It may be asked, of what use, is a great part of the preceding book? Some things may have a moral and carry instruction to the mind. But a great part can have no meaning or effect; farther than to raise a laugh, or to make a person smile for a moment. That itself is something; and may conciliate the reader to what is more solid. An ingredient, not in itself savoury, may give a relish to substantial good. Asafoetida gives a flavour to a beef-steak.
Let me get a man to laugh, and I put him in a good humor. The whole book from beginning to end, has a moral, which, if any one has not found out, let him read again.
It may argue a light airy mind in the writer; and yet these things are sometimes the offspring, as in the present case, of a mind, far from being at ease; on the contrary, it is to get ease, and allay pain, that it is written.-- Pain of mind is relieved by an abstraction of solid thought. The early paroxysm of deep grief, may be incompatible with a playful fancy; but gradually and insensibly, the heart-ache may be cheated of it sensations. What else effect has conversation or music? Neigher of these can assuage great pain; or torture; but will be felt to alleviate, in a lesser degree of body or mind. The mind is drawn off, and kept from reflecting. We use laudanum to allay acute bodily pains; and it gives a pleasing delirium, and insensibility for a time. But in the case of mental suffering, it is much safer to attack the imagination by an intellectual paregoric. There is less danger that the use will grow to excess, and induce habit.
Scarron wrote his comical Romance under great bodily pain. But eas to the mind has been more frequently sought by the amusement of writing. It is a fortunate thing for the writers, that it keeps off hunger: for many of them in the garrets of cities, if we may believe themselves, while they lived, or their friends after they were dead, are reduced to short commons. Certain it is, that the occupation of the mind saves food. Literary men, are in general but small eaters. The spirits are exhausted in the thought of the brain, and are less active, in the juices of the stomach. So that from a man's eating I can give a pretty good guess, whether he thinks, or speaks most.
But it may be said, this book might have been written, from the motive suggested; but why let it go to the press? Because there is a pleasure in seeing what you have written appear in a book; and the correcting the proof sheets as you go along pleases. It is on the same principle that the child is delighted with its baby-house; the grown person with the gratification of his fancy in architectures or gardening. All the objects of men, are in great part to please the imagination. Utility is but one half. I admit at the same time, that he who comprises both, hits the nail on the head, and carries all votes. But it is even something to attain one of these.-- This much it may suffice to say, as an apology for the publication.
But it may be said, why not cast the salt of your pleasantry upon some substantial food to the mind of a young person, and not upon vapour, which constitutes little nourishment? You would seem to be a moralist; and to have some knowledge of practical philosophy. Hence we should expect in your page, observations conducive to regulate life, and to form manners. If for instance you had taken a youth from his early age, and conducted him to manhood, insinuating by example, or precept, the best lessons, it might have been a school book. I answer; there has been a great deal in this way already; and my mind led me more to give lessons to grown people. Was I to set myself about such a workk as is suggested; I do not know that I could mend the matter.-- I believe, I would change a little the system of education; in one particular; but it might not be for the better. As already hinted by some things put into the mought of the Captain, I could make it a principal matter to form the heart to a republican government. An in order to this; keep out of view all that nourishes ambition, the poison of public virtue. "In honour preferring one another," is an apostolic, and christian injunction. Bit it is as wise in philosophy, as it is true in religion. Hounour is the principle of monarchy, distinction of rank, titles, dignities. In the American republics, we retain yet a great deal of the spirit of monarchy! The people are not aware of the phraseology itself, in some instances. When an individual solicits a vote, his language is that he will serve the people. They take him at his word, and when he is sent to a public body, he is called their servant. He goes farther himself, and will talk of the majesty of the people.
No disgrace is supposed to attach itself to the soliciting votes, any more than petitioning the monarch for a place. This is not in the spirit of a republic. It is contrary to the nature of it; it is subversive of it. But I would begin at the foundation, by inculcating the folly of coveting a public appointment. The private interest of a man is better cultivated by staying at home. The first lesson I would give to a son of mine would be to have nothing to do with public business, but as a duty to his country. To consider service in civil life, no more to be desired than service in the military. In this last, there is danger of gheumatism, and ague; or of a wound, or of death in battle; but in civil trusts, there is danger of obloquy and disrespect.
But an individual that accepts a trust is no servant.--He is an agent, a delegate, a commissioner. Nor is a house of representatives the people. Nor can majesty be predicated of them. It is a monarchical phrase, and I would not apply it, even to the people themselves.
But take away the spring of ambition; that is, distinction, and preference; and you relax industry; you increase indolence. I grant it. But it saves the heart.-- There may be less eminence; but there will be more goodness. It is on this principle that I condemn the distribution of honours in academies. It is beginning by corrupting the affections. It is planting the poison weed of ambition; the upas-tree that taints the breeze and kills the visitant. I shall have accomplished something by this book if it shall keep some honest man from lessening his respectability by pushing himself into public trusts for which he is not qualified; or when pushed forward into a public station, if it shall contribute to keep him honest by teaching him the folly of ambition, and farther advancement; when in fact, the shade is more to be coveted, and the mind, on reflection, will be better satisfied with itself for having chosen it. This is in great part, the moral of this book; if it should be at all necessary to give a hint of it. Will not an honest man feel compuction, when after some experience, he comes to look back, and see the mischief he has done in a public station; sapped, perhaps the foundations of the constitution; misled by the ambitions; when at the same time, he thought he was establishing the republic? Understanding is therefore requisite; not common sense merely; but knowledge of the subject. But what is knowledge without integrity? And how can there be integrity, where there is ambition? Is there not the ambition of doing good? I do not call that ambition. The praise of doing good? I do not even like the word, praise. I would say the pleasure of doing good. For it is the greatest possible pleasure to a mind rightly informed; properly cultivated, to have done good. A consciousness of this, consoles under public obloquy, and ingratitude.
In looking over what is written, it strikes me that by introducing Teague to the levee, I may be thought to mean a burlesque on the President. It is not so; I meant a burlesque on Teague. As to levee-holding, I do not know whether it is right or wrong; nor do I care. Because, be it as it may, I believe it can do little harm, and is one of those insipidities in the affairs of men which are of no account. Universal prudence is a characteristic of the President, with a capacity of attending to substantial business, and being able at the same time to accommodate himself to forms and ceremonies. As all mankind are not philosophers, perhaps it is well to possess this talent, in order to please them.
Observing several errors of the press, I had thoughts of giving a table of them. But I recollect that in other books, a table of this kind has appeared to me unnecessary.--Because the intelligent reader could in general himself see what were errors, and as to the unintelligent, it made no great odds, whether he did or not.
I have only farther to say at present, that I wish I could get this work to make a little more noise. Will nobody attack it and prove that it is insipid, libellous, treasonable, immoral, or irreligious? If they will not do this, let them do something else, praise it, call it excellent, say it contains wit, erudition, genius, and the Lord knows what! Will no body speak? What? Ho! are ye all asleep in the hold there down at Philadelphia? Will none of you abuse, praise, reprobate, or command this performance? It is ill usage; that is all I can say; and I will take my revenge in a short time unless the matter mends, by dropping my pen altogether, as I now do for the present.