I have been led to wonder sometimes, how it happens, that Lucian, when he represents the shade of a departed hero, as coming to the banks of the Styx, and being liable to have demanded of him the naulon, or ferry money, does not represent him, sometimes, as pleading an immunity from the payment; and this on the score of having been so good a customer, sending down from his various battles millions of souls to Erebus. What might not Julius Caesar have alleged on this ground, and other conquerors, who had filled the ferry for years, with souls of men slain by them? It would seem but reasonable, to claim the privilege of going free themselves. In this vein of thinking I have been led to imagine to myself, the present king of Great Britain, George the third, when carried down by Mercury, and about to be put on board the boat, as alleging a dispensation on this account. For it is Mercury that is represented by the mythology, as compelling them, not like a flock of goats, with a marsh-mallow-
Hedorumque gregem compellere hybisco;
but with his wand, according to the poet,
And as to putting in the boat, the following may be also cited,
His British Majesty is represented, as practising an economy rather bordering upon meanness, for the sovereign of so wealthy a people, and of so great a revenue which comes to him as king, or is allowed to him by the parliament. But it may be pleaded for him as matter of excuse, or perhaps justification, that he has so large a family to provide for. And had he come down to the ferry boat without the ferriage; or with it, but willing to save a penny, he might have said, or Mercury, who is the god of eloquence, might have said for him-
Charon, you ought not to charge the ferry money for the transportation of this shade, who has put so much in your way by the souls he has sent down so prematurely to Orcus. For though you might have got them all in due time, without his sending them, yet the dispatching them at an early period, gave you the money sooner; and this put to interest would, by the time of their natural death, have amounted to a large sum. It is very possible you may not have known by whom those immense crowds that have come down for fifty years were sent; not being in the habit of interrogating every one; and, unless in the case of some remarkable ghost, scarcely taking notice of them, farther than to receive the obolus which they are obliged to pay. Have you not found a great rise in the profits of your ferry for half a century past, from the numbers of dead that have come to your boat? The thing speaks for itself: for do I not see the number of pretty little seats you have along the banks of the Styx, within these few years? I cannot tell what stock you may have in the funds; but I would presume not a small sum. But it is immaterial how you may have laid it out-realized it, or put it in the funds, or drank it, as you watermen are apt to do; or spent it a-shore in some other way. This I know, that the sums have been immense that you must have received; having had the driving down of the souls of the defunct to Erebus; and though I keep no book, nor do I understand that you do, yet taking things in the bulk, I am persuaded from memory and recollection, that the multitude could not have amounted to less than fifty millions that have been sent by this man. St. George of Christendom, one of the seven champions, and who must have crossed over at your ferry long ago, did not send you many, because his killing, or dead-doing was chiefly of dragons, whose souls, if they have any, do not come this way. But this George, of the same name and country, except a few sheep of his own raising, has butchered little or nothing but of the human species; and in this way he has done good service to our regions; stocking them abundantly with shades young and old. For having savages for his allies, who murder infants, he has cut off many in their earliest years. For we consider as done by him what he sanctions; according to the law maxim, which I have heard quoted in the court of Radamanthus,
Qui facit per alium, facit per se.
For, to explain the matter to you, Charon, you are not to understand this George did himself hack and kill, but--
Here, Charon might interrupt and say, Mercury, you are making a long speech, like some of your lawyers in the upper country, or from thence that have come here; and would seem to have cheek-wind in abundance; but I have no time for this lee-way; hoist anchor and cast off; no copper, no boating; the shade must stay, or go to hell himself, I cannot be delayed in carrying over the other ghosts.
From what is said, I am unavoidably led to make reflections, viz. that it could have been but to amuse himself that Mercury made this speech; or rather it is to amuse others, that I suppose Mercury to have made this speech; because it is as fixed as fate that the copper must be paid, and no consideration in the case of the individual, can excuse or dispense with this perquisite of Charons from the dead. I admit that if the being the occasion of great profits to the ferry, could entitle any one to pass themselves, no one could have a better claim to this indulgence than his present majesty, king George the third of England. I should like to see, by some one who had a statistical talent, a calculation of what number of men, women and children must have perished by the sword in the course of his reign, saying nothing of scalping, but just accounting for the dead, as if they had their scalps on, and had not been put to death by the allies of the British nation. For though I do not know that king George ever had his spurs on, much less rode a horse into battle; but rather think he never actually killed, perhaps a fly, yet I attribute to himself and ministry, perhaps himself chiefly, the greater part of the bloodshed that we have had in the eastern and western world for half a century. Commercial avidity and love of gain, have been at the bottom of all our wars; and these have sprung mainly from the policy of Great Britain. She may grin and bear it; but I must pronounce this sentence upon her councils, though born in her island, and strongly attached to her real interest, and to all the lustre of her reputation in literature, and in the arts. I see her conduct from a different point of view on the shores of the Delaware, or from the banks of the Ohio, than can be seen from those of the Thames, or the from the Frith of Forth, or of Clyde. But not to involve myself in general speculation, I confine myself to the wars waged with these States; and if future historians do not say that these were unjust on the part of that island, I have never been capable of discrimination in the right and wrong of things. That resistance on our part was at least just, I will contend: for how else could I reconcile it to myself to celebrate our victories, as some do who affect to think, or really do think, our cause bad? And yet there is this inconsistency in mens mouths: for there are those who speak of our achievements by land or sea, where we have been successful, as the deeds of heroes; and yet of our cause as unjust, which must make it murderous to have contended. For an officer may resign, when an unjust war is declared; and ought to resign, and refuse to be accessary to the homicide which it occasions. With what conscience, then, can a man, opposed to war generally, or to a particular war, from the grounds of it, allow praise to those concerned in it? It will be said, he may praise the valour of the soldier, but arraign the case in which he has fought. There would be the same reason in the case of Barrabas, a murderer and robber amongst the Jews, who deserved crucifixion. His resolute acts may have discovered bravery, and have been thought to deserve praise. No: if I did not think the cause of a nation just, I should join in no celebration of its victories; or in giving dinners to commanders by sea or land that had fought in it. Much less would I loan, or vote money in a public capacity for carrying it on. For that must be the height of wickedness. Let all men retire from trust, military or civil, that do not approve of the national declaration; and let them do no more than what, as citizens, they are by the laws of society compelled to do. But I hold it, that no man, contrary to the national sense and declaration of opinion, has a right to speak, or publish that a war is unjust, let him think what he may; but this would lead to a legal discussion, which I am not disposed to enter on at present; but which I could undertake to establish in due time and place. Such speeches and writing must come under the head of sedition; and though we have no act of congress at the present time making it indictable, yet at common law, and under state jurisdiction, I can have no doubt, but that such speaking and publishing would amount to a misdemeanor; a circumstance of which some would not seem to be aware.
As to all war being unlawful, it is but the opinion of a subdivision of the Christian denomination, founded on the taking in a literal sense, what was spoken in a figurative, by the author of our religion. But, that a war of ambition, or springing from the love of gain, is murder, I can entertain no doubt. It is chargeable, as homicide, upon that prince or country, who wages it unnecessarily, or without just provocation.
What hinders to intersperse general principles of philanthropy in a work, the general object of which is to restrain ambition, and false sentiments of men, by parable and apothegm to the contrary?
The above paragraphs,
in this third edition of this work, are written flagrante bello, with
the British king, who may not be answerable for this particular war, being
in legal language a lunatic. But, independent of this war, he had more
to answer for in the former war for independence, and he had his Indian
allies in that war, and he has left them to his son the Prince Regent,