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A TALE OF THE NEUTRAL GROUND
J. FENIMORE COOPER
Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
The Hiverside Press, Cambridge
THE author has often been asked if there were any foundation in real life for the delineation of the principal char actor in this book. He can give no clearer answer to the question than by laying before his readers a simple statement of the facts connected with its original publication.
Many years since, the writer of this volume was at the residence of an illustrious man, who had been employed in various situations of high trust during the darkest days of the American Revolution. The discourse turned
the effects which great political excitement produce on character, and the purifying consequences of a love of country, when that sentiment is powerfully and generally awakened in a people. He who, from his years, bis services, and his knowledge of men, was best qualified to take the lead in such a conversation, was the principal speaker. After dwelling on the arked manner in which the great struggle wf the nation, during the war of 1775, had given a new and honorable direction to the thoughts and practices of multitudes whose time had formerly been engrossed by the most vulgar concerns of life, he illustrated his opinions by relate ing an anecdote, the truth of which he could attest as a personal witness.
The dispute between England and the United States of America, though not strictly a family quarrel, had many of the features of a civil war. The people of the latter were never properly and constitutionally subject to the people of the former, but the inhabitants of both countries owed allo. giance to a common king. The Americans, as a nation,
disavowed this allegiance, and the English choosing to supp port their sovereign in the attempt to regain his power, most of the feelings of an internal struggle were involved in the conflict. A large proportion of the emigrants from Europe, then established in the colonies, took part with the crown: and there were many districts in which their influence united to that of the Americans who refused to lay asido their allegiance, gave a decided preponderance to the royal
America was then too young, and too much in need of every heart and hand, to regard these partial divisions, small as they were in actual amount, with indifference. The evil was greatly increased by the activity of the English in profiting by these internal dissensions; and it became doubly serious when it was found that attempts were made to raise various corps of provincial troops, who were to be banded with those from Europe, to reduce the young repubfic to subjection. Congress named an especial and a secret committee, therefore, for the express purpose of defeating this object. Of this committee Mr. - the narrator of the anecdote, was chairman.
In the discharge of the novel duties which now devolved on him, Mr.
had occasion to employ an agent whose services differed but little from those of a common spy. This man, as will easily be understood, belonged to a condition in life which rendered him the least reluctant to appear in so equivocal a character. He was poor, ignorant, 80 far as the usual instruction was concerned ; but cool, shrewd, and fearless by nature. It was his office to learn in what part of the country the agents of the crown were making their efforts to embody men, to repair to the place, enlist, appear zealous in the cause he affected to serve, and otherwise to get possession of as many of the secrets of the enemy as possible. The last he of course communicated to his employers, who took all the means in their power to counteract the plans of the English, and frequently with sucrers.
It will readily be conceived that a service like this was sttended with great personal hazard In ad lition to the