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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Point of Etiquette

By James Kirke Paulding (1778–1860)

[Born in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess Co., N. Y., 1779. Died at Hyde Park, Dutchess Co., N. Y., 1860. Koningsmarke. 1823.]

THE HEER, at this time, was sorely environed with certain weighty cares of state, that perplexed him exceedingly, and added not a little to the irritability of his temper. He was engaged, tooth and nail, in a controversy about boundaries, with his neighbor William Penn, who, it is well known, was a most redoubtable adversary in matters of paper war. Two brooks, about half a mile apart from each other, and having nothing to distinguish them, caused great disputes, with respect to the boundary line between the territories of Coaquanock and Elsingburgh. Trespasses, on either side, occasioned mutual complaints, and though the Heer Piper fell into a passion and swore, the other kept his temper and the possession of the territory in dispute besides. In order to settle this affair, it was proposed to send an envoy to Elsingburgh, on the part of those of Coaquanock, and accordingly he made his appearance, about this time, at this renowned capital.

Shadrach Moneypenny, as he was called, for excellencies and honorables did not fly about like hailstones at that time, as now, was a tall, upright, skin-and-bone figure, clothed from head to foot in a suit of drab-colored broadcloth; a large hat, the brim of which was turned up behind, and without any appendage that approached to finery, except a very small pair of silver buckles to his high-quartered shoes. Yet, with all this plainness, there was a certain sly air of extreme care in the adjustment of his garments, in accordance with the most prim simplicity, that shrewdly indicated friend Shadrach thought quite as much of his appearance as others, who dressed more gaudily to the eye….

When Shadrach Moneypenny appeared before the council of New Swedeland, the first offence he gave was omitting either to make a bow, or pull off his hat, to the great annoyance of Governor Piper; who was as great a stickler for ceremony as the Emperor of China, or the secretary of state, in a republic, where all are equal. The Heer fidgeted, first one way, then another, made divers wry faces, and had not Shadrach been a privileged person, on the score of his plenipotential functions, would have committed him to the custody of Lob Dotterel, to be dealt with contrary to law.

In the mean time, Shadrach stood bolt-upright, with his hands crossed before him, his nose elevated towards the ceiling, and his eyes shut. At length he snuffled out—“Friend Piper, the spirit moveth me to say unto thee, I am come from Coaquanock to commune on the subject of the disputes among our people and thine, about certain boundaries between our patent and the pretended rights of thy master.”

“Friend Piper—pretended rights,” repeated the Heer, muttering indignantly to himself. “But hark ye, Mr. Shadrach Mesheck and the d——l, before we proceed to business, you must be pleased to understand that no man comes into the presence of the representative of the great Gustavus, the bulwark of the Protestant religion, without pulling off his hat.”

“Friend Piper,” replied Shadrach, standing in precisely the position we have described—“Friend Piper, swear not at all. Verily I do not pull off my hat to any one, much less to the representative of the man that calleth himself the great Gustavus, whom I conceive a wicked man of blood, one who propagateth religion with the sword of man instead of the word of Jehovah.”

Verflucht und verdamt!” exclaimed the Heer in mortal dudgeon: “the great Gustavus, the bulwark of the Protestant faith, a man of blood! Der teufel hole dich! I swear, you shall put off your hat, or depart, without holding conference with us, with a flea in thine ear.”

“Swear not at all,” replied Shadrach, “friend Piper. Again I say to thee, I will not pull off my hat; and, if necessary, I will depart with a flea in mine ear, as thou art pleased to express thyself, rather than give up the tenets of our faith.”

“Du galgen schivenkel,” quoth the Heer; “does thy religion lay in thy hat, that thou refusest to put it off? But whether it does or not I swear—”

“Swear not at all,” cried the self-poised Shadrach.

“’Sblood! but I will swear, and so shall Ludwig Varlett,” cried the Heer; whereupon Ludwig hoisted the gates of his eloquence, and poured forth such a torrent of expletives, that, had not Shadrach been immovable as his hat, he had been utterly demolished. That invincible civil warrior, however, neither opened his eyes, nor altered his position, during all the hot fire of Counsellor Varlett, but remained motionless, except the twirling of his thumbs.

“Friend Piper, is it thy pleasure to hear what I have got to say? The spirit moveth me—”

“The spirit may move thee to the d——l,” cried Peter, “or the flesh shall do it, if you don’t pull off your hat, du ans dem land gejacter kerl.”

“Verily, I understand not thy jargon, friend Peter,” rejoined Shadrach; “neither will I go to him thou speakest of, at thine or any other man’s bidding. Wilt thou hear the proposals of friend William Penn, or wilt thou not?”

“No, may I eat of the teufel’s braden if I hear another word from that ugly mouth of thine, till you pull off your hat,” exclaimed the choleric Heer, starting from his seat.

“Thou mayest eat what thou pleasest, friend Piper,” rejoined the other; “and for my ugly mouth, since it offends thee, I will depart to whence I came.” So saying, he leisurely turned himself round, and was proceeding on his way, when the Heer Piper, to whose choler the dry eloquence of Shadrach added fresh fuel, cried out, “Stop!” in a voice of thunder.

The machinery of Shadrach, which had been put in motion for his departure, stopped, accordingly, and he remained, standing in most rigid perpendicularity, with his back to the Heer, and his head turned over his shoulder, so as to meet his eye.

“I am stopped, friend Piper,” quoth he.

The Heer Piper hereupon directed Lob Dotterel, who was in attendance, as part of the puissance of the Governor of Elsingburgh, forthwith to procure him a hammer and a tenpenny nail, an order which that excellent and attentive officer obeyed with his usual alacrity.

“Art thou going to build thee an house, friend Piper, that thou callest for nails and hammers?” asked Shadrach.

“You shall see presently,” answered the Heer. “Since your religion consists in wearing your hat, I shall take care you stick fast to the faith, by nailing it to your head, with this tenpenny nail.”

“Thou mayest do as thou pleasest, friend Piper,” replied Shadrach, unmoved by the threat. “We have endured worse than this, in the old world, and are ready for sufferance in the new. Even now, in yon eastern settlements, our brethren are expelled from the poor refuges they have sought, and chased, like beasts, from the haunts of the new-settled places, as if their blood was the blood of wolves, their hands the claws of tigers, and their feet the feet of the murderer. Our faith grew up in stripes, imprisonment, and sufferings, and behold, I am ready; smite—I am ready. The savage, who hath no God, endures the tortures of fire without shrinking, and shall not I dare to suffer, whom he sustains? Smite—I am ready.”

The Heer was now in the predicament of certain passionate people, who threaten what, when it comes to the point, they shrink from inflicting. Besides that the law of nations made the persons of envoys sacred, he could not bring himself to commit violence upon one whose principles of non-resistance were so inflexible. By way of coming off, therefore, with a good grace, he and Ludwig Varlett fell into a great passion, and saluted Shadrach Moneypenny with a duet of expletives, which that worthy plenipotentiary bore, for some time, with his usual stoical indifference.

“Art thou ready, friend Piper?” exclaimed he, taking advantage of the two singers being out of breath.

“Begone, and der teufel hole dich, and das tonnerwetter schlage dich kreutzeveis in den boden,” cried the Heer.

“I go, verily;” and the good Shadrach marched leisurely out of the council-chamber, with his hands crossed over his breast, his eyes turned upwards, neither looking to the right nor to the left. Coming to the place where he had left his horse, he untied him from the branch of an apple-tree, mounted by the aid of a friendly rock, and seated himself in the saddle, whereupon he smote him in the side with his unarmed heel, and the horse, taking the hint, trotted off for the territory of Coaquanock.

Thus was the negotiation between the powers of Elsingburgh and Coaquanock wrecked on a point of etiquette, like that between England and China, which happened in later times. The obstinacy of Shadrach, in not pulling off his hat to the Heer, and that of my Lord Amherst, in refusing to prostrate himself ever so many times before the elder brother of the moon, were both, in all probability, followed by consequences that affected millions of human beings, or will affect them at some future period. This proves the vast importance of etiquette, and we hope our worthy statesmen at the capital will persevere in their praiseworthy attempts to make certain people, who don’t know the importance of these matters, sensible of the absolute necessity of precedence being rigidly observed, in going into dining-rooms, and sitting down to dinner.