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a view to serve for a look-out. It commands the whole island, together with its sea girt horizon; and there is one individual, whose observant eye is sharp enough, with the help of glasses, to distinguish the different vessels belonging to the place, as they come to anchor, occasionally, in the harbour of Martha's Vineyard. Even the amusements of children partake of the seafaring spirit. They learn to row spontaneously, as they learn to swim; and nothing is more common in the harbour of Sherburne, than to see the boys paddling about upon planks, or putting before the wind little sail boats of their own construction. This early initiation begets a hankering after the sea, and by the time they are ten or twelve years of age they will ship themselves for cabbin boys, and are with difficulty restrained by their parents from undertaking the most hazardous adventures. Not long since a boy of ten years old broke away from school, and got on board of the Bedford Packet, he was gone some days before he could be heard of, and when the little rogue was asked what could have induced him to run away from his friends, he cooly replied, He was tired of seeing nothing but Nantucket.
The numerous ponds upon the island once abounded with Teal, Brant, and other varieties of wild fowl; and the head of the harbour, running several iniles inland, furnished the first settlers with plenty of clams and oysters.
These have now become scarce, from being too freely used; but the neighbouring banks still abound with cod, halibut, seabass; blackfish, mackarel, herring, flounders, smelt, perch, &c. The soil produces spontaneously, besides beach grass, blue grass, herd grass, and white clover; and peat is found in the swamps: but it is totally destitute of stone as well as of timber.
In common with other places of easy circumstance, and difficult access, the people of Nantucket are happy to see strangers, and such as have any thing to recommend them to notice, are entertained with unbounded hospitality from house to house. Luxuries are held in common, for whoever has avy thing better than his neighbours will send it to them without asking in case of company, or sickness. If one who gives a dinner is scant af provisions, he makes no scruple to borrow a joint of meat, and (what is frequently less convenient to the lender) a horse, or a riding chair, will be applied for without reserve; and a refusal would hardly be taken well, though the loan should reduce the owner to go out himself in a cart, the usual carriage of the island, in which the most responsible personages are seen riding about with all the gravity of decorum, in hats and wigs, with their wives and daughters at their side.
When riding chairs were first introduced at Nantucket the outlandish conveyance was considered as too effeminate for manly use, and of the two persons who first risked the innovation, one was persuaded to renounce the unbecoming indulgence, and the other only retained it in consideration of delicate health, and on condition of lending it to others in the same predicament. The progress of improvement, however, and the influx of wealth, were not to be long resisted; but the obnoxious vehicle is still regarded by the commonalty with a jealous eye, on occasional rencounters in the streets; and the riders in carts unwillingly give way to the riders in chairs, on their afternoon excursions to Quayes, and Palpus, and Pocomo, and Squam, lone houses of the same sober gray with the heath which surrounds them, unsheltered by a single tree of native growth; yet there is one spot on the island which is still called, "the woods,” though it has been time out of mind, without a shrub, the native trees having gone to decay on clearing the fields and letting in the sea air.
Upon a high bluff which breasts the surges, at the east end of this monotonous plain, are two fishing villages, Sesakaty and Siasconsit. The latter consists of about forty houses, or rather huts, of one story, standing apart, in four rows, leaving three broad lanes between them, which are covered with a fine sward of grass, the place being only resorted to spring and fall; when the bank is crowded with women and children, and 20 or 30 boats are soinetimes seen off shore at a time, catching cod. In a more simple age it was customary for visitors from town to make themselves welcome at any table in the place; and when they went away to take what fish they pleased, for nothing. Now two or three widowed families make a living by entertaining strongers, and if they want fish they pay for it.
Before the revolution, the people of Nantucket were like a band of brothers. They were then an unmixed race, of English descent. They were all clad in homespun, and minded their own business. Such a thing as a bankruptcy was therefore almost unexampled. They are now much intermixed with strangers, and concomitant habits prevail; yet they still frequently call each other by the familiar appellations of uncle, aunt, cousin, &c. Persons of note are saluted by every body they meet; and the popular name of captain is often bestowed on respectable people, who never followed the sea, and perpetuated, as a creditrbie title, like that of squire on the continent, to those who have retired from business. One quiet lane, leading into the country, is called India Row, from the number of persons of this description, who reside there, in ease, and affluence; and Mitchel street, so called from being mostly inhabited by people of that name, forms a delightful retreat along shore, for those concerned in the whale trade; some of whom are very rich, and many of them inhabit roomy houses, and live in the genteelest style of middle life, except only the use of that elegant luxury called a coach.
From the habit of transacting business in the absence of their husbands, women are frequently concerned in mercantile affairs and manage them to advantage. Two lawyers suffice the wrangling of the bar, and ply their talents upon the continent, between the terms; and three doctors recommend themselves to practice by making up their own prescriptions, and frequently adopting the simples which were used by the Indian natives. No printer has ever thought it worth while to establish himself at Nantucket, since nobody there pretends to fathom the gulf of foreign politics; and domestic disputes are never agitated, but at the eve of an election.
During the war the people of this secluded island were prevented by their situation, from taking any part in the struggle for independence, and they were suffered to maintain a sort of defenceless neutrality, between alternate marauders, neither par. ty suspecting treachery, or committing unnecessary depredations at Nantucket, whose peaceable inhabitants are to this day al
lowed an exemption from the oppressive routine of militia duty: but the harbour of Sherburne is mostly filled with ice every season, and in the hard winter of 1780, the surface of the sea was frozen over as far as
ir as the ey
eye could reach, and all communication with the continent was cut off during forty days. Such a circumstance had never occurred before, the winters being rarely
In summer they enjoy a happy temperature, the thermometer seldom rising above 80°. of Fahrenheit; and the highest winds seldom preventing a daily intercourse with the neighbouring continent.
The whole island is held in common, under shares of propriety, originally no more than twenty-seven; but these have been subdivided, by purchase, or inheritance, till many proprietors of the poorer
class hold no more than gives them a right to pasture one cow, or eight sheep; a horse being reckoned equivalent to two cows. A council of proprietors prevents encroachments, and decides, every season, on what part of the island the great corn field shall be. Here every one cultivates his own share, which is sometimes but a narrow slip, the bounds of which he carefully marks, by sticks or stones; but should these be displaced the horse that ploughed it up, may safely be trusted to find the spot again. Once a year, about the middle of June, all the sheep, amounting to some thousands, are driven into pens, when each man selects his own, shears them himself, and separates such as he wants for use. This is the only holiday which is kept at Nantucket. The whole country turns out to enjoy the occasion, booths are set up with refreshments, and the annual merriment is as highly relished by these sober people, as the salutations of May morning, or the healths of Washington's birth day.
Such has been, for a century and a half, the patriarchal manner of occupying the island of Nantucket: but the spirit of innovation has found its way even here; and there is now a plan in agitation for dividing to each proprietor his share, in fee simple, under the specious plea of putting it into the power of every man, “ to
, manage his own affairs, in his own way.” Should this operation take place, it will probably throw large tracts into particular hands, who'may improve the breed of sheep, and ameliorate the soil.
perhaps plant trees, that might again keep off the spray of the sea, and cover the nakedness of the land: but the place would lose forever its most interesting peculiarities. It would be no longer a copartnership of kinsfolk, with a common interest in the general prosperity. The small landholders would be obliged to sell their freeholds, because they would not be worth fencing in.
The present equality and sociability of all ranks, would give place to that emulation, and reserve, which prevail in more cultivated societies; and, in another century, the people of Nantucket would be no longer remarkable for an attachment to their native place, which is now one of their distinguishing characteristics.
THE POLITE SCHOLAR FOR THE PORT FOLIO.
ego One of the noblest privileges of my situation and my studies
. is to indicate to the studious gentlemen of the country such immortal authors, as have enjoyed and deserved the brightest honours of the muse. It is moreover, as my friends, the lawyers, would express it, my bounden duty to introduce to my countrymen every illustrious stranger, whenever I have the glorious opportunity of being the gentleman usher on such an occasion. I understand to my astonishment that the genius and writings of a celebrated chancellor of France are almost entirely unknown in America; and that the works of D'
EAU are not in the hands of every barrister and politician. Let us reveal the preten
w sions of a great man; let us first quote in his favour, the authority of the junior lord Lyttleton, and then publish, from a scarce source, the Biography of another Bacon.
My country employments are better than you imagine. I am reading, with great care and observation, the works of the chancellor D'Aguesseau of France. Many years ago, my father gave a volume of them to me, desiring me to study it with attention,