Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Networking Session

James Struart's Last 1830 mini-excursion out of New York City

© 2006 David Minor/Eagles Byte

You are James Stuart. Eight years ago and an ocean away you killed a man named Boswell in a duel. Legally exonerated, you decided it was still best to travel outside of Scotland for a time. Now, in the summer of 1830, on the western end of Long Island, New York, a young man comes to you. Says his name is John Boswell. You must have a few very uneasy moments. What has this Boswell come for?

As it turns out ... a character reference. James Stuart quickly learns that John Boswell is the son of an acquaintance, a farm overseer from Fifeshire, the same province as the victim of that long ago duel but apparently not closely allied with that branch of the family. The subject of the duel apparently never arises. Young Boswell, a ship-carpenter, had arrived here in the New World with his wife and two children several weeks earlier and had been unable to find work but, according to Stuart, “no one would receive him into his ship-building yard, in which there is much valuable property, without attestations of his character for honesty and sobriety. ... Knowing nothing previously of this young man but what I have mentioned, it was impossible for me to comply with his request, but I gave him a letter to a gentleman in the neighbourhood of New York, who might, I thought, be of use to him, stating exactly what I knew of him.”

It will be several months before this connection yields results. “He was beginning to wish himself well home again when an offer of work was made to him. I happened to be in New York on the very day when this occurred, and remember well the pleasure which beamed in his eyes when he told me of the offer, and asked me what wages he should propose. My advice to him was to leave that matter to his master, after he had been at work for a week, and showed what he could do.” This advice proves sound and young Boswell is later able to report back to Stuart that, “He had earned on the preceding day almost as much as he could earn at the same business in Scotland in a week; and he hoped in less than twenty years to make a fortune, and return to Scotland.”

Back in July, a month or so before the revival meeting in Flushing, Stuart made one final trip away from lower New York. You might recall that last year, while on an excursion to West Point, he met a Dr. David Hosack, the physician and botanist who had attended Alexander Hamilton when the former U. S. Treasrury Secretary had been killed by Aaron Burr in 1804. Hosack had invited Stuart to visit him sometime at his home on the mid-Hudson River. Now, Stuart decides to take him up on his offer.

He doesn’t give details of the actiual trip upriver to Hyde Park, presumably by steamboat, or any details of what the two men discussed during the visit, but he was obviously impressed by the naturalist’s estate, “... elegant, and well-furnished.” He will not give us a detailed description, but cannot resist mentioning, in passing, “his eating or drawing-rooms, his excellent library, his billiard room, or his conservatory, of his porter's lodges, his temples, his bridges, his garden, and the other et ceteras of this truly delightful domain ...” A domain a Vanderbilt would be proud to own, and one day would. Obviously more than just a country fishing shack.

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