Chapter 7

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 the guillotine.


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 our understandings.


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.