If the memoir of
the bog-trotter had not advanced the author to a professors chair; it
had, at least, procured him admission to a number of learned societies;
abroad and at home: should a new edition of the work come to be published,
it will take up, at least, two quarto pages, to contain the names of these
memberships, and honours.
But, notwithstanding the most pressing solicitations, he could not be
brought to accept of an introduction to the St. Tammany society;
owing to the impression which he still retained of being an Indian chief,
from which he had a narrow escape in the early part of this work. For
unfortunately, it had been explained to him, that St. Tammany was an Indian
Saint; and that the Society met in a wigwam, and exchanged belts.
They offered to make him a Sachem; but all to no purpose; the idea of
scalping, and tomhacking, hung still upon his mind. It was, by compulsion,
in France, that he took upon him the character of an Esquimaux, in the
procession of Anacharsis Cloots.
The Captain presented himself to the Society, explaining these things;
and that in fact, such had been the alarm of the author of the memoir,
at the proposition of being made a member, that he had absconded a day
or two before. The Society took his excuse; and made the Captain an honorary
member in his place.
This was no object with the Captain, as he was a candidate for no office;
and could draw no advantage from a promiscuous association. Nor did he
see that he could be of any use to mankind in this new capacity, as the
propagation of the gospel in foreign parts, or amongst the savages, made
no part of the duty. For though Tammany himself may have been a
Saint, there are few of his disciples that can pretend to sanctity, superior
to common christians. Or, at least, their piety consists more in contemplation,
than in active charity, and practice. We hear of no missionaries from
them, amongst the aborigines of the continent, as we should be led to
expect from being called the St. Tammany Society. For it is to be presumed,
that this Saint had been advanced into the calender from the propagation
of the christian faith, as was St. Patrick, St. Andrew, and others. And
though, as these old societies, with that of St. George, St. David, &c.
the duty of Evangelists may be excused, the countries to which they belong,
being long since christianized; yet the native Americans which St. Tammany
represents, are whole nations of them infidels. The sons of St.
Tammany ought certainly to think a little of their brothers that are yet
in blindness, and lend a hand to bring them to light. It is not understood,
that even a talk has been held with a single nation of our western tribes;
though it could have cost but a few blankets, and a keg of rum to bring
them together; and in council a little wampum, and kilikaneeque.
But our modern churches, have not the zeal of the primitive: or that zeal
is directed to a different object, the building up the faith at home;
and that in civil affairs, more than spiritual doctrines. It is not the
time now to go about "in sheepskins, and goatskins," to convert
the heathen to the gospel; but the citizens to vote for this or that candidate.
The Cincinnati being a mere secular society, is excusable; but
the Saint Societies, would seem in this, to depart from the etymology
of their denomination. I know that some remark on the word Cincinnatus;
and think that it ought to be pronounced as well as spelled, St. Cinnatus;
and in that case all would be on a footing. I have no objection, provided
that it makes no schism; for even the alteration of a name might
make a schism. and a schism in a society militant, such as this
is, might occasion a war of swords; and not a war of words only. I will
acknowledge that I would like to have the thing uniform, St. Cinnatus,
with the rest. So that if it could be brought about without controversy,
it would contribute to the unity of designation. But controversy, is,
above all things to be avoided. And nothing is more apt to engender controversy,
than small matters, because, small things are more easily lost than great.
Or, because it vexes a man more, to find his adversary boggle at a trifling
matter of orthodoxy when he has swallowed the great articles of credence,
than to have to pull him up, a cables length, to some broad notion, that
separates opinion and belief. To apply it to the matter of the spelling;
qui haeret in litera, haeret in cortice. That is, to give it in
English, it may depend upon a single letter how to draw the cork.
All consideration therefore ought to be sacrificed to good humour, and
conviviality, and I would rather let the heathen name remain, than
christian it at the expence of harmony, and concord. But to return from
this digression, to the St. Tammany Society, of which I was speaking,
and which had some time ago convened.
It was a new thing
to the Captain, to take a seat in the wigwam, and to smoke the calumet
of peace. But he was disappointed in his expectations, of seeing Indian
manners, and customs introduced, and made a part of the ceremony. There
was some talk of brightening the chain, and burying the hatchet;
but he saw no war dance. What is more, even the young warriors
were destitute of the dress. There was not a moccasin to be seen on the
foot of any of them; not a breechclout; nor had they even the natural;
or rather, native brands and marks, of a true born Indian. No ear cut
in ringlets; no broach in the nose; or tatooing on the breast. All was
as smooth, and undisfigured, as the anglo Americans that inhabit our towns,
The Grand Sachem,
made a speech to the Captain, not in Indian; but in German; which answered
the end as well; for he did not understand it. But it was interpreted,
and related to the proposition of making him a Chief, which he declined,
professing that it was more his wish to remain a common Indian, than to
be made even a half-king,* not having it in view to remain much in the
nation; or attend the council fires a great deal. He contented himself
with putting some queries, relative to the history of St. Tammany; of
what nation he was? Did he belong to the North, or the South? The East,
or the West? On what waters did he make his Camp? How many moons ago did
he live? Where did he hunt? Who converted him? or whom did he convert?
Why take an Indian for the tutelary saint of the whites? Why not Columbus;
or Cabot? Where did this saintship originate?
To these queries, the Chiefs could give no answer; nor is it of much moment
whether they could or not. Some of them are not worth answering.
*A half-king, means double king, or king of two nations, who have him
split between them.
Among the Romans,
there was a kind creature, of the name of Apollo, who stood by people,
and when they were doing wrong, would give them a twitch of the ear, to
bid them stop.
I cannot say, that I felt just such a twitch while I was writing the last
chapter; unless figuratively; meaning some little twitch of the mind,
recollecting, and reflecting, that it might possibly give offence to public
bodies, and societies, especially, the St. Tammany; and Cincinnati; though
none was intended. But it is impossible to anticipate in all cases,
the sensations of others. --Things will give offence, that were meant
to , inform and assist; or to please and divert. In the case of
public bodies especially, no man knows, what may make an unfavorable impression.
It is necessary, or, unavoidable as it might be translated "that
offences come, but woe to him by whom they come." One would
think that in a free country, there might be some little more moderation
with regard to what is done and said. It is a maxim in law, that words
are to be construed, "mitior sensu;" or, in the milder
sense. It is a scriptural definition of charity, "that it is not
easily provoked." --Whereas, on the contrary an uncharitable disposition,
is ready to misconstrue, & convert to an offence. A town, a society,
a public body, of any kind might be presumed to bear more than an individual,
because, the offence being divided amongst a greater number; it can be
but a little, that will be at the expense of any one person. If therefore,
any son of St. Tammany, or St. Cincinnatus, should feel himself hurt by
our lucubration, let him consider that it is better to laugh than be angry;
and he will save himself, if he begins to laugh first. Though, after all,
some will say, there is nothing to laugh at; and in this, they will be
right. For at the most, it can only be a smile. It is a characteristic
of the comedy of Terence; that he never forces your laugh; but to smile
only. That I take to be the criterion of a delicate and refined wit; and
which was becoming the lepos, or humour of such men, as Lelius
and Scipio, who are thought to have formed his taste, and assisted him
in his dramatic compositions. Yet I must confess, if I could reach it,
I would like the broad laugh; but it is difficult to effect this, and,
not, at the same time, fall into buffoonery, and low humour. Laughing
is certainly favourable to the lungs; and happy the man, whose imagination
leads him to risible sensations, rather than to melancholy.
All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. But I have no idea of laughing,
any more than of playing, without having performed the necessary task
of duty, or labour. An idle laughing fool, is contemptible and odious;
and laughing too much is an extreme which the wise will avoid. Take care
not to laugh, when there is nothing to laugh at. I can always know a man's
sense, by his song, his story, or his laugh. I will not say his temper;
or principles; but certainly his share of understanding. The truth is,
this composition has more for its object than merely to amuse, though
that is an object. But I doubt whether we shall receive credit for our
good intentions. For truth lies in a well; and unless there is some one
to draw the bucket, there is no getting it up.
We have been often asked for a key to this work. Every man of sense has
the key in his own pocket. --His own feelings; his own experience is the
key. It is astonishing, with what avidity, we look for the application
of satire which is general, and never had a prototype. But the fact is,
that, in this work, the picture is taken from human nature, generally,
and has no individual in view. It was never meant as a satire upon men;
but upon things. An easy way, to slur sentiments, under the guise of allegory;
which could not otherwise make their way to the ears of the curious. Can
any man suppose, upon reflection, that if ridicule was intended upon real
persons, it would be conveyed in so bungling a manner that people would
be at a loss to know, who was meant? That is not the way we fix our fools
Let any man put it to himself, and say, would he wish to be of those that
give pain by personal allusion, & abuse. Self-love, for a moment,
may relish the stricture; but could never endure to be thought the author.
In attacking reputation, there are two things to be considered, the manner,
and the object. When the object is praise-worthy, there is an openness,
a frankness, and manliness of manner, which commands respect. But even
where the object is a public good, the manner may excite contempt. Let
our editors of news-papers look to this, of them who wish to be considered
gentlemen; such as have no character to lose, and never wish to have any,
may take all the liberties and occupy their own grade.
But as we were saying, public bodies and societies of men, ought not to
take offence easily; nor resent violently. "As they are strong, be
merciful." A single person is not on a footing with a great number.
He can-not withstand the whole, if they should take offence without reason;
and he may be consciously scrupulous of fighting; or may be afraid to
fight; which will answer the end just as well; or he may have the good
sense and fortitude, to declare off; which by the bye requires more courage,
than the bulk of men possess. It requires a courage above all
false opinion; and the custom will never be put out of countenance,
until some brave men set the example. --There is nothing that a wise man
need fear, but dishonor, founded on the charge of a want of
virtue; on that which all men, of all places, and of all times,
will acknowledge to be disreputable. Under this head, will not be
found the refusal of a challenge. Nothing can be great, the contempt
of which, is great. Is it not great to despise prejudice, and false
opinion? "He that ruleth his spirit, is greater than he that taketh
a city:" but, he that is above the false sentiments of others, presents
to me the image of a superior power, that ascends through the vapours
of the atmosphere and dissipates the fog. The world is indebted to the
man that refuses a challenge; but who can owe any thing to him that
accepts it; for he sanctions an unjust law. -- Doubtless, the accepting
of a challenge, is pardonable as a weakness; but still it is a
weakness. The man is a hero, who can withstand unjust opinion. It requires
more courage, than to fight duels. --To sustain life, under certain circumstances,
calls for more resolution than to commit suicide. Yet suicide is not reputable.
Brutus in the schools condemned it ; but at Philippi, adopted it: Because
his courage failed him.
But cudgelling, follows the refusal of a challenge. Not if there is instant
notice given to a peace officer. But posting follows. Notice of that may
be given also, and a court and jury brought to criticise upon the libel.
Why is it, that a public body is more apt to take offence than an individual?
Because, every one becomes of consequence in proportion as he is careful
of the honour of the whole. It is oftentimes, a mere matter of accident,
whether the thing is well, or ill taken. If one would happen to call out,
that it is an insult, another is unwilling to question it, lest
he should be suspected of incivicism, and lose his standing in
society in general; or, in that to which he more particularly belongs.
The misconception of one forces itself upon another; and misconstruction
prevails. That which was the strongest proof of confidence in the integrity
and justice of the body, is viewed as distrust; and a concern for
their honour, considered a reproach. The most respectful language
termed insolence. Implicit submission attributed to disrespect.
Self-denial overlooked, and wantonness of insult substituted
in its place. This, all the offspring of mistake; which it is the duty
of the individual to remove. But how can he speak if his head is
off, before he knows that the offence is taken? Protesting
therefore that I mean no offence to either of these societies, or the
individual members, in any thing I have said; I request them to take it
in good part; or, if there should seem to be ground of affront, they will
give me a hearing, and an opportunity to explain.
There is no anticipating absolutely, and to all extent, what a person
might say for himself if he was heard. That presumption which had existed
might be removed. His motives might appear laudable; or at the worst,
originating in a pardonable weakness. Whether or not, the credit of the
tribunal with the world, might render it expedient to observe these appearancest
They did it in France under the revolutionary government; and even the
emperor seems to consider it as indispensible. If therefore any
thing in these chapters should unfortunately give umbrage to the sons
of St. Tammany, or to the Cincinnati members, I pray a citation,
and demand a hearing. I trust I shall be able to convince them
that I am not deficient in respect for them individually, or as public