A Glance Backwards, Brooklyn Sixty Years Ago Part III

 In the year 1800, there were in the township of Brooklyn but three schools, containing about 120 scholars. One of these schools was at Bedford, another at Gowanus, and the other at Brooklyn Ferry. The latter was the largest, and under the care of two teachers it gave instruction to sixty scholars. "From the great encouragement which "the laws give to libraries" pays our author, "it would be expected that an incorporation of this kind had taken place here, but I know of none in this township, nor any place for the sale of books. Literature is a subject which ought to be cherished in all governments and in every society, and to show his own literary turn, he adds that few nations as well as few individuals have arisen to the plus ultra of eminence who have neglected to sacrifice to Minerva."

There was then one newspaper on the island, the one to which we have before alluded, and which is now before us. The Courier was established by Mr. Thomas Kirk in 1798. It was the only paper on the Island, and was deemed a hazardous undertaking at the start, and indeed it failed in a few years after. The proprietor started another paper which had better success, and is still in existence. The numbers of the Courier we have are for the most part filled with foreign continental news, news to American readers, but apparently little less than nine months old. There were no fast steamships in those days, and communication between England and the continent was infrequent and irregular, consequent on the unsettled state of the latter. Of course the career of the First Consul of France and the exploits of the victorious army of Italy, under his command, are the topics of the day. The Italian war so long waged ineffectually by France, is brought to a close in one campaign under the lead of the young General Bonaparte, now First Consul of the Republic.

The extracts taken from the English papers as to the intention of the First Consul bear a singular resemblance is those which of late years have been promulgated by his more fortunate nephew the present Emperor. The Journal des Hommes Libres, the Moniteur of that day and of which Fouchet had charge, it would seem was full of professions of peace and of accounts of the sacrifices that had been made for it. Now the "Empire est la paix," so long as it suits the Emperor than the Republic was peace so long as it served the interest of the First Consul. The battle of Marengo had decided the fate of Italy, and prostrated the power of Austria, who was then fighting for Italian independence, and bore to Sardinia then the same relation that France did in the late war. The King of Sardinia lost his kingdom, and here is an item in the paper before us that shows the disposition intended to be made of it:

"Three new Republics will be established in Italy, to be called the Cisalpine, the Cispadane, and the Piedmontese, which are afterwards to be consolidated into one. To the King of Sardinia is to be assigned a pension of half a million of livres."

Very little indication in all this of subsequent events that brought about the battles of Motebelo, Magenta and Solferino and the extension of the kingdom of the descendant of the pensioned sovereign by the representative of the hero of Marengo.

There is nothing new under the sun, as the good book says and from the Courier we learn that the New England Clergymen who thought it their duty to dabble in a body in politics at the time of the Kansas and Nebraska excitement, had a precedent for their conduct more recent than we imagined. Thomas Jefferson was the candidate of the "Republicans" for President, in opposition to the re-election of president John Adams.

Of course, in the opinion of the Federalists, whose candidate Adams was, the election of Jefferson would be a death blow not only to good government but to good morals and pure orthodox religion. He was known to be a republican whose faith in the people never wavered, but he was more than suspected of indifference to the Christian religion. Some federalist clergyman thought right to interfere to prevent the impending calamity, and put forward a "solemn thought" urging the Republicans to use a certain form of prayer before and after election, in hope to secure their suffrage for the orthodox and federalist candidate. The form of prayer recommended was as follows:

"Let every one before he gives his vote either for electors or for President, address his God in secret, thus: Almighty God and heavenly father, I am called in thy Providence to transact this day a business with which thy glory and the welfare of mankind are intimately connected. Be pleased most graciously to counsel and direct me. Remove from me all prejudices, passion and selfish views. may he for whom I vote be approved of by thee and be made instrumental in advancing the kingdom of him who hath loved me and given himself for me, &c.

This prayer so unobjectionable in itself, was deemed by the Republicans to be a hit at their candidate, and the columns of the Courier are given up to a long communication from a zealous Jeffersonian who shows the impiety of mixing up religion and politics; and the folly of trying to make out any connection between piety and federalism.

It has been said that the advertising department of a newspaper is the best index of the wants, whishes, desires and amusements of the people among whom the paper circulates. In the advertising columns of the Courier are some items which tend to bear out this assertion; for instance take the following:
LOST-- A GREEN UMBRELLA, SUPPOSED to have been taken by mistake from Mr. Little's in Pine street, on the evening of the 4th inst. The name JOHN H. HURTIN, engraved on the handle. Whoever will return it to No. 103 Front street, shall be handsomely rewarded.

What a change in the moral sense of a people in a little more than half a century! Here is a man advertising for an umbrella; and charitably asserting that it has been taken by mistake, from "Wm. Little's in Pine street." What man in his senses would think of advertising for a lost umbrella now? If every man that had his umbrella "taken by mistake" in our day, would advertise for it, every newspaper owner in the land would die a millionaire.

Here is a couple of advertisements that will bring anguish to the hearts of the modern philanthropists, that is, if they believe the sins of the father descend to their offspring:

TO BE SOLD--AN ACTIVE, SMART NEGRO LAD, 21 years of age, sober and honest, a very capable house servant and understands taking care of horses. For further particulars enquire of the printer.


Quack medicine advertisements occupy no in considerable share of the Courier's columns. We print the following to show the terrible cutaneous condition of our progenitors, and to perpetuate the fame of Dr. Church, who, whatever else he might be, was certainly a plain spoken man:

HALF A MILLION OF PERSONS IN EUROPE AND AMERICA, have been effectually cured of the ITCH.

In four hours, by the PATENT SCOTCH OINTMENT, since first invented by Dr. Church: which remedy, for pleasantness, certainty, ease and safety, unequalled by any other medicine in the world. it does not contain a single grain of mercury, of which the proprietor has made affidavit (which my be seen at the place of sale.) but may be administered to the most delivered tot he most delicate lady during pregnancy, or the tenderest infant. Price 75 cents__if the patient is not cured in four hours, the money returned, as no instance ever yet occurred where it failed.

It is almost unnecessary to add that no certificates of cure are added.

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Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A Glance Backwards, Brooklyn Sixty Years Ago Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle 5/14/1860
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