Chapter 10

As the Captain was lounging through the fair, he saw a tall thin man, of a lean visage and sallow complexion, talking at a stall with a chapman. He had under his arm a piece of new, or, as it is called, green linen. In fact he was a weaver, and had linen claith, as he called it, to sell. For he was what we call a Scotch-Irishman, and of the name of Oconama, which is not a Scotch-Irish name; but an aboriginal patronymic; nevertheless it came to be his name, perhaps by the mother’s side.

He had on him what we call a spencer; that is, a coat with the tail docked; though some have this kind of garb made so in the first instance; that is, a juste au corps, or jacket to go over the coat instead of being under it; so that it seems to be but a half-coat.

Now Oconama is pronounced with the final vowel soft; and hearing it so pronounced, the Captain took it to be economy: especially as he saw that his dress corresponded with the designation; and the small scratch wig on his head, but half covered his brown hair, which was seen underneath, supplying the defect of covering by the caul, which was piss-burnt, and had but a few straggling hairs on the top of it, which was bald otherwise as the pate of a Capuchin.

Economy, said the Captain; for such I see you are; and I might have known you even if I had not heard your name; I am glad to have fallen in with you; having often heard of you, and wishing to see you, and to be acquainted. There was said to be great want of you a few years ago, under the presidency of John Adams, who though a good man, yet it has been understood, did not sufficiently consult you. I am glad to hear that you are in request with president Jefferson, though it may be as some say, that he consults you too much, and that you carry things too far.

Adams! Said Oconama. I was not in the country when Adams was President.

The more the pity, said the Captain. There was great want of you. You were much called for. There is a want of economy, said one. There is no economy, said another. But I am happy that you are now here. Great things were expected from you, and great things you have done. But there are good men who think, to use their own phrase, that we are economizing over-much, and that by the weight of your reputation, you have misled our councils, in some particulars. A judiciary law was said to be repealed on the principle of economy. The constitutionality of the repeal has been questioned, much more the expediency. The suitors are obliged to come from the most remote parts of a state, to some one place where the circuit court is held, which under that law was brought if not to their own doors; yet at least nearer home. The constitution must be amended as to the jurisdiction of the Federal courts; or a like law must be re-established. The army has been reduced on the principle of economy; the marine also. Our armed vessels have been sold off, and turned into merchantmen. Hence a petit guere with the Bashaw of Tripoli, for several years, whom we could have put down, and burnt up like a wasps’ nest, if we had kept our ships, and men together. But I will not say, that there was not good reason at the time, to justify the retrenchment, I mean appearances were such as to justify it. It is easy to judge after the event, and though I think the thing was wrong, yet I do not arraign the motive. The public mind leaned so strongly to retrenchments, and called for it so loudly, that it was not easy to resist it.

But the spirit of economy is said to have invaded the legislative part of the administration and to be about to fall upon the executive itself in the reduction of salaries. And not the administration only of the general government, but of the states, confederate, and subordinate.--For imitation is the faculty of man; and we imitate those whom we respect. Hence it is, that we every where hear of economy. An old woman cannot set a hen to hatch but on the principle of economy.

It is a check to all improvement in any system; the judiciary, for instance that it does not consist with economy. Now query, Mr. Economy, whether this may not be carrying things too far?

I know well that fault will be found with all measures. For all systems have their draw-backs. This world that we inhabit has its physical and moral evil though the work of infinite wisdom. What perfection then can we expect from man? But it is well to weigh, and to know whether what is attempted, comes as near as may be to the expedient. This is all I have in view. You have been praised, and you are blamed.--And so it has been with all men in all ages who have endeavored to serve the public. Their integrity, and their exertions have not been sufficient to secure them against obloquy.

Romulus et liber Pater, et cum Castore Pollux,
Post ingentia facta, Deorum in templa, recepti,
Dum terras, hominumque colunt genus, aspera bella
Componunt, agros assignant, oppida condunt;
Ploravere suis non respondere favorem
Speratum meritis----.

Of this Smart’s translation follows:

“Romulus and Father Bacchus, and Castor, and Pollux, after great atchievements, received into the temple of the gods; while they were improving the world and human nature; composing fierce dissensions, settling property, building cities; lamented that the esteem they might have expected, was not paid in proportion to their merits.”

The weaver, at this rhapsody, especially the last part, the Latin sentence, stood amazed, with his eyes staring, and his mouth open. He took him for the madman of whom he had heard, and who had been said to have been tried that day; and, on the principle of self-preservation, if not of economy, began to recede, and to ensconce himself behind the pedlar, who accosting the Captain took upon him to explain.

It must be a mistake of the person, said the chapman. This is not the man you take him to be.

Who is he then? said the Captain. It is not Gallatin;* for Gallatin does not wear a wig, as I have understood, but his own hair; and Madison** is not a small man.

It is neither Gallatin; nor Madison, said the pedlar; but an acquaintance of mine from the county Wicklow in Ireland. He has been in the country about two months, and has never seen Jefferson, or given him advice to do good or harm.

I ask his pardon said the Captain. Calling him Oeconomy, I took it to be him that is said to be at the seat of government, helping on with retrenchments and expenditures. His garb corresponded with his designation, as he seemed to cut his coat according to his cloth; and had curtained the dimensions of his periwig, substituting a little of his own hair; or rather letting it grow, to make amends for the want of caul, which bald as it is, comes but half way down his occiput, and leaves his neck bare.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

* The Secretary of the Treasury.

** Secretary of State.


Observations

It would be a gratification to myself, and it might be of use to others, to give some notes of political history in this state. Those just grown up; or lately come amongst us, from abroad, would better understand why it is that democracy has been occasionally the order of the day; and again put down. It has always had numbers on its side, and yet has not always possessed the administration. I use the term democracy, as contradistinguished from the aristocracy; that is, a union of men of wealth and influence.

In the state constitution of 1776, the democracy prevailed in carrying a single legislature, but this laid the foundation of their overthrow; because experience proved that it was wrong. “Wisdom is justified of all her children.”

The constitution of 1776, gave way to that of 1790, and the aristocracy obtained the ascendancy; or rather having obtained it, they brought about a convention, and carried the constitution of 1790; which is the present.

But connecting themselves with the errors of the administration of the federal government, in 1797, 1798, they lost the state administration, and the democracy prevailed.

Five years has it retained the administration; and will, an interminable time, provided that wise measures are pursued, and justice done.

This, I am not addressing to the legislature, or executive power of the government; but to the people. It is for them my book is intended. Not for the representatives of a year or four years, but for themselves. It is Tom, Dick, and Harry, in the woods, that I want to read my book. I do not care though the delegated authorities never see it. I will not say it is to their masters that I write, for I reprobate the phrase. I have no idea of masters or servants in a republic. But it is to their constituents that I consider myself as applying, in the observations I make. At the same time professing, which, after what has happened in my case, is perhaps necessary, that I have not the slightest disrespect for the representatives that have been or may again be; I only wish them to support a character in their deliberations, which the world must approve. Or rather I wish the democracy supported, which can be done only on the basis of wisdom, which contains in it truth and justice.

Error is always weakness. Integrity cannot save error. It can only reduce it from misdemeanour to frailty.

In what is the democracy likely to err? How do men err when they run from one extreme to another? There may be an extreme in economy, as well as in expenditure. The economists are a good description of persons; but may not always be the illuminati. There is such a thing as economy over much. A man of spirit, and enterprise in his private affairs, will be sensible that it is no economy to stint his labourers of wages; or to higgle in his bargains. More depends upon judgment, and expansion of mind in his plans, than in nigardliness in his contracts. Laying out well, brings in, and improves his plantation. The federal government, in the opinion of some, taxed too much, or injudiciously. We will not tax at all. Rather than tax, we will bend our minds to reduce offices and salaries; at a time too when the purchase of commodities proves to us, that the value of money is reduced, and the price of living advanced one half. The jurisdiction of the justices of the peace proves this; for it must have been a good deal, on this ground that it has been increased from fifty, or thereabouts, to one hundred dollars. But it is not merely the reduction of offices and salaries, that is the evil, but the wounding a principle of the constitution; or straining a principle, to get quit of these: for, it cannot be dissembled, that it is broached in many places, to over-throw the whole judiciary establishment, and put men upon the bench that will take the honour of it for the compensation. This might look well at first glance; but it would ultimately destroy the democracy by which it was accomplished. But suppose nothing of this in contemplation or attempted; who are they that oppose an amelioration of the judicial system, competent to an administration of justice, by an increase of the districts, or the judges?--The economists: Though, it can be demonstrated, that a pound is lost to the community, where a penny is saved. But it does not come by the way of direct tax; but insensible filching, in the way of the expences of attending courts.

But the justice of the thing is more; the dispatch of trial, and decision. The delay of justice, is the denial of justice. It would be for the credit of the democratic administration to have just ideas on this head. There are amongst them who have; but it is not universal. --The fact is, that it will not always be borne; and their adversaries will triumph.

Were it not for the name of the thing, I do not see that a judge in this state, need care much about being broken; for it is but a pack-horse business at present. It requires as much sitting as a weaver, and as much riding as a carrier of dispatches. I often think of the language of Job, in more senses, than one, “my days are swifter than a post.”

In riding from one court to another it is necessary to be at a certain point by a certain hour, though rain falls, flood swells, and roads are bad. --Even in good weather there are bad roads. Why not make good roads? Here again the economists present themselves. The roads are left to the townships; even the great state roads; and no improvements of a public nature are attempted, or thought of: economy is the order of the day. It would seem that democracy had no soul; that it views things on a narrow scale. That it has not knowledge or the ambition “to make a great state out of a small.” I would wish it to stretch a little in its views, as to the amendment of the roads, and the improvement of the judicial system. But this is not a building up, but a pulling down time.

I know what it will pull down eventually; the democracy. People will be as much dissatisfied, by and by, with economy resisting all improvements, as they were of late with provisional armies, and a house tax. A false economy, not resisting merely the accomplishment of public objects, but sacrificing to itself the establishments that do exist. It is the Moloch that is calling for the constitution that it may devour it. It is to this idol that the third branch of the government must be offered up in one shape or another. For what is it, whether a judge is broke upon the bench; or has his neck broke upon the roads?

Economy may save the representatives for the time being, until by feeling, the people come to have a sense of the policy. But, it will affect the credit, of the democracy; and in the end bring it down. It is a paralytic that will terminate in a convulsion of the public mind and change the administration. It is in the nature of things that this will be the case; for great is the force of truth, and it will prevail.

In what I have said on this head; I will acknowledge that I have in view, chiefly that economy which resists an improvement of the judicial system. Though probably before this is read, it will not be of consequence to me but as a citizen, and perhaps not even in that capacity, whether it is improved or not.