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May 20, 2010

Otsego Herald: Longevity


— BY HUGH C. MACDOUGALL

ISLAND DISAPPEARS?

Remarkable Geographical Fact. -- The island of Boffen, or Penguin, sometimes called Seal Island, at the Western extremity of Table Bay has entirely disappeared beneath the waters. A convulsion was felt at Cape Town, in December, only two leagues distant, by which some damage was occasioned to the houses, but we do not understand that any lives were lost at that place, and it is supposed the earthquake extended to Boffen.



The island was about two miles in length, and one in breadth. The Dutch, when in possession of the Cape, kept a guard of 24 men on Boffen, and it was employed as a place of banishment for criminals. No women were then permitted to reside there, not even the wife of the Post-Master. At the southern extremity of the Island, a flag was hoisted on the approach of any vessel. -- London paper.



COMMENT: The widely reported disappearance of this island, following an earthquake on December 7, 1809, proved to be false. Today it is called Robben Island, and it remains at the entrance of Table Bay at Cape Town, South Africa. It served for many years as a political prison -- Nelson Mandela, the leader of the South African freedom movement, was incarcerated there from 1964 to 1982. Great Britain had conquered the Cape Colony from the Dutch in 1795, leading its Dutch settlers (Afrikaaners) to retreat to new nations (Orange Free State and Transvaal) in the interior where they remained until the South African War at the end of the 19th century.



THE FREEMAN’S JOURNAL



James Elliot, the crackbrained writer for the Freeman’s Journal, has commenced a series of letters on the very new, plausible and most edifying subject of French Influence! He is going to bring forward a volume of evidence to prove this foul blot on our country’s honor as plain as `pike-staff,’ and shew it in its `form and pressure -- very like a whale.’



Now if this poor hypochondriac, this ``motley fool’’ were not absolutely in a state of mind bordering on the wildest mania, and pitiable in the extreme, we should conceive it our duty to spend a serious moment in exposing his melancholy ravings or gloomy moans of his prosaic muse.



But as the case is, they must be suffered to pass as unregarded trash, and their author considered fortunate if he escapes the mad-house.



His attempt to elucidate French influence in our government and country will prove as impotent as his threat to impeach the president, which he so seriously and ludicrously made at Washington a short time since. -- Columbian (a New York City newspaper published 1809-1820).



COMMENT: No, this is not the Cooperstown ``Freeman’s Journal,’’ which, though founded in 1808, did not adopt its present name until 1818. ``Freeman’s Journal’’ was, in fact, quite a popular name for newspapers.



James Elliott (1775-1839) published the Philadelphia ``Freeman’s Journal’’ in 1808- 09. He was also a Federalist Congressman from Vermont from 1803-1809, which no doubt explains the Otsego Herald’s reprinting of these nasty remarks about him.



It was a standard Federalist argument to link the Jeffersonian Republican Party with France (and hence with violent revolution). Elliot’s columns written from Washington D.C., and printed in several newspapers over the signature of ``Ariel,’’ have led him to be considered one of America’s first Washington newspaper correspondents.



EXTRAORDINARY LONGEVITY



Lately died at Arnheim, in Holland, Mathys Bademaker, at the great age of 110 years. He worked at his trade, as a shoemaker, until the age of 90. He was only once married,and had no more than two children, both females.



Both of these, however, having married, the old man died grandfather to 10 persons, and great grandfather to 20, the eldest of whom was 21 years of age at the time of his decease.



He retained his faculties and health until within three weeks of his death. When King Louis visited Arnheim last year, he settled a pension of 400 guilders on him.



From that time he drank three bumpers of wine a day, in which he did not forget the health of his benefactor.



COMMENT: Perhaps the ``three bumpers of wine a day’’ were not so good for his own health. This story was copied, almost verbatim, from a long article entitled ``Obituary, with Anecdotes, of Remarkable Persons,’’ which appeared in the March 1810 issue of “The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle,’’ published in London.