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we suppose that to which we have referred to be decidedly the most prominent, and to rest on the highest authority. There are others of a more general nature, referred to in the publications from which we have quoted, on two or three of which we would bestow a little attention.
An impression has gone abroad, that the inhabitants of New England are an excessively frugal people. It ought better to be known why, when, and how far they are frugal. It is a point of honor with a New England man to maintain his family, and pay bis debts. Is he any the worse for that ? and how shall he do it, living, as he does, in a country of harsh climate and penurious soil? He cannot do it, except by persevering industry, and a methodical and prudent management of his affairs. If he is to be honest, he must be careful. Accordingly it is his custom, in pecuniary transactions, to avoid waste, and to stand for his rights. When he buys, he has first compared his wants with his means, and he does not intentionally give more for a thing than it is worth to bim. Wbat he has to sell, he has worked hard for, with a view to put it to some good use; and when he parts with it, he expecis to get its value. This, it must be owned, is, for a general rule, the habit of the country, and not merely the custom of the poorest.
A load of wood is driven to your door by a person, who perhaps might turn out, on inquiry, to be a selectman of his town, possibly even a representative in the General Court. When you have paid your fifteen or twenty dollars for your fuel, be expects you to pay him further the little piece of silver, which it cost him to have the wood surveyed. Why should be not? It is his right. He paid the money to the licensed measurer, for your greater security. There is no meanness in his demanding it back; there would be meanness in your grudging to refund it. There is no reason whatever, why he should give it to you. There is reason why he should keep it, to increase what he means to give in some other quarter. And if you follow him home the same day, it is very likely that you find him visiting some sick or aged neighbour's house, with a present, (the fruit of his expedition,) or going into town-meeting to vote for or urge some liberal appropriation, a full share of which is to come out of his pocket, for schools, roads, or alms-houses.
We should like, for the curiosity's sake, to see some system of ethics, which should show it to be otherwise than a duty, to spare that one may have to spend and give. We should be gratified to see a set argument to prove, what in some quarters is so constantly taken for granted, that it is praiseworthy to be so thoughtless and easy in one's money affairs, as to have nothing to bestow when some good object requires an appropriation. The New England notion of the honorableness and the uses of economy is different. Practical illustrations of it, as it is actually entertained, might be had in any plenty for the seeking. Let us see how things go on, in this respect, in Boston. We have no more convenient way of getting at a general idea of them, than by making an abridgment from the Appendix to President Quincy's Address on the second centennial anniversary of the settlement of that city.
President Quincy gives a list in specific sums of, 1. "Amounts received from the liberality of the citizens of Boston towards objects of a moral, religious, or literary character, chiefly within the last thirty years," making a total of $1,155,986; of which $354,400 were given to the Massachusetts Hospital ; $222,696 to Harvard College ; $ 79,582 to the Female Orphan Asylum, and $75,000 to the Athenæum. 2. Contributions for the relief of sufferers in five northern towns by fire, amounting to $67,462. 3. “Moneys raised within the time specified by various contributions, or by donations of individuals, for the patronizing of distinguished merit, or for the relief of men eminent for their public services (testamentary bequests not included,) $108,400. 4. “ Amounts collected for objects of general charity, or for the promotion of literary, moral, or religious purposes, by or under the influence of various religious societies in the metropolis (not including the particular annual objects of expenditure of each society,) $469,425. The sum total of particulars thus collected is $1,801,273. Mr. Quincy adds, that
“The object on this occasion has not been completeness, which was known to be impracticable, but as near an approximation to it as was possible. How far short the statement in this item is from the real amount collected, may be gathered from this fact, that information was requested for the amount collected within the last thirty years; yet more than half the sum stated in this item arose from collections made within the
As a further illustration, it may not be improper to state, that, within the last twelve years five citizens of Boston have deceased, whose bequests for objects exclusively of public interest or benevolence, when united, amount to a sum exceeding three hundred thousand dollars, and that one of these during the last twenty years of his life, is known to have given away towards similar objects, a sum equal to ten thousand dollars annually.”
last ten years.
This collection of facts was made in the autumn of 1830. If it were brought down to the present day, it would have to include, in a large variety of memoranda of the same kind, the munificent establishment of the Blind Asylum by a longtried public benefactor still living, and the institution, announced just before the time when we are writing, of free lectures in departinents of science and literature, with an endowment of $250,000, by a young Bostonian, who made the last arrangements for the execution of his plan in a distant city of Asia, whither he had gone for the purpose of enriching his countrymen with observations of his own mind.
But this, it will be said, is Boston, the chief seat of New England wealth, and a place wrought upon by influences of its own. It is Boston ; and what then ? Boston is a mere abstraction of New England, and a large portion of the men who are there most public-spirited and useful, have brought thither the principles and habits, which make them so, from some interior place of their nativity. Let us see what economy means, and what it comes to, in the country towns. An extract from Mr. Emerson's Centennial Discourse at Concord will serve us for that purpose ; we will pledge ourselves to multiply such collections of facts as long as our revilers will have patience to read them.
“In the whole course of the war, the town did not depart from this pledge it had given. Its little population of 1300 souls, behaved like a party to the contest. The number of its troops constantly in service is very great. Its pecuniary burdens are out of all proportion to its capital. The economy so rigid, which marked its earlier history, has all vanished. It spends profusely, affectionately, in the service. Since,' say
• the plaintive records, General Washington, at Cambridge, is not able to give but 24s. per cord for wood, for the army; it is voted, that this town encourage the inhabitants to supply the army, by paying two dollars per cord, over and above the General's price, to such as shall carry wood thither;' and 210 cords of wood were carried. A similar order is taken respecting hay. Whilst Boston was occupied by the British troops,
Concord contributed to the relief of the inhabitants £70 in money; 225 bushels of grain; and a quantity of meat and wood. When, presently, the poor of Boston were quartered by the Provincial Congress on the neighbouring country, Concord received 82 persons to its hospitality. In the year 1775, it raised 100 minute men, and 74 soldiers to serve at Cambridge. In March, 1776, 145 men were raised by this town to serve at Dorchester Heights. In June, the General Assembly of Massachusetts resolved to raise 5000 militia, for six months, to reinforce the Continental army. * The numbers,' say they, 'are large, but this court has the fullest assurance, that their brethren on this occasion, will not confer with flesh and blood, but will, without hesitation, and with the utmost alacrity and despatch, fill up the numbers proportioned to the several towns.' On that occasion, Concord furnished 67 men, paying them itself, at an expense of £622. And so on, with every levy, to the end of the war.
For these men, it was continually providing shoes, stockings, shirts, coats, blankets, and beef. The taxes, which, before the war, had not much exceeded L 200 per annum, amounted, in the year 1782, to $9544 in silver. The great expense of the war was borne with cheerfulness, whilst the war lasted; but years passed, after the peace, before the debt was paid. As soon as danger and injury ceased, the people were left at leisure to consider their poverty and their debts. The town records show how slowly the inhabitants recovered from the strain of excessive exertion.” — pp. 37–38.
The spirit of the administration of the towns is referred to by the same writer, in a succeeding paragraph. It is the spirit
, in New England, — as any body may know, who will be at pains to inquire, — of whatever may appear to
be distinctive in habits of public and private economy; and, if there were more of it in the world, we are sure it would be all the better, both for individual character and the general well-being
“The tone of the records rises with the dignity of the event. These soiled and musty books are luminous and electric within. The old town-clerks did not spell very correctly, but they contrive to make pretty intelligible the will of a free and just community. Frugal our fathers were, - very frugal, - though, for the most part, they deal generously by their minister, and provide well for the schools and the poor. If at any time, in common with most of our towns, they have carried this economy
to the verge of a vice, it is to be remembered that a town is, in many respects, a financial corporation. They economize, that they may sacrifice. They stint and higgle on the price of a pew, that they may send 200 soldiers to General Washington, to keep Great Britain at bay. For splendor, there must somewhere be rigid economy.
That the head of the house may go brave, the members must be plainly clad, and the town must save that the State may spend.” — pp. 41, 42.
These allusions to transactions of the revolutionary war, paturally suggest the thought of what is so largely said and sung, respecting the New Englanders being an unchivalrous people. Perhaps they are so. We hardly know whether to affirm or deny ; for the word chivalrous, in its recent use in some parts of the United States, is one of the most vague of Americanisms. We exceedingly desire to see a dictionary, in which the new application of the word shall be authoritatively explained. If to be chivalrous implies a readiness to fatal street broils, most unchivalrous are we, for the halter is our standing remedy for the propensity to assassination, once developed in the act. Nay, our laws (and we feel confident in saying, our juries too, though the case has not yet come up,) make absolutely no difference between murder after a challenge has been passed, and one gone about without that formality, and our soil is almost literally unstained by blood shed in what has been fancifully called honorable combat. But he who would bazard the assertion, that the New England race is not one of the most adventurous and indomitable courage, bas little thought what stiff facts he undertakes to deal with, in their history. The account of the early contests with the natives is crowded with a succession of the most romantic achievements. From the period of the first collision between French and English on this continent, down to the taking of Quebec, the New England colonies were readiest for every sacrifice, and foremost in every danger. The capture of Louisbourg itself, in 1745, is not chiefly an interesting fact because it was the only success obtained by the English arms during a long war, and gave peace to Europe, but because of the extraordinary developement of character, in the successful expedition of a few regiments of colonial militia against a distant fortress, one of the strongest of the world both by nature and art.
In respect to the extent of the part taken by New England, and especially