The early settlement of New England was very different in its character. Nearly all the emigrants were small farmers, upon social equality, cultivating the fields with their own hands. Governors Carver and Bradford worked as diligently with hoe and plough as did any of their associates. They were simply first among equals.
“The only exception to this,” writes Mr. Kip,
“which we can remember was the case of the Gardiners of Maine. Their wide lands were confiscated for their loyalty. But on account of some informality, after the Revolution, they managed to recover their property and are still seated at Gardiner.”
For more than a century these distinguished families in New Netherland retained their supremacy undisputed. They filled all the posts of honor and emolument. The distinctions in society were plainly marked by the dress. The costume of the gentleman was very rich. His coat of glossy velvet was lined with gold lace. His flowing sleeves and ruffled cuffs gave grace to all the movements of his arms and hands. Immense wigs adorned his brow with almost the dignity of Olympian Jove. A glittering rapier, with its embossed and jewelled scabbard, hung by his side.
The common people in New Netherland, would no more think of assuming the dress of a gentleman or lady, than with us, a merchant or mechanic would think of decorating himself in the dress of a Major-General in the United States army. There was an impassable gulf between the peasantry and the aristocracy. The laborers on these large Dutch estates were generally poor peasants, who had been brought over by the landed proprietors, passage free. They were thus virtually for a number of years, slaves of the patroon, serving him until, by their labor, they had paid for their passage money. In the language of the day they were called Redemptioners. Often the term of service of a man, who had come over with his family, amounted to seven years.
“This system,” writes Mr. Kip,