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Think not man was made in vain, who has such an eternity reserved for him.” I gazed with inexpressible pleasure on these happy islands.
19. At length said I: “Show me now, I beseech thee, the secrets that lie hid under those dark clouds which cover the ocean on the other side of the rock of adamant.” The genius making me no answer, I turned about to address myself to him a second time, but I found that he had left me. I then turned again to the vision which I had been so long contemplating, but, instead of the rolling tide, the arched bridge, and the happy islands, I saw nothing but the long, hollow valley of Bagdat, with oxen, sheep, and camels grazing upon the sides of it.
LII. - LESSONS IN FLOWERS.
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
Dear, tell them that if eyes were made for seeing,
THE FRINGED GENTIAN.
Thou blossom, bright with autumn dew,
Thou comest not when violets lean
Thou waitest late and com'st alone,
Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
LIII. - AMERICAN COLONISTS.
1. The growth of the colonies from the first settlements in 1607 and 1620 to the end of the French and Indian War had been slow but steady. When a gardener finds that a healthy young plant shows but little progress, he is not discouraged. He says cheerfully, “ It is all right; it is making roots, and will last the longer.” For a century and a half the colonies had been “making roots," — getting that firm hold so necessary for the future growth of a free and powerful nation.
2. In 1763 the entire population probably did not greatly exceed that of New York City now. Of this about one-sixth were negro slaves; every colony had some, but by far the larger part were owned south of the Potomac. This population was nearly all east of the Alleghanies. West of those mountains the country was really a howling wilderness. The majority of the colonists — especially in Virginia and New England were English or of English descent. Next in number came the Germans in Pennsylvania, the Dutch in New York, the Irish and Scotch-Irish who had settled to some extent in all of the colonies, and, finally, the descendants of the Huguenots, or French Protestants, most numerous in South Carolina.
3. Nearly all of the colonists spoke English, and nearly all were Protestants. Most of them had sprung from the same social class in the mother-country. A witty Frenchman of that day said that the people of
England reminded him of a barrel of their own beer — froth on the top, dregs at the bottom, but clear and sound in the middle. It was from that energetic, industrious, self-respecting middle class that the greater part of the emigrants to this country came. In none of the colonies was there a titled aristocracy holding land, and established by law as in Europe. In Virginia, however, the great plantations were usually handed down to the eldest son after the English fashion. America had men of intelligence and wealth, but no lords; she had learned and influential clergymen, but no bishops.
4. Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston were the chief cities, yet even Philadelphia, then the largest, had only about twenty thousand inhabitants, and not one of these cities published a daily paper, and did not until more than twenty years later. .
The foreign trade of the country was prosperous. The South exported tobacco, rice, indigo, tar, and turpentine; the North, fish, lumber, furs, and iron. New England built and sold so many sailing-vessels that the shipcarpenters of Great Britain complained that the Americans were ruining their business. Manufactories were comparatively few.
5. England treated her colonies in a broader and more generous spirit than any other nation in Europe, but she wished, so far as practicable, to compel the Americans to buy all their goods from her. On this account she refused to let them make so much as a yard of fine woolen cloth, an iron pot, or print a new Testament. The people of this country did not openly dis
pute this right, or supposed right, of the mother-country to restrict their trade; but they smuggled goods, especially tea and other luxuries, from Europe; and the British custom-house officers pretty generally winked at the landing of such articles.
6. The colonists, though loyal to the king, were full of sturdy independence of character. In 1775 some of them adopted a flag on which was a rattlesnake coiled ready to strike, and the words, “ DON'T TREAD ON ME”; but they might have hoisted such colors just as well a dozen years before, for that flag expressed what their real spirit had always been. Though there was but little communication between the colonies, yet they were essentially one people, — they spoke the same language, they appealed for justice to the same general law, they held, with some few exceptions, the same religion.
7. Few of the colonists were very rich; fewer still were miserably poor. The mass of the people lived simply but comfortably. The farm-houses were generally built of huge timbers covered with rough, unpainted clapboards, often with the upper story projecting so that in case of an attack by Indians, the owner could fire down on the savages and give them a reception they would remember.
8. Usually the center of such houses was taken up by an immense open fireplace, so big that it was a fair question whether the chimney was built for the house or the house for the chimney. On a snapping cold night there was no more cheerful sight than such a fireplace piled up with blazing logs, round which our forefathers and