Chapter 3

A vote in a community in proportion to the stake, would seem at first sight reasonable. But what is the stake? The foot of earth that one holds merely? Can soil be valued by the foot, without regard to quality, and situation? Is the improvement made upon it to pass for nothing? Quantity and quality of soil cannot be the measure. Labour expended may be more than quantity, or quality.


The adscripti glebis, or attachment to the soil, may give some security against external enemies; but what security for internal peace, and equal liberty? On the contrary, he that has much will covet more, until an aristocracy is established; and aristocracy leads to monarchy and tyranny. Put it on the footing of desert. Does the accumulation of riches imply virtuous action? Must he be considered to be possessed of a great mind who has been fortunate? Is it not oftener evidence of a low mind to have acquired riches? I say oftener, because I admit that it is not a general rule. Has the dictum of philosophers passed for truth, that there is nothing great to despise which is great; and shall wealth in a commonwealth be accounted great, and entitling to honour and communities? But the presumption is, that a man, regardless of his own means, will not be likely to adopt wise measures in affairs of the republic. I will admit that a presumption lies against him who has no property, that he might have had it, if he had been industrious or prudent. But the moralist truly says, that "riches are not to men of understanding." That is-- not always so. I lay it down in general, that a moderate degree of wealth is "to men of understanding." But there are exceptions that defy chance and time. A special providence, or chance, if you would chuse to have it so, has something to do in the affairs of men. "He that is born to the plack will never win to the babee," is a proverb in the old Saxon language. But I hold it that in general the fact is, that "the hand of the diligent maketh rich." And a man that is faithful in his own affairs, affords a reasonable presumption, that he will be faithful in the affairs of the public. But selfishness, and disregard of the public are symptoms of a grovelling mind. And there are heroic souls, that seem born not for themselves but for the public. And there is a Latin maxim, "non nobis metipsis, nascimur;" we are not born for ourselves alone.


There was a poor man, and yet that "poor man saved the city." You cannot exclude the unestated man without, at the same time, excluding the wise and the virtuous that are without estates. There can be no good enjoyed without an alloy of evil. Liberty of the tongue, liberty of the press, or any other species of liberty and equality, will have its drawbacks. It is doubtless a great evil that Tag-rag and Bob-tail, and who are so by their own indolence, should come to the polls with an equal voice, in the constitution of the government, with those who have a greater stake in matters of property; but it cannot be avoided without losing the principle that money is not virtue. If you carry it out that property must be represented according to property, the voter must have votes in proportion as he is wealthy; and wealth in soil only cannot be regarded. The establishment of manufactures, the encouragement of commerce, would oppose this. If he that is without property of any kind can have no vote, he that has much must have many; and this brings it to an inequality of votes, which require a continual census to regulate the number. If paying tax is a criterion, he that pays more tax, ought to have more votes. I see nothing simple and like truth in the matter, and approaching the practicable, but that the poll should poll; and every one that brings a snout of full age to the election ground, should have a vote. Indigence is, in its nature, dependent; and will rally round candidates of some standing in society, from their degree of independence; and the votes being thus amalgamated, will balance parties in a commonwealth. A government of liberty is the most delicate of all structures, and there is no preserving it, if the love of money is encouraged, and made the sole evidence of patriotism. If a difference in suffrage could be made, I would make it in favour of those who have invented useful arts, and made discoveries in mechanics; or who have in fact in some way benefited society. There would seem nothing unreasonable in the indulging him with privileges who had brought up a large family of children; or introduced a new breed of cattle; or grown a better sort of grass. But a usurer, or one enjoying rents from the lands that his ancestor has left him, cannot be said to deserve well of his country; or at least not so much. The New-England man that comes with his machine, for which he has obtained a patent, is of peculiar respectability compared with these. I say New-England, because that part of the United States has been most fruitful in inventions, from Phipps of Massachusetts, who invented the diving-bell, down to the present time. --Whether it is that poverty has produced the necessity of recurring to their wits, having a greater stock of population, and the means of livelihood being less within their reach--Ingenii largitor venter--or whether it is in the soil, or the air, and water of the climate; for natural, as well as moral causes may produce this difference in the capacities of men.


I can see no reason in giving a field a vote, much less a piece of wood-land; nor one to the owner of beasts in proportion to his stock; unless those beasts could speak and give a viva voce vote.


It has seemed to me that the ancients, and some of the moderns, have carried the fiction beyond all probability, of beasts speaking; because a dialogue of this kind exists but in books of fables. It is much more within bounds, to put at least for one of the speakers, a person that can speak. This we have done, and have not put a single syllable into the mouth of a beast at all. It is the man that we make speak; the beast only listens. Yet it is ten to one but some will call out against the going even so far, as to represent beasts listening; because it is to music only, that they have heretofore been made to listen, and not to the dry precepts of didactic art, or moral reason. But certainly the introducing men speaking, and beasts listening, is not so extravagant, as beasts speaking, and men listening. The instances of beasts actually speaking are so few; in fact there is not a single instance within my knowledge, so that I thought it the more prudent part, in order to avoid the having the truth of my history called in question, to confine them to listening altogether. What these beasts would have said, had they spoken, every man may imagine for himself. In this case there is the less danger of giving offence, every one having it in his power, to mould his sentiments, a sone gre, or according to his own mind.


But had I been so inclined, how could I have made them speak? For just as they were going to open a mouth, or at least as the occasion had arrived when it would have been proper to have done it, the dogs were set upon them, or the dogs did set upon them. For this would appear to be the safer expression, as the bar assert that they as a profession, whatever some individuals might have done, had nothing to do with it.


It has been stated that the proper articulately speaking beasts have not been pitched upon. It is sufficient to answer to this, that we had not the choosing them; or, if we had, can it be said that all beasts are not equally made to speak; that is, are represented equally capable of speaking in the history of Reynard the Fox? Among the Jews, the ass seems to have been the principal speaker; and though an ass at the bar, or on the bench, either, would be no new thing; yet vulgar opinion is against it; and if an ass had been introduced, the force of prejudice is such that any disappointment that might have occurred, would have been attributed to the choice made. Amongst the Romans, the feathered creation seem to have been the most loquacious, as they are to this day, in their own way.


"Annosa ab ilice cornix."


But a prejudice also exists in modern times against fowls articulating: they are said to chatter, as, for instance, the magpie.


Ornithologists are not so attentive as they ought to be to the language of birds. The plumage seems to be most their object in delineation; and it must be acknowledged, that it is in the article of fine feathers, like some fine ladies that I have known, that they are most distinguished; red, green, blue, vermilion, and all the colours of the rain-bow. It is in this point of view that I take the liberty of recommending the Ornithology of Wilson, lately published in Philadelphia, with fine drawings of our American birds: and which every man that can afford it, ought to encourage by his subscription. Not that he makes them say any thing, ore humano; but he gives a clear and full note of their notes, under the figure of each bird; this though perhaps not so useful, is at least as amusing, as a dissertation shewing to which of the articulations of the human species, they approach nearest in their respective sounds: Arabic, Samaritan, Shawanese, or Creek. The language of beasts and birds has been much studied by the Orientalists; but none of them have given us a vocabulary, much less a dictionary, of any of those multitudinous dialects which exist among them. And yet in their tales of the genii, and other compilations, we have abundance of the conversation of the inhabitants of the air; which proves that the people of the east must be a good deal in the habit of hearing birds converse. The story of Mahomet's pigeons, I take to be a fiction of the monkish writers; but we have in the scripture, if it is not a figure, and a strong way of expressing what is meant, "Curse not the thing; no, not in thy thought, and curse not the rich in thy bed-chambers, for a bird of the air shall carry the voice; and that which hath wings, shall tell the matter." Hence the language of mothers to their children when they mean to say that they have got the information from a source they do not mean to explain, "a little bird told me of it."


It will be said that in all this ribaldry of beasts and birds speaking, I have it in view to burlesque lawyers: not at all; it is to burlesque their defects; and under the guise of allegory to slur a truth; for an able councellor, an advocate of a good head, and heart, of which I know many, are with me amongst the first of characters. I have no such vulgar prejudice against lawyers, as some people have; there are good and bad of them as of other professions. And this I will say, that of all professions, it cannot be but that the study and practice of the law, leads most to discern the value of honesty; for the study consists in tracing the rules of justice, and the practice in the application of them. It is the man that is no lawyer, but calls himself so, that is the knave. The nature of the law is liberal; and gives understanding; and wherever there is sound sense, there will be honesty. But I have such a contempt of chattering in speech, and blustering, and bullying in manners; and of quibling, and catching in practice where it occurs, that I feel no compunction in designating it under the masque of irrational noises, or quadrupedal affections.


If any thinks the cap will fit him, let him put it on. In the mean time, I will put on my considering cap, and see what it is that I have to say in the next chapter.