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The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas   By: (1789-1851)

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The Water Witch;


The Skimmer of the Seas.

A Tale.

By J. Fenimore Cooper.

"Mais, qui diable alloit il faire dans cette galère!"

Complete in One Volume


Water Witch.

Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by Stringer and Townsend In the Clerk's office of the District Court for the southern district of New York.


Christendom is gradually extricating itself from the ignorance, ferocity, and crimes of the middle ages. It is no longer subject of boast, that the hand which wields the sword, never held a pen, and men have long since ceased to be ashamed of knowledge. The multiplied means of imparting principles and facts, and a more general diffusion of intelligence, have conduced to establish sounder ethics and juster practices, throughout the whole civilized world. Thus, he who admits the conviction, as hope declines with his years, that man deteriorates, is probably as far from the truth, as the visionary who sees the dawn of a golden age, in the commencement of the nineteenth century. That we have greatly improved on the opinions and practices of our ancestors, is quite as certain as that there will be occasion to meliorate the legacy of morals which we shall transmit to posterity.

When the progress of civilization compelled Europe to correct the violence and injustice which were so openly practised, until the art of printing became known, the other hemisphere made America the scene of those acts, which shame prevented her from exhibiting nearer home. There was little of a lawless, mercenary, violent, and selfish nature, that the self styled masters of the continent hesitated to commit, when removed from the immediate responsibilities of the society in which they had been educated. The Drakes, Rogers', and Dampiers of that day, though enrolled in the list of naval heroes were no other than pirates, acting under the sanction of commissions; and the scenes that occurred among the marauders of the land, were often of a character to disgrace human nature.

That the colonies which formed the root of this republic escaped the more serious evils of a corruption so gross and so widely spread, can only be ascribed to the characters of those by whom they were peopled.

Perhaps nine tenths of all the white inhabitants of the Union are the direct descendants of men who quitted Europe in order to worship God according to conviction and conscience. If the Puritans of New England, the Friends of Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the Catholics of Maryland, the Presbyterians of the upper counties of Virginia and of the Carolinas, and the Huguenots, brought with them the exaggeration of their peculiar sects, it was an exaggeration that tended to correct most of their ordinary practices. Still the English Provinces were not permitted, altogether, to escape from the moral dependency that seems nearly inseparable from colonial government, or to be entirely exempt from the wide contamination of the times.

The State of New York, as is well known, was originally a colony of the United Provinces. The settlement was made in the year 1613; and the Dutch East India Company, under whose authority the establishment was made, claimed the whole country between the Connecticut and the mouth of Delaware bay, a territory which, as it had a corresponding depth, equalled the whole surface of the present kingdom of France. Of this vast region, however, they never occupied but a narrow belt on each side of the Hudson, with, here and there, a settlement on a few of the river flats, more inland.

There is a providence in the destiny of nations, that sets at nought the most profound of human calculations. Had the dominion of the Dutch continued a century longer, there would have existed in the very heart of the Union a people opposed to its establishment, by their language, origin, and habits. The conquest of the English in 1663, though unjust and iniquitous in itself, removed the danger, by opening the way for the introduction of that great community of character which now so happily prevails... Continue reading book >>

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