The Daily

The Pigeon

1623, Leyden

Jesse deForest, remembered as Jesse the Walloon, was a dyer permitted by law to use color, a high honor at the time. Jesse’s dream was to establish a Walloon colony in the New World free of persecution. Turned down by the American Virginia Colony in 1622 for an expedition of six hundred followers, Jesse tried again in 1623. Two ships were then scheduled to set sail: one, to plant settlements on the Hudson River at what would become Manhattan; the other, to explore the Amazon River basin.

The question naturally arose: If Jesse the Walloon was to finally make good on his dream of a Walloon colony in the New World, where would it be? Newly colonized America or a South American river basin opposing Spanish authority. Manhattan or the Amazon?

Hundreds followed Jesse the Walloon as he led them aboard their vessel, The Pigeon, and set sail for the Amazon … where many would be left stranded and dying among tribal feuds and disease. Fortunately, for me, the deForests made it to the New World

Some believe that American Character is personified in the qualities of America’s most wealthy and powerful. I have had the privilege of working with people from every background during my career. One of the things I have learned is that it is a mistake to identify our hopes and dreams with accumulated wealth and power (which can be attained through a variety of means – not all of them virtuous).

American Character originates in the revolutionary ideas of our Founders and is embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our Character recognizes the guarantee of freedom to all citizens and the promise that Government will ensure those freedoms by taking no position about expression or worship. When Government interferes with those promises, the relationship between the governed and governing changes and we fail to live up to the standards laid out before us.

The hallmark of American Character is in our journey, not any one individual walking it. Jesse the Walloon is a piece of our history, no less or more important than those who walked past The Pigeon and boarded The Mackerel bound for New Amsterdam. If sacrifice builds character, then American Character is best found where citizens suffer for, rather than profit from, their freedom.