Jacqueline of the Carrier Pigeons/Introduction
This new nation was based on the federal compact of a written constitution, under the red and white striped flag, in which each stripe represented a state. Under that flag, which we borrowed in 1775 and still keep, though we have added stars, universal common school education of all the children, in public schools sustained by taxation, and freedom of religion for all, was the rule. Leyden won her victory seven years before the Dutch Declaration of Independence in July, 1581. As our own Benjamin Franklin declared, "In love of liberty and bravery in the defense of it, she (the Dutch Republic) has been our great example."
With freedom won, as so graphically portrayed in this story, Leyden enlarged her bounds and welcomed to residence and citizenship three companies of people who became pioneers of our American life. Like the carrier-pigeons, they brought something with them. To our nation, they gave some of the noblest principles of the seven Dutch United States to help in making those thirteen of July 4, 1776, and the constitutional commonwealth of 1787, formed by "the people of the United States of America."
First of all, to victorious Leyden, came the Walloons, or refugees from Belgium, to gather strength before sailing in the good ship New Netherland, in 1623, to lay the foundations of the Empire State. Then followed the Pilgrim Fathers of New England. Many of the young and strong who sailed in the Speedwell and Mayflower were born in Leyden and spoke and wrote Dutch. The old folks, who could not cross the Atlantic, remained in Leyden until they died and some were buried in St. Pancras and St. Peter’s Church. In this city, also, dwelt the Huguenots, in large numbers, many of whom came to America to add their gifts and graces to enrich our nation. Last, but not least, besides educating in her university hundreds of colonial Americans, including two sons of John Adams, one of whom, John Quincy Adams became president of the United States, Leyden in 1782, led in the movement to recognize us as an independent country. Then the Dutch lent us four millions of dollars, which paid off our starving Continentals. Principal and interest, repaid in 1808, amounting to fourteen millions, were used to develop six thousand square miles of Western New York, when New Amsterdam (later called Buffalo) was laid out, and whence came two of our presidents, Fillmore and Cleveland.
A most delightful romance is this of Mrs. Seaman. True to facts and exact in coloring, it is all the better for being the straightforward narrative of a real boy and a genuine girl. Gysbert Cornellisen’s cooking pot, once smoking with savory Spanish stew or hodge-podge, is still to be seen in the Stedelyk (city) Museum, which every American ought to visit when in Leyden. It is in the old Laken Hal (or cloth Hall). From the turreted battlements of Hengist Hill (Den Burg) we may still look out over the country. If in Leyden on October 3, one will see Thanksgiving Day celebrated, as I know it was, most gaily, in 1909, in a most delightfully Dutch way, when the brides of the year are in evidence. In Belfry Lane, where Jacqueline lived, was the later home of the Pilgrim Fathers. On the wall of great Saint Peter’s church is a bronze tablet in honor of the pastor of the Mayflower company, and inside is the tomb of Jean Luzac, "friend of Washington, Jefferson and Adams." His newspaper, printed in Dutch and French, during our Revolutionary War, won for us the recognition of three governments in Europe. On the Rapenburg, where he lived, a bronze tablet in his honor was unveiled, to the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" on September 8, 1909.
Having spent weeks in Leyden, during a dozen visits, I can testify to the general historic accuracy, as well as to the throbbing human interest of this story of Jacqueline of the Carrier Pigeons. It will be sure to attract many a young traveller to Leyden.
William Elliot Griffis.
Ithaca, N. Y., January 8, 1910.