Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 422 pages of information about Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete.

This may appear marvelous, but it is nevertheless true; in proof of which I would observe, that the dumb-fish has ever since become an object of superstitious reverence, and forms the Saturday’s dinner of every true Yankee.

The simple aborigines of the land for a while contemplated these strange folk in utter astonishment, but discovering that they wielded harmless, though noisy weapons, and were a lively, ingenious, good-humored race of men, they became very friendly and sociable, and gave them the name of Yanokies, which in the Mais-Tchusaeg (or Massachusett) language signifies silent men—­a waggish appellation, since shortened into the familiar epithet of Yankees, which they retain unto the present day.

True it is, and my fidelity as an historian will not allow me to pass over the fact, that having served a regular apprenticeship in the school of persecution, these ingenious people soon showed that they had become masters of the art.  The great majority were of one particular mode of thinking in matters of religion; but, to their great surprise and indignation, they found that divers Papists, Quakers, and Anabaptists were springing up among them, and all claiming to use the liberty of speech.  This was at once pronounced a daring abuse of the liberty of conscience, which they now insisted was nothing more than the liberty to think as one pleased in matters of religion, provided one thought right; for otherwise it would be giving a latitude to damnable heresies.  Now as they, the majority, were convinced that they alone thought right, it consequently followed that whoever thought different from them thought wrong:  and whoever thought wrong, and obstinately persisted in not being convinced and converted, was a flagrant violator of the inestimable liberty of conscience, and a corrupt and infestious member of the body politic, and deserved to be lopped off and cast into the fire.  The consequence of all which was a fiery persecution of divers sects, and especially of Quakers.

Now I’ll warrant there are hosts of my readers ready at once to lift up their hands and eyes, with that virtuous indignation with which we contemplate the faults and errors of our neighbors, and to exclaim at the preposterous idea of convincing the mind by tormenting the body, and establishing the doctrine of charity and forbearance by intolerant persecution.  But, in simple truth, what are we doing at this very day, and in this very enlightened nation, but acting upon the very same principle in our political controversies?  Have we not, within but a few years, released ourselves from the shackles of a government which cruelly denied us the privilege of governing ourselves, and using in full latitude that invaluable member, the tongue? and are we not at this very moment striving our best to tyrannize over the opinions, tie up the tongues, and ruin the fortunes of one another?  What are our great political societies but mere political inquisitions—­our pot-house committees but little tribunals of denunciation—­our newspapers but mere whipping-posts and pillories, where unfortunate individuals are pelted with rotten eggs—­and our council of appointment but a grand auto-da-fe, where culprits are annually sacrificed for their political heresies?

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Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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