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OD sifted a whole nation that He might send choice grain into the wilderness." So thought the seventeenth century of the migration to Massachusetts Bay in the evil years of Charles I; but what are we to think of it? There is to day so little sympathy with that remote, narrow New England theocracy that it is well to state again in living terms what part the coming of the best of the English Puritans bore in building up the American people.
As history-makers, those who will suffer loss and exile rather than give up an ideal that has somehow taken hold of them are well nigh as unlike ordinary folk as if they had dropped from Mars. In every generation those who are capable of heroic devotion to any idea whatsoever are only a remnant. Nine persons out of ten incline to the line of least resistance or of greatest profit, and will no more sacrifice themselves for an ideal than lead will turn to a magnet.
That the ideal should be final is of small consequence. It matters little whether it is a religious tenet, a mode of worship, a method of life, or a state of society. The essential thing is that it stands apart from the appetites, passions, and petty aims that govern most of us. Those who will face panther and tomahawk for the sake of their ideal are not to be swayed by the sordid motives and fitful passions that lord it over commonplace
lives. Holding themselves to be instruments for the fulfilment of some larger purpose, men of this type make their mark upon the world. The fathers dedicate themselves to establishing godliness in the community. Their posterity fly to arms in behalf of the principle of "No taxation without representation." Their posterity, in turn, war upon the liquor traffic, slavery, or imperialism. As surely as one quarter of us are still of the blood of the twenty thousand Puritans who sought the wilderness between 1618 and 1640, so surely are there ideals not yet risen above the horizon that will inflame Americans in the generations to come.
The Dutch settled New Amsterdam from practical motives, although some of them were Walloons fleeing oppression in the Spanish Netherlands. Gain prompted the peopling of Virginia, and that colony received its share of human chaff. The Council of Virginia early complained that "it hurteth to suffer Parents to disburden themselves of lascivious sonnes, masters of bad servants and wives of ill husbands, and so clogge the business with such an idle crue, as did thrust themselves in the last voiage, that will rather starve for hunger, than lay their hands to labor." In 1637 the collector of the port of London averred that "most of those that go thither ordinarily have no habitation . . . and are better out than within the kingdom." After the execution of Charles I,
a number of Royalist families removed to Virginia rather than brook the rule of Cromwell. This influx of the well-to-do registers itself in an abrupt increase in the size of the land-grants and in a sudden rise in the number of slaves. From this period one meets with the names of Randolph, Madison, Monroe, Mason, Marshall, Washington, and many others that have become household words. On the whole, however, the exodus of noble "Cavaliers" to Virginia is a myth; for it is now generally admitted that the aristocracy of eighteenth-century Virginia sprang chiefly from "members of the country gentry, merchants and tradesmen and their sons and relatives, and occasionally a minister, a physician, a lawyer, or a captain in the merchant service," fleeing political troubles at home or tempted by the fortunes to be made in tobacco.
Less promising was the broad substratum that sustained the prosperity of the colony. For fifty years indentured servants were coming in at a rate from a thousand to sixteen hundred a year. No doubt many an enterprising wight of the English or Irish laboring-class sold himself for a term into the tobacco-fields in order to come within reach of beckoning Opportunity; but we know, too, that the slums and alleys were raked for material to fatten the plantations. Hard-hearted Hard-hearted men sold dependent kinsfolk to serve in the colonies. Kidnappers smuggled over boys and girls gathered from the streets of London and Bristol. About 1670, no fewer than ten thousand persons were "spirited" from England in one year. The Government was slow to strike at the infamous traffic, for, as was urged in Parliament, "the plantations cannot be maintained without a considerable number of white servants."
Dr. Johnson deemed the Americans "a race of convicts," who "ought to be content with anything we allow them short of hanging." In the first century of the colonies, gallows'-birds were often given the option of servitude in the "plantations." Some prayed to be hanged instead. In 1717 the British Government entered on the policy of penal transportation, and thenceforth discharged certain classes of felons upon the colonies until the Revolution made it necessary to shunt the muddy stream to Botany Bay. New
England happily, escaped these "sevenyear passengers," because she would pay little for them and because she had no tobacco to serve as a profitable return cargo. It is estimated that between 1750 and 1770 twenty thousand British convicts were exported to Maryland alone, so that even the schoolmasters there were. mostly of this stripe. The colonies bitterly resented such cargoes, but their selfprotective measures were regularly disallowed by the home government. American scholars are coming to accept the British estimate that about 50,000 convicts were marketed on this side.
It is astonishing how quickly this "yellow streak" in the population faded. No doubt the worst felons were promptly hanged, so that those transported were such as excited the compassion of the court in an age that recognized nearly three hundred capital offenses. Then, too, the bulk were probably the unfortunate, or the victims of bad surroundings, rather than born malefactors. Under the regenerative stimulus of opportunity, many persons reformed and became good citizens. A like purification of sewage by free land was later witnessed in Australia. The incorrigible, when they did not slip back to their old haunts, forsook the tide-water belt to lead half-savage lives in the wilderness. Here they slew one another or were strung up by "regulators," so that they bred their kind less freely than the honest. Thus bad strains tended to run out, and in the making of our people the criminals had no share corresponding to their original numbers. Blended with the dregs from the rest of the population, the convicts who were lazy and shiftless rather than criminal became progenitors of the "poor whites," "crackers," and "sandhillers" that still cumber the poorer lands of the southern Appalachians.
THE FRENCH HUGUENOTS
PROBABLY no stock ever came here SO gifted and prepotent as the French Huguenots. Though only a few thousand, all told, their descendants furnished 589 of the fourteen thousand and more Americans deemed worthy of a place in "Appletons' Cyclopedia of American Biography." In 1790 only one half of one per cent. of our people bore a French name; yet this
element contributed 4.2. per cent. of the eminent names in our history, or eight times their due quota. Like the Puritans and the Quakers, the Huguenots were of an element that meets the test of fire and makes supreme sacrifices for conscience' sake. They had the same affinity for ideals and the same tenacity of character as the founders of New England, but in their French blood they brought a sensibility, a fervor, and an artistic endowment all their
It was likewise a sturdy stock, and in the early days of the settlement it was no unusual thing for parties to walk from New Rochelle to church in lower New York, a distance of twenty-three miles. As a rule they walked this distance with bare feet, carrying their shoes in their hands.
WHEN seeking settlers for his new colony, William Penn gained much publicity for it in Germany, where he had a wide acquaintance. The German Pietists responded at once, and a stream of picked families mingled with the English Quakers who founded the City of Brotherly Love. The first Germans to come were well-to-do people. Nearly all had enough money left on arrival to pay for the land they took up. In 1710, however, there arose in parts of Germany a veritable furor to reach the New World. The people of the ravaged Palatinate became agitated over the lure of America, and ship after ship breasted the Delaware, black with Palatines, Hanoverians, Saxons, Austrians, and Swiss. The cost of passage from the upper Rhine was equal to $500 to-day; but a vast number of penniless Germans got over the barrier by contracting with the ship-owner to sell themselves into servitude for a term of years. These were known as "redemptioners," and their service was commonly for from four to six years. Before the Revolution not fewer than 60,000 Germans had debarked at Philadelphia, to say nothing of the thousands that settled in the South.
Although not without a sectarian background, this great immigration bears clearly an economic impress. The virtues of the Germans were the economic virtues; invariably they are characterized as "quiet, industrious, and thrifty." Al
though Franklin wrote, "Those who come to us are the most stupid of their own nation," he spoke of them later, before a committee of the House of Commons, as "a people who brought with them the greatest of all wealth-industry and integrity, and characters that have been superpoised and developed by years of persecution."
THE flailing of the clans after the futile rising of 1745 made the Scots restless, and in the last twelve years of the colonial era 20,000 Highlanders sought homes in America. But most of our Scottish blood came by way of Ireland. Early in the eighteenth century the discriminations of Parliament against the woolen industry of Ireland, and against Presbyterianism, provoked the largest immigration that occurred before the Revolution. The Ulster Presbyterians were descended from Scotsmen and English who had been induced between 1610 and 1618 to settle in the north of Ireland, and who were, in Macaulay's judgment, "as a class, superior to the average of the people left behind them." They cared for ideas, and at the beginning of the outflow there was probably less illiteracy in Ulster than anywhere else in the world. Entire congregations came, each headed by its pastor. "The whole North is in a ferment," lamented an Irish archbishop in 1728. "It looks as if Ireland were to send all her inhabitants hither," complained the governor of Pennsylvania. About 200,000 came over, and on the eve of the Revolution the stock was supposed to constitute a sixth of the population of the colonies. They settled along the frontier, and bore the brunt of the warfare with the savage. In eminence, their lead has been in government, exploration, and war, although they have not been lacking in education and invention. In art and music they have had little to offer.
The outstanding trait of the ScotchIrish was will. No other element was so masterful and contentious. In a petition directed against their immigration, the Quakers characterized them as a "pernicious and pugnacious people" who "absolutely want to control the province themselves." The stubbornness of their character is probably responsible for the unexampled losses in the battles of our Civil
War. They fought the Indian, fought the British with great unanimity in two wars, and were in the front rank in the conquest of the West. More than any other stock has this tough, gritty breed, so lacking in poetry and sensibility, molded our national character. If to-day a losing college crew rows so hard that they have to be lifted from their shell at the end of the boat-race, it is because the never-say-die Scotch-Irish fighters and pioneers have been the picturesque and glowing figures in the imagination of American youth.
Looked at broadly, the first peopling of this country owes at least as much to the love of liberty as to the economic motive. In the seventeenth century the peoples of the Old World seemed to be at odds with one another. Race trampled on race, and the tender new shoots of religious yearnings were bruised by an iron state and an iron church. The rumor of a virgin land where the oppressed might dwell in peace drew together a population varied, but rich in the spirited and in idealists. What a contrast between the English colonies and those of the orthodox powers! For the intellectual stagnation of the French in Canada, thank Louis XIV, who would not allow Huguenots to settle in New France. Spain barred out the foreigner from her colonies, and even the Spaniard might not go thither without a permit from the Crown. Heretics were so carefully excluded that in nearly three centuries the Inquisition in Mexico put to death "only 41 unreconciled heretics, a number surpassed in some single days [in Spain] in Philip II's time." No wonder Spanish-American history shows men swayed powerfully by greed, ambition, pride, or fanaticism, but very rarely by an ideal.
Let no one suppose, however, that, as were the original settlers, so must their descendants be. When you empty a barrel of fish fry into a new stream there is a sudden sharpening of their struggle for existence. So, when people submit themselves to totally strange conditions of life, Death whets his scythe, and those who survive are a new kind of "fittest."
THE TOLL OF THE SEA
WERE the Atlantic dried up to-day, one could trace the path between Europe and
America by cinders from our steamers; in the old days it would have revealed itself by human bones. The conditions of oversea passage then brought about a shocking elimination of the weaker. The ships were small and crowded, the cabins close, and the voyage required from six to ten weeks. "Betwixt decks," writes a colonist, "there can hardlie a man fetch his breath by reason there arisith such a funke in the night that it causeth putrifacation of the blood. and breedeth disease much like the plague."
In a circular, William Penn urged those who came to keep as much upon deck as may be, "and to carry store of Rue and Wormwood, or often sprinkle Vinegar about the Cabbin." The ship on which he came over lost a third of its passengers by smallpox. In 1639 the wife of the governor of Virginia writes that the ship on which she had come out had been "so pestered with people and goods . . . so full of infection that after a while they saw little but throwing people overboard." One vessel lost 130 out of 150 souls. One sixth of the three thousand Germans sent over in 1710 perished in a voyage that lasted from January to June. No better fared a shipload of Huguenot refugees in 1686. A ship that left Rotterdam with 150 Palatines landed fewer than fifty after a voyage of twenty-four weeks. In 1738 "malignant fever and flux" left only 105 out of 400 Palatines. In 1775 a brig reached New York, having lost a hundred Highlanders in passage. It was estimated that in the years 1750 and 1755 two thousand corpses were thrown overboard from the ships plying out of Rotterdam. In 1756, Mittelberger thus describes the horrors of the passage:
During the voyage there is aboard these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, vomiting, many kinds of sicknesses, fever, dysentery, scurvey, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably. . . . Many hundred people necessarily perish in such misery and must be cast into the sea. The sighing and crying and lamenting on board the ship continues night and day.
Thus many poor-conditioned or illendowed immigrants succumbed en route.
Those of greater resolution stood the better chance; for there was a striking difference in fate between those who lay despairing in the cabins and those who dragged themselves every day to the lifegiving air of the deck.
THE SIFTING BY THE WILDERNESS
EVEN after landing, the effects of the voyage pursued the unfortunates. In 1604, De Monts lost half his colony at St. Croix the first winter. More than half the Pilgrims were dead before the Mayflower left for home, four months after reaching Plymouth. Of the Puritans who came to Massachusetts Bay in 1629, a fifth were under ground within a year. Of the 1500 who came over in the summer of 1630, 200 died before December. In 1754, a Philadelphia sexton testified that up to November 14 he had buried that year 260 Palatines.
In the South lay in wait the Indian and the malaria-bearing mosquito, and the latter slew more. The whites might patch a truce with the redskin, but never with the mosquito. They died as die raw Europeans to-day along the lower Niger or in the delta of the Amazon. In June, 1610, only 150 persons were living on the banks of the James River out of 900 who had been landed there within three
years. By 1616, 1650 persons altogether had been sent out; of these 300 had returned, and about 350 were living in Virginia. During a twelvemonth in 161920, 1200 left England, but only 200 were alive in April, 1620. Fifty years later, Governor Berkeley stated: "There is not oft seasoned hands (as we term them) that die now, whereas heretofore not one out of five escaped the first year." A "seasoned" servant, having only one more year to serve, brought a better price than a new-comer, with seven and a half years to serve. Surely the survivors of such a shock had a tough fiber to pass on to their descendants. It is such selection that ex
plains in part the extraordinary blooming of the colonies after the cruel initial period
THE IMPRESS OF THE FRONTIER
No doubt the iron hardihood of the South African Boers was built up by the succumbing of physical and moral weaklings
amid a wilderness environment. In the same way our frontier made it hard for the soft basswood type to survive. Of the 380 persons whom Robertson collected in North Carolina in 1779 to found what is now Nashville, only 134 were alive at the end of a year, although not one natural death had occurred. Six months later only seventy were left alive. If there had been any weaklings in the party, by this time surely the tomahawk would have found them. No wonder, then, that when the vote was cast on the question of staying or going back, no one voted for going back. The less hardy, too, succumbed to the fever and ague, which decimated the settlers of the wooded country until they had cleared the forests and drained the marshes.
In the early days there streamed over the Wilderness Road that led to the settlements in Kentucky two tides, an outgoing tide of stout-hearted pioneers, seeking farms in the lovely blue-grass land, and a return flow of timid or shiftless people, affrighted by the horrors of Indian warfare or tired of the grim struggle for subsistence amid the stumps. The select character of those who built up these exposed settlements explains the wonderful forcefulness of the people of Kentucky and Ohio, especially before they had given so many of their blood to found the commonwealths farther west. Thanks to the protecting frontier garrisons, the settlers of the trans-Mississippi States were perhaps not so rigorously selected as the transAlleghany pioneers; but, on the other pioneer stock. hand, they were themselves largely of
No doubt the "run of the continent" has improved the fiber of the American people. Of course the well established and the intellectuals had no motive to seek the West; but in energy and venturesomeness those who sought the frontier were superior to the average of those in their rather than the carp that found their way class who stayed behind. It was the pike out of the pool. Now, in the main, those who pushed through the open door of opportunity left more children than their
fellows who did not. Often themselves members of large families, they had fecundity, as it were, in the blood. With land abundant and the outlook encouraging, they married earlier. In the narrow life of the young West, love and family were