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THE NEW YORK
ABTOR, LENOX AND
DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA, to wit:
BE IT REMEMBERED. That on the sixth day of May, in the thirty-fifth year of United the independence of the States of America, A. D. 1811. JOHN WYETH, of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor in the words following, to wit;
"Memoirs of a life, chiefly passed in Pennsylva ❝nia, within the last sixty years; with occasional "remarks upon the general occurrences, character "and spirit of that eventful period."
In conformity to the act of congress of the United States, intituled," An act for the oncouragement "of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts. "and books, to the authors and proprietors of such "copies during the umes therein mentioned." And also to the act entitled, "An act supplementary to 56 an act, entitled "An act for the encouragement of "learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts "and books, to the authors and proprietors of such "copies during the times therein mentioned," and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of disigning, engraving, and etching historical and other. prints.
OF A LIFE, &c.
THE dealers in self-biography, ever sedulous t
ward off the imputation of egotism, seldom fail to find apologies for their undertakings. Some, indeed, endeavor to persuade themselves, that they design their labours merely for their scrutoires; while others, less self-deceived, admit they have an eye to the public. The Cardinal De Retz is brought out at the request of a lady; Rousseau, by the desire of showing himself to a misjudging world, in all the verity of nature; Marmontel, writes his life for his children at the instance of their mother; and Cum-berland, so far as his motives can be collected from his introduction, because he lived and was an au thor. If, from these, we recur to the account given of himself, by our own Franklin, we shall find, that, although addressed to up son, it is intended for the world; and that the acknowledged motives to it, are a combination of family curiosity and personal vanity, with the desire of shoving the connection between thrifty youth and respectable age-a kind of practical comment on the useful truths, contained in Poor Richard's almanac. ×
Next to the good fortune of having figured in some brilliant, active career; of having been the companion of a hero, or the depositary of state secrets; of having seen cities and men; of having wandered "through antres vast, and deserts idle," or been the subject of "moving accidents by flood and field;" the avowed inducement of Mr. Cumberland, is perhaps the most plausible.
Unfortunately, for the person, who, here presumes to appear before the public, he is without one of these claims to attention. He has no pretensions to fame or distinction in any kind, neither as soldier, nor statesman, nor traveller, nor author. He is not wholly without hope, however, that his presumption may be palliated; and that, in his object, of giving a representation of the character, spirit and more minute occurrences of his time, it will be perceived, that there is no form, into which his work can be thrown, with so much advantage, as into that of personal memoirs, By his own story, if he is not misled by self-love, a kind of menstruum is afforded, for the incongruous mass of his materials, serving to harmonize, in some degree, the abrupt transitions and detached details, which, a delineati on of the various incidents of " many coloured life requires.
As to himself, he is fully conscious, that
it matters not To whom related, or by whom begot;
and, therefore, he would fain buttress his undertak-ing, by the opinion of an eatnent poet, as vouched by Mr. Walpole, viz. That if any man were to "form a book, of what he had seen or heard him-"self, it must, in whatever hands, prove a most use-"ful and entertaining one." A most seducing ignis fatuus truly, considering the latitude with which ît is laid down!
But far from wishing to foreclose the reader by an opinion, which he must own he considers a very questionable one; or to lure him on to an expectation of what he might vainly seek to find, he announces at his outset, that the pages here set before him, hold out no other inducement to his perusal, than such as may arise from the fidelity with which he will relate incidents within the scope of ordinary life; and depict some occurrences, which came under his notice, during the progress of the revolution, and since its consummation. In doing this, he will have occasion to speak as well of others as himself. He may sometimes resort to motives in accounting for men's actions; and, as these receive their qualities from the mind of the agent, he will with equal freedom and truth disclose the complexion of his own, having little, he thinks, no inclination that it should pass for better than it is. If the mould in which it has been formed, is not the most perfect, so neither, does he trust, is abso lutely the most worthless: if not calculated to produce a cast to the taste of worldly wisdom; one, that may advance experimentally the sound philosophy of thrift, and practically mark the routes to private wealth and public greatness, it will yet be found abundantly fruitful, in negative instruction on both points.
MY recollections of the village of Bristol, in which I was born on the 10th of April, N. S. in the year 1752, cannot be supposed to go further back than to the year 1756 or 1757. There are few towns, perhaps, in Pennsylvania, which, in the same space of time, have been so little improved, or undergone less alteration. Then, as now, the great road leading from Philadelphia to New-York, first skirting the inlet, at the head of which stand the mills, and then turning short to the left along the B
banks of the Delaware, formed the principal and indeed only street, marked by any thing like a continuity of building. A few places for streets, were opened from this main one, on which, here and there, stood an humble, solitary dwelling. At a corner of two of these lanes, was a Quaker meeting house; and on a still more retired spot, stood a small Episcopal church, whose lonely grave yard with its surrounding woody scenery,, might have furnished an appropriate theme for such a muse as Gray's. These, together with an old brick jail, (Bristol having once been the county town of Bucks) constituted all the public edificcs in this my native town. Its scite, though flat, is not unpleasant, particularly along the bank of the Delaware, rising to a commanding height from a fair and gravelly margin. From hence, the eye might rove at large both up and down the river, and after traversing a fine expanse of water in an oblique direction, find an agreeable resting place in the town of Burlington on the opposite shore.
As in this country, there is little temptation to the tracing of a long line of ancestry, I shall content myself with deducing a very brief genealogy. And this, not so much perhaps, from an acquiescence in the revolutionary idea of the insignificance of an illustrious pedigree, as from real inability to produce one. I can go no further, at least, than to vouch, that we had a coat of arms in the family, borne about on the body of an old fashioned chaise, and engraved upon our spoons, and a double-handled caudle cup. But if instead of groping amidst the darkness of transatlantic heraldry, we confine ourselves to our own shores, which seems much the most congenial to the noble spirit of independence we are pleased to manifest on other occasions, I am warranted in asserting, that I am descended from ancestors, respectable both as to station and character; from a stock not ignoble, but honest and generous: And if