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The smile she wore, I see it now;
The flow'rs she gave-I keep them yet;
But while I dream'd, relentless time,
That scene so fair should ever fade ;
Orange County, July 7. 1824.
I am a plain countryman, of a lineal descent from one of the first settlers in New Amsterdam. I have lived, man and boy, fifty seven years, last August, on the farm which my grandfather ploughed; and till this summer in peace and contentment. I have regularly sowed eighty bushels of wheat in a year, and killed, one fall with another, fifty hogs, and pasture at present twelve fine cows, and have had no care or trouble whatever, except never getting enough at Newburgh for my wheat, by sixpence a bushel. My barns, Mr. Editor, are almost as big as the court-house at Goshen; and sometimes as well filled as to company. But I have got to be a public man, and find my troubles arise and thicken about me. Last year the classis met, and recommended to the congregation to build a new church; and to tell the truth, the old one was sadly out of repair. It was built when our village was settled, is eightsided, and the roof looks like one of my wife's extinguishers. So we subscribed among us twelve hundred pounds for the purpose, and I put down twenty pounds myself, which I have repented ever since, not for the money's sake-though it was fully my share; but, being one of the largest subscribers, I was appointed on the building committee, and here, Mr. Editor, was the beginning of sorrow. There are five of us on this committee, and as you may not know the men, I will tell you what they are. There is Hans Van Hoogendorf, that used to
keep a store at the cross roads, but has lately turned farmer. Hans once went to Boston on some errand, among the yankees, and ever since tells monstrous long stories about the marvels he saw in his travels in eastern parts. Then there is Harry Ostrander the miller, he is justice of the peace, has grown very fat, and smokes all day long; and Jacobus Jacobson, who owns a quarter in a sloop that sails from our landing, and who goes in her now and then to New-York; and Jonathan Snap, the Connecticut-man, originally a yankee pedlar, but who has lived here long enough to be a true Dutchman in grain. Then there is myself, Mr. Editor, as I said before, a plain farmer, and never made for a building committee-man.
Now sir, I thought when I agreed to serve, that we should just get together and engage some honest carpenter to build our church for us, as cheap as we could, and have nothing to do ourselves, but look out that we got the money's worth in good work, and did not spend more than the twelve hundred pounds. But no such thing-when we first met, Hans Van Hoogendorf got up and made a long speech, in which he said that the church we were to build ought to be an ornament to the village, and an honour to the county; that it was very important to determine on the best possible plan to build after; and that we ought to procure various drawings and designs from eminent architects, and compare them together, and thus be able to select the best. And he talked moreover about Greece, and Rome, and Palladio, and a parcel of such stuff, that I thought was Latin, and could not understand; but which pleased some of the committee mightily. Then they talked about distribution, and symmetry, and orders, and many other things that I did not comprehend; but the end of the whole was that nothing was done for a month, but talking; and pillars, and bases, cornices, pedestals, pediments, and many other long words were sounded in my ears till I was fairly bewildered. My brethren of the committee were continually riding round the county, looking at every house, and church, and stable in Orange County, to find what they called a model; in which search Jacobus Jacobson was particularly active; but I never could learn that they found what they were in search of. Then to make bad worse, one would make a design, and another would make a design; and they would talk about colonnades, and arches, and towers, till my head ached. In that, each one had his own opinion, and differed from every other, and each would try to talk me over to his side, till I got clean addled, and hardly understood one word they said. Then Jacobus Jacobson got a paper from New-York, with a little church drawn Vol. I. No. IV.
upon it, as natural as life, and showed it all about, and then somebody sent another from Albany, and a third from NewYork again, all different, so that we were still as bad off as ever. So matters went on some time longer. Then it was proposed to "submit these designs" (I believe I remember the very words,)" to some person of distinguished taste for his approbation." And as Cornelius Van Cuyler was thought a better judge of rum and tea, and brown sugar, than any one else, his taste was relied on, and his opinion was asked. Then a land surveyor, who could draw maps, was referred to, and a man who formerly kept a store down by the river, but broke, and for some time past has kept a sort of school in our village, and perhaps many more of equal claims for taste and judgment. But so it was, Mr. Editor, these people all differed among themselves as much as the "building committee" had done, so that every thing was left at sixes and sevens, and I begin to doubt whether we shall ever know our own minds on the subject, or come to any agreement at all.
Now sir, our Domine takes your Atlantic Magazine, and sometimes he lends it to me, for I like to read now and then of an evening, when the work is done; and I lately read in the second number, something about "the fine arts," and about "architecture," which I could not understand, but it sounded as if it had some sense in it, did one know how to get hold of it, so I suppose it was understood in New-York. Besides, I have been told that there is to be a very large building put up there, for merchants to go to for some purpose or other, though I did not hear what. So I suppose that all those things are easy with you, that perplex and trouble me so much. And our Domine has advised me to write a letter to you about it, and promised to look over the spelling and grammar, being no great scholar myself, and I have made bold to do so. I have built two large barns and a cider mill, since I took the farm into my own hands, and never found any trouble with all these things that plague our committee. So, Mr. Editor, I will take it as a great favour if you will tell me the shortest and best mode of laying out twelve hundred pounds in building a church without all this doubting and debating:-and still more, if you will ask the gentlemen on the "building committee" of the great building committee, (for I suppose they have one,) how they manage to get along without troubling their heads with symmetry, and proportion, and effects, or talking about pedestals, and cornices, and pediments, and basements, and columns, and the other things that divide and confuse us so much. If we can come to any determination in time, we mean to begin pulling down the old church about the first of next march, so
that you need not be in any haste about it. And if you ever come into our place, except in haying time or harvest, and will call on me, I shall be glad to see you, in an old fashioned one story house, built before orders and proportions were invented, where you shall be welcome to as clean a bed, and as good fare at table, as the country can furnish.
I am sir, your most humble servant,
ON THE SUBSTITUTION OF A WRITTEN CODE, IN THE PLACE OF THE COMMON LAW.
The purity and perfection of the laws of his country is an object that should be dear to the heart of every citizen. Like the rain which falls from heaven equally upon the just and upon the unjust, the laws exert their all-pervading influence over every class, order and degree, in the community. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that it seems always to have been the leading object with mankind, to ascertain and settle such general principles and lines of conduct as might best promote the attainment of that great point in the social compact, of securing the greatest possible amount of good, at the least possible sacrifice of natural rights. And it is still less singular that this object should stand prominent and foremost amongst those which engage the deep attention of the people of this country. It is, indeed, gratifying to every mind devoted to the cause of truth and the best interests of man, to witness the attention which seems of late to be paid to this subject, and the specimens of talent, learning and eloquence to which the investigation not unfrequently gives rise. This is exactly the true course to be pursued in this country; and every possible facility and encouragement should be rendered to all attempts at an examination into the foundation and condition of our laws, which are marked with sincerity, candour, and good sense. Nothing but manly, generous, and learned discussions and expositions can so direct the public attention in the right course, and fix it on the proper objects, as to lead eventually to a fair view of this great subject, and render the people competent to form on it a sound and enlightened opinion.
It is therefore with great pleasure that we hail the appearance of that spirit of inquiry which is going forth in the country at large, and more particularly in our own state. It is a spirit which bids fair in the event to lead to results of the highest importance; and hence the necessity that every man whe
duly appreciates his privileges and his duty, as a citizen of this free and rising republic, should keep a steady and watchful eye on the course to which public opinion may incline; and, however small may be his mite, threw it, modestly indeed, but fearlessly, into the public mint.
In a state, the very breath of whose existence is public opinion, and in times characterized by "strange doings," every man should be encouraged to think boldly and honestly for himself. It is under such impressions that we have been induced to throw out such hints and suggestions as have presented themselves to our mind on the question which has been for some time pretty freely agitated as to what is termed, a Reform in our Laws. The matter has long supplied food for private conversation; but, within some few years, has been at times rather more distinctly brought before the public eye. We have seen treatises, penned with no little ability, and even have heard insinuations from leading men in our legislature, which might cause us to apprehend that there is some radical defect in our laws, which must be cured, at the hazard of losing all that is valuable in our civil and political institutions ; and if this is really the case, it is time for us to throw off our lethargy, and awake to a just sense of our situation. But if not; if the alarms which have been sounded are but the mere spectres of heated imaginations, or the chimerical suggestions of restless, however honest theorists, we may calmly rest secure in our institutions, and smile at the harmless tempest which has been conjured up around us. Perhaps, too, we may conclude, upon examination, that although every thing may not be exactly as we might wish, yet that the changes proposed would only lead to a worse state of things, and remain contented until some plan may present itself which our sober reason may approve.
Reform, when admitted to be such upon a full survey of all the circumstances, few men would oppose. But change is not necessarily reform; nor is every moment equally favourable for its introduction. Men may often see and feel a matter to be wrong, and yet not offer a better substitute: nay, a man may have good sense enough to observe the defects of any given system when in actual operation, and yet be totally destitute of that practical perspicacity and discernment which might teach him that a proposed change would be infinitely for the worse. Persons, however, are to be found now-a-days who talk and write as if shrewdness of judgment, originality of design, and decision of character, were all on the side of the advocates for change, be it what it may ; and timidity, indifference, and meanness of spirit, to be found only among those who refuse to join