Chapter 10

The bog-trotter complaining of neglect, alleging his services at the original establishment of the government in trailing a pine log, and thereby intimidating the populace at his coming to the settlement, the governor was constrained to give him an office; and selecting one for which he thought he might be, in some respects, qualified, he made him an auctioneer. It could not be said that he had not a pretty strong voice; and in knocking down an article with his mallet, "once, twice, tree times," with the assistance of a clerk, the sales were pretty rapidly effected. Occasionally he made a blunder, as knocking down a frying pan, and at another time a brass kettle, he rung too long, because the sound pleased him. He alleged that a hive of bees had swarmed, and he was ringing to get them to cluster. All agreed that he made a pretty good vendue master; but still he was not satisfied; and an ambassador being about to be appointed to the Barbary powers, he was willing to go to Algiers, Tunis, or Tripoli. His friends favoured his pretension, Thady O'Connor, and some others, who had an expectation of accompanying him; Thady as secretary, and others in different offices. The governor resisted the application on the ground that one office was enough at a time. His resignation even would not justify it; because it would look as if there was a penury of men of talents, when it behooved to take one from his duty, as if another person could not be found who was as well qualified. The junto, and Teague himself, spoke of the appointment of John Jay to the court of London, while he was chief justice, not resigning; and of Ellsworth, also a chief justice, in a similar situation; and of Albert Gallatin, who was secretary, and continuing such; yet maugre all the clamour, and even good grounds, as Jefferson and Madison, and others thought, he, the said Albert, was appointed by the said Madison to an embassy.


These things were all wrong, said the Governor. I do not mean the finding fault, but the doing that with which the fault was found.


Could Washington do wrong? said a stickler on the side of the bog-trotter. Yes, said the Governor, and Adams too. --These were the bad precedents that Madison followed. I shall not copy after; not questioning but that these treaty making people might be very capable, or perhaps the most capable; but were they the only persons to be found that were adequate to the task? I will not say but that my bog-trotter might make a very good ambassador, with instructions, and the advantage of a secretary; but is Teague O'Regan alone, in all the land, to be singled out for this trust? After searching the whole country from Dan to Beer-Sheba, can I find no other that can sustain the weight of negociation? If I do appoint him, he must resign his place as auctioneer, and does he know that the Algerines are Turks? And if he goes there, I mean to the Barbary coast, he must be circumcised, and loose--


Loose what? said Thady O'Connor.


I will not say what, said the governor; but you may guess.


There is more effect in a hint, than when the story is spoken out; and therefore Thady, and the auctioneer also, their imagination outrunning their judgment, and their fears their ambition, concluded it would be best to stick to the hammer, and for Teague to remain a crier of vendues, and Thady O'Connor clerk.


Fragments

What is the reason that there is usually more talent in a new settlement than in an old? Is it the fact? That would lead to a discussion of some delicacy, in our republic, and induce comparison, which, according to the proverb, is odious. But there is doubtless some ground for the assertion, that our best generals and ablest orators in congress, have come from the west or been of the new states. As to generals, Harrison, Brown and Jackson might be mentioned. As to orators, we have had Patrick Henry, of a frontier in Virginia; and I might mention one of my own name of Kentucky, though he spelt it Breckenridge as my father did; but thinking him wrong I altered it, because I found the bulk of the same stock spelt it so; and particularly doctor Brackenridge of the philosophical society in London. Clay, Crawford, &c. of the congress in later times, are examples. But supposing it the fact, can I assign the cause? It is sometimes accident. Sallust in his Introduction to the Bellum Catalinarium, asks, How came it, that the Roman state rose to such eminence, the Greeks being before in the arts, and the Gauls in valour? Reflecting on the subject, he resolves it into the circumstance of a few great men having arisen in it.


Nevertheless, though it may be sometimes a matter of casualty, yet it would seem to me that it cannot well be otherwise; but that in new countries the human genius will receive a spring, which it cannot have in the old. But the cause lies deeper; and in this, that the strongest minds, and the most enterprising, go there. They are thrown upon the vigour of their own intellect. Why is it that subterranean fire bursts from the earth, but because it has an energy that breaks through obstructions, and ascends to a higher element? The plodding cub stays at home, while the more active tatterdemalion, quits his paternal roof, and goes to build a cabin, and make a new roof for himself, in the wild woods of Tennessee, or elsewhere. The same elasticity and spirit of mind, which brought him there, gives him distinction where he is. The independence of his situation contributes to this; fettered by no obligation, and kept down by no superiority of standing. Why is it in the arts, that an age of great men cannot but be succeeded by an inferiority of powers? This hold true in poetry, which is the province of the imagination. Why did the slaves, on a certain occasion, defy the swords of their masters, but yielded to their whips? It was owing to the subjugation of habit. People accustomed to feel superiority in a certain way, are discouraged in their efforts.


The streams of a new country are more abundant, and the springs burst more plentifully. This is owing to the shades which hang over them; which not only render their margins and fountain heads more pleasing, but serve to protect from the exhaling heat, and conciliate dews, and the moisture of the clouds. Hence it is, that it is greatly blameable to cut down the trees about a spring head; or, if it can be dispensed with, the grove on the hill above. For these wonderfully contribute to preserve the abundance of the current, and the perennial flow. It is for this reason I was delighted with the cascades of a new country, tumbling over rocks; because when one thinks of bathing, there are mossy banks to strip upon, and deep shades to embower, and conceal from the nymphs. For one is not afraid of any one else there, unless, perhaps, a young girl looking after cows, who would not much mind it, being used to see people without much covering to their carcases, nor much caring whether they have any. For it is in cities that the abodes of luxury and false taste, where we depart most from the simplicity of Eve in Paradise, who


"Clouted Adam's grey breeks,"


or pantaloons, when he had a pair.


I feel the grandeur of these water falls, and at the same time have a sense of the salubrity of the immersion. For I take the application of cold water to the body in hot seasons, to be not only pleasant, by wonderfully medical. The effusion of cold water removes heat, and by the direct action which we call a shock, braces the system.