"an adventurous knight":
Irving has his Diedrich
Knickerbocker remind us of a Quixote tilting at windmills, or, anachronistically,
Hank Morgan from Twain's Connecticut
Yankee or Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
 "a gigantic question": In his History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843), William H. Prescott favorably contrasts Puritan with Spanish methods for acquiring land and pays homage to Irving's effective way of approaching the issue of rightful ownership: "If it were not for treating a grave discussion too lightly, I should crave leave to refer the reader to the renowned Diedrich Knickerbocker's History of New York, (book I, chap. 5) for a luminous discussion on this knotty question. At all events, he will find there the popular arguments subjected to the test of ridicule; a test, showing more than any reasoning can, how much, or rather how little, they are really worth" (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1998, 368).
 "take by the beard and utterly subdue": Cf. I Samuel 17:35. Irving's reference here to David's bravado about fighting Goliath reinforces the mock-heroic style of the introduction. Knickerbocker will defeat the "gigantic question" like David defeated Goliath. The full context in the King James Version follows:
 And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because
of him; thy servant will go and fight with this
 "until this mighty question is totally put to rest": Irving wrote in 1809, and the Indian problem that would lead to the Trail of Tears was beginning to simmer. In 1810 the U. S. Supreme Court heard Fletcher v. Peck, and in 1823 Chief Justice John Marshall's "Discourse of Conquest" was enunciated in Johnson v. McIntosh. See Robert A. Williams, Jr., The American Indian in Western Legal Thought (New York: Oxford UP, 1990), 308-17.
 "Grotius": Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a Dutch jurist and scholar whose De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625), known as On the Law of War and Peace, was one of the first great contributions to modern international law. Pertinent to the right by discovery is Book II, Chapter II, entitled "Of Things Which Belong to Men in Common." (See also the note to paragraph 10). Of interest too in this context is his 1625 De Origine Gentium Americanarum (On the Origin of the Native Races of America), in which he argued that Native Americans in the north came from Scandanavia, in Central America from Ethiopia, and in the south from China.
b.4. c.4.”: Samuel
Freiherr von Pufendorf (1634-1694), a German scholar on international law,
wrote De Jure Naturae et Gentium, or Of the Law and Nature of
Nations in 1672. The section pertinent to the right by discovery
is Book IV, Chapter IV: "On the Origin of Dominion." (See also the
note to paragraph 10.)
 "cannibals": The question of were they or weren't they is a vexed one, but certainly much damage was done by labeling Native Americans this way. See Frank Lestringant, Cannibals: The Discovery and Representation of the Cannibal from Columbus to Jules Verne (Berkeley: U of California P, 1997).
 "since the times of Gog, Magog": Names that conjure up hideous enemies of the Lord. See Ezekial 38:1-4 in the King James Version:
 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Bacon (1561-1626), English politician and philosopher, was one of the
great architects of the modern world, especially through such works as
of Learning (1605) and the Novum
Organum (1620). We could not locate a specific reference
to the ideas Irving ascribes to him.
Robertson explains that the purpose of Note L (I, 464-68) is to produce evidence from the authorities on which he bases a view of Americans so "extremely different" from the respectable writers of his day. Irving slightly alters each of the quotes, which we give in full below:
Bouguer: "They are stupid, they pass whole days sitting in the same place, without moving, or speaking a single word. It is not easy to describe the degree of their indifference for wealth and all its advantages. One does not well know what motives to propose to them when one would persuade them to any service. It is vain to offer them money, they answer that they are not hungry" (I, 465).
Ulloa: "If one considers them as men, the narrowness of their understanding seems to be incompatible with the excellence of the soul. Their imbecility is so visible, that one can hardly form an idea of them different from what one has of the brutes. Nothing disturbs the tranquillity of their souls, equally insensible to disaster, and to prosperity. Though half naked, they are as contented as a monarch in his most splendid array. Riches do not attract them in the smallest degree, and the authority or dignities to which they may aspire, are so little the objects of their ambition, that an Indian will receive with the same indifference the office of a judge (Alcade) or that of a hangman, if deprived of the former and appointed to the latter. Nothing can move or change them. Interest has no power over them, and they often refuse to perform a small service, though certain of a great recompense. Fear makes no impression on them, and respect as little. Their disposition is so singular, that there is no method of influencing them, no means of rouzing them from that indifference, which is proof against all the endeavours of the wisest persons; no expedient that can induce them to abandon that gross ignorance, or lay aside that careless negligence, which disconcert the prudence and disappoint the care of such as are attentive to their welfare." (I, 465-66).
Venegas: "The characteristics of the Californians, as well as all of the other Indians, are stupidity and insensibility; want of knowledge and reflection; inconstancy, impetuosity, and blindness of appetite; an excessive sloth, and abhorrence of all labour and fatigue; an excessive love of pleasure and amusement of every kind; however trifling or brutal; pusillanimity; and, in fine, a most wretched want of every thing which constitutes the real man, and renders him rational, inventive, tractable, and useful to himself and society. It is not easy for Europeans who never were out of their own country, to conceive an adequate idea of those people: for, even in the least frequented corners of the globe, there is not a nation so stupid, of such contracted ideas, and so weak both in body and mind, as the unhappy Californians. Their understanding comprehends little more than what they see; abstract ideas, and much less a chain of reasoning, being far beyond their power; so that they scarce ever improve their first ideas, and these are in general false, or at least inadequate. It is vain to represent to them any future advantages which will result from their doing or abstaining from this or that particular immediately present; the relation of means and ends being beyond the stretch of their faculties. Nor have they the least notion of pursuing such intentions as will procure themselves some future good, or guard them against future evils. Their will is proportional to their faculties, and all their passions move in a very narrow sphere. Ambition, they have none, and are more desirous of being thought strong than valiant. The objects of ambition with us, honour, fame, reputation, titles, posts, and distinctions of superiority are unknown among them, so that this powerful spring of action, the cause of so much seeming good and real evil in the world has no power over here. This disposition of mind, as it gives them up to an amazing languor and lassitude, their lives fleeting away in a perpetual inactivity and detestation of labour, so it likewise induces them to be attracted by the first object which their own fancy, or the persuasion of another place before them; and at the same time renders them as prone to alter their resolutions with the same facility. They look with indifference upon any kindness done them; nor is even the bare remembrance of it to be expected from them. They may indeed be called a nation who never arrive at manhood." (I, 467-68)
 "Lullus": We were not able to locate a 16th century Lullus. Irving fabricated many of the scholarly references in Book I to mock intellectual authority.
 "colour of the Devil": Irving may be reading his present-day situation onto the past. As far as the English were concerned, for instance, in the early days Indians were distinguished on the basis of culture not color, were thought of as unenlightened whites rather than immutably barbarous, and until the late 18th and early 19th centuries "red" and "black" received separate legislative attention. See A. T. Vaughn, "From White Man to Redskin: Changing Anglo-American Perceptions of the American Indian," American Historical Review 87 (1982): 917-53.
 "Cortes and Pizarro": Spanish conquistadors Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) and Francisco Pizarro (1475-1541) conquered the Aztecs and the Incas respectively.
 "the right acquired by cultivation": In addition to Vattel, Grotius, and Pufendorf (pps. 4, 10) cited both above and below, classic authorities for this argument include Thomas More (1477-1535) and John Locke (1632-1704).
In More's Utopia (1516), for instance, we find the following justification of conquest: "If the whole island becomes overpopulated, they tell off a certain number of people from each town to go and start a colony at the nearest point on the mainland where there's a large area that hasn't been cultivated by the local inhabitants. Such colonies are governed by the Utopians, but the natives are allowed to join in if they want to. When this happens, natives and colonists soon combine to form a single community with a single way of life, to the great advantage of both parties--for, under Utopian management, land which used to be thought incapable of producing anything for one lot of people produces plenty for two. If the natives won't do what they're told, they're expelled from the area marked out for annexation. If they try to resist, the Utopians declare war--for they consider war perfectly justifiable, when one country denies another its natural right to derive nourishment from any soil which the original owners are not using themselves, but are merely holding on to as a worthless piece of property" (New York: Penguin, 1965, 79-80).
And in Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1690) we find: "But the chief manner of property being now not the fruits of the earth, and the beasts that subsist on it, but the earth itself; as that which takes in and carries with it all the rest; I think it is plain, that property in that too is acquired as the former. As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labour does, as it were, inclose it from the common [chapter 5, "Of Property, section 31]. . . . land that is left wholly to nature, that hath no improvement of pasturage, tillage, or planting, is called, as indeed it is, waste" [section 42].
ch. 17": The citation is found in The Law of
Nations, which Vattel wrote in 1758 (see the note to paragraph 4).
The initial citation found in Irving’s first edition (1809) of his History
of New York incorrectly cites Vattel as Book I, Chapter 17, when it
is really Book 1, Chapter 7. Aside from this small error in the citation,
the quote is correct, though shortened. Vattel eyes the right of
cultivation as something that has to be taken full advantage of and
is not only intended to be solely applicable to the Native Americans but
to all countries that don’t take full advantage of their cultivation resources.
Throughout The Law of Nations, Vattel makes references to other
countries when clarifying his views on cultivation. One example has
him reporting that the Chinese and Spanish have two of the most fertile
lands in the world, but the factor that makes one a greater country than
the other is the fact that the Chinese take full advantage of their agriculture.
Vattel goes as far as calling Spain “the worst cultivated country in Europe,”
citing its church as the main reason for this. He reasoned that way
because the church occupied so much land and punished people for growing
and taking too many crops for personal use. He implies that Spain’s
inefficient means of cultivation is one of the causes for its decreased
role as a world power.
 “Puffendorf”: In Book IV, Chapter VI of The Law and Nature of Nations (see the note to paragraph 4) Pufendorf states that "any single individual is held to have occupied land when he undertakes to cultivate it, or marks out its boundaries" (section 3), and that man occupies land when he has the “intention of cultivating it and of establishing boundaries either exact or with some latitude” (section 8).
 "heaven intended the earth should be ploughed": The usual Biblical reference for this belief is Genesis 1:28. The full context in the King James version follows:
 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living
creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing,
and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
 "therefore they were careless stewards": Cf. Luke 42: 37-48. The Lord will reward only the "faithful and wise steward," a strong Biblical warrant that the good Christian must be a hard worker, must produce. The full context in the King James version follows:
 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he
cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself,
and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve
 "Lauterbach": We were not able to locate anything substantive on Johan Lauterbach.
 "Titius": All we were able to determine was that Gottlieb Titius (d. 1714) wrote a commentary on Pufendorf.
 "introduction of the Christian faith": The Biblical justification for aggressive missionary work is Christ's command to his apostles in Matthew 28:19-20, just after the resurrection. The full context in the King James version follows:
 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward
the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and
the other Mary to see the sepulchre.
 "unless they acted so from precept": The way Christian theology rationalized the virtues of natural or non-christian man is remarkably gymnastic.
 "discouraged by their stiff-necked obstinacy": The Old Testament enemies of the Lord are well known for their stiff necks, as in Deuteronomy 31:27. The full context in the King James version follows:
 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of
writing the words of this law in a book, until they
 "not one fifth of the number of unbelievers": The first chapter of David E. Stannard's American Holocaust : Columbus and the Conquest of the New World (New York : Oxford UP, 1992) has some dramatic statistics on this issue of "genocide."
 "the words
of a reverend Spanish father": We have not
been able to trace this reference, and the language makes us suspect that
Irving fabricated the quote.
Irving seems to play on Blackstone's perhaps undeserved popular image as defender of the existing social order. His note is to Blackstone's chapter "On Property" (II, 1-15), in which the right to property is assigned to the first user, a right that in times of "primaeval simplicity" ceased on the death of the occupant, so that, indeed, "the next immediate occupant would acquire a right in all that the deceased possessed" (II, 10). Blackstone, however, does ask how consonant with nature, reason, and Christianity is "seising on countries already peopled, and driving out or massacring the innocent and defenceless natives, merely because they differed from their invaders in language, in religion, in customs, in government, or in colour" (II, 7).
 "his holiness Pope Alexander VI": Elected pope on August 11, 1492, Alexander, a Spaniard, would play a significant role in the conquering of the New World. Pope Alexander VI justified acquisition of land by the Spaniards. He issued a bull in May 1493, known as Inter Caetera or the Bull of Demarcation, which served to proclaim the newly discovered lands the property of the Spanish and the Portuguese. In this "bull" he outlines the territory that each country may claim as its own. All of the land lying west of the line designated as the official dividing point would belong to Spain. The remainder of the land to the east, as well as subsequent discoveries on its side of the line, would belong to Portugal. This set the stage for much of the seizing and pillaging that would characterize the early history of the place that would come to be known as the Americas. Both Spain and Portugal would use the Papal Bull to justify their subduing of Native people, even long after Pope Alexander VI's death in 1503.
 "aerial voyage of discovery": There were such moon travel stories before Irving as Lucian's True Story (165-175), Johannes Kepler's Somnium, the Dream (1634), Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moone (1638), and Cyrano De Bergerac's Voyages to the Moon and the Sun (1657). A place to start the study of possible relationships between Irving and this genre is Between Dream and Nature: Essays on Utopia and Dystopia, edited by Dominic Baker-Smith and C.C. Barfoot (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1987), which has an essay called "Luna Mendax: Some Reflections on Moon-Voyages in Early Seventeenth-century England" by A.G. Bachrach.
On Nov. 21, 1783 -- the year Irving was born --
the first manned flight took place when Jean-François Pilâtre
de Rozier and François Laurent, Marquis d'Arlandes, sailed over
Paris in a Montgolfier balloon.
 "howling wilderness": This is a stock phrase in a Puritan "history" that appropriates the New World for Europeans because, basically, it is empty: Edward Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence of Sions Saviour in New England (1652).
 "the man in the moon": We ran out of time before we were able to fully investigate the origins of such folklore as the man in the moon and the moon made of green cheese, but, as a starting point, see the chapter in S. Baring-Gould's Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (1867, reprinted 1997).
were the Indian chiefs": It
is not clear why Jefferson, Bonaparte, and George III are joined with the
leaders of Haiti and Bantam, except perhaps that they represent a combination
of the colonizers and the colonized. Columbus
started the practice of "capturing" Native Americans for display
on the very day of discovery. Montaigne
concludes his "On Cannibals" with reflections on meeting such an Indian
in the Old World.
 "nitrous oxyde": laughing gas.
permit us to exist": No doubt a reference to Indian
displacement and reservation policies on the horizon.