They were now entering the Lack-learning settlement, where a great uproar had been made on account of their coming. It had been given out that the company consisted of Scholars and Lawyers. This, either from mistake, or the design of wags, who liked to see misconception, even though it occasioned mischief. A multitude had got together, with sticks and stones, to obstruct the march into their country.
It was at the opening of a defile they were met, and could proceed no farther. The captain himself advanced with a flag, and with great difficulty obtained a parley, and a conference. Friends, and countrymen, said he, what do you mean? There are no scholars amongst us, save a latin schoolmaster, who has left off the business, and is going to become an honest man, in a new country. We have no lawyers: not a soul that has ever been in a court, unless indeed as culprits, and to be tried for misdemeanours; and that, I take it, is not likely to give them a strong prejudice in favour of the administration of justice. Here is Tom the Tinker; Will Watlin; Harum Scarum, the duelist; OFin, the Irishman, and several others, that have no prediliction for scholarship. It will be but little learning they will introduce among you.--There is Clonmel, the ballad singer; he can sing, and make a ballad, that is, a song for a ballad; but that is but a small matter.
After all, what harm could learning do you, provided that you did not learn yourselves? The bears and the foxes of these woods do not learn; but they do not hinder men to read books. They have no objections to schools or colleges, or courts of justice; because it does not prevent them running into holes, or climbing upon trees.--The racoons, and the squirrels can crack nuts, maugre all our education and refinement. Every man in his humour, is the title of one of Ben Johnstons comedies. If you do not find your account, or your amusement in literary studies, what matters it if others do? Learning is not a thing that will grow upon you all at once. It is a generous enemy; like a rattle-snake, it gives warning. The boy feels the birch on his backside, to make him learned. The man gets a headache, poring over books. In fact, it requires some resolution, and much perseverance, to become learned. I acknowledge that men were at first like the beasts of the wood, and the fowls of the air, without grammars or dictionaries; and it took a great deal to bring them out of that state, and give them what is called education. At the revival of lettes in Europe, after the dark ages, it was thought a great matter to get to be a scholar. Peculiar privileges were attached,- Hence what is called the benefit of clergy.
The clergy, said an honest German. The clergy are the biggest rogues of the two. An honest Sherman minister widout larning ish better. But the lawyers are de tyvil; mit deir pooks, and deir talks in the courts; and sheats people for the mony. I sticks to de blantashun, and makes my fence. Larning ish goot for noting; but to make men rogues. It ish all a contrivance to sheat people.
The demagogue amongst the multitude, who had excited this opposition to learning and the learned, was a shrewd fellow, and it was not that he was not sensible of the advantages of learning, but because he was a sciolist himself, and did not wish to lose his influence by the competition of a lawyer, or a scholar, that he had excited this prejudice. But discovering, that amongst this company, as the captain said, and which he could guess from the manners, and the countenance, there were no literati; or what the French call Seavans, coming forward to take a degree of the meridian, or explore antiquities; much less a corps of lawyers to establish codes of jurisprudence, or introduce litigation, he explained the matter to those around him, and reconciled them to the proposition of suffering them to pass through the country.
The captain expressed his sense of his courtesy, and opportune assistance, towards the object of their progression; and making him a present of a box of jews-harps for the young people, proceeded without farther molestation.
The demagogue of all times, and countries, uses the same arts. The laws are a standing butt of his invective. He cannot be a sage or a legislator; and therefore must find fault with those that are. The Athenian clean, in his harangues, as given by Thucydides, is a perfect model of a demagogue. I have not the book by me, or I would copy one to give a specimen of his art. The oppression of the laws, and the inequality of justice to the poor, are the usual themes of his declamation. But where there are laws, there will be science; and science is the support of laws. Hence the hostility against these, at the same time.
But the passion of the time changes, like the fashions of dress. It is just the same principle that introduces the square toe in the place of the sharp, that also makes it the rage to be a scholar; or to be illiterate. But the change in the one case is not so much felt, as in the other. It is not attended with such extensive consequences. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. This is the language of a man that had been a great scholar, and writer; because in his experience it had not given perfect happiness, as nothing will, he speaks in these terms. It is not meant to be taken precisely as spoken; and is no more than an expression of the inanity of the noblest of all enjoyments; the mental gratification, of making or reading a book.
I therefore think the Lack-learning people had been misled in their prejudice against a literary education. At least, it is my simple way of thinking, and I may be wrong. Admitting this, I shall go on with my story.