Memoirs of an American Lady*

Anne Mc Vickar Grant's Memoirs of an American Lady recalled a portion of her childhood days during the 1760s when she was the guest and protege of Madame Margarita Schuyler - the "friend" she introduced to her readers as the "American Lady."

Her memoir first took the form of a letter sent in 1808 to Sir William Grant. It stated: "The Principal object of this work is to record the few incidents, and the many virtues, which diversified and distinguished the life of a most valued friend." She was referring to Madame Schuyler - her host and mentor from the 1760s!

Although Anne Grant's reminiscent reporting contains many errors of fact, it is nonetheless fascinating reading and has been used extensively by historians and antiquarians for almost two hundred years. We plan to present relevant excerpts from Anne Grant's memoir on this website.

Chapters 1-10

[104-26] Chapter XI: "Winter Amusements of the Albanians, &c."

In the in winter the river, frozen to a great depth, formed the principal road through the country, and was the scene of al those amusements of skating, and sledge races, common to the north of Europe. They used in a great parties to visit their friends at a distance, and having an excellent and hardy breed of horses, flew from place to place over the snow or ice in these sledges with incredible rapidity, stopping a little while at every house they came to, and always well received, whether aquatinted with the owners or not. The night never impeded these travelers, for the atmosphere was so pure and serene, and the snow so reflected the noon and star-light, that the nights exceeded the days in beauty.

In town all the boys were extravagantly fond of a diversion that to us would appear a very odd and childish one. Te great street of the town, in the midst of which, as has been formerly mentioned, stood all the churches and public buildings, sloped down from the hill on which the fort stood, towards the river; between the buildings was an unpaved carriage road, the foot-path beside the houses being the only part of the street which was paved. In the winter this sloping descent, continued for more than a quarter of a mile, acquired firmness from the frost, and became extremely slippery. Then the amusement commenced. Every boy and youth in town, from the eight to eighteen, had a little low sledge, made with a rope like a bridle to the front, by which it could be dragged after one by the hand. On this one two at most could sit, and this sloping descent being made as smooth as a looking glass, by slidered sledges, &c. perhaps a hundred at once set out in succession from the top of this street, each seated in his little sledge with the rope in his hand, which, drawn to the right or the left, served to guide him. He pushed it off with a little stick, as one would launch a boat; and then, with the most astonishing velocity, precipitated by the weight of the owner, the little machine glided past, and was tat the lower end of the street in an infant. What could be so peculiarly delighted in this rapid and smooth descent, I could never discover; though in a amore retired place, and on a smaller scale , I have tried to amusement: but to a young Albanian, slaying, as he called it, was one of the first joys of life, though attended with the drawback of walking to the top of the declivity dragging his sledge every time he renewed his flight, for such it might well be called. In the managing this little machine some dexterity was necessary: and inskillful Phaeton was sure to fall. The conveyance was so low, that a fall was attended with little danger, yet with much disgrace, for an universal laugh from all sides assailed the fallen charioteer. This laugh was from a very full chorus, for the constant and rapid succession of the procession, where every one had a brother, lover, or kinsman, brought all the young people in town to the porticos, where they used to sit wrapped in furs till ten or eleven at night, engrossed by this delectable spectacle. What magical attraction it could possibly have, I could never find out; but I have known an Albanian after residing some years in Britain, and becoming a polished fine gentleman, join the sport, and slide down with the rest. Perhaps, after all our laborious refinements in amusement, being easily pleased is one of the greatest secrets of happiness, as far as it is attainable in this “frail and feverish being. ”

Now there remains another amusement to be described, which I mention with reluctance, and should scarce venture to mention at all, had I not found a precedent for it among the virtuous Spartans. Had Lycurgus himself been the founder of their community, the young men could scarce have stolen with more alacrity and dexterity. I could never conjecture how the custom could possibly originate among a set of people of such perfect and plain integrity. But thus it was. The young men now and then spent a convivial evening at a tavern together, where from the extreme cheapness of liquor, their bills (even when they committed an occasional excess) were very moderate. Either to lessen the expense of the supper, or from the pure love of what they stiled frolic, (Angelice mischief,) they never failed to steal either a roasting pig or a fat turkey for this festive occasion. The town was the scene of these depredations, which never extended beyond it. Swine and turkeys were reared in great numbers by all the inhabitants. For those they brought to town in winter, they had an appropriate place at the lower end of the garden, in which they were locked up. It is observable, that these animals were the only things locked up about the house, for this good reason, that nothing else ran the least risk of being stolen. The dexterity of the theft consisted in climbing over very high walls, watching to steal in when the negroes went down to feed the horse or cow, or making a clandestine entrance at some window or aperture: breaking up doors was quite out of rule, and rarely ever resorted to. These exploits were always preformed in the darkest nights; if the owner heard a noise in his stables, he usually ran down with a cudgel, and laid it without mercy on any culprit he could overtake. This was wither dexterously avoided, or patiently borne. To plunder a man, and afterwards offer him any personal injury, was accounted scandalous; but the turkies or pigs were never recovered. In some instances a whole band of young plundered would traverse the town, and carry off such a prey as would afford provisions for many jovial nights. Nothing was more common than to find one’s brothers of nephews amongst these pillagers.

Marriage was followed by two dreadful privations: a married man could not fly down the street in a little sledge, or join a party of pig stealers, without outraging decorum. If any of their confederates married, as they frequently sis, very young, and were in circumstances to begin house-keeping, they were sure of an early visit of this nature from their old confederates. It was thought a great act of gallantry to overtake and chastise the robbers. I recollect an instance of one young married man, who had not long attained to that dignity, whose turkies screamed violently one night, he ran down to chastise the aggressors; he overtook them in the fact: but finding they were his old associates could not resist the force of habit, joined the rest in another exploit of the same nature, and then shared his own turkey at the tavern. There were two inns in the town, the masters of which were” honorable men;” yet these pigs and turkies were always received and dressed without questioning whence they came. In one instance, a young party had in this manner provided a pig, and ordered it to be roasted the King’s Arms; another party tacked at the same place this booty was taken, but found it already rifled. This party was headed by an idle mischievous young man, who was Ned Poins of his fraternity: well guessing how the stolen pig was disposed of, he ordered his friends to adjourn to the rival tavern, and went himself to the King’s Arms. Enquiring in the kitchen (where a pig was roasting) who supped there, he soon arrived at certainty: then taking an opportunity when there was no one in the kitchen but the cook-maid, he sent for one of the jovial party, who were at cards up stairs. During her absence, he cut the string by which the pig was suspended, laid it in the dripping-pan, and through the quite and dark streets of that sober city, carried it safely to the other tavern: where, after finishing the roasting, he and his companions prepared to regale themselves. Meantime the pig was missed at the King’s Arms: and it was immediately concluded, from the dexterity and address with which this trick was performed, that no other but the Poins aforesaid could be the author of it. A new stratagem was now derived to outwit this stealer of the stolen. An adventurous youth in the despoiled party laid down a parcel of shavings opposite to the other tavern, and setting them in a blaze , cried fire! A most alarming sound here, where such accidents were too frequent. Every one rushed out of the house, where the supper had been just served. The dexterous purveyor, who had occasioned all this disturbance, stole in, snatched up the dish with the pig in it, stole out again by the back door, and seated his companions with the recovered spoils.

These were a few idle young men, the sons of avarious fathers, who grudging to advance by means of pushing them forward by the help of their own industry to independence, allowed them remain so long unoccupied, that their time was wasted, and habits of conviviality at length degenerated in those of dissipation. These were not only pities and endured, but received with a great deal of kindness and indulgence that was wonderful. Thy were usually a kind of wags, went about like privileged persons, at whose jests no one took offence: and were in their discourse and stile of humour, so much like Shakespeare’s clown. That on reading that admirable author, I thought I recognized my old acquaintances. Of these, however, I saw little, the society admitted at my friends being very select.

[114-26] Chapter XII: "Lay-Brothers – Catalina — Detached Indians"

Before I quit this attempt to delineate the number of which this community was composed, I must mention a class of aged persons, who, united by the same recollections, pursuits, and topics, associated very much with each other, and very little with a world which they seemed to have renounced. They might be stiled lay-brothers, and were usually widowers, or persons who, in consequence of some early disappointment, had remained unmarried. These were not devotees who had, as was formerly often the case in catholic countries, run from the extreme of licentiousness to that of bigotry. They were generally persons who were never marked as being irreligious or immoral; and just as little distinguished for peculiar strictness, or devotional fervor. These good men lived in the house of some relation, where they had their own apartments to themselves; and only occasionally mixed with the family. The people of the town lived to a great age; ninety was frequently attained: and I have seen different individuals of both sexes who had reached a hundred. These ancients seemed to place all their delights in pious books and devotional exercises, particularly in singing psalms, which they would do in their own apartments for hours together. They came out and in like ghosts, and were treated in the same manner; for they never spoke unless when addressed, and seemed very careless of the things of this world, like people who had got above it. Yet they were much together, and seemed to enjoy each other’s conversation. Retrospection on the scenes of early life, anticipations of that futurity so closely veiled from out sight, and discussions regarding different passages of holy writ, seemed their favorite themes. They were mild and benevolent, but abstracted, and unlike other people. Their happiness, for happy I am convinced they were, was of a nature peculiar to themselves, not obvious to others. Others there were not deficient in their attention to religious duties, who living in the boson of their families, took an active and cheerful concern to the last in all that amused or interested them; and I never understood that the lay-brothers, as I have chosen to call them; blamed them for so doing. One of the first christain virtues, charity in the most obvious and common sense of the word, had little scope. Here a beggar was unheard of. People, such as I have described in the bush, or going there, were no more considered as objects of pity, than we consider an apprentice as such for having to serve his time before he sets up for himself. In such cases, the wealthier, because older settlers, frequently gave a heifer or colt each to a new beginner, who set about clearing land in their vicinity. Orphans were never neglected; and from their early marriages, and the casualties their manner of life subjected them to, these were not unfrequent. You never entered a house without meeting children. Maidens, bachelors, and childless married people, all adopted orphans, and all treated them as if they were their own.

Having given a sketch, that appears to my recollection (aided by subsequent conversations with my fellow travelers) a faithful one, of the country and its inhabitants, it is time to return to the history of the mind of Miss Schuyler, for by no other circumstances than prematurely of intellect, and superior culture, were her earliest years distinguished. Her father, dying early, left her very much to the tuition of his brother. Her uncle’s frontier situation made him a kind of barrier to the settlement; while the powerful influence, that his knowledge of nature and of character, his sound judgment and unstained integrity, had obtained over both parties, made him the bond by which the Aborigines were united with the colonists. Thus, little leisure was left him for domestic enjoyments, or literary pursuits, for both of which his mind was peculiarly adapted. Of the leisure time he could command, however, he made the best use; and soon distinguishing Catalina as the one amongst his family to whom nature had been most liberal, he was at the pains to cultivate her taste for reading, which soon discovered itself, by procuring for her the best authors in history, divinity, and belles letters: in this latter branch, her reading was not very extensive: but then the few books of this kind that she possessed were very well chosen; and she was early and intimately familiar with them. What I remember of her, assisted by comparisons since made with others, has led me to think that extensive reading, superficial and indiscriminate, such as the very easy access to books among us encourages, is not at an early period of life favorable to solid thinking, true taste, or fixed principle. Whatever she knew, she knew to the bottom; and the reflections, which were thus suggested to her strong discerning mind, were digested by means of easy and instructive conversation. Colonel Schuyler had many relations in New York; and the governor and other ruling characters there carefully cultivated the acquaintance of a person so well qualified to instruct and inform them on certain points as he was. Having considerable dealings in the fur trade too, he went every winter to the capital for a short time, to adjust his commercial concerns, and often took his favorite niece along with him, who, being of an uncommon quick growth and tall stature, soon attracted attention by her personal graces, as well as by the charms of her conversation. I have been told, and should conclude from a picture I have seen drawn when she was fifteen, in her youth very handsome. Of this few traces remained when I knew her; excessive corpulence having then overloaded her majestic person, and entirely changed the aspect of a countenance once eminently graceful. In no place did female excellence of any kind more amply receive its due tribute of applause and admiration than here, for various reasons; first, cultivation and refinement were rare. Then, as it was not the common routine that women should necessarily have such and such accomplishments, pains were only taken on minds strong enough to bear improvements without becoming conceited or pedantic. And lastly, as the spur of emulation was not invidiously applied, those who acquired a superior degree of knowledge considered themselves as very fortunate in having a new source of enjoyment opened to them. But never having been made to understand that the chief motive of excelling was to dazzle or outshine others, they no more thought of despising their less fortunate companions, than of assuming pre-eminence for discovering a wild plum-tree or beehive in the woods, though, as in the former case, they would have regarded such a discovery as a benefit and a pleasure; their acquisitions, therefore, were never shaded by affectation. The women were all natives of the country, and few had more than domestic education. But men, who possessed the advantages of early culture and usage of the world, daily arrived on the continent from different parts of Europe. So that if we may be indulged in the inelegant liberty of talking commercially of female elegance, the supply was not equal to the demand. It may be easily supposed that Miss Schuyler met with due attention; who, even at this early age, was respected for the strength of her character, and the dignity and composure of her manners. Her mother, whom she delighted to recollect, was mild, pious, and amiable; her acknowledged worth was chastened by the utmost diffidence. Yet accustomed to exercise a certain power over the minds of the natives, she had great influence in restraining their irregularities, and swaying their opinions. From her knowledge of their language, and habit of conversing with them, some detached Indian families resided for a while in summer in the vicinity of houses occupied by the more wealthy and benevolent inhabitants. They generally built a slight wigwam under shelter of the orchard fence on the shadiest side; and never were neighbours more harmless, peaceable, and obliging; I might truly add, industrious; for in one way or other they were constantly occupied. The women and their children employed themselves in many ingenious handicrafts, which, since the introduction of European arts and manufactures, have greatly declined. Baking trays, wooden dishes, ladles and spoons, shovels and rakes; brooms of a peculiar manufacture, made by splitting a birch-block into slender but tough filaments; baskets of all kinds and sizes, made of similar filaments, enriched with the most beautiful colours, which they alone knew how to extract from vegetable substances, and incorporated with the wood. They made also of the birch-bark, (which is here so strong and tenacious, that cradles and canoes are made of it,) many receptacles for holding fruit and other things, curiously adorned with embroidery, not inelegant, done with the sinews of deer, and leggions and moomesans, a very comfortable and highly ornamented substitute for shoes and stockings, then universally used in the winter among the men of our own people. They had also a beautiful manufacture of deer skin, softened to the consistence of the finest Chamois leather; and embroidered with beads of Wampum, formed like bugles; these, with great art and industry, they formed out of shells, which had the appearance of fine white porcelain, veined with purple. This embroidery shewed both skill and taste, and was among themselves highly valued. They had belts, large embroidered garters, and many other ornaments, formed, first of deer sinews, divided to the size of coarse thread, and afterwards, when they obtained worsted thread from us, of that material, formed in a manner which I could never comprehend. It was neither knitted nor wrought in the manner of net, nor yet woven; but the texture was formed more like an officers sash than any thing I can compare it to. While the women and children were thus employed, the men sometimes assisted them in the more laborious part of their business, but oftener occupied themselves in fishing on the rivers, and drying or preserving, by means of smoke, in sheds erected for the purpose, sturgeon and large eels, which they caught in great quantities, and of an extraordinary size, for winter provision.

Boys on the verge of manhood, and ambitious to be admitted into the hunting parties of the ensuing winter, exercised themselves in trying to improve their skill in archery, by shooting birds, squirrels, and raccoons. These petty huntings helped to support the little colony in the neighbouring, which however derived its principal subsistence from an exchange of their manufactures with the neighbouring family for milk, bread, and other articles of food.

The summer residence of these ingenious artisans promoted a great intimacy between the females of the vicinity and the Indian women, whose sagacity and comprehension of mind were beyond belief.

It is singular circumstance, that though they saw the negroes in very respectable family not only treated with humanity, but cherished with parental kindness, they always regarded them with contempt and dislike, as an inferior race, and would have no communication with them. It was necessary then that all conversations should be held, and all business transacted with these females, by the mistress of the family. In the infancy of the settlement the Indian language was familiar to the more intelligent inhabitants, who found it very useful, and were, no doubt, pleased with its nervous and emphatic idiom, and its lofty and sonorous cadence. It was indeed a noble and copious language, when one considers that it served as the vehicle of thought to a people whose ideas and sphere of action we should consider as so very confined.

[126-140] Chapter XIII: "Progress of Knowledge - Indian Manners"

Conversing with those interesting and deeply reflecting natives, was to thinking minds no mean source of entertainment. Communication soon grew easier; for the Indians had a singular facility in acquiring other languages; the children I well remember, from experimental knowledge, for I delight to hover about the wigwam, and converse with those of the Indians, and we very frequently mingled languages. But to return: whatever comfort or advantage a good and benevolent mind possesses, it is willing to extend to others. The mother of my friend, and other matrons, who like her experienced the consolations, the hopes, and the joys of christianity, wished those estimable natives to share in their pure enjoyment.

of all others these mild and practical christains were the best fitted for making proselytes. Unlike professed millionaires, whose zeal is not always seconded by judgment, they did not begin by alarming the jealousy with which all manner of people watch over their hereditary prejudices. Engaged in active life, they had daily opportunities of demonstrating the truth of their religion by its influence upon their conduct. Equally unable and unwilling to enter into deep disquisitions or polemical arguments, their calm and unstudied explanations of the essential doctrines of christianity were the natural results which arose out of their ordinary conversation. To make this better understood, I must endeavor to explain what I have observed in the unpolished society, that occupies the wild and remote districts of different countries. Their conversation is not only more original, but, however odd the expression may appear, more philosophical than that of persons equally destitute of mental culture in more populous districts. They derive their subjects of reflection and conversation more from natural objects, which lead minds, possessing a certain degree of intelligence, more forward to trace effects to their causes. Nature there, too, is seen arrayed in virgin beauty and simple majesty. Its various aspects are more grand and impressive. Its voice is more distinctly heard, and sinks deeper into the heart. These people, more dependant on the simples of the fields and the wild fruits of the woods; better acquainted with the forms and instincts of the birds and beasts, their fellow denizens in the wild; and more observant of every constellation and every change in the sky, from living so much in the open air, have a wider range of ideas than we are aware of. With us, art every where combats nature, opposes her plainest dictates, and too often conquers her. The poor are so confined to the spot where their occupations lie, so engrossed by their struggles for daily bread, and so surrounded by the works of man, that those of their Creator are almost excluded from their view, at least form a very small part of the subjects that engross their thoughts. What knowledge they have is often merely the husks and orts that fall from the table of their superiors, which they swallow without chewing.

Many of those who are one degree above the lowest class, see nature in poetry, novels, and other books, and never think of looking to her any where else: like a person amused by seeing the reflection of the starry heavens or shifting clouds in a calm lake, never lifting his eyes to those objects of which her sees the imperfect though resembling pictures.

Those who live in the undistinguished bosom of tranquil nature, and whose chief employment it is, by disencumbering her of waste luxuriance, to discover and improve her latent beauties, need no borrowed enthusiasm to relish her sublime and graceful features. The venerable simplicity of the sacred scriptures has something extremely attractive for a mind in this state. The soul, which is the most familiar with its Creator in his works, will be always the most ready to recognize him in his word. Conversations, which had for their subject the nature and virtues of plants, the extent and boundaries of woods and lakes, and the various operations of instinct in animals, under those circumstances where they are solely directed by it, and the distinct customs and manners of various untutored nations, tended to expand the mind, and teach it to aspire to more perfect intelligence. The untaught reasoners of the woods could not but observe that the Europeans knew much that was concealed from them, and derived many benefits and much power from that knowledge. Where they saw active virtue keep pace with superior knowledge, it was natural to conclude that persons thus beneficially enlightened, had clearer and ampler views of that futurity, which to them only dimly gleamed though formless darkness. They would suppose, too, that t hose illuminated beings had some means of approaching nearer to that source of light and perfection from which wisdom is derived, than they themselves had attained. Their minds being thus prepared by degrees, these pious matrons (probably assisted by those lay-brothers of whom I have spoken) began to diffuse the knowledge of the distinguishing doctrines of christianity among the elderly and well-intentioned Indian women. These did not by any means receive the truth without examination: the acueness of intellect which discovered itself in their objections (of which I have heard many striking instances) was astonishing; yet the humble and successful instruments of enlightening those sincere and candid people, did by no means take to themselves any merit in making proselytes. When they found their auditors disposed to listen diligently to the truth, they sent them to the clergy-man of the place, who instructed, confirmed, and baptized them. I am sorry that I have not a clear and distinct recollection of the exact manner, or the numbers, &c, of these first converts, of whom I shall say more hereafter; but I know that this was the usual process. They were, however, both zealous and persevering, and proved the means of bringing many others under the law of love, to which it is reasonable to suppose the safety of this unprotected frontier was greatly owing at that crisis, that of the first attacks of the French. The Indian women, who from motives of attachment to particular families, or for the purpose of carrying on the small traffic already mentioned, were wont to pass their summers near the settlers, were detached and wandering families, who preferred this mode of living to the labour of tilling the ground, which entirely devolved upon the women among the Five nations. By tilling the ground I would not be understood to mean any settled mode of agriculture, requiring cattle, inclosures, or implements of husbandry. Grain made but a very subordinate part of their subsistence, which was chiefly derived from the fishing and hunting. The little they had was maize; this with kidney beans and tobacco, the only plants they cultivated, was sowed in some very pleasant fields along the Mohawk river, by the women, who had no implements of tillage but the hoe, and a kind of wooden spade. These fields lay round their castles, and while the women were thus employed, the men were catching and drying fish by the rivers or on the lakes. The younger girls were much busied during summer and autumn, in gathering wild fruits, berries, and grapes, which they had a peculiar mode of drying to preserve them for the winter. The great cranberry they gathered in abundance, which, without being dryed, would last the whole winter, and was much used by the settlers. These dryed fruits were no luxury; a fastidious taste would entirely reject them. Yet besides furnishing another article of food, they had their use, as was evident. Without some antiseptic, they who lived the whole winter on animal food, without a single vegetable, or anything of the nature of bread, unless now and then a little maize, which they had the art of boiling down to softness in lye of a wood-ashes, must have been liable to that great scourge of northern nations in their primitive state, the scurvy, had not this simple desert been a preservative against it. Rheumatisms, and sometimes agues affected them, but no symptom of any cutaneous disease was ever seen on an Indian.

The stragglers from the confines of the orchards did not fail to join their tribes in winter; and were zealous, and often successful in spreading their new opinions. Indians supposed that every country had its own mode of honouring the great spirits to whom we are all equally acceptable. This had, on one hand, the bad effect of making them satisfied with their own vague and undefined notions; and on the other, the good one of making them very tolerant of those of others. If you do not insult their belief, (for mode of worship they have scarce any,) they will hear you talk of yours with the greatest patience and attention. Their good breeding, in this respect, was really superlative. No Indian ever interrupted any, the most idle talker: but when they concluded, he would deliberately, methodically, and not ungracefully answer or comment upon all they had said, in a manner which shewed that not a word had escaped him.

Lady Mary Montague ludicrously says, that the court of Vienna was the paradise of old women; and that there is no other place in the world where a woman past fifty excites the least interest. Had her travels extended to the interior of North America. She would have seen another instance of this inversion of the common mode of thinking. Here a woman never was of consequence, till she had a son old enough to fight the battles of his country; from that date she held a superior rank in society; was allowed to live at ease, and even called to consultations on national affairs. In savage and warlike countries, the reign of beauty is very short, and its influence comparatively limited. The girls in childhood had a very pleasing appearance; but excepting their fine hair, eyes and teeth, every external grace was soon banished by perpetual drudgery, carrying burdens too heavy to be borne, and other slavish employments considered beneath the dignity of the men. These walked before, erect and graceful, decked with ornaments, which set off to advantage the symmetry of their well formed persons, while the poor women followed, meanly attired, bent under the weight of the children and utensils, which they carried every where with them; and disfigured and degraded by ceaseless toils. They were very early married: for a Mohawk had no other servant but his wife; and wherever he commenced hunter, it was requisite that he should have some one to carry his load, cook his kettle, make his mognesans, and above all, produce young warriors who were to succeed him in the honours of the chase, and of the toma-hawk. Wherever man in a mere hunter, woman is a mere slave. It is domestic intercourse that softens man, and elevates woman; and of that there can be little, where the employments and amusements are not in common: the ancient Caledonians honoured the fair; but then, it is to be observed, they were fair huntresses, and moved, in the light of their beauty, to the hill of roes; and the culinary toils were entirely left to the rougher sex. When the young warrior above alluded to made his appearance, it softened the cares of his mother; who well knew that when he grew up, every deficiency in tenderness to his wife would be made up in superabundant duty and affection to her. If it were possible to carry filial veneration to excess, it was done here; for all other charities were absorbed in it. It wonder this system of depressing the sex in their early years, to exalt them when all their juvenile attractions were flown, and when mind alone can distinguish them, has not occurred to our modern reformers. The Mohawks took good care not to admit their women to share their prerogatives, till they approve themselves good wives and mothers.

This digression, as long as it is, had very intimate connexion with the character of my friend; who early adopted the views of her family, in regard to those friendly Indians, which greatly enlarged her mind, and ever after influenced her conduct. She was, even in childhood, well acquainted with their language, opinions, and customs; and, like every other person possessed of a liberality or benevolence of mind, whom chance had brought acquainted with them, was exceedingly partial to those high souled and generous natives. The Mohawk language was early familiar to her; she spoke Dutch and English with equal ease and purity; was no stranger to the French tongue; and could (I think) read German. I have heard her speak it. From the conversations with her active curiosity led her to hold with native Africans, brought into her father’s family, she was more intimately acquainted with the customs, manners, and government of their native country, than she could have been, by reading all that was ever written on the subject. Books are, no doubt, the granaries of knowledge: but a diligent, enquiring mind, in the active morning of life will find it strewed like manna over the face of the earth; and need not, in all cases, rest satisfied with intelligence accumulated by others, and tinctured with their passions and prejudices. Whoever reads Homer or Shakespeare may daily discover that they describe both nature and art from their own observation. Consequently you see the images, reflected from the mirror of their great minds, differing from the descriptions of others, as the reflection of an object in all its colours and proportions from any polished service, does from a shadow on a wall, or from a picture drawn from recollection. The enlarged mind of my friend, and her simple yet easy and dignified manners, made her readily adapt herself to those with whom she conversed, and every where command respect and kindness; and, on a nearer acquaintance, affection followed; but she had too much sedateness and independence to adopt those caressing and insinuating manners, by which the vain and the artful so soon find their way into shallow minds. Her character did not captivate at once, but gradually unfolded itself; and you had always something new to discover. Her stile was grave and masculine, without the least embellishment; and at the same time so pure, that every thing she said might be printed without correction, and so plain, that the most ignorant and most inferior persons were never at a loss to comprehend it. It possessed, too, a wonderful flexibility; it seemed to rise and fall with the subject. I have not met with a stile which, to noble and uniform simplicity, united such variety of expression. Whoever drinks knowledge pure at its sources, solely from a delight in filling the capacities of a large mind, without the desire of dazzling or out-shining others; whoever speaks for the sole purpose of conveying to other minds those ideas, from which he himself has received pleasure and advantage, may possess this chaste and natural stile: but it is not to be acquired by art or study.

[141-151] Chapter XIV: "Marriage of Miss Schuyler - Description of the Flats"

Miss S, had the happiness of captivate her cousin Philip, the eldest son of her uncle, who was ten years older than herself, and was in all respects to be accounted a suitable, and in the worldly sense, an advantageous match for her. His father was highly satisfied to have the two objects on whom he had bestowed so much care and culture united, but did not live to see this happy connexion take place. They were married in the year 1719 , when she was in the eighteenth year of her age. When the old colonel died, he left considerable possessions to be divided among his children, and from the quantity of plate, paintings, &c. which they shared, there is reason to believe he must have brought some of his wealth from Holland, as in those days people had little means of enriching themselves in new settlements. He had also considerable possessions in a place near the town, called Fish Kill, about twenty miles below Albany. His family residence, however, was at the Flats, a fertile and beautiful plain on the banks of the river. He possessed about two miles on a stretch of that rich and level champain. This possession was bounded on the east by the river Hudson, whose high banks overhung the stream and its pebbly strand, and were both adorned and defended by elms (larger than ever I have seen in any other place), decked with natural festoons of wild grapes, which abound along the banks of this noble stream. These lofty elms were left when the country was cleared, to fortify the banks against the masses of thick ice which make war upon them in spring, when the melting snows burst this glassy pavement, and raise the waters many feet above their usual level. This precaution not only answers that purpose, but gratifies the mind by presenting to the eye a remnant of the wild magnificence of nature amidst the smiling scenes produced by varied and successful cultivation. As you came along by the north end of the town, where the Patroon had his seat, you afterwards past by the inclosures of the citizens, where as formerly described, they planted their corn, and arrived at the Flats, Colonel Schuyler’s possession. On the right you saw the river in all its beauty, there above a mile broad. On the opposite side the view was bounded by steep hills, covered with lofty pines, from which a water-fall descended, which not only gave animation to the sylvan scene, but was the best barometer imaginable, foretelling by its varied and intelligible sounds every approaching change, not only of the weather, but of the wind. Opposite to the grounds lay an island, above a mile in length, and about a quarter in breadth, which also belonged to the Colonel: exquisitely beautiful it was, and though the haunt I most delighted in, it is not in my power to describe it. Imagine a little Egypt, yearly overflowed, and of the most redundant fertility. This charming spot was at first covered with wood, like the rest of the country, except a long field in the middle, where the Indians had probably cultivated maize; round this was a broad shelving border, where the grey and weeping willows, the bending osier, and number less aquatic plants not known in this country, were allowed to flourish in the utmost luxuriance, while within, some tall sycamores and wild fruit trees towered above the rest. Thus was formed a broad belt, which in winter proved an impenetrable barrier against the broken ice, and in summer was the haunt of numberless birds and small animals, who dwelt in perfect safety, it being impossible to penetrate it. Numberless were the productions of this luxuriant spot; never was a richer field for a botanist; for though the ice was kept off, the turbid waters of the spring flood overflowed it annually, and not only deposited a rich sediment, but left the seeds of various plants swept from the shores it has passed by. The centre of the island, which was much higher than the sides, produced with a slight degree of culture and most abundant crops of wheat hay and flax. At the end of this island, which was exactly opposite to the family mansion, a long sand-bank extended; on this was a very valuable fishing place, of which a considerable profit might be made. In summer, when the water was low, this narrow stripe (for such it was) came in sight, and furnished an amusing spectacle; for there the bald and white-headed eagle (a large picturesque bird, very frequent in this country), the ospray, the heron, and the curlew, used to stand in great numbers in a long row, like a military arrangement, for a whole summer day, fishing for perch and a kind of fresh-water herring which abounded there. At the same season a variety of wild ducks, who bred on the shores of the island, (among which was a small white diver of an elegant form), led forth their young to try their first excursion. What a scene have I beheld on a calm summer evening! There indeed were “fringed banks” richly fringed, and wonderfully variegated; where every imaginable shade of colour mingled, and where life teemed prolific on every side. The river, a perfect mirror, reflecting the pinecovered hills opposite; and the plaint shades that bent without a wind, round this enchanting island, while hundreds of the white divers, saw-bill ducks with scarlet heads, teal, and other aquatic birds, sported at once on the calm waters. At the discharge of a gun from the shore, these feathered beauties all disappeared at once, as if by magic, and in an instant rose to view in different places.

How much they seemed to enjoy that life which was so new to them; for they were the young broods first led forth to sport upon the waters. While the fixed attitude and lofty port of the large birds of prey, who were ranged upon the sandy shelf, formed an inverted picture in the same clear mirror, and were a pleasing contrast to the playful multitude around. These they never attempted to disturb, well aware of the facility of escape which their old retreats afforded them. Such of my readers as have had patience to follow me to this favourite isle, will be, ere now, as much bewildered as I have often been myself on its luxuriant shores. To return to the southward, on the confines to what might then be called an interminable wild, rose two gently sloping eminences, about half a mile from the shore. From each of these a large brook descended, bending through the plain, and having their course marked by the shades of primaeval trees and shrubs left there to shelter the cattle when the ground was cleared. On these eminences, in the near neighbourhood and full view of the mansion at the Flats, were two large and well built dwellings, inhabited by Colonel Schuyler’s two younger sons, Peter and Jeremiah. To the eldest was allotted the place inhabited by his father, which, from its lower situation and level surface, was called the Flats. There was a custom prevalent among the new settlers something like that of gavelkind; they made a pretty equal division of lands among their younger sons. The eldest, by pre-eminence of birth, had a larger share, and generally succeeded to the domain inhabited by his father, with the slaves, cattle, and effects upon it.

This, in the present instance, was the lot of the eldest son of that family whose possessions I have been describing. His portion of land on the shore of the river was scarcely equal in value to those of his brothers, to whose possessions the brooks I have mentioned formed a natural boundary, dividing them from each other, and from his. To him was allotted the costly furniture of the family, of which paintings, plate, and china constituted the valuable part; every thing else being merely plain and useful. They had also a large house in Albany, which they occupied occasionally.

I have neglected to describe in its right place the termination or back ground of the landscape I have such delight in recollecting. There the solemn and interminable forest was varied here and there by rising grounds, near streams where birch and hiccory, maple and poplar, cheered the eye with a lighter green, through the prevailing shade of dusty pines. On the border of the wood, where the trees had been thinning for firing, was a broad shrubbery all along, which marked the edges of the wood above the possessions of the brothers as far as it extended.

This was formed of Shumack, a shrub with leaves, continually changing colour through all the varieties, from blending green and yellow to orange tawney, and adorned with large lilac-shaped clutters of bright scarlet grains, covered with pungent dust of a sharp flavour, at once saline and acid. This the Indians use as salt to their food, and for the dyeing of different colours. The red glow, which was the general result of this natural border, had a fine effect, thrown out from the dusky shades which towered behind.

To the northward, a sandy tract, covered with low pines, formed a boundary betwixt the Flats and Stonehook, which lay further up the river.

[155-160] Chapter XV: "Character of Philip Schuyler - His Management of the Indians"

Philip Schuyler, who, on the death of his father, succeeded to the inheritance I have been describing, was a person of a mild benevolent character, and an excellent understanding, which had received more culture than was usual in that country. But whether he had returned to Europe, for the purpose of aquiring knowledge in the public seminaries there, or had been instructed by any of the French protestants, who were sometimes retained in the principal families for such purposes, I do not exactly know; but am led rather to suppose the latter, from the connexion which always subsided between that class of people and the Schuyler family.

When the intimacy between this gentleman and the subject of these memoirs took place she was a mere child; for the colonel, as he was soon after called, was ten years older than she. This was singular there, where most men married under twenty. But his early years were occupied by momentous concerns; for, by the time, the public safety began to be endangered by the insidious wiles of the French Canadians, to whom our frontier settlers began to be formidable rivals in the fur trade, which the former wished to engross. In the process of time, the Indians, criminally indulged with strong liquors by the most avaricious and unprincipled of the traders, began to have an infatiable desire for them, and the traders’ avidity for gain increased in the same proportion.

Occasional fraud on the one hand gave rise to occasional violence on the other. Mutual confidence decayed, and hostility betrayed itself, when intoxication laid open every thought. Some of our traders were, as the colonists alleged, treacherously killed in violation of treaties solemnly concluded between them and the offending tribes.

The mediation and protection of the Mohawk tribes were, as usual, appealed to. But these shrewd politicians saw evidently the value of their protection to an unwarlike people, who made no effort to defend themselves; and who, distant from the source of authority, and contributing nothing to the support of government, were in a great measure neglected. They began also to observe, that their new friends were extending their possessions on every side, and conscious of their wealth and increasing numbers, did not so assiduously cultivate the good will of their faithful allies as formerly. These nations, savage as we may imagine them, were as well skilled in the arts of negotiation as the most polite Europeans. They waged perpetual war with each other about their hunting grounds; each tribe laying claim to some vast wild territory destined for that purpose, and divided from other districts by boundaries which we should consider as merely ideal, but which they perfectly understood. Yet these were not so distinctly defined as to preclude all dispute; and a casual encroachment on this imaginary deer park was a sufficient ground of hostility; and this, not for the value of the few deer or bears which might be killed, but that they thought their national honour violated by such an aggression. That system of revenge, which subsisted with equal force amount them all, admitted of no sincere conciliation till the aggrieved party had obtained at least an equal number of scalps and prisoners for those that they had lost. This bloody reckoning was not easily adjusted. After a short and hollow truce, the remaining balance on either side afforded a pretext for new hostilities, and time to solicit new alliances; for which last purpose much art and much persuasive power of eloquence were employed.

But the grand mystery of Indians politics was the flattery, the stratagem, and the address employed in detaching other tribes from the alliance of their enemies. There could not be a stronger proof of the restless and turbulent nature of ambition than these artful negociations, the consequence of perpetual hostility, where one would think there was so little ground for quarrel; and that amongst a people who individually, were by no means quarrelsome or covetous, and seemed in their private transaction with each other, impressed with a deep sense of moral rectitude; who reasoned soundly, reflected deeply, and acted in most cases consequentially. Property there was none, to afford a pretext for war, excepting a little possessed by the Mohawks, which knew so well how to defend, that their boundaries were never violated;

“For their awe and their fear was upon all the nations round about.”

Territory could not be the genuine subject of contention in these thinly people forests, where the ocean and the pole were the only limits of their otherwise boundless domain. The consequence attached to the authority of chiefs, who, as such, possessed no more property than others, and had not power to command a single vassal for their own personal benefit, was not such as to be the object of those wars. Their chief privilege was that of being first in every dangerous enterprize. They were loved and honored, but never, that I have heard of, traduced, envied, or removed from their painful pre-eminence.

The only way in which these wars can be accounted for is, first, from the general depravity of our nature, and from a singularly deep feeling of injury, and a high sense of national honour. They were not the hasty outbreakings of savage fury, but were commenced in the most solemn and deliberate manner; and not without a prelude of remonstrances from the aggrieved party, and attempts to soothe and conciliate from the other. This digression must be considered as altogether from the purpose. To return to the Indians, whose history has its use in illustrating that of mankind: they now became fully sensible of the importance they derived from the increased wealth and undefended state of the settlement. They discovered too, that they held the balance between the interior settlements of France and England, which, though still distant from each other, were daily approximating.

The Mohawks, though always brave and faithful, felt a very allowable repugnance to expose the lives of their warriors in defense of those who made no effort to defend themselves; who were neither protected by the arms of their sovereign, nor by their own courage. They came down to hold a solemn congress, at which the heads of the Schuyler and Cuyler families assisted; and where it was agreed that hostilities should be delayed for the concessions and presents, and means adopted to put the settlement into a state of defense against future aggressions.

On all such occasions, when previously satisfied with regard to the justice of the grounds of quarrel, the Mohawks promised their hearty co-operation. This they were the readier to do, as their young brother Philip (for so they styled Colonel Schuyler) offered not only to head such troops as might be raised for this purpose, but to engage his two brothers, who were well acquainted with the whole frontier territory, to serve on the same terms. This was a singular instance of public spirit in a young patriot, who was an entire stranger to the profession of arms; and whose sedate equanimity of character was adverse to every species of rashness of enthusiasm. Meantime the provisions of the above mentioned treaty could not be carried into effect, till they were ratified by the assembly at New York, and approved by the governor. Of this there was little doubt; the difficulty was to raise, and pay the troops. In the interim, while steps were taking to legalize this project, in1719, the marriage betwixt Col. Schuyler and his cousin took place inter the happiest auspices.

[161-164] Chapter XVI: "Account of the Three Brothers"

Colonel Schuyler and his two brothers all possessed a superior degree of intellect, and uncommon external advantages. Peter, the only one remaining when I knew the family, was still a comely and dignified looking old gentleman; and I was told his brothers were at least equal to him in this respect. His younger brother Jeremiah, who was much beloved for a disposition, frank, cheerful, and generous to excess, had previously married a lady from New York; with whom he obtained some fortune: a thing then singular in that country. This lady, whom, in her declining years, I knew very well, was the daughter of a wealthy and distinguished family of French protestants. She was lively, sensible, and well informed.

Peter, the second, was married to a native of Albany. She died early: but left behind two children; and the reputation of much worth, and a great attention to her conjugal and maternal duties. All these relations lived with each other, and with the new married lady, in habits of the most cordial intimacy and perfect confidence. They seemed, indeed, actuated by one spirit; having in all things similar views and similar principals. Looking up to the colonel as the head of the family, whose worth and affluence reflected consequence upon them all, they never dreamt of envying either his superior manners, or his wife’s attainments, which they looked upon as a benefit and ornament to the whole.

Soon after their marriage they visited New York, which they continued to do once a year in the earlier period of their marriage, on account of their connection in that city, and the pleasing and intelligent society that was always to be met with there, both on account of its being the seat of government, and the residence of the commander in chief on the continent, who was then necessarily invested with considerable power and privileges, and had, as well as the governor for the time being, a petty court assembled round him. At a very early period a better style of manners, greater ease, frankness, and polished prevailed At New York, than in any of the neighboring provinces. There was, in particular, a Brigadier-General Hunter, of whom I have heard Mrs. Schuyler talk a great deal, as coinciding with her uncle and husband successively, in their plans either of defense or improvement. He, I think, was then governor; and was as acceptable to the Schuylers for his colloquial talents and friendly disposition, as estimable for his public spirit and application to business, in which respects he was not equaled by any of his successors. In his circle the young couple were much distinguished. There were too among those leading families the Livingstons and Renselaers, friends connected with them both by blood and attachment. There was also another distinguished family to whom they were allied, and with whom they lived in cordial intimacy; these were the De Lancys, of French descent, but, by subsequent intermarriages blended with the Dutch inhabitants. Of these there were very many then in New York, as will be hereafter explained; but as these conscientious exiles were persons allied in religion to the primitive settlers, and regular and industrious in their habits, they soon mingled with and became part of that society, which was enlivened by their sprightly manners, and benefited by the useful arts they brought along with them. In this mixed society, which must have had attraction for young people of superior and, in some degree, cultivated intellect, this well-matched pair took great pleasure; and here, no doubt, was improved that liberality of mind and manners which so much distinguished them from the less enlightened inhabitants of their native city. They were so much caressed in New York, and found so many charms in the intelligent and comparatively polished society of which they made a part there, that they had at first some thoughts of residing there. These, however, soon gave way to the persuasions of the old colonel, with whom they principally resided till his death, which happened in 1721, two years after. This union was productive of all that felicity which might be expected to result from entire congeniality not of sentiment only, but of original dispositions, attachments, and modes of living and thinking. He had been accustomed to consider her as a child with tender endearment. She had been used to look up to him from infancy as the model of manly excellence; and they drew knowledge and virtue from the same fountain, in the mind of that respectable parent whom they equally loved and revered.

[161-164] Chapter XVII: "The House and rural Economy of the Flats — Birds and Insects"

I have already sketched a general outline of that pleasant home to which the colonel was now about to bring his beloved.

Before I resume my narrative, I shall indulge myself in a still more minute account of the premises, the mode of living, &c. which will afford a more distinct idea of the country; all the wealthy and informed people of the settlement living on a smaller scale, pretty much in the same manner. Be it known, however, that the house I had so much delight in recollecting, had no pretension to grandeur, and very little to elegance. It was a large brick house of two or rather three stories (for there were excellent attics), besides a sunk story, finished with the exactest neatness. The lower floor had two spacious rooms, with large light closets; on the first there were three rooms, and in the upper one four. Through the middle of the house was a very wide passage, with opposite front and back doors, which in summer admitted a stream of air peculiarly grateful to the languid senses. It was furnished with chairs and pictures like a summer parlour. Here the family usually sat in hot weather, when there were no ceremonious strangers.

Valuable furniture (though perhaps not very well chosen or assorted) was the favourite luxury of these people; and in all the houses I remember, except those of the brothers, who were every way more liberal. The mirrors, paintings, the china, but above all, the state bed, were considered as the family seraphim, secretly worshipped, and only exhibited on very rare occasions. But in Colonel Schuyler’s family the rooms were merely shut up to keep the flies, which in that country are an absolute nuisance, from spoiling the furniture. Another motive was, that they might be pleasantly cool when opened for company. This house had also two appendages common to all those belonging to persons in early circumstances there. One was a large portico at the door, with a few steps leading up to it, and floored like a room; it was open at the sides, and had seats all round. Above was either a slight wooden roof, painted like an awning, a transplanted wild vine spread its luxuriant leaves and numerous clusters: These, though small, and rather too acid till sweetened by the frost, had a beautiful appearance. What gave an air of liberty and safety to these rustic porticos, which always produced in my mind a sensation of pleasure that I know not how to define, was the number of little birds domesticated there. For their accommodation there was a small shelf built round, where they nestled, sacred from the touch of slaves and children, who were taught to regard them as the good genii of the place, not to be disturbed with impunity.

I do not recollect sparrows there, except the wood sparrow. These little birds were of various kinds peculiar to the country; but the one most frequent and familiar was a pretty little creature, of a bright cinnamon colour, called a wren, though little resembling the one to which we give that name, for it is more sprightly, and flies higher. Of these and other small birds, hundreds gave and received protection around this hospitable dwelling. The protection they received consisted merely in the privilege of being let alone. That which they bestowed was of more importance than any inhabitant of Britain can imagine. In these new countries, where man has scarce asserted his dominion, life swarms abundant on every side; the insect population is numerous beyond belief, and the birds that feed on them are in proportion to their abundance. In process of time, when their sheltering woods are cleared, all these recede before their master, but not before his empire is fully established. These minute aerial foes are more harassing than the terrible inhabitant of the forest, and more difficult to expel. It is only by protecting, and in some sort domesticating, these little winged allies, who attack them in their own element, that the conqueror of the lion and the tamer of the elephant can hope to sleep in peace, or eat his meals unpolluted. While breakfasting or drinking tea in the airy portico, which was often the scene of these meals, birds were constantly gliding over the table with a butterfly, grasshopper, or cicada in their bills to feed their young, who were chirping above. These familiar inmates brushed by without ceremony, while the chimney swallow, the martin, and hirundines in countless numbers darted past in pursuit of this aerial population, while the fields resounded with the ceaseless chirping of many gay insects unknown to our more temperate summers. These were now and then mingled with the animated and not unpleasing cry of the tree-frog, a creature of that species, but of a light slender form, almost transparent, and of a lively green; it is dry to the touch, and has not the dank moisture of its aquatic relations; in short is a pretty lively creature, with a singular and cheerful note. This loud and not unpleasing insects-chorus, with the swarms of gay butterflies in constant motion, enliven scenes to which the prevalence of woods, rising “shade above shade” on every side, would otherwise give a still and solemn aspect. Several objects, which with us are no small additions to the softened changes and endless charms of rural scenery, it must be confessed are wanting there. No lark welcomes the sun that rises to gild the dark forests and gleaming lakes of America; no mellow thrush or deep-tones blackbird warbles through these awful solitudes, or softens the balmy hour of twilight with

“The liquid language of the groves.”

Twilight itself, the mild and shadowy hour, so soothing to every feeling, every pensive mind.; that soft transition from day to night, so dear to peace, so due to meditation, is here scarce known, at least only known to have its shortness regretted. No daisy hastens to meet the spring, or embellishes the meads in summer: here no purple heath exhales its wholesome odour, or decks the arid waste with the chastened glow of its waving bells. No bonny broom, such as enlivens the narrow vales of Scotland with its gaudy bloom, nor flowering furze with its golden blossoms, defying the cold blasts of early spring, animated their sandy wilds. There the white-blossomed sloe does not forerun the orchard’s bloom, nor the pale primrose shelter its modest head beneath the tangled shrubs. Nature, bountiful yet not profuse, has assigned her various gifts to various climes, in such a manner, that none can claim a decided pre-eminence; and every country has peculiar charms, which endear it to the natives beyond any other. I have been tempted by lively recollections in to a digression rather unwarrantable. To return ;-

At the back of the large house was a smaller and lower one, so joined to it as to make the form of a cross. There one or two lower and smaller rooms below, and the same number above, afforded a refuge to the family during the rigours of winter, when the spacious summer rooms would have been intolerably cold, and the smoke of prodigious wood fires would have sullied the elegantly clean furniture. Here, too, was a sunk story, where the kitchen was immediately below the eating parlour, and encreased the general warmth of the house. In summer the negroes resided in slight outer kitchens, where food was drest for the family. Those who wrought in the fields often had their simple dinner cooked without, and ate it under the shade of a great tree. One room I should have said, in the greater house only, was opened for the reception of company; all the rest were bed chambers for their accommodation, while the domestic friends of the family occupied neat little bed-rooms in the attics, or in the winter house. This house contained no drawing-room; that was an unheard-of luxury: the winter rooms had carpets; the lobby had an oil-cloth painted in lozenges, to imitate blue and white marble. The best bed-room was hung with family portraits, some of which were admirably executed; and in the eating-room, which, by the bye, was rarely used for that purpose, were some fine scripture paintings; that which made the greatest impression on my imagination, and seemed to be universally admired, was one of Esau coming to demand the anticipated blessings; the noble manly figure of the luckless hunter, and the anguish expressed in his comely though strong featured countenance, I shall never forget. The house fronted the river, on the brink of which, under shades of elm and sycamore, ran the great road towards Saratoga, Stillwater, and the northern lakes; a little simple avenue of Morella cherry trees, inclosed with a white rail. Led to the road and river, not three hundred yards distant. Adjoining to this, on the south side, was an inclosure subdivided into three parts, of which the first was a small hay field, opposite the south end of the house; the next, not so long, a garden; and the third, by far largest, an orchard. These were surrounded by simple deal fences. Now let not the genius that presides over pleasure-grounds, nor any of his elegant votaries, revolt with disgust while I mention the unseemly ornaments which were exhibited on the stakes to which the deals of these same fences were bound. Truly they consisted of the skeleton heads of horses and cattle in as great numbers as could be procured, stuck upon the abovesaid poles. This was not mere ornament either, but a most hospitable arrangement for the accommodation of the small familiar birds before described. The jaws are fixed on the pole, and the skull uppermost. The wren, on seeing a skull thus placed, never fails to enter by the orifice, which is too small to admit the hand of an infant, lines the pericranium with small twigs and horse-hair, and there lays her eggs in full security. It is very amusing to see the little creature carelessly go out and in at this aperture, though you should be standing immediately beside it. Not satisfied with providing these singular asylums for their feathered friends, the negroes never fail to make a small round hole in the crown of every old hat they can lay their hands on, on nail it to the end of the kitchen, for the same purpose. You often see in such a one, at once, thirty or forty of these odd little domiciles, with the inhabitants busily going out and in.

Besides all these salutary provisions for the domestic comfort of the birds, there was, in clearing the way for their first establishment, a tree always left in the middle of the back yard, for their sole emolument: this tree being purposely pollarded at Midsummer, when all the branches were full of sap. Wherever there had been a branch, the decay of the inside produced a hole; and every hole was the habitation of a bird. These were of various kinds; some of which had a pleasing note, but, on the whole, their songsters are far inferior to ours. I rather dwell on these minutiae, as they not only mark the peculiarities of the country, but convey very truly the image of a people not too refined for happiness, which, in the process of elegant luxury, is apt to die of disgust.

[164-173] Chapter XVIII: "Description of Colonel Schuyler’s Barn, the Common, and its various Uses"

Adjoining to the orchard was the most spacious barn I ever beheld; which I shall describe for the benefit of such of my readers as have never seen a building constructed on a plan so comprehensive. This barn, which, as will hereafter appear, answered many beneficial purposes besides those usually allotted for such edisices, was of a vast size, as least an hundred feet long, and sixty wide. The roof rose to a very great height in the midst, and sloped down till it came within ten feet of the ground, when the walls commenced; which, like the whole of this vast fabric, were formed of wood. It was raised three feet from the ground, by beams resting on stone; and on these beams was laid, in the middle of the building, a very massive oak floor. Before the door was a large sill, sloping downwards, of the same materials. About twelve feet in breadth on each side of this capacious building were divided off for cattle; on one side ran a manger, at the abovementioned distance from the wall, the whole length of the buildings, with a rack above it; on the others were stalls for the other cattle, running also the whole length of the building. The cattle and horses stood with their hinder parts to the wall, and their heads projecting towards the threshing floor. There was a prodigious large box or open chest in one side built up, for holding the corn after it was trashed; and the roof, which was very lofty and spacious, was supported by large cross beams: from one to the other of these was stretched a great number of long poles, so as to form a fort of open loft, on which the whole rich crop was laid up. The floor of those parts of the barn, which answered the purposes of a stable and cow-house, was made of thick slab deals, laid loosely over the supporting beams. And the mode of cleaning those places was by turning the boards, and permitting the dung and litter to fall into the receptacles left open below for the purpose; from thence, in spring, they were often driven down to the river, the soil, in its original state, not requiring the aid of manure. In the front of this vast edifice there were prodigious folding doors, and two others that opened behind.

Certainly never did cheerful rural toils wear a more exhilarating aspect than while the domestics were lodging the luxuriant harvest in this capacious repository. When speaking of the doors, I should have mentioned that they were made in the gable ends; those in the back equally large, to correspond with those in the front; while on each side of the great doors were smaller ones, for the cattle and horses to enter. Whenever the corn or hay was reaped or cut, and ready for carrying home, which in the dry warm climate happened in a very few days, a wagon loaded with hay, for instance, was driven into the midst of this great barn; loaded also with numberless large grasshoppers, butterflies, and cicadas, who came along with the hay. From the top of the wagon, this was immediately forked up into the loft of the barn, in the midst of which was an open space left for the purpose; and then the unloaded wagon drove, in rustic state, out of the great door at the other end. In the mean time every member of the family witnessed, or assisted in this summary process; by which the building and thatching of stacks was at once saved; and the whole crop and cattle were thus compendiously lodged under one roof.

The cheerfulness of this animated scene was much heightened by the quick appearance, and vanishing of the swallows; who twittered among their high built dwellings in the roof. Here, as in every other instance, the safety of these domestic friends was attended to; and an abode provided for them. In the front of this barn were many holes, like those of a pidgeon-house, for the accommodation of the martin; that being the species to which this kind of home seems most congenial; and, in the inside of the barn, I have counted above fourscore at once. In the winter, when the earth was buried deep in new fallen snow, and no path sit for walking in was left, this barn was like a great gallery, well suited for that purpose; and furnished with pictures, not unpleasing to a simple an contented mind. As you walked through this long area, looking up, you beheld the abundance of the year treasured above you; on one side the comely heads of your snorting steeds presented themselves, arranged in seemly order; on the other, your kine displayed their meeker visages, while the perspective, on either, was terminated by heifers and fillies no less interesting. In the midst, your servants exercised the flail; and even, while they threshed out the straw, distributed it to the expectants on both sides; while the “liberal handful was occasionally thrown to the many coloured poultry on the hill. Winter itself never made this abode of life and plenty cold or cheerless. Here you might walk and view all your subjects, and their means of support, at once glance; except, indeed; the sheep; for whom a large and commodious building was erected very near the barn; the roof of which, was furnished with a loft large enough to contain hay sufficient for their winter’s food.

Colonel Schuyler’s barn was by far the largest I have ever seen: but all of them, in that country, were constructed on the same plan, furnished with the same accommodation, and presented the same cheering aspect. The orchard, as I formerly mentioned, was on the south side of the barn; on the north, a little farther back towards the wood, which formed a dark screen behind the smiling scene, there was an inclosure, in which the remains of the deceased members of the family were deposited. A field of pretty large extent, adjoining to the house on that side, remained uncultivated, and unenclosed; over it were scattered a few large apple-trees of a peculiar kind; the fruit of which was never appropriated. This piece of level and productive land, so near the family mansion, and so adapted to various and useful purposes, was never made use of; but left open as a public benefit. From the known liberality of this munisicent family, all Indians, or new settlers, on their journey, whether they came by land or water, rested here. The military, in passing, always formed a camp on this common; and here the Indians wigwams were often planted; here all manner of the garden-stuff, fruit, and milk, were plentifully distributed to wanderers of all descriptions. Every summer, for many years, there was an encampment, either of regular or provincial troops, on this common; and often, when the troops proceeded northward, a little colony of helpless women and children, belonging to them, was left in a great measure dependant on the compassion of these worthy patriarchs; for such the brothers might be justly called.

[173-pages] Chapter XIX: "Military Preparations, - Disinterested Conduct, the surest Road to Popularity, - Fidelity of the Mohawks."

The first year of the colonel’s marriage was chiefly spent in New York, and in visits to the friends of the bride, and other relations. The following years they spent at home; surrounded daily by his brothers, and their families; and other relatives, with whom they maintained the most affectionate intercourse. The colonel, however, ( as I have called home by anticipation) had, at this time, his mind engaged by public duties of the most urgent nature. He was a member of the colonial assembly; and, by a kind of hereditary right, was obliged to support that character of patriotism, courage, and public wisdom, which had so eminently distinguished his father. The father of Mrs. Schuyler, too, had been long mayor of Albany; at that time an office of great importance; as including, within itself, the entire civil power exercised over the whole settlement as well as the town, and having attached to it a fort of patriarchal authority; for the people, little acquainted with coercion, and by no means inclined to submit to it, had, however a profound reverence, as is generally the case in the infancy of society, for the families to their first leaders; whom they had looked up to merely as knowing them to possess superior worth, talent, and enterprise. In a society, as yet uncorrupted, the value of this rich inheritance can only be diminished by degradation of character, in the representative of a family thus self-ennobled; especially if he be disinterested. This, though apparently a negative quality, being the one of all others that, combined with the higher power of mind, most engages affection in private and esteem in public life. This is a shield that blunts the shafts which envy never fails to level at the prosperous, even in old establishments; where, from the very nature of things, a thousand obstruction rise in the upward path of merit; and a thousand temptations appear to mislead it from its direct road; and where the rays of opinion are refracted by sp many prejudices of contending interests and factions. Still, if any charm can be found to fix that fleeting phantom popularity, this is it: it would be very honourable to human nature, if this could be attributed t the pure love of virtue; but, alas! Multitudes are not made up of the wise, of the virtuous. Yet the very selfishness of our nature inclines is to love and trust those who are not likely to desire any benefit from us, in return for those they confer. Other vices may be, if not social, in some degree gregarious: but even the avaricious hate avarice in all but themselves.

Thus, inheriting unstained integrity, unbounded popularity, a cool determined spirit, and ample possessions, no man had fairer pretensions to unlimited sway, in the sphere in which he moved, than the colonel; but of this, no man could be less desirous. He was too wise, and too happy to solicit authority; and yet too public-spirited, and too generous to decline it, when any good was to be done or any evil resisted; from which no private benefit resulted to himself.

Young as his wife was, and much as she valued the blessing of their union, and the pleasure of his society, she shewed a spirit worthy of a Roman matron; in willingly risking all her happiness, even in that early period of her marriage, by consenting to his assuming a military command; and leading forth the provincial troops against the common enemy: who had now become more boldly dangerous than ever. Not content with secretly stimulating the Indian tribes, who were their allies, and enemies to the Mohawks, to act of violence, the French Canadians, in violation of existing treaties, began to make incursions on the slightest pretexts. It was no common warfare in which the colonel was about to engage: but the duties of entering on vigorous measures, for the defence of the country, became not only obvious but urgent. No other persons but he had influence enough to produce any cohesion among the people of that district, or any determination, with their own arms and at their own cost, to attack the common enemy. As formerly observed, this had hitherto been trusted to the five confederate Mohawk nations; who, though still faithful to their old friends, had too much sagacity and observation, and indeed to strong a native sense of rectitude, to persuade their young warriors to go on venturing their lives in defense of those, who, from their increased power and numbers, were able to defend themselves with the aid of their allies. Add to this, that their possessions were on all sides daily extending; and that they, the Albanians, were carrying their trade for furs, &c. into the deepest recesses of the forests, and towards those great lakes which the Canadians were accustomed to consider as the boundaries of their dominions; and where they had Indians whom they were at great pains to attach to themselves, and to inspire against us and our allies.

Colonel Schuyler’s father had held the same rank in a provincial corps formerly: but in his time, there was a profound peace in the district he inhabited; though from his resolute temper and knowledge of public business, and of the different Indian languages, he was selected to head a regiment raised in the Jerseys and the adjacent bounds, for the defense of the back frontiers of Pennsylvania, New England, &c. Colonel Philip Schuyler was the first who raised a corps in the interior of the province of New York; which was not only done by his personal influence, but occasioned him a considerable expense, though the regiment was paid by the province, the province also furnishing arms and military stores; their service being, like that of all provincials, limited to the summer half year.

The governor and chief commander came up to Albany to view and approve the preparations making for this interior war, and meet the congress of Indian sachems: who, on that occasion, renewed their solemn league with their brother the great king. Colonel Schuyler, being then the person that most looked up to and confided in, was their proxy on this occasion in ratifying an engagement to which they ever adhered with singular fidelity. And mutual presents brightened the chain of amity, to use their own figurative language.

The common and the barn, at the flats, were fully occupied, and the hospitable mansion, as was usual on all public occasions, overflowed. There the general, his aid-de-camps, the sachems and the principal officers of the colonel’s regiment, were received; and those who could not find room there of the next class, were accommodated by Peter and Jeremiah. On the common was an Indian encampment; and the barn and orchard were full of the provincials. All these last brought as usual their own food: but were supplied by this liberal family with every production of the garden, dairy, and orchard. While the colonel’s judgment was exercised in the necessary regulations for this untried warfare, Mrs. Schuler, by the calm fortitude the displayed in this trying exigence, by the good sense and good breeding with which the accommodated her numerous and various guests, and by those judicious attentions to family concerns, which, producing order and regularity through every department without visible bustles and anxiety, enable the mistress of a family to add grace and ease to hospitality, shewed herself worthy of her distinguished lot.

[inclusive pages] Chapter XX: "Account of a refractory Warrior, and of the Spirit which still pervaded the New England Provinces"

While these preparation were going on, the general was making every effort of the neighbourhood to urge those who had promised assistance, to come forward with their allotted quotas.

On the other side of the river, not very far from the Flats, lived a person whom I shall not name; though his conduct was so peculiar and characteristic of the times, that his anti-heroism is on the sole account worth mentioning. This person lived in great security and abundance, in a place like an earthly Paradise, and scarcely knew what it was to have an ungratified wish, having had considerable wealth left to him; and from the simple and domestic habits of his life, had formed no desires beyond it, unless indeed it were the desire of being thought a brave man, which seemed his greatest ambition; he was strong, robust, and an excellent marksman; talked loud, looked fierce, and always expressed the utmost scorn and detestation of cowardice. The colonel applied to him, that his name, and the names of such adherents as he could bring, might be set down in the list of those who were to bring their quota, against a given time, for the general defence: with the request he complied. When the rendezvous came on, this talking warrior had changed his mind, and absolutely refused to appear; the general sent for him, and warmly expostulated on his breach of promise; the bad example, and the disarrangement of plan which it occasioned: the culprit spoke in a high tone, saying, very truly, “that the general was possessed of no legal means of coercion; that every one went or staid as they chose; and that his change of opinion on that subject rendered him liable to no penalty whatever.” Tired of this sophistry, the enraged general had recourse to club law; and seizing a cudgel, belaboured this recreant knight most manfully; while several Indian sachems, and many of his own countrymen and friends, coolly stood by; for the colonel’s noted common was the scene of this assault. Our poor neighbour (as he long after became) suffered this dreadful bastinado, unaided and unpitied; and this example, and the consequent contempt under which he laboured, (for he was ever after stiled Captain, and did not refuse the title,) was said to have an excellent effect in preventing such retrograde motions in subsequent campaigns . The provincial troops, aided by the faithful Mohawks, preformed their duty with great spirit and perseverance. They were, indeed, very superior to the ignorant, obstinate, and mean-souled beings, who, in after times, brought the very name of provincial troops into discredit; and were actuated by no single motive but that of avoiding the legal penalty then affixed to disobedience, and enjoying the pay and provisions allotted to them by the province, or the mother country, I cannot exactly say which. Afterwards, when the refuse of mankind were selected, like Falstaff’s soldiers, and raised much in the same way, the New York troops still maintained their respectability. This superiority might, without reproaching others, be in some measure accounted for from incidental causes. The four New England provinces were much earlier settled, assumed sooner the forms of a civil community, and lived within narrower bounds; they were more laborious; their fanaticism, which they brought from England in its utmost fervour, long continued its esservecence, where there were no pleasures, or indeed lucrative pursuits, to detach their minds from it: and long after that genuine spirit of piety, which , however narrowed and disfigured, was still sincere, had in a great measure evaporated; enough of the pride and rigour of bigotry remained to make them detest and despise the Indian tribes as ignorant heathen savages. The tribes, indeed, who inhabited their district, had been so weakened by an unsuccessful warfare with the Mohawks, and were so every way inferior to them, that after the first establishment of the colony, and a few feeble attacks successfully repulsed, they were no longer enemies to be dreaded, or friends to be courted. This had an unhappy effect with regard to those provinces; and to the different relations in which they stood with respect to the Indians, some part of the striking difference in the moral and military character of these various establishments must be attributed.

The people of New England left the mother country, as banished from it by what they considered oppression; came over foaming with religious and political fury, and narrowly missed having the most artful and able demagogues, Cromwell himself, for their leader and guide. They might be compared to lava, discharged by the fury of internal combustion, from the bosom of the commonwealth, while inflamed by contending elements. This lava, every one acquainted with the convulsions of nature must know, takes a long time to cool; and when at length it is cooled, turns to a substance hard and barren, that long resists the kindly influence of the elements, before it surface resumes the appearance of beauty and fertility. Such were the almost literal effects of political convulsions, aggravated by a fiery and intolerant zeal for their own mode of worship, on these self-righteous colonists.

These preliminary remarks on the diversity of character in those neighbouring provinces lead the way, in the mean time, to a discrimination, the effects of which have become interesting to the whole world.

Chapters 21-30


From Memoirs of an American Lady (first published in 1808) two volumes, consecutive pagination; beginning of edition pages shown in [brackets]. The original punctuation is variable and has been retained!

Page references are to the two-volume edition published in 1901 and including extensive annotation by James Grant Wilson.


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first posted: 12/15/03; last revised 1/5/04