by a council of seven.For eighteen years the legislative body, the GeneralCourt it is still called, was composed of the whole bodyof freemen; and the qualifications of a freeman werethat he should be “twenty-one years of age, of sober,peaceable conversation, orthodox in religion [as a[Pg 36]minimum, belief in God and the Bible], and shouldpossess rateable estate to the value of twenty pounds.”By 1639 the colony had grown to require a representativeform of government; and the two branches, theGovernor and Council and the town representatives,sat as one body to enact laws. But save in a crisis,no law proposed at one session could be enacted untilthe next, so that the whole body of freemen couldhave opportunity to pass upon it—a clear case ofthe “referendum.” As early as 1623 the communityhad outgrown its custom of trying an offender bythe whole body of citizens, and substituted trial byjury. Capital offences were six as against thirty-onein England—treason, murder, diabolical conversation,arson, rape, and unnatural crimes—and ofthese only two came to execution. No one was evercommitted, much less punished, for “diabolical conversation.”Smoking was forbidden outdoors within amile of a dwelling-house, or while at work in the fields:evidently there was to be no gossip over a pipe withthe farmer next door. In time this law was eased; andthough in the early days the clergy alluded to tobaccoas the “smoke of the bottomless pit,” they soon cameto use it themselves and “tobacco was set at liberty.”
In 1636 they first codified their law; in 1671 wasprinted their Great Fundamentals. Hubbard, in his“General History of New England from the Discoveryto 1680,” writes: “The laws they intended tobe governed by were the laws of England, the whichthey were willing to be subject unto, though in aforeign land, and have since that time continued of[Pg 37]that mind for the general, adding only some particularmunicipal laws of their own, suitable to their constitution,in such cases where the common laws andstatutes of England could not well reach, or affordthem help in emergent difficulties of place.” They wereloyal Englishmen to the bone, and in the first codificationof law affirm their allegiance: “whereas JohnCarver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, WilliamBrewster, Isaac Allerton and divers others of the subjectsof our late Sovereign Lord James ... did undertakea voyage into that part of America calledVirginia or New England thereunto adjoining, thereto erect a plantation and colony of English, intendingthe glory of God and the enlargement of His Majesty’sdominions, and the special good of the Englishnation.” Yet they never waived a jot of their rightsas freemen; and in 1658, toward the end of Cromwell’sGovernment, they prefaced the General Lawswith a note that the advisers of George III wouldhave done well to heed: “We the Associates of NewPlymouth, coming hither as freeborn subjects ofthe State of England, endowed with all and singularthe privileges belonging to such, being assembled,do ordain, constitute and enact that no act, imposition,law or ordinance be made or imposed on usat present or to come, but such as shall be madeand imposed by consent of the body of the associatesor their representatives legally assembled, which isaccording to the free liberty of the State of England.”
At the Restoration they gave allegiance to Charles;[Pg 38]in 1689, bridging the chasm of revolution, to Williamand Mary: the significant point that they heldthemselves loyal to England, whatever its governmentmight be. And it is interesting, in their addressto William and Mary, that they felt entirely free topass judgment upon the hated Royal Governor,Andros: “We, the loyal subjects of the Crown of England,are left in an unsettled state, destitute of governmentand exposed to the ill consequences thereof;and having heretofore enjoyed a quiet settlement ofgovernment in this their Majesties’ colony of NewPlymouth for more than three score and six years ...notwithstanding our late unjust interruption and suspensiontherefrom by the illegal arbitrary power ofSir Edmond Andros, now ceased, ... do thereforehereby resume and declare their reassuming of theirsaid former way of government.” But that, to theirgreat disappointment, was not to be, and the royalcharter of William and Mary united definitely thecolonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay.
The advantage of their “quiet settlement of government”had been a double benefit: for it seems to havebeen a fact that liberal Plymouth was free of any interferencefrom England, while the Puritans of MassachusettsBay, on the contrary, were in continual hotwater with the Home Government. England probablydid not love the Separatists better than she hadever done, but she had no notion of quarrelling withsober, reasonable men who, in consideration of a personallatitude that cost her no inconvenience, werewilling that other men, provided they were “civil,”[Pg 39]should live according to their individual right; andthereby saved her the trouble of playing arbiter incolonial disputes. England, moreover, was derivingconsiderable profit from the lusty young colony that,by its enterprise, was tipping the scales in her favorin the trader’s game she was playing with Hollandand France.
The Pilgrims had been no visionaries seeking Utopia.They were members of a well-constructed joint-stockcompany which, as occasion offered, they adapted tothe changing needs of the colony; and they were preparedto earn not only a home for themselves, but areturn on the money invested in their enterprise bytheir financial backers, and, if they prospered, a sumsufficient to buy out such interests. It is true that theywere, first, religious men seeking religious freedomfor themselves, and, if God willed, they would be thebearers of good news to others. Beyond all other reasonspushing them to their adventure, wrote Bradford,was “a great hope and inward zeal they had of layingsome good foundation, or at least to make some waythereunto, for the propagation and advancing of thegospel of Christ in those remote parts of the world;yea, though they should be but even as steppingstones unto others for the performing of so great awork.”
Yet money as well as zeal was necessary for such anundertaking as theirs, and the Holland exiles werepoor. But arrangements were concluded with a company[Pg 40]of promoters in London, “Merchant Adventurers”was their more romantic title then, to supplythe larger part of the necessary capital, while thePilgrims as “Planters” should furnish the man power.Their agreement set forth that: “The Adventurersand Planters do agree that every person that goeth,being aged sixteen years and upward, be rated at tenpounds, and ten pounds be accounted a single share”;that “he that goeth in person and furnishes himselfout with ten pounds either in money or other provisionsbe accounted as having twenty pounds in stock,and in the division shall receive a double share”;and “that all such persons as are of this Colony are tohave their meat, drink, apparel, and all other provisionsout of the common stock of said Company.”
Doctor Eliot, in his speech at the dedication of thePilgrim monument at Provincetown, lucidly describedthe working-out of the Agreement: “It was providedthat the Adventurers and Planters should continuetheir joint-stock partnership for a period of sevenyears, during which time all profits and benefits got bytrading, fishing, or any other means should remainin the common stock.... At the end of seven yearsthe capital and profits, namely, the houses, lands,goods, and chattels, were to be equally divided betweenthe Adventurers and the Planters.... Whoevershould carry his wife and children or servantsshould be allowed for every such person aged sixteenyears and upward one share in the division.... Atthe end of seven years every Planter was to own thehouse and garden then occupied by him; and during[Pg 41]the seven years every Planter was to work four daysin each week for the Colony and two for himself andhis family.... Before the seven years of the originalcontract with the Adventurers had expired the Pilgrimshad established a considerable trade to thenorth and to the south of Plymouth, and had found inthis trade a means of paying their debts and making asettlement with the Adventurers, which was concludedon the basis of buying out their entire interest for thesum of eighteen hundred pounds. Eight of the originalPlanters advanced the money for this settlement, andtherefore became the owners of the settlement, so faras the Adventurers’ liens were concerned. It was thendecided to form an equal partnership, to include allheads of families and all self-supporting men, youngor old, whether church members or not. These men,called the ‘Purchasers,’ received each one share in thepublic belongings, with a right to a share for his wifeand another for each of his children. The shares werebonded for the public debt, and to the shareholdersbelonged everything pertaining to the colony excepteach individual’s personal effects. These shareholdersnumbered one hundred and fifty-six, namely, fifty-sevenmen, thirty-four boys, twenty-nine women, andthirty-six girls.” Probably the heads of these familieswere the men referred to as Old Comers or FirstComers; namely, those who had arrived in the firstthree ships that brought colonists from England—theMayflower, the Fortune, and the Anne and herconsort. “The Purchasers put their business into thehands of the eight men who had become the Colony’s[Pg 42]bondsmen to the Adventurers, and the trade of theColony was thereafter conducted by these eight leadingPilgrims, who were known as Undertakers.”
There is the framework of their polity; its sure foundationthat they were “straitly tied to all care of eachother’s good and of the whole by everyone; and somutually”—the bedrock requirement for the successfulworking of any coöperative scheme. There wasno playing of favorites: each man worked; eachman, if for no more than his own sake, must workwith good-will. “The people,” Robinson had writtenof them, “are for the body of them industrious andfrugal, we think we may safely say, as any companyof people in the world.” He knew intimately the menof whom he spoke. They were “common people” ascompared with some of the aristocrats of MassachusettsBay; yet on the Mayflower roster appeared“masters,” “servants,” and “artisans”; and each inhis degree contributed to the public welfare. Actionthey constantly matched up with their professed attitudeto God, with the result that if the expression oftheir belief were of an ancient pattern, the practiceof it would stand well with the liberalism of to-day.
The first year of the little colony was difficultenough, and before the winter was over they mighthave starved had it not been for the fisheries and thekindness of their Indian neighbors. Yet of their neighbors’good-will they were not too confident, and theylevelled the graves of their dead lest the number shouldbe known to the Indians, and for the discouragementof prospective colonists. Before the spring was[Pg 43]over, one half of the one hundred and two souls thatsailed by the Mayflower had died, and of the eighteenwomen only four survived the hardships of the firstsix months. Yet they would not lose heart. “It is notwith us as with other men whom small things can discourageor small discontentments cause to wish themselveshome again,” William Brewster and John Robinsonhad declared. “If we should be driven to return,we should not hope to recover our present helps andcomforts, neither indeed look ever for ourselves to attainunto the like in any other place during our lives.”Wherein one may read how bitter had been the yearsof their exile, how constant their longing for freedomand the abiding comfort of justice. They meant nowto hold on and succeed, and if possible to encourageothers to join them, in the place where their own courageand initiative had set them; for it seems to havebeen a fact that the Pilgrims displayed not only indomitablespirit in their optimistic reports to correspondentsin the old country, but also the consideredpolicy of shrewd men who would enlist recruits fortheir enterprise. Even their critic, John Smith, wasmoved to admiration for these men who, to be sure,had invited trouble by “accident, ignorance, andwilfulness,” yet “have endured, with a wonderfulpatience many losses and extremities.” And he marvelsthat “they subsist and prosper so well, not anyof them will abandon the country, but to the utmostof their powers increase their numbers.”
Somehow, in spite of sickness and death and shortrations, they won through the dark months of that[Pg 44]first winter, and fortunately for them the spring brokeearly. On March 19 and 20, “we digged our groundsand sowed our garden seeds”; and these Yorkshirefarmers, at any cost, must have been glad to be outin the open again planting their seeds. “I never in mylife remember a more seasonable year than we havehere enjoyed,” Winslow had the courage to write inhis “Brief and True Declaration.” “For the temper ofthe air here, it agreeth well with that in England, andif there be any difference at all, this is somewhathotter in summer. Some think it to be colder in winter,but I cannot out of experience so say. The air is veryclear and not foggy, as hath been reported.” It is acheerful report, persuasive reading for would-be colonists,that Winslow sent back to England by theFortune which, in the autumn of 1621, brought overthe Pilgrims that had perforce remained behind whenthe Speedwell broke down. And among the new colonistswas one William Hilton, who was so pleased withthe prospect that he sent back post-haste for hisfamily.
“Loving cousin,” wrote he, “At our arrival ... wefound all our friends and planters in good health,though they were left sicke and weake with very smallmeanes, the Indians round about us peaceable andfriendly, the country very pleasant and temperate,yeelding naturally of itself great store of fruites. Weare all free-holders, the rent day doth not trouble us;and all of those good blessings we have, of which andwhat we list in their seasons for taking. Our companieare for the most part very religious honest people; the[Pg 45]word of God sincerely taught us every Sabbath: sothat I know not anything a contented mind can herewant. I desire your friendly care to send my wife andchildren to me, where I wish all the friends I have inEngland, and so I rest Your loving kinsman.”
William Hilton had arrived in time for the celebrationof their first Thanksgiving Day, which was keptafter the kindly manner of the Harvest Home in OldEngland. Here is Winslow’s description of the festivity:“Our harvest being gotten in, our Governorsent four men on fowling, that so we might, after amore special manner, rejoice together after we hadgathered the fruit of our labours. They four in a daykilled as much fowl as, with a little help besides, servedthe company almost a week. At which time amongstother recreations, we exercised our arms, many of theIndians coming amongst us. And amongst the resttheir greatest king, Massasoyt, with some ninety men,whom for three days we entertained and feasted.And they went out and killed five deer, which theybrought to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor,and upon the Captain and others. And althoughit be not always so plentiful as it was at this time withus; yet by the goodness of God, we are so far fromwant that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”A memorable feast; and twenty-five years later Bradfordwrote: “Nor has there been any general want offood amongst us since to this day.” The fine healthytemper of the pioneers shines out in these simplewords—the words of men who could pass lightlyover the uncertainties and privations of that first[Pg 46]difficult winter, when more than once it must haveseemed to them that all their hope and labor were invain and their adventure doomed, to emphasize onlythe good things that had come to them.
And Robert Cushman who, with his family,arrived by the Fortune, sent report back to his “lovingfriends the Adventurers of New England” thatNew England it was not only because Prince Charleshad named it so, but “because of the resemblance thatis in it of England, the native soil of Englishmen; itbeing much the same for heat and cold in summer andwinter; it being champaign ground, but no highmountains, somewhat like the soil in Kent and Essex;full of dales and meadow ground, full of rivers andsweet springs, as England is.”
The country was sparsely settled by natives: forsome four years earlier an “unwanted plague,” an actof God the pious might have been excused for judgingit to sweep the country bare for the uses of whiteimmigrants, had all but depopulated the coast fromthe Penobscot to Narragansett. The vicinity ofPlymouth, in particular, had been affected, and whenSquanto was returned there by Dermer, he found allhis kinsmen dead. It is said that a short time beforethe calamity, the Nausets, making reprisals on a shipwreckedFrench crew for the kidnapping activities ofthe whites, had been promised by one of their victimsthe vengeance of the white man’s God who wouldsurely destroy them and give over their country to his[Pg 47]people. “We are too many for him to destroy,”boasted the Indians. But when the plague wastedthem, and the arrival of the Mayflower might be heldas confirmation of the prophecy, their assurance mayhave weakened. It seemed that the white man’s Godmight have more power than they supposed; andperhaps that futile flight of arrows at the First Encounterwas no more than a half-hearted protest atthe decree of fate. The natives had some pretty superstitionsof their own—as to the discovery of Nantucket,for instance, which, they told the Englishmen,had been quite unknown until many moonsearlier when a great bird had borne off in his talons somany children from the south shore that a giant, oneMaushope, moved with pity, had waded out into thesea and followed the bird to the island where hefound the bones of the ravished children under a tree.Whereupon, recognizing the futility of regret, he sathim down to smoke, and the smoke was borne backacross the waters he had traversed—the true originof fog in the Sound. And Indians, as it drove in fromsea, would say: “There comes old Maushope’ssmoke.” Another story has it that Nantucket wasformed of the ashes from Maushope’s pipe; but thatthe island was discovered by the parents of a papoosethat was borne off by an eagle. They followed fast intheir canoe, but not fast enough, for they were onlyin time to find the bones of their child heaped undera tree in the hitherto unknown land of Nantucket.
The Plymouth settlers seem to have encounteredno great opposition from the natives who, although[Pg 48]shy and suspicious as might be any creatures of theforest, were responsive to the just dealing that wasthe considered policy of the Pilgrims; and on bothsides there was an impulse to friendliness tempered,however, by the ineradicable racial instinct to bewary of whatever is strange. Within a few months thesettlers had concluded a treaty with Massasoit, thegreat overlord of the region. And Samoset, who hadlearned a little English from traders, soon presentedhimself with his friendly greeting: “Welcome, Englishmen,welcome.” And Squanto, from the first, wastheir faithful interpreter. The remnants of the Capetribes, the Cummaquids, the Nausets, and Pamets,scattered among their little settlements from Sandwichto Truro—Mashpee, Sacuton, Cummaquid,Mattacheesett, Nobscusset, Monomoyick, Sequautucket,Nauset, and Pamet—were, save the Nausetspossibly, a singularly gentle race. Nor were the Nausets,when it was well within their power once, disposedto take vengeance upon a boy.
In July, 1621, young John Billington set out fromPlymouth to do some independent exploring; nor wasthis the first escapade of the Billington family. Backthere at Provincetown, one morning, John’s brotherFrancis was like to have blown up the Mayflower byfiring off a fowling-piece in the cabin where there wasan open keg of powder. “By God’s mercy, no harmwas done.” The Billingtons seem to have been amongthe undesirables of the Mayflower: the father “Iknow not by what friends shuffled into our company,”Bradford writes of him. And later, in 1630, the man[Pg 49]was hanged for murder. But the settlers were notmen to leave young John to his fate; yet search asthey would, they could find no trace of him untilIndians brought in rumors of a white lad roamingabout the Cape. Ten men, with two Indians as interpreters,set sail for Barnstable Bay, and asked newsof the boy from some natives catching lobsters there.Yes, such a boy was known to be with the Nausets,and the company was invited to land. They were welcomedby Iyanough, sachem of the Cummaquids, “aman,” wrote Edward Winslow of him, “not exceedingtwenty-six years of age, but very personable, gentle,courteous and fair-conditioned; indeed, not like asavage except in his attire. His entertainment wasanswerable to his parts, and his cheer plentiful andvarious.” And here at Cummaquid they saw a woman,upwards of a hundred years old, who was mother ofthree of Hunt’s victims and bewailed the loss of hersons so piteously that the visitors sought to comforther not only with futile words, but with a gift of“some small trifles which somewhat appeased her.”And after partaking of the “plentiful and variouscheer,” they set out again, with Iyanough himself andtwo of his men as a guard of honor, and groundedtheir boat near the Nauset shore. But they did notland, and after some cautious interchange of civilities,Aspinet, the sachem there, brought the boy, whom he“had bedecked like a salvage,” and “behung withbeads,” out to their boat. And through Aspinet, thePlymouth men arranged to pay for the seed corn theyhad taken from his cache on Corn Hill in the previous[Pg 50]November. Returning with Iyanough to Cummaquid,there was further “entertainment”: the women andchildren joined hands in a dance before them; Iyanoughhimself led the way through the darkness to a springwhere they might fill their water cask; he hung his ownnecklace about the neck of an Englishman. And theparty set out for home with due reciprocation of courtesy,but were hindered by tide and wind, and againreturned, and again were welcomed by the natives.Truly, a fine adventure for young John Billington.
This expedition seems to have cemented a friendlyunderstanding with the Cape Indians. In November,when the Fortune was sighted off the Cape and theIndians feared she might be a hostile French ship,they warned Plymouth in time for the townsmen toprepare for possible attack. And the natives werealways ready to supplement the settlers’ scanty stockof food, which, but for them, would have had no othervariety than game from the forest and fish from thesea. Not that the pious were unmindful of such mercies.“Thanks to God who has given us to suck ofthe abundance of the seas and of treasure hid in thesands,” was the grace said over a dish of clams towhich a neighbor had been invited. But for the fruitsof the earth they were chiefly dependent upon thesavages. “The cheapest corn they planted at firstwas Indian grain, before they had ploughs,” runs therecord. “And let no man make a jest at pumpkins, forwith this food the Lord was pleased to feed his peopleto their good content till corn and cattle wereincreased.”
“We have pumpkins at morning, and pumpkins at noon.
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undone.”
The first harvest was not sufficient for the winter’sneed, and in November a company under WilliamBradford set out in the Swan—a boat lent by theirneighbors of Weymouth, who had had no small sharein depleting their supplies—for a coasting triparound the Cape to trade knives and beads for corn.With them was their interpreter Squanto; and thiswas to prove poor Squanto’s last voyage, for atMonomoyick (Chatham) he was taken ill and died.At Monomoyick eight hogsheads of corn and beanswere stowed away on the Swan; at Mattacheesett(Barnstable or Yarmouth) and Nauset an additionalsupply was had. But at Nauset, where a few men hadrun in shore in the shallop, their boat was wrecked,and caching the stores, the party procured a guideand set out overland for Plymouth, while their companionsin the Swan proceeded by sea. In JanuaryStandish took the lead in another expedition by boat,recovered and repaired the wrecked shallop at Nauset,brusquely demanded restitution of the Indiansfor “some trifles” he charged them with stealing,and then and afterwards at Mattacheesett where hemade a like charge, received the articles and ampleapology from their chiefs.
All visitors to these shores seem to be agreed onthe thievish propensities of the natives: Gosnold’schronicler remarks that they are “more timerous”than those to the north, but thievish; Champlainthought them of “good disposition, better than those[Pg 52]of the north, but they are all in fact of no greatworth. They are great thieves and if they cannot layhold of anything with their hands, they try to do sowith their feet.” He adds, charitably: “I am of opinionthat if they had anything to exchange with us,they would not give themselves to thieving.” Thefact seems to have been that these children of naturecould not resist the lure of any unguarded bits oftreasure; but Miles Standish was not the man toenter into psychological elucidations of behavior,and at Mattacheesett, as at Nauset, he suspected thenatives of treachery as well as thieving, and keptstrict watch while they filled his shallop with grain.
In the following month, March, he had still morereason, he thought, to question the friendly intentionof the chief Canacum at Manomet, or Bourne, who,however, one bitter cold night had suitably entertainedBradford’s party and sold them the corn whichStandish had come to fetch. Standish’s suspicionsincreased to certainty when two Massachusetts Indiansjoined the company and one of them began atirade to Canacum which afterwards was known to bea complaint of outrages committed by the English atWeymouth and a plea to cut off Standish and his handfulof men. Winslow writes that there was also “alusty Indian of Pawmet, or Cape Cod, there present,who had ever demeaned himself well towards us,being in his general carriage very affable, courteous,and loving, especially towards the captain.” But“this savage was now entered into confederacy withthe rest, yet to avoid suspicion, made many signs of[Pg 53]his continued affection, and would needs bestow akettle of some six or eight gallons on him, and wouldnot accept anything in lieu thereof, saying he wasrich, and could afford to bestow such favors on hisfriends whom he loved.” Now a kettle was one of anIndian’s most precious possessions, and very likelythe Pamet, when he heard the treachery afoot, offeredit merely as an extravagant pledge of friendship; butwhen he demeaned himself to help the women whomStandish had bribed to load his cargo, the captainmerely saw there another proof of perfidy. The Englishmenspent an anxious night in their bivouac onthe beach; but when morning broke embarked safely,and with their corn made the return trip to Plymouth.
Whether or not incited thereto by intolerablewrongs, Indians of the mainland had begun to maketrouble, and information now came to the Pilgrims,through their ally, Massasoit, of a plot against thewhites in which not only Indians near Weymouth,but some of the Cape Indians, were said to be implicated.Weston’s colony of adventurers there hadfrom the first been a thorn in the side of Plymouth;but when one of the Weymouth men, eluding theIndians, made his way across country to report thedangerous conditions there Standish waited not uponthe order of his going. With eight whites and an Indianguide, he set sail for Weymouth, where he seemsto have met with little resistance, and having slain adue number of the savages, returned to Plymouthwith the head of their chief, Wittaumet, “a notableinsulting villain,” as a trophy. Very likely thereby a[Pg 54]serious rising of the natives was averted. To Wittaumet’smen a white was a white; it was all one to themwhether he were blameless Pilgrim or Merrymountroyster; and as for the Patuxets and Pamets and Nausets,we know they had old scores to settle. It is true,moreover, that any long contact of Indians andwhites was fairly sure to end in a quarrel and bloodletting.And if the purpose of Standish’s expeditionwas to create terror, it was a success. Natives of theseacoast, whom the plague had spared, innocent andguilty, fled to the swamps and waste places, wheredisease attacked them more effectually than the Englishcould have done, and many of them died; amongthem Canacum of Manomet, Aspinet of the Nausets,and even the “princely” Iyanough, who seems to havebeen blameless in intention and act. More than twohundred and fifty years later, the bones of a chiefwere discovered near a swamp in East Barnstable,and, believed to be those of Iyanough, were encasedsuitably and placed in Pilgrim Hall near relics ofMiles Standish who had as surely done him to deathas if slain by his hand. The name of Iyanough is preservedin that of the modern town of Hyannis.
How much fault in all this deplorable business maybe charged to Miles Standish, one may not say. Hewas not a “Pilgrim,” nor of their faith, but from thefirst, on account of his experience and skill, had beenchosen for their military leader. Hubbard writes ofhim: “A little chimney is soon fired; so was the Plymouthcaptain, a man of small stature, yet of a veryhot and angry temper.” And when wise John Robinson,[Pg 55]at Leyden, heard of Standish’s bloody reprisals,he wrote the brethren at Plymouth that he “trustedthe Lord had sent him among them for good, butfeared he was wanting in that tenderness of the lifeof man, made after God’s image, which was meet; andthought it would have been better if they had convertedsome before they killed any.”
Whether just or not, the summary punishmentdealt out by Standish all but destroyed the natives’confidence in the whites; and as such a situation wasparticularly bad for trade, the whites, too, got theirreward. Yet the Indians, when occasion offered, wereready to be kind. In December, 1626, the ship Sparrowhawk,London to Virginia, as far out of her reckoningas the Mayflower had been, bumped over theshoals of Monomoyick and grounded on the flats. Hermaster was ill, crew and passengers knew not wherethey were, and being out of “wood, water, and beer,”had run her, head on, for the first land that hove insight. Night was falling, and as canoes made out fromthe shore, “they stood on their guard.” But the Indiansgave them a friendly hail, asked if they were “thegovernor of Plymouth’s men,” offered to carry lettersto Plymouth, and supplied their needs of the moment.Plymouth duly notified, the Governor led out a reliefexpedition, and, it being no season to round the Cape,landed at Namskaket, a creek between Brewster andOrleans, “whence it was not much above two milesacross the Cape to the bay where the ship lay. TheIndians carried the things we brought overland to theship.” The Governor bought corn from the natives for[Pg 57]the strangers, loaded more for his own use, and returnedto Plymouth. But hardly was he there than asecond message came that the ship, fitted out to proceed,had been shattered by a great storm; and the upshotwas that the travellers, bag and baggage, came toPlymouth and visited there until the spring. The regionof the wreck was called “Old Ship Harbor,” menhad forgotten why until, two hundred and thirty-sevenyears later, shifting sands disclosed the hull ofthe Sparrowhawk. And at another time the natives hadopportunity to show their good-will when RichardGarratt and his company from Boston, which wasrival of Plymouth for the native corn supply, were castaway on the Cape in a bitter winter storm; and allwould have perished there had it not been for thesavages who decently buried the dead, though theground was frozen deep, and, having nursed the survivorsback to life, guided them to Plymouth.
Plymouth trade, not Only with the mother country,but with other colonies, grew apace. As early as 1627,in order to facilitate communication to the southwardwith the Indians and with the Dutch settlement onthe Hudson, the Pilgrims may be said to have madethe first move toward a Cape Cod Canal. “To avoidthe compassing of Cape Cod and those dangerousshoals,” wrote Bradford, “and so to make any voyageto the southward in much shorter time and withless danger,” they established a trading post with afarm to support it, and built a pinnace, at Manometon the river flowing into Buzzard’s Bay. Their routelay by boat from Plymouth to Scusset Harbor, where[Pg 58]they landed their goods for a portage overland ofthree or four miles to the navigable waters of theriver and the coasting vessel there. And in Septemberof that same year, Isaac de Rasieres, secretary ofthe Dutch Government at New Amsterdam, landedat Manomet with sugar, stuffs, and other commodities,and was duly convoyed to Plymouth in a vesselsent out by the Governor for such purpose. De Rasieresentered Plymouth in state, “honorably attendedby the noise of his trumpeters,” and wrote afine account of the town which is preserved for ourinterest.
The colony, by 1637, had grown to comprise thetowns of Plymouth, Duxbury, and Scituate; in no longtime it included the present counties of Plymouth,Bristol, and Barnstable, and a bit of Rhode Island.Traders, fishermen, an adventurer now and again hadvisited the Cape, even a few settlers, unauthorized byPlymouth, had broken ground there; but up to 1637its early history is indissolubly bound up with that ofPlymouth. In April of that year the first settlement wasorganized at Sandwich when certain men of Saugus,who were of a broader mind than their neighbors ofMassachusetts Bay, wished to emigrate to the milderrule of Plymouth. Under due restrictions, they weregranted the privilege to “view a place to sit down, andhave sufficient land for three score families.” Theychose Sandwich. And with the first ten of Saugus camefifty others of Saugus and Duxbury and Plymouth.All was duly regulated; and two men who were foundclearing ground without permission, and without[Pg 59]having fetched their families, were charged with “disorderlykeeping house alone.” If the Saugus men expecteda free hand in their new home, they were tobe undeceived: the chief ordering of their affairs wasfrom Plymouth, and in 1638 certain prominent townsmenwere fined as “being deficient in arms” and fornot having their swine ringed. It was the law of thecolony “that no persons shall be allowed to becomehousekeepers until they are completely provided witharms and ammunition; nor shall any be allowedto become housekeepers, or to build any cottage ordwelling, without permission from the governor andassistants.” Rightly, no doubt, Plymouth meant toavoid the danger of any such disorderly element ashad infested Weymouth.
In March John Alden and Miles Standish were directedto go to Sandwich, “with all convenient speed,and set forth the bounds of the land granted there.”In October Thomas Prince and again Miles Standishwere appointed to pass upon questions affecting landtenure. Complaint, however, seems to have been thennot so much in regard to the division of land as to certainmembers of the community who were deemed“unfit for church society.” And for the adjustmentof future dangers, “evils or discords that may happenin the disposal of lands or other occasions within thetown,” it was agreed that some one of the Governor’sCouncil should sit, in an advisory capacity, with thetown committee to determine who should be permittedto hold land. John Alden and Miles Standish servedmany times as such advisers; in 1650 Standish received[Pg 60]a tract of some forty acres for his trouble insettling land disputes. It is interesting that Freeman,historian of Cape Cod, claims Priscilla Mullins forBarnstable, and allows us to suppose that the visitsthere of Alden and Standish led to the acquaintancethat ended in the discomfiture of Standish, andto the particular glory of Priscilla, with her thrust:“Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” Anotherlove story is told by Amos Otis, in his “BarnstableFamilies,” of Thomas Hatch, who was among the firstlandowners in Yarmouth and Barnstable, a widowerand rival with another for the hand of a neighbor’sdaughter. All three were expert reapers, and Graceagreed to marry the man who should worst her in thefield. Three equal portions were set off and the contestbegan; but when Grace saw that she was likelyto come out ahead, with Thomas a bad third, she slylycut over into his plot; and he, fired by such encouragement,justified her favor.
The system of government and land tenure in thelater settlements were patterned after Plymouth:there were individual holdings of land and commonlands which from time to time were apportioned tothe townsmen, not only in accord with “necessity andability,” but “estate and quality”: fertile ground, onemight guess, for difference of opinion. By 1651, atSandwich, “the conditions on which the grant of thetownship was made having been fulfilled, a deed ofthe plantation was executed by Governor Bradford toMr. Edmund Freeman, who made conveyance to hisassociates,” a process which resembled the taking over[Pg 61]of Plymouth from the Merchant Adventurers ofLondon.
Within a few years, on the general conditions ofsettlement granted to Sandwich, the four originaltownships of the Cape came into being. Scatteringcolonists had broken the ground. In 1638 “liberty wasgranted to Stephen Hopkins [one of the Mayflowermen] to erect a house at Mattacheese and cut haythere this year to winter his cattle—provided, however,that it be not to withdraw him from the townof Plymouth.” Two other men were granted a likeprivilege. The rich salt meadows of the Cape werecoveted by Plymouth for cattle, which seem to havebeen brought over from England first by EdwardWinslow in a voyage made in 1624; and it was notuncommon later for cattle to be sent out to the colonyas a speculation, for one half the profits of theirincrease.
In the early winter of 1637-38 an attempt at settlementwas made in a portion of Barnstable known as“Old Town,” by one Stephen Batchelor, who for sometwenty years was a stormy petrel among the clergyof New England. In 1632, at the age of seventy-one,lured no doubt by the hope of freedom—there werenot lacking those who accused him of license—hehad arrived in Boston and went on to Lynn, where hewas soon in trouble with the authorities. “The cause,”writes Governor Winthrop, “was for that comingout from England with a small body of six or sevenpersons, and having since received in many more atSaugus”—in short, his flavor of liberalism did not[Pg 62]please the elders, and after a long wrangle, upon his“promise to remove out of town within three monthshe was discharged.” It is said that among the settlersat Sandwich were some relatives of his little flock;and whether for that reason or not, in the bitter coldof an early winter, he led them, on foot, the wearyhundred miles from Lynn to Mattacheesett. But thesettlement, rashly undertaken, was not a success, andin the spring Batchelor was off to Newbury. Thencehe went to Hampton and Exeter, and at eighty wasformally excommunicated by the Puritans. His lifehere had been “one constant scene of turbulence, disappointment,discipline and accusation,” and homeagain in England, in peace we may hope at the last,he died at the age of ninety.
In 1639 came the formal permission to settle Yarmouth.Stephen Hopkins’s farm was incorporated inthe new settlement, and the group of undertakerswas headed by Anthony Thacher, who four yearspreviously had been cast away on Thacher’s Island,Cape Ann, in a memorable storm. His children wereamong those lost; but he and his wife, and, quaintly,a covering of embroidered scarlet broadcloth that isstill an heirloom in the family, were saved. Thacherhad been a curate of Saint Edmund’s, Salisbury, andafter his tragic entry into the country, had settledfirst at Newbury and then at Marblehead.
In the early part of 1639 lands in Barnstable weregranted by Plymouth on the usual terms; and inOctober of that year some twenty-five families, underthe leadership of the Reverend John Lothrop, came[Pg 63]there from Scituate that had become “too straite fortheir accommodation,” a phrase which meant probablythat in the growing settlement grazing land wasbecoming restricted. Lothrop was of notable personality.A man of Christ Church, Cambridge, he had takenAnglican orders and then had gone over to the Independentsand had become the second pastor of theirchurch in London. After eight years there, he andfifty of his congregation were arrested and imprisonedfor two years; but in 1634, in company with some ofhis former parishioners, he came to New England onthe same ship, as it chanced, with the famous AnneHutchinson, whose chief offence, in the days beforepersecution swung her mind awry, seems to have beena disconcerting personal charm. It is reasonable tosuppose that Mr. Lothrop may not have enjoyed hislong voyage the less by reason of such a fellow-traveller.In December, 1639, there was held at Barnstable,the first thanksgiving service, which resembled anearlier celebration of the same congregation at Scituate,when after prayer and praise, so Mr. Lothrop informsus, there was “then making merry to the creatures.”At Barnstable, likewise, “the creatures” wereenjoyed when the congregation divided into “threecompanies to feast together, some at Mr. Hull’s, someat Mr. Mayo’s, and some at Brother Lumbard,senior’s.” Lothrop was a man of vigorous mind, withsome worldly wisdom as befitted a pioneer, “prudentand discreet”; he was learned, tolerant, kindly, typicalof the early leaders in town affairs. It was those ofthe second and third generation, when the fires of[Pg 64]consecration had burned low and the influence ofMassachusetts Bay was potent, who baited theirheretics; and then men said of old Elder Dimmockof Barnstable that he kept to the teachings of his belovedpastor, John Lothrop, and “if his neighbor wasan Anabaptist, or a Quaker, he did not judge him,because he held that to be a prerogative of Deitywhich man had no right to assume.” Lothrop’s churchmembers needed to sign no creed or confession offaith: they professed belief in God and promised theirendeavor to keep His commands, to live a pure life,and to walk in love with their brothers.
Lothrop’s ministry at Barnstable had its smallerdifficulties that are not peculiar to his time. Of ajealous, backbiting woman he writes: “Wee had longpatience towards her, and used all courteous intreatyesand persuations; but the longer wee waited, theworse she was.” The woman, “as confidently as if shehad a spirit of Revelation,” kept to her slanders:“Mrs. Dimmock was proud, and went about tellinglies,” so did Mrs. Wells; and Mr. Lothrop and ElderCobb “did talk of her” when they went to see Mr.Huckins. At their wits’ end to stop her slanders, theyvery likely held counsel regarding her. She was “perremtoryein all her carriages,” the harried parson affirms,and finally, in 1649, milder measures exhausted,she was excommunicated. Another trouble-maker hadcome with the first settlers from Scituate. He hadthe training of a gentleman and knew some Latin, weare informed, but was a vulgar creature and obstreperousof manner. He, too, was excommunicated, among[Pg 65]the lesser reasons given therefor that he was “muchgiven to Idleness, and too much jearing,” and “observedalsoe by some to bee somewhat proud.” Lothrop,in his record, adds that William Caseley “tookit patiently,” which, belike, was but another manifestationof William Caseley’s arrogance.
Lothrop kept in touch with affairs across the water;and on March 4, 1652, appointed a day of “thanksgivingfor the Lord’s powerful working for Old Englandby Oliver Cromwell and his army, against theScots.” He loved his books, and by his will, in 1653,gave one to each child in the village, and directed thatthe remainder be sold “to any honest man who couldtell how to use it.” His house is still used for a library.
Another bequest of public import was that of AndrewHallett, of Yarmouth, first of the name, who lefta heifer and her progeny, from year to year, to theuse of the most needy in the town, no mean loan at atime when a cow was worth a farmstead. Hallett, inthe precise classification of the day, was rated amongthe few “gentlemen.” He speculated in land as didthe best of his neighbors, from parson to cobbler, andwas no stranger to contests at law. His son Andrew,though a gentleman’s son, did not learn to write untilhe came to Yarmouth. He bought of Gyles Hopkins ahouse which without doubt was that built by Stephenin 1638, the first built here by whites—a poor thing,very likely: for it was said that some of the Indianwigwams were more comfortable than many housesbuilt by the English. But in no long time Hallett wasbuilding another house more in keeping with his estate;[Pg 66]and of one of his descendants in the mid-eighteen hundredsthe gracious memory was preserved that hedelighted in keeping “great fires on his hearth.” AndrewHallett, the younger, unlike his father, seemsto have kept clear of legal entanglements, and thougha member of the Yarmouth church, preferred at timesto sit under the gentler teaching of Mr. Lothrop ofBarnstable.
The Reverend Marmaduke Matthews, first ministerof Yarmouth, was a fiery Welshman, witty, butindiscreet in his speech, who kept his parish in hotwater for the six years of his tenure. He quarrelledwith the constable; again, four of his opponents werehaled before the court as “scoffers and jeerers at religionand making disorders at town meeting,” andwere acquitted. Some schismatics tried to form a newsociety under Mr. Hull, who had been supplanted inthe Barnstable church by Mr. Lothrop, but was stilla member thereof; whereupon, perplexingly, Barnstableexcommunicated him for “wilfully breaking hiscommunion with us, and joining a company in Yarmouthto be their pastor contrary to the counsel andadvice of our church.” Hull made an “acknowledgmentof sin,” was reinstated, but soon after went toDover. Lothrop was now supreme at Barnstable, butYarmouth was not at peace, and under Matthews’ssuccessor, John Miller, another Cambridge man, matterscame to the pass of calling a council of conciliationdrawn from the distinguished clergy of the two colonies—JohnEliot of Roxbury among them—to passupon these ecclesiastical difficulties.
In 1644 came the settlement of Eastham: indeed,there had been some talk of transferring the seat ofgovernment thither. There had been growing dissatisfactionwith Plymouth; some said that they “hadpitched upon a spot whose soil was poor and barren,”and Nauset had long been known to them as agranary whence they drew many of their supplies. Onfurther reflection the place was judged too crampedand too out of the way for a capital town; but sevenfamilies of Plymouth adhering to their wish to removethere, land was purchased from the Indians, and agrant was made to them of “all the tract of land lyingbetween sea and sea, from the purchasers’ boundsat Namskaket to the herring brook at Billingsgate,with the said herring brook and all the meadows onboth sides the said brook, with the great bass-pondthere, and all the meadows and islands lying withinsaid tract.” Among the men coming to Eastham wasThomas Prince, who had come over in the Fortune,and married for his first wife the daughter of ElderBrewster. Prince took up a farm of two hundred acres,that ran from sea to bay, and later when he was electedGovernor a dispensation was made in his case, as thelaw held that the Governor should be a resident ofPlymouth. In 1665, however, public affairs forced himto return to the capital, but he still held his Easthamfarm. Those who knew Prince testified that “he wasa terror to evil-doers, and he encouraged all thatdid well.” Among “evil-doers” there is reason to believehe included men of other theological views thanhis own. But the colony elected him three times its[Pg 68]governor, and the Plymouth Church set the seal ofits approval on his administration. “He was excellentlyqualified for the office of Governor. He had acountenance full of majesty.”
Here, then, were the original four townships, extendingfrom Buzzard’s Bay to the Province Lands;and it is particularly fortunate, no doubt, that thesesettlements sufficiently isolated the Indian communitiesof the Cape before the great conflagration ofKing Philip’s War, when any concentration of firethere would have been a troublesome matter for thecolonists to handle. In 1685, when the colony wasdivided into its three counties, four more villages—Falmouth,Harwich, Truro, and Chatham—arementioned, but not until some years later were theyset off and incorporated as towns. Later still Dennis,Brewster, Orleans, and Wellfleet were divided fromthe mother townships, and in 1727 the ProvinceLands at the tip of the Cape were incorporated asProvincetown, with certain peculiar rights thereinreserved to the Government.
The setting-off of Brewster, previously the NorthParish of Harwich, in 1803, led to an amusing complicationthat illustrates the fine stiff-necked obstinacyof these men of “the bull-dog breed.” A battle royalwas waged between those who did and those who didnot advocate the division; and finally the best possiblecompromise to be had was that he who wouldnot budge from his old allegiance should be permittedhis citizenship there, though his estate should lie inthe new. Harwich was divided; in the process the[Pg 69]new town was splashed with angry patches of the old,and more than one conservative of the North Parishfound his freehold tied to the mother town only by aribbon of winding road. Such a one looked from hiswindows across jewelled marshes to the alien watersof the bay; and on election day, turning his back onhome, crossed the trig waist of the Cape, and cast hisballot in the town set on the sandy inlets of the sea.
The general grounds of contention, ecclesiastical andpolitical,—questions of land tenure and fishing rights,the division and government of parishes,—remainedfor the children and grandchildren of the first settlers.It was not that they were a quarrelsome people, but,rather, that they had a healthy, vivid, proprietaryinterest in the civic and religious development of theircommon life. Every man in a town had his criticismfor each act of the General Court, for the managementof his neighbor, and the religious slant of his minister;every man expressed his personal view of thegeneral comity in no uncertain words, with a resultthat sometimes presented a picture of confusion whenit was in reality no more than the process of boilingdown to a good residuum. Nor has this early spiritdied. The strongly protestant temper of the PilgrimFathers has survived in their descendants; even to-dayif one alien to the community penetrates beneaththe tranquil surface of things commotion may be discovered.And from time to time, one may venture tosuppose, a spirit of joyful wrangling has swung through[Pg 70]this town or that when the pugnacious Briton hascropped out in men finer tuned by a more stimulatingatmosphere, who waged the combat not always forrighteousness’ sake, but for pure pleasure of pitchinginto the other fellow.
In the early days, at any rate, there was some scopefor the talent of an arbiter, and in the ReverendThomas Walley who, after a stormy interval of tenyears, followed Mr. Lothrop in the pastorate of Barnstable,his people had cause for gratitude as “theLord was pleased to make him a blessed peacemakerand improve him in the work of his house.” In 1669Mr. Walley carried his peacemaking farther afield,and preached before the General Court a sermon entitled“Balm of Gilead to Heal Zion’s Wounds.”Among other wounds were listed the “burning feveror fires of contention in towns and churches.” Occasionallyoutside powers took a hand in these difficultiesand the Boston clergy were called into council.And shortly after the incumbency of Walley, when oneMr. Bowles seems to have officiated at Barnstable fora time, John Cotton wrote thus to Governor Hinckleyat Plymouth: “This last week came such uncomfortabletidings from Barnstable hither, that I knewnot how to satisfy myself without troubling you witha few lines.... It does indeed appear strange withmen wiser than myself that such discouragementsshould attend Mr. Bowles.... I need tell you, worthysir, that it is a dying time with preachers ... andthere is great likelihood of scarcity of ministers.” Andso on, in favor of Mr. Bowles.
Schism, pure and simple, sometimes clove a churchasunder, and the dissenters, under the man of theirchoice, retired to form a new parish; but natural divisioncame about as a settlement spread to the moreremote parts of a township. Such a group might remaina subdivision “within the liberties” of themother town, but as frequently the younger parishbecame the nucleus of a growing settlement that might,in turn, be duly incorporated as a town. Nor was theprocess likely to be consummated without some heartburning.In 1700 the Reverend Jonathan Russell ofBarnstable sent a tart communication to the townmeeting that had divided his parish and desired hispleasure as to a choice of churches. “On divers accounts,”wrote Mr. Russell, “it seems most naturalfor me to abide in the premises where I now am; yetsince there is such a number who are so prejudiced ordisaffected or so sett against my being there”—inshort, being a wise man, he elected peace and chose“the Western Settlement if it may by any meanscomfortably be obtained.” And Mr. Russell took occasionto remind the parish that he should requiresome provision for “firewood or an Equivalent, havingformerly, on first settlement, been encouragedby principal Inhabitants to expect it.”
These early clergymen were usually Cambridge orOxford men, the liberals of their time, sure to standfor the encouragement of learning among the simplepeople with whom they had cast their lot. And whetheror not by their influence, the sons of those who had settheir names to the Compact were ready in 1670 to[Pg 72]make some provision for schools. Looking about fora source of revenue, they perceived that “the Providenceof God hath made Cape Cod commodious tous for fishing with seines,” and thus encouraged theGeneral Court passed an act that taxed the fishing,and, further, contained the germ of our public schoolsystem: “All such profits as may and shall accrue annuallyto the colony from fishing with nets or seinesat Cape Cod for mackerel, bass, or herring to be improvedfor and towards a free school in some townin this jurisdiction, for the training up of youth inliterature for the good and benefit of posterity.” Andthe colony continued its work by requiring that childrenshould be taught “duely to read the Scriptures,the knowledge of the capital laws, and the main principlesof religion necessary for salvation.” Idlenesswas punished as a vice; wilful ignorance was anoffence against “the safety and dignity of thecommonwealth.” Read into the simple precepts whatmodern interpretations you will, and one finds theelements necessary for training the citizens of astate to be justly governed by the consent of thegoverned.
Less significant laws reached out to regulate the personallife of the people: a talebearer was liable to penalty;a liar, a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker, a profaneman might be whipped, branded, imprisoned, or putin the stocks. It cost Nehemiah Besse five shillings to“drink tobacco at the meeting-house in Sandwich onthe Lord’s day.” For the man taken in adultery therewas a heavy fine and whipping; the woman must[Pg 73]wear her “scarlet letter,” and for any evasion thedevice should be “burned in her face.” And to curbthe spirit of “divers persons, unfit for marriage, bothin regard to their years and also their weak estate,”it was decreed that “if any man make motion of marriageto any man’s daughter or maid without first obtainingleave of her parents, guardian or master, heshall be punished by fine not exceeding five pounds,or by corporal punishment, or both at the discretionof the court.” As a sequence, it is written that a Barnstableyouth was placed under bonds “not to attemptto gain the affections” of Elizabeth, daughter ofGovernor Prince. In Eastham a man was mulcted apound for lying about a whale; elsewhere one paidfive pounds for pretending to have a cure for scurvy.Men were had up for profiteering when beer was soldat two shillings a quart which was worth one, andboots and spurs which cost but ten shillings were soldfor fifteen. Certain leading citizens were licensed to“draw wine”: Thomas Lumbert at Barnstable, andHenry Cobb; Anthony Thacher at Yarmouth; at SandwichMr. Bodfish, and “when he is without, it shall belawful for William Newlands to sell wine to personsfor their need.” Constructive work was done in the wayof building roads and bridges, for which Plymouth waswilling the towns should pay; and a committee of thefour Cape towns was appointed to draw therefrom, forsuch funds, “the oil of the country.” Representativegovernment in the growing colony was practically coincidentwith the incorporation of the Cape towns,which sent representatives to the General Court and[Pg 74]had local tribunals to settle disputes not “exceedingtwenty shillings.”
The people neither had nor needed sumptuary laws:gentle and simple, they dressed in homespun. As lateas 1768 a letter from Barnstable tells of the visit ofsome ladies “dressed all in homespun, even to theirhandkerchiefs and gloves, and not so much as a ribbonon their heads. They were entertained with LabradorTea; all innocently cheerful and merry.” Menworked hard, and “lived” well: wild fowl and venison,fish in their variety throughout the year were to behad for the taking; and the farmers had homely farea-plenty—seasoned bean broth for dinner, an Indianpudding, pork, beef, poultry. It was a life meagre,perhaps, in the picture of it, but all deep concernswere there—love, loyalty, birth, death, a convictionof personal responsibility for what should follow—andthe whole web of it was shot through witha rich, racy humor. They could be neither driven noreasily led, these people; and justice they meant toexact and cause to be done. In the old time theirfathers had turned misfortune to the profit of theirsouls, and in the new country the natural energy ofthe children led them to succeed in what they mightundertake.
The Independents were men who, if they had notloved many luxuries, had loved one with a consumingzeal; and it was perhaps excusable that those of thesecond generation should dole out with a more sparinghand the freedom that had been purchased at so greata price. Yet were they, again, for their time, liberals;[Pg 75]and it seems to have been true that the prospect ofuniversal salvation brightened in proportion to the distancefrom Salem and Boston. Plymouth, at any rate,even in its “dark age,” between 1657 and 1671, was abad second to Massachusetts Bay when it came to thepersecution of heretics or witchcraft hysteria, althoughfor the latter there might be people here andthere who indulged themselves, without fear of molestation,in playing with the idea of magic.
There is a story of Captain Sylvanus Rich, of Truro,who, shortly before getting under weigh in a NorthCarolina port, bought from an old woman a pail ofmilk, and no sooner was he at sea than the ship was asif storm-bedevilled. The hag who had sold him themilk, declared Captain Rich, had bewitched him andhis craft. Every night, he told his mates, she saddledand bridled him and drove him up hill and down in theHighlands of Truro. Far out of their course, they swepton to the Grand Banks and were like never to makeport, when, by good luck, they fell in with a vesselcommanded by the captain’s son who supplied theirneeds and as effectually broke the spell of the witch.
James Hathaway of Yarmouth was a stanch believerin “witchcraft and other strange fantasies”;but Hathaway was no puling mystic, and lived outninety-five hale, hearty, vigorous years. A kinsmanof his could give proof of the family strength by pickingup a rum barrel in his own tavern and drinkingfrom the bung; and the family eccentricity he evidencedby quietly dropping out of sight to save himselfthe trouble of defending a suit brought against[Pg 76]him for embezzlement by a sister, and as quietly,after an interval of twenty-one years, returning to hiswife and home. It had been thought he was drowned inthe bay and to no avail “guns were fired, sweeps weredragged, and oil poured on the waters.” This samesister was a clever, well-read, witty creature, who marriedwell, and for many years “associated with theintelligent, the gay and the fashionable.” She contributedto her popularity in the drawing-rooms ofBoston and Marblehead by recounting with a livelytongue stories of witches she had seen and known,their tricks, their strange transformations. To the end,she vowed, she was a firm believer in witchcraft.
At Barnstable, one Liza Towerhill, so called becauseher husband came from that region of London, wasreputed to be a witch, able at will to transform herselfinto a cat, and having constant commerce with thedevil even though to the casual eye she were industrious,hardworking, and pious.
The colony does not have so clean a slate in respectof the persecution of Quakers. As early as 1656 thetrouble began at Massachusetts Bay; but Plymouthlagged in the enactment of prohibitive laws againstheretics, the execution of which, in the end, weremore often than not evaded. Yet Plymouth haddrifted far from the teachings of old John Robinson,who had charged his flock to keep an open mind“ready to receive whatever truth shall be madeknown to you.” The First Comers, who had heardand followed his words, were succeeded by men lesswell disciplined in mind and spirit, who were the[Pg 77]more inclined to the strait doctrine of MassachusettsBay. Then Rhode Island, under Roger Williams, becamethe citadel of tolerance; but Quakers, exiledfrom the north, continued to stream into the colony,to the no small discomfiture of its officers. The visitors,maddened by their wrongs, were not too courteouswith those of high estate, and Winslow, particularly,was irritated by their demeanor, “sometimesstarting up and smiting the table with a stick, thenwith his hand, then stamping with his foot, saying hecould not bear it.” “Let them have the strapado!”cried he. Norton, arraigned by the General Court, had,in his turn, arraigned the Governor, whose “countenancefull of majesty” in this instance, at least,availed him nothing. “Thomas, thou liest,” cried theQuaker. “Prince, thou art a malicious man.”
But, for the most part, the Quakers did no morethan describe, in Biblical terms as was the custom ofthe day, the soul-state of their persecutors. They hadbeen bred Puritans, and spoke the Puritan language.If Mary Prince called Endicott, as he passed her Bostonprison, “vile oppressor and tyrant,” she spokethe truth mildly. “There is but one god, and you donot worship that god which we worship,” fulminatedJuggins, the magistrate, in the trial of Lydia Wright.“I believe thou speakest truth,” returned the accusedcalmly. “For if you worshipped that God which weworship, you would not persecute His people.” “Takeher away!” cried the court. “Away with him, awaywith him,” had been the only recourse left an earliertribunal.
It was natural that the seemly magistrates of Plymouthobjected to these new citizens who, when summoned“for not taking the oath of fidelity to thegovernment,” announced that they “held it unlawfulto take the oath”; and they flatly refused to paytithes for the support of a clergy they despised. Norwere they without sympathizers in that contention.“The law enacted about ministers’ maintenance wasa wicked and devilish law,” declared Doctor Fuller,of Barnstable. “The devil sat at the stern when it wasenacted.” And for his vehemence, though a true believer,he was fined fifty shillings by the GeneralCourt, which at the same term had the even mind toelect him, for his ability, one of the war council, andlater to appoint him surgeon-general of the colony’stroops.
Quakers held parsons in light esteem, yet not one ofthe Cape clergy could have conceived such a plan asCotton Mather, in 1682, spread before Higginson ofSalem. “There be now at sea a skipper,” wrote he,“which has aboard a hundred or more of ye hereticsand malignants called Quakers, with William Penn,who is ye scamp at ye head of them.” Mather wenton to recount that secret orders had gone out to waylaythe ship “as near ye coast of Codde as may beand make captives of ye Penn and his ungodly crew,so that ye Lord may be glorified, and not mocked onye soil of this new country with ye heathen worshipof these people.” Then the astounding proposition:“Much spoil can be made by selling ye whole lot toBarbadoes, where slaves fetch good prices in rumme[Pg 79]and sugar. We shall not only do ye Lord great serviceby punishing the Wicked, but shall make gayne for hisministers and people.” The precious scheme somehowmiscarried, the threatened engagement off“Codde” did not take place, and Philadelphia wasfounded.
When the Quakers Holden and Copeland, drivenfrom Boston and whipped at Plymouth, came toSandwich, they found soil ready tilled for their planting.The church there, said to have been “the mostbigoted in the county,” had been wrecked by thebitter feud between liberals and “hard shells,” andits minister, a graduate of Emmanuel, Cambridge,“a man of great piety and meekness,” had retired tothe more congenial atmosphere of Oyster Bay, LongIsland. But the churchmen of Sandwich, as was thecustom of their race, thirsted for religion, and in reactionagainst the old doctrines, the liberals there wentover in a body to the simple tenets of the Quakers.In a year no less than eighteen families professedthe new faith; but in the meantime authority had notslept.
The marshal of Sandwich, Barnstable, and Yarmouth,was one George Barlow, a renegade Anglicanpriest; nor had his colonial record been a savory one.At Boston, in 1637, he had been “censured to bewhipped” for idleness; at Saco, on complaint that hewas “a disturber to the peace,” he was forbidden “anymore publickly to preach or prophesy”; and later whenhe turned lawyer at Plymouth, it was affirmed in opencourt “that he is such an one that he is a shame and[Pg 80]reproach to all his masters; and that he, the said Barlow,stands convicted and recorded of a lye att Newbury.”When Copeland and Holden arrived at Sandwich,Barlow had been prompt to hale them beforethe selectmen, to be duly whipped. But the villagefathers, “entertaining no desire to sanction measuresso severe towards those who differed from them inreligion, declined to act in the case.” Nothing daunted,Barlow presented his prisoners at Barnstable beforeThomas Hinckley, then assistant to Governor Princeand later to succeed him in office.
Hinckley was the best-read lawyer in the colony,just and honorable some held, others that he was aptat running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.He had his enemies, Otis admits, and adds: “Barrentrees are not pelted.” All are agreed that his secondwife who was his helpmeet for more than forty years,was a beautiful and accomplished woman, and possessed,moreover, of “a character excellently suitedto correct the occasional impetuosity of his own.”Whether or not that impetuosity had been galled bythe Quakers, Hinckley permitted Holden and Copelandto be whipped, and in his presence. The scene,described by Bishop with simple eloquence, is typicalof many a Quaker punishment by the magistrates inthe presence of a more compassionate people. “Theybeing tied to an old post, had thirty-three cruelstripes laid upon them with a new tormenting whip,with three cords, and knots at the end, made by themarshal, and brought with him. At the sight of whichcruel and bloody execution, one of the spectators (for[Pg 81]there were many who witnessed against it) cried outin the grief and anguish of her spirit, saying: ‘Howlong, Lord, shall it be ere thou avenge the blood of theelect?’ And afterwards bewailing herself, and lamentingher loss, said: ‘Did I forsake father and mother,and all my dear relations, to come to New Englandfor this? Did I ever think New England would come tothis? Who would have thought it?’ And this ThomasHinckley saw done, to whom the marshal repaired forthat purpose.”
Barlow was a ready tool for the hand of the reactionaries.Sent by the Court to Manomet to apprehendany refugees who might come there by sea—it was alaw of the colonies that any captain bringing hereticsshould deport them at his own expense—Barlowincluded the more lucrative affair of raiding well-to-dofarms. At East Sandwich a man was mulctedeighty-six pounds, and in default of payment, eighteenhead of cattle, a mare, and two colts: in effect,all his property save his house, his land, one cow anda little corn, “left out of pity for his family.” But ona second visit Barlow, being warm with liquor, regrettedhis leniency, and took the corn, the cow, andthe only remaining copper kettle. “Now, Priscilla,how will thee cook for thyself and thy family?”jeered he. “George,” she retorted, “that God whohears the young ravens when they cry will providefor them. I trust in that God and verily believe thatthe time will come when thy necessities will be greaterthan mine.” The event proved her right, and in hisold age, brought low with drink and evil ways, Barlow[Pg 82]often craved charity of Priscilla Allen, and was neverrefused.
As in the old days, the “blood of martyrs was theseed of the church,” and persecutions, petty or great,did but serve to increase the number of heretics, whoas time went on not always practised the pacifismthey preached. Two women were sentenced to bepublicly whipped for “disturbance of public worship,and for abusing the minister”; there were fines for“tumultuous carriage at a meeting of Quakers.”There were fines, also, for sheltering Quakers; NicholasDavis, of Barnstable, and others, were banished onpain of death. A Cape man, chancing to be at Plymouthwhen Nicholas Upsall, the aged Boston Puritanwho had been outlawed for protesting against thepersecutions, was driven thence, took compassion onhim and brought him to Sandwich only to be ordered to“take him out of the government.” In no long time,however, reaction set in; the fair-minded of the communitywere roused to protest at the senseless persecution;and men were beginning to say that such intolerancewas not in accord with the spirit of their faith.Mr. Walley, the parson, and Cudworth, driven fromScituate for his liberalism, and Isaac, the third son ofold John Robinson of Leyden, spoke up for the oppressed.Edmund Freeman and others, of Sandwich,were fined for refusing aid to the marshal in hiswork. And later, when Quakers resisted the paymentof tithes, it even became the custom to make upthe required sum by levying an additional tax uponchurchmen. Nor were the Quakers, for the most part,[Pg 83]strangers, though refugees were harbored: for convertswere many among the first settlers of the region,and we are told that after the laws against them wererelaxed they were “the most peaceful, industrious,and moral of all the religious sects.” And in 1661,when King Charles sent his injunction against thepersecutions by the hand of Samuel Shattuck, theQuaker who had been banished from MassachusettsBay on pain of death, Plymouth welcomed the occasionto restore those whom she had disfranchised, andreturned to the milder government that better suitedher temper.
In these years of the early settlements the Indianshad given little trouble, and they had been willingenough to sell their lands for considerations that werevaluable to them and not ruinous to the whites. Thematter of the natives’ claim to the soil was reasonedout in certain “General Considerations for the Plantationin New England.” “The whole earth is the Lord’sgarden and he hath given it to the sons of Adam to betilled and improved,” ran the ingenuous document.“But what warrant have we to take that land whichis, and hath of long time been possessed by others ofthe sons of Adam? That which is common to all isproper to none,” is the answer thereto. “This savagepeople ruleth over many lands without title or property....And why may not Christians have libertyto go and dwell amongst them in their waste landsand woods (leaving them such places as they have[Pg 84]manured for their corn) as lawfully as Abraham didamong the Sodomites?” Fortified by such doctrine,the settlers took up the waste lands, paid for the corn,and went on, when need arose, to pay for the clearedland; though later Andros, characteristically, was todeclare that these Indian deeds were no better than“the scratch of a bear’s paw.” Prices were easy ofadjustment. “A great brass kettle of seven spans inwideness round about and one broad” fell to onePaupunmuck, of Barnstable, who, however, reserved“the right freely to hunt in the lands sold, providedhis traps did no harm to the cattle.” And of Monohoo,the Reverend Mr. Walley, lover of justice and peace,bought some threescore acres for “ten yards oftrucking cloth, ten shillings in money, one iron kettle,two knives, and a bass-hook.” And so were mattersarranged to the satisfaction of all concerned: to thesettler his farmland; to the Indian a brass pot andbass-hook, and often a small plot was reserved to himfor tillage. But his right to hunt or fish was inevitablyencroached upon as the settlements absorbed moreand more of the wild lands, and before 1660 RichardBourne, of Sandwich, perceived that some special reservationshould be made for the fast dwindling tribes.
The settlers had lived comfortably enough withtheir pagan neighbors; and so busy were they abouttheir own affairs, temporal and spiritual, that theywere not annoyingly zealous in proselyting. But whenJohn Eliot, apostle to the Indians, came down fromBoston to arbitrate the parochial troubles of Sandwich,he improved the occasion to forward the work[Pg 85]nearest his heart. An Indian of the Six Nationsshrewdly observed to a Frenchman that “while wehad beaver and furs, the missionaries prayed with us;but when our merchandise failed they thought theycould do us no further good.” No such charge couldbe brought against Eliot. “We may guess that probablythe devil decoyed these miserable salvageshither,” set forth the “Magnalia,” “in hopes that thegospel should never come here to destroy or disturbhis absolute empire over them. But our Eliot was onsuch ill terms with the devil as to alarm him withsounding the silver trumpets of heaven in his territoriesand make some noble and zealous attempts ...to rescue as many as he could from the old usurpinglandlord of America.” The silver trumpets sounded invain at Sandwich. Eliot was baffled by the difficultiesof the local dialect, by the too pliant acquiescence ofone sagamore, and by the ironic compliance of a hugesachem known as Jehu who stalked into meeting,stood silent at the door, and, silent still, went forthagain never to reappear there. Eliot returned to Boston,but it is probable that his hope was the inspirationof much good that followed.
Richard Bourne took hold of the matter by theright handle: he was “a man of that discernment thathe conceived it was in vain to propagate Christianknowledge among any people without a territorywhere they might remain in peace.” And he proceededto obtain for his wards a tract of over tenthousand acres on the “South Sea,” where in time,as birds to the safety of some southern island, flocked[Pg 86]Indians from far and near; and where still, thoughof deteriorated breed, may be found a few MashpeeIndians. “There is no place I ever saw so adapted toan Indian town as this,” wrote the Reverend GideonHawley in 1757. “It is situated on the Sound, in sightof Martha’s Vineyard; is cut into necks of land, andhas two inlets by the sea; being well watered by threefresh rivers and three large fresh ponds lying in thecentre of the plantation. In the two salt water baysare a great plenty of fish of every description; and inthe rivers are trout, herring &c. In the woods, untillately, has been a great variety of wild game consistingof deer &c., and adjacent to the rivers and pondsotters, minks, and other amphibious animals whoseskins have been sought for and made a valuable remittanceto Europe ever since my knowledge of theseIndians.” The description of the land on the thicklysettled south shore of to-day is clearly recognizable;there are trout in the brooks, and fish in the sea,though the Indian and the “amphibious animals” berarer denizens.
Mr. Hawley had been deflected by the French warsfrom work among the Iroquois, in contrast to whomthe Mashpees “appeared abject,” he thought. “Ahalf naked savage were less disagreeable than Indianswho had lost their independence.” But he mightbetter have been thankful for that civilization whichhis predecessors had made possible: for the less troublewas his, and his Indian parishioners gave him, moreover,valid title to two hundred acres of their bestland. He lived among them for fifty years, and is said[Pg 87]to have “possessed great dignity of manner and authorityof voice, which had much influence.” And hisIndians, though “abject,” did him credit. In 1760 oneReuben Cognehew presented himself at the Georgiancourt with a protest against the colonial governor,and returned with orders to treat the Indians better;and in the Revolution, Hawley said, more than seventyof the Mashpee women were made widows. Inhis old age he wrote a letter full of a humorous philosophythat must have stood him in good stead throughhis long ministry: “Retired as I am, and at my timeof life I need amusement. I read, but my eyes soonbecome weary. I converse, but it is with those whohave my threadbare stories by rote. In such case whatcan I do? I walk, but soon become weary. I cannotdoze away my time upon the bed of sloth, nor nod inmy elbow chair.” He contemplates his fowl and observing“how great an underling one of the cocks wasmade by Cockran and others of the flock I pitied hisfate, and concluded to take an active part in hisfavor.” Whereupon Master Cockerel “gathered couragewith his strength, sung his notes, and enjoyed hisamours in consequence of my action. But alas! to theterror and amazement of the whole company he inhis turn became an intolerant tyrant. The Archon hadbetter understanding than I and I have determinednot to meddle in the government of hens in future, noroverturn establishments. Cocks will be cocks. As thesage Indian said, ‘Tucks will be tucks, though old henhe hatch ’em!’” As for other animals, though “Milton,full of his notions, supposes that a change in consequence[Pg 88]of Adam’s fall passed upon them,” Mr. Hawleynotes them much of the “same nature that theyhad before the Revolution in this country, and thatimportant one now regenerating the Old World, as itis called; and under every form of government anddispensation, men will be men.”
But to return to Bourne: having obtained for theIndians their land, in 1665 he furthered their “desireof living in some orderly way of government, for thebetter preventing and redressing of things amissamong them by just means,” and a court was set upconsisting of six Indians, under his guidance, reserving,however, that “what homage accustomed legallydue to any superior sachem be not infringed.” In 1670Bourne was ordained by Eliot as their pastor. And hisson, following the father’s example, procured an actof the Court guarding the tenure of their land, whichmight not be “bought by or sold to any white personor persons without the consent of all the Indians.”And in the ministry Bourne was succeeded by men,sometimes Indians, sometimes whites, who had dueregard for their charges, “the Praying Indians,” theywere called.
At Eastham, the Reverend Samuel Treat was atpains to learn the language of his Indian neighbors,and translated the Confession of Faith into the Nausetdialect. Mr. Treat was an old-school Calvinist,whose chief means to grace was the threat of eternaldamnation. “God himself shall be the principal agentin thy misery,” he could thunder out in the littlemeeting-house with a voice that carried far beyond its[Pg 89]walls. “His is that consuming fire; his breath is thebellows which blows up the flame of hell forever; heis the damning fire—the everlasting burning; and ifhe punish thee, if he meet thee in his fury, he will notmeet thee as a man, he will give thee an omnipotentblow.” Whether Mr. Treat dealt out such red-hotdoctrine to his Indians, we cannot know; perhapsthey were warmed by the fervor rather than alarmedby the tenor of his words. At any rate, they loved him;and when he died during the Great Snow of 1716, theytunnelled a way to the grave and bore him to his rest.
There were old ordinances forbidding the whites togive or sell firearms, ammunition, canoes, or horses toIndians. There was also a provision that “whoevershall shoot off a gun on any unnecessary occasion, orat any game except at an Indian, or a wolf, shall forfeitfive shillings for every shot.” Evidently all wasnot love and trust between the races. The Indianssteadily dwindled in numbers until at Eastham in1763 there were but five Indians, and at Truro in 1792only one family, although an old lady then rememberedthat there used to be as many Indian childrenat school as whites, and “sometimes the little Injunstried to crow over ’em.” Early in the nineteenth centurythe pure-breed Mashpees were extinct; but in1830 William Apes, an “Indian” preacher, succeededin enlarging their religious liberties; in 1842 their commonlands were apportioned in sixty-acre lots; in 1870Mashpee became a town with full self-government,though still with some special grants of state aid forschools and highways.
“Rum” here, as elsewhere, played its importantpart in undermining the stamina of the natives; andits evil, as in any age, exhorters to virtue were proneonly too vividly to depict. “Mr. Stone one very goodpreacher,” commented a Mashpee, “but he preachtoo much about rum. When he no preach about rum,Injun think nothing ’bout it; but when he tells howInjun love rum, and how much they drunk, then Ithink how good rum is and think no more ’bout sermon,my mouth waters so much for rum.” And whenasked whether he preferred Mr. Stone or “Blind Joe,”a Baptist, he said: “Mr. Stone he make best sermons,but Blind Joe he make best Christians.” And as inother and later times the whites made their profit inselling drink to the Indians. As early as 1685 GovernorHinckley writes of the Indians: “They havetheir courts and judges; but a great obstruction tobringing them to more civility and Christianity is thegreat appetite of the young generation for strongliquors, and the covetous ill-humor of sundry of ourEnglish in furnishing them therewith notwithstandingall the court orders and means used to prohibitthe same.”
The Indians were inveterate gamblers, and althoughthey could sit solemnly enough through achurch service, they were as likely to go forth to gameaway all they had even to their precious knives andkettles. And the whites, as in the early days beforethey had made good Christians of the “salvages,”were ready to suspect them of petty thievery: forwhich, however, the savages were not without examples[Pg 91]to imitate. An Indian, reproved for taking aknife from an Englishman’s house, retorted: “Barlowsteals from the Quakers. Why can’t I steal?”At Yarmouth, late in the seventeen hundreds, nearthe mouth of Bass River, was a little cluster of wigwams;and whether for reason or not, an irate deacon,suspecting some of the community of robbing hishenroost, visited them in the early morning, only tobe abashed by finding them at prayer. He stole awaywithout further inquiry about his hens. And the Indiandeacon, one Naughaught, nettled, perhaps, by suchsuspicions, upon finding a purse of money one day,would not open it save in the presence of witnesses atthe tavern. “If I were to do so,” he told them, “all thetrees of the forest would see and testify against me.”And this same Naughaught had a marvellous adventurethat must have made a fine story for drinkers atthe tavern. Walking one day far from the habitationsof man, went the tale, he was set upon by a greatnumber of black snakes—a common and harmlessreptile in the Cape Cod meadows to-day, but goingabout their business there in smaller companies.Unarmed, Naughaught saw that his defence lay onlyin a steadfast spirit. He quailed not when the snakeswrithed up his body, even to the neck; and when one,bolder than the rest, faced him eye to eye, he openedhis mouth and straight snapped off its head. Whereuponits companions withdrew and left Naughaughtmaster of the field.
It is matter of record that the Cape Indians weremore friendly to the whites, more humane, and more[Pg 92]easily converted to Christianity than their brothersof the mainland, and in like measure were the moredespised by them. “The Praying Indians were subjects,”said Philip, son of the great Massasoit, whenthere was question of taking the oath of fidelity to theEnglish sovereign. But not he or his fellows; his kinsmenhad ever been friendly with the Plymouth Government:his father and brother had made engagementto that end, but it was only for amity, notsubjection. And by 1662 Philip was ready to defyPlymouth. “Your government is only a subject ofKing Charles II of England,” he told them. “I shalltreat only with the king, my brother. When Charlesof England comes, I am ready.”
As early as 1642 rumored unrest among the Indiansand a well-grounded fear that the mother countrymight draw the Plantations into her quarrels withthe Dutch or French, had knit the colonies closer together,and in 1643 a protective league that was theprototype of the later confederacy of states wasformed among the New England colonies. Two commissionersfrom each colony, six of the eight to makea majority rule, were to meet annually in September;a common war chest and a colonial militia were providedfor; but none were to fight unless compelled todo so, or only upon the consent of all. The Plymouthquota, under command of Miles Standish, was to bethirty men, of whom the Cape should furnish eight.
In 1675 trouble with the Indians came to a head inKing Philip’s War, in which the Cape, although criticisedby Plymouth, bore her due share. It was charged[Pg 93]of Sandwich that “many of the soldiers who werepressed came not forth.” As a fact, Sandwich, thefrontier town of the Cape, was well occupied in seeingto her own defences that must separate the PrayingIndians from the hostile natives of the mainland; norwas the town of Richard Bourne, with its largeQuaker element, likely to be as eager to fight theIndians as Plymouth or Massachusetts. The CapeIndians were restive enough to cause apprehension,and the towns were constantly on watch for attackwithout and treachery within. Restriction upon theIndians was tightened, account of them was kept theeasier by providing that “every tenth Indian shouldhave particular oversight over his nine men andpresent their faults to the authorities.” The five orsix hundred men capable of bearing arms could havemade trouble enough for the whites if they had hadthe will; but whether for gratitude or lack of spirit,they were loyal—some even joined the troops. Mr.Walley, who was ever friendly to the Indians andready to give them their due, observed that so welldid they fight that “throughout the land where Indianshath been employed there hath been the greatestsuccess,” and pondered how affairs might go withouttheir aid. “I am greatly afflicted to see the danger weare in,” he wrote Mr. Cotton, of Plymouth. “Somefear we have paid dearly for former acts of severity.”Nor were there lacking heavenly portents of disaster:in 1664 a great comet had appeared, and three yearslater, “about an hour within the night,” another“like a spear,” and again another in 1680. “When[Pg 94]blazing stars have been seen,” said Increase Mather,“great mutations and miseries have come uponmortals.”
The price which Mr. Walley apprehended wassufficiently heavy, yet the outcome was as might havebeen expected. In August, 1676, when Philip of theWampanoags was killed, “Thus fell a mighty warrior,”and then ended his war. In the sparsely settledcolonies six hundred men were slain, twelve or thirteentowns destroyed, and a huge debt contracted.Plymouth shouldered a burden that exceeded theentire personal estate of the citizens, which she met byvigorous taxation and partly, it may be said, by thesale of lands that had belonged to the exterminatedIndians. The aftermath of war meant peculiar sufferingfor the devastated districts; the Cape, fortunatein its remoteness, offered asylum, which was, however,gratefully declined, to Rehoboth, Taunton, andBridgewater. It is interesting that “Divers Christiansin Ireland” sent over a relief fund of something overa hundred pounds. It is also interesting that no encouragementor aid had been received, or asked orexpected, from the mother country; and another usefullesson in self-dependence had been learned by thecolonies.
The Cape forces had been ably led by John Gorham,of Barnstable. A letter to the council, writtenin October, 1675, shows something of his temper as aman: “Our soldiers being much worn, having beenin the field this fourteen weeks and little hope of findingthe enemy, we are this day returning toward our[Pg 95]General, but as for my own part, I shall be ready toserve God and the country in this just war so long asI have life and health. Not else to trouble you, I restyours to serve in what I am able, John Gorrun.”Three days later the Court appointed him captain ofthe second company of Plymouth, of which JonathanSparrow, of Eastham, was lieutenant.
The commander-in-chief was James Cudworth, ofScituate, who had been a member of John Lothrop’sflock, and had lived for a time in Barnstable andowned salt-works there. He had been disfranchisedfor his sympathy with the Quakers, and bound over infive hundred pounds to appear at court “in referenceunto a seditious letter sent to England, the coppywhereof is come over in print,” which, however, wasno more than a full setting-out of the unlawful persecutions.But he was too valuable a man to lose:Scituate was nearly unanimous in his favor, as wereBarnstable and Sandwich. In 1666 the Scituate militia,against the will of the Court, chose him captain;in 1673 he was unanimously made captain of the Plymouthforces in a contemplated expedition against theDutch. His declination of the honor, which he waslater to undertake in the Indian war, was not, he declared,“out of any discontent in my spirit arisingfrom any former difference. I am as freely willing toserve my King and Country as any man, but I do notunderstand that a man is called to serve his countrywith the inevitable ruin and devastation of his ownfamily.” Cudworth pleaded the care of his farm andhis wife’s illness. “She cannot lie for want of breath,”[Pg 96]wrote he. “And when she is up she cannot light a pipeof tobacco, but it must be lighted for her. And she hasnever a maid. And for tending and looking after mycreatures; the fetching home of my hay, that is yet atthe place where it grew; getting of wood, going tomill; and for the performance of all other familyoccasions I have now but a small Indian boy, aboutthirteen years of age, to help me.” “So little of statewas there,” is Palfrey’s comment on the artless narrative,“in the household economy of the commander-in-chiefin a foreign war.” And again: “It is amusingand touching at once to see how hard, in those days, itwas to induce men to be willing to be great.”
THE FRENCH WARS
The so-called French and Indian Wars, a series ofconflicts reflecting the entanglements of Englandoverseas, lasted well on to seventy-five years after theaccession of William and Mary in 1689. Political historyin Massachusetts was making in the meantime:Andros had reigned and been deposed; the Earl ofBellamont, a good friend of King William and a justman popular with the colonists, had served a briefterm, wherein he had captured and shipped to Englandfor trial the notorious Captain Kidd; and SirWilliam Phips, a native of New England acceptableto the people, was the first Governor under thecharter of William and Mary that, in 1692, formallyunited Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. Plymouthhad fought well for her independence as againstabsorption either by New York or MassachusettsBay; but when the skill of Increase Mather won her asprize, Governor Hinckley had the good sense to thankhim for his work, as Massachusetts was preferable toNew York. Maine, Massachusetts, and Plymouth,then, were united under the rule of Governor, DeputyGovernor, and Secretary appointed by the king, andtwenty-eight Councillors chosen by the people. OnCape Cod, at the time of the union, there were about[Pg 98]four thousand whites grouped in six towns—Sandwich,Barnstable, Yarmouth, Eastham, Falmouth,and Mannomoit—which sent nine representativesto the first Provincial Assembly.
It is interesting that at about this time began theadvent of men of Irish blood, who, whether RomanCatholic or Protestant, have been among the mostthrifty and prosperous of the Cape people. Early inthe reign of William and Mary laws were put afoot toturn Ireland from manufacturing to agriculture.Swift gibed at the policy of “cultivating cattle andbanishing men”; Lord FitzWilliam protested that ahundred thousand operatives were forced to leavethe country. Many, the vanguard of a mighty host,came to the American colonies. Few of these earlyimmigrants, probably, were of pure Celtic blood: theywere the Scotch-Irish of the north, the Anglo-Irish andthe French of the south, artisans rather than farmers,who were to play an enormous part in the developmentof our country. Among the early settlers of theCape were many Irishmen: Higgins, Kelley, Belford,Delap, Estabrook, Wood, and the Reverend SamuelOsborn who succeeded Mr. Treat at Eastham. Mr.Osborn taught his parishioners the use of peat as afuel and some improvements in farming; but, alas, inthat orthodox community, he was suspected of liberalism.Thoreau says: “Ten ministers with theirchurches sat on him and spoiled his usefulness”—butonly for Eastham. In Boston he became a successfulschoolmaster, and lived there to be near ahundred years of age.
Life at the Cape flowed on with simple annals tomark its course. In 1687 a mill for grinding corn wasset up at Barnstable, to the wonder of the Indianswho took it for a monster with arms—the precursorof the winged mills that once dotted the Cape fromshoulder to tip and played no small part in the charmof its picture. At Barnstable, too, was the first mill to“full and draw the town’s cloth on reasonable terms,”to the satisfaction, one may suppose, of busy workersat spinning-wheel and loom. And the erection of amill at Yarmouth was even celebrated in verse:
“The Baxter boys they built a mill,
Sometimes it went, sometimes stood still;
And when it went, it made no noise,
Because ’twas built by Baxter’s boys.”
In 1694 Harwich was set off from Eastham, and it issaid that Patrick Butler walked all the way to Bostonto secure the act of incorporation. In 1709 Truro, also,with the usual stipulation that it “procure and settlea learned and godly minister,” was set off fromEastham, which, indeed, as Pamet, it had long antedatedin settlement. In 1705 there had been an abortiveattempt to incorporate this district as Dangerfield,and in 1718 there was a motion to set off the futureWellfleet as Poole; but nothing further was heard ofthese names. There had always been wrangling overthe settlement at Mannomoit, at the elbow of theCape: first attached to Yarmouth, then to Eastham,in 1688 it was made an independent “constablerick,”and in 1712 was incorporated as Chatham. In 1714the Province Lands became the Precinct of Cape Cod[Pg 100]under the “constablerick” of Truro, and there was atax of fourpence for the upkeep of a minister there.But evidently Truro had trouble with her ward—thepopulation was a drifting one, for the most partirresponsible fishermen and adventurers—and in1715 she petitioned the General Court that the newPrecinct be “declared either a part of Truro or not apart of Truro, that the town may know how to actin regard to some persons.” From the beginning, witha care to the preservation of crops, householders wererequired to kill blackbirds and crows, and there was alarge bounty on wolves. In 1717 there was even talkof building “a high fence of palisades or boards”across the Cape between Sandwich and Wareham“to keep wolves from coming into the county.” Butthere were two points of view for that question, andthe scheme, opposed by some within on the score ofexpense and by others without who did not “wish allthe wolves to be shut out of the county upon theirown limits,” was soon abandoned. In 1721 there was afearful epidemic of smallpox throughout the State;and Cotton Mather, who favored inoculation, washeld by the pious to prefer “the machinations of mento the all-wise providence of God.”
As the Cape became more closely settled, men ofthe pioneer spirit were again feeling themselvescramped for room; and in 1727 certain lands whichthe Government had been ready to give as bountyto veterans of King Philip’s War, were, at length,granted to their heirs—a township ten miles squareto each one hundred and twenty persons where claims[Pg 101]thereto were established within four months of theact. Seven townships were taken up. Number Seven,in Maine, assigned to the heirs of men who hadserved under Captain John Gorham, was named afterhim, and his grandson, Shubael, ruined himself inpromoting the enterprise. Amos Otis writes that “helost his property in his endeavors to secure to theofficers and soldiers in King Philip’s War, or theirlegal representatives, their just dues. In his strenuousefforts to do justice to others, he was unjust to himself,and involved himself, for the benefit of others, in liabilitieswhich he was unable to meet.” Of John Phinney,one of these pioneers of Gorham, a son of one ofthe conquerors of the Narragansetts, it is recordedthat “he disembarked from his canoe on the PresumpscotRiver, with his axe and a small stock of simpleprovisions, attended by a son of fourteen years ofage, with a design to make a home for himself andfamily in the then wilderness. Having selected a spotfor his future dwelling, that son Edmund, afterwardsdistinguished as a colonel in the war of the Revolution,felled the first tree for a settlement.” Nearlyevery town on the Cape sent men to the new country,and here the old Cape Cod names were perpetuated:Bacon, Bangs, Bourne, Freeman, Knowles, Paine,Sturgis.
In 1727 the Precinct of Cape Cod was incorporatedas Provincetown, with important reservation of rightsto the Government in exchange for which the inhabitantswere held exempt from all but local taxes andfrom military duty. The Province held title to the[Pg 102]land; and it was not until 1893, when the State surrenderedits holdings in the village that a Provincetownman could be said to own his home, or givemore than a quitclaim deed for its transfer. In 1740Provincetown seems to have added some grazing toher activities by sea, and is presented for so carelesslyherding cattle that the “beaches were muchbroken and damnified, occasioning the moving of thesands into the harbor to the great damage thereof.”The French wars were working havoc in the fortunesof her fishermen and the population melting awayuntil, in 1755, there were not more than three housesin the village and then increasing until the Revolution,when there were twenty. In 1763 that part ofEastham known as Billingsgate—Poole it neverwas to be—became Wellfleet. And a year earlier theMashpee Indians, feeling the push for fuller politicalrights, petitioned for and obtained their MashpeeDistrict, eight miles by five or six, comprising twohundred and thirty-seven souls and “sixty-threewigwams.” To the Yarmouth Indians had beengranted the greater part of South Yarmouth on BassRiver. Mr. Freeman records that 1749 was known asthe year of the Great Drought which destroyed theearly crops of hay and feed; but in July the weatherbroke, the bare earth miraculously put forth itsgreen, and there were as many thanksgivings as therehad been intercessions for Divine aid.
Martha’s Vineyard had been found particularlyadapted to sheep-raising, and wool was ferried overto Falmouth to keep the Cape women busy at their[Pg 103]looms. In 1738 a Barnstable man founded Marston’sMills, and a letter from Newport in a later yearspeaks of the woollen factory at Barnstable whichreceives from the spinners it employs sometimes fivehundred skeins a day and clears in a year three thousanddollars, “which is the most profitable of any businessnow carried on in America according to the stockimproved in it”; broadcloth “selling for three dollarsa yard in London may be had here for a dollar and ahalf.” This public industry supplemented the one thata family conducted on its own account: for nearly everyfarm had its sheep, and homespun was the wear. Themoors of Truro were dotted with sheep, and verylikely some of its surplus wool was sent to the Barnstablemills.
That the Cape people, in parsonage or farm, followedthe custom of the day and kept slaves is evidenced,among other ways, by many wills. Mr. Bacon,of Barnstable, for instance, directs that in case hisnegro Dinah be sold, “all she is sold for be improvedby my executors in buying Bibles,” which are to bedistributed among his grandchildren. Mr. Walley hadhis slaves; the Reverend Mr. Avery, of Truro, whosefarm and forge were near Highland Light, was ableto bequeath a considerable estate to his children; andamong the assets were his negro “girl named Phillis,”his Indian girl named Sarah, and the negroes Jack andHope who were never to be sold out of the family.Old Totoo, slave to Mrs. Gorham, of Barnstable,survived her eight years and, dying, begged that hemight be buried at his mistress’s feet. In 1678 two[Pg 104]Indians of Sandwich, convicted of stealing twenty-fivepounds, were sentenced to be sold, for the profitof their victims, somewhere in New England as“perpetual slaves.”
And that apprenticeship in the early days wassometimes practical slavery is shown by the case ofJonathan Hatch, a Yarmouth lad, bound out at the ageof fourteen to a Salem man, from whose harsh servicehe fled only to be caught in Boston, sentenced to beseverely whipped, and returned as a slave to his master.Again escaping, he reached Yarmouth where hewas arrested, condemned to be whipped, and passedfrom constable to constable back to Salem. Appealwas made to the Plymouth Court which made an excuseof “doubting its jurisdiction” to evade the issue,and the boy was “appointed to dwell with Mr.Stephen Hopkins” at Yarmouth. In due time he marriedand went to live at South Sea, near the sachemof the Mashpees, with whom he became on verygood terms. In 1652 he was had up for furnishing anIndian with gun and ammunition, and later befriendedthe Indian Repent who was charged withthreatening to shoot Governor Prince. From theSouth Sea, with Isaac Robinson, he became a squatterat Falmouth, but soon was duly granted a plot ofeighty acres. He was to act, moreover, as the landagent of the proprietors, and ended the career that hadbegun as a runaway slave by becoming a respectedmeasurer of metes and bounds.
For these early farmers slavery seems to have beenthe solution of their problem of trying to tie a laborer[Pg 105]to his job. While land was available in practicallyunlimited amount and money was scarce, anyman might find himself a proprietor, a point illustratedby an amusing story of Winthrop’s. A certainman, lacking cash, paid off his farmhand by givinghim a pair of oxen. The laborer was willing to continuesuch service. “But how shall I pay you?” askedthe man. “With more oxen.” “And when the oxenare gone?” “Then you can work for me and earnthem back again.” But in the North, as time went on,and land was taken up in comparatively small farmsthat could be profitably worked by owners who couldpay for necessary labor, the convenience of slaveswas easy to forego, and the public conscience beganto work for abolition. As early as 1733 Sandwichvoted: “that our representative is instructed to endeavorto have an act passed by the Court to preventthe importation of slaves into this country; and thatall children that shall be born of such Africans asare now slaves among us, shall after such act be freeat twenty-one years of age.” Five years later sellingslaves in the American market was prohibited atBoston. It is at Truro, one may believe, that one ofthe last slave trades on the Cape was consummatedwhen, in 1726, Benjamin Collins bought from aneighbor Hector, aged three, for thirty pounds, andin due time made a Christian of him, as the parishrecords show. Hector grew to a great age, and evincedconfidence in salvation, among other ways, by prayingin loud tones as he went to his labor in the fields ofthe Truro Highlands where, sure gage of notability,[Pg 106]certain expressions to commemorate him crept intothe vernacular—“Old Hector,” “black as Hector,”“Hector’s Nook,” “Hector’s Stubble,” “Hector’sBridge.”
In the later years, preceding the Civil War, it wasnatural that among a people which had always countedmany progressives, there should be Abolitionists.They were kindly folk, it is said, “with strong convictions,never attending church because the sermonsdid not condemn slavery”—the early racial touchcropping out, it seems, in this later generation. Someof the ships of an Osterville owner even landed runawayslaves on the south shore whence they passedalong by “underground railway” to a certain housein Barnstable. One remembers that as a boy he usedto go there to teach them their letters; and he also remembersthat “they were treated as equals; but sometimesthey made their way to ‘Mary Dunn’s Road’where they found rum and congenial companions.”
Finance, swinging from stringency to inflation ofthe currency, was an ever-present problem in the colonyduring the French and Indian Wars. In the mid-eighteenthcentury, a land bank was proposed in thehope of using land as the basis for credit in a countrywhere gold and silver were so lacking, with a resultdisastrous to many farmers on the Cape. In 1748paper was called in and the “piece of eight,” or Spanishdollar, made the standard; but again the easy issueof paper was too great a temptation, again there wasdepreciation and instability, again the struggle backto a standard dollar. In 1749, after “King George’s[Pg 107]War,” England liquidated the war debt of the Provinceby paying into the treasury at Boston a fund ofsome one hundred and eighty thousand pounds thatwere carted through the streets in seventeen truckloadsof silver and ten of copper. Henceforth it wasprovided that all debts should be paid in coined silver,which is said to originate the term “lawful money.”
All these fifty years since the accession of Williamand Mary had been complicated by more or less participationin the foreign wars of the mother country;and the hereditary hatred of France and Englandlived on, with new occasions, in their colonies. Thoseof France had been planted and fostered by the crown;those of England largely by her rebels; CatholicFrance never could sympathize with the English heretics;and now that the power of Spain was broken,French and English traders and fishermen were thechief rivals for domination of the new countries andthe seas, east and west, north and south, the worldover. In 1689 the principle of colonial neutrality hadbeen proposed by France and rejected, to her considerablesubsequent cost, by England. And at thebeginning of “King William’s War,” so-called, Massachusetts,commanded by the Governor, Sir WilliamPhips, set forth on her adventure for the reduction ofPort Royal and Quebec. Port Royal fell, its loot payingfor the expedition, but was retaken by the French.France’s reply was an invasion of the border, assistedby her Indian allies; and now and thereafter[Pg 108]throughout the French wars there was great apprehension,particularly by Cape Cod in its defencelessstate, of French sea-raids on the New England coast.After the Peace of Ryswick, in 1697, France claimedall the fisheries east of the Kennebec and all Englishboats there found were forfeit by order of the king—fruitfulcause, one may suppose, for fresh quarrels.And no later than 1702 “Queen Anne’s War” revivedthe Indian raids, and the sacking of Deerfield rousedthe colonies to a holy war. On the Continent, meantime,“Malbrough s’en va-t-en guerre” and in 1713the Peace of Utrecht ended the French wars forthirty-three years’ breathing space; in the new worldFrance lost forever Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, andthe Hudson Bay Territory.
In these wars five expeditions had been fitted outby the colonies to attack the enemy on the east, underColonel Benjamin Church, and in his command werefound the Cape Cod men. Thomas Dimmock, ofBarnstable, fell, fighting gallantly, at the battle ofCanso. He would not shelter himself, as did the otherofficers, but stood boldly out in the open cheering onhis men—a conspicuous mark for sharpshooters.Major Walley, son of the old minister, was anotherofficer—a gallant figure, handsome and debonair, asa portrait of him, in fine surtout, ruffles and periwig,testifies; and there was Caleb Williamson in commandof the Plymouth forces, and Captain Gorham,later lieutenant-colonel, son of the old Indian fighterof Philip’s War. And Gorham, especially, did uniqueand valuable service in command of the “whaleboat[Pg 109]fleet.” These light-draft boats, manned by whalemenand Indians, could transport men and suppliesup the shallow bays and rivers to the spot where theywere most needed; and without such a device, theenemy, stationed for the most part where the transportscould not land troops, would have been hardcome at by marches overland through the wilderness.At night, or in bad weather, the boats were takenashore and turned over to serve as shelter. In 1704Church called for fifty of these boats, and that wintervisited every town on the Cape to recruit men. “Foryears after,” writes Amos Otis, “these old sailors andsoldiers, seated in their roundabout chairs, withintheir capacious chimney-corners, would relate to theyoung their adventures in ‘the Old French Wars.’”
In 1739 there was an abortive war with Spain whenCape men enlisted for an expedition to the SpanishMain where many died of disease, and there was noresult beyond a further impoverishment of the country.And by 1745 England and France, drawn as theywere into the War of the Austrian Succession, werefighting out in America “King George’s War.” InApril of that year thirty-five hundred troops, chiefly“substantial persons and men of beneficial occupations,”sailed from Boston under another fightingGovernor, Sir William Pepperell, to attack Louisburg,the “Gibraltar of America.” In this force the SeventhMassachusetts was known as the “Gorham Rangers”under the command of a Gorham of the third generation.With him, as it chanced, was a descendant ofRichard Bourne, William by name, whom an Indian[Pg 110]medicine-man had cured in childhood when whitedoctors had given him up as dying. William camescathless through the wars to die in old age, rich andrespected, at Marblehead.
In the following June Louisburg fell. Colonel Gorhamcommanded a whaleboat fleet as had his fatherunder Churchill; and the first man to enter theGrand Battery, was one of the thirteen Indians inCaptain Thacher’s Yarmouth contingent, who, forthe bribe of a bottle of brandy, crawled through anembrasure and opened the door to the besiegers.The exploit was the less glorious as it was apparentthat the enemy had evacuated the place.
Great was the joy throughout New England at thesuccessful outcome of the siege, and not least in theOld Colony which had contributed so many men to theenterprise. Pæans of praise ascended from the pulpits;bards broke forth into verse. “The Wonder-workingProvidence” recites the prowess of certainheroes from the Cape:
“Lieutenant-Colonel Gorham, nigh of kin
To his deceased Head, did honor win;
Unite in nature, name, and trust, they stood—
Unitedly have done their country good.
May Major Thacher live, in rising fame
Worthy of ancestors that bear his name,
And copy after virtuous relations
Who so well filled their civil, sacred, military stations.
Now Captain Carey, seized with sickness sore,
Resigned to death when touched his native shore;
And Captain Demmick slain by heathen’s hand
As was his father under like command.”
Rejoicing was shortly tempered by wholesome dreadof reprisals. As a fact France, enraged at the loss ofher stronghold, was sending out a great armamentunder command of the Duc d’Anville, not only to retakeLouisburg, but to ravage the New England coast.There were eleven ships of the line and thirty smallervessels, as well as transports for three thousand men.But Providence was to intervene for the humbling ofFrench pride and the salvation of the faithful. Stormsreduced the armada one half before it could even makeport, disease swept away most of the troops, the twocommanders died suddenly, by suicide men wereready to say, and the remnant of the fleet, withoutstriking a blow, sailed back to France. The Cape,especially, had been alarmed at the prospect of such apunitive expedition: she urged the danger to her longcoast-line; Truro petitioned the General Court forprotection, and received a four-pound cannon, somesmall arms and ammunition.
The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 1748, ended thegeneral conflict, and in the negotiations overseashard-bought Louisburg, to the great displeasure ofthe colonists, was traded for more valuable considerationselsewhere. In America guerrilla warfare, a raidhere, a raid there, continued; and in three years’ time,the greatest conflict of the series, when Washingtonand other young officers got their training for a greaterwar to follow, was raging all along the border. It terminated,in 1763, with the Peace of Paris, when Francegave over to England her last American holdings.The colonies had learned painfully lessons to their[Pg 112]great advantage in the struggle with the mother countrythat was even then beginning; and when theclash came, France was glad to range herself with thecolonists for another blow at her old enemy England.
It was during this war that England broke up someof the French communities that had remained unmolestedsince Nova Scotia was ceded to her by the Peaceof Utrecht; and the “neutral French,” as they werecalled, were scattered throughout the colonies fromNew Hampshire to Georgia. Longfellow’s poem of“Evangeline” tells the story of those pathetic exiles;and we know that in July, 1756, a little band of Acadians,ninety souls in all, men, women, and children,landed from seven two-mast boats at Bourne. Theywere tenderly received, we may believe, by thepeople who had never refused shelter to the unfortunate.Silas Bourne wrote to James Otis asking whatshould be done with them, and eventually their boatswere sold and they were distributed among the neighboringtowns. It is not improbable that Peter Cotelle,of Barnstable, was of this company—a Frenchmanwho lived in a gambrel-roofed cottage set in a prettygarden. He was a tinker by trade, and made shrewduse of his imperfect English, it is said, in driving abargain.
The Cape seems to have furnished no leaders in thiswar where so many famous men fought, but, steadily,she gave her quota of men and her money; and AmosOtis has preserved for our delectation the stories ofmany of the humbler folk of the time. There was aBarnstable man who had shipped as carpenter aboard[Pg 113]a privateer which soon brought into Boston as prize aSpanish ship laden with dollars and bullion. By somemeans the ship was made out to be French property,and the Yankee captain offered each of his men forprize money as much silver as he could carry fromLong Wharf to the head of State Street, with thechance of forfeiting the whole if he stopped to rest bythe way. Barnstable, apparently, cut his cloth to fithis stature and came off with some two thousanddollars and a little hoard of silver to boot which hediscovered in a ship’s boat he had purchased. At anyrate, he had enough to lay the foundation of a snugfortune which he augmented by becoming somethingof a usurer in his native town. As a young man hismarriage had been delayed from year to year througha difference with his sweetheart as to where theyshould live. He preferred the village where he hadlearned his trade, she, being well-to-do, her own goodfarm at Great Marshes. In the end she prevailed; andno doubt, as one who knew her will and practised effectivemethods to obtain it, contributed her dueshare to the family fortune. The grandchildren, Otisimplies, “having no reverence for antiquity or love ofhoarding,” made the dollars fly.
A Gorham of this generation seems to have had anover-supply of such “reverence for antiquity”: he wasso wedded to the customs of his fathers that he wouldnot use a tipcart because they had none, and drovehis team with a pole as they had done; he farmed bytheir methods, and made salt, though it were badsalt, by their mode of boiling. He had other oddities,[Pg 114]such as fastening his shirt in the back with a loop andnail, and eschewing rum in a time when the best kepttavern and drank thereat; he lived on salt-meat broth,bread and milk, hasty-pudding and samp; he washonest, industrious, a good neighbor and citizen, asvaluable to the community, perhaps, as his more brilliantkinsmen.
A somewhat younger man than he, born in 1739,a doctor by profession, who seldom practised, hadno such antipathy to rum, though it is said he nevergot drunk save at another’s charge. At such timeshe obliged the company with “Old King Cole,” hisonly song, and also with well-worn stories of someearlier adventures in Maine. There is record of a certainChristmas party at Hyannis when at midnight,song sung and story told, he was helped on hisold gray mare for the journey home. Left to herselfthe mare would have taken him safe there, but hemust needs turn into a narrow lane, where, in the brilliantmoonlight he spied the mild phosphorescence ofa rotten log. A fire, thought he, very likely his ownfire, and drew off his boots to warm his chilled feet.Resuming his journey, at dawn he came upon thehighway and lashed his mare to the gallop, but, asit chanced, in the wrong direction. “Gentlemen,”cried he, drawing up to accost some early travellers,“can you tell me whether I am in this town or thenext?” They answered cavalierly enough: “You’rein this town now, but ’t won’t be long before you’re inthe next at that rate.” And perceiving his state, theysaw to it that he straightway had breakfast and[Pg 115]boots. Nor was this the end of the affair, which thevillage boys improved for their amusement. A ring athis bell: “Doctor, just wanted to ask if you’d foundyour boots.”—“Doctor, am I in this town or thenext?” And they never failed to dodge the lash of hiswhip which he kept handy to the door for such visitors.He was the first village postmaster, and during thewars, when men were eager for the news which camebi-weekly from Boston, it was on mail nights that theboys and men of the village gathered about his fire andlistened to his old stories of Maine. He was a genialsoul, a little simple-minded, one who liked to makea show of business by laying out spurs and saddle-bagsof a night as if ready for a call. The village librarywas kept at his house, and administered by hisdaughter.
The stories go on, with a touch here and a touchthere to accent the village flavor. The Bodfishes, hugefather and huge sons, lived a patriarchal life on theirfarm; for more than seventy years their estate washeld in common, the father acting as trustee andgranting his sons only as much as would qualify themfor voters. And a scion of the less illustrious branch ofa prominent family was ready to argue his claim forpreëminence: “We’ll discuss that,” he would thunderwith swelling port. And won the sobriquet of “ScussionSam” for his pains. There was another member ofthe same family whose shrewd humor served as wellas roguery. He was master of the little packet nicknamedSomerset after the British man-of-war, whichcarried to Boston onions, among other cargo, for the[Pg 116]West Indies market. “Gentlemen,” said he persuasivelyto some possible buyers, “these are what arecalled ’tarnity’ onions; they’ll keep to all eternity.”But a week out of port on their way to the south, theonions had to be thrown overboard. At another timehe outsailed a neighbor who was shipping onions to aSalem trader, and presented his own cargo in theirstead. “But how about Huckins?” asked the trader.“My son-in-law,” returned the captain glibly. “Hereare the onions.” One may fancy that tavern and living-roombuzzed with the news of this trick when thediscomfited Huckins made the home port. Stillanother member of the family was of different mould—onewho gloried in the ease his poverty gave him.“I’m thankful I don’t own that number of cattle,”commented he, watching a neighbor laboring over hisstock on a snowy day. “Squire and I,” said he againgenially, “keep more cows than any other two men intown.” Squire, his brother, had twenty cows, he one.
But the account of Barnabas Downs best typifies,perhaps, the tranquil village life that flowed on amidthe outer turmoil of war and politics and finance. Hewas born in 1730 and lived long and laborious years onhis thirty-acre farm, which supported some cattle, ahorse or two, a large flock of sheep, and producedsufficient grain and vegetables. His stock ran at largethrough the summer; his winter hay he cut in the saltmeadows. His clothing was made from the wool of hissheep; the surplus produce of his farm he traded forgroceries at the village shop, and exchanged labor forlabor with blacksmith, shoemaker, and carpenter.[Pg 117]Sometimes he shipped onions to Boston; but he hadlittle money, and needed little. And at this time hisclass of small farmers made perhaps more than halfthe population in any one of the Cape towns exceptthose, like Truro, where practically every man in thecommunity “went to sea”—simple, industriouscreatures, who lived comfortably by another standardthan ours, and were not unmindful of larger intereststhan their own. “He was the most independentof men,” is the comment of Otis. “Six days helabored and did all his work, and the seventh was aday of rest.”
THE ENGLISH WARS
The difficulties incident to the French wars hadgiven the colonies useful training to prepare them forconcerted action against the stupid enactments of themother country in the reign of George III. England,fully occupied with the great continental wars ofwhich the American conflicts were only a by-product,had been forced largely to let the colonies fend forthemselves. When border hostilities were growing tothe final French and Indian War, she had suggestedthe expediency of their coöperating for defence; andjust twenty-two years before the Declaration of Independencecame into being, Benjamin Franklin hadbeen ready to present to a Colonial Council, called toparley with the Six Nations, a plan of confederationwhich, being objected to by some as giving “too muchpower to the people” and by others as conceding“too much to the king,” came to naught. But thefact was established that all the colonies, and notonly those of New England, were learning to act together.And the great drift away from mutual understandingwith England, which in the beginning, onewould think, might have been so easily checked, increased.The colonies knew that by their valor chieflyhad been established in America the supremacy of[Pg 119]England, and their youthful pride was quick to takeoffence. In 1760, when a Royal Governor, in his inaugural,cited “the blessings of subjection to GreatBritain,” the Massachusetts House was careful toexpress their “relation” to the Home Government.His predecessor, who had been more sympathetic tothe genius of the colonies, lived to warn Parliamentthat never would America submit to injustice. Yetyear by year was injustice done. As early as 1761oppressive trade acts had brought out the flamingeloquence of young James Otis, of Barnstable. “Iargue in favor of British liberties,” cried he in theMassachusetts Chamber. “I oppose the kind ofpower the exercise of which in former periods of Englishhistory cost one king of England his head andanother his throne.” For four hours, spellbound, theCourt listened to his plea; and well might John Adams,who heard him that day, aver: “American independencewas then and there born.” And for the next tenyears by his pamphlets, “The Vindication of theConduct of the House of Representatives” and “TheRights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved,”by his letters, and other writings, it has been trulysaid that Otis “led the movement for civil liberty inMassachusetts.”
As if urged on to foolishness by a decree of fatethat America should be a nation, England continuedto blunder: she sought to extinguish the military spiritthat had been so useful to her by creating a standingarmy which, although independent of them, thecolonies should support; she obstructed manufacturing[Pg 120]that the colonies might be dependent upon Britishmarkets; by prohibitive foreign duties she restrictedtrade to British ports, and even taxed trade betweencolony and colony for the benefit of the imperialtreasury. No wonder the colonies were assured thatEngland meant to get an undue portion of the warexpense from them. And when Englishmen complainedthat rich colonists lived like lords while theywere impoverished with taxes, the colonists wereready to retort that England had appropriated Canada,the prize won largely through their efforts, andthat they had already taxed themselves to the limitto pay their own way. But England, undeterred bywarnings at home and plain signs of storm in thecolonies, still pleading “the vast debt” incurred “indefence of her American possessions,” in March, 1765,passed the obnoxious Stamp Act which prescribed theuse of stamped paper for business and legal documents,newspapers and pamphlets: an annoyingenough provision in itself, but the crux of the difficultywas that England, without the consent of thecolonies, imposed the tax.
In October a congress of deputies met in New Yorkto “consult on the common interest,” and was presidedover by Timothy Ruggles, who had marriedthe Widow Bathsheba Newcomb, of Sandwich, andlived there for some years as lawyer and tavern-keeper.He is said to have been a man of charm andwit, a clever politician, and a patriot who later turnedTory. The congress set forth in no uncertain terms“the rights and liberties of the natural-born subjects[Pg 121]of Great Britain ... which Parliament by its recentaction has invaded.” And pre-dating the Boston TeaParty, it was another man with Cape affiliations,Captain Isaac Sears, who, in other fashion, defeatedthe excisemen. “Hurrah, boys,” cried he at the headof a New York mob, “we will have the stamps.” Andhave them they did, and burned them, too. Sears becamehead of a Committee for Public Safety, and whenGage was trying to buy material in New York,warned the citizens that America best keep her suppliesfor her own use. His sobriquet of “King Sears”tells us something of his personality.
England, against the advice of her ablest men,proceeded on her ruinous way. Some parliamentarybombast about “these Americans nurtured so carefullyby the motherland” was neatly punctured byCaptain Barré, a member who had lived in the colonies:“Planted by your care? No, your oppressionsplanted them in America,” thundered he. “Nourishedby your indulgence? They grew by your neglect.Protected by your arms? They themselves havenobly taken up arms in your defence.” “They are toomuch like yourselves to be driven,” was his partingshot. And in the Lords, Camden was announcing:“You have no right to tax America; I have searchedthe matter. I repeat it.... Were I an American, Iwould resist to the last drop of my blood.” Asked inwhat book he found such law, he proudly answered:“It has been the custom of England; and, my lords,the custom of England is the law of the land.” At Boston,as in antiphon, James Otis declared: “Let Great[Pg 122]Britain rescind; if she does not, the colonies are lost toher.”
A convention of towns, those of the Cape included,calling upon the king for redress, appealed to “thesovereign people.” The king’s ministers answered bygarrisoning Boston with four thousand royal troopswhich the Whigs were now ready to view as a foreignaggression. Non-importation associations, under themotto, “United we conquer; divided we die,” wereformed—Boston leading, the Cape towns followingclose. In the general excitement Massachusetts boiledhottest: for in her capital were the royal troops andhere, naturally, was the first clash of arms. The year1770 brought the “Boston massacre”; and in thesame year, under Lord North, all duties were remittedsave those on tea—England had bound herself tothe East India Company there: to no avail, since theright to tax was reserved. Yet the repeal was welcomedas a partial victory by all but the hot-headswho were determined on separation; and Englishmen,who had taken a burning interest in the struggle ofthe colonies, rejoiced. London celebrated the eventwith clash of Bow Bells and dressed ships on theThames.
Then, in 1773, came the little fleet of tea ships toBoston; and Boston, though she liked tea, promptlythrew it into the harbor. Captain Benjamin Gorham,of the Barnstable family, was master of one of theships, with a cargo of “Bohea”; and it was solemnlyreported that “this evening a number of Indians, it issaid of his Majesty of Ocnookortunkoog tribe, emptied[Pg 123]every chest into the dock and destroyed thewhole twenty-eight and a half chests.” And CapeCod had her private Tea Party: for one of the fleethad run aground on the “Back Side” at Provincetown.John Greenough, district clerk of Wellfleet andteacher of a grammar school “attended by such onlyas learn the Latin and Greek languages,” busied himselfabout the task of transferring the cargo to Boston;but no Cape captain, though several were idle, wouldundertake the job, and boats were had down fromBoston for the purpose. The Boston Committee ofCorrespondence, meantime, sent out a circular letterreporting their Tea Party, and adding: “the peopleat the Cape will we hope behave with propriety andas becomes men resolved to save their Country.” Forit was suspected that not all the wrecked tea hadbeen shipped to Boston; and indeed it soon transpiredthat Master Greenough, seeing no harm since theGovernment got no duty, had thriftily retained twodamaged cases for himself and a friend. Brought tosee his error, his due apology was spread upon therecords: “I do declare I had no intention to injure theliberties of my countrymen therein. And whereas theCommittee of Correspondence for this district apprehendthat I have abused them, in a letter I sent them,I do declare I had no such intention, and wish to bereconciled to them again and to forget and forgive onboth sides.” Other tea than Greenough’s hoard wasbeing hunted out. A Truro town-meeting records:“Several persons appeared of whom it had beenreported that they had purchased small quantities of[Pg 124]the East India company’s baneful teas, lately castashore at Provincetown. On examining these personsit appeared that their buying this noxious tea wasthrough ignorance and inadvertance, and that theywere induced thereto by the villainous example andartful persuading of some noted pretended friends ofgovernment from the neighboring towns.” There isevidence enough that some tea floated into the channelsof trade; but any one guilty of the traffic,when apprehended, was quick to place the blameelsewhere.
The Cape was drawn into the great sweep of events.Town meetings were held to consider the alarmingconditions; yet, even in the general pinch for money,maintenance was steadily voted for schools and clergy,though it was suggested that a minister might abatehis salary “because of the scarcity of money and thedifficulties of the times; or wait for the balance.” Andone parson, we know, did give up fifty pounds of hisstipend. Business was at a standstill, and many persons,for financial rather than political reasons as yet,left Harwich, Chatham, and other towns for NovaScotia, the better there to trade and carry on thefisheries. “Sons of Liberty” were organized everywhere;each town must report its strength “on theside of liberty.” Yarmouth would have no tea broughtinto the town; in Chatham “a large number signedagainst tea”; Wellfleet pledged itself to the “defenceof liberty”; Barnstable, Sandwich, Eastham had theirresolutions of protest. Falmouth, in 1774, orderedevery man from sixteen to sixty years of age to be[Pg 125]given arms. Harwich voted to buy arms; Truro votedsympathy with the common cause. And Chatham, in1772, had declared “civil and religious principles to bethe sweetest and essential part of their lives, withoutwhich the remainder was scarcely worth preserving.”
England had gone beyond unjust taxation and haddared meddle with the courts—the trial by jury,the appointees to the bench—which was held tovitiate their function. “I argue in favor of Britishliberties,” had been James Otis’s clarion call; and atBarnstable, in September, 1774, a fine comedy wasplayed out with the connivance, it was suspected, ofJames Otis, senior, who was chief justice of the Courtof Common Pleas. He was to be charged with “holdingoffice during the king’s pleasure” and receivingpay from revenue derived by an “edict of foreigndespotism.” On the day preceding the opening of thecourt men from as far away as Middleborough cameflooding into Sandwich; and next morning a smallarmy marched thence to Barnstable to make their protestto the court. At their head was Doctor NathanielFreeman, a young hot-head of a Whig, who was leaderin many a demonstration against the Tories, and laterwas to put his martial spirit to good use as brigadier-generalin the Federal Army. He was a gallant figure,an eye-witness of the day’s doings remembered, in “ahandsome black-lapelled coat, a tied wig as white assnow, a set-up hat with the point a little to the right:in short, he had the very appearance of fortitude personified.”Joined now by Barnstable men, the patriotstook their stand in front of the courthouse. They[Pg 126]improved the interval of waiting for the court toreceive the recantations of several Tories who hadbeen arrested by the Commissioners and when itcame to a public declaration of sentiment were disposed,for the most part, as a current doggerel had it,to
“... renounce the Pope, the Turk,
The King, the Devil, and all his work;
And if you will set me at ease,
Turn Whig or Christian—what you please.”
Now, behold, the court: Otis, Winslow, Bacon, ledby the sheriff with a white staff in his left hand and adrawn sword in his right. “Gentlemen,” demandedOtis, “what is the purpose for which this vast assemblageis collected here?” Whereupon Freeman,from the steps of the courthouse, replied in a finespeech, the upshot of which was that they proposedto prevent their honors from holding court to the end,particularly, that there should be no appeals to thehated higher court of the king’s council, “well knowingif they have no business, they can do no harm.”
“Sirs, you obstruct the law,” thundered Otis. Then,more mildly, “Why do you leap before you come tothe hedge?” He ordered them to disperse, and citedhis “duty.” “We shall continue to do ours,” counteredFreeman. “And never,” cries one who saw the play,“never have I seen any man whatever who felt quiteso cleverly as did Doctor Freeman during the wholeof this business.”
The court withdrew, and, waited upon later by acommittee, signed an agreement not to accept any[Pg 127]commission or do any business dependent on thoseacts of Parliament that tend “to change our constitutioninto a state of slavery.” The protestantscrowned their work by calling upon all justices andsheriffs of the county to sign the agreement, and byadjuring all military officers to refuse service underthe captain-general “who is appointed to reduce us toobedience to the late unconstitutional acts and whohas actually besieged the capital of this province witha fleet and army.” Barnstable and Yarmouth, havingbeen interrogated as to whether they had droppedthe legislators voting against the Continental Congress,their affirmation was received with cheers. Thatnight some damage was done the new Liberty Pole,which was surmounted by a gilt ball, one of the“miscreants” blazoning thereon:
“Your liberty pole
I dare be bold
Appears like Dagon bright,
But it will fall
And make a scrawl
Before the morning light.”
Business ran over into the next day, when one ofthe suspects in the affair of the Liberty Pole, whetheror not the poet is not recorded, was made to apologize.Again the assembly, in committee of the whole and“attended by music,” waited upon Otis, who waslodged at the house of Mr. Davis. Adjured in writingnot to sit in the king’s council, but rather as a “constitutionalcouncillor of this province” in the electedGeneral Court at Salem, in writing he expressed[Pg 128]gratitude “for putting me in mind of my duty; I amdetermined to attend at Salem in case my health permits.”To the reading of his message listened “thewhole body with heads uncovered and then gavethree cheers in token of their satisfaction and highappreciation of his answer as well as esteem and venerationfor his person and character.” In final sessionthe company again repudiated the hated acts of Parliamentand pledged themselves to the sacred cause ofliberty, registered their abhorrence of mobs and violence,warned off any other molesters of the LibertyPole, and agreed to use their “endeavors to suppresscommon peddlers.” The last a matter of some mysteryuntil one knows that peddlers were prone to selltea, and were perhaps suspected of being spies. Barnstablehad entertained the host gratis, and the hottestpatriot there must have welcomed its withdrawal toSandwich, where it proceeded to take like actionagainst Tories and possible meddlers with the town’sLiberty Pole. Then, amid cheers for everybody, DoctorFreeman’s company broke up and sifted back totheir homes, but he himself was not to come scathlessout of his adventure.
Suspecting a ruse when, a few nights later, he wassummoned to a dying patient, he was not to be disappointed:for as he passed the tavern, three of the“recanters” appeared as a “Committee of the Bodyof the People” and demanded his presence within toanswer for his actions. Ignoring them, he walked on,but on his return he was set upon by the “Committee,”it is said, and crying out that his sword-cane[Pg 129]was his only weapon he laid about him valiantly, butwas knocked senseless, and would have been in hardcase had he not been rescued by friends. The wholecommunity, it seemed, was against such lawlessness.The so-called Tories who had not fled were arrested,and on the plea of Freeman got off with a fine of onehundred pounds “lawful money.” But the peopleshowed no such clemency. Sandwich, after an indignationmeeting of the citizens, rearrested the culpritsand forced them, on a scaffold under the LibertyPole, to sign a confession acknowledging that theirconduct was such as “would disgrace the characterof a ruffian or a Hottentot,” and engaging themselvesin future “religiously to regard the laws of God andman.”
The Tories, for the most part, were no such“Hottentots.” It was natural in such a settlement asCape Cod that there should be many conservatives:men descended from those who had never failed inloyalty to the English Government, were it Stuartor Roundhead, who had been taught to love Englandas the home of their fathers, and the source of lawand light. As late as 1766 even Franklin was declaringbefore a parliamentary committee that “to be an OldEngland man was of itself a character of respect andgave a kind of rank among us,” and “they consideredParliament as the great bulwark and security of theirliberties.” There were as a fact four parties: the ardentWhigs like Nathaniel Freeman, who were separatistsat all costs; the irreconcilable Tories who, whenwar was imminent, fled behind the British lines in[Pg 130]Boston or New York, or to Nova Scotia and Canada,or to England, and, in the case of Cape Cod, often tothe islands southward where they could be in easycommunication with British ships. And there werethe moderates of both camps: Whigs whose sensibilitieswere offended by the extreme methods of theradicals; Tories, chiefly men of the older generation,who lacked pliancy and vision to respond to a newerorder; and with the latter were ranged, at any rate atthe beginning of the trouble, those who loved freedom,they could swear, yet loved better present securitiesand feared conflict with the might of Britain. As timewent on the number of moderate Whigs steadily increased,especially in the Old Colony as befitted thesober temper of the Pilgrim inheritance; even JosephOtis, of Barnstable, who had rivalled Doctor NathanielFreeman in fervor, was to join them, and the lukewarm,patriots or Tories, were ready to declare for thecolonies. Even a Tory in exile could be secretly elatedby the prowess of his countrymen; and one such inEngland confided to his diary that “these conceitedislanders” may learn to their cost that “our continentcan furnish brave soldiers and judicious expertcommanders.” It speaks well for the Federaliststhat after the war was over and many extremeTories who had left their homes petitioned to return,they were reinstated upon pledge of loyalty tothe new State: whether restored as generously to theaffection of their neighbors history does not record,but one may fancy children’s gibes to the third generation.In Sandwich there were many Tories who[Pg 131]were brought to conform; but it is said there wasstill much disaffection, and when the Declaration ofIndependence was read out by the parson on a certainSunday, a Tory who was much esteemed in theneighborhood “trooped scornfully and indignantlyout of meeting.”
At Cape Cod the feud between Tory and Whigtook on a comedy aspect in comparison with thevindictive civil war which it presented in manycounties of New York and in the southern colonies.At Truro, as late as 1774, the house of a Whig doctorwas attacked, and many still refused to employ him;a parson, for receiving a number of prominent Whigs,was admonished by some of his parishioners. AtBarnstable the parties had their headquarters inrival taverns; and at Sturgis’s, where Whigs metevery evening to comment on the news, the discussion,running high between moderates and radicals,sometimes slopped over into action. After onesuch meeting a man who had criticised the system ofespionage that wasted energy in ferreting out oldwomen’s secret stores of tea, had his fence destroyedby his irate neighbors. Otis and Freeman, it seems,were not popular with the militia who, at a reviewone day, clubbed muskets instead of presenting arms.“The Crockers are at the bottom of this,” criedJoseph Otis. “You lie,” gave back Captain SamuelCrocker. A fight between the two naturally ensued;in the midst of which Freeman, who was not the manto be an inactive spectator, turned upon anotherCrocker, a moderate Whig in politics, followed him[Pg 132]into his house, slashing at him harmlessly enough,and in his turn was like to have been murdered by ayounger member of the Crockers thirsting for vengeance.Freeman’s cutlass took effect only upon the“summer beam” of the house; and years afterwards,when it was used as a tavern, Freeman, who hadcome from Sandwich to attend court, was refusedentertainment there. “My house is full,” quothMadam Crocker. She pointed to the scars of the“summer beam.” “And if it were not, there wouldbe no room for Colonel Freeman.” “Time to forgetthose old matters, and bury the hatchet,” protestedFreeman. “Very like,” said she, “but the aggressorshould dig the grave.”
A certain young woman, suspected of disloyalty,and asked by the Vigilance Committee whether shewere a Tory, answered in four emphatic words whichthe record leaves us to imagine from the dark comment:“The Committee never forgot them and everafter treated her with respect.” This woman, AmosOtis tells us, never lost her youthful vivacity; even inold age she was gay, responsive, able to discuss withequal zest the latest novel or parson’s sermon. Herwit was keen, and the point “never blunted in orderto avoid an allusion which prudery might condemn.”
There was a more serious business in the tarringand feathering of the Widow Nabby Freeman of whichthe towns-people were sufficiently ashamed, evidently,to charge it in turn to Whig and Tory. Freeman, inhis history, says she was a Whig, the victim of Toryspite; Otis, with convincing detail, that she was a[Pg 133]Tory. She kept a small grocery, and refused to surrenderher tea to be destroyed by the Vigilance Committee.She was “a thorn in their sides—she couldout-talk any of them, was fascinating in her manners,and had an influence which she exerted, openly anddefiantly, against the patriotic men who were thenhazarding their fortunes and their lives in the strugglefor American independence.” Both narrativesagree in the fact: she was taken from her bed to thevillage green, smeared with tar and feathers, setastride a rail and ridden about the town. We mayfancy the tongue-lashing her persecutors received inthe process. At last they exacted from her a promisethat in the future she would keep clear of politics.The men who carried through this cruel comedy werenot eager to be known; yet it is said feeling against theTories ran so high that even in Sandwich, which hadlamented the harsh treatment of Quakers, a strongparty justified the act. But that public sentiment didnot approve such rowdyism is proved by the fact thatit stands out alone in unlovely prominence.
It is probable that many a private grudge wasworked off in this cry of “Tory, Tory.” When JosephOtis, brother of the patriot, cited a prominent townsmanfor disaffection, the court held the accusation toproceed “rather from an old family quarrel and wasthe effect of envy rather than matter of truth andsobriety, or any view to the publick good.” And whenas a deacon he had been haled before the church forhis political opinions, the church decided that it had“no right to call its members to an account for[Pg 134]actions of a civil and public nature,” that the protestants“did not charge the deacon with immorality”and that it “begged leave to refer them to a civiltribunal.” It is further recorded in a later month thatthe affair between the deacon and “the brethren,styled petitioners, was happily accommodated.”
Until the actual clash of arms, many believed thatthere might be found some ground for reconciliation;but England was blinded by jealous tradesmen andfoolish politicians, hot blood in the colonies was allfor separation. Events swept beyond the control ofstatesmen, and all were carried on to the vortex ofrevolution. In a speech from the throne George IIIasserted that “a most daring resistance to the laws,”encouraged by the other colonies, existed in Massachusetts.Again Camden spoke in defence of the colonies:“They say truly taxation and representation must gotogether. This wise people speak out. They do notask you to repeal the laws as a favor; they claim it asa right.” But Parliament charged the Americans with“wishing to become independent” and as for anydanger of revolt, determined “to crush the monsterin its birth at any price or hazard.” They were to havea good run for their money.
In no long time the king’s men were marching out toConcord and Lexington; and with the actual sheddingof blood, messengers, on the Sunday, rode outpost-haste to rouse the country. “War is begun,”cried they at church doors. “War, war,” broke in[Pg 135]upon hymn or parson’s prayer; and from pulpit andpeople rose the solemn response: “To arms: libertyor death.”
The radicals were jubilant. Mr. Watson, of Plymouth,wrote to his friend Freeman congratulationsupon the spirit of Sandwich, where Freeman had orderedthe royal arms burned by the common hangman.“We are in high spirits,” wrote Watson, “anddon’t think it is in the power of all Europe to subjugateus.” “The Lord of Hosts fights on the side ofthe Yankees,” averred he. “I glory in the name.”Yet Watson, an ardent patriot, in the course of apolitical quarrel of later years, was denounced toJefferson as an old Tory, and was conveniently removedfrom office.
But sober men were preparing to meet the cost ofchoosing between a man’s way and a child’s. CapeCod, in particular, with a defenceless coast and theprobable interruption of her fisheries and commerce,faced ruin; but, four-square, she stood for freedom.Immediately upon the news of fighting, two companiesof militia from Barnstable and Yarmouth tookthe road, but returned on word that the royal troopswere held in Boston. With them, that day, pipingthem out with fifes, were two boys who, when theywere sent back, “borrowed” an old horse grazing bythe roadside to give them a mount homeward. Oneboy became solicitor-general, the other a judge, andone day there chanced to be a case of prosecutionfor horse-thieving between them. “Davy,” whisperedJudge Thacher, leaning from the bench, “this puts[Pg 136]me in mind of the horse we stole that day in Barnstable.”
As the militia had marched down the county road,an old farmer halted them. “God be with you all, myfriends,” said he as one who would consecrate theirenterprise. “And John, my son, if you are called intobattle, take care that you behave like a man or elselet me never see your face again.” A Harwich father,when he had heard of the first blood spilled, cried outto his son: “Eben, you’re the only one can be spared.Take your gun and go. Fight for religion and liberty.”And that boy and others who joined on the instantwere ready to fight at Bunker Hill.
Yet there had been no open declaration of cuttingloose from the mother country; and the colonistsseem to have had no more deliberate intention offounding a nation than had the Pilgrims of declaringa new principle of government. The second ContinentalCongress had recommended a day of prayer andhumiliation “to implore the blessings of Heaven onour sovereign the King of England and the interpositionof divine aid to remove the grievances of thepeople and restore harmony.” The Cape, a sturdy inheritorof the Pilgrim spirit, seems to have been anearly advocate of state rights. In 1778 Barnstable appointeda committee to pass upon the proposed union.“It appears to us,” said Barnstable, “that the powerof congress is too great.... But if during the presentarduous conflict with Great Britain it may be judgednecessary to vest such extra powers in a continentalcongress, we trust that you will use your endeavors[Pg 137]that the same shall be but temporary.” “The Plymouthspirit, which nearly a century before had beenshy of a union with Massachusetts,” writes Palfrey,“was now equally averse to a consolidated governmentwhich should implicate the concerns of Massachusettstoo much with those of other states.”
Bunker Hill was fought, and by July Washington,as commander-in-chief, was in residence at Cambridge.When he called for troops to man DorchesterHeights, Captain Joshua Gray marched throughYarmouth with a drummer, calling for volunteers,and eighty-one men responded. The night was spentin preparation, the women moulding bullets andmaking cartridges, and by dawn the little company,equipped for war, was ready to take the road. As wasnatural, fishermen and sailors, when they could, enlistedin the infant navy. But the call for men presseduntil even Joseph Otis protested: “We have moremen in the land and sea service than our proportion,”and “there is scarcely a day that the enemy is notwithin gun-shot of some part of our coast. It is likedragging men from home when their houses are onfire, but I will do my best to comply.” An additionalgrievance lay in the fact that the Cape troops seemto have been sent largely to Rhode Island. And Otisadded that it was unreasonable “to detach men fromtheir property, wives and children to protect thetown of Providence in the heart of the State ofRhode Island.”
Wellfleet, deprived of its fisheries, was all butruined; Provincetown, with its few inhabitants who[Pg 138]had not fled, was entirely at the disposal of the enemyfleet when it rode snugly at anchor in the harbor.But even these towns struggled to furnish theirquota to feed the desperate need; and MashpeeIndians, as we know, played their part so nobly thatthe war’s end saw seventy widows in the little community.
But there were malcontents enough to induce precaution,and the Provincial Congress had immediatelyprovided for disarming the disaffected. In Barnstablethere had been so many of little courage thatin 1776 it had voted against supporting the Congressif it should declare for independence rather thanstand out simply for constitutional liberty; and whenthe draft was resorted to and some men “refused tomarch,” their fines and costs were paid by the loyalistsof Barnstable and Sandwich. In August ColonelJoseph Otis and Nathaniel Freeman were appointedto round up suspects on the Cape, a task, we mayguess, much to their liking. In December MajorDimmock, who had fought at Ticonderoga in theFrench War, was commanded to “repair to Nantucketand arrest such as are guilty of supplying theenemy with provisions.” Tories from the mainlandhad fled thither, and they were not only in constantcommunication with British ships, but manned manyof the ships that harried the coast.
The Cape made a brave attempt to keep up itstrade, and voyages were made with the permission ofthe General Court, “always provided that the saidfish &c., shall not be cleared out for any of his Britannic[Pg 139]Majesty’s dominions.” But affairs were in desperatecase, and loyalists plotted with some show ofreason that they had chosen the winning side. Otisreports on October 2: “Yesterday the Tories in theSound, about a league off Highano’s harbor, tooka vessel bound out of said harbor to Stonington anddrove another ashore on the eastward part of Falmouth.In short the refugees have got a number ofVineyard pilot-boats (about twenty) and man them,and run into our shores and take everything thatfloats.” Nevertheless, he engages to get two smallvessels, if they will give him guns, and “scour theSound.” On October 12 the head of “a refugee gang inthe Sound” sent a flag of truce to ask an exchange ofprisoners. And in this same month the General Courtappropriated money for four cannon, four to nine-pounders—noformidable armament for the longcoast-line of the Cape. But the Sound, especially,was the scene of many an adventure, and enemyraids upon its shores seem to have been promptedlargely by a desire for fresh meat. In 1779 maraudersdrove away some cattle from farms near Wood’sHole, but were surprised and put off to their shipswithout their booty; an attack in force was plannedagainst Falmouth, but was received by such hot firefrom the shore that the ships were driven out into theSound; at Wood’s Hole, again, they met with a likereception. But the Sound the Britishers succeeded inmaking their own. Nevertheless, one hundred men,under Colonel Dimmock, were sent over for thedefence of Martha’s Vineyard; and among other[Pg 140]exploits Dimmock captured an enemy vessel in OldTown Harbor, and took her crew, under hatches, toHyannis whence they were sent overland to Boston.A Federal grain vessel, as it entered the Sound oneday, fell into the hands of the British; but its captainescaped, roused Captain Dimmock, who got togethertwenty men and three whaleboats, next morningretook the prize from under the nose of the Britishat Tarpaulin Cove, and made safe harbor at Martha’sVineyard.
The outer coast was blockaded, but sometimes aboat from Boston or the fishing-grounds would slipthrough; sometimes, even, such a one would be allowedto pass. None other than the great Nelson—LieutenantNelson he was then, in command of HisMajesty’s Ship Albemarle stationed that year in CapeCod Bay—released the Schooner Harmony, Plymouthowned, to its captain “on account of his goodservices,” as pilot, we may guess. Nor was the relationof fleet and mainland wholly unfriendly. Thesestraight Britishers were much better liked by the peoplethan the loyalist refugees that, for the most part,manned the hostile boats off Wood’s Hole and Falmouth.English officers often landed and called uponthe people, or attended church; one ship’s surgeoneven found opportunity to fall in love with a Trurogirl, and win her, too; and after the war, he resignedHis Majesty’s service, married his sweetheart, andsettled down to the village practice. The Reverend“William Hazlett, a Briton,” baptized several childrenat Truro in 1785. Rich thinks he may have been[Pg 141]a retired navy chaplain, but it seems quite as reasonableto suppose that he was the father of WilliamHazlitt, the essayist, who, at about that time, happenedto be in Weymouth. As early as December,1776, a committee was appointed to “acquaint hisexcellency, General Washington, with the importanceof Cape Cod Harbor and consider with him on somemethod to deprive the enemy of the advantage theynow receive therefrom.” But to the end of hostilitiesthe English fleet continued to enjoy that advantage,though, as we have seen, they were content to usetheir ships for blockade purposes rather than theirmen to molest the inhabitants. The British seem tohave been able to get needed supplies by purchaseinstead of bloodshed, although there is some evidenceof disturbance ashore. Mr. Rich in his history ofTruro tells us of a man who, one fine evening, wasenjoying a pipe under an apple-tree on his farm nearHigh Head when stray shots from a man-of-war cameploughing up the ground near him. And once themilitia captain at Truro, believing a raid imminent,used the clever ruse of boldly parading his tiny “cornstalkbrigade” in and out among the dunes near PondVillage for two hours; and he frightened off the British,he averred, by such a demonstration of strength.
By sea Truro men did not get off so easily. In 1775David Snow and his son, a lad of fifteen, were fishingoff the “Back Side” one day when they were capturedby an enemy frigate known, significantly, as“the shaving-mill.” They were taken to England andlocked up, with other Yankee prisoners, in the Old[Pg 142]Mill Prison near Plymouth, where they set their witsat work on methods of escape. Mr. Snow, one night,proposed a dance, when the fiddle squeaked its loudestand the dancers shuffled noisily in heavy brogans,to drown the noise of the file that willing hands kepthard at work eating at the bars. Thirty-six men, undercover of the hilarity, succeeded in slipping outinto the yard, overpowered the guard, walked thefifteen miles to Plymouth Harbor, boarded a scow,and before daylight were afloat in the Channel. Therethey captured a small boat, and set sail for Francewhere they sold their prize for hard cash, Snow andhis son receiving as their share forty dollars. TheFrench Government, when occasion served, set themon the shore of Carolina whence they finally workedtheir way overland to Boston, took boat for Provincetown,and so home again to Truro. Seven years hadbeen consumed in the adventure, and they had longbeen mourned as dead. The boy was now a man, but aquick-eyed girl cried, as she saw him: “If that isn’tDavid Snow, it’s his ghost.” And the father foundhis wife “spending the afternoon” with her sewing, ata neighbor’s. Another Truro lad was of the crew thatrowed Benedict Arnold out to the Vulture, and whenhe knew the significance of that night’s story, fearingthat he might be implicated in a charge of treason, hefled straight to Canada. There he married, and it wasforty-eight years before he returned to visit his oldhome. A Yarmouth man was one of the gallantAndré’s guards the night before his execution, andlamented his unhappy fate. And Watson Freeman, of[Pg 143]Sandwich, who in 1754 at the age of fourteen hadjoined the expedition to Canada, fought in the Revolution,and was present at the taking of Burgoyne in1777. The next year he was stationed with GeneralSullivan on Long Island, where, being one of a“foraging party” that was surprised by the enemyin the relaxation of attending a ball, he received asabre-cut on the forehead that scarred him for life.Later, having joined an uncle who commanded aprivateer, he was taken prisoner by the enemy,wounded in an encounter between them and a Frenchboat, invalided to a hospital at Portsmouth, England,and discharged as incurable. Wandering about thecountry, he came upon an old herb-woman whoproved wiser than the doctors, and he lived to amassa fortune in Boston as an “importer of English goodsand concerned also in navigation.”
Nor did the British cruisers have things all theirown way. Swift-sailing privateers were fitted out—CapeCod sailors we may be sure eager for suchservice—and in the two years between 1776 and1778 nearly eight hundred prizes had been captured;while during the war nearly two hundred thousandtons of British shipping were taken by privateers thatwere manned largely by fishermen.
Certainly, whether of men high in council or of therank and file, Cape Cod furnished her due share in theconflict: unnamed sailors and soldiers, brave men all;Nathaniel Freeman, Joseph Otis, Dimmock; and,greater than all, the James Otises, father and son.From the evacuation of Boston in 1776 to 1780 when[Pg 144]the new government was established, Massachusettsaffairs were in the hands of the Council that waselected annually as provided by the charter of Williamand Mary; of this Council Colonel James Otis, assenior member, was presiding officer and virtuallythe Governor of the Province. James, the patriot,never entirely recovered from the effects of a dastardlyassault in 1769, and in 1783 he was killed by astroke of lightning as he stood in his doorway atAndover. The last years of his life were dark withtragedy. His daughter, to his great grief, had marriedan English officer, who was wounded at BunkerHill; his son, James, third of the name, had enlistedas a midshipman and died, at twenty-one, on thenotorious British prison-ship Jersey. But the patriothad accomplished his great work. And of him JohnAdams well said: “I have been young and now amold, and I solemnly say I have never known a manwhose love of country was more ardent and sincere—neverone who suffered so much—never one whoseservices for any ten years of his life were so importantand essential to the cause of his country as those ofMr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”
Affairs moved on toward peace, and on April 19,just eight years after Lord Percy had set out on hisexpedition to Concord and Lexington, Washingtonproclaimed an armistice. But joy in the victory wastempered for thoughtful men: if it had cost Englanda hundred million pounds and fifty thousand men to[Pg 145]lose her colonies, the relative price they paid forindependence was far greater. The currency waspractically worthless, the soldiers and their familieswere destitute, the salaries of public officers andclergy but a pittance. Each State wanted to secure itsrevenue to its own use, which ensured conflict withthe Federal Government; the individual, in his meagrecircumstances, grudged any contribution to such revenue,which ensured conflict between the State and itscitizens. That the general unrest was present in BarnstableCounty is evident from a proclamation of theGovernment calling upon “the good people of saidcounty for their aid and assistance” in handling arumored attempt to “obstruct the sitting of theCourt at Barnstable.” But in the main the peoplewho had broken the might of Britain now, war ended,applied themselves with like energy to recoveringfrom its effects. And in spite of war and threatenedruin the Cape had continued its healthy growth.
In 1793 Dennis, which had long functioned as aseparate town, was incorporated; its name derivedfrom that of the first minister of the East Precinct ofYarmouth, the Reverend Josiah Dennis. In 1797Orleans was set off from Eastham; and in 1803 theNorth Parish of Harwich, the older in point of settlement,became Brewster. It was then that argumentfor and against division hit upon the extraordinarycompromise that irreconcilables of the North Parish,“together with such widows as live therein and requestit, have liberty to remain, with their familiesand estates, to the town of Harwich.” No less than[Pg 146]sixty-five persons, including two widows, stiff-neckedold conservatives we may guess, filed such requestwith the town clerk and the Secretary of the Commonwealth.Here was an arrangement well calculatedto nourish old animosities, which, in the naturalcourse of things, had to be abandoned. Nor was thenew town slow in making her voice heard: in 1810 shewas remonstrating against the appointment of a certainpostmaster, “he being a foreigner and in the opinionof the inhabitants an alien.” A little later she waspetitioning “the Postmaster General, praying him tofix the day of the week and the hour of the day inwhich the post-rider shall arrive at Brewster on hisway down the Cape, and also on his return, and thatthe Committee of Safety attend to this matter.” Andshe was one of the loudest to protest against the EmbargoAct of 1807.
America had been making no small profit duringthe Napoleonic wars that wrecked Europe. By wisefederal legislation trade and credit gradually righted,and the neutrality of the United States permittedlucrative intercourse with all the belligerents. ButAmerican traders took their risks, and by no meanscame off scatheless: England and France had establishedmutual blockades; their ships preyed upon theYankee blockade-runners, their captains impressedcaptured American seamen. England by the BritishOrders in Council, France by the Berlin and Milandecrees, all but put an end to our commerce, and thecoup de grâce threatened when, in 1807, the UnitedStates hoped to save her ships by declaring an embargo[Pg 147]on all outgoing shipping. As between Englandand America, there were accusations and counter-accusationsthat the other country was not carryingout the provisions of their peace treaty, nor had theold Tory and Whig animosities of the Revolutionhad time to die; and the whole exasperating stateof affairs worked out to a formal declaration of waragainst England in 1812.
Brewster, in solemn town-meeting assembled, hadinveighed thus against the Embargo Act: “Thatimperious necessity calls upon us loudly to remonstrate”against the embargo laws “as unjust in theirnature, unequal in their operation, a cruel infringementof our most precious rights.” In impassionedwords she memorialized the General Court: “Whilstthe mouth of labor is forbidden to eat, the languageof complaint is natural. With ruin at our doors, andpoverty staring us in the face, we beseech, conjureand implore your honorable body to obtain a redressof the oppressive grievances under which we suffer.”And Brewster, having thus recorded her protest, feltherself free to join in the sport of evading the newlaw. It was a boat owned there, captured by a revenuecutter and taken into Provincetown, that was recapturedby the owners who had hurriedly fitted up apacket as a man-of-war, and cleared off for her port ofSurinam, while the United States Marshal whistledfor any satisfaction he could get.
A more complicated adventure befell two Capemen, Mayo and Hill, who were of the crew of CaptainPaine, of Truro. In 1811 they cleared for Mediterranean[Pg 148]ports with a cargo of fish, but off the coast ofSpain they were boarded and searched by a Frenchcorvette, and for some reason Mayo and Hill weretaken prisoner and landed in Lisbon. There they wereattached to a French force that was to convoy a richpay train through the enemy country, the most dangerouspoint of which was a deep defile in the mountainssome three miles in length. There a murderousfire was opened upon them from the overhangingcliffs, every officer and all but a handful of men killed,and the rest marched off to a Spanish prison. Andamong the prisoners were Mayo and Hill who hadcome through the engagement without a scratch. TheFrenchmen were inclined to make game of theirYankee fellow-captives, and something of a race wardeveloped. But Mayo “was, like Miles Standish,small of stature but soon red-hot.” He whippedseveral “Frenchies,” and offered to fight the lot, aninvitation, courteously declined, which left him masterof the field. Whether by intrigue or not, Hill wascondemned as a spy and marched out to be shot when,in the approved style of romance, a horseman in thenick of time dashed up with a reprieve; and Hill hadearned his title to “scape-gallows.” In a few monthsthe two Cape men managed somehow to make theirway to Flanders, and, after years crammed with adventure,reached home. “Mr. Mayo,” says Rich whotells the story, “died in good old age, in the peace ofChrist, having raised a large family of enterprisingboys. Like the patriarch, he saw his children’s childrento the fourth generation.”
Captain Isaiah Crowell, of Yarmouth, had successfullyrun the blockade at Marseilles after theFrench decrees were in force; and in 1812, knowingthat a strict embargo of ninety days, preliminary towar, was imminent, he loaded hastily at Boston witha cargo for Lisbon, cleared for Eastport, where hegave the first news of the embargo, and cleared therefor Lisbon. War having been declared, on his return hewas captured by an English cruiser, taken into SaintJohn’s where his ship was condemned, and he wasbeing returned to the United States on the Britishsloop-of-war Alert when it was captured by the YankeeEssex. But if Crowell lost in this venture, he wasto gain by his skill and daring in many another; and heretired from sea with a comfortable fortune, to liveout many humdrum years ashore as a bank presidentand legislator.
When it came to this second war with England,although the United States now proved herself a nation,there was no unanimity of opinion among the people;and as a fact the Americans had been nearly as indignantwith their own government for its embargoesas with England and France for their unjust decreesand their seizure of American seamen and ships.Politics seethed hot in New England as elsewhere, andmen for or against the war wrangled in high place andlow. The majority on the Cape were anti-war. Chatham,remembering old wars and fresh wrongs, addressedthe President expressing “the abhorrence ofthe people to any alliance with France.” Other townswere, at best, lukewarm. Yarmouth never ceased to[Pg 150]be bitterly anti-war, and many who had foughtdevotedly in the Revolution refused to fight now, oronly so far as it might be necessary to prevent theinvasion of their soil. Yet the county was stronglyFederalist, and a powerful minority were able to pushthrough a fine resolution: “It becomes us, in imitationof the patriots of the Revolution, to unite in thecommon cause of the country, patiently bearing everyevil, and cheerfully submitting to those privationswhich are necessarily incident to a state of war. Weconsider the war in which we are engaged as just,necessary and unavoidable, and we will support thesame with our lives and fortunes.”
The fine old breed of American seamen flocked intothe navy, and success on the ocean did much to offsetreverses on land. During the first seven months of thewar, five hundred British merchantmen were taken;and the Essex, the Constitution, the Wasp had madetheir kill of English men-of-war. In 1814 Great Britain,relieved from the pressure of continental wars,was ready to turn her full attention to America,Washington was burned, and again a British fleetrendezvoused in Provincetown Harbor and harriedthe coast of the Cape. A landing party at Wood’s Holewas driven off by the militia; Falmouth, after duenotice to remove non-combatants, was bombarded,with considerable loss to buildings and salt-works,but none to life. The contention had been that Falmouthhad been annoying British ships with hercannon which Captain Weston Jenkins, the Yankeecommander, had thereupon dared the British to come[Pg 151]and get. The determined attitude of his militia seemsto have discouraged any landing and the British withdrewwithout their cannon. Several months laterFalmouth was to have her revenge. Captain Jenkins,with thirty-two volunteers, set sail in the sloop TwoFriends for Tarpaulin Cove, Wood’s Hole, whereH.M.S. Retaliation lay at anchor. Brought to by ashot from the ship, Jenkins concealed all but two orthree of his men to encourage a boarding party of theenemy. This it was easy to overcome; whereupon hetrained his guns upon the ship, overcame all resistance,and returned in triumph to Falmouth withthe Retaliation, its crew of twelve men, its plunder,and two Yankee prisoners.
Meantime Yankee merchantmen were running theblockade with even more zest than they had enjoyedin evading their own embargo. At Hyannis, the Kutuzoff,with a full cargo of cotton and rice, came bowlinginto port followed close by a British privateer-schooner.The cargo safe landed, one hundred militiagathered to repel possible invasion and trained a four-pounderon the enemy who, after an unsuccessfulattempt to destroy a beached British prize, prudentlywithdrew. At Hyannis, again the Yankee landed “upwardsof a hundred packages of dry goods”; otherboats, without benefit of revenue officers, landedstores of spirits and wine and other products fromthe South. Coasting vessels tried to keep up a desultorytrade with Boston, though Boston was sothoroughly blockaded it was easier to make the runto New York. Fleets of whaleboats followed the old[Pg 152]route that Bradford and De Rasieres had used, byway of Sandwich and Manomet, and so, on, huggingthe shores of southern New England to their destination.Two Eastham captains, safely landing a whaleboatcargo of rye at Boston, were encouraged bysuccess to exchange for a larger boat and cargo for thehomeward voyage. At the Gurnet, however, theywere brought to by a “pink-stern” schooner that wasmasquerading as a fisherman, but proved to belongto H.M.S. Spencer. One captain was sent to Bostonfor three hundred dollars ransom of their boat; theother, Mayo, was retained aboard the prize as pilot,and orders given him to cruise about the bay. In astiff gale Mayo counselled taking shelter in the lee ofBillingsgate Point, forthwith grounded the schooneron the Eastham flats, quieted criticism with assurancethat they would soon be floating over the bar into thesafety of inner waters, and advised the officers to gobelow that their number might not excite suspicionon shore. He had previously secured two pistols forhimself and provided for the helplessness of the crewby giving them a gimlet to tap a barrel of rum. Hethen threw all available firearms overboard, and,when the officers presented themselves in alarm as theboat canted with the receding tide, held them off withhis pistols, coolly walked ashore over the sands, androused the militia who took boat and crew as prize.The crew, later, was allowed to escape to their frigateand the boat was awarded to Captain Mayo, who releasedit to its owners for two hundred dollars. Butthe town was not to come off so easily in the affair: for[Pg 153]the British commander, in reprisal for the indignityto his men, threatened to destroy boats, buildings,and salt-works, if twelve hundred dollars were notforthcoming as the price of immunity and as recompensefor the prisoners’ baggage. The town fathersdecided to pay the sum, and made no such bad bargainas their receipt promised to hold Easthamscatheless for the duration of the war.
Brewster, prudently, chose a like alternative, althoughhere the price was raised to four thousanddollars. An emergency town meeting was held in thechurch to consider the question, scouts sent out toneighboring towns to sound opinion as to the likelihoodof help in resisting the demand, the artillerycommander directed to “engage horses to be in readinessfor the ordnance; and there being a deficiency inthat branch of the service a committee should ascertainhow many exempts from forty-five to sixty ineach school district could be brought to enlist therein.”The scouts returning with the disheartening news“that the town of Brewster can make no dependenceon any of our neighbors for assistance in our alarmingand distressed situation,” it was decided to employarbiters rather than ordnance, and that “the committeeof safety who went on board his B.M. Spencer,go again this night and make the best terms possiblewith Com. Ragget.” Ragget held to his demand, andthe committee, though they “used their best endeavors,”“could not obtain the abatement of a dollar,”the sum to be paid in specie in two weeks’ time.The tribute money was borrowed, and to reimburse[Pg 154]the lenders a tax levied on “salt-works, buildings ofevery description, and vessels owned in this town ofevery description frequenting, or lying on, the shore.”It is interesting that the sixty-five irreconcilable alienresidents who had adhered to the jurisdiction of Harwichmanaged to evade their share of the tax, althoughtheir property was thus secured from theBritish guns. The faithful of Brewster bore the burdennone too willingly one may guess: three yearslater they petitioned the legislature to refund the sumpaid “Rd. Ragget, Esq. as a contribution,” but receivedno redress. And when, as a crowning wrong,they were upbraided by fireside patriots for payingtribute to the enemy, they had the valid excuse thatsince Government and neighbors had left them tofend for themselves, they were justified in saving thetown.
Orleans, of bolder kidney, it would seem, rejected alike demand, and repulsed several landing parties. Itmay be said that the village of Orleans lay inland ata safer distance from ship’s guns. In December theBritish frigate Newcastle ran ashore near Orleans,and, floated with some difficulty, sent a four-oaredbarge into Rock Harbor and captured therein aschooner and three sloops, two of which, beingaground, were fired but were saved by the natives.Prize crews were put aboard the other sloopand the schooner, and anchor weighed for Provincetown.But the schooner, under command of a Yankeepilot who emulated the example of Captain Mayo,of Eastham, ran her ashore on the Yarmouth flats,[Pg 155]and the crew were sent prisoners to Salem. Meantimethe Orleans militia had driven off the landingforce; and sixty years later the surviving heroes ortheir widows received a bounty of one hundred andsixty acres of public land for their prowess at “thebattle of Orleans.” Boat after boat in the bay wastaken by the British, and usually released after thecaptors had replenished their stores from the cargoes.The Two Friends of Provincetown, taken offGloucester, was sent to Nova Scotia, as, also, wasthe Victory of Yarmouth. But the master of the Victorysaved his captor, the Leander, from beingwrecked on some dangerous shoals and received asreward an order on the Governor of Halifax for hisschooner and a safe-conduct home for himself andhis crew.
On the other side of the account, many Cape Codcaptains made successful ventures in privateering.Captain Reuben Rich, of Wellfleet, captured an EastIndiaman on the first day out, and cleared seventeenthousand dollars for his share in the transaction; menfrom Brewster, Truro, Eastham likewise made satisfactorycruises under letters of marque. Cape Codfishermen served in these privateers and in the navy,and sometimes were captured, and many a man fromCape Cod was familiar with the interior of DartmoorPrison. The last survivor of them, at Truro, lived wellinto the opening of a new era, and died in 1878 at theripe age of ninety. Two Harwich men were in thefight between the Constitution and Guerrière, and nodoubt could sing with gusto:
“You thought our frigates were but few,
And Yankees could not fight,
Until bold Hull the Guerrière took,
And banished her from sight.
“Ye parliaments of England, ye Lords and Commons too,
Consider well what you’re about and what you mean to do;
You are now at war with Yankee boys, and soon you’ll rue the day
You roused the sons of Liberty in North America.”
The “sons of Liberty,” although consecrated by nosuch spirit as won the war for independence, had considerableground for exultation.
But British ships dominated Cape Cod Bay, andthe flagship, anchored off Truro, sometimes used theold mill on Mill Hill for a target. On such occasions,says Rich, the inhabitants preferred the eastern sideof the hill. Again British seamen used Provincetownas their own, and, individually, established friendlyrelations ashore; officers often landed to buy freshprovisions for which they paid hard British gold tothe considerable profit of the natives; and althoughsome timid farmers kept their cattle in the woods,there is no record of any looting. Mr. Rich remembersan old lady who confessed the girls liked towatch the British barges come in; another recallsthat on the way from school one day with a bevy ofher mates, they encountered a squad of the British,and making as if to turn aside, were accosted gallantlyby the officer. “Don’t leave the road, ladies,” criedhe, touching his cap, “we won’t harm you.” It is[Pg 157]probable that more than once youth and bright eyesmanaged some amelioration of the rigors of war.
It was a futile war, growing out of old animositiesat home and the great Napoleonic conflicts overseas,and all were ready for peace when it came aboutthrough the Treaty of Ghent in December, 1814. Yetthe war had served Americans well by clearing obstaclesin the way of a further development of trade,which again leaped forward with the building of theclipper ships that beat the lumbering East Indiamenon the oceans of the world, and were ready for theswift voyages around the Horn to the gold-fields ofthe Pacific. For America now had a navy: in theyears between the Revolution and the Embargo War,our growing trade, unprotected as it was then, hadbeen at the mercy not only of the European belligerents,but of the Mediterranean corsairs and pirates.For many years regular tribute was paid the BarbaryStates to buy exemption from attack; and even so itwas no unusual thing for offerings to be asked of aSunday in some Cape Cod meeting-house to defraythe ransom of a sailor captured by the Barbary pirates.It was not until after the War of 1812 that thenuisance was stopped by sending a squadron to theMediterranean under Decatur, when the Dey ofAlgiers was compelled to a treaty forbidding his profitableexaction of tribute, and Tunis and Tripolipromised to hold our commerce exempt from the depredationsof the corsairs.
THEOLOGY AND WHALING
During the political upheaval of the eighteenthcentury, interest in theology was by no means quiescent,and in the seventeen-forties the colonies wereroused by the religious agitation known as the GreatAwakening. Puritans had fought with equal rancorany dissenter from their doctrine, were he Antinomianor Anabaptist, Anglican, Papist, Gortonist, or Quaker;the Pilgrim Independents had soon lost something oftheir liberalism; but whatever the particular slant ofopinion, men of the later generations in the vigorousyoung country were bound to think for themselves.Jonathan Edwards crystallized the tenets of the oldfaith into a flawless theology; Chauncy led the liberalsfrom doctrines dealing with eternal damnationto something like Universalism; but George Whitefield,brushing aside contentions involving the supremacyof the intellect, made that direct appeal to the heartfor which men hungered. He infused fresh warmthinto Calvinism and his adherents were known as the“New Lights,” his opponents the “Old Lights.”Pulpit, press, and people were stirred to frenzied interest.Whitefield, preaching up and down the countrywith a flame of eloquence and a sympathetic understandingof the poor and distressed that drew men to[Pg 159]him by the thousand, was denounced as an “itinerantscourge.” As early as 1745, ten of the Cape clergy arraignedthe new method of salvation in terms that betraysome anxiety. “It tends to destroy the usefulnessof ministers among their people, in places where thegospel is settled and faithfully preached in its purity,”they complain. “That it promotes strife and contention,a censorious and uncharitable spirit and thosenumerous schisms and separations which have alreadydestroyed the peace and unity, and at this timethreaten the subversion of many churches.”
But it was not until 1794 that the first Methodistmeeting-house on the Cape, and the second in thecountry, was built at Truro. Provincetown had madethe first move toward building, perhaps roused theretoby the eloquence of one Captain William Humbert,who, “while lying windbound in ProvincetownHarbor,” had improved the occasion to exhort thetowns-people for the good of their souls. But atProvincetown there was much opposition to the NewLights, and when the faithful, under cover of night,had landed timber for the proposed edifice, theirenemies promptly reduced it to kindling wood, andtarred and feathered the minister in effigy. JesseLee, a visiting elder, writes temperately enough ofthe scene: “I felt astonished at the conduct of thepeople, considering that we live in a free country.However, I expect this will be for the good of the littlesociety.” A prophecy to be justified: nothing daunted,the New Lights, in 1795, built their church. “Keepingguard at night and keeping their weapons by them[Pg 160]while at work, in about four months they erected achapel with songs of praise.” And in their songs ofpraise it is remembered that John Mayo, the Truroman of hairbreadth escapes in the Peninsula War,once joined to his advantage. With a companion hehad gone to Provincetown with a cargo of clam-bait;and night-bound there, they were unable to findlodging among the villagers. To occupy the eveninghours before camping out in their boat, they wentto prayer-meeting where they stimulated the singingwith their full rich voices to the great pleasure of theworshippers. With the result, Rich tells us, that insteadof sleeping in the open, they were “abundantlylodged and breakfasted, and in the morning sold thebalance of their clams to a good market.”
In the meantime Truro, with the coöperation ofWellfleet, Provincetown, and Eastham, and a moneyoutlay of only eight dollars for nails, had built thefirst church. On a Sunday people from twelve milesnorth or south flocked to meeting, and those morefavorably situated were happy in being able to attendthree services a day. The Reverend Mr. Snelling,who fostered the faith there for twenty years,avers that “the congregations were large and theWord ran and was glorified.” And Rich has preservedfor us a picture or two of the local exhorters.Dodge, who “could make more noise in the pulpitwith less religion, and spoil more Bibles than any manI ever saw”; another, of gentler spirit, “in a tender,trembling, but earnest voice, loved to tell what religionhad done for him and persuade others to accept[Pg 161]Christ as their Lord and Saviour.” And anotherwould “force home his rugged reasoning, and vividpersonal experience, with an energy and eloquencethat swept like a torrent. Sometimes when wroughtupon with his theme, his heart on fire, his face aglow,his tall form bent, his long arm outstretched, hisimpetuous utterance fairly breaking through hispent-up prison-house, the Spirit rested like cloventongues upon the audience.” And there was fine oldStephen Collins whose “soul basked in the sunshineof all the privileges of God’s people. He loved thesongs of Zion, Lenox was his favorite: he was theauthor of Give Lenox a pull. His exhortations werefull of fire, his pungent logic carried conviction to themind.”
In 1808 Barnstable, as had Provincetown, threateneda Methodist minister with mob violence. Theold Pilgrim faith had tolerated Quakers; Baptistswere established at Harwich in 1756 and at Barnstablein 1771; but Methodists were held as the greatseceders, and it took them fifty years to soften theasperity of the prejudice against them. The new centurywas to end the old homogeneous theocracyand with it the paramount influence of the clergy.Quaker, Congregationalist, Baptist, and Methodistworshipped according to individual temperament,and participated in all civil rights; “Come-outers”practised ritual despised of aristocrats; camp-meetinggrounds, where the Methodists improved a summervacation for the soul’s profit, were established in thegroves of Eastham and then at Yarmouth, when[Pg 162]“men of power and deep religious experience,” saysMr. Rich, “made these green arches tremble withtheir eloquence.” A local bard sings, with someparticularity:
“We saw great gatherings in a grove,
A grove near Pamet Bay,
Where thousands heard the preached word,
And dozens knelt to pray.”
In 1821, “a Pentecostal year,” during the GreatRevival in Wellfleet and Truro, over four hundred“professed religion,” and two hundred and thirty-sixjoined the Methodist church.
As early as 1813 began the Unitarian schism in theorthodox Congregational churches. A split in theFirst Parish of Sandwich served as a test case in thedivision of “temporalities,” when the schismatics,being in the majority, were awarded the church estateand the Old Lights, with the parson, withdrew toform a new parish. No doubt the people entered uponthese new discussions with something of the gustothey had displayed in past controversies.
And in the meantime the nation was laying thesolid foundations of its future prosperity; the Cape,with its shipping, its fisheries, and the indomitablespirit of its people, was to recover early in the struggleto right the chaos that war had induced and thatmight have ruined a young state less vigorous in itsvitality. And on the Cape, at least, there was one industrythat had been fostered by embargo and blockade.Settlers there, from the first, by one device oranother had extracted salt from the sea for their[Pg 163]use. Cudworth, friend of the Quakers, was called a“salter” and had set up works at Scituate which hevisited frequently after he removed to Barnstable;and whether owned by Cudworth or not, Barnstablealso had an early “saltern.” As early as 1624 a manwas sent to Plymouth to manufacture salt by theevaporation of sea-water in these artificial salt-ponds,a process not favored by Bradford, and though tediousand not too successful seems to have been followedfor more than a century. During the Revolution,when no salt could be imported, and the countrymust rely upon the domestic produce, salt became soscarce that a bushel sold for eight dollars, and a statebounty of three shillings a bushel was offered for salt“manufactured within the State and produced fromsea salt.”
Here was a fine promise of reward for ingenuity,and the low dunes of the north shore of the Capeoffered ground made for the enterprise. Men there“tinkered” and “contrived” and improved one uponthe work of another, until in 1799 Captain JohnSears, of Dennis, who had been early in the field with adevice known as “Sears’s Folly,” patented the perfectedmachine to obtain pure salt by means of sunevaporation which was to bring wealth to many ofhis neighbors. The industry ran well into the next centurywhen importation became the cheaper method,and at its height companies from Billingsgate toYarmouth employed some two millions of capital inthe business. Many an old sea-dog, also, ran “salt-works”for his private profit, and the dunes of the[Pg 164]inner bay were dotted with groups of the surprisingpeaked-roof structures on stilts that had the look ofPolynesian villages. These roofs capped shallow vatsinto which the water was pumped by tiny windmills.A simple mechanism borrowed from ship-lore thatcould be worked by the turn of a hand swung a roofback to expose the vat to the sun, and into place againto protect it from rain and dew. Provincetown madethe salt for its fish-curing, and it is said that thecrescent shore of the harbor was lined for miles withthe whirring windmills. Not many years ago a few ofthe picturesque little buildings and their mills couldstill be seen on the dunes; but before the mid-eighteenhundreds, the business, as such, was at an end.
The First Comers, after they had established theirfarms, quickly turned to the sea for the profit therewas in it: for since Cabot’s voyages, and before, menhad known of the riches that lay there, and theearliest history of the Atlantic coast is that of itsrival fisheries. Cabot encouraged English fishermenby report of “soles above a yard in length and agreat abundance of that kind which the savages callbaccalos or codfish.” France exploited the Newfoundlandfisheries, and by 1600 fully ten thousand menwere employed catching, curing, and transportingthe fish: one old Frenchman boasted that he hadmade forty voyages to the Banks. Holland pushedinto the trade to such effect that men said Amsterdamwas built on herring bones and Dutchmen made of[Pg 165]pickled herring. The law of the road, at sea, was a hardlaw, and fishermen fought out their quarrels therewithout benefit of clergy. In 1621, when the Fortunemade her landfall and Nauset Indians warned Plymouthof a strange boat rounding the Cape, it was becauseof the suspicion that it might be a Frenchmanbent upon mischief. The Old Colony was to bear nosmall part in England’s game of edging out competitorson the sea. Plymouth was quick to estimate thevalue of those rich fishing-grounds in the lee of CapeCod, where Gosnold’s chronicler Brereton was “persuadedthat in the months of March, April, and Maythere is better fishing and in as great plenty as in Newfoundland,”and, as we have seen, used the revenuetherefrom for the maintenance of a free school. Untilwell up to the middle of the next century the catchingof mackerel, bass, cod, and herring, duly regulated,was conducted from shore by seines, weirs, pounds,and “fykes.” And then men put to sea for voyages tothe Banks, and prospered. And in 1850, when codfishingwas at its height, more than half the capitalinvested in it by Massachusetts came from the Cape.The deep-sea voyaging of the clipper ship era hasbeen dead these sixty years, but still fishermen fromthe Cape, though in smaller numbers now, join upfor a cruise to the Banks. They are more frequentlyswarthy newcomers from Cape Verde and the Azoresthan the English stock of the early nineteenth centurywhen the Reverend Mr. Damon, of Truro, surveyingwith delight the arrival of a fleet of four orfive hundred mackerel schooners, cautiously modified[Pg 166]his emotion and exclaimed: “I should think there mustbe seventy-five vessels! I never saw such a beautifulsight!” And it was good Mr. Damon, perplexed in hispetition for fair winds, whether men should be sailingnorth or south, who thus trimmed ship: “We praythee, O Lord, that thou wilt watch over our marinersthat go down to do business upon the mighty deep,keep them in the hollow of thy hand; and we praythee that thou wilt send a side-wind, so that theirvessels may pass and repass.”
Mr. Rich gives a lively description of the old fishingdays, when “all Yankees fished with hand-linesfrom the vessel.” “The model fisherman keeps hiscraft snug and taut. He has tested her temper andstrength through storm and calm. He will defend hersea-going and fast-sailing almost with his life. Alarger fleet and finer manœuvring have never beenseen than in a fleet of fishermen. Sometimes three orfour hundred sail, from forty to perhaps one hundredand forty tons, all sea-going, well equipped and well-manned,haul aft their sheets in a freshening breezeto reach a windward harbor. Codfishing on the Bankswas considered tough work. The boy who could graduatefrom that school with full honors, could take careof himself; fight his own battles. It was kill or cure;few, however, were killed; he was sure to come homehale and hearty.” But sometimes the fare ran shorton a long cruise, and the staple bean soup grew thin.“What in creation are you doing?” a skipper asked alittle Dutch sailor who was peeling off his jacket as hesurveyed the scanty meal. “Tive for the bean, by[Pg 167]Cot,” answered Dutchy. “Going to the Grand Bankmeant leaving home in April for a three to fivemonths’ trip, with no communication till the return.It meant besides the usual sea casualties, to be shutup in the fog, exposed to icebergs and cut off fromthe world as if alone on the planet. Do not imagine,however, that these men felt they were prisoners, oreven dreamed of being unhappy. It was their businessand they were more happy and content than theaverage working-man I have met on land. Day byday, and week by week, a more cheerful company,kind, pleasant and accommodating, it would be hardto find. Saturday night was a happy hour. At sunsetthe lines were snugly coiled, the decks washed, and asingle watch set for twenty-four hours. Sunday was aday of rest. The bright, unfaltering star that neverset or dimmed, that robbed the voyage of half itsdiscomforts and terrors, was going home. How pleasantthe anticipation, how glad the welcome, howlavish the store!”
Mackerel-fishing was a separate art acquired in itsperfection by the progression of many devices. Here,again, we quote from Rich. “Laying-to, or a squaredead drift, throwing bait freely, coying the fish, wasfound the most successful. By this way, with a moderatebreeze, a school could sometimes be kept arounda vessel for hours. As many as one hundred and fiftywash barrels have been caught by hook and line at asingle drift. A fleet of hundreds of sail, laying-to andbeating up to the windward to keep on the school is afine marine picture. ‘High-line’ is the highest degree[Pg 168]conferred in this school. It outranks all others. Thefishermen of Truro were among the first to follow themackerel business and Truro has had a remarkablesuccession of leading or lucky skippers.” It is a delightto read Mr. Rich’s history, and we must repeattwo of his stories of “fisherman’s luck.”
A certain Captain Ryder was one of a large fleet offishermen that were lying wind-bound in HamptonRoads. The young captain, in the face of probability,determined to try for a breeze outside. There he took“a fairish wind so he could slant along and saw nomore land nor sky till he struck the shore in PortlandHarbor. Here he had quick despatch as vessels werescarce,” and returned to Hampton Roads to find thefleet weather-bound as he had left them, waitingstill for fair conditions to put to sea. Another Trurofisherman, who had the name of making fortunatevoyages, once shipped a seaman with the oppositereputation. “I hear, skipper, you’ve shipped UncleWiff,” protested one of the crew. “I won’t go withhim. He’s a ‘Jonas.’ You won’t make a dollar.” “I’vetold Uncle Wiff he may go, and go he shall, make orbreak, whether you go or not,” returned the cap’n.The result justified his courage. “We made that yearthe best voyage I ever made,” he was pleased to recall,“and Uncle Wiff was one of the best men Iever saw.” The comment of Mr. Rich is sufficient:“Lucky men are most always bold, brave men; andfortune favors the brave.”
Whaling was a business distinct: the great seasport,to ordinary fishing as a lion-hunt to a partridge-shoot.[Pg 169]Early in the seventeenth century Purchas, inhis “Pilgrimage” wrote a brave epic of the whale thatmust have roused many a stay-at-home to hunger foradventure: “I might here recreate your wearied eyeswith a hunting spectacle of the greatest chase whichnature yieldeth; I mean the killing of a whale.” Freemansays that the method thereof was but “slightlyaltered during upwards of two centuries.” Here,substantially, is Purchas: “When they espy him onthe top of the water, they row toward him in a shallop,in which the harpooneer stands ready with bothhands to dart his harping iron, to which is fastened aline of such length, that the whale may carry it downwith him; coming up again they again strike him withlances made for the purpose about twelve feet long,and thus they hold him in such pursuit, till afterstreams of water, and next of blood, cast up into theair and water, he at length yieldeth his slain carcassto the conquerors.” “The proportions of this hugeleviathan deserves description,” chants Purchas.“His head is the third part of him, his mouth (O,hellish wide!) sixteen feet in the opening, and yet outof that belly of hell yielding much to the ornaments ofour women’s backs. This great head hath little eyeslike apples and a little throat not greater than for aman’s fist to enter. They are swallow-tailed, the extremesbeing twenty feet distant.” He labors foraccuracy: “The ordinary length of a whale is sixtyfeet, and not so huge as Olaus hath written, who alsomaketh the moose as big as an elephant.”
In 1620 the leviathan was familiar enough to Cape[Pg 170]Cod Bay to forestall any necessity of hunting him inthe far seas. The schools of mackerel and cod theremade rich feeding for the whales which not infrequentlymet their death when greed tolled them toshoal waters and they were left high and dry by thereceding tides. Then Indians or whites made theirkill, and the rights in these “drift-whales” were afruitful source of trouble. In 1662 the agents of Yarmouthhad appeared at court “to debate and havedetermined a difference about whales”; and in 1690an order was passed “to prevent contests and suits bywhale-killers.” But contests there were between oneman and another, and town and province, as evidencedin 1693 by a dispute with a county sheriffwho had seized two whales for the Crown; and in 1705by a letter from William Clapp to “Squier” Dudley,of Boston, a better testimony to Clapp’s business enterprisethan to his scholarship. “I have liveed hearat the Cap this 4 year,” wrote Clapp, “and I havevery often every year sien that her Maiesty has beenvery much wronged of har dues by these country people.”And he would be willing to remedy the evil “ifyour honor see case to precure a commishon of hisExalency for me with in strocktions I shall by thehelp of god be very faithful in my ofes.” And thatClapp got his appointment is shown by the Governor’sendorsement on his letter: “Commission forWilliam Clapp, Lt. at the Cape. Warrant to prizedrift whales, a water baylif.” But the towns weretenacious of their rights, and usually assured the parson’ssalary from their profit. Mr. Cotton of Yarmouth[Pg 171]looked there for his forty pounds a year; Mr.Avery of Truro, for his larger stipend; and some ofthe whaling-profits were also used for school maintenance.
Waiting for stranded drift-whale ill-suited thespirit of the pioneers at Cape Cod, and soon duly commissionedwatchers gave notice when a whale spoutedin the bay, and men put off in small boats to givechase. It is said that a “Dutchman” from Long Island,Lopez by name, taught Barnstable men the artof killing, and that Lieutenant John Gorham, whomade a tidy fortune out of the business and whoseson was to use his whaleboat fleet to good advantagein the French wars, “first fixt out with old Lopeza whaling in ye year about 1680.” Ten years laterNantucket sent to Cape Cod for Ichabod Paddock“to instruct them in the best manner of killing whalesand extracting their oil.” At Yarmouth a tract of landwas set off as “Whaling Grounds,” where a lookoutwas kept and the crews lodged ready to put off at theinstant’s alarm. Cotton Mather comments upon agreat kill there of a whale fifty-five feet long. “A cartupon wheels might have gone into the mouth of it.So does the good God here give the people to suck thesea.” And as late as 1843 a monster whale was capturednear Provincetown by a small “pink-stern”schooner. Its estimated value in oil and bone was tenthousand dollars, of which, owing to lack of facilityin the salvage, only a small part was realized.
The Indians, who were particularly expert in theart, were always employed largely both in bay and[Pg 172]deep-water whaling; and they, too, were jealous oftheir shore rights. In 1757 the Indians of Easthamand Harwich complained to the General Court of theencroachment of whites, especially on “a certain neckor beach in or near Eastham called BillingsgatePoint or Island, the place most convenient for thewhale-fishery in the whole county, and always beforeso improved.” And it is noted that “certain inhabitantsof Harwich” were prosecuted for such “whalefishery at Billingsgate.”
It was in Wellfleet Harbor that the Pilgrims hadseen Indians at a kill of blackfish, and named it“Grampus Bay.” These blackfish, only less valuablefor oil than whales, down to recent times were occasionallybeached in great shoals on the Cape, andthe stench of the rotting carcases carried for miles.Mr. Rich tells of a Truro captain who, as he drove hiscows to pasture one fine morning, descried on theshore as he took a squint seaward seventy-five hugefish, which before nightfall he had sold for nineteenhundred dollars. And in 1874, over fourteen hundred,the largest school ever known, were stranded atTruro and cut up to twenty-seven thousand gallonsof oil. Even boys were adept at the game; and oneurchin, having prevented several great fish from escapingto deep water, fought one with hatchet andknife, made his kill, and was discovered deftly strippingit of blubber. It was in 1834, as ill chance wouldhave it on a Sabbath, that a vast school of blackfishwas beached at Truro. Here was temptation for thedevout that was to divide, in the eyes of all men, the[Pg 173]sheep from the goats. Many fishermen happened tobe offshore; the news reached the churches at theclose of morning service. It is said honors were evenas to Sabbath-breakers from church-goers and seamen.But one young sailor, though he was no “professor,”refused to take part in the chase because,forsooth, his father had kept sacred the day. He wasa conservative by nature, and winter after winterstudied his sums in a tattered old book. “My fatherand grandfather cyphered out of that arithmetic,”was his retort for criticism. “I should think it divilishstrange if I can’t.”
From hunting the whale offshore in small boats,Cape seamen, when the prey grew more wary, pursuedit to the farthest reaches of the ocean, andbrought back prosperity to the home ports. Wellfleetwas a great whaling town; Truro also, and Provincetown.Then the bulk of the business went to theislands to the southward and to New Bedford. CaptainJesse Holbrook of Truro, who killed fifty-foursperm whales on one voyage, was employed for twelveyears by a London company to teach English lads hisart, and it was two Truro captains, on the advice ofan English admiral stationed at Boston, who were thefirst to go whaling about the Falkland Islands. CaptainWilliam Handy, of Sandwich, was anotherfamous whaling-captain during and after the Revolution,sailing from New Bedford and also from Dunkirkby some engagement made with Napoleon. Onone such voyage he and a single companion, bothunarmed, had a desperate encounter with a huge[Pg 174]polar bear where they had landed on an icy shore;the ice bore up them and not the bear, or even theircourage would have availed them little in the unequalconflict. Captain Handy retired to become a shipbuilder,but was impoverished by “the Frenchspoliations,” as well as from the War of 1812, and atthe age of sixty returned to the sea to make good hisfortune and “to show the boys how to take whales,”when “he accomplished in fifteen months a most successfulcruise to the admiration of all.” In 1771 no lessthan seventy-four vessels had been engaged in suchventures; and Mr. Osborn, the versatile Eastham parsonwho taught his people how to use peat, celebratedtheir prowess on the sea in a whaling-song that openedwith appropriate detail:
“When Spring returns with western gales,
And gentle breezes sweep
The ruffling seas, we spread our sails
To plow the wat’ry deep;
For killing northern whale prepar’d.
Our nimble boats on board
With craft and rum (our chief regard)
And good provision stor’d;
Cape Cod, our dearest, native land,
We leave astern, and lose
Its sinking cliffs and lessening sands
Whilst Zephyr gently blows.”
But it is Edmund Burke, in the British Commons,with the magno modo of the time but commendableaccuracy, who pronounced the panegyric of the NewEngland whalers: “While we follow them among thetumbling mountains of ice, penetrating into the[Pg 175]deepest recesses of Hudson Bay; while we are lookingfor them beneath the Arctic circle, we hear that theyhave pierced into the opposite region of Polar cold,that they are at the Antipodes, and engaged underthe frozen Serpent of the South. Falkland Island,which seemed too remote and romantic an object forthe grasp of natural ambition, is but a stage and resting-placein the progress of their victorious industry.While some of them draw the line and strike the harpoonon the coast of Africa, others run the longitudeand pursue the gigantic game along the shores ofBrazil.”
STORMS AND PIRATES
The sea that was at every man’s threshold, combingdown the beaches of the outer shore, lapsing from thesands ebb-tide and flood again in the bay, formed sucha part of the day’s experience as would be inconceivableto one of inland habitude. It was a friend tobe loved, an enemy to be fought, a giver of food, anda solemn harvester that brought dead men to thedoor. Memorable storms have ravaged the shore: itis amazing that anything so delicate as the charmingcurve of Champlain’s Cap Blanc could withstand thepull and push of the Atlantic surges; Gosnold’s PointGilbert and Tucker’s Terror have been torn away andmoulded elsewhere in other form; and the shoals ofthat cruel outer strand might be piled high with theirwrecked ships. Nor has tragedy been all oceanwards.
In 1827 there was a lowering capricious winterwhen with more than common malice the wind,“bringing cold out of the north,” would swing to themelting south and back again to freeze and destroy.It was on such a day that the schooner Almira, loadedwith wood, put her nose out of Sandwich Harbor. Therain had stopped at noon, the air was thick withvapor, and high overhead, as if seeking their shepherdwind, scudded little anxious clouds. Then, changeabout, by nightfall the iron hand of the north had[Pg 177]stripped the heavens bare and stars looked coldlydown upon the scene. The air had filled with needlesof frost to cut the faces of the miserable crew, anddrenched as they were with spray they froze as theystood. The boat was headed for Plymouth Light; butPlymouth lay directly in the eye of the wind, and itwas tack and tack again with sails slowly shreddingto rags and every rope unyielding steel. The boat stillanswered her helm, but it was useless to drive herlonger against wind and tide, and they turned herabout for home. Into Barnstable Bay she swept, andin the moonlight that was more relentless than shroudingstorm the master could see his own comfortablewhite house. The boat travelled as “if intent onsome spot where it might be wrecked,” and there onthe teeth of a cruel ledge, less than the turn of twenty-fourhours since she had set sail in the languoroussouth wind, the land once more received her. At thehelm, his hands frozen to the tiller, his feet set fast inice, pitiful rescuers found the only man who breathed:the others of that little company had made the coldport of death.
There have been historic wrecks, historic storms.As early as 1669 a quarrel over the salvage of a wreckwas settled in court. Bradford, in 1635, records sucha storm “as none living in these parts, either Englishor Indians, ever saw, causing the sea to swell abovetwenty feet right up.” “Tall young oaks and walnuttrees of good bigness were wound as a withe.” And“the wrecks of it will remain for a hundred years.” Itwas this storm, raging up and down the coast, that[Pg 178]threw Anthony Thacher and his little family uponthe rocks of Cape Ann. And some Connecticut colonists,wrecked in Manomet Bay and wandering fordays in the snow, finally reached Plymouth and werehospitably entertained there for the winter. Bradford’sstorm “took the roof of a house at Manometand put it in another place”; and Rich reports thegreat gale of a later year that washed a house from itsmoorings on the Isles of Shoals and landed it at Truroso far intact that a box of linen and some papers werepreserved to tell its story. He seems to think that ifthe family had had the courage to stand by theirhouse, they might have made the voyage to Cape Codin safety. After a savage September gale in 1815 thatcentred in Buzzard’s Bay, a coasting schooner wasfound upright in some large trees, and another, liftedclean over a bluff, blocked the door of a house. Everythingashore was laid waste; even springs becamebrackish; but some land was enriched by its floodingand where only moss had been grass was to grow.
In 1703 the body of Captain Peter Adolphe, castupon the shore at Sandwich, was there decentlyburied; and his widow, in grateful acknowledgment,presented the town with a bell cast in Munich andinscribed, “Si Devs pron bvs [sic] qvis contra nos1675,” which was later sold to Barnstable where it ispreserved as a relic.
In 1723 “The Great Storm” that “raised the tidethree or four feet higher than had been known aforetime,”was reported by Mather to the Royal Societyof London. In 1770 and 1785 were similar storms.
Bradford records that “the moon suffered a greateclipse” the second night after his storm; there werecomets, portents of evil, during the Indian troubles,and earthquakes—in 1638 one so violent that “peopleout of doors could scarcely retain a position ontheir feet”; and the dating of subsequent events asso long “after the earthquake” was “as common formany years as once with the Children of Israel.” In1727 a heavier shock still was “reformatory of someloose-livers in America who became apparently devoutpenitents”; and in 1755 was the worst earthquakethat ever was known.
In November, 1729, one Captain Lothrop, Bostonto Martha’s Vineyard, espied off Monomoy a vesselin distress, and boarding her discovered shockingevidence of her state. Of the one hundred and ninetysouls who had set sail from Ireland for the port ofPhiladelphia, no less than one hundred, including allthe children but one, had died of starvation. Twentyweeks they had been afloat, and were out of bothwater and food. “They entreated him to pilot theminto the first harbor they could get into, and were allurgent to put them ashore anywhere, if it were butland.” Lothrop would have taken them to Boston,but, when they threatened to throw him into the sea,landed them hastily with some provisions, at SandyPoint where there was but one house. A writer in acurrent number of the “New England Weekly Journal”remarks that “notwithstanding their extremity,’twas astounding to behold their impenitence, andto hear their profane speeches.” Their captain proceeded[Pg 180]to Philadelphia where he was arrested forcruelty to passengers and crew, sent in irons to Dublin,and met his just deserts by being hanged andquartered. The one young survivor of that wretchedcompany, James Delap, found his way to Barnstable,and was apprenticed to a blacksmith there. In duetime he married Mary O’Kelley, of Yarmouth, and inwinter practised his trade, in summer was a seamanon the Boston packet. This Irishman was somethingof a Tory, and in 1775 emigrated to Nova Scotiawhere he died. A son, master of a vessel in the king’sservice, perished on Nantucket where his boat waswrecked in a furious blizzard; two of his daughtersmarried in Barnstable.
When the emigration of loyalists was well underway, boat after boat, crowded far beyond safety,set out from Boston and New York for Nova Scotia,where, as one such traveller said, “it’s winter ninemonths of the year, and cold weather the rest of thetime”; and where, even were they fortunate enough toescape disease or starvation or wreck on the voyage,they were to suffer privations beyond any the earlyPilgrims endured. In March, 1776, “a sloop loadedwith English goods, having sailed from Boston forHalifax, with sundry Tories and a large number ofwomen and children, some of whom were sick withsmallpox,” was cast ashore at Provincetown. NathanielFreeman was one of a committee appointed“to repair forthwith to the place and prevent theescape of the passengers and crew and secure thevessel and cargo,” and the selectmen of Truro shared[Pg 181]in the task. What became of the sick women andchildren we are not told, but we may be reasonablycertain that the rancor of the Whigs was not ventedon them. Another of these Tory refugee ships waswrecked on Block Island, and it was said that foryears after the ghosts of those who perished therecould be seen struggling in the surf and their criesheard by men ashore.
English ships, in these days, were raking the coastof the Cape from their stations at Tarpaulin Coveand Provincetown, but in November, 1778, a sorrylanding was made when “The Somerset, Britishman-of-war,” sung by Longfellow in his “Landlord’sTale,” struck on the murderous Peaked HillBar off Provincetown and, lightered of guns and ammunition,at high tide was flung on the beach. Fortwo years, patrolling the coast or “swinging wide ather moorings” in the harbor, she had been a familiarsight to patriots ashore, and now, without observingtoo closely the letter of the law, they were to takewhat the sea gave them. Rich records some preliminaryamenities between the captain and a company ofvisitors from Hog Back, one of whom, “a short oldman with a short-tailed pipe,” asked for the captain,and Aurey, supposing him in authority, received himcivilly. “Well, cap’n,” drawled Cape Cod, “who didyou pray to in the storm? If you called on the Lord,he wouldn’t have sent you here. And I’m sure KingGeorge wouldn’t.” Whereupon the captain: “Oldman, you’ve had your pipe fished.” An anecdote thatgoes to show not unfriendly relations between adversaries.[Pg 182]In due time the captain and crew, to thenumber of four hundred and eighty, were marchedto Boston to the exultation of all beholders, and theBoard of War stripped the ship of her armament.But before and after this was accomplished, theneighborhood engaged itself with plunder, and thereseems to have been some confusion in the right toloot. “From all I can learn,” wrote Joseph Otis, ofBarnstable, “there is wicked work at the wreck,riotous doings.” He excused himself from the duty ofregulating matters there as his father, the old chiefjustice, lay a-dying. “The Truro and Provincetownmen made a division of the clothing, etc. Truro tooktwo-thirds and Provincetown one-third. There is aplundering gang that way.” Certainly Barnstablewas too remote to share in the largess. Mr. Rich hadseen canes made from the Somerset’s fine old Englishoak, and cites a certain silver watch, part of the“effects,” that was still keeping good time at PondVillage. Drifting sands piled up to conceal the wreck,a century later swept back to disclose her to the gazeof the curious, and then again buried the bones of her.
In December of 1778, the Federal brig GeneralArnold, Magee master and twelve Barnstable menamong the crew, drove ashore on the Plymouth flatsduring a furious nor’easter, the “Magee storm” thatmariners, for years after, used as a date to reckonfrom. The vessel was shrouded in snow and ice, menfroze to the rigging, others were smothered in thesnow, a few were washed overboard; and when, afterthree days, succor came to them, only thirty-three[Pg 183]men lived of the one hundred and five who had sailedfrom Boston so short a time before. Of the twelveBarnstable men only one survived. Bound in ice, helay on deck as one dead: conscious, but powerless tomove or speak. By one chance in a thousand, therescuers caught his agonized gaze; they bore himashore, nursed him back to life, and when he was ableto travel sent him home over the snow-blocked roadsin an ambulance improvised from a hammock slungbetween horses fore and aft. The Plymouth folk, unlikethe looters of the Somerset—who, to be sure,looted only an enemy—not only buried the deadand sheltered the living, but guarded the propertyaboard the General Arnold for its owners. As forBarnstable, he lost both his feet from frost-bite, butcould ride to church on the Sabbath as well as another.He busied himself about his garden in summer,and in winter coopered for his neighbors; withconsiderable skill, also, he cast many small articles inpewter and lead.
In 1798, the “Salem Gazette” reports: “sevenvessels ashore on Cape Cod, twenty-five bodies pickedup and buried, probably no lives saved.” In 1802,there was another memorable wreck on the PeakedHill Bar when three Salem vessels richly laden, onefor Leghorn, two for Bordeaux, foundered there in ablinding storm. And, slow as the posts then were, notfor nearly three weeks were full details of the loss receivedat Salem. For many years, every great snowstormfollowing a fine day in March would revivethe story of “the three Salem ships.” During the[Pg 184]Embargo War, a Truro man fitted out an old boatto trade with Boston, and on one such trip was overtakenat nightfall, below Minot’s Ledge, by a furiousnortheast snowstorm. It seemed probable thatthere would be one embargo-dodger the less to harrythe revenue officers. The crew consisted of a solitaryseaman noted for good judgment, his only oath milkmild.“Well, Mr. White, what would you do now?”inquired the skipper. “By gracious, sir,” returnedWhite, all unperturbed, “I’d take in the mains’l,double reef the fores’l, and give her an offing.” Laconicdirection for the one course that offered hope,and the event justified its wisdom. In 1815 a Septembergale that equalled Bradford’s Great Storm sweptBuzzard’s Bay, piled the tides higher than had everbeen known, and all but excavated a Cape CodCanal. Trees were uprooted, salt-works destroyed,and vessels driven high on land. In 1831, to vary thestory, unprecedented snows were fatal to deer in theSandwich woods where they fell easy prey to hunterson snowshoes who brought in no less than two hundred,forty of them trapped alive.
All up and down the Cape, in every village andtown, as the years passed, the sea took its toll of men.In 1828 some thirty of them, mostly from Sandwichand Yarmouth, small merchants and artisans whohad spent the winter “prosecuting their business” inSouth Carolina, were lost on their homeward voyage.That was a disastrous year for many a man who followedthe sea, and in Truro, especially, the number ofgrave-stones grew. Of all these memorials the most[Pg 185]tragic is that “Sacred to the memory of fifty-sevencitizens of Truro who were lost in seven vessels, whichfoundered at sea in the memorable gale of October 3,1841.” Fifty-seven men of Truro, ten of Yarmouth,twenty of Dennis “mostly youngsters under thirty,”never made port in that gale. They were fishing onGeorge’s Bank when the storm broke, and “made sailto run for the highland of Cape Cod,” we may read.“But there were mighty currents unknown to thembefore which carried them out of the proper course tothe southwest. Finding they could not weather by thehighland they wore ship and stood to the southeastbut being disabled in their sails and rigging—thestrongest canvas was blown into shreds—they werecarried by wind and current upon the NantucketShoals.” A few boats did succeed in rounding Provincetown;others never made even the NantucketShoals; one was found bottom up in Nauset Harbor,“with the boys drowned in her cabin.” A captain,whose seamanship and indomitable pluck saved himthat day, lived to write the record. “I knew we had agood sea-boat; I had tried her in a hard scratch, andknew our race was life or death.” Somehow, whereother masters failed, he won. By a hair’s breadth heescaped the shoals. “We hung on sharp as possible bythe wind, our little craft proving herself not only ablebut seemingly endowed with life. In this way at 3.30we weathered the Highlands with no room to spare.When off Peaked Hill Bar the jib blew away, and wejust cleared the breakers; but we had weathered! thelee shore was astern, and Race Point under our lee,[Pg 186]which we rounded and let go our anchor in the HerringCove.” Rich chronicles the almost incredible feat ofanother boat that turned turtle and around again andsurvived. The Reform lay-to “under bare poles, witha drag-net to keep her head to the wind. As it wasimpossible to remain on deck on account of the seamaking a breach fore and aft, all hands fastenedthemselves in the cabin and awaited their fate, at themercy of the storm. A moment after a terrific seafairly swallowed them many fathoms below the surface.The vessel was thrown completely bottom up.The crew had no doubt it was her final plunge. A fewseconds only, she was again on her keel. Two or threemen crawled on deck; they found the masts gone andthe hawser of the drag wound around the bowsprit.She had turned completely over, and came up on theopposite side.” For weeks after the storm, a vesselcruised about seeking disabled boats or some trace oftheir loss; but save the schooner in Nauset Harbor, nota vestige of boats or men was ever found. It is said thata Provincetown father, “who had two sons among themissing, for weeks would go morning and evening tothe hill-top which overlooked the ocean, and thereseating himself, would watch for hours, scanning thedistant horizon with his glass, hoping every momentto discover some speck on which to build a hope.”
In 1853 another Great Storm swept away wharvesand storehouses on the bay, and wrecked a schoonerat Sandy Neck, with “all hands lost” to add to the taleof disaster on the outer shore. And so walks the processionof storms down to the one of yesterday when the[Pg 187]coast-guard fought hour by hour through the nightto save the crew of a boat pounding to pieces in the surfa scant two hundred and fifty feet from shore. And beforethe days of the coast-guard, men had worn pathsabove the cliffs where they paced on the lookout forwrecks. “Thick weather, easterly gales, storms,” andon such nights men, even as they ate, kept an eye tothe sea. One Captain Collins, of Truro, called fromtable by the familiar cry, “Ship ashore, all handsperishing,” within the hour had laid down his life in afruitless effort at rescue—he and a companion whosewidow had lost all the men related to her by the sea.By differing methods the same spirit has workedthrough all the years: “Ship ashore, all hands perishing,”and it is the business of men who might be safeto risk their lives in the fight with death.
The sombre tale of wrecks will never be done, butpirate stories no longer incite youth to possible adventure.In the old days Cape Cod men had plenty ofchances to show their prowess against such adversaries,and likewise against the privateersmen whosometimes made use of their letters of marque inhighly personal ventures. Nor was danger from out-and-outpiracy unfamiliar to peaceful folk ashore.The Earl of Bellamont, Governor of Massachusettsand New York, was “particularly instructed to puta stop to the growth of piracy, the seas being constantlyendangered by freebooters”; and the achievementof his short incumbency was the apprehension[Pg 188]of Captain Kidd. Kidd, duly commissioned a privateer,was one of those who turned to the more lucrativetrade of pirate. Then, pushed hard, he buried hisprofits, to the incitement of many future treasurehunts, and thinking to escape detection throughsheer boldness, appeared in Boston. But he wasrecognized, laid by the heels, and packed off to Londonwhere he was duly hanged. An earlier pirate ofour coast with better fortune died in his bed, a respectedcountry gentleman, no doubt, at Isleworth,England, in the year 1703. He had been pilot on apirate-chaser appointed by Governor Andros to cleanup the seas off New England, and in process of pursuingthe pirates had opportunity to observe the easeof their methods.
In 1689 this Thomas Pound, in partnership with anothermaster-mariner and duly commissioned to preyupon French merchantmen, set sail from Boston. Butthey had proceeded no farther than the Brewsters whenthey were holding up a mackerel sloop for supplies,and fifteen miles out they neatly exchanged their ownboat for a better one Salem-bound, whose crew, saveone John Derby who joined the adventurers as a“voluntary,” was to turn up at home and give news ofthe lately commissioned privateer, Thomas Pound,master. Pound, meantime, with a long advantage inthe chase, was off for Portland and Casco Bay. Fullyequipped from the Portland militia stores with clothing,powder, musket and cutlass, carbines and brasscannon, he made for Provincetown and again changedto a better boat whose master was sent back to Boston[Pg 189]with the saucy message to probable pursuers that:“They Knew ye goot Sloop lay ready but if she cameout after them & came up wh them shd find hott workfor they wd die every man before they would betaken.” Boston, nevertheless, sent out its sloop, withorders to take Pound, or any other pirate, but quaintly,in so hazardous an enterprise, “to void the sheddingof blood unless you be necessitated by resistance.”Perhaps Boston had heard the rumor that Richard,brother to Sir William Phips, Governor, was of thepirate company. Pound rounded the Cape, picked upa prize in the Sound, was blown out to sea, and returnedto the rich hunting about the Cape by way ofVirginia. Off Martha’s Vineyard, again, he drove aketch into the harbor and would have followed andcut her out, if the inhabitants had not risen in force.In Cape Cod Bay he held up a Pennsylvania sloopthat was such poor prey he let her go scot free; butoff Falmouth he got a fine stock of provisions—whichvery likely was needed by now—from a NewLondon boat. Then he lay-to for several days inTarpaulin Cove where, at last, the merry cruise wasto end. Boston was sending out another boat, undercommand of one Samuel Pease, with instructions toget the pirates but, again, “to prevent ye sheding ofblood as much as may bee,” and with better luck thistime for the avengers of the law. In Tarpaulin Covethey surprised the pirate, with the red flag at herpeak. Shots were exchanged, and called upon to striketo the King of England, Pound answered in truepirate rodomontade. “Standing on the quarter-deck[Pg 190]with his naked sword in his hand flourishing, said,come aboard, you Doggs, and I will strike you presently,or words to yt purpose.” Firing was renewed,and “after a little space we saw Pound was shot andgone off the deck.” Quarter was offered, and refused.“Ai yee dogs we will give you quarter,” yelled thepirates. Pease was also wounded, but his men boardedthe pirate sloop, and “forced to knock them downewith the but end of our muskets at last we quelledthem, killing foure, and wounding twelve, two remainingpretty well.” This ended the Homeric battleof Tarpaulin Cove. Pease, the king’s captain, diedof his wounds, and offerings were made in church forhis widow and orphans. The pirates were taken toBoston jail where they were visited for the good oftheir souls by Judge Sewall and Cotton Mather. Indue process of law they were condemned to be hangedon indictments for piracy and murder. But the sequelproved that fashion and the elders, whether or not byreason of the claims of consanguinity, were interestedfor the scapegraces. Justice was appeased by thehanging of one lame man of humble origin, and Poundwas taken to England, where later he was made captainin the navy and died, as we have seen, in theodor of respectability. Some say that his brief piraticalcareer was induced by politics rather than a criminaltaste. He and his men were royalists, it was said, and,siding with Andros in the colonial quarrels, meant todraw out of Boston Harbor for their pursuit the royalfrigate Rose which the colonists were holding there.But if that were their game, it was spoiled by the sending[Pg 191]out of the Province sloop under Captain Pease andthe genuine fight at Wood’s Hole. In any case the Salemand New London boats they had looted were notdisposed, probably, to distinguish them from pirates.
A close perusal of the “Pirate’s Own Book,” publishedat Portland in 1859, would no doubt revealfurther adventures involving Cape Cod; and in 1717,at any rate, there was an encounter with pirates offthe “Back Side” that was brought to a successful conclusionby the wit of a Cape Cod seaman. The Whidah,Samuel Bellamy, captain, of some two hundred tonsburden with an equipment of twenty-three guns andone hundred and thirty men, while cruising offshorehad the good fortune, which turned to ill, to take sevenprizes. Seven prize crews were put aboard to takethe vessels to port there, presumably, to sell them ata price. The master of one, seeing that his captors weredrunk, took his boat straight into Provincetown andgave the pirate crew into custody. Nor was their chiefto meet a better fate. One of his prizes was a “snow,”and seeing a storm coming up, he offered its skipperthe boat intact if he would pilot the Whidah safearound to Provincetown Harbor. The bargain struck,a lantern, as guide, was hung in the snow’s rigging.Some say the skipper, trusting to the lighter draft ofhis boat, ran her straight for shore, the heavy piratecraft floundering after; another story has it that heput out his mast-light and flung a burning tar-barreloverboard to float ashore and lure the Whidah to herdoom. Be that as it may, the sequel was successful.The Whidah and two of her attendant ships were[Pg 192]dashed on shore near Nauset, and only two men ofthe crews, an Englishman and an Indian, escapeddrowning. As for the storm, it was sufficiently heavyto furrow out the first Cape Cod Canal, the oceanmaking a clean break across the Cape near the Orleansline, and “it required a great turnout of the peopleand great efforts to close it up.” Captain CyprianSouthack, sent from Boston to inspect the wreck andlanding on the bay shore, refers in his report to “theplace where I came through with a Whale Boat,” andadds that he buried “one Hundred and Two MenDrowned.” Having buried the pirates, Southack set awatch over their property, and had some complaintto make of the inhabitants, who came from twentymiles around to share in the spoils. As usual, thereseems to have been a clash between government andindividual rights; but Southack advertising retributionfor any private profiteers, several cartloads of thestores were retrieved and sent to Boston. And there isa story of the right pirate cast in regard to a man“very singular and frightful” in aspect who, everyseason for many years after, used to revisit the neighborhoodof the wreck. Taciturn and uncommunicativein his waking hours, his dreams were perturbedas needs must be, and then such ribald and profanewords passed his lips as proved him in league withevil spirits with whom he communed on past bloodydeeds. Plainly he was the one English survivor of theWhidah returned to the scene to dig for buried treasure;and to prove the case, when he died a belt filledwith gold was found on his person.
In 1772 there was a pirate story less well authenticatedwhich served chiefly as a bone to worry betweenTory and Whig. A schooner flying signals ofdistress was boarded off Chatham, and the single seamanfound there, appearing “very much frightened,”said that armed men in four boats had overhauled thecraft and murdered the master, mate, and a seaman;himself he had saved by hiding. He supposed the men,he cunningly said, came from a royal cruiser, a storyridiculous on the face of it. At any rate, a royal cruiser,the Lively, under command of Montague, the admiralwho had advised the two Truro captains to undertaketheir whaling voyage to the Falklands, set out inpursuit of a possible pirate, with no result; and the upshotwas that the whole story was suspected to be aninvention of the survivor to conceal his own guilt.The jury sitting in the case disagreed, and in thefevered state of public opinion, it was used in mutualrecriminations by Whig and Tory: the Whigs contendingthat the English navy had committed thefootless outrage, the Tories, more reasonably, thatthe seaman was a liar and murderer. But controversycould not restore the dead, who had all hailed fromChatham.
The Cape, as it reached out for its share in thecommerce that developed after the Revolution, wasas intimately concerned in pirate adventures off theSpanish Main as it might have been in Cape CodBay. By 1822 our shipping was so harried by piratesin those southern seas that the Government sent outarmed boats to protect our merchantmen, among them[Pg 194]the sloop-of-war Alligator. And a story, in which theAlligator is concerned, typical of many another of thetime, is told by one of the last of the old Cape Codsea-captains who died some twenty years ago. Hesailed, as cabin boy, for the Spanish Main in thebrig Iris commanded by a Brewster man and carryinga crew of eleven and one passenger. As the Irisneared the Antilles, two suspicious ships were sighted,and suspicion turned to certainty when they hoistedthe red flag, put out their “sweeps,” and one piratemade for the Iris, the other for a Yankee schoonerMatanzas-bound. The Iris was no clipper, and wasquickly brought to by a shot over her bow. The passengerand captain had meantime gone down to thecabin to hide their valuables; and the cabin boy also,he tells us, “went down and took from my chest alittle wallet, with some artificial flowers under a crystalon its front, in which were three dollars in papermoney and a few coppers. This I hid in the bo’sun’slocker and went on deck again.” The lapse of seventyyears had not dimmed his memory of the preciouswallet.
The pirate ship, bristling with guns, was now alongside,her deck crowded with men dressed in whitelinen and broad straw hats, quite like Southern gentlemen,and soon a yawl filled with men armed to theteeth put off from her side. The Iris, with forcedcourtesy, lowered a gangway for their reception, andsix of the strangers climbed on deck. Their leader inquiredof the cargo, and was told that the Iris waspractically in ballast.
“Have you any provisions to spare? We’re aprivateer out for pirates. Seen any?” asked theofficer.
“No,” answered the captain, looking him in theeye. “I can let you have some salt beef and pork.”
The play at civility was soon ended, the shipsearched, and the stranger, reappearing on deckdressed out in the captain’s best clothes, cried jovially:“Well, sirs, we’re pirates, and you’re our prisoners.”
The Iris under her new command tacked back andforth toward the shore, and the prize crew found somerum for their refreshment, and thought, by threateningthe cabin boy, to find treasure concealed in theship. Trembling, he climbed up to the locker, andproduced his wallet, but so far from being placated bythis offering one pirate knocked him down and madeas if to skewer him with a cutlass, while anothervowed to throw him overboard. Then they orderedhim off to bed, and he crept into the sailroom. Nextmorning all were called up to man ship, and captorand prize beat down the coast to “Point Jaccos”where the boats lay-to and the pirates spent the nightin drinking and the Yankees in keeping out of theirway. The captain and the cabin boy hid under thelongboat. In the morning they put into a bay, a truepirate rendezvous, with mangroves growing down tothe water’s edge. The cargo was transferred to thepirate ship, and their captain, boarding the Iris, orderedhis officer to get money from the Yankees orkill all hands and burn the brig. But the Yankees understoodhis Spanish, and Captain Mayo, averring[Pg 196]still that he had no money aboard, offered if thepirates would send him into Matanzas to return withany ransom they should name.
“Very good,” said the pirate. “I give you threedays. If you aren’t back then with six thousand dollars,I’ll kill all the crew and fire the brig.”
Then they gave him back his best clothes and hiswatch, and put him aboard a passing fishing-smackwith orders to land him at Matanzas. There he wasnot too generously received, and all but despairing ofhelp, as he walked on the quay next morning he spiedan American man-of-war coming in—a schooner withfourteen guns and well manned—in short, the Alligator.Captain Mayo aboard, the Alligator put about,and on the morning of the third day, with no time tospare, sighted the pirate rendezvous and four vesselsat anchor, the two pirates, the Iris, and the schoonerthat had been Matanzas-bound, her fellow-prisoner.The pirates were brave fighters of unarmed men, buthad no taste for warships. At sight of the Alligator,the men on one boat fired a gun to warn their comradeson the prizes, took to their sweeps and made offto sea. The Yankees on the Iris had been confined info’c’s’le and cabin, and were awaiting with some perturbationthe dawn of the third day that was to bringthem Captain Mayo and the ransom or death, whenthey were startled by a cannon shot that was succeededby a stillness above decks. Rushing up, they saw theircaptors making off, the first pirate schooner showinga clean pair of heels well out at sea, the second roundingthe harbor point with three boats in chase. The[Pg 197]sun rode high in the heavens, the sea was like glass,and it seems that Lieutenant Allen, of the Alligator,unable to handle his vessel in the calm and eager tosecure at least one of the pirates, had attacked fromhis small boats, with disastrous results. The pirateescaped, he himself was mortally wounded, several ofhis men were wounded, and a retreat was ordered tothe Alligator, which withdrew, Captain Mayo andthe ransom still aboard, without further casualties.But the second pirate craft remained, a speck to thesight, at the head of the bay, and as the cabin boywas pouring coffee for the meal that had been laid onthe quarter-deck, a boat was seen to put off from her andpull toward the Iris. The Iris hailed her sister captive,the Matanzas schooner, which begged her totake off the crew when they would make commoncause against the pirate. Nothing was more certainthan that the boat that swiftly drew nearer was intenton their destruction. The first mate of the Iris andone sailor jumped into a boat and, pulling for theschooner, took off her crew, but instead of returning,made for the shore. Now, indeed, all seemed lost for thehapless men and the boy aboard the Iris. He and thesailors fled for the hold, while on deck the second mateand the passenger awaited what should come. Thepirates, once aboard, slashed at the mate and threwhim overboard, the sailors were haled on deck andforced to run for their lives, forward and aft, thepirates cutting at them as they ran. Poor Crosby, themate, half drowned and weak from loss of blood,clambered aboard again, sank down on the windlass,[Pg 198]and gasped out: “Now, then, kill me if you like.”Perhaps thinking him worth a ransom, the piratesordered him into their small boat alongside.
Meantime the boy, half dead with terror, hadstowed himself away in a corner of the hold; nor washis terror lessened at the appearance of a pirate, cutlassin hand, slashing right and left in the darkness.He was about to cry for mercy when the man gave uphis search; and an old sailor, who had been pals withthe boy, now advised him to go boldly on deck as thepirates were sure to have him in the end, and in anycase were likely to burn the brig. No sooner was hethere than the pirates began a cruel game, making acircle about him, cutting at him with their swords,some crying to kill him, others to let him go, he wasonly a boy. They called for powder; he told themthere was none. They called for fire; he told themhe could get none. They threw a demijohn at himand told him to fetch them water. They knew wellthey had finished the rum. As the boy went below,he met his old sailor, who, offering to fetch thewater, turned back, and was seen no more. The boy,reappearing, was ordered into the boat where thewounded mate, the passenger, and the sailors werealready seated, the pirate muskets piled up astern,and a pirate standing there on guard. The mate,seeing his chance, heaved the pirate overboard, andpushed off. The pirates on deck pelted the boat withanything at hand, but the Yankees had all their firearms.And Crosby, seizing a musket, cried: “There,damn you, throw away!” The Yankees bent to their[Pg 199]oars. “Are we all here?” cried Crosby to his men. Butthe old sailor who had gone to get the water wasmissing. They pulled up at a safe distance, hoping invain that he might jump overboard, and then, whenneeds must, made for Matanzas, rowing along shoreto provide for escape in case of pursuit, a distancethey supposed of some thirty-five miles. A fresheningbreeze favored them, and by nightfall they made theharbor, rowing in with muffled oars as they wished toavoid Spanish vessels there and the fort. They weresoon hailed by a friendly English voice, clamberedaboard ship, the captain there got out his medicinechest and dressed their wounds, the sailors spreadtheir mattresses on deck, and the refugees “lay downto such peace and rest,” said the cabin boy, “as youmay well appreciate.” As for the ill-fated Alligator,having returned to Matanzas with her dead andwounded, she was ordered to Charlestown with theboats she had captured on her cruise, and the secondnight out grounding on a Florida reef, which has beennamed for her, was lost. The captain of the Iris, inthe general settlement at the home port, bought foreach of his crew, as a memento of their adventure, apirate musket and a pirate sword.
Cape Cod sailors were in like degree, and with varyingsuccess, using their wits to elude pirates of thefarther seas, swift Chinese lorchas, and low-hungcraft in the Malay Straits. A Truro captain, commandingthe Southern Cross, was shot by pirates inthe China Sea in the presence of his wife. A Falmouthwhaling captain, by his skill and coolness, saved his[Pg 200]men from massacre by natives of the Marshall Islands.A Dennis captain, in 1820, had been murderedby pirates off Madeira. Another Dennis captain, ofthe barque Lubra, lost his life as late as 1865, when,one day out of Hong Kong, he was overhauled by solarge a force of pirates that resistance was hopeless.Some of the crew took to the rigging, and two ofthem were shot there; others jumped overboard andwere picked up by the pirates, who boarded thebarque and proceeded to ransack her. The captain,whom they found in the cabin with his wife andchild, they shot dead. Then, having stolen all valuables,destroyed the boats and nautical instruments,and set fire to the ship, they made off, leavingthe crew to their fate. But with true Cape Codpluck, the survivors of the tragedy managed to savethe ship and somehow navigated her back to HongKong.
They were now sailing seas the world over, theseCape Cod men: farmers, fishermen, whalers as theyhad been, they were manning merchant ships thatwere carrying the American flag into every port. Yetfrom the first they had furnished some seamen for thetraders: for as early as 1650, it is said, both at SaintChristopher’s and Barbadoes, “New England producewas in great demand”; and Gorhams and Dimmocksof Barnstable had acquired fortunes in the coastingand West Indies trade. An interesting little industry,in addition to fishing on the Banks, was carried on bya few boats that were fitted out to go to the Labradorcoast to collect, on the rocky islands offshore, feathers[Pg 201]and eider-down for the Cape Cod housewives. There,in the nesting-season, were held great battues, whenthe birds were killed wholesale with clubs or broomsmade of spruce branches. Rich tells us that the sackthat left home filled with straw returned filled withdown for bed and pillows, “the latter called ‘pillowbears,’ and apostrophized by the old people as‘pille’bers.’” Mountainous beds of feathers or downwere then in order, and “boys used to joke aboutrigging a jury-mast and rattle down the shrouds toclimb into bed.” Two Barnstable men, we know,coopers and farmers by trade, went on some of these“feather voyages,” which, however, were not longcontinued, as the merciless slaughter made the birdswary of their old haunts.
As early as 1717 hundreds of ships in the yearwere clearing from Boston and Salem for Newfoundlandand “British plantations on the continent,” for“foreign plantations,” and the West Indies and theBay of Campeachy, for European ports and Madeiraand the Azores. And when all Europe was exhaustedby the Napoleonic struggle, the United States, neutraland safe three thousand miles away, snapped upthe carrying trade of the world; from fish cargoesfor the hungry combatants the transition was easy tomore varied commodities. Their own wars, Frenchand English, had been good training schools for menof enterprise, and immediately the Cape Cod sailorswere to prove their mettle in this new era of adventure.They bought shares in the ships they sailed, andprofited, and bought more. Some of them, shrewd[Pg 202]traders by instinct, gave up the sea for an officeashore, and as East India merchants laid the securefoundation of more than one snug urban fortune thatsurvives to-day.
OLD SEA WAYS
Sixty years ago the thread snapped in that fine sea-pieceof the American foreign trade, and now the callingand time of those deep-water sailors are dead asNineveh. But Old Cape Cod was one with the illimitableseas and the spot most loved by men for whomthe ocean was a workroom where fortunes might bemade to spend at home. No picture of these mencould be complete without the background of their lifeafloat. For five decades Yankee ships were weaving atthe great loom of the Western Ocean to set the splendidcolors of European adventure into new patternsof romance. Their tea-frigates raced around the“Cape” to the Far East; they took the short cutabout Scotland to bargain with Kronstadt and Hamburgand Elsinore; barques and brigantines and full-riggerscaught the “brave west winds” at the rightslant and made record voyages past old Leeuwin, theCape of Storms, standing out there to give them alast toss as they “ran down by” to Port Philip and“Melbun” and Sydney; clipper ships, the fastestunder sail that have ever been known, winged theirway around to “Frisco” in the great days of ’49.Cargoes sold there at a fabulous price, and then,short-handed, perhaps, because of desertion to the[Pg 204]gold-fields, the great ships rushed by San Diego andCallao, rich ports enough for other times, and, stormor shine, swung ’round the Horn,
“... the fine keen bows of the stately clippers steering
Towards the lone northern star and the fair ports of home,”
to load again, and return by the path they had come.
Yankee captains who crowded on sail every hourin the twenty-four had soon out-raced stolid JohnCompany’s ships in the Far East; but back in theseventeen-hundreds, before Maury had written onnavigation, they thanked England for their sailingtexts, and notably the “English Pilot,” printed byMessrs Mount & Page on Tower Hill, to show “theCourses and Distances from one Place to another,the Ebbing and Flowing of the Sea, the Setting ofTides and Currents.” “We shall say no more,” cryMount & Page, “but let it commend itself, and allknowing Mariners are desired to lend their Assistanceand Information towards the perfecting of thisuseful work.” Every inch of water is charted, theland invites with names of eld; the black letterpress,with the long lisping s, tells of the great WesternOcean, water and rim, from Barbary to Hispaniola,from Frobisher’s Meta Incognita to the “Icey Sea”of the Far South. There are burning mountains andcliffs, castles and towns, treacherous rocks and tides;and west of a certain “white mount” on Darien threepeaks are sharply etched, and the legend, “Herehath been Gold found.” Due regard is had to easternand western variation, and the line of no variation at[Pg 205]all that springs from the coast of Florida; and itshould be noted that Sir Thomas Smith’s Sound is“most admirable in this respect, because there is in itthe greatest variation of the compass, that is in anypart of the world, as was discovered ... by diversgood observations made by that judicious artistCaptain Baffin.” One Captain Davis, no less judicious,had observed the same phenomenon on histhird voyage to the North in the year 1587. Andthose who sailed the Western Ocean had learnedpainfully other facts than variations of the compass:the sharp path about the doldrums, the way of GulfStream and trades, and of the great west winds thatsent them bowling along through the Roaring Forties.
From the beginning of things men of the OldWorld, with the salt of adventure in their blood, hadpassed “the forelands of the tideless sea” to lookupon the green distances beyond; those more greatlydaring had swept through the gate and brought backstories of the Hesperides. Phœnicians seeking trade,ocean thieves their prey, poet adventurers they knewnot what, had sighted on the Barbary Coast the“Pilot’s” “little Hommock which appeareth like aCastle,” and sailed perhaps down by Arzille andLavrache, Fedale and Azamoor, names of sorcerywith the soft purr of Eastern tongues. Another andanother slipped by Spartel, “shooting far into theSea, the very Point guarded with a Rock,” the“Pilot” tells us, and circled northward throughstormy cross-currents to Britain, or southward by thetreacherous coasts where “the grown Sea cometh[Pg 206]rowling in so hard.” Then sailors, north and south,put the land behind them, and turned their prowsdue west: here lay the great adventure for men wholoved to play at chance, and they won, beyonddreams, a new world. Norsemen, Portuguese, Basque,and Briton found, not Cathaia, but the fishing-banksof Newfoundland, or boundless forests where menmight be free, or those magic islands of the Southwhere Spain was the first to gather her fleet of plate-shipsfor the homeward run to Cadiz, where secretlandlocked harbors sheltered evil, and simple natives,bearing gifts, were kidnapped for their pains. Othermariners, whose thirst for gold was not to be slakedwith a New World, made for the Far East by theCape of “Buena Esperanza.” Slipping down thecoast of Africa beyond Blanco, they skirted a sullencoast where the shore is broken by distorted trees androcks and the mouths of great rivers that cast theirfreight from the sinister entrails of the land far outinto a protesting ocean.
These men, and others, nameless and forgottenmariners, with a keen eye for coast configuration andaccurate soundings, made calculations and drawingsand passed them on to their mates, until Messrs.Mount & Page winnowed out something of the truthof it all and constructed their “English Pilot.” Andnow should you devise a voyage about the seas of oldromance, here is the chart for your venture. Swashbucklerpirates sailed this way, and discreet men whowould elude them; slavers skulked down malignAfrican coasts; clean, hardy voyagers, who sought[Pg 207]only glory and the Northwest Passage, batteredfrail ships against the everlasting barriers of ice; adventurersin quest of gold worked their way down theSpanish Main; and, turn about, our fine young seamenof the New World wrung their vantage from theOld.
A certain navigator from the Cape, we know, usedhis “Pilot” on sober trading voyages to the WestCoast of Africa, or London, or the Spanish Main,and sailing days over pushed his great sea-chest backunder the eaves of the trim house he had built after arich voyage to Russia. He had sailed for pure love ofchurning blue water, and the sweep of wind throughthe rigging, and great clean distances, and a finemanly sense of mastering the tools of fate: wind andwater and cloud, and men, and the job of making agood trade. Yet never had he been at sea that hewas not homesick for the land, and his adventurousyouth was no more than the price he paid for plentyashore. He had met chance as it came and turned it togold; and here in the “Pilot,” forgotten for a generationin the cavernous depths of his worm-eaten coffer,were notes for the story he had been too simple toread as romance. Its worn leather covers open outcomfortably, and within, a cabin boy, perhaps, idlingabout while the master was on deck, had scrawled“Sloop Maremad of Boston,” and for another try“The Sloop Mairmad,” and knew his hornbook nobetter than a merman. Some leaves are burnedthrough by a coal that smouldered there how manyyears ago, on this good sloop Mermaid, at a guess, in[Pg 208]the year 1789, and silver-moths now plunge amongthe pages like cachalots in southern seas.
When the captain had set out for Africa, with acargo of cloth, iron kettles, and such-like trifles tobarter for ivory and gold, the “Pilot,” by word andchart, painted the chances before him. Over thereamong the Cape Verdes lay Saint Jago, “rich in products,so that were it not for the continual Rains inthe Times of the Travadoes, which render it unpleasantto the Inhabitants, it would without doubt beas delightsome an Island as any in the world”; andGarrichica, in the Canaries, is no winter port, forthen “the grown Sea out of the North West comesrunning in there sometimes so forcible and strong,that it is not possible to hold a Ship, although shehad ten Anchors out.” South and east now the sullenmainland lowers, and there “lying under the Tropickof Cancer,” is a country “high and stony, so thatthere is nothing to be had hereabouts, ... and withthe Sun’s heat, continuing sometimes thirty andforty Days together ... it is so intolerable hot in theValleys, that it blinds and deafens those that travelthis Way.” But knowing skippers that “sail near thisCoast, pass along, none go a-shore, for ’tis not worththeir while.” At a shoal called “the Goulden Bark,much Fish is taken at sometimes of the Year,” andthere’s trading at last on “the great River Senega”:“several Commodities, as Amber, Elephants Teeth,with Abundance of Wax and Skins.” But on Serberais the Traders’ Paradise, whose delights the “Pilot”accentuates by a printer’s slip: “When you come[Pg 209]into the heaven, you may anchor where you will, butcommonly they run towards Madra Bombo, as beingthe chief Place for Traffic; though there is Merchandizingon the Right Side of the River, where you mayrun with Sloops and Boats. The Place affords allVarieties of Refreshment, as Hens, Rice, Lemons,Apples, with several merchantable Commidities.”
Happy Madra Bombo! thrice happy Trader! Andlet him refresh himself well before proceeding to theunfriendly Coast of Malegate where the “Rains beginswith May, and continues till October; duringwhich time, they have great and terrible Thunderand Lightning,” and “mountainous Billows rowl tothe Shore, so that ’tis in effect impossible to approachthe same in Boats, without danger of splitting. Butthese Seasons once over, from October to May, theWeather proves pleasant and dry; ’till indammagedby the fiery Heat of the scalding Air.”
The lean coast is marked by trees and blastedrocks: “a high tree called Arbor de Castacuis”; “a fewTrees, appearing like Horsemen”; a white rock, witha look, “afar off, like a Ship under Sail”; and atSetra Crue, “high and bare Trees which raise themselvesin the Air like masts of Ships laid up”; and“on a Cliff a crooked Tree appearing like an Umbrella.”Slight landmarks for a man, less imaginative,perhaps, than the “Pilot,” who shall sweep the coastwith his spyglass and debate with himself whether agrove looks rather like a mizzen-sail than like a horse;and madness for the skipper to whom a tree is but atree, no more, no less. But here is trading again with[Pg 210]the Ivory or Tooth Coast and the “Gold Coast ofGuiney,” and solid English forts where “in coming offSeaward ... you must brace your Sails to the Mast,and let it drive; firing off a Shot as a Token of yieldingbefore the Castle.”
Now through the great Bights of Benin and Biafra,and all along to Cape Lopez Gonzalez, must a captainkeep a sharp weather eye to “mind which way theTravadoes drive the Water, for the Sea Flowes fromwhence they arise,” and be ready to run before thetornado, “which when you see it it is best to hand allyour Sail except your Foresail which you may keep inyour Brails to command your Ship.” But, above all,must you “weigh with all Speed and get off.” Andthese are the sinister coasts where men were sold andbought; brave John Hawkins shamed England bytrading here; Spain and America loaded the scalesthat must be balanced with blood. “About thirteenLeagues up River Benin, on the East-side thereof,stands the great Town of Gaton or Benin, ... doublypallisado’d with huge thick Trees, and on the otherSide ’tis strongly fortified with a great Ditch and aHedge of Brambles. Here the King of Benin keepshis Court, having there a stately Palace.” But thehigh words cloak a reality sordid enough when thegreat King of Benin sat in his house of logs and soldmeat for the slavers. And peril lurks here at everyturn, “for the Ground is so very foul, and the Inhabitantssuch Brutes, that there is no coming nearit.” Peril, again, in possible confusion of the riversForcades and Lamas: for many pilots, thinking they[Pg 211]are near Forcades, where there is “Fairing in twelveFathoms good Anchor-ground,” make for Lamas,“running into it till they become shoal, then perceivingtheir error, but too late, the Ship is lost, andthe Men endeavouring to save themselves from beingswallowed up by the Sea and Mud, are devoured andeaten up by the greedy Negroes.” Such, for a slaver,should be the proper adventure of the river Lamas.May the dinner of his “greedy Negroes” sit light!
Slaves, slaves, and more slaves are all the “refreshment”here, and an honest Yankee trader, who hasexchanged his “silesia linnen and basons” for ivoryand gold dust, best be off for home by way of theAmboises, Fernando Po, and Prince’s Island, high,wooded, beautiful, and “affording good Refreshmentin Abundance”; or, down by Lopez, the “Island Annebon,”where “those that return Home from theCape are supplied with Abundance of choice Orangesand Pomegranates, as also good fresh Water.”
The “Pilot” of Messrs. Mount & Page was contrivedfrom the reports of some who “put more westing intotheir navigation” to sail for plunder rather thantrade; and in Volume IV, on the “West India Navigationfrom Hudson’s Bay to the River Amazones,”they step down easily from Terre de Labrador, wherelay, they thought, the chance of that short-cut toCathaia, to the treasure-house of the Spanish Main.The Yankee captain, laying a northern course toEurope would need only to reverse the sequence of[Pg 212]procedure in the “Pilot’s” voyage thence. “When avoyage is intended from the river Thames to thoseNorthern Parts of America, you may go out of theNorth Channel by Scotland or else through the WestChannel by the Lands End of England, according asthe winds may favour you.” Martin Frobisher, of willas stubborn as the impenetrable North, had set sailby the West Channel to prove his “plaine platte”that Frobisher’s Straits should make a broad highwayto the East by the other way round of the world.He sailed by Greenland, where “you will have the seaof divers colours, in some places green, in some black,and in others blue”; and there is Cape Desolation,“the most deformed land that is supposed to be in thewhole world,” where the water is “black and thick,like a standing pool.” It was Warwick Sound “whereSir Martin Frobisher intended to lade his supposedgold ore,” says the “Pilot,” and within his “Streits”lies “a whirlpool where ships are whirled about in amoment; the waters making a great noise and areheard a great way off.”
So much for their Meta Incognita, where the oldmariners dug worthless ore, and fished, and killedwhale, and made poor trading with the wretchednatives; and never breaking through to Cathaia, theywere swept up and down, among “strange rocks andoverfalls and shoals.” Caught by winter, they bivouackedsomehow in the snows, and in June nosedtheir way out to free water, or, undiscouraged, beatahead for their Northwest Passage. The “Island ofGod’s Mercy” and “Hold with Hope” tell of some[Pg 213]cockle-shell sailor’s escape from “many points andheadlongs” and “broken ground and shoals, worsethan can be expected.” Captain Bayley, CaptainZacchary Gillam, in his “Nonsuch Ketch,” HenrySouthwood, and William Taverner cruised here, andtheir findings are printed in the “Pilot.” And as toNewfoundland and the fishing-banks, if we go astray,it is by our own obstinacy: for the reporter here is apeppery old party who “informs those that are boundfor that coast that they may not be deceived, as Imyself had been like to have been in going to SaintJohn’s on the 29th day of June, 1715, at 8 o’clock inthe morning, ... having been just a month that veryday from Plymouth Sound,” by reason of “a verygreat error in those charts which have hitherto beenpublished.” And he sets us right as to computing“the true Distance between the Lizard and CapeSpear,” where other navigators “would still continuethe old erroneous Way; because, they say, when Iargu’d with them, it is the custom; they might as wellhave persuaded me, that old custom could overswayReason.”
Yankee cruisers to the southward found profitableadvice, again: for “such as are bound for Virginia orMaryland will find many times on the coast of Americavarious winds and weathers, and streams and currentsalso, therefore they must take the more care, and nottrust with much confidence to dead reckoning.” (Mr.Rich tells us of one Truro skipper who “could keepa better dead reckoning with fewer figures than anysailor ever known. A few chalk marks on the cabin[Pg 214]door or at the head of his berth, and he knew hisposition on the Western ocean, whatever wind orweather, as well as if in his father’s cornfield.”) “Forby experience,” the “Pilot” goes on to say, “has beenfound sometimes in twenty-four hours such currentsas hath carried them either to the Northward orSouthward, contrary to the reckoning beyond credit.”But we are off for the Caribbees, and as we leave“those northern parts of America,” Saint Vincent andDomenica, Marygalante, “Guardaloupa,” and all thejewelled drops of the Antilles, from Bermuda to theIsle of Pearls, slip by on the blue ribbon of the summerseas; and the wind, whether or no, veers back tothe “spacious time of great Elizabeth,” when Hakluytis the master. Yet may we as well sail by the“Pilot,” who also knows “Franky Drake,” and tellsus that the “Islands of the Virgia Gorda were everaccounted dangerous, but we find by the worthy SirFrancis Drake, in his relation of them, that they werenot so, who sailed through and among them. There isgood shelter, if you are acquainted with going inamong them, for many hundred sails of ships.” Andhere, with Drake, sailed Martin Frobisher to recouphis fortunes blasted by the north, and returned toEngland with sixty thousand pounds in gold and twobrass cannon as profit.
All is war and pillage, surprise and counter-manœuvre.On Hispaniola, over against the two islandsGranive and Foul Beard in the Bay of Jaguana, “theSpaniards have made three or four ways through theKrenckle woods against time of war, that they may[Pg 215]convey their merchandise thro’ the same woods withoutbeing discovered.” “In a little bay near CapeTiburon the English used to lie, waiting for the SaintDomingo fleet, and the reason why they laid therewas, because there was refreshment to be had fromthe shore.” And at Veragua, where is “good freshwater, and almost anything you want,” we hear ofDrake again: “It is said that on this island Sir FrancisDrake fell ill and died, and was there buried.” Buthere the “Pilot” trips, for Drake, sick with rage anddisappointment, died when the fleet lay off PortoBello, and was buried from his ship. There are treacherouskeys among the islands where many a great shiphas laid her bones; the Coffin Key, dreaded of sailors,where after sundown walk the ghosts of murderedmen; and quiet little bays for “cruizing ships toanchor, when they want to heel or boot top, or to refitany of their rigging.” Saona is “a fruitful islandabounding in cassava ... so that it hath oftentimesbeen to the Spaniards as a granary whereby they havebeen sustained.” And practical directions for thenavigator run with the allusion to old report: atIlluthera you may look out for two white cliffs “calledthe Alabasters”; “along shore you will see a hillresembling a Dutchman’s thumb cap”; and oneCaptain Street tells of the “Colloradoes” prickingout “where we saw to the eastward of us three hommockson Cuba,” with “flocks of pelican sitting on thered white sand.” “Take this one more observation ofthe Colloradoes,” says Captain Street, “when youthink you are near them, keep then your lead going,[Pg 216]for there is good gradual shoaling on them, at firstcoming on them, excellent sticking oazy ground andthen sand.”
Down the slope of Campeachy Bay the whole coastis fever-stricken and bare of all comfort; nor is therebrook or fresh water, unless you dig deep in the sand,save one spring about two hundred yards from theshore, where “you may see a small dirty path thatleads to it through the mangroves.” Forests rise fromthe marshes, rivers skulk behind great sandbars; theplace smells of pirates, and their light-draft brigsthread the innumerable salt lagoons, that Laguna ofthe Tides, perhaps, where “small vessels, as barks,periagoes, or canoes may sail.”
Turning, we are for “the Amazones,” and thenback again, up the great coast of the mainland.Here is the “Oronoque” and many a lesser stream:the Wannary, “shallow, craggy and foul, the landsoft and quaggy,” and “therefore thereabouts notinhabited but with that vermin Crocodile, of whichthere are in this place abundance”; and the Caperwakawith an island in it where there is rich quarry forfo’c’s’le hunters—“such multitudes of parrots andother fine feathered fowls, that you cannot hear eachother speak for their noise; there are many apes onthis island, and other creatures, which I omit here tomention.” At the Roca Islands “are no beasts butsome few fowls, which they call Flamingoes, havinglong legs almost like storks, with orange-colouredfeathers, and great crooked bills.”
All along to Caracas a captain must be on the[Pg 217]alert because of “the boisterous winds that blowthere,” the “Turnadoes,” that “cause a great overflowingof water.” And “the land is very high, somesay as high as Teneriffe. You have there an extraordinaryhollow sea, therefore those that would anchoron this coast do best to run a little westward ...where you may lie quiet and secure.” Down throughthe “Gulph of Venezula” “the country is full ofbrooks and rivulets; the people, ugly, thin, and ill-favoured,going naked, are frightful to behold.” But“there is much gold brought from thence, and somecostly stones of several virtues,” and “in the countryare many tygers and bears.” Rio de la Hacha, as weknow, was “formerly a rich place by reason of thepearl fishing and other trading. On the east side of theriver lies a bank which must be shunned,” as wassuccessfully accomplished by Captain John Hawkinswhen he outwitted the Don and watered his ship atthe enemy’s wells—perhaps that Jesus of Lubec hewas to lose by Spanish treachery at San Juan d’Ulloa.And the river Trato, with its mouth blocked by“march land and Sea Cows,” runs “South a long wayinto the bowels of the country near the golden minesof Canea.” Gold and more gold, and here, in the olddays, was bloody work done by Spain which, in turn,was pillaged by England and France. One CaptainLong made a smug show of setting up “English coloursby consent of the Indian natives,” but on a certainreef “Captain Long had like to have lost HisMajesty’s Ship the Rupert prize.” And between thekeys called the Sambello and main “used to be the[Pg 218]rendezvous of the French buccaneers,” as off Anderoand Catalina “the French used to lie with their privateersand plague the Spaniards to leeward, especiallythose at Porto Bello and Nombre de Dios.” AtLake Nicaragua “is a thing may be called a wonder;some of the trees can scarcely be fathomed byfifteen men; that is the body of the tree; which thingis confirmed by many.” And it was such a tree thatDrake climbed when first he looked upon the slowsurge of the Pacific and swore the oath that was todisturb Spain’s comfortable looting of the SouthSeas.
Mexico is coasted about in short order. An islandoff Vera Cruz comes in chiefly for “extraordinaryremarks”; for “in this place the Spanish fleet used tolie, and bring their loading from all parts, until themonth of March, from whence they sail to the Havannah,where they always make their fleet to departfor Spain.” And “now we come to the wild coast ofFlorida, of which take brief account,” says the “Pilot,”because, forsooth, there was then little trade orplunder to be had. Even the mighty Mississippi appearsonly as the Bay of Spirito Sancto, with, inland,a shadowy “mishisipi.” Steering out by Florida, wediscover the Gulf Stream, “an extraordinary strongcurrent, without rippling or whirling, or any otherdistinction than in the main ocean, always setting tothe northward, occasioned by the northeast winds,which there always blow, not altering till you come asfar as the Canaries or Salt Islands or thereabouts.”
But we turn back toward the “Northern Parts of[Pg 219]America,” and the good ports of Baltimore or Bostonor New York, and leave John Hawkins and FrancisDrake and their mates who, after all, were only seekinggold at as good a bargain in blood or adventure asfortune sent, and were traders no less than the manwho owned our “Pilot” and pored over its charts andquaint letterpress while the shores of Africa thunderedin the offing or, down by the Spanish Main, hislookout watched sharp for the lurch of a pirate brig.Nor was he less adventurer than they, though hetravelled the Western Ocean by roads that were asundeviating, for a good seaman, as those built byRome, and knew the way of the currents there andthe steady sweep of the trades. More than once he hadanchored at Prince’s Island for a cargo of sugar andoil, more than once he had weighed and run beforethe “Turnado” and crept back to his anchorage whenthe commotion was past. He had traded at Matanzasand Surinam; he knew the trick of the Spaniard at“the Havannah” and Cadiz; and down at Rio herode fast horses on the beach and steved his hold fullof precious woods. He was no scholar, yet could calculatehis position at sea by the latest mode of thenavigator; he was no linguist, yet could bend Frenchman,or Russian, or the wily Chinese hong to his will.Like the Elizabethans, he loved gold: for that meanthome and honor and dry land under foot. And heplunged into seafaring with all the strength in himonly to win through to that career ashore when heshould own the ships that other men sailed. He showedan unaffected, outspoken piety that would be impossible[Pg 220]to the young blood of to-day, and he and hiscalling are no more. Yet the type persists, the type ofall true adventurers old and new: the men who steerfor free waters, but first of all are masters of theship.
Stories of the Cape Cod captains would in themselvesmake a volume. One is tempted here andtempted there in choosing which should be typicalof the “brave old times,” and fears to overlook themost significant. Among the more interesting of thosewho have not been already mentioned was ElijahCobb, born in 1768 at Brewster—the home of deep-watersailors. From the memoir which he began towrite in old age, we know that his first voyage, presumablyas cabin boy, netted him the profit of a newsuit of clothes and in money twenty dollars which hebrought home intact to his mother, “the largest sumshe had received since she became a widow.” By thetime he was twenty-five he had made several voyagesas captain, had married him a wife, and a year or twolater was to run afoul of the French Revolution. Asboth French and English men-of-war were makingno bones of holding up neutrals, he had cleared forCorunna: to no end, for he was taken by a Frenchfrigate and run into the harbor of Brest. “My vesselwas there,” he writes, “but her cargo was taken outand was daily made into soup, bread, etc., for the half-starvedpopulace, and without papers”—his captorshad sent his papers to the Government at Paris—“I[Pg 222]could not substantiate my claim to the ship.”He appealed to Paris, and had the cold comfort ofhearing that “the Government will do what is right intime.” In the meantime he was treated courteously,and he and some of his men lodged at a hotel at theGovernment’s expense. After six weeks the word camethat his case had been passed upon: “without myeven learning or knowing I was on trial. The decision,however, was so favorable that it gave new feelingsto my life.” A fair price was offered for the cargoof flour and rice which Brest had already devoured;payment in bills of exchange on Hamburg, fifty daysafter date. Cobb sent his ship away in ballast, and setout for Paris to get his papers and his bills of exchange.
“In about two days I was under weigh for Paris,”writes Cobb, “with the national courier for government.We drove Jehu-like without stopping, except tochange horses and mail, taking occasionally a mouthfulof bread and washing it down with low-pricedBurgundy wine. As to sleep I did not get one winkduring the whole six hundred and eighty-four miles.We had from ten to twelve mounted horsemen forguard during the night, and to prove that the precautionwas necessary, the second morning afterleaving Brest, just before the guard left us, we witnesseda scene that filled us with horror: the remainsof a courier lying in the road, the master, postillion,and five horses lying dead and mangled by it, and themail mutilated and scattered in all directions. However,the next stage was only five miles and not considereddangerous, and we proceeded on. We reached[Pg 223]Paris on a beautiful June morning.” But here was thebeginning of fresh trouble: matters there were movingtoo fast for much attention to be given a young Americanshipmaster in quest of papers. Cobb writes thatit was in “the bloody reign of Robespierre. I minuteddown a thousand persons that I saw beheaded by theinfernal guillotine, and probably saw as many morethat I did not minute down.” He was surfeited withhorrors and despairing of his mission as time passedswiftly on toward the termination of his fifty days ofgrace, when a friendly Frenchman at his hotel advisedhim to appeal direct to Robespierre, “sayingthat he was partial to Americans.” On the instant anote was despatched: “An American citizen, capturedby a French frigate on the high seas, requests a personalinterview and to lay his grievances before thecitizen Robespierre.” And within an hour came theanswer: “I will grant citizen Cobb an interview to-morrowat 10 A.M. Robespierre.” The event provedRobespierre to be sympathetic, and, moreover, thathe spoke very good English. Cobb told him of hisunavailing visits to the “Office of the Twenty-thirdDepartment.” “Go again to the office,” said Robespierre,“and tell citizen F. T. that you come fromRobespierre, and if he does not produce your papersand finish your business immediately, he will hearfrom me again in a way not so pleasing to him.” Such amessage, with the guillotine working overtime in thePlace de la Concorde, was likely to produce results,and the affair was concluded with despatch. ButRobespierre was near his eclipse; and hardly had[Pg 224]Cobb received his papers than, to his horror, he wasto see Robespierre’s head falling into the basket. Hewaited not upon the order of his going, but fled fromParis, and arrived at Hamburg the very day beforehis bills became due. “The fortunate result of thisvoyage increased my fame as a shipmaster,” is hissole comment upon the adventure, “but allowed meonly a few days at home.”
He was off again in the Monsoon, a new ship then,that was to prove a famous money-getter for morethan one Cape Cod captain. His owners gave him avaluable cargo with directions “to find a market forit in Europe”; for certain hogsheads of rum, however,they advised Ireland. Permission to land it therewas not forthcoming. “Matters were arranged, however,”writes Cobb, “so that between the cove ofCork and the Scilly Islands eight hogsheads of NewEngland rum were thrown overboard, and a smallpilot boat hove on board a bag containing sixty-fourEnglish guineas.” Again a good sale was made atHamburg, but a later venture there proved moredifficult of achievement than the rum transaction onthe Irish coast: for by that time the English blockadeextended to Hamburg, and he was turned back toEngland where, at Yarmouth, he received permissionto proceed to any port not included in the blockade.But Cobb meant to sell his cargo in Hamburg.He cleared for Copenhagen, landed his goods atLübeck, and transported them overland to Hamburgwhere another profitable exchange of commoditieswas effected. Hardly was he at home again for a[Pg 225]visit at his Cape Cod farm than a messenger arrivedwith orders for him to proceed to Malaga. And atMalaga he was informed that the British Orders inCouncil went into force that day forbidding vesselstaking a return cargo. “Of course this would makesuch a cargo very desirable,” Cobb remarks. Heneeded no further incentive to “manage the affair.”“The American consul thought there would be butlittle risk if I hurried, and in eight days I was readyto sail.” He made for Gibraltar, and was promptlyoverhauled by a frigate. “Whereupon,” says Cobb,“I told them the truth: that I was from Malagabound for Boston; that I had come there to avail myselfof a clearance from a British port and a convoythrough the gut. And after I had seen the principal,placing on the counter before his eyes a two-ouncepiece of gold, I was permitted to go with my clearanceto the American consul. A signal gun was firedthat morning and I was the first to move, being apprehensivethat some incident might yet subject meto that fatal investigation. How it was managed toclear out a cargo of Spanish goods from Gibraltar,under the British Orders in Council, was a subject ofmost intense speculation in Boston, but I had made agood voyage for all concerned.” It is not remarkablethat he was allowed no long interval for farming beforehe was off again for “a voyage to Europe.” Hisowners had learned to their great gain that it was bestto give Cobb the freedom of the seas and the marketsashore. He proceeded to Alexandria, Virginia, loadedwith flour that sold well at Cadiz, and returned in[Pg 226]ballast to Norfolk where he found orders to loadagain at Alexandria. But America was now ready toclamp down her Embargo Law which every Yankeecaptain worthy of the name was prepared to evade.Mr. Randolph from Congress had sent news of it to aship merchant at Alexandria who passed on the wordto Cobb. “What you do must be done quickly, forthe embargo will be upon you at 10 A.M. on Sunday.”Cobb tells the story of his achievement. “It was nowFriday P.M. We had about a hundred tons of ballaston board which must be removed, and upwards ofthree thousand barrels of flour to take in and stowaway, provisions, wood, and water to take on board,a crew to ship, and get to sea before the embargotook possession. I found that we could get one supplyof flour from a block of stores directly alongside theship, and by paying three-eighths of a dollar extra, wehad liberty if stopped by the embargo to return it.”But Cobb meant to regain for his employers thatthree-eighths of a dollar, and the tidy additionalprofit that was to be made on a cargo of Americanflour at Cadiz. “Saturday morning was fine weather.About sunrise I went to the ‘lazy corner’ so called,and pressed into service every negro that came uponthe stand and sent them on board the ship, until Ithought there were as many as could work. I thenvisited the sailors’ boarding-houses, where I shippedmy crew, paid the advance to their landlords, and receivedtheir obligations to see each sailor on board atsunrise next morning. It had now got to be abouttwelve o’clock, and the ship must be cleared at the[Pg 227]custom house before one. ‘Why Cobb,’ said the collectorthere, ‘what’s the use of clearing the ship?You can’t get away. The embargo will be here at teno’clock to-morrow morning. And even if you get yourship below, I shall have boats out that will stop youbefore you get three leagues to sea.’ Said I, ‘Mr.Taylor, will you be so kind as to clear my ship?’‘Oh, yes,’ said he. And accordingly the ship wascleared and I returned on board and found everythinggoing on well. Finally, to shorten the story, atnine that evening we had about three thousand andfifty barrels of flour, one longboat on board in thechocks, water, wood and provisions on board andstowed, a pilot engaged, and all in readiness for thesea.” The tide served at eight in the morning, thesailors were aboard, the pilot had come, and down thenarrow, winding river they started with a fair windthat helped them on the first leg of their journey.But at Hampton Roads, in a dead calm, the governmentboat hove in sight. “Well,” said Cobb to hismate, “I fear we are gone.” But it was never his wayto give up hope while a move in the game remained tohim: when the boat was so near that with his glass hecould descry the features of its crew, a breeze camepuffing along, and he made for sea. In about tenminutes the boat gave up the chase, Mr. Taylor, ofAlexandria, satisfied, no doubt, that he had dischargedhis duty.
Cobb gave the first notice of the embargo at Cadiz.“The day before I sailed,” he writes, “I dined with alarge party at the American consul’s and, it being[Pg 228]mentioned that I was to sail next day, I was congratulatedby a British officer on the safety of our flag.Well, I thought the same, when at the time war betweenEngland and America was raging. I sailed fromCadiz on the twenty-fifth of July, 1812, bound forBoston, and I never felt safer on account of enemieson the high seas.” But for once his confidence wasnot justified. Hardly had he entered the Grand Banksthan he was overhauled by an English cruiser, withwhose captain he proceeded to bargain on the pointof ransom for his ship. “What will you give for her,”asked the Britisher, “in exchange for a clear passportinto Boston?” “Four thousand dollars,” repliedCobb at a venture. “Well,” said the other, “give usthe money.” “Oh, thank you,” said Cobb, “if it wereon board, you’d take it without the asking. I’ll giveyou a draft on London.” “No, cash, or we burn theship.” “Well,” said Cobb coolly, “you’ll not burn mein her, I hope.” The upshot was that a prize crew wasput aboard, and Cobb had the pleasure of beingconvoyed by the frigate into Saint John’s, where hejoined a company of about twenty Yankee mastersof ships and their officers, at the so-called “Prisoners’Hall.” Twenty-seven American prize ships were inport; and in a few days the Yankee prize Alert camein, with a British crew and American officers, underthe protection of a cartel flag, to treat for an exchangeof prisoners. The old admiral of the port was in a ragebecause of the irregularity of making the cartel onthe high seas. “I’m likely to join you here,” said theYankee captain to his countrymen at Prisoners’ Hall.[Pg 229]However, in a few moments along came a note fromthe admiral saying that “he found that the honor ofthe British officers was pledged for the fulfilling of thecontract, and as he knew his government always redeemedthe pledges of its officers, he would receivethe [British] officers and crew on the Alert, and wouldgive in exchange every American prisoner in port(there were two to one) and we must be off in twenty-fourhours. Now commenced a scene of confusionand bustle. The crew of the cartel were soon landed,and the Americans as speedily took possession.”
At twelve midnight, in due course of time thereafter,Captain Cobb arrived at his home, and tappedon the window of a downstairs bedroom where he knewhis wife to be sleeping. At first she thought it a twigof the sweetbriar bush. Then, “‘Who is there?’ criedshe. ‘It is I,’ said I. ‘Well, what do you want?’‘To come in.’ ‘For what?’ said she. Before I couldanswer I heard my daughter, who was in bed withher, say, ‘Why, ma, it’s pa.’ It was enough. The doorsflew open, and the greetings of affection and consanguinitymultiplied upon me rapidly. Thus in amoment was I transported to the greatest earthlybliss a man can enjoy, viz: to the enjoyment of thehappy family circle.”
With these cheerful words Mr. Cobb ends hisrecord. For a year or two thereafter he remained athome, and then was off again to sea. In 1819 and 1820he made trips to Africa, and on the second voyage returnedwith so much fever aboard that the ship, as ameans to disinfecting it, was sunk at the wharf. Then[Pg 230]he retired from sea—he had built a fine Georgianhouse in 1800—and filled many offices ashore. Hisyouth was crammed with adventure; he followed thesea longer than some of his mates; yet at the age offifty-two, when he left it with a modest fortune, heshowed as much zest in the management of morehumdrum affairs: in due sequence he was town clerk,treasurer, inspector-general, representative to theGeneral Court, senator, justice of the peace, andbrigadier-general in the militia; no town committeeseems to have been complete without him; he was asteadfast member of the liberal church which hadtaken possession of the old North Parish. And on oneof those foreign voyages he had had painted a portraitof himself: a gallant, high-bred youth, with “banged”hair and curls, in Directoire dress, rolling collar, muslinstock and frills. The lovely colors of the old pastelhold their own, the soft blue of the surtout, the keeneyes, the handsome, alert face. A young man whoknew something of his worth, Captain Cobb, and ayoung man who made exceptional opportunity to putthat worth to the test.
A contemporary of Cobb’s was Freeman Foster,born in 1782 at Brewster before its historic divisionfrom Harwich. At the age of ten he was off on fishing-voyageswith his father, who had been a whaler; atfourteen he had begun to work his way up to thequarter-deck of the merchant service; his schoolingwas acquired in the intervals ashore. Curiously, in allhis seafaring, he never crossed the “Line,” but cruisedbetween Boston, New Orleans, and the West Indies,[Pg 231]the Russian ports of Archangel and Kronstadt, andto Elsinore. At fifty-five he retired to his farm, and inthe Embargo War served as an officer in the militiaunder his neighbor General Cobb. He had been a robustboy and grew to be a mighty man, well over sixfeet in height and broad in proportion. He had afamily of ten children; and his record tallies with thatof many another old sea-captain: he “left behindhim a reputation for strict integrity and sturdy manhood.”
Jeremiah Mayo, of Brewster, born in 1786, was oneof nine huge brothers who were said to measure, in theaggregate, something like fifty-five feet. His fathermeant to make a blacksmith of him, with fishing-voyages,in the season, as relaxation. At sixteen hehad a forge of his own in his father’s shop and couldshoe all the horses that were brought there. ButJeremiah had no notion of confining his adventuresto shoeing horses and catching fish, and at eighteenhe was off for a voyage to Marseilles when, for hisability, he received two dollars a month more thanany other sailor aboard. On his next voyage to Malaga,Leghorn, Alicante, and Marseilles, his ship, theIndustry, was attacked off Gibraltar by the Algerinesand escaped with some casualties, among them aflesh wound for Jeremiah. The captain, GamalielBradford, with his leg shot away, had to be left inhospital at Lisbon. On his third voyage he and ayoung cousin were first and second mate and, thecaptain falling ill, the two lads, each only nineteen,had to take the ship by the dangerous “north-about”[Pg 232]through the Hebrides from Amsterdam to Cadiz; andon a second voyage with the same captain, who seemsto have been one of faint heart and would have givenup the ship when she sprung a leak, Mayo took hersafely to port, and at Bordeaux, where she was sold,sailed her for the French buyers to a Breton port witha cargo of claret, worth there twice its value atBordeaux. By skilful manœuvre he evaded the Britishpatrol, landed his precious cargo, and returned safelyto Bordeaux where he shipped with a Yankee captain,with a cargo of Médoc, for Spain. He arrived atCorunna a few days after the historic battle there, andon a later voyage remembers seeing the monumenterected to Sir John Moore. In the Embargo War hewas captured by an English frigate, and if the windhad not failed him would have turned the tables bybowling the prize crew into Baltimore as prisoners.“And I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had,” heremembered as the sportsmanlike comment of hiscaptor. Immediately after the battle of Waterloo hewas at Havre, where he was approached by an agentof Napoleon with a proposition to take the emperor toAmerica. He promptly accepted the hazard, and wasdisappointed when he heard Napoleon had beentaken; had Napoleon been able to reach the Sally,he might have escaped Saint Helena, for she was notspoken from Havre to Boston. Mayo greatly admiredNapoleon, and had seen him a-horseback at Bayonnewhen he was landing his army for Spain; at Paris, in1815, he heard the shots in the Luxembourg Gardenswhen Ney was executed; he remembers seeing Lafayette[Pg 233]driving away from the Hall of Assembly. Hisvessel had been one of the first to enter a British portafter the War of 1812, and the captain of an Englishfrigate there sent him an invitation to dine and tookoccasion to express admiration of the Americanfighting quality on the seas. Mayo retired in goodtime to his comfortable forty-acre farm in Brewster,but by no means to inactivity. He was justice of thepeace and well read in the law, a licensed auctioneer,a skilful surveyor and draughtsman, and was presidentof the Marine Insurance Company. It was rememberedthat he had “rare conversational powers,”which were well employed, we may suppose, in depictingthe scenes of his eventful life. Mayo was ashandsome a man as Cobb, his portrait showing a fine,spirited profile, with aggressive nose and a beautifullyarched setting of the eye. He must have been magnificentwith his six feet four of height.
Until the end of the clipper-ship era, Brewster wasfamous for its deep-water sailors, and at one time noless than sixty captains hailed its little farms as home.In the later period one of them was to rival the adventuresof Robinson Crusoe and also of Mrs. Lecks andMrs. Aleshine. One suspects, even, that Stockton mayhave heard the story. His fine clipper ship, the WildWave, fifteen hundred tons, with a crew of thirty alltold, and ten passengers, San Francisco to Valparaiso,was wrecked on Oeno, a coral island of the Pacificabout half a mile in circumference. Passengers andcrew, provisions and sails for tents were safelylanded. Water they found by digging for it. But[Pg 234]Josiah Knowles was not the man to remain inert, andafter two weeks he took a ship’s boat, the mate andfive men, and his treasure chest of eighteen thousanddollars in gold, and set out for Pitcairn’s Island whichhe knew to be distant some hundred miles. Safelythere, he found to his amazement the island desertedand the inhabitants decamped to Norfolk Island, anotice to that effect, for the benefit of possible callers,posted in several of the houses. They had left behindthem much possible provision in the way of sheep,goats, bullocks, and poultry, and there was plentyof tropical fruit such as oranges, bananas, breadfruit,and cocoanuts. But it was plain that the voyage mustbe continued if Knowles was to rescue his companionsmarooned at Oeno, and he himself be returned tocivilization. By ill luck their boat, shortly after theyhad landed, was stove in on a reef, and their first carewas to replace it. They found six axes, one hammer,and a few other tools, and some of the houses wereburned to obtain nails and iron. The timber had to befelled and hewed as best could be; and their boat, theJohn Adams, was launched July 23, a little more thanfour months after the wreck at Oeno. The ensign ofthe new craft was fashioned from the red hangings ofthe chapel pulpit, an old shirt, and some blue overalls.All being ship-shape and in order, Captain Knowlesagain set sail with his gold, the mate and two men,and “the wind being unfavourable” headed for theMarquesas. Their destination was Tahiti, fifteen hundredmiles distant. Three of his men had preferredthe comfortable solitude of Pitcairn’s Island to such[Pg 235]an adventure. But fortune favored the daring, and onAugust 4 they made Nukahiva, where, by extraordinaryluck, for no American ship had called at theisland in the previous five years, they found the Yankeesloop-of-war Vandalia. Next morning, with his usualpromptness, Knowles sold his boat to the island missionary,and was off on the Vandalia which sailed forthe rescue of the marooned on Oeno and Pitcairn’s,dropping Knowles and his men at Tahiti. The matejoined the Vandalia as an officer. Knowles, at Tahiti,was offered passage on a French frigate to Honolulu,where he found an American barque loading for SanFrancisco and arrived there the middle of September.He found letters from home, but could carry newsthere as quickly as it could be sent, as there was nocommunication overland then except by pony express.Sailing for New York via Panama, he arrivedthere late in October and telegraphed home, where hehad long been given up for lost. Fourteen years later, inhis ship, the Glory of the Seas, he stopped at Pitcairn’sIsland, now restored as the habitation of man, wasreceived royally by the Governor and natives, andspeeded on his way by the entire population, eachbearing a gift—the island fruits, ducks, chickens,even sheep, “enough,” said he, “to load a boat.”Some years later he retired from sea to live in SanFrancisco, where the Governor of Pitcairn’s Island,whenever he came to town, made his headquartersat the home of Captain Knowles.
One could go on indefinitely recounting the adventuresof these men, among them many pioneers in one[Pg 236]part of the world or another. A Brewster sailor wentto Oregon in 1846, and a few years later sold out hisframe house and saw and grist mill to his brother,while he himself, from 1854 to 1858, carried cargoes ofship-spars from Puget Sound to China, the first cargoesto Hong Kong. In 1794, John Kenrick, commandingthe Columbia Redivivia, with the sloop LadyWashington as tender, was the first American masterto circle the globe. He rounded the Horn and sailed upthe coast to the Columbia River, which he is said tohave named from his ship. That he gave over to hismate, Robert Gray, with instructions to explore theriver, while he himself rigged his tender as a brig andcrossed the Pacific, swinging around home again byway of the East Indies and “the Cape.” Earlier thanthat the Stork of Boston, under a Yarmouth captain,is said to have been the first to carry the Americanflag around the Cape of Good Hope; and Brewstercaptains were the first to fly the American merchantflag in the White Sea. A Brewster man, in 1852, carriedthe first load of ice, and a frame house for storingit, to Iquique. This idea of sending ice to the tropicswas to net thousands of per cent profit. This samemaster carried, and placed, the great gun namedthe “swamp angel” that was expected to retake FortSumter, and he transported troops for Butler. In 1870also, he carried a valuable cargo of war material to theFrench at Brest; and on the return voyage shipped, atLondon, many passengers and a lot of animals forBarnum’s circus. They were so delayed on the homewardpassage that their provisions were nearly exhausted[Pg 237]and, as it was, several trained ponies and goatswere sacrificed to feed the more valuable lions andtigers. Collins, of Truro, was a blockade-runner in1812, sailing open boats from the lower Cape townsto Boston, but was captured in his first venture on thedeep sea. Later he was in the coasting trade up anddown as far as Mexico, and had many medals forrescue at sea; later still he established the famousCollins Line. Hallett, of Barnstable, who died in 1849,was a pioneer in this coasting trade, and also as asaver of souls: for he raised the first Bethel flag forseamen’s worship in New York and in Boston. Hewas a “professor” from his twentieth year, and wassaid to be “singularly gifted in prayer and exhortation.”In 1808 he built the Ten Sisters, the mostnoted packet for years running between New Yorkand Boston. Rider, of Truro, who combined with seafaringthe trade of carpenter, went West in 1837, andbuilt “the first boat to navigate the Illinois River bymule power,” and afterwards built other famous riverboats. A Barnstable captain transported Mark Twainon the first leg of his “Innocents Abroad” expedition;another was master of the beautiful Gravina,named from the admiral in command of the Spanishreserves at Trafalgar, which on her maiden voyage,New York to Shanghai, took out some of BishopBoone’s missionaries. A Brewster man made a fortuneby establishing a stage-line to the Australiangold-fields.
It was natural that, in 1849, the Cape Cod menshould be among the first to start for California; and[Pg 238]it is interesting, also, that the majority of them, atleast, in time returned to their life at sea. A Barnstablecaptain, Harris, who had received a medal fromthe Admiralty for saving a British crew in the NorthSea, sailed, with his son, for San Francisco, where theirbrig was abandoned at the water-front and was usedas an eating-house. Captain Harris, in due course, returnedto Barnstable, and became sheriff of the county.There is testimony that he was “always young inspirit: it was a pleasure to see him dance, for heshowed us more fancy steps and more of the old waysof dancing than we had ever seen.” Cape sailors weremore apt to man the clippers than hunt for gold.A Hyannis captain remembered that an owner oncesaid to him when he was looking for a berth: “Thenew clipper ship Spit-fire is lading for San Franciscoand the cap’n’s a driver. He wants a mate can jumpover the fore-yard every morning before breakfast.”“I’m his man,” retorted the seaman, “if it’s laid onthe deck.” He shipped forthwith, and had a passageof one hundred and two days to San Francisco. Agroup of eight Brewster men and four from Bostoncombined seamanship and gold-hunting by buying abrig of a hundred and twenty tons and manning itthemselves. They elected their officers, the rest of theowners going as common sailors. “We were all square-rigsailors except Ben Crocker,” writes one of the“seamen,” “and he was made cap’n of the main boom,as the square-rig sailors were afraid of it.” The cookworked his passage out, and there were six passengers;all ate together in the cabin. In a hundred and[Pg 239]forty-seven days they made San Francisco, wherethey sold the brig for half what she cost them, and“each man took his own course.” There is no recordthat any of them made a fortune.
One Forty-Niner, sailing for “Frisco,” was luredby richer tales of gold to Australia, whither heworked his passage only to be wrecked on the coast,and turning short-about for a trading voyage amongthe Pacific islands was again wrecked, and in the lapseof time mourned as dead by his family. But in a yearor so news of him came from the Carolines, where hehad become virtual king of one of the islands, marriedthe chief’s daughter, taught the natives the usesof civilization in respect of houses, clothing, and thesanctity of the marriage tie, and was building up apretty trade in tortoise-shell, cocoa oil, and hogs. Fornearly ten years he ruled his little kingdom, and thenwas killed by jealous invaders from another islandwho, worsted in battle, were literally torn limb fromlimb by his enraged people, and thrown to the sharks,thereby losing not only life here, but all hope of thehereafter.
The missionary brig Morning Star had often touchedat King John’s Island, and generous testimony wasoffered that “John Higgins of Brewster has done moretowards civilizing these natives than any missionarycould have done.” And no less than three Yarmouthcaptains had at one time or another commanded theseveral succeeding vessels of the Board of Missions,all of which were named the Morning Star.
There are records enough of mutiny and fire and of[Pg 240]disaster other than shipwreck at sea—the captainwounded and his wife quelling the insurgents; a coalcargo afire in the South Pacific, the crew taking to theboats to make the Marquesas twenty-one hundredmiles distant; a captain “subduing a fire in his cargoof coals,” outward bound to Singapore, and receivinga gold watch as a reward from the underwriters forsaving the ship. A Brewster captain and his mate,“taking the sun” in a stiff northwest gale, were sweptoverboard by a heavy sea, the mate to his death, butthe captain, quick of wit, grasping a rope as he wentoverboard, took a double turn round his arm; thewheelman saw him, the watch ran aft and hauled himin so badly wrenched he could not stand, but withsufficient spirit to be lashed to the deck-house andcommand the vessel through the tail of the storm. ABarnstable captain in the Mediterranean service wasfatally stabbed by a Malayan sailor, who jumpedoverboard and swam ashore, and the captain livedlong enough to reach home. On the Sunshine, Melbourneto Callao, one of the crew poisoned the officers,who all recovered except the captain, anotherBarnstable man.
Nearly a hundred years ago now, the brig Polly,under command of Captain William Cazneau, andwith two Dennis men, accomplished seamen both,among the crew, sailed from Boston. Just south ofthe Gulf Stream she ran into a fierce gale that laidher on her beam ends, and in order to right her themasts were cut away. Loaded with lumber, she couldnot sink, and as if invisible she floated unseen, exposed[Pg 241]to every caprice of wind and weather, in andout of the most frequented trade-routes of the sea.Provisions and water exhausted, one by one thecrew died until only the captain and an Indian cookwere left. They ate barnacles which by now werethick enough on the ship’s side, obtained fire by theold Indian device of rubbing two sticks together, andwater by distillation. For one hundred and ninetydays they managed to keep themselves alive until atlast a ship sighted them; and the captain, in furtherproof of an iron constitution, lived to the goodage of ninety-seven.
In 1855 the Titan, commanded by a young Brewstercaptain who lived on through the first decade ofthe twentieth century, alert and active in the publicservice to the end of his long life, was chartered bythe French Government to transport troops to theCrimea. For two years he cruised back and forththrough the Mediterranean in such service, and then,home again, took from New Orleans to Liverpool thelargest cargo of cotton that had ever been carried,and was nearly wrecked making port in a stiff gale.Refitted and made seaworthy, she took out over athousand passengers to Melbourne, thence proceededto Callao for a cargo of guano for London;but homeward bound, she sprung a leak in the SouthAtlantic and had to be abandoned some eleven hundredmiles off the coast of Brazil. Sails were set andall took to the boats which, provisioned with biscuit,canned meats, jam, and none too much water, weremoored to the ship that she might serve them as long[Pg 242]as might be safe. Next morning the captain and anofficer boarded her, saw there was no hope for her,returned to the boats, and cast off. They knew therewas an island, Tristan d’Acunha, somewhere north ofthem, but as it was “too small to hit,” they decided tomake for the mainland. But they were in the “belt ofcalms,” which might extend for ten miles or a hundredand ten, and oars must come before sails. As themen bent to their work, one cried out to look at theold Titan. A slight breeze aloft catching her sails, shehad righted and seemed to be following them; buteven as they looked, and wondered, she careened twoor three times and went down. In a shorter time thanmight have been hoped, they were picked up, by aFrenchman bound for Havre who refused to interrupthis voyage for their convenience; but being provisionedfor a small crew and the Titan’s men numberingfifty-three, he was soon glad to land them atPernambuco. This same captain told of a voyagefrom Australia to Hong Kong when he was sailingby some old charts, “seventeen hundred and something”—the“English Pilot” for a guess—whereincertain islands were sketched in as “uncertain.”They were running into this region on a beautifulmoonlight night, and the captain and a passenger hewas carrying went aloft and smoked, and watched,until past midnight. But at two he was called upagain, and there directly over the bow were palm-treesthick in the moonlight. They had grazed, andcleared, the island of Monte Verde, some twentymiles in length, which of course was charted on the[Pg 243]more modern maps of the day. And it was in this samesouthern sea that he once ran in and out of a hurricane.He could have veered out of its path, but hewas in his rash youth, and the fringe of it giving a goodbreeze, he reefed up and went flying ahead under barepoles, through a tremendous gale that soon had himat its will. Suddenly, like a flash, there was entire calm,and stillness save for the distant roaring of the hurricane:he realized that he had got into the very centreof it, which travels ahead only some twelve milesan hour, but whirls round and round with incrediblevelocity. He knew that he had somehow to drivehis ship out of the vortex that was sure to suck himdown, and again through the outer turmoil—boominglike thunder, flattening the boat on her beam ends—he,making sure the end had come, but driving heron, again won through, and the boat righting herself,continued on her way. The captain never again wooedthe favoring breeze of a hurricane.
The very names of their ships stir the imagination:the Light Foot, the Chariot of Fame, the Chispa, theRosario, named for the wife of an owner who hadbeen a captain in his day and had loved and won aSpanish beauty. The Whirlwind and Challenger werefamous clipper ships; and one man commanded successivelythe Undaunted, the Kingfisher, the Monsoonand Mogul and Ocean King, and the steamersZenobia and Palmyra—and Edward Everett. Therewas the Young Turk and Santa Claus, the Tally Ho,the Expounder and Centaur and Cape Cod; theAgenor and Charmer and Valhalla, the Shooting[Pg 244]Star and the Flying Dragon, the Altof Oak, and,quaintly, the Rice Plant; the Oxenbridge and Kedar.Some ships were so famous that when their day wasdone, they passed down their names to ships of ayounger generation than theirs. Masters changedfrom one ship to another, and discussion as to howthis captain and that handled the Expounder orMonsoon on such or such a voyage filled many a longevening of their old age at home.
As captains grew toward middle age, and the childrenwere old enough to be left at home with relatives orput into boarding-school, their wives not infrequentlyaccompanied them on the long voyages “to some portor ports in Europe at the discretion of the captain,”as his orders might cite; or farther afield to “Bombayand such ports in the East Indies or China asthe captain may determine, the voyage not to exceedtwo years”—or a longer matter when profit wasfound in cruising back and forth between the Indiesand the ports “down under.” But wherever the portmight be, there were sure to be Yankee ships, andmany were the visits between ship and ship, commanded,perhaps, by old neighbors at home; moreformal festivities ashore were offered by consignees,or the American consul, or a foreign acquaintancethat was renewed from voyage to voyage.
In 1844 a Barnstable captain wrote from France:“Dunkirk and Bordeaux are fine places and containmany curiosities to us. We had more invitations to[Pg 245]dine than we wished as the dinners in this countryare very lengthy, say from three to four hours beforeyou rise from the table, and then not dry. To-day wehave been to the Bordeaux Mechanical Exposition orFair, and it is splendid. There are nine American vesselshere, and five of the captains have their wives.”These Barnstable captains and their families, when inNew York, used to stop at a hotel opposite FultonFerry, and when they went uptown of an evening tothe Crystal Palace or the theatre or opera, they wouldcharter a special Fulton Ferry ’bus for the journey.And if the voyage began with an American port ofcall, at New Orleans, we will say, there was plenty ofgayety—balls, theatre-parties, opera, and oyster-suppers—andmore than once a young shipmasterwas captivated by the bright eyes of some Southernbeauty.
A long voyage to Australia and India was anothermatter. The diary and “letters home” of a captainand his wife could tell us that; and while not brilliantin themselves, such records give us the atmosphereof these old times as could perhaps nothing else. Ona February 16, some sixty years ago, a captain writesto his children who were in boarding-school: “Wehave had a very long and dull passage, with manycalms and head winds, and are only to the equator andthirty-nine days out. It has tried my patience prettywell; but I can’t make winds or weather.” His wifewas with him, and he was also taking a passenger onthis voyage to Australia. “It is very warm and fineafter a few days of hard rain when we caught plenty[Pg 246]of water so we can wash as much as we like, andclothes belonging to all hands are hung out drying allover the ship. While I am writing the rest are readingand sitting around the cabin with as little clothing onas possible. I imagine you at church, muffled up incloaks and furs, listening to a good sermon while wehave to do our own preaching. If I’d had a letterready a few days ago, I could have sent it by abarque bound up to New York which I spoke. Yet itwould have been difficult, as it was in the evening andI could not understand who she was, and don’t knowthat she understood our name. Mother busies herselfsewing when she feels like it, and reads the rest of thetime. I must bid you good-morning now and attendto getting an observation and see where we are.” OnFebruary 28 he continues the letter: “I am now aboutwhere I expect to pass the Sunrise, if nothing hashappened to her. I look for her every day. I don’tknow what poor Freeman would say if we shouldmeet them.” Freeman was the oldest son who had insistedon going to sea to “toughen” himself in a losingfight with “consumption”; and here on the widestretches of the southern seas his father hoped tohave word with him. “Mother is sewing on oldclothes of some sort,” he went on to tell them, “andif she is well I think she will have time to mend all up.Time passes rapidly, but I often think of our littlehome being shut up and how many happy days wespent there, and hope we may all live to spend manymore.” He ends his week’s stint of writing with someexcellent moral advice. March 3: “We are now going[Pg 247]for the Cape of Good Hope with a moderate breezeand good weather. Mother has been washing a little,and is now much taken up with some story she isreading. I suppose it is washing day at home, and Ifancy Mrs. Lincoln hanging her clothes in our yard.”March 15: “Good-morning, my dear children. I wish Icould hear you answer to it, but thousands of milesnow separate us and every day still more. We arenow abreast of the Cape, and have had some roughweather since I wrote last. Mother is first-rate, andcan eat as much salt junk as any of us. To-day she isironing a little, and I have been pitching quoits withthe passenger for exercise. We see nothing but theblue sea now, not a vessel or anything else but somebirds. We caught an albatross the other day, but welet him go again as it seemed cruel to deprive him ofhis liberty. We have got through all our hot weather,and I expect we shall soon want a fire while you willbe having the spring—the green grass and the treesputting forth their beauty, and I hope you will enjoyit well. I shall not write any more until I arrive. Begood children is the sincere wish of your own dearFather.”
On April 25 Mother writes Nancy a letter of anxiousinstructions as to closing the house after vacation;because she is at the Antipodes, Mother is noless the careful housewife. “Take good care of thecarpets; you need do nothing about the winter bedclothes,they are all safe. Be sure that the skylightis secure, and if it leaks more than usual get Mr.Snow to repair it. If necessary, put more platters[Pg 248]to catch the water. Have the boys attend to theunderpinning of the house so that the rats or skunkscannot get in; and tell them I wish they would paintmy boxes and buckets. I wish them light-colored,and put them on the old table and in the sink todry. You will find some gooseberry and currant preservein the cellar which you can dispose of. Do notdisturb a jar in the dining-room closet. When Freemanarrives have his sea-clothes put in the barn. Takegood care of Clanrick’s overcoat. If it is wet, see thatit is dried as soon as possible, and if torn mend itimmediately. You know it must last him anotherwinter for his best. Do not forget to wear your rubbers”—andso on. They were entering MelbourneBay, and Mother, having unburdened her mind of itscare, was now free to close her letter, which, as asteamer was sailing next day, would be sent back bythe doctor, “who will board us this afternoon.” “Theboys [members of the crew, and neighbors at home]will not probably send letters this time. You will receivethis a month sooner than you anticipated. Givemy love to grandmother. I often think of her, andhope she will not go to her old home to live alone. Tellher father will see that her board is paid. She need notgive herself any uneasiness about that. I must nowbid you good-bye with much love from your affectionateMother.”
And of course Mother had been keeping a DailyJournal, a copy of which, from time to time, she sentthe children. “Just fifteen weeks from the time weleft Boston we saw King’s Island,” she writes of the[Pg 249]end of their voyage. “It was a joyful sound to mewhen I heard the cry from aloft of Land Ho. I wasalmost tempted to go aloft as I had not caught aglimpse of land or even a rock since I left home. Soonafter, I could see the high hills from the deck whichare about one hundred and eighty miles from Melbourne.The next evening we saw the light, but thewind being fresh ahead we could not gain much,which was rather trying as we were anxious to get in.The twenty-eighth we took a pilot, and as I had anopportunity to send my letters I felt quite reconciledto my situation, it being beautiful weather and finescenery. The land on both sides of us is covered withtrees and shrubbery, fresh like ours in June, althoughautumn here. Arrived at our anchorage about twoo’clock, and lots of people called aboard, Mr. Osborn,our consignee, among them. He invited us to go tochurch with him on Sunday and dine with him and goto the Botanic Gardens, and we accepted. The Gardensare beautiful almost beyond description”—butshe does describe them, and charmingly too, and thebirds there, and the waterfowl, “the plumage of whichis superb.” And she notes that the Yarra Yarra Riveris “not half as wide as our pond.” “We called also atMr. Smith’s, a brother of our former minister. Hehas a very pretty place and gave me a very prettybouquet. We returned to the ship about sunset verymuch pleased with my first day in Melbourne. Nextmorning we were taken up to the wharf, and I amglad to be here where I can come and go as I please.Father is busy, and I have been unpacking and[Pg 250]arranging my clothes, room, etc. I have got my cabincarpeted and it looks quite nice. Mr. Sinclair, ourpassenger, called this morning, and brought me someapples and pears and grapes—a great treat. 29th: Iintended to have gone to Melbourne shopping, butreceived an invitation from Mr. Osborn to go to teaand the opera in the evening. Some of the singing wasgood and the scenery was beautiful. I cannot compareit with American opera as I never went but once inmy life and have forgotten about that. This is a greatplace for opera and theatre-going people, as well asspirit-drinking people. May 1st: To-day I presumeyou go a-Maying.” And now Mother had her shoppingexpedition, and notes that cotton cloth is cheaperthan at home. “I find our last year’s goods and stylesjust received here, and of about the same price.”Like other Americans in foreign lands she is a littlenettled that “they know in a moment I am an American.”The next week being rainy, she did little but“make a few calls upon some English ladies”; andthen came a day spent at South Yarra with “thefirst American lady I had seen since I left home. I wasdelighted to see one home face, and she seemed ashappy to see me. We were not long getting acquainted,and our tongues ran fast I can assure you. I informedher of the latest fashions, while she told me of thepoints of interest I should visit. They have a beautifulgarden and I took lots of slips, and hope to fetchsome of the plants home.” With the wife of a Newburyportcaptain she “went to Melbourne to see whatthere was to be seen,” and there was more gayety[Pg 251]afoot. “You will think me dissipating largely in goingto operas and theatres. I think I am, indeed, but as Ihave no particular regard for such amusement do notthink I shall be injured by going.” And she did certainly“see what there was to be seen.” Nothing escapedMother’s observant eye. “I cannot begin totell you of it in a letter,” she writes, “but will leave ittill some winter evening when seated around our littlelight-stand at home. But I am resolved to see somethingof the world while I can.”
And on May 20, it was up anchor, and off again:“It seemed almost like getting home and we soongot under weigh and bid farewell to Melbourne. Wehave two gentlemen passengers for Calcutta, andI hope we shall have a quick passage. I have enjoyedmyself, and have often wished you were withme to enjoy the pleasures too. Perhaps some dayyou may do so, if you, Nancy, catch a sea-captain;and you, Clanrick, may be a merchant here. I mustnow bid you good-night, with much love and kissesfrom Father and Mother.” The letter was off to themby the pilot, and Father and Mother for Calcuttawhere their visit was not as pleasant as at Melbourne.Father and many of the crew were ill. “I was veryanxious indeed,” writes Mother to the children, “andwas thankful to have some home friends near. CaptainsDunbar and Crowell were very kind. They havedone all of Father’s business they possibly could sothat he need not get overdone.” The sick boys amongthe crew are a particular anxiety: “They are so carelessand imprudent of themselves that I fear we shall[Pg 252]not bring them all home with us. They will not hearto reason, but will eat everything which comes tohand and sleep in the open air which is enough to killany one. But the doctor says they will soon be wellafter getting to sea. We are obliged to wait for asteamer as by Father’s being ill we lost our turn; butI have just heard that one is engaged to take us downriver Friday. I have formed some very pleasant acquaintanceshere, but have not met any Americanladies. Captain Knowles and wife, and a CaptainSmith, wife, and daughter have just arrived. I amsorry not to see them. Father is still better, and is noweating his dinner of chicken soup and toast breadafter which he will ride down and see his consignee.Do not give yourself any uneasiness, but take goodcare of yourselves. I must now leave you in the handsof Him Who ever watches over us, and trust He willpreserve us all and restore us soon to our lovedhome.”
Did Mother feel that the best of their voyaging wasover? When Father returned to the ship that night,he had a letter “containing sad news from Freeman,”their lad who had thought to conquer the dread whiteplague by the hardships of a seaman’s life, and whowas ill at Valencia. But Mother was not one to spendthe long weeks of their return voyage to Melbournein useless repining, and her Diary shows her alert,as ever, to “see what there was to see.” They madeslow progress out to sea, as the weather was hotand calm. “It is very tedious to be lying here,although we have company near us. To-day we saw[Pg 253]what we supposed to be the Ghats Mountains onthe eastern coast of Hindustan.” And steadily, weekafter week, they nosed their way southward again,and on October 26 she could write: “It has beenreally cold this week, about like the weather at homethis season. I sit up on deck all the morning, and havebeen very busy this week turning my silk dress.” Itwas rough weather the last leg of their journey, “theship rolled terribly”; and Mother was none too good asailor. When they hove to at Port Philip Light totake on the pilot, they received orders to proceedto Sydney to discharge their cargo. And there was aletter from his captain, one of their old neighbors athome, confirming their worst fears in regard to Freeman.He had died at Valencia, and was buried there,even as Mother had been praying that another yearmight see them all united at the old home. There wasno time to be spent in idle lamentation, and as Fathermust go to Melbourne, so would she go also to be nearhim. They landed, rode by stage twenty miles toGeelong through “a very dreary country,” thence byrailway to Melbourne where they were disappointednot to find letters from home at the consul’s, nor wastheir friend Mr. Osborn to be found that day; butthey breakfasted with him the next morning, whenFather accomplished his business, and by afternoonthey were on the wearisome journey back to Geelongand Queen’s Cliff where the ship was moored. IndomitableMother writes: “It was a beautiful morning andI enjoyed the ride.” She had learned the subtlest use oflife: to miss none of its beauty, though the heart were[Pg 254]breaking. That night, before they sailed for Sydney,she wrote the two forlorn children at home—a longletter, with the high heart of courage, knowing that itmight be months before they should receive it and thefirst sting of their sorrow be past: a letter full of Christianresignation and of comfort.
And day by day, recording time by latitude andlongitude at sea, ashore by day and month, she setdown in the Journal for the interest of their laterreading, what she did and what she saw. Wilson’sPoint, as they beat round to Sydney in head windsand heavy seas, “would be a terrible place to beshipwrecked,” she thought. And at Sydney she enjoyedthings, as she could, noting the weather—therehad been no rain to speak of for sixteen months—livingon shipboard, but taking many excursionsand meeting pleasant people ashore, and rememberingthe sermons at the English church, and the markets,and the shops; and again, one afternoon, alone, “Iwent a-cruising to see what I could see”—amongother things, in the Public Gardens, “some beautifulplants in the greenhouses. The greatest variety offuchsia I ever saw, and the gardener gave me someslips to take home. There were lots of birds andanimals there, and I saw a kangaroo.” And somefriends took them out to Botany Bay. “It was a terribleroad and dreary country through which we passed,but there was a beautiful garden adjoining the hoteland I walked on the beach and got a few shells. Sawsome wild animals, and returned to Sydney at seveno’clock. I enjoyed it very much.” There is the constant[Pg 255]note. Delayed in their sailing by storms, theyhad Christmas dinner at the consul’s: “a very nicedinner consisting of roasted goose, boiled turkey,boiled ham, cabbage, string beans, and potatoes.”After this mighty meal the company took steamerfor “a resort for pleasure parties where there is a placecalled the Fairy Bower which is very beautiful. Thewinding way to it is over rocks and through the Bush.There is a public house there in front of which is theBay and on either side and at the back are high rockyhills. There are lovely shells on the beach. It is avery romantic spot.”
On the twenty-sixth, “Boxing Day at Sydney,”she writes, they sailed early, and by afternoon “itblew very fresh and I was obliged to go to bed, beinga little seasick.” On the eighth, in a fair wind, she remembersthat it is just a year since they left Boston.On the nineteenth they were rounding Cape Leeuwin,and after a week of heavy swell and variable winds“we took the trades. Very pleasant and fine steadytrades, which we appreciate.” So through fair weatherand storms, starlight nights and sultry days, theycame to Calcutta once more, and the steamer tookthem upstream, and their old friends welcomedthem.
And there, incredibly, plucky little Mother, whocould not have believed that she would not be in theworld to serve any one of them while they had need ofher, sickened with the deadly cholera and died. AndFather, heartsick and alone, is sailing southward oncemore, this time for home. As the pilot takes him downstream,[Pg 256]he is writing the son and daughter at CapeCod. “I am seated here alone in my cabin where yourmother and I have spent many pleasant hours andtaken sweet counsel together, with everything aroundme to remind me of her. Here sets her chair, and thereher trunk and clothes and everything as she left it.”(We wonder if the “slips” she had taken at Melbourneand Sydney are blooming yet.) “Oh, my dear, dearchildren, how much I have to feel and suffer. Yourmother was thinking much of coming home to youagain, but her spirit is with those in heaven. She spokemuch of Nancy and Clanrick before she died, andsaid be sure to give Nancy my watch, and buy onefor Clanrick and tell him it was his mother’s request.I hope you will find a home at the Cape somewheretill my return. Clanrick, be a good boy and kind toyour sister; and try to cheer one another up in yourheavy affliction. I soon expect to discharge the pilot.Good-morning, my dear children. God bless you.Your own afflicted Father.”
Father seems to have been of no such indomitablefibre as Mother. Perhaps for too many decades thesea had had its will of him, and for too many times,before this last voyage that had been so beautifullycompanioned, he had suffered the loneliness of longmonths afloat. Yet Father, in his youth, had beenone of the gayest lads in town; within an hour of hisarrival from sea, he was in and out of every housethere, with a joke for the old ladies, and a new storyfor the cap’ns, a song for the girls, and a new stylefor the lads. Then he had taken on a steady pilot in[Pg 257]Susan, his wife, and had steered straight through alltheir years together. He adored his children, andgave them perhaps more pleasures than he could wellafford; for somehow, although he was an able captainand trader, riches had never come his way. Men saidhe was a free-spender, and ought to have saved. Andnow, in his broken state, after a few weeks with thechildren in the old home among the willows and lilacs,he must be off again to earn money for them all, thistime on a coasting voyage, Boston to “New-Orleens.”And at sea, with far too much time for reflection, heis writing his loved daughter: “I hoped I never shouldbe drifting about the ocean again, but here I am, andno one but my Heavenly Father knows what mydestiny is. When I look back on the past two years,it seems all a dream: our dear Freeman pining awayin a foreign land, and longing to get home once more,poor boy. And your mother in her last moments perfectlycalm and serene, not one murmur or complaint.I have tried to bear up the best I could, but it hasbeen dreadful hard. Perhaps I do not realize my blessings,but I do have many—I’ve been restored tohealth better than I ever expected to be, and I havetwo fine children, and can make me a comfortablehome.”
Poor tender-hearted Father, struggling to counthis “blessings.” The voyage to “New-Orleens” wasnot one of his most prosperous, he had lost the magictouch of success; nor was health as firmly restored ashe supposed: that old fever at Calcutta, the sorrowsthat followed, had broken more than his spirit, and he[Pg 258]returned only in time to die at home—happy, atthe last, to have made that familiar haven. And fortunatebeyond many of his fellows. For there wasa reverse to the old tales of daring and adventure;and many a man, long before age should cool the ardorsof his hot-blooded youth, had died in a foreignport, or on shipboard; and many a memorial stonerecords that such a one died at Panama or Madras orBassein, at Sourbaya or Batavia or Truxillo, or atAden. And there is the longer list of those “lost atsea,” when wives and sweethearts waited throughheartsick months and years for the word that nevercame. Yet those at sea and those ashore found theirstrength in the old faith: “Ye see when the mariner isentered his ship to saile on the troublous sea, how heis for a while tossed in the billows of the same, butyet in hope that he shall come to the quiet haven, hebeareth in better comfort the perils which he feeleth;so am I now toward this sayling: and whatsoeverstormes I shall feele, yet shortly after shall my shipbe in the haven, as I doubt not thereof by the graceof God, desiring you to helpe me with your prayersto the same effect.”
The “retired” sea-captain, if he had been too free-handedto grow rich, or had missed his chance ofsuccess through practising small shrewdnesses ratherthan large, often earned his living ashore as postmaster,or “deepo-master,” or he ran the tavern, orthe village store that supplied the inhabitants withany obtainable commodity. In any case, as gentlemanfarmer or one of lower social rank, he fitted easilyinto the life at home which, in comparison with thatof an inland town, was cosmopolitan by reason ofconstant interchange with countries beyond the sea.Men had a wider outlook: though they might never“go to Boston,” which was the minimum adventureof the community, they were familiar with farscenes discussed of an evening among the frequentersof post-office or store. And if all sailors did not becomecaptains, though the contrary may seem to usto have been the fact, it was the exception when anable-bodied male had not gone at least one “voyageto sea.” The normal Cape Cod boy looked upon theocean as his natural theatre of action. If he couldwheedle his mother into consent, he was off at thetender age of ten, or as soon thereafter as might be,to serve as cabin boy with their neighbor the cap’n.[Pg 260]It is even said of one child that by the time he hadreached his tenth birthday “he was old enough notto be seasick, not to cry during a storm, and to be ofsome use about a ship.” From the galley he might bepromoted to the fo’c’s’le; from there, if luck andtemper served, to the quarter-deck. A captain’s letterto his little daughter tells us something of the relationbetween captain and crew. Discipline was strict, but“the old man” did not forget that they were allneighbors at home. “We have plenty of music in theforecastle,” he writes, “but I wish I had you all withme and the seraphine and then we could have a goodsing. There is a violin-player and one of the bestplayers on the accordion I ever heard, and they goit some evenings, I tell you, and have a regular gooddance. They have their balls about twice a week, andI can hear them calling off their cotillion and havinga merry time of it. I wish you could see them going itfor awhile. Daniel plays the bones and a young manfrom Barnstable is the musician. I like my crew verymuch so far and hope they will continue the voyageand improve.”
As cabin boy, forem’st hand, able seaman, mate,or captain, on merchant vessel or fisherman, everyman Jack in the village was pretty sure to have hadhis taste of the sea, and thereby was equipped to contributehis story to the common fund of anecdote.With truth he could say “I am a part of all that Ihave met.” And whether they had followed the seafor one year or forty, or vicariously through the experienceof others, each of them had a tang of “the[Pg 261]old salt”; and their home was set in the ocean as surelyas if Cape Cod were another Saint Helena breakingthe long Atlantic rollers that come sweeping down theworld. Many a time, indeed, it must have seemed toswing to their stories like the deck of a ship, and thedry land under foot to be stable only because one wasbraced to its motion. For most of the men, all thesea ways about the world were as familiar as thevillage road around the ponds. Daniel Webster oncewrote some friends in Dennis of a trial in their districtwhen question arose as to the entrance of the harborof Owhyhee: “The counsel for the opposite partyproposed to call witnesses to give information to thejury. I at once saw a smile which I thought I understood,and suggested to the judge that very probablysome of my jury had seen the entrance themselves.Upon which seven out of the twelve arose and saidthey were quite familiarly acquainted with it, havingseen it often.”
Every boy had some grounding in the commonbranches of study at the schools which his Pilgrimancestors had been at pains to establish; but giventhe three R’s, his education was expanded in thelarger school of personal adventure. Rich gives aquick biography typical of the Truro fisherman:“Till ten in summer—a barefoot boy, tough, wide-awake—hoes,clams, fishes, swims, goes to the redschoolhouse taught by the village schoolmarm. Afterten, on board a fishing vessel cooking for nine or tenmen; at thirteen a hand; goes to the same schoolhousethree months or less every winter till seventeen[Pg 262]or eighteen; graduates. At twenty-one marries; goesskipper; twenty-five buys a vessel and builds a house,or has been looking around the world to make achange. Whatever may be the experiences of afterlife, the early history of Cape Cod boys could besummed substantially as stated.”
This matter of an elementary education, in theearly days, was frequently undertaken by men whosework was cut out for them to keep their own knowledgea little in advance of their scholars. There wasMr. Hawes, schoolmaster of Yarmouth in the lateryears of the eighteenth century, who gloried in thefact that
“The little learning I have gained,
Was most from simple nature drained.”
He had worked on the farm and managed his ownschooling when the only textbooks were the Bible andCatechism. “When the Spelling Book was first introduced,”he remarks dryly, “the good old ladies appearedto fear that religion would be banished fromthe world.” Hawes, however, undertook the pursuitof the higher learning, and once had a sum set him inthe “Single Rule of Three” that cost him three days’work in the solving of it. “I went often to the woodsand gathered pine knots for candles,” he remembers.“At this time I lived with my aged grandfather, whohad a liberal education, but was in low circumstances,and I could learn more in his chimney-corner with mypine candle, in one evening, than I could at school in aweek.” Discipline was administered by means of an[Pg 263]apple-tree branch, and “as soon as the master retiredfrom school, every instrument of correction ortorture would by the scholars be destroyed.” In theBible class, “while each scholar would mention thenumber and read one verse,” the master would bemaking pens, and the other children most likely“playing pins, or matching coppers.” Hawes, at theage of seventeen, had “advanced in Arithmetic aboutas far as Square and Cube Root,” and by his ownindustry “gained some knowledge of Navigation,”when the Revolution interrupted his studies, and,promptly enlisting, he served in the land force forthree years, and then took to the sea. He sailed inno less than five vessels that were captured, but remarksthat he was never prisoner more than twomonths running; and at the close of the Revolutionhe felt qualified to set up as schoolmaster ashore.His account probably gives an accurate picture of thepublic education of the day. “I commenced teachingschool in Yarmouth,” he writes, “at seven dollarsper month, and boarded myself, which was then aboutequal to seaman’s wages in Boston; and I occasionallytaught town and private schools in Barnstable andYarmouth, when not at sea. The highest wages I everhad was thirty-five dollars per month; and the lastschool I taught was in Barnstable, and was then inmy sixtieth year. Now I will state my own method ofschool teaching with from sixty to ninety pupils, viz:The first and last hours were generally spent in reading,the middle hours in writing. Those in arithmeticwould read with the others when they pleased. Having[Pg 264]one class in school, every scholar, at my word‘Next,’ would arise and read in his seat, till I pronouncedthe word ‘Next,’ and I often stopped him inthe middle of a verse. After reading around, I wouldorder another book, more proper for the scholarspresent, as before, and then in four or five differentbooks till the hour expired. Then I gave out thecopies and made as many mend their pens as could.If they had no ink-stands, which was the case withmany, I would send one after shells, and put cottontherein. The ink I found and charged it to theschool. I likewise set at auction who would make thefire cheapest, say for one month, which would go atabout one cent a day. While they were writing in thesecond form, I would hear the little ones read alone,who could not read in classes. Seventeen was thegreatest number I think I ever had of them. Whenschool was about half done one scholar was sent for abucket of water,” and then, no doubt from one dipper,did they all, girls first, then boys, unhygienicallydrink. “Those in Arithmetic having books of differentauthors, got their own sums, wrote off their ownrules, &c. If they wanted to make inquiries concerningquestions,” Mr. Hawes goes on to say, “and thescholar next him could show him, I would request himto; if not, if I had time, I would explain the principlesby which the sum was to be done. If he then met withdifficulty, I directed him to take it home, and studylate at night to have his answer in the morning. WhenI dismissed the school I would examine each one’swriting book.... I was too much in favor of the[Pg 265]Friends’ principles to require any bowing, and leftthat discretionary with each scholar.”
In schools as rudimentary as this were trained themen whose energy was to accomplish the greatestprosperity of the Cape. A majority of the boys weretoo busily employed in helping to extract the familylivelihood from the soil and the sea to be allowedstudies beyond those useful for such a purpose; yetalmost immediately the free schools were supplemented,at Yarmouth and Sandwich and Barnstable,by seminaries and academies, where Greek, Latin,French, and the higher mathematics were taught. In1840 the Truro Academy was founded under the directorshipof a wise teacher who raised the standardof education in all the towns about. And there wasthe Pine Grove Seminary, conducted by Mr. SidneyBrooks at Harwich, and beloved of its scholars: forMr. Brooks not only encouraged learning, but was apromoter of innocent pleasure. His pupils were to rememberSaturday excursions to Long Pond, sailingthere in summer and ice-boating in winter; and Mr.Brooks permitted tableaux and dancing in the hall,even were there a brisk revival in progress at themeeting-house across the way. The pupils of Mr.Smith, of Brewster, who died in 1842, remember thathe was “successful in making the dullest learn,” andalso recall that “Ferula disciplinæ sceptrum erat.”
The elegancies of the Early Victorian era—French,deportment, fine needlework, sewing andembroidery, bead and shell work, the making of waxflowers, sketching in pencil and watercolors—were[Pg 266]taught the young ladies by private instruction. Theirculture was continued in the Lyceum and FemaleReading Society. Anne C. Lynch and Martin Tupperwere the fashion; and they read largely literaturecommended in the “Lady’s Book,” to which everyhousehold with any pretension to gentility subscribed.Mr. Godey averred that his magazine shouldbe “a shrine for the offerings of those who wish topromote the mental, moral, and religious improvementof woman. For female genius it is the appropriatesphere. It will contain a new and elegant engravingin every number—also, music and patterns forladies’ muslin work and other embellishments.” TheCape Cod female mind took on with some readinessthis shining veneer, but its native vigor remained unimpaired;and women conducted their domestic affairs,or their social amenities at home and in foreignports, as became the wives of their sailor husbands.At Barnstable and thereabouts domestic service wassupplied sometimes by the village girls, sometimesby the Mashpee Indians. An old lady remembers hernurse Dinah, a tall, handsome creature belonging tothe clan of “Judge” Greenough, who governed hispeople with wisdom and good sense; and she recallsa story of the days when the mail arrived by post-riderand an old squaw held up the embarrassed carrierto beg a ride. He permitted her to mount, but,putting his horse to the canter, hoped to shake her offbefore he reached the town. To no end: she clung likea leech, and called out cheerily, “That’s right, massa.Go it! When I ride I love to ride!” It is easy to be[Pg 267]diverted by such anecdotes. With all their seemingprimness, the people had a rollicking humor, of whichcountenances hidden in coal-scuttle bonnets and chinsrigid in portentous stocks were no index.
Manners were at their finest and best, and the expressionof them often bears a charming simplicityof thought if not of word. Such is Mr. Freeman’smemory of an old lady who had been kind to him. Ina footnote of his history he corrects a deplorable errorin the text: “We were led, by intelligence communicatedin good faith by one whose relations to the persongave to his announcement the assurance of authority,to state that a venerable and most estimablelady was deceased. We are grateful that it is an error.Long may that excellent woman survive, the admirationof her friends. We have remembered her withrespect ever since the day she loaned to us, then alittle boy, a beautifully illustrated Natural History,kindly proffered with commendations and other encouragingwords; and had we the skill of a limner, wecould now portray those features marked with intellectualityand benevolence when, with attachingmanners, she made her little friend so happy.” Freemansays elsewhere: “If the manners of the age weresimple, they were not rough; nor was the rusticity ofthe less influential devoid of that polish which thefew who gave tone to society, unassuming and unenvied,diffused among the masses.”
All through the clipper-ship era, the importance ofthe Cape steadily grew. She built ships at her ownwharves and docked them there, and in the eighteen-forties[Pg 268]she even had her own custom-house at Barnstable,although it cleared but one ship, and thebuilding was turned into a town hall. Wharves, harborimprovements, lighthouses were built where theywere most needed. In 1830 the Union Wharf wasbuilt at Pamet Harbor by the toil of the shareholdersin the enterprise, each of whom held but one shareand each of whom must wheel his proportion of sandto fill the bulkheads. A committee was appointed tosupervise the work and see that there was no shirking;and Rich tells us that some of the younger membersof the company were “willing to work harder thanwheeling sand” to invite the charge of shirking andfasten that charge upon some man “who felt thatneglecting his duty was nearly a crime.” At any pricethey must have their fun, and lampooned certainbumptious members of the company in doggerel thatfollowed them to their grave. In 1825 a flint-glassfactory that became famous for its beautiful outputwas founded at Sandwich—“glass-works to improveits sand,” is Thoreau’s gibe. The salt-works flourished,there were several cotton and woollen mills, banksand insurance companies and newspapers were established.But the Civil War put an end to this expansion:vessels that were destroyed then or had rotted atthe wharves through disuse were never replaced; andin any event the war had but given the coup de grâceto trade by sailing ships that the development ofsteam and rails was sure to weaken. Cape Codsoldiers who had followed the sea returned from thewar to find their business gone, and many energetic[Pg 269]men had to look elsewhere for careers. They foundthem; and there is hardly a great city in the countrythat does not owe something of its prosperity to thesemen and their children. It is interesting that to-daythe old determination to succeed in the circumstancesoffered is reviving, and men are beginning to see thatthey need not travel far afield to make a living. Thereis one of the best intensive farms in the State at Truro;a model farm of twelve thousand acres is being developedat the other extremity of the Cape; there is agreat duck-raising farm, and asparagus farms at Eastham.And why should not sheep-raising be revivedon the moors of Truro, and Eastham become a granaryonce more?
Those men who remained at home after the CivilWar became again, for the most part, farmers andfishermen, and the humble native cranberry was todo as much for their prosperity as had the salt-worksfor their fathers. Back in 1677 the Massachusetts colonistswho had taken it upon themselves to coin the“pine-tree shillings,” sought to appease the displeasureof King Charles by sending him, with two hogsheadsof samp and three thousand codfish, ten barrelsof cranberries. But it was not until 1816 that theircultivation was seriously undertaken. Then HenryHall, of Dennis, first succeeded with his artificial“swamp”; four men of Harwich closely followed,and the business grew until thousands of acres weredeveloped, and, crowded on the Cape, it worked outto larger scope in Plymouth County. The picture ofthese swamps, flat as a floor, intersected by drainage[Pg 270]ditches, surrounded usually by wild hedges that teemwith color, is one of the most familiar to the Cape. Inwinter, when they are often flooded, they add countlesslittle lakes to the number summer gives us; ortheir vines offer the smooth red of eastern looms tobrighten the pale northern scene until spring turnsthem green once more. A new swamp shows gleamingsand through the regular planting of the vines; onone that “bears,” crimson berries, in early autumn,hang thick on the glossy dark-green runnels. Andthen the swamps are charming centres of activity:women in bright sunbonnets, men in soft shirts andcaps, move swiftly on their knees up the roped-offaisles as they scoop the berries into shining tinmeasures, and a good picker earns a considerablenumber of dollars in the day. There is the sound oftalk and laughter, and the patter of berries as theyare “screened” of refuse and swept into barrels. Thesun brings out the last tint of color, the atmosphereis like a crystal goblet of heady wine: it is the homelyfesta of the Cape at its most beautiful season of theyear.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century thetowns were drawn into increasingly close connectionwith the larger world. The mails came to themfirst a-horseback, then by stage, then by the railwaywhich gradually nosed its way to the tip of the Cape.Telegraph followed railway, and then, until the latewar, the great Marconi station and the cable talked[Pg 271]with countries oversea. Freeman reflects upon theblessings of rapid transportation in his day when “weare now, in 1859, in more intimate and close contactwith Berkshire and even Maine, in fact with NewYork and Pennsylvania, than the Cape was withPlymouth during all the time that it remained the seatof justice. It is easier from the extremest town on theCape now to visit Boston and return, than it wasonce to perform the necessary act of domestic preparationby carrying a grist from Sandwich to Plymouthto be ground. Nor have we forgotten that importantcharacter, the post-rider, who took the entiremail in his saddle-bags (and lean they were too) andoccupied the week in going down the Cape and returning.The clock could not better indicate the hourof 5 P.M., than did the regular appearance of Mr.Terry on his slow, but sure and well-fed horse (thehorses of the Friends are always well kept and sleek,and possibly their capacity for swiftness of locomotionwas never put to the test) with his diminutivesaddle-bags that seemed to challenge the observationof every one touching the question of their entireemptiness, every Friday afternoon. The facilities nowafforded by railroads, stage-coaches, cheap postage,&c., contrast strangely with former times.”
Mr. Swift, in his “Old Yarmouth,” tells us somethingof those facilities: “The all-day’s journey fromBoston to the Cape is remembered with recollectionsof pleasure, in spite of its inconvenience and wearisomelength. Starting at early dawn, and the partiesmade up of persons of all stations and degrees of[Pg 272]social life, the stage coach was a levelling and democraticinstitution. The numerous stopping places,along the route, gave ample opportunity for the exchangeof news, opinions, and to partake of the goodcheer of the various taverns.” The liquid portion ofthat “good cheer,” by the way, was only too liberallydistributed, and in 1817 no less than seventeen retailerswere privileged to quench the thirst of northernYarmouth. Such abuse led to reform; and a temperancesociety was founded whose pledge was not tooexacting: no member, “except in case of sickness,shall drink any distilled spirit or wine, in any housein town except ... the one in which he resides.” Andthe town voted “not to approbate a retailer, but toapprobate one taverner for the accommodation oftravellers.”
Thoreau, on his famous journey to the Cape, wheninclement weather forced him to coach betweenSandwich and Orleans, was pleased not at all in respectof the utilities of the towns, but bears testimony,as a philosopher, to the extenuating attributesof their inhabitants. The opinion has been quotedoften, and is worth quoting again: “I was struck bythe pleasant equality which reigned among the stagecompany, and their broad and invulnerable good humor.They were what is called free and easy, and metone another to advantage, as men who had, at length,learned how to live. They appeared to know each otherwhen they were strangers, they were so simple anddownright. They were well met, in an unusual sense,that is, they met as well as they could meet, and did not[Pg 273]seem to be troubled with any impediment. They werenot afraid nor ashamed of one another, but were contentedto make just such a company as the ingredientsallowed. It was evident that the same foolish respectwas not here claimed, for mere wealth and station,that is in many parts of New England; yet some ofthem were the ‘first people,’ as they were called, of thevarious towns through which we passed. Retired sea-captains,in easy circumstances, who talked of farmingas sea-captains are wont; an erect, respectableand trustworthy-looking man, in his wrapper, someof the salt of the earth, who had formerly been thesalt of the sea; or a more courtly gentleman, who,perchance, had been a representative to the GeneralCourt in his day; or a broad, red-faced, Cape Codman, who had seen too many storms to be easily irritated.”In short, Thoreau’s Cape-Codders were cosmopolitancreatures, men of the world that he wasso ready to despise.
Until the railway was continued “down the Cape,”travellers there were far more likely to make theirjourneys to and from Boston by the packets than bystage. “For fifty years,” writes Swift, “the arrivaland departure of the packets was the important topicof North side intelligence, which was communicatedpromptly to the dwellers on the South side, that theymight govern themselves thereby in arranging theirbusiness or their travels.” There are pretty stories ofvoyages on the packets: of the little girl, wide-eyedwith expectation, in big bonnet and mitts, and aflowered bandbox for luggage, who is entrusted to the[Pg 274]captain for safe delivery into the hands of her kinsmenin Boston. One old lady, whose histrionic sense developedearly, remembered that once when she wasvisiting Boston as a child there was a smallpox epidemic.“I couldn’t help laughing,” said she, “tothink if I had got it and died, how grand it would havebeen to be brought home by the packet, me on boardsailing up the harbor with colors half-mast.” Therewere young ladies setting out for their finishing-schoolin the metropolis. And on any trip there was sureto be a deep-water captain starting out to “join hisship” at Boston or New York for the longer voyageoverseas; beside him, perhaps, his wife companioninghim as far as she might, and when he had sailed returningto the children and the three years on thefarm without him. Then, when his ship had beenspoken by a faster sailer, and was due to “arrive,”she would go up to the city and wait sometimesthrough anxious weeks until it was sighted down theharbor. Nor were they likely to be idle weeks. “I amso busy I do not know how to stop to write except itis absolutely necessary,” she might write to the littleflock at home. “It is a great misfortune to have sucha busy mother, but you must make the best of it. Iam improving every moment in sewing, looking forwardto September when father’s home for my leisure.”And, joy to read, she has decided to let themcome to town. “You must come by packet, and youbetter not make any visits except to grandmotheras you will need all your time to prepare. Susan musthave all her petticoats fresh starched; Joseph must get[Pg 275]his whitewashing done and his garden in perfect order.We shall want lots of potatoes if father is at homenext winter. How does my flower garden flourish? Fixup the pigstye as I want it ready when I get home.Fasten the gates strong so the cattle cannot get in,and see to the water fence. Susan need not fetch abonnet-box unless it rains when she goes to the packet.Hang your bonnet up on board and wear your sunbonnet.Put the things which you will need to put onwhen you get here in the leather bag. Remember if itis evening, stay on board all night unless there issome one on board you know to go with you. You maythink you know the way, but there have been a greatmany changes since you were here, and the city looksvery different in the evening to what it does in thedaytime.” There are portraits of Susan and Josephtaken on this momentous visit: elusive daguerrotypesset in elaborately worked gilt frames. Joseph, inroundabout and Eton collar, and with the determinedmien befitting a future master of ships, is seated bya table ornately covered. The other half of the oldstamped-leather case, that may be securely claspedby a brass hook, is occupied by Susan: Susan shy, yetdetermined, too, clutching at the same table, herwool dress cut for the display of childish collarbones,her thin little arms twitched slightly akimboby their short tight sleeves; but her necklace ispicked out with gold, her cheeks with pink, andSusan’s wide-set eyes under the primly parted hairlook at you straight, undaunted by the great world.
The captains of these packets that ran out of every[Pg 276]town on the north shore of the Cape had their funracing one another from port to port; it is probablesome money was lost or won on the results. Barnstable,even, produced a ballad to immortalize some ofthe contestants:
“The Commodore Hull she sails so dull
She makes her crew look sour;
The Eagle Flight she is out of sight
In less than half an hour,
But the bold old Emerald takes delight
To beat the Commodore and the Flight.”
Other packets had the romantic names of WingedHunter and Leading Wind; the Sarah of Brewsterwas as familiar to her people as “old Mis’ Paine” or“Squire Freeman.” Truro had the Young Tell, thePost Boy and the Modena. The Post Boy may be saidto have been queen of the bay, luxuriously fitted outin mahogany and silk draperies, and with a captainwho had the reputation of knowing the way to Bostonin the darkest night, and being able to keep his passengersgood-natured in a head wind. Passengers bythe Post Boy knew the quality of their company, andthat the run to Boston could never be so long as toexhaust the fund of stories. “Each told his experience,or listened with interest or pleasure to the rest, andall sought with unaffected goodnature to please andprofit.”
No picture of the Cape could be complete withoutsome accent upon its men of the learned professions.[Pg 277]Teacher, doctor, parson, and lawyer might or mightnot have shared the universal experience of the sea:it depended, usually, upon whether they were importationsor native products. But certainly the memoryof them adds another note to the richness of thegeneral hue. We have met good Deacon Hawes, theYarmouth schoolmaster, and the more elegant SidneyBrooks, of Harwich: they exemplify, perhaps, thetwo types of early teachers. Young collegians, workingtheir way through the university, were for a latergeneration; and very well, for the most part, did theytrain the boys and girls of the district schools. Theywere absurdly young, some of them lads not yet intheir twenties; but they imparted knowledge withthe same clear-minded determination with which theywere pursuing their own education. Schools of thebest quality that offered, the people of any time werebound to have: Truro, as early as 1716, placed schoolmasterbefore politician. They engaged Mr. SamuelSpear “for the entire year” for the consideration thathe should receive forty pounds salary and “boardhimself”; then, “determined to save in some waywhat they were compelled to spend for schools,”they voted to send no representative to the GeneralCourt, “because we are not obliged by law to sendone, and because the Court has rated us so high thatwe are not able to pay one for going.” Later Mr.Spear served Provincetown as minister.
Of the early physicians Doctor Abner Hersey, ofBarnstable, was, perhaps, the most famous. He camethere from Hingham in 1769 to study medicine with[Pg 278]a brother, who, however, died within the year of hisarrival. Very likely the general knowledge he hadpicked up in that short association, supplemented byhis native judgment and common sense, his keen observationand power of correct deduction, served hispatients as well as would a more exact training inthe science of the day. He became the leading physicianof the Cape, and on his regular circuit throughthe towns, the sick were brought for his healing toevery crossroads and centre. He was brusque and uncertainin temper, and was, withal, eccentric. Freemanjudges him “subject to hypochondriac affections.”“He rejected alike animal food and alcoholicstimulants; his meals were fruit, milk, and vegetables.Contemning the follies of fashion, his garments werepeculiar to himself—his overcoat to protect him intravel was made of seven calfskins, lined with flannel.”As a further precaution against the searching winterwinds his chaise was entirely enclosed with leathercurtains, pierced by two loopholes for his eyes and thereins. There is evidence that his bed was heaped highwith “milled” blankets which he manipulated, upor down, in accord with the temperature. He wasjust, benevolent, shrewd, and his name lived after him.By his will he left five hundred pounds to HarvardUniversity to endow a chair of anatomy and surgery;and after his wife’s death the residue of his estate wasto be held for the thirteen Congregational parishes ofthe county, the income distributed in due proportionto the size of his practice therein. And there openedthe door of temptation to the devout: for this sum,[Pg 279]amounting to some four thousand pounds, was to bemanaged by the deacons and the income expendedfor such sound doctrinal books as Dodridge on the“Rise and Progress of the Christian Religion,” andEvans on “The Christian Temper.” But the deaconsmade such good cheer at their annual meetings, whichheld over sometimes for two or three days at the comfortabletavern of Mrs. Lydia Sturgis in Barnstable,that little of the income was left for the purchase ofgodly literature. The matter became something of ascandal, and after the lapse of thirty years the courtsettled the estate and distributed the principal amongthe several parishes.
Doctor James Thacher, who studied with Herseyand served as a surgeon in the Revolution, died, in1844, at the age of ninety. Doctor Leonard, of Sandwich,born in 1763 and practising for sixty years, hadthe enviable reputation of being patient with chronicinvalids, prompt in epidemics or “occasional” diseases—inshort, a good Christian and a good doctor.He was succeeded by his son, who links up the profession,in the memory of the living with DoctorGould, of Brewster. Vast, kindly, skilful, sympatheticwith his patients to his own hurt, rather silent, whocan forget him on his errands of mercy as he drovefrom house to house or town to town in the “sulky”that was so exact a fit for his bulk the wonder was hemust not always carry it upon his back as the snailhis shell. It was an ordeal then for a child to be stoodon a chair and have that Jovine ear applied to backand chest in lieu of a stethoscope. “Have you a[Pg 280]phial?” inquired Jove of the parent after one suchtest. Later a terrified infant was abstracted from thedepths of a broom-cupboard. “O mother, mother,what is a phial?” cried the victim of his fears.
The early parsons were often, as we have seen, of afine type—English university men usually, who hadtravelled far in their quest of freedom. They wereperforce, in the new country, farmers as well as clergymen,and one of them, the Reverend John Avery,of Truro, practised, in addition, the arts of doctor,lawyer, and smith. It is written of him that he “manifestedgreat tenderness for the sick, and his peoplevery seriously felt their loss in his death.” He cameto them in 1711, and lived active, beneficent yearsamong them until his death in 1754. These Capepastorates frequently covered a great span of years.In its first century the West Parish of Barnstable hadbut two ministers. In 1828 died the Reverend TimothyAlden, of Yarmouth, after a tenure of fifty-nineyears. Alden was more truly of the soil than many ofhis brethren, as he was in direct line from John of theMayflower. He was a man of wit in the choice of histexts: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out,”brought forth on the Monday his stipulated firewoodthat had been lacking; and to a critic he gave answeron the following Sabbath: “The word preached didnot profit them, not being mixed with faith in themthat heard it.” Mr. Freeman remembers that Aldenwas the last to wear the Revolutionary costume. Aslate as 1824 he saw him at an ordination: “his antiquewig conspicuous, in small clothes, with knee and[Pg 281]shoe buckles, and three-cornered hat lying nearby—objectsof interest to the young.” “He sat there assometimes stands a solitary, aged oak, surroundedby the younger growth of a later period. It was to usthe last exhibition of the great wigs and cocked hats;it left also impressions of a bygone age long to be remembered.”
The pastorates of Mr. Avery, Mr. Upham, and Mr.Damon, of Truro, covered one hundred and eighteenyears. It was Mr. Upham who rebated fifty pounds ofhis salary during the hard times of the Revolution,and gave further evidence of public spirit by travellingto Boston to aid in adjusting “the prices of thenecessities of life.” His people were ready to raise onehundred dollars for his expenses. Mr. Upham “leftbehind him a poem in manuscript, the subject ofwhich was taken from the Book of Job. He was everattentive to the real good of his people, and exertedhimself with zeal and fidelity in their service.” TheReverend Jude Damon was ordained in 1786, andsome notion of the festivity may be gathered fromthe fact that Captain Joshua Atkins was voted fortydollars (Spanish Milled) to defray the expense of entertainingthe council. Mr. Damon was voted two hundredpounds “settlement,” and, annually, seventy-fivepounds specie, the use of the parsonage, fifteencords of oak wood, three of pine, and five tons of haydelivered at his door. And Mr. Damon’s commentsupon certain of his parishioners, deceased, are preservedfor our pleasure in his private memoranda. OneMary Treat, dead at ninety-five, “came from England[Pg 282]at the age of fourteen, and was a person of finemind and robust constitution. She gave me a tolerableaccount of London and Westminster bridges, andlikewise observed that the distance from Dover toCalais was so small that in a very clear day linenmight be seen from one place to another.” SamuelSmall was “a pious and good man whose great desirewas to be prepared for another and better world andto have an easy passage out of this.” Of the WidowAtkins her “usefulness and activity in sickness andmidwifery will be remembered, and her memory willbe embalmed with a grateful perfume in the minds ofall who were within the circle of her acquaintance.”Another “had a taste for reading both sacred andprofane history.” Another, of enterprising spirit, was“greatly prospered in his secular affairs, tender-heartedto the poor.” Vivid little portraits flash outfrom his page: the husband, “tender and affectionate,as a father distinguished for his talent of governinghis children, tempering indulgence with prudence;as a neighbor pleasant and obliging, as a magistratehe was a peacemaker, as a deacon of the church hemagnified his office. He came to his grave in full age,like a shock of corn cometh he in season.” Mr. Damonhimself was beloved for his tolerance and sweetspirit: of a welcome guest one could say no more than“I would as soon see Mr. Damon.” But his memorandareveal that Mr. Damon had a keen eye. Of onefemale parishioner who in her last illness “frequentlyexpressed her desire to be with her Redeemer,” heremarks, “It is to be hoped she was as really pious as[Pg 283]she seemed.” And of one deceased “professor” hewrote that he “was possessed of good abilities andpowers of mind. These were, however, much eclipsedby his selfish spirit and avaricious disposition.” ToMr. Damon’s cure belonged a local astronomer, unletteredand untaught, a dreamer, who loved thestars. He knew them all and called them by name,and, meeting with scant sympathy in his star-gazing,scorned not the humblest disciple. “I swear,” hehad been known to exclaim, “half the stars might goout of the sky, and nobody here would know it, ifit wasn’t for me and Aunt Achsah.”
The pastorates of Mr. Dunster, Mr. Stone, and Mr.Simpkins in the North Parish of Harwich includedits transfer to Brewster, and covered a span of onehundred and thirty-one years. Mr. Dunster marriedReliance, daughter of Governor Hinckley, who is saidto have been baptized on the day of the memorable“swamp fight” that ended King Philip’s War, andreceived her name in “token of firm reliance in DivinePower” held by her mother for the safety of thefather who was fighting that day. Mr. Stone, in 1730,inveighs against “a sad failing in family government—awicked practice of young people in their courtshipswhich I have borne my public testimonyagainst”—an allusion, no doubt, to the ancient betrothalcustom of “sitting-up.” There are interestingcases of parish discipline recorded. In Mr. Dunster’stime, “the church met to hear a charge examinedagainst a sister, brought by another sister in thechurch, the pushing her out of a pew, and hunching[Pg 284]another in time of divine service in the meeting-house.”And as late as 1820 a committee was appointed“to keep the meeting-house clear of dogs,and to kill them if their owners will not keep themout”; boys, likewise, the committee were to “takecare of and keep them still in time of meeting.” Nolight task, we may guess, where the boys were segregatedin a balcony apart as if for the special incitementof mischief; nor were boys the only ones whowere irked by those long services. It was the sexton’sduty to turn the glass at the beginning of the sermon,which must be ended with the sand, and Freemanremembers the “early preparation for a determinedstampede from the meeting-house the moment thatthe benediction was pronounced. Coats were buttoned,canes and hats were taken in hand, pew-doors wereunbuttoned, and diligent and full preparation wasmade for a general rush to ensue as soon as the closingAmen should begin to be articulated by the minister.And such a babel of tongues and noisy scatteringof devout worshippers as followed was memorable.”Nor is it remarkable that men should have welcomedthe Amen as a blessed release when pews must havebeen stools of penance for a full-bodied sailor, or fora child whose short legs must dangle unsupported, sonarrow was the seat, so hard and straight did theback rise therefrom. Mr. Freeman recalls other pointsof the service, that of the choir “tuning their voices—oftenwith the aid of the bass viol and sometimesviolin, during the reading of the psalm,” and theslamming of the hinged seats of the pews when the[Pg 285]congregation rose for the prayer. It would have beenpapistical then to kneel in the house of God, and aman addressed his Maker stoutly upon his feet; themonotony of the service was further varied, whenthe last hymn was given out, by standing with backsto the parson as if, his contribution duly delivered,full criticism might be turned upon the choir.
Mr. Simpkins steered Brewster through thetroubled times of the Embargo War, and aided withhis intercession the deliberations of the town asto paying war tribute to the British. Grandmothersof not many years ago could tell stories of ParsonSimpkins, a stately gentleman for whom the bestNew England rum was kept on the sideboard to cheerhis parochial calls. But the parson, on such visits, wasnot infrequently the herald of disaster: for when aship arrived with captain or seaman missing, drownedor dead in some foreign port, the minister was firstnotified, and even if his call were only for pleasure,the wife or mother who saw him coming would have apang of dread, and the neighbors say: “There goesMr. Simpkins—bad news for some one.”
One of the last of these long cures, running throughthirty-five years, was that of the Reverend ThomasDawes, worthy successor of his prototypes, a fine,scholarly gentleman of the old school. The roundedperiods of his sermons were sometimes applied to thecase of his parishioners with a directness that offendedsensitive ears, but is valued rightly in the stock-in-tradeof many an urban preacher of to-day. “We ofBrewster,” he would roll out with melodious emphasis.[Pg 286]His reading of hymn and Scriptures was a remembranceto be treasured, his presence in the pulpit abenediction, and who that had seen him there couldforget the shining glory of his face as he “talked withGod.” For the children of his parish, through a longseason, he made Saul of Tarsus a living personality,and the coasts of the Mediterranean as familiar tothem as Cape Cod Bay. He illustrated his instructionby crayon sketches in color, and the scholarssaw how Gamaliel’s pupils were grouped about theirmaster’s feet; they knew how a man should adjust hisphylactery; and though there were derision of theHigh Priest’s countenance, there was no confusingthe style of his breast-plate with that of a centurion.As he aged, the good pastor became something of arecluse. He loved his books, and through the yearsamassed in his little study a collection that was typicalof the best in his day and generation, with a queeralien blot now and then: for it was said that he couldnever resist the blandishments of the canvasser andthe appeal of the book in his hand. Dying, he left histreasure intact to the village library; nor did he seethe necessity for any such stipulation as old JohnLothrop’s that his books were only for those whoknew how to use them.
The temporal affairs of these good men not infrequentlyneeded mending, nor, as time went on, werethe clergy usually recruited from among the natives:Cape Cod men, pursuing their vocations by land andsea, were likely to depute to aliens the less lucrativecure of souls. Versatile Mr. Avery, of Truro, seems to[Pg 287]have come out well in the struggle and to have bequeatheda tidy fortune to his heirs. But JonathanRussell and Timothy Alden, as we have seen, neededto have a care to their firewood; and Oakes Shaw, thesuccessor of Russell and father of the great chief justice,even had recourse to the constable to adjust thearrears of his stipend. Mrs. Shaw, debating with herson his choice of a profession, was betrayed into someironical appreciation of the clergy which she wasquick to regret. “I hope you will not mistake yourtalent,” wrote she. “I could name several that tookupon them the sacred profession of divinity, this professionso far from regulating their conduct, that theirconduct would have disgraced a Hottentot. Otherswe have seen in various professions who have been anornament to the Christian religion. I was not awaretill I had just finished the last sentence that youmight construe it into a discouragement of enteringupon the study of divinity. This is not my intention,for I do most sincerely hope that you will make ityour study through life whether you ever preach it ornot.”
Her son chose the law, and gave us one of the twogreat men, both of them lawyers, whom the Capehas produced. Palfrey quotes one who went so faras to affirm that “no spot has made such a gift tothe country as Great Marshes in Barnstable.” Therelived James Otis, chief justice of the Court of CommonPleas in the troubled times of the Revolution, andthere James Otis the patriot was born. James Otis, theyounger, when he grew to maturity, removed to Boston,[Pg 288]but he may be counted a son of the Old Colonyand an inheritor of its genius. He was far more thana fiery orator whose eloquence was the inspirationof other men’s work; but on a flood of enthusiasminduced by that eloquence he was carried into theHouse of Representatives. “Out of this election willarise a damned faction,” commented a royalist judge,“which will shake this province to its foundation.”His prediction fell ludicrously short of the event.Otis conducted the patriots’ cause with such “prudenceand fortitude, at every sacrifice of personal interestand amidst unceasing persecution,” that the“History of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts”can declare that: “Constitutional government inAmerica, so far as it is expressed in writing, developedlargely from the ideas expressed by James Otis andthe Massachusetts men who framed the Constitutionof 1780.”
And the man who more than any other in Massachusettswas to perfect their work, who stands besidethe great Marshall in the history of American jurisprudence,and by the wise decisions of a temperatemind established the flow of justice through thechannel of the common law, was also a native of GreatMarshes. There, in 1781, when the work of the earlierpatriots was accomplished, Lemuel Shaw was born.Slowly, irresistibly, by sheer force of worth and capacity,he advanced to fame. He was graduated fromHarvard, he entered the law, and for twenty-six yearspractised his profession in Boston. At one time andanother he served in the General Court, he was firewarden,[Pg 289]selectman, a member of the school committee,and of the constitutional convention of 1820; andin 1830, when he was appointed chief justice of theSupreme Judicial Court, his sane inheritance, histempered judgment, his wide experience of law and ofmen, had forged a mind perfectly adapted to his opportunity.In his thirty years upon the bench he enrichedincalculably the sparse records of the commonlaw. In the opinion of a fellow jurist, “The distinguishingcharacteristic of his judicial work was the applicationof the general principles of law, by a virile andlearned mind, with a statesman’s breadth of visionand amplitude of wisdom to the novel conditionspresented by a rapidly changing civilization.” ThePilgrims had brought here and practised the Anglo-Saxonconception of such freedom as is commensuratewith justice to all. “They brought along with themtheir national genius,” wrote Saint John de Crèvecœurin his “Letters from an American Farmer,” in1782, “to which they principally owe what libertythey enjoy, and what substance they possess.” Itwas the great American jurists who developed andadapted that conception of justice for the due guidanceof the new nation.
Shaw lived in Boston, but, unlike James Otis, henever gave up his hold upon his native town. Heloved the village roads and Great Marshes and thesea. And, curiously, as if again the magic of the sea’scharm persisted in the fortunes of its children, Shaw’sdaughter married Herman Melville, the author of“Typee” and “Omoo.” Shaw was fond of children,[Pg 290]and used to drive his little granddaughter aboutBoston in his old chaise; there is a story of his beingcaught by a visitor at a game of bear with the children.But he could be stern enough on the bench; anda sharp practitioner, complaining of his severity, wastartly reminded by a fellow lawyer that “while wehave jackals and hyenas at the bar, we want the oldlion on the bench with one blow of his huge paw tobring their scalps about their eyes.”
Shaw spoke again and again at local celebrationson the Cape. At one such banquet he might have proposed,or answered, the toast to “Cape Cod OurHome: The first to honor the Pilgrim ship, the firstto receive the Pilgrim feet; the first and always thedearest in the memory of her children everywhere.”But it was at Yarmouth that he expressed best, perhaps,the loyalties of his great heart: “There is notone visitor here male or female whose heart is notpenetrated with the deep and endearing sentiment, atonce joyous and sad, which makes up the indescribablecharm of home.”
Otis and Shaw were great, and the qualities thatmade them so, particularly those of Shaw, were indigenousto the soil. It is interesting to look througha book like Freeman’s “Cape Cod,” and study therethe portraits of the men who built this unique community.They are often singularly handsome, with afine, well-bred, upstanding air. They, preëminently,are not villagers, but men of the world who knowtheir world well and have considered its works. Perhapsin every face, whether it has beauty of line or thehomely ruggedness graved by generations of positivecharacter, the dominant feature is a certain poise ofmind: these men would think, and then judge; theywould look at you straight, and it would be difficultfor you to conceal your purpose. It would be easier tobe persuaded than to persuade them; and in the endit is probable that your yielding would be justifiedin wisdom. From such characters could be drawn acomposite that might fitly be the genius loci; and lestits secret charm elude us and Cape Cod appear nomore than a pleasing sandy offshoot of New England,we should do well to learn of him. He is, as we seehim, in essence a follower of the sea: one who pursuesromance to mould it to everyday use. For a closeraspect it may be convenient to place him in the[Pg 292]eighteen-forties, or earlier, at latest the fifties, in thegreat days of the clippers.
On the old sailing-vessel there was a constant duel,to challenge the temper of him, between a man’s witand the lambent will of the sea. And although thesteamship has a romance and daring of its own—apuny hull that carries forth upon the waters a littleflare of flame to wage the old warfare—it was withsails aloft and no wires from shore that a lad then,who had the gift of using the decisive moment, wouldbest find a career. The master of a ship was master inthe markets ashore, and there, or afloat, he must bequick to seize fortune as it came. It is said of sucha one that “he had the air, as he had the habit, ofsuccess.” He was no reckless adventurer, but aimedto earn an honest living as soberly as any stay-at-home,for whom, and also, perhaps, for fishermen onthe Banks, he may have had some easy condescension.He was the aristocrat of the sea. When adventuremet him by the way, so much the better if youngblood ran hot; but the majority were shrewd coolmerchants who sold and bought where their judgmentpointed them. They were expert in seamanshipbecause that was one of the tools of their trade; andwhen they turned a tidy profit on some voyage, theybought shares in the ships they sailed, or others, investingin a business whose every turn was familiar tothem, until they could leave the sea to become farmers,or ship-chandlers, or East India merchants. Ifthe seaman founded a house in the city, he sent hisboys to college, and took one or two of them into his[Pg 293]office to train them as merchants; and in not manydecades the same absorbing hazard of trade was tobe carried on by other means, or, if by ocean traffic,“steam-kettle sailors” were servants of the counting-roomsashore.
But our genius loci, who was familiar with the citiesof the world, chose for his home the town where hewas born. When fortune warranted, he married awife, and built in the village a house that was adorned,voyage after voyage, with a gradual store of treasuresfrom Europe and the East. His women-folk worethe delicate tissues of foreign looms, and managedthe farm when he was away, and practised intellectualities;they cooked, sewed, painted, accomplished adozen small arts with exquisite care. They were readyfor the relaxations of society when ships made port,and the village swung to the tune of a larger world.The seafarer loved them with a reticence called for bythe custom of the day, and with a tender chivalrythat might be the envy of any time.
There is a pretty story of one old captain—mencommanded their ships at twenty and were old atforty—whose treasure was a little daughter. She hada maimed foot that must undergo a cruel cure, andfor a bribe she had been promised dancing-lessons,the dearest wish of her childish heart. Her ordealpassed, the captain kept faith with her. Through along winter, while he waited for his ship, in starlightor snow he set the child upon his shoulder and boreher to the hall where the old fiddler taught the boysand girls their steps, and there danced with her,[Pg 294]envied because of such attendance, until the footgrew strong and she, who had been shy from the misfortunethat had marked her difference in the children’sworld, blossomed into the merriest little jadeof all the company.
And for him, all the watery highways he musttravel were only the road to lead him home. There,his adventure achieved, he lived healthily upon theproduce of his farm; poverty, the city kinsman wasready to aver, his only fault. But he had more thanenough for the life he had chosen; his manners wereas polished and his speeches fine as if he trod thepavement instead of driving about his beloved countryroads—he had paced too many miles of deck to walka rod ashore. He had rich memories, and discriminationin choosing the elements essential to happiness.What should a man need more? And when the endcame, and in the graveyard with an outlook to bluewater from the hillside where the willows droopedlow, he lay beside her whom he loved best, the epitaphthere might be, for her: “During a long life she performedall her duties with fidelity and zeal, and died inthe triumph of Christian faith and resignation.” Andfor him: “His integrity of character gave him an honorabledistinction among his fellow citizens: his privatevirtues endeared him to all: his end was peace.”
We do well, now and again, to make friends withanother time than our own; and by good fortune someof us, then, may find a path to the Cape of pines and[Pg 295]dunes where lay a township recreated for us in twilightstories by the nursery fire. Here peaked-roof houseslook out over “the lilac trees which bear no fruit buta pleasant smell,” willow and silvery poplars meetabove the road, and here genial spirits populate thebrave old time—days when deep-water sailorshailed the little town as home, and women, demure,pure-faced, neat-footed, kept the houses as spotlessas their hearts.
From month on to month, the village might havebeen a colony forsworn by world and men; but whenthe Flying Cloud or Halcyon made port, it brimmedwith life eager to have its due before next sailing-day.From the cap’n’s mansion on Main Street to the low-eavedhouse whose oldest son swung his hammock inthe fo’c’s’le, doors opened with an easy welcome. Thishome had sent a mate, that a cabin boy, anotherwould never see again the brave fellow who had beenlost off Mozambique. They had been as sons to the“old man,” who on the planks of his ship was patriarchor despot as character should determine; butnow all were equal by the freemasonry of home. Sea-chestsgave up their treasure, and bits of ebony andjade were added to mantel curios, an ivory junkspread its crimson sail beside the Tower of Pisa, aspirited portrait of the Leviathan entering the portof Malaga was hung opposite the waxen survival ofAunt Jane’s funeral wreath. And in shaded parlorsthe fragrance of sandalwood and attar-of-rose andthe spicy odor of lacquer mingled with the breath ofsyringa wafted in from the garden.
Then there was an interchange of high festivitiesamong the cap’n’s families when French china, latticedwith gold, set off Belfast damask, and the silvertea-service, which Cap’n Jason had brought fromRussia in ’36, stood cheek by jowl with East Indiancondiment and English glass. Amid the rustle oflustrous satin and silk the guests gathered about theboard, and cups were stood in cup-plates while teawas sipped from saucers poised in delicately crookedfingers. Conversation swung easily around the world,from adventures in the Spanish Main to a dinner at“Melbun” on the English barque whose captainthey had greeted in every harbor of the globe wheretrade was good; and they recalled with Homeric jestthe ball at Singapore when many friendly ships rodeat anchor in the bay.
But it was on a Sunday that the town blossomed assweetly as any rose in June, when wives and sweethearts,in silks and fairy peñas and wraps heavy withpatient embroideries of the East, made their way tothe village church where a second mate led the hymnswith his flute and the cap’n droned after on a viol.“There is a land mine eye hath seen” swelled into ajoyous chorus of treble and rumbling bass, while menthought of the sultry day at Surinam when they hadlonged for the “blissful shores” of home. And as theparson made his prayer for “those who go down to thesea in ships,” they pitied the poor fellows whose guidepostwas a compass as cheerfully as if they themselveswere to dare no perils greater than the Big Channelin the bay. Church over, the road was aflutter with[Pg 297]rainbow color. And sunburnt beaux in tight whitetrousers, blue coats, agonizing stocks, and top-hatsrakishly a-tilt, peered under the arc of leghorn bonnetswhere moss-rosebuds nestled against smoothlybanded hair, while beneath his surtout and her mantillaor pelisse the hearts beat out their mating-tune.
All of us have our land of refuge: for one it is atown, or a house endeared by its remembered atmosphereof simplicity and health; another needs but tocross the threshold of a room where sits the being whohas been the best friend of every year; a third hasonly the land of dreams to people at his will. And onerefreshes the ideals of his youth, perhaps, or seeks towipe out with forgetfulness the scar of some old sin;others, faint with terror for the fate of ships that driftin black seas of hate and lust, find the comfort ofcleared vision and steadier brain.
The nation has its land of renewal in the genius ofour fathers. Those early Pilgrims, the first immigrants,had by nature the spirit of democracy. They recognizedwhat one man owes another: they were “tied toall care of each other’s good.” They were prepared forgrowth and change. With good John Robinson, theykept an open mind, nor did they believe that God had“revealed his whole will to them.” “It is not possible,”they held, “that full perfection of knowledge shouldbreak forth all at once.” For their Fundamentals,they took over the best body of law that the timeafforded, but with no rigid mind: they adapted and[Pg 298]added to the law of their fathers with a flexibility thatgave genuine freedom to men of their day and promisedfreedom to the future. The laws they passed werecalculated to ensure a man’s loyalty, and to help himlive straight. “Government exists that men may livein happy homes,” might have been their dictum. Theywere entirely human: they enjoyed the free life of theopen, and feasting, and the sober perfection of theirdress; they liked a fair fight and no favor; they likedbest of all a man’s job, and labored unswervingly tobring to pass their ideal of what life should be. Theirfeet were on the ground, and they exulted in the factthat their vision reached beyond the clouds. If it betrue that “no country can escape the implication ofthe ideas upon which it was founded,” it were wellthat our feet should be set on that same ground ofvigorous simplicity and faith, our vision, though withanother aspect than theirs, reach above the clouds.They passed on an inheritance of sane and clear andjust thought that we should do well to use: that, andbelief in the progressive revelation of truth. And byhappy chance the spot they chose for home—NewEngland, Plymouth, the dunes and meadows of theCape—typifies their very spirit: the homely beauty,the invigorating atmosphere, the health of salt windsand cleansing of the sea.
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