Under the existing
constitution, the patronage of the governor was considerable. This very
thing which at first view would seem to be a ground of his security, was
the cause of much uneasiness, and constant opposition to his administration.
For not in one case out of ten did he make an appointment, but some concerned
became enemies. The one appointed was an enemy because his appointment
was not as good as he had expected; and the others of the community were
dissatisfied, because he got any appointment at all. For there was not
one who did not think himself better entitled, at all events, better qualified.
Some were vexed because they had not been chosen governor themselves,
and no appointment would have satisfied them. There was a weaver amongst
these who had pretensions to the chair, and raised a clamour against the
constitution, thinking that in the confusion that would ensue, things
being once more put into hotch-pot, he might renew his chance for the
office of chief magistrate: that having failed to be put in nomination
under existing circumstances he might have better luck under a new arrangement.
A second chance he would have at all events, and it might be more favourable
in the result; inasmuch as the very bustle he was making in the affair
of the new constitution, would bring him into great notice, and increase
his popularity, there being now an indifferent mass of citizens who were
dissentients from the same motives with himself, and might promise themselves
something from the confusions of affairs. But the proposition of a new
constitution as being less alarming to the bulk, was suggested under the
idea of an amendment. For the revolutions in France about this
time had created some alarm, at the idea of changing rapidly all at once
from one constitution to another. But who was there who could have any
reasonable apprehensions of risk of danger from an amendment? But it being
thought adviseable to specify some amendments in order the better to bring
about a convention, there was no one that had not the sagacity to find
out some things that might be put on a better footing than they had been.
As for instance; the weaver seemed to think that the price of weaving
ought to be raised; and that no customer should hereafter find fault with
the work done; and that he should pay for it as soon as it was done.
All this seemed reasonable, especially as the cord-wainer, and the brick-layer
could easily see that in the course of the deliberation, it would naturally
take a wider range, and introduce a clause providing for them also. For
though not by name in the first instance; yet all occupations would be
virtually included and enjoy the advantage of the like reform. It had
become a cry pretty much prevailing, that the sitting of the people should
be permanent: and the constitution revolutionary; so that whenever,
and wherever, the shoe was found to pinch it might be altered.
Amongst the malcontents with the constitution, it was not a little unexpected
by the governor, to find Teague O'Regan his late protegee and associate
in his peregrinations. For notwithstanding he had, in the first instance,
been appointed crier of the court, and in the next, advanced to the grade
of auctioneer, he was dissatisfied because he had not been made chief
justice, or advanced to that of secretary of state. For these reasons
he was amongst the loudest for a reform, and proposed an assembling of
the whole people, once more to fix upon a new constitution. The governor
conceiving himself to have some kind of right to controul and regulate
the ambition of his bog-trotter, took an opportunity to expostulate with
him on the danger and inexpediency of the proposition at this time; and
more particularly on the indelicacy of persons newly come into the country,
taking upon them to be the first to propose a revision of that frame of
government, which they had found prepared for them, and what on becoming
citizens, they were under an implied obligation to support.
Teague, said he, you cannot but recollect the inconsiderable station from
which I originally advanced you; being a redemptioner on board a ship
from Cork in Ireland. In fact though you called yourself a redemptioner
you were a bound servant for years, and in such capactiy you were under
an obligation to serve me, nevertheless I treated you as a redemptioner,
paid the money for you, the passage money, and told you that as soon as
you had served me to the amount of it at the yearly hiring of a labouring
person, I would give you your liberty. The business that I set you about
might be called drudgery, because you were fit for nothing else; but did
I not as soon as I conveniently could, endeavour to amend your station,
by making you my body servant, and taking you with me almost in the light
of a companion in my rambles? In the course of these, in proportion as
I saw an opening, I was disposed to advance you still more, and to bring
you forward. Was it my fault if in these prospects which seemed to be
occasionally flattering, there were some disappointments? You know well
what happened from the first to last when being made a judge you kicked
an associate off the bench.
Have I not done as much for you as I well could do, since coming to this
new country, and my advance to the chair of government? Did I not make
you a crier of the court, and are you not now an auctioneer? What reason
had you to expect that I should make you a chief justice, even though
you did read law a while, and had been upon the bench in another place?
This very circumstance if no other, was a reason against it; for it gave
me an opportunity of knowing that you were not fit for it. You have not
the patience of a judge even if you had all other qualifications. I could
not make you secretary, for you cannot write; and though you might act
by deputy, yet it is but an aukward thing for a man to be secretary, which
imports by the usage of the term, some ability to minute matters, and
not to be able to write his own name. It is impossible for me not to know
that whatever you and the others of you who call out for a new constitution
are moved not by your opinion of defects visible in the old, but because
you think a new may be more favourable to your particular pretensions.
But setting aside all that could be said on this alleged point of private
views on your part and theirs, is there not some decency to be observed
on our part in coming into this country, in proposing innovations? Can
a bog-trotter just from Ireland like you be supposed to be cognizant of
the genius of the people sufficiently to form a constitution for them?
Is it the most delicate thing in the world to undertake to find fault
with that which they have formed? I feel it on my part a matter of peculiar
delicacy to sport an opinion. It hurts me even that you lately in my train,
should cavil against it, [least] it should be supposed to be at my prompting.
Though there can be no ground of presumption that I who have been complimented
with the government, could cabal to overturn it. Yet one cannot tell what
those who are advocates of what they call a reform may do, or say in order
to acquire weight to their machinations. They may pretend, that I who
hold an office under the constitution am sworn to support it, do not approve
of it. They will allege in proof of this, my having an officer who is
foremost in his vociferation for a change. You do not consider, Teague,
where this may end. The termination in France we have all seen; it was
What is de guillotine? said Teague. It is, said the governor, a thing
in the shape of a crowbar of a harrow with teeth of a foot long, which
they draw over a man's back, and scratch him as you would the earth in
which seed is sown.
The truth is, the governor did not himself know precisely the form of
this instrument, nor the manner of its operation; but it was necessary
to seem to know, and to give a description, as he had alluded to it.
It is, continued he, a horrible instrument; and the meddler with constitutions,
is in danger of coming under it. A regular tenor of things is the safest
condition. In order to be safe from the irons of a saw-mill, let the unskilful
beware of meddling with the wheels. In the same manner I may say that
the prudent man will keep aloof at these times, from the danger of unseasonably
intruding himself as a mender of constitutions. Agreeably to this is the
distich or the poet,
"Ah me, what perils do environ,
The man that meddles with cold iron."
You enjoy the lucrative office of an auctioneer, and having seen a great
deal of the world, ought to have begun to learn that those who advise,
have not always the interest of those whom they advise, in view. May it
not be in order to serve themselves, and perhaps in the turn of affairs
to get your office, that persons flatter your vanity as whom it becomes
to put yourself at the head of a reform in the state? I would not be willing
to take an oath that even some of your own countrymen may not have sinister
ends in view, in putting you upon this project.-- For that you are propelled
I am strongly inclined to think, as I have always found you yourself disposed
to be contented with your station, except in cases where the mistaken
notions of others working upon your inexperience and mine, have misled
These reasonings had weight with the bog-trotter, and more especially
that part of the expostulation which respected the danger of the guillotine;
for though the mode of its use was not minutely explained, yet the impression
made, was that of a cutting, or tearing instrument, in either case, painful
to the patient. But though intimidated, and of himself disposed to cease
his opposition to the constitution, and his clamour for a reform, yet
his countrymen out of doors, and others of the multitude desirous of a
change, still continued active at vendues, particularly, to urge the bog-trotter
to a perseverance in his endeavours in favour of what they called liberty.
There was no station that could put him so much in the way of being wrought
upon by the designing, as that of auctioneer. For it subjected him to
flattery giving an opportunity to compliment the strength of his voice,
his vein of humour, which term they could give to his coarse jokes, and
call it wit. The bottle occasionally going about, as is the custom in
the country, at using which he was no slouch, drew from the croud also
much applause; for in proportion as the crier was pleased, he put about
the bottle, and it came in the way of the man that had given the last
bid. It was indeed a matter of complaint against him by those who had
articles to sell that he would suspend the hammer; or as it was a mallet
that he used, he would stand with it lifted up until some one had finished
what he had to say about the constitution. And instead of announcing the
name of the article put up, and describing its utility, expatiating on
its value, he would forget himself, and instead of a good thing, this,
or that, he would call out, an excellent constitution; not at half its
value; who bids more, another cent buys the whistle. Three times.
There were petitions for removal on this ground. But what could the governor
do? The mania had become general. Not an individual that was not affected
with the rage of constitution making; not an occupation in the exercise
of which something relative to amending at least, the constitution, did
not break out in the language that was used. It was not alone in the case
of the auctioneer, that such a derangement as it might be called, had
begun to shew itself; but with persons in almost every other employment.
The common mechanic, and labourer were led away both in speaking and acting,
with an enthusiasm for a change of constitution.
"I saw a smith stand with his hammer thus:
The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool."
With open mouth swallowing," the news about a change of the constitution.
A tailor was asked what he was now making? He said a suit of constitution.
A tinker what he was now mending? He said the constitution.
All that could write had drawn up forms; all that could not write, had
meditated forms, and were reciting them to their neighbours. It was amusing
to attend to the various suggestions of the fancy of these improvisatori;
or extempore makers of constitutions. Some proposed for an article, the
having a provision to fatten hogs without corn; and it was in vain to
explain to them that this did not depend upon the constitution of the
government; but on that of the hog. Some wanted chickens hatched without
eggs: others, harvests raised without the trouble of sowing seed. All
were for an amelioration of things in the natural or moral world.
A group had got together at a distillery; and were endeavouring to put
into words, what they would wish with regard to the article of extracting
more whiskey out of a bushel of grain. But they were not all of them in
a capacity to articulate the article just then, and so it fell through
for that time.
In order to acquire knowledge on the subject of constitutions, where any
one entertained a suspicion that he had not sufficient information, which
was a rare case, he applied himself to study the hiding places, or edifices
of beasts and birds. For instinct was surer than reason. One man of very
honest investigation, was stung in the face as he was inspecting a wasps'
nest, and his face became much swollen, and was kept in countenance only
by another who was in something of the same plight, from a hive of bees
into which he had thrust his nose. The republic being much celebrated,
it was thought the purest model that could be studied. A diligent observer
of the flight of wild geese, and of the manner in which one stands sentry
for the flock when they alight to feed, drew thence what he thought a
good lesson towards qualifying him for the task of new modeling a frame
of government. But the play upon the word goose which this naturally drew
upon him, threw it into ridicule. For it was observed that he must be
a goose who would think of modeling a constitution after geese. By others
it was called a wild goose chase that he was upon, and little attention
was paid to this draught.