Chapter 14

There had been so much said of devil-making, in the village, for the last two or three days, that it had come to the ears of the clergyman, who became alarmed; and thought he had as many devils on his hands already as he well knew what to do with; not alluding to the devil in the scripture; but the diabolicism of wicked men. He chose a text therefore, from which he could draw inferences on this subject; a passage of the Scripture which might seem to have an allusion to the devil they had been about to mike the preceding week, and at the same time furnish a clue to some illustrations of the text. The words fixed upon, were those in the book of Job.

“And Satan came also among them.”

It so happened, that just at the giving out of the text, the bog-trotter with his walking pole, made his appearance at the west end of the church, which the people seeing, and mistaking him for that devil of which the parson spoke, rose as one man, and called out “the devil.” For it was seldom that Teague had come to church; but the Captain had enjoined it upon him that day, to see what reformation it might produce in his life, and conversation. It was unfortunate that the clergyman, in pronouncing the word, had happened to direct his eye toward that end of the church at which Teague was; which drew the attention of the people to the same quarter; and hence the impression, as sudden as it was universal.

As from a theatre, where the scenery has taken fire, there is an effort to escape, and the spectators rush in every direction; so on the present occasion. The greater part had got out and were at some distance from the church, in disorder, the deacons endeavouring to rally them like officers, the flying squadrons of a routed army; but in vain; the panic had been so great, that every one was willing to make the best of his way, from the scene of action.

The Clergyman himself, was not a little terrified, thinking that, contrary to expectation, the devil had come among them; and though he himself had seen nothing of him with the naked eye, yet that he had been visible to the congregation. Accordingly he had made his escape at an early period of the flight, and was on a hill, apart in the rear of the church, at prayers; with his eyes open; not shut, as was his custom, for on this occasion, he had thought it advisable to have a look out, not knowing what might heave in sight, before he had concluded.

The clerk being a lame man, had sat still in the desk, and given out a Psalm, so that of the whole, he was the only one who could be said to remain at his post.

The bog-trotter, was under a more unfortunate mistake; for he took it for granted, from the words of the clergyman which he had heard, and from the alarm of the people, that he had in reality undergone a change, and had become a devil. His endeavour, therefore, was to fly from himself: like one whose clothes are on fire.--His howling and shouting, like that of a beaten dog, increased the disturbance, and his own perturbation. He was a mile from the village before he ventured to look back; and even then, he did not stop, but continued his route to a greater distance in the country; at the same time not convinced fully of his metamorphose; for puting his hand to his head, he could feel no horn, nor a tail behind his back, though he endeavoured to catch at this also. Hence it was, that he thought it proper to extricate himself, and ascertain at his leisure, the real state of the case, as to his being what he was, and the idiosincracy of his existence.

Certain it is the bog-trotter had no great intrinsic value in the qualities of his head, or heart; nevertheless, from habit or some other principle, the Captain had conceived some attachment to him; and was uneasy at his disappearing, especially under the late circumstances; not knowing what might befal him from a mistake of characters. In the present state of the public mind, with regard to the judiciary, it might happen to him to be viewed again under that aspect, and be laid hold upon as before, and put in fear of his life. Nor was it a thing morally certain that he might not become a trespasser himself, if not upon the persons, at least upon the property of men. The want of food might tempt him to rob hen-roosts, or break spring-houses, which are used as dairies or to keep meats fresh, in the summer season. --On these grounds, he thought it both for the public good, and that of the individual, to endeavour to reclaim, and bring him back. As to the idea of his turning hermit, which some thought probable, it never came into the head of the Captain. For though he knew that disappointments in love or in ambition, have oftentimes made hermits, yet this must have taken place in the case of persons of greater sensibility than had ever been discovered in the bog-trotter. Misanthropy is sometimes the natural characteristic of the mind; but more generally the offspring of extreme benevolence, hurt by ingratitude. Hence it ought to be inculcated to indulge even benevolence, with moderation; and to be careful against sanguine expectations of gratitude, from those served. “Be not weary in well doing” to others, even though a correspondent mind in those served, does not always show itself. But for the sake of self-preservation, it is unsafe to count too much upon the fruit which good acts may produce. The seed does not always fall upon good soil, and the seasons may blight the crop. But the anchorite is not usually made of such as Teague O’Regan, who had rather be among men, getting flesh and fowl to eat, than living on vegetables in the woods, and drinking the element of water from the pure rock; or to trace the matter somewhat farther back, as we have already hinted, where the natural mind does not find its enjoyments, in the association of the happiness of others with its own.

The whole village appeared to take an interest in the uneasiness of the Captain, from the loss of his servant. --The young man who had set up the pole-cat to counteract the paper of Porcupine, had gone out in quest of him, and from his knowledge of the woods, looking for cats, could more readily than others, go to such recesses, or point out such caverns, as might be expected to receive him.

The blind Lawyer and fiddler had paid the Captain a visit, to console him, the one with his violin; the other with his conversation. The blind lawyer made light of the matter, and thought that taking to his trotters, was the best thing that Teague O’Regan could have done; and that the leaving the village, for a time, though operating in the nature of exile, yet carried nothing more with it than had happened in the case of Aristides among the Greeks, or Marcellus among the Romans; and illustrious characters of all countries, who avoided envy or yielding to unjust prosecution, had been under the necessity of abandoning their country for a period. Some indeed had spent the remainder of their lives in foreign countries; and were buried by people, who formed a juster estimate of their merits, than their ungrateful countrymen, whose happiness had been advanced by their wise counsels, or heroic actions. But that in the case of the bog-trotter, there was great reason to believe, not only that he would be well received by the neighbouring states; but that in due time he would be recalled to the bosom of his country, with feelings of a contrary nature; but in proportion to the ignominy of his exit.

The Captain felt a degree of consolation from the observations; but at the same time, could not avoid expressing his regret that he had not favoured the ragamuffin, throughout, in his pretensions to become an editor of a gazette; and the proposition of the citizens, to put him at the head of a paper; for though it might have subjected him to a kick, or a cuff, now and then, for a blackguard paragraph, yet he would have avoided the danger of being taken, as had been the case, for a judge, or a devil.

But, said the blind Lawyer, as you intended it for the best, though it has turned out otherwise; yet there is no reason, why you should blame yourself; or that others should find fault. Time and chance happeneth to all men. In the capacity of editor, he would have been subject to indictments for libels, to which a want of an accurate knowledge of law in matters of written slander, might have rendered him liable. He had some legal knowledge, I presume; having studied, not at the temple, but in this country, perhaps with more advantage; for I believe it is pretty well understood, that temple study is not of much account.

He understands about as much law, as my horse, said the Captain; for which reason it was the greater burlesque to talk of making him a judge. Unless indeed all legal knowledge, should be put down, and men should determine by their own arbitrary notions of right and wrong, independent of rules, and principles.

As to the making him a judge, said the Lawyer, I do not take it there ever was any thing serious in it; and even as to the present obloquy against the law, I am disposed to think the current has in a great degree spent itself. Accusation and condemnation are not the same thing. It is no new thing to see accusation and condemnation mean the same, under an arbitrary government. --Indeed in a government of laws, we have seen the power of aristocracy, the influence of wealth and office, exerting itself, and sometimes succeeding in running down the accused; so that while they enjoyed the name, they were deprived of the substance of trial. Even in a democracy, not in name only, but in fact, ambitious men have misled, and pretending the public good, have had in view, their own purposes. But in the free and equal representation of a larger borough, and before a deliberate tribunal, it is contrary to moral probability that accusation and condemnation, will come to be considered as the same thing. Adversaries may pretend this; and in order to bring a slur upon a republican administration, may even wish it. But it is not in the common course of things that it should be the case.

I do not know, said the Captain; I have not read a great deal of history, ancient or modern, to be able to take a view of the judicial proceedings in the case of public men in republican governments; but there is a difference in this borough, from the ancient republics, in the matter of representation. In the forum of Rome, the people themselves assembled; and heard the cause. --They had not to look over the shoulder to see how the constituent, who was not within hearing, stood affected; or to reflect in their own minds, how an acquittal would be taken by the voters, who had prejudiced the case, and had said, the officer must be brought down. Do you think Sylla, on his abdication, would have offered to submit the necessity of his proscriptions, to the people in a representative capacity?

And yet, said the lawyer, the chances for justice, would seem to be in favour of a body removed from the multitude, and approaching more to a select tribunal. But the fact is, there is no perfection in any human institution. It is “the Judge only of all the earth,” that can at all times do right.

It is a great thing to have no private views, and to have conscience; so that no enmity can warp, or dislike mislead. Understanding also, is requisite to confine the consideration to the charge, laying out of the view collateral suggestions. For if Cinna has not conspired, he ought not to be “torn for his bad verses.”

But if justice cannot find a certain residence in a democratic government; she must leave the earth. I despair of finding it any where else. But I have felt tyranny, or have thought that I have felt it, even in the courts of justice. I had thought that I had felt it, and left a certain bar prematurely on that account: so that I am not one of those who lean against the investigation of judicial conduct. It is my object only to assist the democracy, with general observations; and by the democracy, I mean not so much the tribunals that are to judge, as the people that delegate the judgment.

It will be a great matter, that the judgment given, be able to stand the examination of law and reason, abroad and at home. High cases will come down to posterity, and fix the character of the administration. Liberty will be affected as posterity will approve or reverse the judgment. That is a high and transcendant court, with whom it lies to judge judges; and lessons of high honour and discernment from that court, will have an effect upon the streams of justice to the remotest fountains. If the understanding of such paramount tribunals, appear not beyond suspicion, from the decision given, it will be a great hurt. The really guilty may afterwards escape from an odium brought upon the prosecution.

An accusation will be less readily sustained, when accusation and condemnation, should ever that happen, comes to be considered as the same thing.