BECK index

Literature of Irving, Cooper & Whittier

by Sanderson Beck

Washington Irving’s Essays & Stories
Washington Irving’s Stories & Histories
James Fenimore Cooper & his Early Novels
Cooper and His Writing 1827-38
Cooper’s Novels 1839-44
John Greenleaf Whittier

United States Democracy & Slavery 1801-1844 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Washington Irving’s Essays & Stories

      Washington Irving was born in Manhattan on 3 April 1783, the day New Yorkers learned that the war had ended. He was the youngest of eleven children, and his sister Lizzie persuaded President Washington at his inauguration in 1789 to bless her brother named after him. He liked to read. In 1799 he decided not to prepare for college but worked in law offices instead. In 1802 he began clerking for Judge Josiah Hoffman. In his first letter printed in the New York Morning Chronicle on November 15 he used the name “Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent.” and wrote,

But now, our youths no longer aim
at the character of pretty gentlemen:
their greatest ambition is
to be called lazy dogs—careless fellows—&c. &c.1

In 1803 he traveled to Canada with the Hoffman family and met Indians. He spent nearly two years traveling in France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, and England before he returned in March 1806. In November he passed the New York bar exam.
      Irving wrote articles for 20 issues of Salmagundi; or The Whim-whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. & Others that satirized New York City’s culture and politics. He called the city “Gotham,” Anglo-Saxon for “Goat’s Town.” In the first article on 24 January 1807 he wrote,

Our intention is simply to instruct the young,
reform the old, correct the town, and castigate the age;
this is an arduous task, and therefore, we undertake it with confidence.
We intend for this purpose to present a striking picture of the town;
and as every body is anxious to see his own phiz on canvas,
however stupid or ugly it may be,
we have no doubt but the whole town will flock to our exhibition.
Our picture will necessarily include a vast variety of figures:
and should any gentleman or lady be displeased
with the inveterate truth of their likeness,
they may ease their spleen by laughing at those of their neighbors—
this being what we understand by POETICAL JUSTICE.2

Irving attended and wrote about Aaron Burr’s treason trial at Richmond that began on 22 May 1807.
      Irving fell in love with Matilda Hoffman, but she died of tuberculosis in April 1809. His History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knickerbocker published in December 1809 satirized local histories. After describing the globe and the aborigines who peopled America, he treated of the settling of the colony of New Netherland and the city of New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island and the governors Wouter van Twiller, William the Testy, Peter Stuyvesant the Headstrong, and the decline and fall of the Dutch colony that became New York. He wrote about the Dutch colonists,

Think you the first discoverers of this fair quarter of the globe
had nothing to do but go on shore and find a country ready laid out
and cultivated like a garden, wherein they might revel at their ease?
No such thing.
They had forests to cut down, underwood to grub up,
marshes to drain, and savages to exterminate.3

This satirical history was successful, and Irving became editor of the Analectic Magazine and wrote about naval heroes. He developed a friendship with Dolly Madison and in 1812 began editing Select Reviews. He opposed the War of 1812but enlisted after the British attacked Washington in August 1814.
      Irving went to England in June 1815 and helped out the struggling family-firm of P. & E. Irving. In late August 1817 he visited his idol, Walter Scott, for a few days. P. & E. Irving filed for bankruptcy on 25 May 1818 and completed their obligations on June 22. Irving began serializing his collection of 34 essays and short stories that was published in the United States in seven installments from June 1819 to September 1820 as The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. This was one of the first works of American literature to be read widely in Europe, and most of these essays and stories are about England and Europe. In his essay “English Writers on America” he wrote,

     English travellers are the best and the worst in the world.
Where no motives of pride or interest intervene,
None can equal them for profound and philosophical views of society,
or faithful and graphical descriptions of external objects;
but when either the interest or reputation of their own country
comes in collision with that of another, they go to the opposite extreme,
and forget their usual probity and candor,
in the indulgence of splenetic remark, and an illiberal spirit of ridicule….
     They may, perhaps, have been disappointed
in some unreasonable expectation of sudden gain.
They may have pictured America to themselves an El Dorado,
where gold and silver abounded, and the natives were lacking in sagacity;
and where they were to become strangely and suddenly rich,
in some unforeseen, but easy manner.
The same weakness of mind that indulges
absurd expectations produces petulance in disappointment.
Such persons become embittered against the country on finding that there,
as everywhere else, a man must sow before he can reap;
must win wealth by industry and talent;
and must contend with the common difficulties of nature,
and the shrewdness of an intelligent and enterprising people….
     The members of a republic, above all other men,
should be candid and dispassionate.
They are, individually, portions of the sovereign mind and sovereign will,
and should be enabled to come to all questions of national concern
with calm and unbiased judgments.
From the peculiar nature of our relations with England,
we must have more frequent questions
of a difficult and delicate character with her than with any other nation;
questions that affect the most acute and excitable feelings;
and as, in the adjusting of these, our national measures
must ultimately be determined by popular sentiment,
we cannot be too anxiously attentive
to purify it from all latent passion or prepossession.
     Opening, too, as we do,
an asylum for strangers from every portion of the earth,
we should receive all with impartiality.
It should be our pride to exhibit an example of one nation,
at least, destitute of national antipathies,
and exercising not merely the overt acts of hospitality,
but those more rare and noble courtesies
which spring from the liberality of opinion.
     What have we to do with national prejudices?
They are the inveterate diseases of old countries,
contracted in rude and ignorant ages,
when nations knew but little of each other,
and looked beyond their own boundaries with distrust and hostility.
We, on the contrary, have sprung into national existence
in an enlightened and philosophic age,
when the different parts of the habitable world,
and the various branches of the human family,
have been indefatigably studied and made known to each other;
and we forego the advantages of our birth,
if we do not shake off the national prejudices,
as we would the local superstitions of the old world.4

      The two most famous stories are about America—“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and both were offered as from the papers of Dietrich Knickerbocker.
      The fantastic tale “Rip Van Winkle” takes place in the Catskill mountains. Rip is a hen-pecked husband who avoids his farm-work at home but is very gentle and kind in helping his neighbors. The author explains,

Those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad,
who are under the discipline of shrews at home.
Their tempers are rendered pliant and malleable
in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation.5

One day Rip wanders off with his gun and finds some people playing nine pins. A man asks Rip to help him carry a keg of liquor, and then he drinks much and falls asleep. When Rip awakes, he finds that his gun is rust and that he has a long beard. He notices that things have changed in many ways. He finds his house in ruins and talks to others who say Rip Van Winkle disappeared twenty years ago. The sign with King George now has General Washington. They ask if he is a Federal or a Democrat as they discuss elections. He says he is loyal to the King, and they take him for a Tory. He learns that his wife died, and he meets their daughter who takes him home to an easy life. This story reflects how the American Revolution radically transformed colonies into a democratic nation.
      Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a landmark ghost story in the early history of American literature. In the quiet forest near Tarry Town the “sequestered glen” of Sleepy Hollow was a place of “witching power” where some believed a headless horseman rode. The tall bachelor Ichabod Crane is the schoolmaster who knows well Cotton Mather’s History of New-England Witchcraft. He has been attracted to 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel but has to compete with the heroic Brom Van Brant for her attention at a dance. She dismisses Ichabod who feels lonely and dismal as he leaves at midnight on his horse. He passes the bridge where the infamous spy, Major André, was captured. He sees a large horseman on a powerful black horse carrying his head on the saddle. He chases Ichabod whose saddle falls off as he holds on to the horse. Then the goblin throws his head which hits Ichabod’s cranium. The next morning the schoolmaster is nowhere to be found. Some believe that an old farmer visited later who had become a lawyer and a politician, but old wives still believe that “Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means.” The detailed description in this story show Irving as master of his craft.
      Irving’s essay “Traits of Indian Character” in The Sketchbook was first published in the English edition in July 1820. He wrote,

    It has been the lot of the unfortunate aborigines of America,
in the early periods of colonization, to be doubly wronged by the white men.
They have been dispossessed of their hereditary possessions
by mercenary and frequently wanton warfare;
and their characters have been traduced by bigoted and interested writers.
The colonist has often treated them like beasts of the forest,
and the author has endeavoured to justify him in his outrages.
The former found it easier to exterminate than to civilize—
the latter to vilify than to discriminate.
The appellations of savage and pagan
were deemed sufficient to sanction the hostilities of both;
and thus the poor wanderers of the forest were persecuted and defamed,
not because they were guilty, but because they were ignorant.
    The rights of the savage have seldom been properly appreciated
or respected by the white man.
In peace, he has too often been the dupe of artful traffic;
in war he has been regarded as a ferocious animal
whose life or death was a question of mere precaution and convenience.
Man is cruelly wasteful of life when his own safety is endangered,
and he is sheltered by impunity;
and little mercy is to be expected from him when he feels
the sting of the reptile and is conscious of the power to destroy.
    The same prejudices, which were indulged thus early,
exist in common circulation at the present day.
Certain learned societies have, it is true, with laudable diligence endeavored
to investigate and record the real characters and manners of the Indian tribes;
the American government, too, has wisely and humanely exerted itself
to inculcate a friendly and forbearing spirit toward them
and to protect them from fraud and injustice.*
The current opinion of the Indian character, however,
is too apt to be formed from the miserable hordes which
infest the frontiers and hang on the skirts of the settlements.
These are too commonly composed of degenerate beings,
corrupted and enfeebled by the vices of society
without being benefited by its civilization.
That proud independence, which formed the main pillar of savage virtue,
has been shaken down, and the whole moral fabric lies in ruins.
Their spirits are humiliated and debased by a sense of inferiority,
and their native courage cowed and daunted by the superior knowledge
and power of their enlightened neighbors.

    *The American government has been indefatigable in its exertions
to ameliorate the situation of the Indians, and to introduce among them
the arts of civilization, and civil and religious knowledge.
To protect them from the frauds of the white traders,
no purchase of land from them by individuals is permitted;
nor is any person allowed to receive lands from them as a present,
without the express sanction of government.
These precautions are strictly enforced.6

This footnote reflects the United States policy in 1820 which would be radically changed by the Jackson administration.

Washington Irving’s Stories & Histories

      Irving wrote Bracebridge Hall, or The Humorists, A Medley and published it in the United States and Britain in May 1822 when it was also translated into German. This collection of stories is based on people living in several halls in England. In “The Author” at the beginning he explained his approach as a writer as

looking at things poetically, rather than politically;
describing them as they are,
rather than pretending to point out how they should be;
and endeavouring to see the world
in as pleasant a light as circumstances will permit.
I have always had an opinion that much good might be done
by keeping mankind in good-humour with one another.
I may be wrong in my philosophy,
but I shall continue to practice it until convinced of its fallacy.7

      He published more essays and stories in his Tales of a Traveler in August 1824 in 2 volumes with four installments in the US. He used the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon again for this book and Bracebridge Hall. Parts 1 and 2 of Tales of a Traveler take place in England, though they include stories of a German student and a young Italian. Part 3 is about Italian bandits. In Part 4 he wrote about the New York area, and the last story is “The Adventure of the Black Fisherman.”
      In 1825 Irving began studying Spanish, and in 1826 he became an attaché to the American legation in Madrid. Although he translated the Journals of Columbus and Navarrete’s history of the voyages, critics accused him of using his imagination to fictionalize his long History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus which was published in February 1828 in England and the US and had 175 editions by 1890. During his lifetime it was translated into Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Swedish, and Russian. His multi-volume book remained the most popular biography of Columbus for more than a century. (I used it as a source for my screenplay COLUMBUS and His Four Voyages.) In 1829 Irving was elected to Spain’s Real Academia de la Historia, and in April and May he published his Chronicle of the Conquest of Granada using the name “Fray Antonio Agapida.”
      In London in late September 1829 Irving began working for the US Minister to Britain, Louis McLane. President Adams in 1825 had declined to resume trade with the British, and President Jackson considered this a mistake. McLane and Irving worked to remove American restrictions on British ships from the West Indies. On 29 May 1830 the US Congress approved such a bill, and the British foreign secretary Aberdeen said he would try to work it out. King George IV died on June 26, and McLane and Irving became friends with King William IV. Jackson recalled McLane to make him Secretary of the Treasury and sent Martin Van Buren to London. Meanwhile Irving as chargé d’affairs acted as minister until Van Buren arrived on September 19. In August 1830 Irving witnessed the crowning of Louis Philippe in Paris. After spending his time and money in this position Irving resigned. On December 30 he published his Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus in London. In February 1831 Van Buren learned that the US Senate had rejected his nomination, and Irving consoled him.
      Irving published The Alhambra: a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards inEngland inMay 1832, and that month he returned to New York after being in Europe for 17 years. In Washington he met Henry Clay, and he dined with President Jackson and his Vice President nominee Martin Van Buren. In September he accompanied Commissioner of Indian Affairs Henry Ellsworth on a trip west to supervise Indian removal. Near St. Louis he saw the defeated Sauk chief Black Hawk, and then he visited Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory in October and hunted buffalo and wolves. Irving took a steamboat to New Orleans in November and then traveled by mail coach through the South back to Washington.
      In 1833 Irving watched Congressional debates on the tariff and other issues that involved Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John Calhoun. In September he went up the Hudson River with Vice President Van Buren to the Catskills. Van Buren asked him to go to Washington where Irving persuaded Secretary of State McLane not to resign in protest of Jackson’s National Bank deposits policy.
      In 1834 John Jacob Astor asked Irving to write a history of his fur trade in the northwest, and Astor paid Irving’s nephew Pierre Munro $3,000 to help with the research. Irving published A Tour on the Prairies in the spring of 1835. His Abbotsford and Newstead came out in May. Abbotsford is about his visits to the home of Walter Scott, who had died in 1832, and Newstead tells how he spent his time at the ancestral home of the poet Byron at Newstead Abbey. Legends of the Conquest of Spain appeared in October and describes the rise and government of Roderick and the conquests led by Musa ibn Nusayr in the early 8th century.
      In October 1836 Irving published the long history commissioned by Astor, Astoria: Or, Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains, and it became a best seller and was read in schools. He continued the history of fur-trapping in the American west in The Adventures of Captain Bonneville which was published in early May 1837 in London and then in late June in the United States. This book was severely criticized by the British who were tiring of his American writings, but it was popular in the US. In the last chapter he wrote,

    We here close our picturings of the Rocky Mountains
and their wild inhabitants, and of the wild life that prevails there;
which we have been anxious to fix on record,
because we are aware that this singular state of things
is full of mutation, and must soon undergo great changes,
if not entirely pass away.
The fur trade itself, which has given life to all this portraiture,
is essentially evanescent.
Rival parties of trappers soon exhaust the streams,
especially when competition renders them heedless and wasteful of the beaver.
The furbearing animals extinct, a complete change will come over the scene;
the gay free trapper and his steed, decked out in wild array,
and tinkling with bells and trinketry;
the savage war chief, plumed and painted and ever on the prowl;
the traders’ cavalcade, winding through defiles or over naked plains,
with the stealthy war party lurking on its trail;
the buffalo chase, the hunting camp, the mad carouse in the midst of danger,
the night attack, the stampede, the scamper,
the fierce skirmish among rocks and cliffs—
all this romance of savage life, which yet exists among the mountains,
will then exist but in frontier story,
and seem like the fictions of chivalry or fairy tale….
    The facts disclosed in the present work clearly manifest the policy
of establishing military posts and a mounted force
to protect our traders in their journeys across the great western wilds,
and of pushing the outposts into the very heart of the singular wilderness
we have laid open, so as to maintain some degree of sway over the country,
and to put an end to the kind of “blackmail,”
levied on all occasions by the savage “chivalry of the mountains.”8

      In 1838 President Van Buren asked Irving to be Secretary of the Navy, but he declined. Irving promoted his favorite author by publishing The Life and Works of Oliver Goldsmith in 1840, and in 1841 he also made available his Biography and Poetical Remains of the Late Margaret Miller Davidson who had died of tuberculosis in August 1825 one month before her 17th birthday. Secretary of State Daniel Webster recommended Irving for minister to Spain, and President Tyler appointed him in 1842. He reached Madrid in July and at first had much time to write; but then his diplomatic duties tired him, and his health collapsed in February 1843.
      Washington Irving found that William H. Prescott (1796-1859) was competing with his histories by publishing The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic in 1837, The History of the Conquest of Mexico in 1843, and A History of the Conquest of Peru in 1847. Irving had begun writing Mahomet and His Successors in 1831 but did not get it published until 1849-50. Starting in 1841 Irving worked in his later years mostly on his long 5-volume biography of George Washington that he finally completed in 1859 before his death later that year. Irving had written in 1843 about his home at Sunnyside in Tarrytown, “I really believe that when I die I shall haunt it: but it will be as a good spirit, that no one needs be afraid of.”9 His body was buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

James Fenimore Cooper & his Early Novels

      Born James Cooper on 15 September 1789 in New Jersey, his father William Cooper and Quaker mother Elizabeth (Fenimore) moved the large family in October 1790 to Otsego County in New York where his father founded the town named Cooperstown after him. William was a Federalist Congressman during the presidencies of Washington and John Adams. James would choose the middle name Fenimore in 1826 to fulfill a promise to his mother after her death. In 1801 he went to a boarding school in Albany and then to Yale University from 1803 until he was expelled for a prank in 1805 even though he was known as the best Latin student. He went to sea as a sailor in October 1806 and became a US Navy midshipman in January 1808. After two and a half years he was given a one-year furlough and then resigned. Thus he did not serve in the War of 1812. He had become financially independent when his father died in 1809 and left his fortune to his five sons.
      In January 1811 he married Susan Augusta de Lancey who was from a wealthy family in Westchester County that had been loyal to the British during the Revolution. The Coopers lived in New Rochelle and Cooperstown before building a home at Angevin Farm near Scarsdale in 1818, and they raised a family of five daughters and two sons. During the financial panic of 1819 the death of his brothers made James responsible for his family’s debts. Dissatisfied with a novel he was reading, he said he could write a better book, and his wife Susan challenged him to do so.
      Cooper’s first novel Precaution published anonymously in 1820 was influenced by the works of Jane Austen and was about parents preparing for the marriage of their daughters. He used Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe as a guide, but his clumsy first effort was hampered by his attempt to pass it off as an English work. Yet later critics could see that he had talent.
      Cooper’s second novel, The Spy: a Tale of the Neutral Ground, published in December 1821 began his successful literary career and was set in Westchester County, New York in 1780. This book was influenced by Scott’s Waverly novels. On the neutral ground between the British and American lines there was no law but force, and it was difficult to tell who were spies. The fairly complicated plot depicts the twists and turns of suspected spies during the conflict between the American revolutionaries and the British loyalists. The peddler Harvey Birch is spying against the British as a double agent, and he is suspected of being a British spy. General George Washington presents himself as Mr. Harper to the Wharton family. Their daughter Frances is in love with the American Major Dunwoodie, but she thinks he likes her sister Sarah, who agrees to marry the British Col. Wellmere. Their brother Henry Wharton is a British captain and appears in a disguise to cross the American lines to visit them. Harper recognizes him but offers to help him. The Virginia cavalry arrives, and Captain Lawton discovers Henry and arrests him; but he escapes. The suspected Birch is turned over to Lawton, but he flees from jail disguised as a washer woman. At his wedding Wellmere is exposed by Birch, and Lawton challenges Wellmere to a duel. In battle Lawton recaptures Henry who is sentenced to death. Dunwoodie appeals to Washington and then marries Frances. Birch visits Henry and helps him escape. Washington wants to reward Birch who asks only for a letter. In 1812 the elderly Birch gives Americans information on British troop movements and is killed in a battle, but the letter reveals his loyal service. This romantic novel describes ambiguities of the Revolutionary War.

      Cooper’s novel, The Pioneers, or The Sources of the Susquehanna, sold 3,500 copies on the first day of its publication in February 1823. This is the first of five novels that will depict the character Nathaniel Bumppo known as Natty or Leatherstocking. In December 1793 he is an old hunter who lives in a cabin by Lake Otsego with Indian John and young Oliver Edwards. The landowner Judge Temple and his daughter Elizabeth are traveling by sleigh and hear hounds. They stop, and he shoots at a fleeing deer who is then killed by Natty. Temple claims he shot the deer, but actually he had wounded Oliver. Temple apologizes and gives Oliver a job as his secretary. Sheriff Jones suspects that Natty is using his cabin to hide ore he mined. Natty is critical of those who kill many more birds and fish than they can use, and Jones arrests him for shooting one deer out of season. Natty is fined and sentenced to a month in jail and a few hours in the stocks. Elizabeth goes to help him and learns he is planning to escape. They are to meet the next day in the woods, and during a forest fire Natty and Oliver take her to the cabin where an old Indian is dying. Oliver says the old man owns the land. Temple discovers that he is Major Effingham and the father of Oliver. Judge Temple realizes he is his old business partner and arranges to take care of him and returns his property. Old Effingham is happy and dies. Oliver and Elizabeth want to build a new cabin for Natty; but he chooses to go hunting in the woods until he dies. This story describes how Natty tries to live in harmony with nature compared to other settlers who carelessly exploit the environment.

      In April 1823 Cooper joined the American Philosophical society, and in May he moved to New York City. After reading Walter Scott’s The Pirate, Cooper wanted to write a better sea story, and he published his first sea romance, The Pilot, in January 1824. His preface begins,

The privileges of the Historian
and of the writer of Romances are very different,
and it behooves them equally to respect each other’s rights.
The latter is permitted to garnish a probable fiction,
while he is sternly prohibited from dwelling on improbable truths;
but it is the duty of the former to record facts as they have occurred,
without a reference to consequences,
resting his reputation on a firm foundation of realities,
and vindicating his integrity by his authorities.

In the 1849 preface of The Pilot he wrote,

There is an uneasy desire among a vast many
well-disposed persons to get the fruits of the Christian faith,
without troubling themselves about the Faith itself.
This is done under the sanction of Peace Societies,
Temperance and Moral Reform societies,
in which the end is too often mistaken for the means.
When the Almighty sent his Son on earth, it was to point out the way
in which all this was to be brought about, by means of the Church;
but men have so frittered away that body of divine organization,
through their divisions and subdivisions,
all arising from human conceit,
that it is no longer regarded as the agency
it was obviously intended to be,
and various contrivances are to be employed as substitutes
for that which proceeded directly from the Son of God!

      The Pilot is set near the end of the War of Independence along the northeastern coast of England. Lt. Barnstable commands the American schooner Ariel with Long Tom Coffin as coxswain, and they pick up the pilot Gray. Wealthy Col. Howard is a loyalist from South Carolina, and he now lives in the castle St. Ruth’s Abbey; but his daughter Cecilia is in love with the American Lt. Edward Griffin. Her friend Alice Dunscombe was engaged to Gray; but as a loyalist she declined to marry him. The pilot uses the name “Gray,” but he is actually the heroic John Paul Jones. Only Alice knows who he is and calls him “John.” Barnstable wants to rescue Cecilia and Howard’s niece Katherine Plowden from an abbey where Captain Borroughcliffe commands British troops. They talk about the pirate John Paul Jones and the American Revolution. Edward Griffith is an officer on an American frigate. He goes ashore with the Marine Captain Manual, but they are captured and taken to the abbey. Katherine and Cecilia bribe the sentry and get Borroughcliffe drunk so that the men can escape.
      In a battle at sea Coffin kills the cutter’s captain with a harpoon, and Howard’s kinsman Christopher Dillon is captured; but on parole he arrests Coffin and plots with Borroughcliffe to capture Barnstable and his men. However, Coffin escapes and seizes and binds Borroughcliffe and takes Dillon. The Ariel is damaged by a British battery and destroyed by a storm. Coffin saves Barnstable by throwing him overboard, but he and Dillon go down with the ship. Barnstable leads an attack on the abbey that is ambushed by Borroughcliffe’s troops; but the pilot and his marines from the frigate capture the British and the Tories. Griffith releases Borroughcliffe and his soldiers. John tells Alice he will continue his patriotic efforts. An American ship is to take Howard and his two nieces to America, but in a battle Captain Munson is killed. The pilot guides the ship through shoal waters. Col. Howard is wounded and dying but sees Cecilia wed Griffith and Katherine Barnstable. The pilot takes the frigate to Holland.
      The pilot believes that the Americans are fighting for human nature, and near the end of the book Griffith says to Cecelia, “The wisdom and name of Washington will smooth the way for the experiment, until time shall mature the system.”10 Cooper demonstrated the value of self-discipline and courageous action for freedom in a patriotic novel.

      Having written two successful novels about the American War of Independence, Cooper wrote Lionel Lincoln or, The Leaguer of Boston as the first volume for a series of historical novels with one in each colony he called “Legends of the Thirteen Republics.” He set it during the British occupation of Boston in 1775-76 in honor of the coming jubilee and published it in 1825. He researched the scenes in Boston, and the retreat from Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill are described effectively. For the Bunker Hill Battle he consulted the 1818 books by Henry Dearborn, who participated in the battle, and the historian Samuel Swett. Major Lincoln, who had been born in Boston but was educated at Oxford, decides to marry an aristocratic Tory and return to England. He suffers from a hereditary disorder that affects his mind, and his father is put in a mental institution. The result is a gothic novel that proved to be a failure, though some critics compared it to Hawthorne and Dostoyevski. Cooper decided to abandon the series and wrote his best novel next.

      In January 1826 Cooper made a deal to publish 5,000 copies of The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757, and it was released in February and sold out by March. By “Mohicans” he meant all the native tribes in the eastern portion of North America. He consulted at least the first of two books by John G. E. Heckewelder. The Oxford English Dictionary credited The Last of the Mohicans with being the first literary work to use the Ojibwe word “totem,” though it had appeared in two previous books. In the French and Indian War that began in 1754 the tribes of the Iroquois confederation were allied with the British while their enemies, the Hurons, fought for the French. In this novel the Leatherstocking character Nathaniel Bumppo is known as Hawkeye. He is the son of white parents who died in infancy but was raised by Mohicans in the ways of the Indians. He is accompanied by his friends Chingachgook (Great Serpent) and his grown son Uncas.
      On 3 August 1757 the French General Montcalm besieged Fort William Henry with 7,000 soldiers, and the garrison commanded by Lt. Col. Monro is greatly outnumbered. He sends messengers to General Webb at nearby Fort Edward asking for more troops. Monro’s adult daughters Cora and Alice and the singing teacher David Gamut go with Major Duncan Heyward and the soldiers, and their guide is the ex-Huron Magua. Hawkeye and his Mohican friends join them, but Magua leads them into a Huron ambush. Hawkeye forces Magua to flee, and Heyward makes Hawkeye the guide. That night they stay in a cave, and Magua with Hurons attacks them. They lack ammunition, and Hawkeye and his friends leave to get it. Magua and his men capture the women, Heyward, and Gamut. Heyward asks Magua to take them to Munro. Magua agrees if Cora will become his wife; but she refuses. Magua is about to kill Alice; but Hawkeye and his friends attack and kill some Hurons while the others flee. The next day Hawkeye gets through the French lines and into the fort. He takes a message to Fort Edward, but on the way back he and his letter are captured.
      During a truce Montcalm shows Webb’s letter to Munro and persuades him to surrender by letting them keep their arms and colors. The next day the British in the forest are attacked by Hurons. Magua carries off Alice. Cora follows them as the garrison is massacred. After this event Cooper wrote,

Pages might be written to prove, from this illustrious example,
the defects of human excellence;
to show how easy it is for generous sentiments,
high courtesy, and chivalrous courage, to lose their influence
beneath the chilling ascendency of mistaken selfishness,
and to exhibit to the world a man
who was great in all the minor attributes of character,
but who was found wanting, when it became necessary
to prove how much principle is superior to policy.11

Hawkeye and his friends with Heyward follow the women’s trail. Hawkeye takes a canoe to go after Magua, and Uncas finds the captive women near a Huron camp. Gamut says the Hurons think he is crazy because he sings. They let him wander, and he informs Hawkeye where the women are. Hawkeye says to the others,

There is but a single Ruler of us all,
whatever may be the colour of the skin;
and him I call to witness—
that before the Mohican boy shall perish for the want of a friend,
good faith shall depart the ‘arth.”12

Heyward disguised as a French doctor rescues Alice while Uncas is captured. Hawkeye dressed as a medicine man finds Uncas and gives him Gamut’s clothes to take his place. David Gamut says,

I am an unworthy and humble follower of one
who taught not the damnable principle of revenge.
Should I fall, therefore, seek no victims to my manes,
but rather forgive my destroyers;
and if you remember them at all,
let it be in prayers for the enlightening of their minds,
and for their eternal welfare.13

Hawkeye and Uncas go to a Delaware camp, but the next day Magua arrives looking for them. The Delawares let Magua take Cora as his wife, and Uncas follows them. Magua takes her to a high cliff and kills Uncas. Then a Delaware shoots Magua dead with his rifle, but a Huron murders Cora. Munro and Heyward take Alice to British territory. Hawkeye returns to the forest to stay with Chingachgook who is now the last of the Mohicans.
      Cooper lived near the frontier and portrayed the Indians realistically and with empathy while showing how the European powers of England and France lost control of their colonies in America despite their violent efforts and how their conflict in the Seven Years War damaged Americans.

      The Prairie depicts the old age and death of the Leatherstocking Natty Bumppo. Cooper read books to prepare for this novel but did not visit the locale. During the spring of 1826 he met the young Pawnee chief Peterlasharroo, and Cooper’s wife Susan reported that he based his character Hard-Heart on him. On June 1 he sailed for Europe with his family, and they rented a house in Paris in July. He was influenced by The History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark and especially An Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains; Undertaken in the Years 1819 and ’20 … Under the Command of Major Stephen H. Long. The novel was published in 1827 and takes place in 1804, and Natty Bumppo is generally referred to as “the trapper” or “the old man.”
      Ishmael Bush leads his wife Esther and their sons and daughters west of the Mississippi River along with Esther’s brother Abiram White and her niece Ellen Wade as well as the old trapper and Dr. Obed Bat. Natty learns that Ellen is in love with the bee hunter Paul Hover, and a band of Sioux captures those three; but while the Indians are stealing the horses and cattle, they escape. The trapper leads them to a hilltop. US Army Captain Duncan Uncas Middleton joins them; he has been searching for his wife Inez who was stolen by Abiram and Ishmael. After a buffalo hunt, Ishmael’s oldest son Asa is found dead with one of the trapper’s bullets in him, and at camp the Bushes discover that Ellen and Inez are gone. Middleton, helped by Natty, Dr. Bat, and Paul, rescue them. They come across the Pawnee warrior Hard-Heart who causes a buffalo stampede that nearly tramples them. The Sioux were following the buffalo and capture the group. When Ishmael and his sons approach on foot, the Sioux give the captives horses to ride back to the camp. While the Sioux raid the camp, the trapper and his friends escape. The Sioux follow and set the prairie on fire, but the trapper burns off nearby prairie with a backfire to protect them. Hard-Heart arrives and tells them that the Bushes have joined the Sioux to look for them, and they go to a Pawnee village for protection.
      Snow that night helps the Sioux track and capture them. The Sioux leave the old man alone, but he stays with the others. The Sioux chief Mahtoree wants to marry Inez and refuses to turn over her, Ellen, and the trapper to Ishmael. The Sioux torture Hard-Heart, and he escapes and joins a Pawnee war party. While Hard-Heart challenges Mahtoree to single combat, the trapper helps his friends escape. Hard-Heart kills the chief, and Pawnees defeat the Sioux who flee. The next day Ishmael apologizes for stealing Inez, and he lets Ellen go with Paul. The trapper explains that Asa was killed by Abiram who confesses. Ishmael has Abiram tied with a noose around his neck, and that night Abiram hangs himself. The old trapper declines to go back to their settlement and stays with Hard-Heart. One year later Middleton visits that Pawnee village and sees Natty die peacefully at sunset.
      This novel shows that Cooper identifies with the ways of the Indians more than with those of the European colonials.

Cooper & His Writing 1827-38

      Cooper wrote The Red Rover while he was in Europe and published it there in 1827 and in America in 1828; he considered it his most popular book. It is another authentic sea story about the pirate, Captain Heidegger, in the middle of the 18th century and the sailors Dick Fid, the black Scipio Africanus, and British Navy officer Harry Wilder. The novel was also adapted into a play in Philadelphia, New York, and in London.
      Cooper’s The Wept of Wish-ton-Wish (1829) is about an interracial marriage between a white girl and a young Indian chief at a Puritan settlement that the Indians burn as these cultures clash again. The widower, Captain Mark Heathcote, is a Puritan patriarch founding a settlement in a Connecticut valley at Wish-Ton-Wish in the 1660s. The second half of the novel takes place after the defeat of chief Conanchet’s Narragansetts in November 1675. The next year the Pequods and some whites set off King Philip’s War that tests the ethical principles of Mark and Conanchet. At the end of the novel the author notes that Meek Wolfe in that time has been succeeded now by Meek Lamb.
      Cooper while in Europe wrote Notions of the Americans; Picked Up by a Travelling Bachelor as nonfictional letters by a fictional American traveling in Europe, and he published it in England in June 1828 and two months later in America. In this work he defended American democracy against the “falsehoods and calumnies” held by Europeans. He defied any nation to produce as many men and women of elevated moral character, and he was especially proud of America’s press freedom.
      After serving as Consul of Lyons he traveled in Italy. Cooper’s novel, The Water-Witch, finished in Rome, is another sea story, this one set in New York and at sea in the 1700s about smuggling by the Skimmer of the Seas. Cooper could not get it published in Italy because of papal censorship, and after visiting Venice for ten days he had it printed at Dresden in 1830. He returned to Paris in August to see the results of the July revolution. That year he read Jefferson’s letters and wondered if he is the greatest American. He met Louis Philippe, and he studied revolutionary movements in Belgium, Italy, Poland, and supported the one in Russia. In 1831 he stayed in Europe so that his daughter could complete her education. He made money writing new prefaces and from European translations of his works.

      Cooper’s novel The Bravo was published in October 1831 and was the first of three novels about Europe’s declining feudalism. This story in Venice exposes the corruption of the Senate and its secret Council of Three that imposes a commercial oligarchy in the supposed republic. Venetian architecture, carnivals, and ceremonies are described. Duke Camillo Monforte loves and saved from drowning the heiress, 16-year-old Violetta Tiepolo, ward of Senator Gradenigo. The government controls her marriage, and he tries to get the Senate to recognize his inheritance in Venice; but they deny and exploit his suit. Senator Gradenigo is one of the Three and wants his son Giacomo to wed her. The Senate pays spies to help them control the patricians. Senator Gradenigo’s foster brother Antonio Vecchio is a poor old fisherman and, having lost all his sons, complains that his grandson was impressed into the galleys. The bravo Jacopo Frontoni spies for Venice and tells Gradenigo that his son Giacomo has borrowed money from Jews. The senator also has Jacopo warn Antonio not to criticize the state, and Antonio asks Jacopo to stop committing crimes for the Senate. In the street Antonio appeals to the Doge of Venice, and many fisherman back his request. Jacopo takes disguised Antonio to the Council of Three. For safety they put Violetta in a convent where Camillo serenades her and proposes marriage. Her advisor Father Anselmo goes in a gondola to fishing Antonio who drowns in a boating accident before Jacopo can rescue him.
      Duke Camillo and Jacopo are angry at the state and become friends. The Jew Hosea tells Jacopo that the Senate is sending Violetta to Dalmatia and that Giacomo is borrowing money to abduct her. The Senate gives Antonio an extravagant funeral and persuades fishermen that the bravo Jacopo killed him. Jacopo’s father was imprisoned for smuggling, and the son has been trying to free him by spying and by pretending to be an assassin for the Senate. Jacopo learns where Violetta is hiding and takes her to meet Camillo, but on the way Giacomo and Hosea hire him to kill Camillo. However, Jacopo helps Camillo escape instead. The next day Jacopo is arrested. Giacomo and Hosea are punished, and the tribunal secretly orders Jacopo executed. At his confession Anselmo learns that Jacopo has committed no murders. Anselmo and Jacopo’s fiancée Gelsomina tell the Doge who is convinced, but in the morning Jacopo is beheaded. She loses her mind, and Anselmo leaves Venice. This story portrays the depravity of the Venetian aristocracy.

      Cooper spent time in Paris with Samuel F. B. Morse who returned to America in July 1832. That month Cooper published his novel The Heidenmauer set in Bavaria during the German Reformation in the 16th century when Lutherans challenged Catholic power. The aristocrats, Abbot Bonifacius of Limburg and the Count Emich Leininger of Hartenburg, are fighting over feudal rights, and the Burgomaster Heinrich Frey of Duerckheim exerts the increasing commercial interests. Six men get drunk trying to settle a dispute between Bonifacius and Emich over vineland. The forester Berchthold Hintermayer arrives, defends Martin Luther, and then helps Emich emerge victorious. The next day the humble Prior Arnolph gives a sermon that softens Emich, but then Father Johan threatens the Count with hell. Emich invites Burgomaster Frey to dinner to get his support against the Benedictines. Frey’s wife Ulrike says her daughter Meta loves Berchthold but refuses to make a deal. The women are shocked by plans for violence. Ulrike goes to the hermit Odo at the Heidenmauer. but Berchthold and Frey lead an attack on the Abbey with armed men. Bonifacius speaks against them, but Ulrike asks him not to excommunicate them. When Count Emich arrives, Ulrike is led safely away. Emich’s peasants and the soldiers pillage the abbey and burn the buildings. Berchthold tries to save Johan and Odo but is lost with them.
      The Duerckheim Council meets, and Bonifacius demands much gold and penance. Count Emich agrees, but all refuse to rebuild the abbey. Some go on a pilgrimage to Switzerland, and others discuss the reforms of Luther. When the pilgrims return, they discover that Berchthold and Odo had survived the fire. Ulrike asks Odo to help broke Berchthold and learns that the hermit willed him his castle and land. The next day Berchthold weds Meta.

      In November 1831 Cooper wrote a letter to General Lafayette which was published in English in December to explain that the American republic is less expensive than a monarchy. The French translation was printed in January 1832 and was discussed in the Chamber of Deputies.
      Cooper’s novel The Headsman: The Abbaye des Vignerons was published in London in July 1833 and at Philadelphia in September. Aristocrats rule the Swiss canton of Berne led by Baron Melchior de Willading and the Vévey bailiff Peter Hofmeister. The hereditary Headsman Balthazar, the executioner for Berne, is hated and is trying to keep his children free of this curse, but his daughter is repudiated at her wedding. During a storm on Lake Leman they protect the women and throw Balthazar overboard. During the hurricane the mercenary soldier Sigismund saves the Baron’s daughter Adelheid de Willading, and he and the Italian smuggler Maso rescue the Baron and his friend Grimaldi. Nicklaus and Baptiste fight in the water and drown. The city celebrates in a grand procession, and executions are postponed. Adelheid wants to marry Sigismund but is told that he is the Headsman’s son. Balthazar is tried for murder; but Christine testifies, and the judge finds him innocent. At one point Grimaldi says to the Baron,

While every principle would seem to say
that each must stand or fall by his own good or evil deeds,
that men are to be honored as they merit,
every device of human institutions
is exerted to achieve the opposite.
This is exalted, because his ancestry is noble;
that condemned for no better reason than that he is born vile.14

Eventually Sigismund learns that that the Headsman adopted him and that Grimaldi, the Doge of Genoa, is his father. Finally Adelheid weds Sigismund.

      Cooper returned to New York in November 1833. He went to Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia on business and observed the effects of Jacksonian democracy which he called “a vast expansion of mediocrity.” In June 1834 he published a Letter to His Countrymen to warn them against deferring too much to foreign opinions. He wrote,

The democracy of this country is
in every way strong enough to protect itself.
Here, the democrat is the conservative,
and, thank God, he has something worth preserving.
I believe he knows it, and that he will be true to himself.15

Whig newspapers criticized Cooper, and he was unpopular. In October he bought Otsego Hall in Cooperstown. He began writing political articles in December on American government and paying the French debt using the pseudonym “A.B.C.”Cooper’s novel, The Monikins, was published in July 1835 and satirized England and the United States calling the countries “Leaphigh” and “Leaplow” respectively, but it failed to impress critics or the public.
      From 1836 to 1838 Cooper published at Philadelphia five volumes of Gleanings in Europe covering Switzerland, the Rhine, France, England, and Italy. In 1837 he was involved in a legal controversy over a picnic ground he owned by Lake Otsego. He sued critics for libel and was enmeshed in various lawsuits.

      In 1838 Cooper published The American Democrat: or Hints on the Social and Civic Relations of the United States of America. He summarized American democracy and compared it to other forms of government. He advised that the representative who exceeds his trust trespasses against the rights of the people. He considered the principal advantage of democracy to be a general elevation in the character of the people. A few may be raised, but only a few are depressed. Democracies are established for common interests, and the people can check public officials so that they serve the whole community. He favored the “utmost practicable personal liberty” and defined liberty as

a controlling authority that resides in the body of a nation,
but so restrained as only to be exercised
on certain general principles that shall do
as little violence to natural justice,
as is compatible with the peace and security of society.16

      In discussing the disadvantages of democracy he observed,

Democracies, depending so much on popular opinion
are more liable to be influenced to their injury,
through the management of foreign and hostile nations,
than other governments.17

The misleading of public opinion by a corrupt community can also damage a democracy. He warned against what a demagogue could do, writing,

The peculiar office of a demagogue is to advance his own interests,
by affecting a deep devotion to the interests of the people.
Sometimes the object is to indulge malignancy,
unprincipled and selfish men submitting but to two governing motives,
that of doing good to themselves, and that of doing harm to others.18

He noted that the demagogue’s motive may be detected in his conduct. Representatives are to regard the will of the majority and the Constitution, and judges and the executive are representatives as much as the legislature is. In discussing universal suffrage Cooper mentioned that half the population is excluded on account of sex and more than half the rest on account of age. He considered only a small portion excluded in his time by extreme poverty, crimes, or lack of a residence. He believed that every man has a moral obligation to conduct himself with civility to all around him.
      Near the end of his treatise on democracy Cooper wrote,

Individuality is the aim of political liberty.
By leaving to the citizen as much freedom of action and of being,
as comports with order and the rights of others,
the institutions render him truly a freeman.
He is left to pursue his means of happiness in his own manner.19

      Although Cooper’s novels express empathy for native tribes, he seemed to hold that abolition of slavery was “impolitic” in the United States and that it would fail. Yet he realized that the moral existence of slaves is limited by maintaining their ignorance in order to keep them subjected.
      He wrote that the first lesson of religion is humility which produces charity, and he concluded this book,

The high consolations of religion,
in which lies the only lasting and true relief
from the cares and seeming injustice of the world,
are equally attainable, or, if there be a disadvantage
connected with this engrossing interest, it is against those
whose lots are vulgarly supposed to be the most desirable.20

Cooper’s Novels 1839-44

      Cooper wrote two Effingham novels about a family descended from his characters in The Pioneers as a response to his legal controversies. He published Homeward Bound in November 1838, and four months later it was followed by its socially critical sequel Home as Found about a newspaper editor. Homeward Bound is about a voyage of the Montauk from England to New York that is pursued by an English war-ship under Captain Ducie and nearly shipwrecked off the coast of Africa where they are confronted by Arabs. The sea adventure tests the characters of the English and Americans aboard as wind takes them off course. Steadfast Dodge is a Yankee newspaper editor who believes in democracy. The Effinghams are well off with good education. Dodge has a weak character and admires the English aristocrats. Captain Truck cites Vattel on international law, but Dodge takes a poll of the passengers and wants a committee. Before they arrive in New York, they are stopped and forced to surrender an English embezzler.
      In Home as Found the Effinghams have returned to the state of New York after being away for twelve years. John has a commercial fortune while his cousin Edward is living off his inherited income. Edward’s daughter Eve speaks French and ridicules ignorant Americans. The Effinghams, like Cooper, become involved in a conflict over real estate, and the Whig press criticized the author for this. The Effinghams are disappointed by the society of New York City. They visit Wall Street as the American quest for money is satirized. When they get to Templeton, they find many immigrants. Their manager and attorney, Aristabulus Bragg, like Dodge, appeals to the people, but he lacks discernment. Protestants who want to lower the pulpit in their church are satirized, and Bragg agrees with them. Eve rejects his proposal, and he weds a French chambermaid and heads west. Reflecting Cooper’s lawsuit, some of the Effinghams’ property has been claimed as public land; yet they regain the parcel and have a picnic there on July 4. Ducie and his wife reveal the past of Paul Powis who had American parents. Eve marries Paul, and her cousin Grace Van Cortlandt weds Sir George Templeton. Only the aging and reclusive Commodore seems to appreciate nature.

      In 1839 Cooper became friends with the historian George Bancroft, and he published his History of the Navy in May. He became more involved in libel suits that lasted years. His novel, The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea, was published at London and Philadelphia early in 1840 and was well received. Cooper used his experience as a midshipman on Lake Ontario in 1808 and 1809 and the Memoirs of an American Lady by Mrs. Anne Grant of Laggan whose father Duncan Mac Vicar had been an officer at Oswego during the French and Indian War in 1756 when the novel takes place. She is the model for Cooper’s character Mabel Dunham. After reading this novel Washington Irving was reported as saying that its author was “not only a great man, but a good man.”
      The title character of The Pathfinder is the popular Leatherstocking Natty Bumppo who is an excellent scout. Cooper described him,

The most surprising peculiarity about the man himself
was the entire indifference with which he regarded
all distinctions which did not depend on personal merit.
He was respectful to his superiors from habit;
but had often been known to correct their mistakes
and to reprove their vices with a fearlessness that proved
how essentially he regarded the more material points,
and with a natural discrimination
that appeared to set education at defiance….
But the most striking feature
about the moral organization of Pathfinder
was his beautiful and unerring sense of justice.
This noble trait—and without it no man can be truly great,
with it no man other than respectable—
probably had its unseen influence on all who associated with him;
for the common and unprincipled brawler of the camp
had been known to return from an expedition
made in his company rebuked by his sentiments,
softened by his language, and improved by his example.21

Mabel and her uncle Charles Cap are accompanied by the Tuscarora Arrowhead and his wife, Dew-of-June, and they meet Pathfinder and his friends Chingachgook and Jasper Western at the Oswego River. Pathfinder guides them down the river. They escape from an attack by Iroquois-speaking Mingos, but the two Tuscaroras are lost. Chingachgook is separated for a while and learns that Arrowhead caused the ambush. Sergeant Dunham at Fort Oswego is glad to see his daughter Mabel, and he hopes she will marry Pathfinder. The commander Major Duncan suggests Lt. Davy Muir as a bride for Mabel. Jasper and Pathfinder excel in a shooting match. When Mabel learns that Pathfinder let Jasper win, she gives Natty a silver brooch. They go in a boat to relieve a garrison on the lake, but a letter causes Major Duncan to suspect that Jasper is a spy for the French. On the way they find and take on the Tuscarora couple. Sergeant Dunham removes Jasper from command; but during a storm he lets Jasper take over so they can escape from a French ship.
      Pathfinder falls in love with Mabel, but she declines his cautious proposal. Jasper navigates them to the island, and Dunham persuades Mabel to reconsider Pathfinder’s offer. Dew-of-June warns Mabel about Indians led by white men. Arrowhead under the command of French Captain Sanglier leads an attack on their blockhouse with about twenty Indians, and June helps Mabel escape. The skeptical Corporal MacNab is shot dead, and three soldiers and Jennie are also killed. Cap and Muir are captured. Mabel finds Chingachgook at the fort. Indians attack soldiers led by Sergeant Dunham who is wounded; but they reach the blockhouse and fight off the Indians. Sanglier agrees to return the six British prisoners. When Jasper arrives, Lt. Muir has him bound as a spy. Arrowhead stabs Muir and flees pursued by Chingachgook who kills him and returns with his scalp. After Muir dies, Jasper persuades Sanglier to reveal that Muir was the French spy, not Jasper. Dying Dunham thinks that Jasper is Pathfinder and puts his hand in Mabel’s and blesses them. After his death his misunderstanding is corrected. Pathfinder realizes that Mabel loves Jasper, who is more educated. After visiting the wedded couple he goes off into the wilderness with Chingachgook. Three times Indian messengers bring valuable furs to Jasper’s wife Mabel.

      Cooper’s novel, Mercedes of Castile: or, The Voyage to Cathay, about Christopher Columbus and his first voyage to the West Indies was published in October 1840. The novel was criticized for being more of a history than a romance. Cooper’s book describes how the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella combines the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Then the Moors are expelled from Spain by January 1492. Christoval Colon (Christopher Columbus) requests support for his daring venture of sailing west to Asia but is rejected and goes to France and comes back to persuade Isabella not to let the French get there first. The novel then describes his first voyage in three ships and his adventures in the Caribbean especially on Cuba and Haiti named “Española.” The Santa Maria is shipwrecked, and in January 1493 Columbus sails back to Europe in the Niña with Pinzon in the Pinta. They return to the court by way of Portugal. Columbus is honored. The courtier Luis de Bobadilla has fallen in love with the native Mercedes who declines to marry him. Isabella learns that Luis is already married to the Indian princess Ozema. Yet Luis marries Mercedes, and Ozema commits suicide. Isabella provides 17 ships for Colon’s second voyage. Pinzon dies of grief because Columbus got to the court at Barcelona first.

      The last of Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels, The Deerslayer: or The First Warpath, was published in 1841. This fictional story set in the 1740s describes the young Natty Bumppo who is called the Deerslayer by the Delawares and their young chief Chingachgook. The landscape is described as “altogether soothing, and of a character to lull the passions into a species of holy calm.”22 The Deerslayer is traveling with the scout Hurry Harry March in the territory of the French and their allies, the Iroquois, who are on the warpath. Thomas Hutter owns Lake Glimmerglass where he lives in a cabin built on piles with his daughters, beautiful Judith and childlike Hetty. Harry hunts with Hutter and likes Judith. Deerslayer and Harry find no one at the cabin. The Hutters take refuge in the cabin as they escape from six Indians. Hutter and Harry attack the Iroquois camp to take scalps they can sell, but they are captured. Deerslayer finds an Indian taking a canoe and kills a man for the first time. He meets Chingachgook who aims to rescue his fiancée Wah-ta!-Wah from the Iroquois. Hetty goes off alone to rescue her father and Harry. Wah-ta!-Wah finds her in the forest and takes her to the Iroquois who believe Hetty is deranged and protected by the Great Spirit.
      Judith gives Deerslayer ivory carvings to ransom the prisoners. Hetty returns, and a bargain frees the other hostages. As Deerslayer and Chingachgook rescue Wah-ta!-Wah, Deerslayer is captured. Hutter and Harry fail again to take scalps, and they are ambushed at the cabin. Chingachgook helps Harry escape, and they go to the ark and find the sisters in a canoe. They go back to the cabin and find Hutter dead. Judith declines to marry Harry. Deerslayer is freed to bargain with the fugitives, and he risks his life by not accepting Wah-ta!-Wah and Judith becoming Iroquois brides. Judith tells Deerslayer that she loves him; but he decides she is beyond him in education. He returns to the Iroquois camp and is tortured. The three young women go to the camp without success, but Chingachgook appears and cuts his friend loose. Harry has gone to the fort, and now the army attacks the camp. Hetty is killed, and Judith goes to the fort. Fifteen years later Chingachgook, his son Uncas, and Deerslayer visit the lake.
      Although Hetty believed in turning the other cheek and loving enemies, she could not persuade the Iroquois because they asked her why the Christians did not practice that. The Deerslayer explains his theory of self-defense as “to do lest you should be done by.”23 The morals of Hutter and Harry are much worse and reflect what was common at that time.

      In 1842 Cooper published The Two Admirals, a sea story set during the Jacobite uprising in 1745 when the French Navy backs the Young Pretender Charles Edward Stuart against the British Navy. Yet much of the story concerns the complicated inheritance of the estate belonging to the 84-year-old Sir Wycherly Wychecombe. Multiple characters, face moral dilemmas on whom to support in the two different succession struggles including Rear Admiral Richard Bluewater and Vice Admiral Sir Gervaise Oaks, and involving the young Lt. Wycherly Wychecombe, the Virginian grandson of Baron Wychecombe.
      Also in 1842 he published another sea story, The Wing-and-Wing; or, Le Feu-Follet. The Wing-and-Wing is a ship also known as the French lugger, Feu-Follet. In 1799 its Captain Raoul Yvard uses the name “Jack Smith” and speaks with a French accent and is in love with 18-year-old Ghita Caraccioli who will not marry him because he is a Deist, not an orthodox Christian. He agrees to take her to America. The Yankee sailor Ituel Bolt hates the British who impressed him onto a ship. The British refused to recognize he is American and let him go; but he has escaped to the French ship and is not above lying and smuggling. After a sea confrontation the British learn the ship is French. The British set the Feu-Follet on fire, but it survives. Ghita pleads for her grandfather, who is an admiral but was condemned for treason, to Lord Nelson and his mistress, Emma Hamilton. The British capture Raoul and Bolt. Nelson has them tried, but Bolt is acquitted. Raoul is honorable, wins over people, and is reprieved. Bolt helps Raoul escape with Ghita. The British attack the French ship and mortally wound Raoul, and Ghita spends the rest of her life in a convent. Bolt returns to America, becomes religious, and supports the temperance and abolition movements.

      In 1843 Cooper serialized in Graham’s Magazine his novel, French Governess; or, The Embroidered Handkerchief, a satire of aristocratic New Yorkers from the viewpoint of the handkerchief. The story begins in Paris during the revolution in July 1830. Decorated with lace, it is sold eventually to Col. Silky who takes it to his fashionable shop in New York City. The land speculator Henry Halfacre’s daughter buys it for a record $100, but he goes broke during the banking crisis of 1832 and sells it for $50 to Bobbinet. On the same day he sells it for $100 to well-off Julia Monson, and it gets great attention at balls she attends. The governess Adrienne recognizes the lace she sewed on it in Paris, and she marries Betts Shoreham who purchases the handkerchief for her. Another marriage of heirs and heiresses that is annulled is also satirized.

      Cooper’s 1843 novel Wyandotté; or, The Hutted Knoll, is set in New York mostly in 1775-76. The Willoughbys at the Knoll are Tories; but one daughter is a revolutionary, and the father, Captain Willoughby, tells the Tuscarora Saucy Nick that he is neutral. Nick resents having been flogged by the Captain and reveals himself as the chief Wyandotté. The Tuscaroras appear to be neutral, but some revolutionaries disguise themselves among them. Willoughby’s overseer, Joel Strides, hopes to gain property by backing the revolution. The Captain detains Wyandotté and threatens to flog him again. Wyandotté murders the Captain and tells Maud that she is not Willoughby’s daughter, and he offers to rescue Major Robert Willoughby whom she loves. The Tuscaroras attack the loyalists on the Knoll. Wyandotté fights to protect Maud and the Captain’s wife who had saved him from smallpox. Col. Beekman, who is married to Willoughby’s daughter Beulah, arrives with Continental regulars to stop the unauthorized raid, and the garrison is saved. Beekman arranges an exchange of Robert for a Continental prisoner. Robert marries Maud and is transferred to England. In 1795 he and Maud visit New York. Old Wyandotté became a Christian and confesses that he killed Captain Willoughby. Robert forgives him, and the chief dies in peace.

      Also in 1843 Cooper wrote a biography of a Canadian sailor who became an American entitled Ned Myers, or, a Life Before the Mast. They met on a merchant ship in 1806 and again in 1843. Myers was captured by the British Navy in 1812.
      In 1844 Cooper published two novels Afloat and Ashore: A Sea Tale, and Miles Wallingford about the 65-year-old sailor Miles Wallingford who lives in Ulster County, New York and narrates the challenges he has faced in his life in a dangerous world with his friends, the runaway slave Neb (Nebuchadnezzar), the first-mate Moses Marble, a comic character, and Lucy Hardinge, the daughter of his foster father, an Anglican rector. Miles is 16 in 1797 when he runs away from home with his brother Rupert Hardinge and Neb. The first novel is mostly about his adventures at sea while the second describes his life on land and especially the Anti-Rent crisis of 1844 caused by those trying to get free of their debts. By this time Cooper had sold his land to settlers in Otsego County. The novels of these later years often had religious themes.
      Cheap reprints from other countries and a declining economy reduced Cooper’s income. He would write eight more novels before his illness and death in 1851.

John Greenleaf Whittier

      Born on 17 December 1807, John Greenleaf Whittier lived and worked at the farm near Haverhill, Massachusetts. He was a Quaker but also appreciated the Puritans. On 8 June 1826 the Newburyport Free Press editor William Lloyd Garrison published Whittier’s first poem, “The Exile’s Departure,” and he urged his father to secure John a better education. He enrolled in Haverhill Academy in May 1827, and the following winter he taught school. In December 1828 he began editing the American Manufacturer which supported the Whigs and Henry Clay. In August 1829 Whittier returned to the farm, and he edited the Haverhill Gazette for the first six months of 1830. Then for two years he edited the New England Weekly Review in Hartford, Connecticut until after his father’s death in June 1832. He published the prose Legends of New England in February 1831.
      Whittier published the abolitionist Justice and Expediency in June 1833, and he worked on abolishing slavery until the end of the Civil War in 1865. His poem “Expostulation” was published in Garrison’s Liberator in September. He composed his “Hymn Written for the Meeting of the Anti-Slavery Society” in New York on 4 July 1834.
      In the spring of 1835 the New England Magazine published his long poem, Mogg Megone, about an Indian legend. That summer he was pelted with rotten eggs, mud, and stones at an anti-slavery rally in Concord, New Hampshire. On August 21 pro-slavery Bostonians at Faneuil Hall tried to suppress the speech of abolitionists to protect their commerce, and he wrote “Stanzas for the Times.” In response to a pro-slavery meeting at Charleston, South Carolina in September he wrote the poem “Clerical Oppressors.” In October at Boston he witnessed how Garrison was nearly lynched. Whittier was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1835. In “The Moral Warfare” he wrote,

Our fathers to their graves have gone;
Their strife is past, their triumph won;
But sterner trials wait the race
Which rises in their honored place;
A moral warfare with the crime
And folly of an evil time.

So let it be. In God’s own might
We gird us for the coming fight,
And, strong in him, whose cause is ours
In conflict with unholy powers,
We grasp the weapons He has given,—
The Light, and Truth, and Love of Heaven.24

      After John Calhoun passed a bill in the US Senate to outlaw postmasters delivering anti-slavery literature in 1836, Whittier wrote “A Summons.” That spring he sold the family farm and moved with his mother and sister to a cottage by the Friends meetinghouse in Amesbury, Massachusetts. In the spring of 1837 he became a secretary for the American Anti-Slavery Society, but he had to resign because of poor health that summer. He worked in New York and published his Poems Written during the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States, between the Years 1830 and 1838. His Narrative of James Williams, an American Slave exposed the torture and cruelty of slavery. In early May 1838 he proposed that the American Anti-Slavery Society renounce the use of force, but his resolution did not pass. He moved to Philadelphia to be an editor for the Pennsylvania Freeman at Pennsylvania Hall; but on May 17 a mob burned down the building, and Whittier lost all his books and papers. A fellow abolitionist was martyred, and Whittier wrote the poem, “To the Memory of Thomas Shipley.” His health problems limited his work with the Pennsylvania Freeman and prevented his attending the world anti-slavery convention in London in 1840.
      In 1842 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his Poems of Slavery. Whittier wrote “The Christian Slave,” and on 27 January 1843 his poem, “Massachusetts to Virginia,” was published in The Liberator concerning the case of George Latimer, the fugitive slave from Virginia, who was eventually freed for $400. The poem concluded,

We wage no war, we lift no arm, we fling no torch within
The fire-damps of the quaking mine beneath your soil of sin;
We leave ye with your bondmen, to wrestle, while ye can,
With the strong upward tendencies and godlike soul of man!

But for us and for our children, the vow which we have given
For freedom and humanity is registered in heaven;
No slave-hunt in our borders,—no pirate on our strand!
No fetters in the Bay State,—no slave upon our land!25

Notes

1. Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent. by Washington Irving, p. 6.
2. Salmagundi by Washington Irving, p. 5-6.
3. History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, by Diedrich Knicker-bocker, p. 38.
4. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. by Washington Irving, p. 44-46, 50-51.
5. Ibid., p. 31.
6. Ibid., p. 219-220.
7. Bracebridge Hall by Washington Irving, p. 11.
8. The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving, p. 296, 297.
9. The Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving by Andrew Burstein, p. 279.
10. Sea Tales: The Pilot by James Fenimore Cooper, p. 421.
11. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, p. 180.
12. Ibid., p. 265-266.
13. Ibid., p. 274.
14. The Headsman or The Abbaye des Vignerons: A Tale by James Fenimore Cooper, p. 167.
15. Political Justice in a Republic: James Fenimore Cooper’s America by John P. McWilliams, Jr., p. 196.
16. The American Democrat by James Fenimore Cooper, p. 56.
17. Ibid., p. 69.
18. Ibid., p. 97.
19. Ibid., p. 180.
20. Ibid., p. 190.
21. The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper, p. 134.
22. The Deerslayer: or The First Warpath by James Fenimore Cooper, p. 72.
23. Ibid., p. 479.
24. The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, p. 342.
25. Ibid., p. 359.

Copyright © 2020-2021 by Sanderson Beck

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United States & Civil War 1845-1865

Jeffersonian Democracy 1801-1809
Madison & the War of 1812
US Era of Monroe & J. Q. Adams 1817-29
Native Tribes, Removal & the West
Jacksonian Democracy 1829-37
US Depression, Van Buren & Tyler 1837-44
US Slavery & Abolitionists 1801-44
Women Reforming America 1801-44
American Philosophy & Religion 1801-44
Emerson’s Transcendentalism
Literature of Irving, Cooper & Whittier
Summary & Evaluating America 1801-44
Bibliography

ETHICS OF CIVILIZATION Index
World Chronology to 1830
Chronology of America

BECK index