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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Dutch and Quaker Colonies
in America

by
John Fiske

published by
Houghton, Mifflin and Company
Boston and New York, 1903

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. II
p317
Chapter XVII
The Migrations of Sects

The colonies of New York and Pennsylvania were not only more heterogeneous in population than any of the others, but they were the principal centres of distribution of the non-English population from the seaboard to the Alleghany mountains. In the New England colonies, during the seventeenth century, the non-English element might most succinctly be described by saying that there was no such element; in the eighteenth century it was extremely small, though not without importance. Virginia and Maryland also were at first purely English, but the tidewater region, in the eighteenth century, received some foreign accessions and the Appalachian region far more. Among the oldest colonies, therefore, New York was the only one which had any considerable foreign population, and there it formed a large majority of the whole. Of the younger colonies the two Carolinas had a large foreign element among the dwellers on the seaboard, and still larger in the back country. But all this mountain population, in the Carolinas as well as in Virginia and Maryland, entered the country by way of Pennsylvania; and this migration was so great, both in its physical dimensions and in the political and social effects which it has wrought, that Pennsylvania acquires especial interest as the temporary tarrying-place and distributing centre for so much that we now call characteristically American.

Of the different classes of non-English immigrants during the colonial times, while all were represented in the city of New York, the Jews and the French Protestants settled chiefly on the seaboard, and on the other hand the Germans p318and the so‑called Scotch-Irish found their way in great numbers to what was then the western frontier. We must devote a few words to each of these classes.

The city of New York has always been the principal home of the Jews in the United States, and it was in connection with the Dutch enterprise in founding New Netherland that they were first brought here. It was from various quarters, but mainly from the Spanish peninsula that they had come to Holland. In all the history of this wonderful people there is no more brilliant chapter than that of their career in Spain under the Mohammedan dynasties between the tenth and the fourteenth centuries. In point of civilization, in the days when Philip Augustus and lion-hearted Richard went together on their crusade, such cities as Toledo and Cordova were as far in advance of London and Paris as London and Paris are now in advance of Toledo and Cordova, and in this Spanish preëminence the Jews played a foremost part. Such men as Ibn Gebirol and Maimonides were the great teachers of their time, and influences wafted across the Pyrenees had much to do with the Albigensian culture in southern France. As the Christians in Spain slowly conquered and drove back the Mussulmans, the persecution of Jews began and steadily increased in virulence, until the year 1492, which witnessed the surrender of Granada and downfall of the last Moorish kingdom, saw also the abominable edict which drove from their homes and their native land 200,000 honest and industrious Spanish citizens of Hebrew race and faith. In that eventful year, when an inscrutable Providence put into the hands of Spain the rich prize of America, did she enter upon that course of wholesale persecution which proved her to be unworthy of such opportunities and incapable of using them. The cost of Columbus's second voyage was partly defrayed with stolen money, the property of Jews who had been dragged on shipboard and carried over to Morocco. Meanwhile several industries received a death-blow, and in particular many cities were left without a single physician or any person qualified p319to act as notary public.1 But the edict of 1492, savagely as it was executed, did not suffice to remove all Jews, and for the next century a large part of the work of the Inquisition consisted in burning them and seizing their goods.

The revolt of the Netherlands gave them an opportunity for emigration of which they were not slow even to avail themselves, and by the end of the sixteenth century they were to be found in all the cities of Holland, especially in Amsterdam, whereby Andrew Marvel was provoked to write a poem in which that city is said to p320have its "bank of conscience," where "all opinions find credit and exchange;" yea, continues the poet, with what is meant for withering sarcasm:—

"The Universal church is only there."2

Among these settlers in Holland were some from Poland and Germany, but the great majority were from the Spanish peninsula, and some of the most highly cultivated of these were Portuguese. Of such parents was born at Amsterdam, in 1732, Benedict Spinoza, one of the most exalted names in all the history of human thought and human character.

In Holland, as usual, many of the Jews were bankers. They were liberal subscribers to the stock of the West India Company, and there were several Hebrew names on the list of directors. When the Dutch took possession of Brazil in 1624, a party of Jews went over and settled there; but in 1645 the Portuguese rose against the Dutch and after nine years of desultory fighting compelled them to sign a treaty in which they gave up all claim to the country. As for the resident Jews, the Portuguese agreed to give them "an amnesty, in all wherein they could promise it," — too vague an assurance to be very assuring. In the autumn of that year, 1654, the barque Santa Caterina arrived at New Amsterdam from Brazil, with 27 Portuguese Jews on board, men, women, and children. They had apparently embarked in haste, taking such effects as they could, for upon their arrival at Manhattan the skipper sold all their goods at public auction to pay for their passage. Another party presently came from the Dutch island of Curaçoa. These arrivals did not please Director Stuyvesant, who wrote home to the Company, begging that "none of the Jewish nation be permitted to infest New Netherland." Before getting an answer he contrived to annoy the newcomers, so that some went to Newport, feeling sure of toleration there, while others stayed at Manhattan p321in the hope of being set right by the Company's orders. In that hope they were not disappointed. The Company replied to Stuyvesant that his request "was inconsistent with reason and justice," and the States General followed this up with the act of July 15, 1655, "expressly permitting the Jews to trade to New Netherland, and to reside there, only on the simple condition that they should support their own poor."3 This condition has been well fulfilled, for such a kind of person as a Jewish pauper has seldom been seen.

The incidents here recounted were the beginnings of thrifty and valuable Jewish settlements in New York and Rhode Island. After the English conquest of New Netherland, the Duke of York was led, as we have seen, by considerations of expediency, to continue the liberal policy of the Dutch. The instructions to Governor Andros, on his first coming, were to give full toleration to persons "of what religion soever," but perhaps the failure to exclude Jews may have been due to oversight; for this clause was omitted from the instructions to Governor Dongan, and when in 1685 the Jewish residents in New Amsterdam petitioned for leave to build a synagogue, he referred the petition to the mayor and common council, who refused to grant it, on the ground that toleration of public worship extended only to sects professing faith in Christ. But Dongan, himself an Irish Catholic, was a man of extremely liberal views. Next year, whether at his own instance or not, a fresh set of instructions was sent him, in which the omitted clause was restored. Probably Dongan took advantage of this to grant the Jews' petition, for neither Andros, who came back as his successor, nor Leisler, was at all likely to take such a step; and we know that in 1691 the Jews had a place for public worship. In 1695 there were 20 families, or probably about 100 souls, in the city, and their little synagogue stood on the south side of the present Beaver Street, midway between Broadway and Broad Street. In 1712 an English clergyman informs us that one can learn p322Hebrew in New York as easily as in Europe, because of divers ingenious and learned men of that nation that dwell there. In 1748 the Swedish traveller, Peter Kalm, tells of the fine shops, the large country estates, and the richly freighted ships belonging to the Jews whom he visited in New York. At that time they possessed all civil rights and privileges in common with the other inhabitants, except that of voting for members of the legislature. In 1737 this point was decided by the New York assembly itself in a contested election case. The decision was that, since Jews did not possess the parliamentary franchise in England, they did not possess it in New York, in the absence of any special enactment for that purpose.

It may have been because New York absorbed so large a part of the Jewish immigration that comparatively little was left for Pennsylvania. There were nevertheless a good many Jews in Philadelphia, and some were citizens of great influence. The name of Haym Salomon, a very wealthy Polish Jew, deserves to be coupled with that of Robert Morris for the financial aid which he extended to Congress during the War of Independence. Mr. Salomon advanced to the United States nearly $700,000, not a cent of which was ever repaid.

The difference in point of liberality between William Penn's idea of toleration and Cecilius Calvert's idea was shown in the fact that Maryland's deservedly famous Toleration Act extended only to Trinitarians. By that very act disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity was made a crime punishable with death. We need not be surprised, therefore, that Jews did not flock to Maryland. But in Georgia and South Carolina, where a more liberal policy was pursued toward them, a good many found homes and proved valuable citizens. At the time of the Revolution the principal Jewish population of North America was in Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Savannah.

The French Protestants next claim our attention. During p323the seventeenth century, while the colonization of North America was going on, they met with their final defeats in France, and thereafter continued to exist merely on sufferance until even that privilege was withdrawn. There was something extraordinary in this tragic end of a mighty struggle, and to us who look back upon it after this interval it is one of the most impressive spectacles in history. In 1558, when Elizabeth ascended the English throne, while Martin Luther's Reformation was not yet half a century old, its prospects of success seemed at least as bright in France as in England. Within four years at least 2000 Protestant churches had sprung up in France, and with their local consistories and provincial synods, sustaining a national synod, a powerful and aggressive Calvinistic organization was rapidly coming to the front. Half the aristocracy, including a large majority of the noblemen below forty years of age, were in favour of the Reform, and of the clergy a strong party comprising one could, one archbishop, six bishops, and hundreds of priests, were numbered among its friends. But, on the other hand, not more than one tenth of the people had become Protestants. An educated rural middle class, such as played so great a part in England and planted Virginia and New England, did not exist in France. The peasantry through sheer conservatism kept on in the old ways. The popular strength of the reformers was chiefly among the urban middle class, educated craftsmen, merchants, and professional men; this class was hampered in national action for want of rural support. Below it the populace, whether conservative or anarchist, looked upon the respectable middle class chiefly as fit subjects for plunder and murder. The mob of Paris, which in the midst of civilization for age after age remains an untamed primeval tiger, was the deadly enemy of the reformers. There was another circumstance; the submission of the great nobles to the overshadowing power of the crown was not yet completed, so that the Protestant cause, when upheld by these nobles against the crown, ran counter to the popular instinct of national unity.

p324 In spite of all these drawbacks the Protestants made a noble fight, and had it not been for the untoward issue of another great struggle, more than three centuries earlier, even they might very probably have triumphed. One of the blackest chapters in European history is that which records the ruin of a brilliant civilization and wholesale slaughter of a noble people in the thirteenth century in what we are used to call the south of France. It is a commonplace remark that religions thrive upon persecution, and that truth is sure in the long run to prevail. It is nevertheless true that a sufficiently thorough persecution may inflict such damage upon mankind as many long ages may fail to repair. Nothing can be clearer than that France has not yet recovered from the horrors wrought nearly seven hundred years ago in Languedoc. The Albigenses of France were exterminated. When the last 200 of them were shut up within palisades in a high gorge of the Pyrenees and burnt to death in a holocaust, it was the end of all that their preachings and their modes of life could do for France. Could these influences have survived, in all probability the aspirations afterward represented by the Huguenots would have so far prevailed that the moral tone of the whole nation in the seventeenth century would have been far higher than it was, the absolutism reached under Louis XIV might have been avoided and the awful retribution of 1793 might have been escaped.

Every one will remember how in 1555 the great Coligny entertained the idea, which afterward passed from him to Sir Walter Raleigh, of founding a Protestant state in America. His two attempts, in Brazil and in Florida, both ended in grim disaster. In 1603 a scheme not wholly dissimilar was put into operation by Henry IV, when he made a grant of Acadia to Pierre du Gua, the Sieur du Monts, a sagacious and valiant Huguenot knight of Saintonge. To him was entrusted the enterprise of founding a colony where liberty of conscience was to be respected. Under his auspices the first attempts p325were made in Acadia and Samuel de Champlain founded a trading-post at Quebec; but the enterprise did not flourish. In 1610 the murder of the great king deprived the Huguenots of their best friend; and in the course of the next year the Sieur du Monts sold out his rights in New France to Madame de Guercheville, by whom the work of colonization in the New World was handed over to the Jesuits. Thus all hopes of a colony where Huguenots might live peaceably were at an end.

After Henry's death the Protestants in France saw more and more reason for anxiety lest the privileges which he had extended to them in the Edict of Nantes should be curtailed. The brief war which ended with the loss of Rochelle in 1628 was a heavy blow to them. The same reign witnessed the cessation of the meetings of the national legislature, and presently with the failure of the Fronde rebellion the absolute despotism of Louis XIV was riveted upon unhappy France. At this time many Huguenots fled to Holland, whence some of them made their way to New Netherland. The Bayards, one of whom was the wife of Peter Stuyvesant, were a prominent Huguenot family, and from this time more or less migration from France to the Hudson River was kept up.

In April, 1655, occurred the awful massacre of Waldenses in Piedmont with called forth from John Milton that solemn denunciation, like the message of a Hebrew prophet:—

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones

Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold," etc.

The Elector Palatine, who was one of the leading Protestant powers of Germany, offered a refuge to the persecuted Waldenses, and many made their way through Switzerland to the Palatinate, where some stayed while others kept on to Holland and so to America. A colony of these interesting primitive Protestants was formed upon Staten Island in 1662. Many Huguenots also found a refuge in the Palatinate, as well as Walloons, who were beginning p326to suffer fresh molestation in the Flemish Netherlands. A party of such Walloons, led by Louis du Bois, made up their minds in 1660 to remove from the banks of the Rhine to those of the Hudson. They settled in Esopus, in what is now Ulster county, and there made the beginnings of the towns of Kingstona and New Paltz, the name of which commemorates their brief sojourn on the Rhine.

In 1661, in his twenty-third year, Louis XIV took the government of France into his own hands, and in the same year entered upon a series of measures designed to undermine and neutralize the Edict of Nantes. It was decreed that Protestant boys might lawfully abjure the faith of their parents at fourteen years and girls at twelve years. This rule was soon made to justify the most shameless kidnapping. Any child who could be coaxed or bribed with trinkets to enter a church while mass was going on, or even to repeat a verse of Ave Maria in the street, was liable to be forthwith claimed as a Catholic and dragged off to some convent, and the courts paid no heed to the protests and entreaties of the outraged parents. Protestant schools were shut up by sovereign decree. Sometimes the buildings which they had erected for the purpose were confiscated and handed over to Jesuits. The dull egotist at Versailles had but to say what should be done, and it was done. Thus the five great Protestant colleges, including that one at Saumur where William Penn had studied, were broken up. Protestant churches were shut up either on slight pretexts or without a word, or were now and then burned by a mob with the connivance of the magistrates. Huguenots, moreover, were excluded from many public offices, and were forbidden to practice law or medicine, or to print or sell books. Huguenot women were not allowed toº be milliners or laundresses.

Finally in 1681 began the infamous dragonnades. All over the kingdom troops were quartered upon Huguenot households, as if in an enemy's country, with liberty to commit any outrage short of murder. Upon this p327device the king especially plumed himself. At the same time he issued a decree lowering the age at which children might abjure Protestantism to seven years. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes followed in 1685, but the great Huguenot exodus began in 1681. Immediately England, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and the Protestant states of Germany offered especial inducements to these people. They were at once to be naturalized, with all the rights and privileges of born subjects; in England sums of money were subscribed toward the expenses of their journey thither, and all their goods were admitted free of custom-house charges; in Holland they were exempted from all taxes for twelve years. Thus there came about such a migration as the civilized world has rarely seen; within twenty years something like a million Huguenots fled from their country, or at least seven per cent of the entire population. As soon as the king discovered that such an exodus was beginning, he issued decrees forbidding Protestants to leave the kingdom under heavy penalties, and guards were stationed on the frontiers to intercept them, while cruisers patrolled the coasts. But these measures were ineffective, for popular sentiment was very far from keeping pace with the tyrant's besotted zeal, and many fugitives were helped on their way by compassionate Catholics. Drink-money, too, played exactly the same part as now and always. Guards for a small tip, instead of detaining refugees, would pass them on or even furnish them with guides; and captains of ships were equally obliging. Where such methods were unavailable, people travelled on foot by night or disguised as peasants, driving a cow, or carrying a hod, or trundling a wheelbarrow; wealthy men and women, clothed in rags, begged from door to door; and so in one way or another the exodus was accomplished.

Concerning the damage which this wholesale emigration inflicted upon France, little need be said, for the tale has often been told. It cannot be expressed in statistics. This seven per cent of the total French population included a far p328higher proportion of skilled craftsmen, prosperous merchants, professional men and scholars. So largely was the marine represented that the French navy has never recovered from the loss. And then there was the weeding out of a certain earnest Puritan type of character which no nation can afford to weaken. Altogether this emigration was in many respects a skimming of cream.

The Huguenots were largely represented in the maritime provinces of Normandy, Brittany, Saintonge, and Languedoc, and sometimes they made the voyage directly to America. But more often the first flight was to England or Holland, where parties were formed for crossing the ocean. There was no part of English or Dutch America where they were not welcome. They maintained friendly relations with the Church of England as well as with the Independents in Boston. Numbers came to Massachusetts and Virginia, but much greater numbers to New York and South Carolina. In Boston the marks of them are plentiful. Opposite the hotel named for Paul Revere, in the square named for James Bowdoin, comes the street named for Pierre Chardon, of Touraine, whence it is but a short walk to the public hall built by the grandson of Pierre Faneuil, of Rochelle. The family of Governor Bowdoin, or Baudouin, was a cultured and respectable one in southwestern France. The French look of the name is not always so well preserved as in those cases; sometimes it is quite anglicized. Thus the name of the Salem family of Brownes, eminent in the eighteenth century, is simply the translation of Le Brun, from the island of Jersey; and the name of Philip English, which is remembered in connection with the witchcraft panic, was L'Anglois, from the same island. So Olney represents Aulnoy, and Dabney, of Massachusetts and Virginia, is curtailed from D'Aubigné; and not only such names as Gillet and Lambert, but now and then a Collins, or a Lewis, or a Basset, or a Lawrence, may indicate French origin. Louis XIV, who had a capacity for details, liked to gather information concerning these refugees. Reports p329from Canada assure him that there are many of the "vile miscreants" on the Hudson River, and on a map of Boston, drawn for the king in 1693, the situation of the Huguenot meeting-house, on the south side of School Street, is shown by the words "renegats françois," French renegades. But not all settled in Boston. There were the Le Barons at Plymouth, and the Sigourneys, Bernons, Bondets, Germaines, and Martins at the village of Oxford, up in the Nipmuck country, until an Indian massacre dispersed them in 1696.

Nowhere, however, did Huguenots fill a larger place than in New York. There came Jacques Desbrosses from Poitou, whose grandson was President of the Chamber of Commerce, the first organized mercantile society in America, and whose family name is left upon a well-known street and ferry. There came Étienne de Lancey, from Caen, whose son James was chief justice and lieutenant-governor of New York, and from the neighbouring city of Rouen came Guillaume Le Conte, among whose descendants in these latter days are numbered two of the most eminent men of science that our country has produced. In 1689 a party of these Frenchmen obtained from acting-governor Jacob Leisler a grant of land on Long Island Sound, where they founded the pretty town of New Rochelle. In 1693 they built a church there, but before this was accomplished the settlers used to walk every Sunday morning to New York, a distance of 20 miles, to attend the regular service at the Église du Saint Esprit, in Pine Street, and then they would walk back in the evening. Four times a year — at Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, and Michaelmas — the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered at New Rochelle, but at all other times it was necessary to go to the city. First the young children were carefully gathered together and left in charge of faithful friends. Then the procession started, with measured tread keeping time to music as men's and women's voices with fervour in some grand old psalm of Clement Marot. At a half-way place where a huge rock was shaded by cedars p330and fragrant pines they rested and took lunch, and then went on their way. We are assured that it was no unusual thing for men and women to do the 40 miles.4 For more than half a century they retained their native speech.

In the ancient city of Rochelle, whence most of these devoted worshippers came, one of the most important families was that of the Jays, apparently a branch of the Jays who were lords of Montonneau in Poitou. From that province, as early as 1565, the first Jean Jay whom we know, already converted to Protestantism, had come to live in Rochelle. His descendant, Pierre Jay, who was living there in 1685, was a wealthy merchant. One day in October a corps of 7000 fusileers from Béarn marched into Rochelle and began plundering as if in an enemy's country. The house of Pierre Jay was one of those that had been especially marked out for pillage. He succeeded in getting his wife and children out of the house, and, although the shore was closely patrolled on land by troops of cavalry and watched from the sea by warships, he contrived to elude this guard and put them safely on board a vessel that was just starting for Plymouth in England. After they had sailed out of harm's way they were missed, and Jay was forthwith thrown into prison for assisting them to escape. Some Catholic friends procured his release, but there was manifestly no hope of saving his property. He was expecting, however, one of his own ships from Spain, with a rich cargo of which he was sole owner. Taking into his confidence a bold and faithful pilot, he bade him watch out at sea for the ship and not let her come ashore but bring her to anchor off the island of Rhé. This was punctually done, and Jay, after lying hidden for some hours in the bottom of the pilot-boat, so near to a royal cruiser that he could hear the sailors talk, at length boarded his own ship and sailed away to Plymouth. Shortly afterwards his eldest son, Auguste, returning from a p331voyage to Africa, found the homestead deserted and dismantled, and all the property of the family confiscated. He contrived to slip on board a ship bound for the West Indies, and after a while the family were all united in the hospitable city of New York.

One of Pierre Jay's friends and neighbours in Rochelle was the ancestor of Henry Laurens, of South Carolina, and in the next town, only eleven miles away, dwelt the ancestor of Elias Boudinot, of New Jersey; — three presidents of our Continental Congress from one little corner of the coast of France! In Benjamin West's well-known picture of the American Commissioners at Paris, in 1783, John Jay and Henry Laurens are standing while the others sit, and Laurens's face is turned with a satisfied expression toward Jay, who had detected and defeated the insidious scheme of France which would fain have made the independent United States stop short at the Alleghany Mountains. When all the past circumstances crowd in upon our memory, there is something deeply impressive in the picture.

The Huguenots, as we have observed, were free to come to any of the American colonies, but showed a marked preference for New York and South Carolina. The choice of the Quakers, and of various German sects akin to them, was much more limited, and after the founding of Pennsylvania offered them such strong inducements, they were sure to go there. For the Quakers the state which Penn founded ensured them a much greater and more useful future than they could have had in England, where they have dwindled in numbers to less than 15,000. In America there are probably not less than 150,000. From Pennsylvania they have been to some extent distributed in the west and southwest, and the civilizing work which they have done, especially perhaps in the eighteenth century in North Carolina, has been of inestimable value. It was the coming of the Quakers to Pennsylvania in 1681 p332that brought also the first Germans. They came and made their first home in Germantown, hard by Philadelphia, and the reasons for their coming were closely connected with the sympathy between their views and those of the Quakers. We have seen how William Penn, who was himself half a Dutchman, made visits occasionally to Holland, and extended them into preaching tours through portions of Germany. He thus discovered many kindred spirits and held out inducements for them to come to his new colony. The first to come were the Mennonites, who were spiritual descendants of the mediaeval Quietists, and may probably have contained in their ranks a few Waldenses and Anabaptists. Their differences from the Quakers were so slight that they often held meetings together, and it was not uncommon to hear the Mennonites called German Quakers. In Germany and Switzerland they were savagely persecuted by Protestant and Catholic alike; so they gladly followed Penn to the New World. Their leader, Francis Daniel Pastorius, was an enthusiastic scholar, studying science, philosophy, jurisprudence, or whatever came to hand, and reading eight or ten languages. The Mennonites were followed by the Dunkers, a sect of German Baptists who came to Pennsylvania between 1719 and 1729, leaving none of their number behind. There are said to be more than 200,000 in the United States to‑day. About 1732, under the preaching of a singular mystic, Conrad Beissel, a portion of this sect broke off as Seventh Day Baptists, and founded a community at Ephrata, in some respects analogous to those of the Shakers. An interesting feature of these German sects is their learning and their devotion to literature. The Ephrata Community printed religious books in handsome type upon very fine paper; and they also knew good music. Besides these sects were the Labadists and Moravians, whom I must for the present dismiss with this mere mention.5

p333 Another migration from Germany, of a different kind and far more numerous, was that which came from the Rhenish Palatinate. The nearness of that province to Alsace, Lorraine, and Franche-Comté, upon which Louis XIV waged a war of conquest, often brought serious trouble upon it. The first devastation of the Palatinate in 1674 is the one dark spot upon the honourable career of Turenne, but it had a strategic excuse. The second devastation, in 1688, partly intended as a chastisement for harbouring Huguenots, was far more barbarously performed. Sad havoc was wrought at Heidelberg and Mannheim, and that beautiful country did not recover itself for more than two generations. Thousands of peasantry were reduced to a state of abject misery. This attracted the attention of British statesmen in the reign of Queen Anne, and a systematic effort was made to induce them to come to England in order to be shipped to America.6 Thus in the years 1708 and 1709 more than 30,000 Germans crossed the Channel, and were soon afterward brought in English ships to New York and the Carolinas, but above all to Pennsylvania. This was but the beginning of a vast stream of migration in which Palatine peasants were taken down the Rhine to Rotterdam and there shipped to Philadelphia. Some, indeed, came to New York and settled in the Mohawk Valley, where they gave us Nicholas Herkimer in the Revolutionary war; but most went into the valley of the Susquehanna in such large numbers, and remained so long without much intermixture, that their language still survives in the dialect which we call Pennsylvania Dutch, but which is really High German with a quaint admixture of English.7 p334Not all the Palatine immigrants tarried here, however; there were some, and those, I dare say, the most enterprising, who pressed onward and spread along the Appalachian frontier.8 Here they have played an important part, usually in association with a race of men of still more vigorous initiative, the so‑called Scotch-Irish.

The name Scotch-Irish is an awkward compound, and is in many quarters condemned. Curiously enough, there is no one who seems to object to it so strongly as the Irish Catholic. While his feelings toward the "Far-Downer" are certainly not affectionate, he is nevertheless anxious to claim him with his deeds and trophies, as simply Irish, and grudges to Scotland the claim to any share in producing him.9 It must be admitted, however, that there is a point of view from which the Scotch-Irish may be regarded as more Scotch than Irish. The difficulty might be compromised by calling them Ulstermen, or Ulster Presbyterians.

It is said to have been the poet Edmund Spenser who first suggested to Queen Elizabeth — perhaps when he came to p335London in 1594 to look after the publication of his "Faery Queene" — the plan of putting into Ireland a Protestant population that might come to outnumber and control the Catholics. It was in 1611 that James I began to put this scheme into operation, sending from Scotland and the northern counties of England a Presbyterian company of picked men and women of the best sort, yeomanry and craftsmen like those who settled Massachusetts and Connecticut, with many generations of ancestry behind them on a far higher level of intelligence and training than the native peasantry of Ireland. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the percentage of illiteracy in Ulster was probably smaller than anywhere else in the world. There were then more than a million of these Presbyterians in Ulster. About 1720, when they began coming in great numbers to America, those families that had been longest in Ireland had dwelt there but three generations, so that there is surely some laxity of speech in calling them Irish without some qualifying adjective.

The English experiment of thus scotticizing Ireland was defeated by a crass policy of protectionism combined with petty religious persecution. Flourishing linen and woollen industries had sprung up in Ulster, and sundry legislative handicaps were laid upon them for the "protection" of native industries in England. Thus did government treat its own pioneers as "foreigners" whom it was meritorious to plunder. At the same time divers civil disabilities were enacted for Presbyterians. The result of this twofold tyranny was the largest exodus from Europe to America that ever took place before the nineteenth century. Between 1730 and 1770 more than half of the Presbyterian population of Ulster came over to America, where it formed more than one sixth part of our entire population at the time of the Declaration of Independence.10

A few of these Presbyterians came to New England, where they have left their mark. But the great majority came to Pennsylvania and occupied the mountain country west of the Susquehanna. Thence a steady migration was kept up southwesterly along the Appalachian axis into the southern colonies. Now there was one very important respect in which these Presbyterians of Ulster had come to differ from their Presbyterian brethren in Scotland. In the "land of cakes" the kirk ruled things pretty much at its own sweet will, and was therefore in favour of keeping civil and spiritual affairs united. But in Ulster, whether in relation to their Catholic neighbours or more especially to the English parliament, Presbyterians were in a harassed minority, and therefore became convinced of the desirableness of divorcing church from state. Accordingly, in spite of a very rigid theology, they stood for a liberal principle, and other Protestant sects, such as Lutherans, Mennonites, and Dunkers, found it possible to harmonize with them, especially in the free atmosphere of Pennsylvania. The result was the partial union of two great streams of immigration, the Ulster stream and the Palatinate stream. It influenced South Carolina and Maryland most powerfully, completely renovated society in North Carolina, and broke down the sway of the Cavalier aristocracy in Virginia. While it sent southward men and women enough to accomplish all this, enough more remained in Pennsylvania to form more than half its population, raising it by 1770 to the third place among the thirteen colonies, next after Virginia and Massachusetts. From the same prolific hive came the pioneers of Kentucky and Tennessee, with their descendants throughout the vast mission valley and beyond. In all these directions, as I have elsewhere shown,11 this sturdy population, distilled through the Pennsylvania alembic, has formed the main strength of American democracy, and its influence upon American life has been manifold.

p337 In thus taking our leave of the Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, we must not forget that the close association between them was due to no mere accident of contiguity. William Penn was Dutch on his mother's side, and one sees in all his political ideas the broad and liberal temper that characterized the Netherlands before and beyond any other country in Europe. The two great middle colonies present a most interesting subject of comparative study because both have been profoundly influenced by Holland, but in the one case the Dutch ideas have been worked through the crucible of an individual genius, while in the other case they have flowered with random luxuriance. In the cosmopolitanism which showed itself so early in New Amsterdam and has ever since been fully maintained, there was added to American national life the variety, the flexibility, the generous breadth of view, the spirit of compromise and conciliation needful to save the nation from rigid provincialism. Among the circumstances which prepared the way for a rich and varied American nation, the preliminary settlement of the geographical centre by Dutchmen was certainly one of the most fortunate.


The Author's Notes:

1 Graetz, Les Juifs d'Espagne, 121.

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2 Daly, Jews in North America, 3.

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3 Daly, op. cit. 10.

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4 Bolton's Hist. of the County of Westchester, 1848, I.400. A slight pinch of salt seems to be needed, which I will leave it for the reader to supply at discretion.

Thayer's Pinch of Salt: The straight-line distance between the places marked on the map below — the old center of New Rochelle and Pine & William streets in New York City — is 18.4 miles (29.6 km), and the terrain is basically flat so that a reasonably straight route is possible; on the other hand the walking surface was not a comfortably paved modern road, and there is at least one watercourse to be crossed. Speaking from experience, 60 km in a single day is serious walking: only once in my life have I walked farther than that in a day, and I was out of commission for several days afterwards. For the body condition of a reasonably fit 48‑year‑old man after a 47‑km hike, although over hills, see my diary, Sept. 30, 1998.

At the rather athletic but by no means impossible clip of 6 km per hour, the distance represents ten hours of walking; add a lunch break and a religious service, and presumably a break on the return trip, and our Huguenot friends had a very full day. So: did people regularly do this? Was it just maybe a few strong men? Did groups go at least part of the way in carts? Or did the Huguenots of New Rochelle in fact turn this into a two-day outing? It would seem reasonable to leave on Saturday, get some shopping done in New York, stay there overnight, attend morning services, and walk back Sunday evening.

[and if you need it, here's help in using the map,
including my own symbols & added information.]

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5 See in this connection the admirable work of Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1895.

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6 A competent scholar assigns the travels of Penn in Germany in 1671 and 1677 as the chief cause of the direction of this wave of migration to Pennsylvania. See Diffenderffer, The German Exodus to England in 1709, Lancaster, 1807, p30. See, also, Sachse, The Fatherland, Philadelphia, 1897, pp142‑144.

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7 For example, Emerson's verses:

'T was one of the charmed days

When the genius of God doth flow,

The wind may alter twenty ways,

A tempest cannot blow;

It may blow north, it still is warm;

Or south, it still is clear;

Or east, it smells like a clover farm;

Or west, no thunder fear

have been rendered into Pennsylvania German:—

'S waar eens vun de harrliche Daage

Wann dar Himmel scheint uf ze sei;

Dar Wind maag zwanzig Wege jaage

'Es Wetter bleibt doch fei.

Bloost's vun de Nard, 's is waarm un schee;

Odder vun de South, 's bleibt hell:

Vun Marrige haer, mar riecht dar Klee;

Vun Owet, clear wie 'n Bell.

Zeigler, Drauss un Deheem: Gedichte in Pennsylvanisch Deitsch, Leipzig, 1891, — a charming little book.

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8 A good account of this migration is given in Cobb, The Story of the Palatines, New York, 1897.

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9 Amusing illustrations may be found in the correspondence appended to S. S. Green's excellent pamphlet, The Scotch-Irish in America, Worcester, 1895, pp42‑59.

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10 Much detailed information may be found in the Proceedings of the Scotch-Irish Congress, published annually since 1889, first at Cincinnati, afterwards at Nashville.

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11 Old Virginia and Her Neighbours, chap. XVII.


Thayer's Note:

a A very thorough multi-webpage collection of historical information on Kingston and its Dutch history, with many good photographs, engravings and maps may be found on James Werner's site.


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