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The Village of East Poultney-Horace applies for the Place-Scene in the GardenHe makes an Impression-A difficulty arises and is overcome-He enters the office-Rite of Initiation-Horace the Victor-His employer's recollections of hir -The Pack of Cards-Horace begins to paragraph-Joins the Debating SocietyHis manner of Debating-Horace and the Dandy-His noble conduct to his father-His first glimpse of Saratoga-His manners at the Table--Becomes the Town-Encyclopedia-The Doctor's Story-Recollections of one of his fellow apprentices-Horace's favorite Poets-Politics of the time-The Anti-Mason Excitement-The Northern Spectator stops-The Apprentice is Free.
EAST POULTNEY is not, decidedly not, a place which a traveler— if, by any extraordinary chance, a traveler should ever visit itwould naturally suspect of a newspaper. But, in one of the most densely-populated parts of the city of New York, there is a field! -a veritable, indubitable field, with a cow in it, a rough wooden fence around it, and a small, low, wooden house in the middle of it, where an old gentleman lives, who lived there when all was rural around him, and who means to live there all his days, pasturing his cow and raising his potatoes on ground which he could sell-but won't at a considerable number of dollars per foot. The field in the metropolis we can account for. But that a newspaper should ever have been published at East Poultney, Rutland county, Vermont, seems, at the first view of it, inexplicable.
Vermont, however, is a land of villages; and the business which is elsewhere done only in large towns is, in that State, divided among the villages in the country. Thus, the stranger is astonished at seeing among the few signboards of mere hamlets, one or two containing most unexpected and metropolitan announcements, such as, "SILVERSMITH,” “Organ Factory,” “PIANO FORTES," "PRINTING OFFICE," or "PATENT MELODEONS." East Poultney, for example, is little more than a hamlet, yet it once had a newspaper, and boasts a small factory of melodeons at this moment. A foreigner
would as soon expect to see there an Italian opera house or a French café.
The Poultney river is a small stream that flows through a valley, which widens and narrows, narrows and widens, all along its course; here, a rocky gorge; a grassy plain, beyond. At one of its narrow places, where the two ranges of hills approach and nod to one another, and where the river pours through a rocky channel-a torrent on a very small scale—the little village nestles, a cluster of houses at the base of an enormous hill. It is built round a small triangular green, in the middle of which is a church, with a handsome clock in its steeple, all complete except the works, and bearing on its ample face the date, 1805. No village, however minute, can get on without three churches, representing the Conservative, the Enthusiastic, and Eccentric tendencies of human nature; and, of course, East Poultney has three. It has likewise the most remarkably shabby and dilapidated school-house in all the country round. There is a store or two; but business is not brisk, and when a customer arrives in town, perhaps, his first difficulty will be to find the storekeeper, who has locked up his store and gone to hoe in his garden or talk to the blacksmith. A tavern, a furnace, a saw-mill, and forty dwelling houses, nearly complete the inventory of the village. The place has a neglected and 'seedy' aspect which is rare in New England. In that remote and sequestered spot, it seems to have been forgotten, and left behind in the march of progress; and the people, giving up the hope and the endeavor to catch up, have settled down to the tranquil enjoyment of Things as they Are. The village cemetery, near by,―more populous far than the village, for the village is an old one-is upon the side of a steep ascent, and whole ranks of gravestones bow, submissive to the law of gravitation, and no man sets them upright. A quiet, slow little place is East Poultney. Thirty years ago, the people were a little more wide awake, and there were a few more of them.
It was a fine spring morning in the year 1826, about ten o'clock, when Mr. Amos Bliss, the manager, and one of the proprietors, of the Northern Spectator, 'might have been seen' in the garden behind his house planting potatoes. He heard the gate open behind him, and, without turning or looking round, became dimly conscious of the presence of a boy. But the boys of country villages go into
generous forbearance, overwhelmed Demetrius with acclaina tions.
Horace was fascinated by the story. He thought the conduct of Demetrius not only magnanimous and humane, but just and politic. Sparing the people, misguided by their leaders, seemed to him the best way to make them ashamed of their ingratitude, and the best way of preventing its recurrence. And he argued, if mercy is best and wisest on a small scale, can it be less so on a large? If a man is capable of such lofty magnanimity, may not God be who made man capable of it? If, in a human being, revenge and jealousy are despicable, petty and vulgar, what impiety is it to attribute such feelings to the beneficent Father of the Universe? The sin of the Athenians against Demetrius had every element of enormity. Twice he had snatched them from the jaws of ruin. Twice he had supplied their dire necessity. Twice he had refused all reward except the empty honors they paid to his name and person. He had condescended to become one of them by taking a daughter of Athens as his wife. He had entrusted his wife, his ships and his treasure to their care. Yet in the day of his calamity, when for the first time it was in their power to render him a service, when he was coming to them with the remnant of his fortune, without a doubt of their fidelity, with every reason to suppose that his misfortunes would render him dearer to them than ever; then it was that they determined to refuse him even an admittance within their gates, and sent an embassy to meet him with mockery and subterfuge.
Of the offenses committed by man against man, there is one which man can seldom lift his soul up to the height of forgiving. It is to be slighted in the day of his humiliation by those who showed him honor in the time of his prosperity. Yet man can forgive even this. Demetrius forgave it; and the nobler and greater a man is, the less keen is his sense of personal wrong, the less difficult it is for him to forgive. The poodle must show his teeth at every passing dog; the mastiff walks majestic and serene through a pack of snarling curs.
Amid such thoughts as these, the orthodox theory of damnation had little chance; the mind of the boy revolted against it more and
more; and the result was, that he became as our pious friend lamented, "little better than a Universalist"-in fact no better. From the age of fourteen he was known wherever he lived as a champion of Universalism, though he never entered a Universalist church till he was twenty years old. By what means he managed to reconcile' his new belief with the explicit and unmistakable declarations of what he continued to regard as Holy Writ, or how anybody has ever done it, I do not know. The boy appears to have shed his orthodoxy easily. His was not a nature to travail with a new idea for months and years, and arrive at certainty only after a struggle that rends the soul, and leaves it sore and sick for life. He was young; the iron of our theological system had not entered into his soul; he took the matter somewhat lightly; and, having arrived at a theory of the Divine government, which accorded with his own gentle and forgiving nature, he let the rest of the theological science alone, and went on his way rejoicing.
Yet it was no slight thing that had happened to him. A man's Faith is the man. Not to have a Faith is not to be a man. Beyond all comparison, the most important fact of a man's life is the formation of the Faith which he adheres to and lives by. And though Horace Greeley has occupied himself little with things spiritual, confining himself, by a necessity of his nature, chiefly to the promotion of material interests, yet I doubt not that this early change in his religious belief was the event which gave to all his subsequent life its direction and character. Whether that change was a desirable one, or an undesirable, is a question upon which the reader of course has a decided opinion. The following, perhaps, may be taken as the leading consequences of a deliberate and intelligent exchange of a severe creed in which a person has been educated, for a less severe one to which he attains by the operations of his own mind:
It quickens his understanding, and multiplies his ideas to an extent which, it is said, no one who has never experienced it can possibly conceive. It induces in him a habit of original reflection upon subjects of importance. It makes him slow to believe a thing, merely because many believe it-merely because it has long been believed. It renders him open to conviction, for he cannot forget that there was a time when he held opinions which he now clearly sees to be
erroneous. It dissolves the spell of Authority; it makes him dis• trustful of Great Names. It lessens his terror of Public Opinion; for he has confronted it-discovered that it shows more teeth than it uses that it harms only those who fear it-that it bows at length in homage to him whom it cannot frighten. It throws him upon his own moral resources. Formerly, Fear came to his assistance in moments of temptation; hell-fire rolled up its column of lurid smoke before him in the dreaded distance. But now he sees it not. If he has the Intelligence to know, the Heart to love, the Will to choose, the Strength to do, the RIGHT; he does it, and his life is high, and pure, and noble. If Intelligence, or Heart, or Will, or Strength is wanting to him, he vacillates; he is not an integer, his life is not. But, in either case, his Acts are the measure of his Worth.
Moreover, the struggle of a heretic with the practical difficulties of life, and particularly his early struggle, is apt to be a hard one; for, generally, the Rich, the Respectable, the Talented, and the Virtuous of a nation are ranged on the side of its Orthodoxy in an overwhelming majority. They feel themselves allied with it-dependent upon it. Above all, they believe in it, and think they would be damned if they did not. They are slow to give their countenance to one who dissents from their creed, even though he aspire only to make their shoes, or clean them, and though they more than suspect that the rival shoemaker round the corner keeps a religious newspaper on his counter solely for the effect of the thing upon pious consumers of shoe-leather.
To depart from the established Faith, then, must be accounted a risk, a danger, a thing uncomfortable and complicating. But, from the nettle Danger, alone, we pluck the flower Safety. And he who loves Truth first-Advantage second-will certainly find Truth at length, and care little at what loss of Advantage. So, let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind-with which safe and salutary text we may take leave of matters theological, and resume our story.
The political events which occurred during Horace Greeley's residence in Westhaven were numerous and exciting; some of them were of a character to attract the attention of a far less forward and thoughtful boy than he. Doubtless he read the message of President Monroe in 1821, in which the policy of Protection