Notes to History of New York 

[1] "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. 

[1] "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).  

[1] "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:  

[32] And David said to Saul, Let no man's heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 
[33] And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. 
[34] And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 
[35] And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 
[36] Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 
[37] David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee. 

[3] "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.  

[4] "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. 

[4] “Puffendorf, 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.) 
[4] "Vattel, b. 1. c. 18.  et alii":  Emmerich de Vattel, born on April 24th 1714 in Corvet, a principality of Switzerland, was an up and coming political philosopher at the time of his death on December 28th 1767.  The son of a clergyman with an uncle on his mother’s side who attained the status of a chancellor under the King of Prussia, Vattel grew up in a very intellectual environment.  After the sudden death of his father in 1730, Vattel made academics his highest priority.  After years of education led him to Geneva, his love of literature, politics, and philosophy began to take center stage in his life.  While he began to climb the political ladder because of his family connections, it was Le Droit des Gens or the Law of Nations, first published in 1758, which catapulted him into the German political hierarchy.  The Law of Nations, in short, is a manual of how to properly expand a growing country in the mid-18th century, touching on such topics as domestic and foreign policy, commerce, and even how to handle different classes and religions.  While this work by Vattel made him well known, it would be his only famous work of his lifetime.  After years of having a single political document in circulation, Vattel planned on starting a new manuscript but died before it came to fruition.  The material pertinent to right by discovery can be traced correctly to Book One, Chapter 18 of Law of Nations, titled “Occupation of Territory by a Nation. ”  (See also the note to paragraph 10.) 

[6] "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). 

[6] "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: 

[1] And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 
[2] Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, 
[3] And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: 
[4] And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords: 

[6] "Bacon": Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English politician and philosopher, was one of the great architects of the modern world, especially through such works as the Advancement of Learning (1605) and the Novum Organum (1620).  We could not locate a specific reference to the ideas Irving ascribes to him. 
[7] "the celebrated Ulloa. . . . the authority M. Bouguer. . . . Vanegas confirms":  Jorge Juan (1713-1773) and Antonio de Ulloa (1716-1795) wrote Relacion historica del viage a la America Meridional (1748), M. Pierre Bouguer (1698-1758) wrote La figure de la terre déterminée par les observations faites au Pérou  (1749), and Miguel Venegas (1680-1764) wrote Noticia de la California (1757).  Irving did not read these three books in the original or in translation but drew from Note L to Book IV in  The History of America (first published London, 1777; quotes here are from the 1778 edition) by prominent Scottish historian William Robertson (1721-1793).  According to the Dictionary of National Biography, Robertson's "vivid descriptions and philosophical disquisitions on aboriginal society captivated the literary world."  Book IV--headed "View of America when first discovered, and of the manners and policy of its most uncivilized inhabitants"--generalized all Americans except the Mexicans and Peruvians as "Savage" (I, 283).  In America, Robertson says, "man appears under the rudest form in which we can conceive him to subsist" (I, 282).  Impartial observers have been "astonished and humbled" at "how nearly man, in this condition, approaches to the brute creation" (I, 313), so that even negroes look upon Americans with contempt (I, 468).  

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) 

[8] "certain old Greeks": Irving is probably referring to such Stoics as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Stoic philosophy emphasized tranquility of mind. 

[8] "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. 

[8] "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. 

[8] "Cortes and Pizarro": Spanish conquistadors Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) and Francisco Pizarro  (1475-1541) conquered the Aztecs and the Incas respectively. 

[10] "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].   

[10] "Vattel—B.i, 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. 
[10] "Grotius":  In Book II, Chapter II of On the Law of War and Peace (see note to paragraph 4), we find: "if within the territory of a people there is any deserted and unproductive soil, this also ought to be granted to foreigners if they ask for it.  Or it is right for foreigners even to take possession of such ground, for the reason that uncultivated land ought not to be considered as occupied. . . . In the seventh Oration of Dio of Prusa we read: 'They who bring under cultivation an untilled portion of the earth commit no wrong'" (section 17).   

[10] “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).  

[11] "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:  

[24] 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. 
[25] And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 
[26] And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 
[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 
[28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over 
the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 
[29] And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 
[30] And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 
[31] And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.  

[11] "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:  

[37] 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 them. 
[38] And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 
[39] And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 
[40] Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. 
[41] Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 
[42] And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 
[43] Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 
[44] Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 
[45] But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the 
menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 
[46] The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 
[47] And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 
[48] But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.  

[12] "Lauterbach": We were not able to locate anything substantive on Johan Lauterbach. 

[12] "Titius": All we were able to determine was that Gottlieb Titius (d. 1714) wrote a commentary on Pufendorf. 

[14] "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:  

[1] 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. 
[2] And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 
[3] His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 
[4] And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 
[5] And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 
[6] He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 
[7] And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 
[8] And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples  word. 
[9] And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 
[10] Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. 
[11] Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. 
[12] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 
[13] Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 
[14] And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 
[15] So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day. 
[16] Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 
[17] And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 
[18] And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 
[19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 
[20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.  

[14] "unless they acted so from precept":  The way Christian theology rationalized the virtues of natural or non-christian man is remarkably gymnastic. 

[15]  "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:  

[24] And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, 
[25] That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, 
[26] Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee. 
[27] For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death? 
[28] Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them. 
[29] For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.  

[15] "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." 

[17] "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. 
[18] "they have Blackstone": William Blackstone's (1723-1780) Commentaries on the Laws of England (Oxford, 1766) is the 18th century compendium of English law.  It was an immediate success, becoming the basis of university legal education, and its influence was enormous.  In early 19th century America Blackstone was the oracle of English law for the new republic.  Though revered, Blackstone was not without his detractors, especially among reformers, and he was the subject of regular satire, as the 1840s George Cruikshank cartoon from Punch illustrates.  

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).  

[19] "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.  

[22] "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. 

[23] "balloons": 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. 

[24] "Hypogriffs": Fabulous flying creatures like a griffen but that are half-eagle, half-horse instead of half-lion, and thus a staple of sword and sorcery.
[25] "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). 

[25] "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).  

[25] "as 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. 
[27] "carry their heads upon their shoulders": In the descriptions of the moon people here, Irving reminds us of illustrations of diverse earth people in such pre-discovery travels as those of  John Mandeville (1356).

[28] "nitrous oxyde": laughing gas. 

[30] "graciously permit us to exist": No doubt a reference to Indian displacement and reservation policies on the horizon.  

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