The Captain having a short space of time to spare from his avocations, and disposed to take the air, had walked out, and coming near the small building which served as a hospital for the village, was disposed to visit it and see the state in which it was, with what new objects, since he had been absent on his peregrinations.
He was shown by the keeper an extraordinary object in a cell, a man who imagined himself a moral philosopher, delivering lectures. His observations were occasionally fraught with good sense. While the Captain stood, in the passage opposite his door, he made a note of some part of his discourse, and which, having had an opportunity of copying, we shall give to the reader. It was on the subject of the resentment of injuries.
It is a strange thing, said he, that we cannot submit with equanimity to evils in the moral world, as we do in the natural. We expect a fair day, and there comes a foul. Is it any gratification to us, to beat the air, or stamp upon the puddle? Who would think of giving the cow-skin to a hurricane? Yet the greatest damage is sometimes done by a blast of wind. He would be thought a madman, and be sent to this place, who was apprehended buffeting a whirlwind, even though it had torn up by the roots, or broken down a fruit tree. He must be out of his senses indeed, that would have recourse to a bludgeon, in case of an attack by an inundation. It would be a laughing stock to see even a Turk giving the bastinado, to a hot season, or to cold weather. The knout to a Russian winter! Did the Pope ever excommunicate a storm on the ocean? What man is angry with a squall of wind? He considers it as an evil, and composes his mind to the loss of his merchandize. Is ingratitude less to be expected? And yet when it happens, we reprobate, and seek revenge. Sufferings from moral causes, are just as common as from natural. And yet when an injury is committed by a human creature, we are taken as it were by surprise, and lose temper. Cannot we turn away from a sudden gust, and take shelter under some one willing to protect us, without thinking more of the enemy that had beaten us, with his fist, or abused us with a bad tongue? The pelting of a hail storm never induces you to use hard words, or to demand satisfaction of the atmosphere; and yet you will send a challenge, and risk your own life to punish a man that has barely slighted you in a manner or in words. Why not take the other side of the road, and pass him by as you would a pond of water, or a marshy place? Cannot we take the necessary precautions against calumny, as we would against foul air, without putting ourselves in a passion with the author of the defamation, any more than with a vapour, or an exhalation? But there is such a thing, as will and intention in the moral agent. Is this any thing more than an idea, a matter of our own imaginations? It is the same thing to us whether there is a spirit in the winds, or no spirit, when a house is blown down; or the roof carried away. What is it to us, whether the cause thinks, or does not think? We blame it the most sometimes because it does not think. We call in question the understanding of a man when he wrongs us; and say, if he had the reflection of a reasonable being, he would have conducted himself in a different manner. And yet the consideration that he had not reflection, does not mitigate, but increases our resentment. Oh! the inconsistency of human life and manners. I am shut up here as a madman, in a mad place, and yet it appears to me that I am the only rational being amongst men, because I know that I am mad, and acknowledge it, and they do not know that they are mad, or acknowledge it.
"As far as my small judgment goes," says an orator, when he is about to express his opinion; and yet he does not think his judgment small. He would take it much amiss if any one took him at his word, and would say, true it is, your judgment is but small. All think themselves wise, wise, wise. but I say, fools, fools, fools--At this he threw himself down on his couch, and fell asleep.
In the next apartment was an insane person, who stiled himself the Lay Preacher, and who took his text as usual; and began to preach. Book of Judges, 21. 25. In those days there was no king in Israel; and every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
That was right, said a mad democrat, who was confined in a cell across the passage. When we got quit of a king, the same thing was expected here, that every man should do that which was right in his own eyes but behold we are made to do that which is right in the eyes of others. The law governs, and this law is made up of acts of assembly, and the decisions of the courts; and a kind of law they call the common law. A man's nose is just as much upon the grind-stone as it was before the revolution. It is not your own will that you must consult; but the will of others. Down with all law, and give us a free government, that every man may do that which is right in his own eyes.
Madman, said the Preacher; It is not allowable that men should do that which is right in their own eyes. A man is not a proper judge of right in his own cause. His passions bias his judgment. He cannot see the right and justice of the case. The want of a king in Israel was accompanied with the want of laws. I do not mean to say that without a king there cannot be laws. But kings is put here for government, that being the government, at that period known in the world. For even a mixed monarchy is an improvement of later times. The meaning is, there being no government, every mad did that which was right in his own eyes; and ten to one, but it was wrong in the eyes of others: A wild state of anarchy.-- A time for Sampson to live, that could knock down people with the jaw bone of an ass.
What worse, said the democrat, than amongst us where we see honest men knocked down with the jaw bones of lawyers, arguing a cause, and the judges that decide upon the case.
Passing on, the Captain came to the stair case, and ascended to the second story; he wished to see a mad poet who had been engaged in travestying his travels. He had the advantage of a commodious apartment, more so, than some of those who have surpassed him in his art in different places and periods of the world. The poet Dryden was not so well accommodated, at the time he wrote his St. Cecilias Ode, which is thought to be the best of his compositions. The poet that we have before us, was a quiet man, and had the privilege of the hospital, to go and come as he pleased, but not to go without the walls. He was confined here by his relations merely as a matter of convenience, being so absent in mind, that he was incapable of taking care of himself. The manuscript, in dogrel verse, would seem to be sufficient to compose a book, half as large as Hudibras. He was overjoyed to see the Captain, who was the hero of his poem; and the Captain was no less amused to see him, and the adventures of which he made a part, turned into rhyme. His sensations were equally sublime with those of the Trojan hero, when he saw the war of Troy in the paintings hung up in the hall of the queen of Carthage. But the circumstance was not less entertaining to him as the actor, or the speaker in the course of the adventures so recorded, and he consented to accept a copy, not that he meant to give it to the press, but to cast his eye over it, for his particular amusement: nevertheless, the manuscript having fallen into our hands, we shall select parts of it, and according as the reader seems to like that which he gets, we shall give him more. In the mean time we shall dismiss the Captain from the hospital, not but that there was much more to see and hear amongst the Bedlamites still, but affected with melancholy and weary of the scene; at the same time doubting with himself, whether those he saw confined were more devoid of reason than the bulk of men running at large in the world. He had no doubt of one being a lunatic of whom the keeper made mention, but whom he had not an inclination to visit, in the second story; for he was said to be employed looking at the moon, with a pair of spectacles which he took for a telescope. For lunacy means moon-struck, and this seemed the be the case with him.