In December, 1941, the Dutchess County Historical Society lost by death one of its most
interested and valued members. William S. Thomas, M.D., of New York City, who joined the society in 1917.
Dr. Thomas's forbears were - many of them - residents of Dutchess and is boyhood was spent in the house (built 1786) that is still standing
at 90-92 Market street, Poughkeepsie. He was a great-grandson of Henry Livingston, Jr., whose home was the property called
Locust Grove (now owned by Mrs. William Hopkins Young), which is on the Post Road about two miles south of the Court House at Poughkeepsie.
Among all the descendants of Henry Livingston, Jr., there is a tradition and a firm belief that he wrote the familiar lines which begin:
'Twas the Night Before Christmas, lines which the general public credits to the pen of Clement C. Moore of New York, a professor
in the General Theological Seminary.
The family tradition is full of circumstantial detail and Dr. Thomas grew up steeped in all that his relatives told him
in regard to this fascinating poem. In his mature years he made it his own particular task to assemble every item of information obtainable as
to the authorship of the poem. When he died his large collection of material passed to his son, Mr. W. Stephen Thomas.
In the weeks immediately preceding Dr. Thomas's sudden death he had conferred with Mr. Reese, president of the Dutchess County
Historical Society and with Miss Reynolds, editor of the Year Book, in regard to his collection. After his death, Mr. Reese
conferred further with Mr. W. Stephen Thomas. Then came Mr. Reese's sudden death. Mr. Thomas then arranged for his father's data to be sent
to Miss Reynolds, to be examined in behalf of the Year Book. The notes made by Miss Reynolds on Dr. THomas' collection are in part presented here below.
Of course the major portion of Dr. Thomas's papers have to do with the evidence he gathered in support of the tradition that Henry Livingston, Jr., wrote:
'Twas the Night Before Christmas. In this present article is not the intention of the editor to dwell on that evidence for it is admittedly not final, although
to many it is convincing and no just person would brush it aside lightly. To a native of Dutchess County and to one who admires Henry Livingston, Jr., as an
outstanding resident of Dutchess, nothing could give more pleasure than to see the poem proven of local production.
It may be permissable to say in passing that any person who becomes familiar with what is known definitely of Clement C. Moore and of Henry Livingston, Jr.,
will realize how completely different the two men were in mind and temperament and tastes. Dr. Moore was learned, measured, rather ponderous, and his writings
do not indicate gayety of spirit and have no lightness of touch. Those who believe that he wrote the poem in question point to a volume of verses,
published by him in 1844, in which the poem is included. The volume contains 37 poems and, in the preface, over his own signature, Dr. Moore states that every
thing in the book was written by himself, except two items which, he said, were by his wife.
Examination of the book reveals, however, that of the 37 poems 7 were not written by Dr. Moore. Two were by Mrs. Moore, as he said. Subtitles show that
one was written by William Bard and one by "P. Hone." Two were translations from Itanlian authors and one was a
translation from the Greek. Of the rest, 21 have sub-titles stating when and why Dr. Moore wrote them: 8 have no sub-titles; and, finally, a ninth
without a sub-title is headed: A Visit from St. Nicholas.
Thus there is a discrepancy between the contents of Dr. Moore's book and what Dr. Moore said, in the preface, that the book contained.
This comment is not made to impugn Dr. Moore's integrity. But it does serve to show that his book was carelessly compiled, without
coordination between the preface and the contents. The fact of that discrepancy focuses attention on A Visit from St. Nicholas, the spirit and style of which are totally
unlike Dr. Moore's usual habit of thought and manner of writing and totally unlike anything else in the book. One of Henry Livingston's family (a contemporary of his),
when she heard of this book, instantly said with calm and quiet confidence: "A mistake has been made." Which would seem to be a kind conclusion in
the light of the several inaccuracies in the volume. It is probable that A Visit from St. Nicholas is the only poem in this book that is alive today.
Setting aside the question of the authorship of A Visit from St. Nicholas, there is another aspect of Dr. Thomas's data that is of special
interest for the readers of this Year Book. The records throw strong light upon the personality,
attainments and surroundings of Henry Livingston, Jr., and, in so doing, throw light also upon the cultural conditions in Dutchess County
in the years in which Mr. Livingston lived and worked.
Henry Livingston, Jr., was born at Poughkeepsie in 1748; established his home at Locust Grove just before the Revolution; held a commission as Major
under Montgomery in the expedition to Canada; returned home ill; and, recovering, lived a busy and useful life at Locust Grove until his death in 1828.
He was a farmer; a lover of nature and of country llife; a surveyor; a justice of the peace; he wrote poems; painted pictures; drew maps; went to dancing
parties; was fond of music (he played both violin and flute); loved children; admired pretty girls; was a fun-maker; had a favor exclamation: Dunder and Blitzen;
while, finally, some of his serious writings reveal a truly devout religious faith. There may also be found in his writings traces of a good knowledge
of geography, of foreign and domestic politics and of classical literature. That he had imagination is witnesses to by his story of: The Happy Vale, quoted in part below.
The versatility of Henry Livingston, Jr., cannot be taken as typical of most men in the community in which he lived. Such varied accomplishments
as he possessed are rarely found at any time or in any
place centered in an individual. But his standards in art and literature, the social customs outlined in his writings; his industry
and business acumen may all, with fairness, be taken as the measure of such things locally in his day.
From this point of view Dr. Thomas's collection of material provides much that is information about Dutchess County in the late 18th and
early 19th centuries and, from that collection, a number of excerpts are here given that the reader may see not only what Henry Livingston, Jr.,
was like but what Dutchess was like in his day along certain lines.
To show something of Major Livingston's love of the country and dislike of the city his poem: An Invitation to the Country is copied here from the original,
found in his own notebook, a book filled with entries in his writing. In this notebook is another composition entitled: Song,
which also extols the simple life. Song was published in February, 1791, in the New York Magazine and Literary Repository but, in the printed
version the title is changed to: Frontier Song and the fourth line of each stanza is altered from: "My puppy, squaw and gun" to read:
"My wife, my dog, my gun." The change in the title is explanatory but something of the frontier is lost in the change of the line.
AN INVITATION TO THE COUNTRY
The winter all surly is flown,
The frost, and the ice, and the snow:
The violets already have blown,
Already the daffodils glow.
The forests and copses around,
Their foilage begin to display;
The copses and forests resound
With the music and disport of May.
E'er Phoebus has gladded the plains,
E'er? the mountains are tip'd with his gold.
The sky larks shrill matin proclaims,
A songster, harmonius as bold.
The Linnet, and Thrush, thro the day,
Join notes with the soft cooing dove;
Not a bush, but can witness a lay;
Or the softer endearments of Love.
At eve, when the shadows prevail;
And night throws her mantle around;
The nightingale warbles her tale
And harmony dwells in the sound.
The grasshopper chirps at our feet,
The butterfly wings it along,
The season of love will compleat
What they want in the raptures of song.
Not an insect that flits o'er the lawn
But gambols in pleasure and play,
Rejoicing the winter is gone,
And hailing the pleasanter May.
Let us join in their revels my dear!
To innocent joy give a loose!
No surfeits or harm can we fear
The pleasures we cannot abuse.
What is all the gay town can bestow?
That all its inhabitants share?
But trifles and glitter and show,
That cloy and displease as they glare.
These snares may entangle the weak;
But never the rational soul;
The flimsy enchantments will break
Where reason can never control.
By the side of a murmuring stream,
Where willows the margin imbrown;
We'll wander, unheeded, unseen,
Nor envy the taste of the town.
In scenes, where confusion and noise
And riots loud voice is unknown;
We'll humbly participate joys,
That ever from greatness have flown.
Let avarice smile o'er its gain,
Ambition exult at its height,
Dissipation unloose every rein,
In pursuit of forbidden delight.
We'll cling to our cottage, my love,
There a meeting with bliss we ensure.
The Seraphs who carol above
Must smile on enjoyments so pure.
Let statesmen tread their giddy round
Undoing and undone,
I hug my cell where still is found
My puppy squaw and gun.
Let the gay Beau and tinsel'd Belle
In pleasure's circle run,
My happiness their joys excel
My puppy squaw & gun.
When forests nod, and lakes expand
And foaming cat'racts stun
I've fix'd my home: on either hand
My puppy squaw & gun.
Ambitions's path, the miser's road
The legal maze I shun;
But cling to my belov'd abode
My puppy squaw & gun.
One of the most engaging traits exhibited by Henry Livingston, Jr., was his delight in children and from his manuscript notebook three poems
are here sub-joined which were written for children. The first one quoted was written for a little niece about a bird and is as sweet and tender an
epitaph as a little wren could be given. Anne Duyckinck, the child to whom the second selection is addressed, was the daughter of Mr. Livingston's sister,
Susanna, and Gerardus Duyckinck. The Duyckinck household lived near Locust Grove.
The third selection from the manuscript notebook is a humorous one. The boy of seven, for whom it was written, was Timothy Dwight, son of Timothy and Mary (Woolsey) Dwight,
who grew up to be a prosperous merchant in New Haven and to endow the "Dwight Professorship of Didactic Theology" at Yale. The lines addressed to him afford a vivid
picture of the games played in 1785 by little boys and of the perennial appetite of boys at play. These lines to "Timmy" were published (with minor changes) in
the Country Journal and Poughkeepsie Advertiser of February 14, 1787, where they are headed: An Epistle to a Young Friend Just in Breeches."
A child of Henry Livingston, Jr., Catherine Breese Livingston, born in 1809, died in 1814, and the stone at her grave was inscribed with a verse
assumed to have been written by her father. The verse appears below, as a fourth quotation.
To my little neice Sally Livingson|
on the death of a little serenading wren
Hasty pilgrim stop thy pace
Turn a moment to this place
Read what pity hath erected
To a songster she respected.
Little minstrel all is o'er
Never will thy chirpings more
Soothe the heavy heart of care
Or dispel the darkness there.
I have known thee e'er the sun
Hath on yonder mountain shone;
E'er the sky-lark hath ascended,
Or the Thrush her throat distended;
Cheerful trill thy little ditty
As the singer, blithe and pretty.
Labour stood, half bent to hear,
Study lent a list'ning ear,
Dissipation stop'd a while,
Grief was even seen to smile,
Ambition - but the gushing tear
O'erwhelms the stone and stops me here.
To my little neice, Ann Duyckinck,
aged 9 years
To his charming black-ey'd niece
Uncle Harry wishest peace!
Wishes roses ever strow'd
O'er her sublunary road!
No rude winds around her howl
O'er her head no tempests scowl;
No red lightnings flash around
No loud thunders rock the ground!
Bright has been her morning sun
Brighter still be that to come!
All a blue serene above,
Within, all innocence & love.
Letter sent to master Timmy Dwight
7 yrs old, Dec. 7, 1785
Master Timmy brisk and airy
Blythe as Oberon the fairy
On thy head thy cousin wishes
Thousand and ten thousand blisses.
Never may thy wicket ball
In a well or puddle fall;
Or thy wild ambitious kite
O'er the Elm's thick foliage light.
When on bended knee thou sittest
And the mark in fancy hittest
May thy marble truly trace
Where thy wishes mark'd the place.
If at hide and seek you play,
All involved in the hay
Titt'ring hear the joyful sound
"Timmy never can be found."
If you hop or if you run
Or whatever is the fun,
Vic'try with her sounding pinion
Hover o'er her little minion.
But when hunger calls the boys
From their helter skelter joys:
Bread and cheese in order standing
For their most rapacious handling
Timmy may thy luncheon be
More than Ben's as five to three.
But if hasty pudding's dish
Meet thy vast capacious wish -
Or lob-lollys charming jelly
Court thy cormorantal belly
Mortal foe to megre fast
Be thy spoonful first & last.
We fondly nurs'd an op'ning rose,
Watch'd o'er each beauty every day;
But ah! a withering blast arose
And swept our lovely flow'r away.
That there was quite a bit of gayety in social life in Dutchess in the time of Henry Livingston, Jr., is to be inferred from his writings.
One poem of his, that was referred to in the Year Book of this society for 1919, was printed in full in the volume: Dutchess County Doorways
and is quoted below in part from the original in the manuscript notebook.
Taken as a whole it is a rebus, providing the name of Nancy Crooke, a beauty of the 1780's, whose home was on the Post Road, north of the village of
Poughkeepsie, on land where now Mrs. J.R. Roosevelt lives. The selection made here from the whole is chosen for in picture of a
In the manuscript notebook of Major Livingston is a composition, The Acknowledgement, dated 1787, that describes the very high coiffures worn by the ladies of that
period, the hoops that set out the dress-skirts, and all the elaborate artificiality then fashionable.
There is much of local detail in a letter in the notebook, which was written by Major Livingston (in the form of a poem) to his younger brother, Beekman Livingston.
Henry Livingston, Jr., was one of the five sons of Henry Livingston, Sr. (and his wife, Susanna Concklin) of Poughkeepsie. - Gilbert, born 1742 (a lawyer at Poughkeepsie); John H., born 1746 (a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church); Henry, Jr.,
himself, born 1748; Robert H., born 1760, of Poughkeepsie; and Beekman, born (17..?), to whom the rhyming letter was addressed.
In this long "letter" (and who reads it but will be reminded by its meter and general character of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas,
when all through the house," &c, &c) Beekman Livingston is shown to have been living in 1786 at New Lebanon, N.Y., with "Paul," who was Paul Schenck, his brother-in-law,
the husband of his sister, Joanna. Paul Schenck was a well known merchant. In the 1770's he was at the Upper Landing, Poughkeepsie; in the 1780's at New Lebanon and, around
1800, he was on Main street, Poughkeepsie. The old dwelling occupied by him as both dwelling and store (the custom of the day) is now 319-321 Main street; it was remodelled
in 1941 and its early structural lines and triple central window lost. Before helping his brother-in-law in the latter's store at New Lebanon Beekman Livingston
is said [J.H. Smith, History of Dutchess County, p.142] to have had a store himself in 1781 in Poughkeepsie on the southeast corner of Market and Cannon streets and,
further, that he illuminated the store October 29th, 1781, when the news was received of the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
In the letter to "brother Beekman" a lively account is given of the doings of the younger social group in Dutchess in 1786.
A DANCING PARTY
If a pin or a hankerchief happen to fall
To seize on the prise fills with uproar the hall:
Such pulling and hawling & shoving & pushing
As rivals the racket of 'key & the cushion;'
And happy- thrice happy! too happy! the swain
Who can replace the pin or bandana again.
Tho the fellows surround & so humbly adore her
The girls on the contrary cannot endure her;
Her beauty their beauty forever disgraces
And her sweeter face still eclipses their faces.
For no lov'ly girl can a lov'ly girl bear
And fair-ones are ever at war with the fair.
THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT 1787
With the ladies' permission, most humbly I'd mention
How much we're oblidged by all their attention;
We sink with the weight of the huge obligation
Too long & too broad to admit compensation.
For us (and I blush while I speak I declare)
The charming Enchanters be-torture their hair,
Till gently it rises and swells like a knoll
Thirty inches at least from the dear little poll;
From the tip-top of which all peer out together
The ribband, the gause, & the ostrich's feather;
Composing a sight for an Arab to swear at
Or huge Patagonian a fortnight to stare at.
Then hoops at right angles that hang from ye knees
And hoops at the hips in connection with these
Set the Fellows presumptuous who court an alliance
And ev'ry pretender, at awful defiance.
And I have been told (though I must disbelieve
For the tidings as fact, I would never receive)
That billets of cork have supplied the place
Of something the Fair-ones imagine a grace;
But whether 'tis placed behind or before;
The shoulders to swell, or the bosom to shoar
To raise a false wen or expand a false bump
Project a false hip or protrude a false rump,
Was never ascertain'd; and fegs I declare
To make more enquiry I never will dare.
Letter to my brother Beekman, who then lived with
Mr. Schenck at New Lebanon - 1786
To my dear brother Beekman I sit down to write
Ten minutes past eight & a very cold night.
Not far from me sits with a baullancy cap on
Our very good couzin, Elizabeth Tappen,
A tighter young seamstress you'd ne'er wish to see
And she (blessings on her) is sewing for me.
New shirts & new cravats this morning cut out
Are tumbled in heaps and lye huddled about.
My wardrobe (a wonder) will soon be enriched
With ruffles new hemmed & wristbands new stitched.
Believe me dear brother tho women may be
Compared to us, of inferiour degree
Yet still they are useful I vow with a fegs
When our shirts are in tatters & jackets in rags.
Now for news my sweet fellow - first learn with a sigh
That matters are carried here gloriously high
Such gadding - such ambling - such jaunting about
To tea with Miss Nancy - to sweet Willy's rout
New parties at coffee - then parties at wine
Next day all the world with the Major must dine.
Then bounce all hands to Fishkill must go in a clutter
To guzzle bohea and destroy bread & butter
While you at New Lebanon stand all forlorn
Behind the cold counter from ev'ning to morn
The old tenor merchants push nigher & nigher
Till fairly they shut out poor Baze from the fire.
Out out my dear brother Aunt Amy's just come
With a flask for molasses & a bottle for rum
Run! help the poor creature to light from her jade
You see the dear lady's a power afraid.
Souse into your arms she leaps like an otter
And smears your new coat with her piggin of butter
Next an army of shakers your quarters beleager
With optics distorted & visages meagre
To fill their black runlets with brandy & gin
Two blessed exorcists to drive away sin.
But laugh away sorrow nor mind it a daisy
Since it matters but little my dear brother Bazee
Whether here you are rolling in pastime & pleasure
Or up at New Lebanon taffety measure
If the sweetest of lasses Contentment you find
And the banquet enjoy of an undisturb'd mind
Of friendship & love let who will make a pother
Believe me dear Baze your affectionate brother
Will never forget the fifth son of his mother.
P.S. If it suits your convenience remit if you please
To my good brother Paul an embrace & a squeeze.
The manuscript notebook of Henry Livingston, Jr., contains two poems in honor of his sisters, Joanna and Helen.
Joanna, born in 1754, married (as was just stated above) Paul Schenck. Her brother addressed her with this poem to mark
her thirty-third birthday (May 16, 1787). As she left ten children when she died in 1795 it is to be noted that the
birthday greeting refers to her "lovely infant train."
The lines to Helen Livingston celebrated her marriage to Jonas Platt, who later was well known in the New York legislature,
as a member of Congress and as a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York.
These two poems to his sisters are in the manuscript notebook. The one to Helen was published in the New York
Magazine and Literary Repository for February, 1791.
On my sister Joanna's entrance into|
her 33rd year
On this thy natal day permit a friend -
A brother - with thy joys his own to blend:
In all thy gladness he would wish to share
As willing in thy griefs a part to bear.
Meekly attend the ways of higher heav'n!
Is much deny'd? Yet much my dear is giv'n.
Thy health, thy reason unimpaired remain
And while as new fal'n snows thy spotless fame.
The partner of thy life, attentive - kind -
And blending e'en the interests of the mind.
What bliss is thine when fore thy glistn'ing eye
Thy lovely infant train pass jocund by!
The ruddy cheek, the smiling morning face
Denote a healthy undegenerate race:
In them renew'd, you'll live & live again,
And children's children's children lisp thy name.
Bright be the skies where'er my sister goes
Nor scowling tempests injure her repose -
The field of life with roses thick be strow'd
Nor one sharp thorn lie lurking in the road.
Thy ev'ry path be still a path of peace
And each revolving year thy joys increase;
Till hours & years & time itself be o'er
And one eternal day around thee pour.
Robins! stop your whistling throats
Listen to my sweeter notes;
Cease to hop from spray to spray
While I trill the wedding lay.
Thrushes on the maples' top
For a moment pray-ye stop --
Twitt'ring swallows cease to twitter
Hearken to my ditty sweeter --
Lovesick turtles gently cooing
Leave your honey-suckle wooing --
Little wrens I humbly beg
Take your music down a peg --
Whipperwills sweet bird of gloom,
Stop your loud nocturnal tune;
And ye hooting lovely owls
Listen to my lovelier howls.
'Twas summer when softly the breezes were blowing
And Hudson majestic so sweetly was flowing
The groves rang with music & accents of pleasure
And nature in rapture beat time to the measure
When Helen and Jonas so true and so loving
Along the green lawn were seen arm in arm moving
Sweet daffodils, violets and roses spontaneous
Wherever they wandered sprang up instantaneous.
The ascent the lovers at length were seen climbing
Whose summit is grac'd by the temple of Hymen:
The genius presiding no sooner perceived them
But spreading his pinions he flew to receive them:
With kindest of greetings pronounced them wellcome
While hollidays clangor rang loud to the welkin.
Frequently Henry Livingston, Jr., wrote at New Year an address that was printed as a broadside and taken about to the subscribers
to the Poughkeepsie newspaper by the boys who, during the year, delivered the weekly issues. In his notebook is the address for New Year, 1787. It
mentions the two carriers, Richard and George (who are otherwise unidentified) and also "N. Power", who was Nicholas Power, publisher of the
In Dr. Thomas' collection is an original broadside, printed January 1, 1803, by the Political Barometer of Poughkeepsie. It is unsigned but a
granddaughter of Henry Livingston, Jr., (Miss Gertrude F. Thomas) identified it as his work and it is obviously in his own meter and style.
He speaks of "our saint, jolly, laughing New Year," of war in Europe, of Toussaint L'Ouverture (Haytian negro leader), of Democrats and
Federalists and of the various types of persons in the community. It is a thoroughly characteristic item.
A new-year's address of Richard and George|
two boys of the printer N. Power - 1787.
Before the friends of Mr. Power
In this good-natur'd happy hour
Respectfully we both appear
And wish you all a Happy Year.
You see in us a brace of chickens
Who, as the plot of nations thickens,
Deal at your doors each Wednesday morn
The sun-shine of the week - or storm.
When earth quakes make old chimnies rattle
Or gossips in a corner tattle
Or twenty pumpkins in a row
Enormous on one tendril grow.
When flush'd with wine (the modern nectar)
Two Beaus as bluff & bold as Hector
Like lions meet and nobly dare
To flash their pistols in the air.
When sons of Neptune stoutly try
Who shall affirm the toughest lye
And swear they saw a fish, complete
From stem to stern, twelve thousand feet.
When three grim tygers make their dinners
Upon at least a dozen sinners
When Cupid's arrows don't miscarry
And lovers meet - & meeting marry:
When these events and thousands more
Are acted - or not acted o'er
The Country Journal ever ready
To seize its prey, all keen and steady
Pursues the tidings as they rise,
And plunders all as lawful prize:
While we, the mercuries of the day,
Deliver at your feet the prey.
Tho suns shine clear, or tempests growl,
Mild zephyrs fan or whirlwinds howl;
Tho cold snows fly, or hailstones rattle
And ev'ry element's in battle:
Thro thick and thin and thin and thick
Go flound'ring on poor George and Dick!
Nor care a button for disasters
So you're contented gentle masters.
And now the end of all this clatter
Is but a small and trifling matter;
A puny six pence or a shilling
From willing souls to souls as willing.
And here to you our gen'rous donors
We pledge our sacred words of honours
No valrous rooster by our deed
Shall on the field of battle bleed.
Nor by our too-well-aimed ball
The hapless, flutt'ring turkey fall:
No deep-charged muskets thund'ring roar
Beneath the peaceful burghers door,
Shall tell the sleeping folks within
That mighty New Year doth begin.
Like civil (chubs) we will retire
And by a snug and social fire
With cakes of season on the board
Collected from each housewife's hoard
We'll push the glass of mead about
And laugh the tedious ev'ning out.
THE NEWS-BOY'S ADDRESS
To the PATRONS of the
January 1, 1803.
ALL hail to the season so jovial and gay,
More grateful to NEWS-BOYS than blossoms of May,
Than Summer's green gown, or Miss Autumn's brocade,
Bespangled with gold, and with diamonds o'erlaid;
Give me surly Winter, bald-headed and bare,
Cold nights, frosty mornings, and keen piercing air,
With storms roaring round him; rain, hail, sleet and snow,
While hoarse, from the mountains the howling winds blow;
For Summer and Autumn and fair-bosom'd Spring,
With their pinks and their peaches, no holidays bring;
But now comes blithe Christmas, while just in his rear,
Advances our saint, jolly, laughing, NEW-YEAR,
Which, time immemorial, to us has been made
The source of our wealth and support of our trade,
For then, cockahoop with the magical song,
That charms from your purses the glittering l'argent,
With our pulse beating quick, and our breast void of pain,
We quit types and shadows, the substance to gain.
But what, on this festive occasion, to say,
Is a question which puzzles your poet, to day;
Since the storms which have ravag'd old Europe are o'er,
And the light'nings and thund'rings of war are no more;
Even Oglou, who Turkey's grand Seignior defied,
Has, at length, gain'd his point, and preferment beside;
Toussaint, the black chief, too, is trick'd by Le Clerc,
And in chains sent to limbo by king Bonaparte,
While General Le Death, to revenge such foul play,
Tricks Le Clerc and his minions in much the same way,
And Negroes, by plunder and carnage and flame,
Shew Frenchmen how well they their rights can maintain.
Well -- since from abroad no great tidings are brought,
Let us see what at home there is, worthy of note;
Why here we find little to trouble our heads,
Except paper-battles 'twixt Demos and Feds;
Abusing and squabbling and wrangling and spite,
Though I, for my life, see not what they get by't,
Unless 'tis the pleasure their venom to spit
And make folks believe they've abundance of wit;
But in this they mistake, for abuse, 'tis well known,
Is the wit and the wisdom of blackguards, alone.
But to come to the point which I've long had in view,
My patrons attend, I've a few words for you;
You'll please to remember how, many months past,
While tempest roar'd loud and while shrill scream'd the blast,
When heat sing'd the earth and when cold froze the air,
And sometimes when suns shone serenely and fair,
With the news gather'd up from the wide world all o'er,
True as time, ev'ry week, I arriv'd at your door;
And now, as old custom ordains, I appear,
To present you, my Patrons, a HAPPY NEW-YEAR,
The year which we name EIGHTEEN HUNDRED and THREE,
Which brings you a song and your Carrier a Fee,
At least I predict so (with deff'rence to you)
As we all can predict what we wish to be true.
How cheerfully then will I stick to the press
For a twelvemonth to come -- be the same more or less,
To tell you what wonders the Fates bring along,
And how they behave, distant nations among;
To tell you if War his bold clarion shall sound,
Or Betsy's shrill voice Billy's bosom shall wound;
If fevers shall rage and their thousands destroy,
Or your poultry be kidnap'd by some thievish boy;
If hurricanes level both city and town,
Or Bragman, the bully, knock Limberlegs down;
Or Johnny be pierc'd by Miss Jenny's bright eye;
Or if congress shall make, or our state legislature,
Remarkable movements - by land or by water,
And many more strange things we'll tell you to boot,
As the seasons roll on and occasion shall suit.
But 'tis time that I bid you good bye, till next year,
By wishing you happiness, peace and good cheer;
To the ladies, the charms both of form and of face,
Expression, attraction, and each nameless grace,
Their tempers benign, ting'd with sentiment's fire,
Galants whom they love and the swains they admire;
To the clergy meek charity, unmix'd with pride,
And something to wake us on Sunday, beside;
To the farmer fine crops; to the merchant much trade;
To the sexton small use for the mattock and spade;
To physicians few patients; to lawyers light fees;
But to printers, the shiners, as oft as you please;
In short, to conclude my nonsensical song
To all, what they wish, if they wish nothing wrong.
In the issue of the New York Magazine and Literary Repository for January, 1792, there
was published one of the longer prose works of Henry Livingston, Jr., which is of interest not only because
it tells something of the writer's imaginative power and of his general information regarding history
and geography but because the article, entitled:
The Happy Vale, describes a country in a state of peace, such as is much talked of and wished for in these latter days of ours.
Briefly, the story is that of the wreck of an English ship in 1781 on the coast of "Ava", from which wreck a midshipman survived and had a
series of adventures. The adventures led him via "the northern part of Indostan, by Ispahan in Persia;" by the "dominions of the descendants of
Tamerlane;" and then, past a range of high mountains, the wanderer found a valley that was the abode of peace. The valley is described
THE HAPPY VALE
Extract from a letter from a Gentleman at Smyrna to his Friend in Philadelphia, dated 15th February, 1791.
...Peace was in all their borders. The golden age of the poets was realized ...
The very name of an army of enormities that mar the general human visage, was utterly wanting in their language.
Alto' iron and steel were in use among them, in agricultural and domestic concerns, yet I never saw those metals
employed for hostile purposes. There was no such thing as a court of justice in all the country; for why erect
tribunals to take cognizance of crimes that never exist? There were no laws, because thee were no transgressors.
The dictates of an unscarred conscience, and the precepts of an excellent traditional religion, were their only judicial code.
Their civil government was patriarchal in its mildest form; and as its injunctions were never improper, they
never were opposed. The arts and sciences were understood -- short, indeed, of their fanciful European length -- yet
fully equal to the wants and embellishments of decent cultivated life. The art of healing consisted chiefly in alleviatives:
the very name of nostrum is not to be found in their dispensatories. The profession of a merchant is unknown: they consider
it as degrading to the husbandman, not to be able to barter the productions of his own skill and industry.
...With respect to their own story, all I could surmise was, that at some very remote period, a revolution drove
them from the confines of Persia to their present abode, too distant for their enemies to pursue or their friends
to discover. But how the arts of war became totally extinguished, and the those of peace so perfectly retained -- how
they possessed all the simplicity of savages without the barbarity; -- in short, how they blended the elegancies,
the conveniencies, and all the decencies of life, in one perfectly happy society, I am yet to discover.