Dwight (1752 to 1817) was an incredible man. He, like his grandfather
before him, began attendance at Yale at the age of 13 years, and graduated
when he was 17. At age 25 he was asked to be President of the University,
but he declined, although he finally accepted in 1795, when he was 43.
Because of a physical impairment he could not read or write and had to
have someone else record his words. In the first years of the 1800s
he made several wandering journeys across New York and New England and
published his obeservations in a four volume set that immediately became
a classic work in travel literature and has become a standard work for
any historical library. Most of his journeys were along the major
transportation routes of the day, but he did make many side-trips to observe
the frontier settlers, natives, and curiosities. On one trip across
New York State he stopped for a day or two in the recently settled upland
community of Cazenovia.
Volume 4, pages 16 to 19
Letter I, Journey to Niagara, begun September 19, 1804
(in Cazenovia September 28-29, 1804)
Within a few miles of the town of Cazenovia, the face of the country was suddenly changed. The steep hills and narrow valleys gave place to a succession of easy rising grounds and open expansions. To us this change was peculiarly pleasant. We were wearied by laboring down rapid descents and climbing steep acclivities; and our eyes, long straightened in their excursions, and tired by a confinement to the same disagreeable objects, were delighted with being able to expatiate over an extensive region. We also found the road better, and a chain of settlements continued to the town of Cazenovia. We arrived at sunset.
The time was peculiarly unfortunate. A regiment of militia collected from the surrounding country had just been dismissed after a review. Many of the officers and soldiers had come from such a distance that it was too late for them to return home. They had, therefore, taken lodgings here for the night. Tumult and disorder are incident to occasions of this nature; here they were increased by peculiar circumstances. The officers lately commanding the regiment were men of worth and reputation. They possessed also a considerable share of military skill, spirit, and ambition. Under their discipline the regiment had become distinguished for peculiar improvements in every part of the military character, and had prided itself not a little on this distinction. When these officers were displaced by the government of the state, all the noncommissioned officers in the regiment, as a testimony of their disgust, resigned their places; but their resignation was not accepted.
The newly appointed officers were of opposite politics, and as opposite characters. They were, as we were informed, destitute of all military knowledge, and ignorant even of the most ordinary exercise. When they first appeared upon the parade, the soldiers professed to be wholly unacquainted with their duty, and intentionally performed every maneuver in the most awkward and improper manner. At length, the officers, mortified beyond expression, besought them in terms of very humble supplication to do their duty. The soldiers replied that if the officers would be so good as to teach them how it should be done, they would readily obey their instructions. This, however, the soldiers well knew they were unable to do. The evil was, therefore, without remedy.
The troop attached to this regiment, a fine, volunteer company of young men, dressed in a handsome uniform, well accoutered and well mounted, refused absolutely to obey the new officers; and compelled the government of the state either to disband them, or continue their former officers in command. The latter part of the alternative the government chose as the less evil, not improbably because it would hazard the loss of the fewest <:17> votes. These men, therefore, still held their commissions, except perhaps the captain. At this house the troop had this day engaged a dinner. But, when they found that the field officers of the regiment were to dine at the same table, and to take precedency of their own officers, they withdrew to a man.
This little tale exhibits in a clear light the depraving efficacy of ambition on the minds of those who are seized by the love of place and power. Nothing could more forcibly display the groveling tendency of this character than the measures adopted by the government of the state on this occasion.
Such expedients as these rend asunder the sinews of government. Subjects cannot fail to discern in them the selfishness, injustice, and folly of their rulers. The law loses its dominion; and the government, its utility. The contempt and reprobation directed immediately to those who are appointed are instinctively transferred to those who appoint; and from the officer, to the law under which lie acts. Besides, the concessions here made by the magistrate were made to revolt, and can terminate in nothing but the encouragement of disobedience. The government which thus yields will soon be obliged to yield regularly, and at no great distance of time will be a government in name only.
I shall not now descant on the morality and policy of rewarding with offices of trust and profit those who are of our party, merely because they are of our party; or those who support our political advancement, merely because they support it. This subject I may perhaps resume at another time. At present, I shall only observe that it is a prostitution alike of principle and decency, and that within a moderate period it may subvert the freedom of any country.
We arrived when the confusion to which I have alluded was at its height, and found the only inns in the town preoccupied. Mr. B----- (Samuel S. Breese?), a respectable inhabitant of this town, having become acquainted with our situation, very politely invited us to his house, where we found every proof of refined hospitality and spent the evening in the company of intelligent, friendly, and well-bred gentlemen.
The town of Cazenovia is a pretty settlement built on the southeastern quarter of a small lake bearing the same name. This beautiful piece of water is about four miles in length from north to south, and from half to perhaps three quarters of a mile in breadth. A millstream enters it at the southern end; and, passing through it, carries its waters onward to the Oneida Lake. It is principally supplied by subjacent springs. Its temperature is, therefore, cool, and its waters are salubrious.
The houses in this town are chiefly built on a single street, running from east to west. Generally they are decent, and some of them, neat, Colonel Lincklaen, a native of Holland, and agent of what is here called the <:18> Holland Company, has built a handsome seat with pretty appendages on the eastern border of the lake. (Footnote 5: John Lincklaen [d. 1822] came to America about 1791 to investigate lands in Pennsylvania and New York for purchase by Dutch speculators; as agent for the Holland Land Company which was formed in 1796, he concentrated on the Improvement and sale of lands ill the vicinity of Cazenovia, New York.)
By this gentleman, I was informed that a considerable part of the lands which had been sold under his agency had already gone through the hands of several successive proprietors. What is true of these lands is extensively true of the whole of what is called the western country of this state. The persons by whom these lands are purchased have in many instances been of the class which I have mentioned before as pioneers or foresters. The character of these people, and the manner in which they conduct the business of forming plantations in the wilderness, I have heretofore exhibited. To that exhibition I shall add nothing here except that, when they have sold their first farm, they purchase and sell in the same manner a second, a third, and sometimes a fourth; and that their progress from east to west removes, and has already removed them, from New England to New York, from New York to the state of Ohio, and from the state of Ohio to Louisiana. In this manner the strong columns of civilized men regularly push before them these Arabian troops, and will at no great distance of time follow them too to the Pacific Ocean.
The Holland Company originally
purchased in this vicinity sixty thousand acres of land, a large tract
in the neighborhood of Whitesboro, lying about fifty miles northeastward
from Cazenovia; and almost the whole county or Genesee at the western end
of this state. I have already mentioned that they have also made
a considerable purchase in the western parts of Pennsylvania. Their
whole possessions in these two states are considerably more extensive than
Saturday, September 29th, we left our hospitable friends at Cazenovia, and proceeded through the townships of Manlius and Onondaga to Marcellus: thirty-one miles. For three miles our road lay along the beautiful lake which I have mentioned, and was very pleasant. It ought to be remarked that the fever and ague is here unknown, and that the soil of this neighborhood is rich.
The Cazenovia road joins the Western Turnpike, as it is here called (that is, the great road from Utica to Canandaigua) at the distance of four miles, and in the center of a pretty settlement in the township of Manlius. Here our traveling inconveniences chiefly vanished. The road was excellent; the surface, smooth; and the settlement, though nearly of the same date, was much farther advanced. The houses were better, and were surrounded with more conveniences. Fruit trees also abounded, and among them the peach, growing and bearing with the utmost luxuriance. Indeed from Cazenovia onward the appearance of the country differed less from that of the ancient settlements in New England than from that of the country through which we had lately passed. Still there are intermingled many proofs that it had been recently settled.
The houses visible from this road generally stand on its sides, and have been built within the last fifteen years, most of them indeed within ten. The changes made here during this period are greater than any person who has not been an eyewitness of them will believe; and greater, I suspect, than any which have taken place in the United States during an equal length of time. I think it may be fairly questioned whether they have ever been paralleled in the world.