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.
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.