"History records only the combined or aggregate actions of nations and can only give the biographies of a very few individuals whose positions have given them a predominant influence in the nation in which their influence has been specially felt in giving form and shape to great events and social movements, whose effects are felt and recognized for ages.
It seems, however, but a little reflection and consideration to satisfy us that each individual human being, however humble, has a personal history of his own, quite as real and quite as interesting to himself and his children and his near relations, at least, as that of the greatest historical characters has to the nation at large.
And, though the national history of any popular government is but the aggregate or result of the personal history and influence of all its individuals, it would be manifestly impossible to give a history of all such individual actions and influence.
The biography, however, of a comparatively few among the more prominent actors and thinkers, whose personal influence has been felt, tend to [show] them much light upon the great turning points and controlling events in a nation's history, and in this view, becomes an important part of history itself, and furnishes facts which serve as keys to unlock and explain the secret springs of action, and the true causes of important social movements which general history would leave in obscurity."
Isaac Peckham Christiancy [March 12, 1812 - September 8, 1890], who wrote those words at the age of seventy-one years, became a great jurist, a U. S. Senator from his adopted State of Michigan, and probably the most distinguished citizen of that State in his lifetime.
After leaving New York State in 1833, he went to Lansing, Michigan and there took up his home. He studied law, acquired a large practice for a time, was one of the founders of the Republican Party in Michigan and of the country, ran for governor of the state on that ticket, in 1854 was a delegate to the National Convention, in 1856 was elected to the Supreme Court of Michigan and later became Chief Judge of the courts of that state.
His chief work in life was, of course, that of a lawyer and judge. When Zachariah Chandler, the giant senator from that state, retired from the Senate, Christiancy was drafted to succeed him. He was afterward Minister to Peru during the Peruvian and Chilean War and finally retired to private life. He died in Lansing, Michigan on September 8, 1890 at the age of 78. His public career as a judge and legislator marks him as one of the most distinguished native sons of Fulton County, NY.His story, “Reminiscences of Garoga Valley,” is referenced in the "Frontiersmen of the Adirondacks" by author Cyrus Durey.
Like Lincoln, Jackson and Johnson, he was born in a log house. Like them his schooling lasted but a few weeks in the years of his boyhood. He enjoyed, through his own earnings, the benefits of a single term at the Kingsboro Academy (which was located in today's Gloversville, NY). He was self-educated and yet well educated. The text books on English in Michigan schools contained examples of Senator Christiancy's writings for the instruction of the pupils.
In writing his autobiography, speaking of the people of the section of the country where he once lived in the foothills of the Adirondacks (which section was typical of them all he says):
“I left them at the age of twenty-one and it has been my lot in the course of a busy life to become acquainted with the people of many other localities, and of every grade from the highest to the lowest, but I have found anywhere a community where the average standard of morality was higher, or the general sense of justice and moral obligation stronger or more uniform, where all the domestic virtues and genial social qualities were more general or more attractive, where a better or more cordial feeling of brotherhood or a purer spirit of charity or benevolence pervaded the mass of the community.
No crime was ever committed during my remembrance (and my memory of those times is very distinct and clear) in any part of the country or among any of the people I have described.
The country was poor in resources and unproductive.
Unremitting industry and strict economy were required to extort a living from the soil. The virtues induced by necessity had become habitual. They produced sobriety of thought and habits, and such thoughts and habits do more to humanize and civilize mankind and to purify the heart than all the sermons ever preached, always excepting the Sermon on the Mount.
It is among such a people that such practical teachings are most readily appreciated and most likely to become the controlling principles of action in social intercourse and in all the practical affairs of life.
And, could I be granted the privilege of beginning my life anew, with the hope of improving upon that I have now nearly passed (a boon which I would gladly accept), I should wish to pass my childhood and youth in just such a community as that which I made the first experiment, subjected to the same necessities for exertion, and relying upon the same maxims of doing the best I could and leaving the rest to Providence.”
Nothing finer could be said of a community than this description of our own people. Many of the children of those people have removed to other sections of the country and others have displaced them but, in the main, the present Fulton County, NY population is the descendants of those people.
If this citizenship is less prone to violent reversals of opinions than is that of some of the more crowded centers of population in the country, if we are a little slower in adopting the new because it is new and a little more averse to the present tendency toward asking the government to do as a collective agency what the individual can better do, it seems natural to believe it is because the “qualities of mind and the habits of industry and self-reliance” of these earlier people still reside in their descendants and are but little polluted by the continental standards now partially accepted in those parts of the country dominated by children of new immigrants.