Its Origin, Progress and Decline In America.
BY HENRY REED STILES, M.D.,
AUTHOR OF HISTORY OF BROOKLYN, HISTORY OF WINDSOR, CT., ETC.
"I find by all historians, whether ancient or modern, whom I
consulted in searching for this work, the fact well recorded, and
established beyond all controversy, that the Yankee nation are a
set of talking, guessing, swapping and _bundling_ sons of women."
_Grant Thorburn's Notes on Virginia_.
TO MY ESTEEMED FRIEND,
DEACON JABEZ H. HAYDEN,
OF WINDSOR LOCKS, CONNECTICUT,
Whose jealous love of his native state, led him, in defense of her
good fame, to make some strictures upon a statement relative to
_bundling_, in my _History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor,
Conn._, which strictures (made and taken in the kindest spirit of
personal friendship) set me upon the further investigation of this
The result of that investigation, and the justification
(as I claim) of my original statement, is
MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
BY THE AUTHOR
In the _History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Conn._, published in 1859, speaking of the influence of the old French wars upon the
religious, moral and social life of New England, I used this language:
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"Then came war, and young New England brought from the long Canadian
campaigns, stores of loose camp vices and recklessness, which soon
flooded the land with immorality and infidelity. The church was
neglected, drunkenness fearfully increased, and social life was sadly
corrupted. _Bundling_--that ridiculous and pernicious custom which
prevailed among the young to a degree which we can scarcely
credit--sapped the fountain of morality and tarnished the escutcheons of thousands of families."
Hereupon there came a buzzing around my ears. Divers good sons of
Connecticut winced under the soft impeachment of having a bundling
ancestry, and intimated that my sketch of society in the olden times was somewhat overdrawn. In 1861, an esteemed antiquarian friend in
Connecticut wrote me as follows: "Some of your friends feel that, in
your _History of Windsor_, you showed too much inclination to malign, or at least ridicule, Connecticut institutions, though I think none of them accuse you of malice in the matter, and they fear that this subject of bundling cannot be ventilated without endangering the fair fame of old Connecticut."
Upon that hint I speak. Although born in the city of New York, I am the
son of Connecticut parents, and proud to trace my descent through six
generations of honest, hard-working, God-fearing Connecticut yeomanry.
By the mere accident of birth I cannot feel myself absolved from that
allegiance to the Wooden Nutmeg State, which is imposed upon me by the
ties of ancestry, of relationship, of youthful associations, and last,
not least, by the deep interest which I have taken in the history of one of its eldest-born towns. I am, indeed, at this day, to all intents and purposes, as wholly and truly a Connecticut man as if born within her borders; and as proud of her past, as hopeful of her future, and as
jealous of her reputation as any one could desire. I trust, therefore,
that I may be allowed to disclaim any "inclination to malign, or at
least ridicule Connecticut institutions," a task which, in my case,
would savor of ingratitude, and which I should consider unworthy of my
I cannot but think, also, that those who have found, or think that they
have found, an inimical design in any pleasantries in which I may have
indulged while describing the customs and manners of by-gone days--have
betrayed a _thin-skinnedness_, and an ignorance of the true glory of
Connecticut history, when they imagine that her fair fame can be
seriously tarnished by the fly-specks of certain customs--at no time
without their vigorous opponents--and long since rendered obsolete by
the march of improvement.
The fun of the thing, however, is, that the sentence which has thus
called forth the animadversions of the critics, will be found, with its
context, on closer examination, to have applied to the _New England
Colonies_, and not to Connecticut alone! In their haste to vindicate the land of steady habits, they seem to have assumed more than their share of the reproach involved in my simple historical statement.
As for myself, I am no believer in the theory that the objectionable
portions of history should be kept in the background, and that only the
bright side should be turned towards the world. If, as one has happily
said, "history is experience teaching by example," we most surely need
to have both sides fairly presented to us before we can properly extract therefrom the lesson of good or of evil which is therein taught. It is unnecessary to pursue the argument further. Suffice it to say, that perfection is as little to be expected in the history of a state or a community, as in the life of an individual. As to our ancestors, we must take them as history shows them to us--"men of like passions with ourselves," and "in all respects tempted as we are," yet neither worse, nor, again, very much purer or better than ourselves.
In this spirit I have undertaken to trace, in the following pages, the
origin, progress and decline of the custom of bundling in America,
together with such facts as clearly prove that it was not confined to
this continent, but prevalent in various countries of the world.
"HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE."
"Shame be to him who thinks evil of it" --
H. R. S.
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