The visionary philosopher,
notwithstanding the want of success which attended his speculations, had
still great weight amongst the people. I mean, his opinions had great
weight; for though a tall man, he was not of great corpulency. It had
been suggested that it behooved to impose taxes for the support of government.
What? said the philosopher, have you not got a constitution; and cannot
a constitution work without taxes? At all events, what is called an impost
An impost; what
is that? said a man amongst the crowd. Why, an imposition, said another,
what else could it be? Impost, has nothing to do with imposition, said
the philosopher. It is to knock down a man when he comes into the settlement,
and take his money from him. The English have what they call a poll-tax,
or a tax upon scalps. It cannot but raise a good sum from red people,
who take so many from the whites. In some governments, they tax boots.
Would it not be
better to lay a tax upon legs, as being more easy to be collected, and
less liable to evasion? said an honest man. Of all taxes, said one in
answer; I think this would be the most easily evaded; because a man could
run away with his legs.
Robbing people that come into the settlement, will not do, said one; at
least for a permanent revenue; because it will keep people from coming.
I am against all constraint upon ourselves, or any one else. I propose
voluntary and occasional contributions.
You propose a fiddle, said his opponent. Voluntary, and occasional! Do
you conceive a man could spare a pound of flesh, or an ounce of blood,
occasionally, for any great length of time? He might bear the first slash
that he got; but he would wince at the second.
Loans, loans, said a financier; you have nothing more to do than to borrow
a million now and then, when you are out of money.
Why, if robbing pedlars will not do, said the Visionary Philosopher, I
think loans must be the next resort.
A pretty noise we have made about a constitution, said a smart looking
man in a pair of leather breeches; if there must be force constantly applied
to the wheels; and money expended to keep it going.
How can a machine go unless it be wrought, said a man with a sloutched
hat-- without some to work it; and how can it be wrought without hands?
I mean persons hired for the purpose; and if hired, they must be paid.
I do not know, unless you apply steam, said an ingenious mechanic.
Would you make the
government a steam boat? said one in a bear-skin coat. But supposing it
the case; you must have coals to boil the water, and produce steam.
At this point of the game, a simpleton came forward, and spoke as follows:--Gentlemen
said he, I am but a fool fellow, a mere ass, a sheep, and what not; but
I do not see how we can borrow, unless we expect to pay; and if what is
borrowed is to be paid, why not pay in the first instance?
That will not do, said an artful member; we will be turned out, if we
lay a tax; the people must be cheated by our borrowing in the mean
time, and leaving it to those that come after us to lay a tax, and pay.
What use in having a general financier, said the multitude, if he cannot
make money out of chips and whet-stones? If nothing more is to be done,
than to count the money, or cast up the tax when it is paid into him,
any cod-head may do that.
A financier may do a great deal more than that, said an intelligent person.
He may determine and report upon what a tax may be best laid, and to
what amount. But if we hesitate to tax at all, I grant you any body
may be a financier; for it is an easy matter to borrow, if you can get
any to be fools to lend without funds to sustain it, and at least, pay
the interest. But why borrow when a man has money in his chest? I would
call for this; every man his proportion according to his property, just
as we subscribe to an undertaking; and the only difference is, that, in
this case, we subscribe what we think we can afford; in that, we contribute
what the community shall think we ought to advance; the community, through
some organization of officers, and these being the judges. "Put yourselves
in an attitude and armour for war." What is this but to raise money,
which is the means of war? It did not mean to clothe yourselves in sheet
iron, or in bull's hides; but to go to the bottom of the matter, and to
lay a tax to support a war. No difficulty in procuring soldiers for a
campaign, if you have money; no necessity to call upon militia; you will
have enough to offer their services. It is money makes the mare go. Give
me money and I will show you men; and when I have the men to show, there
will be no war.
Aye, said Teague O'Regan, give me de boys, and a shilelah, and I will
clear de fair. If you will give me de money, I will get de whiskey; and
if I have de whiskey, I will have de boys, and let me see who will like
to come to blows wid Teague O'Regan.
This speech pleased the people much; and they insisted upon the Governor
to place Teague at the head of the finances.
It is more than probable he might have been advanced to the head of this
department, the Governor yielding to the solicitation of the people, had
not the popular voice propelled him in a different direction. For about
this time it was reported that he had taught a cat to speak. It is true,
that as he had seen done in Ireland, by taking the lower jaw between his
finger and thumb of the left hand, and pinching her upper jaw with the
finger and thumb of the other hand, moving the lower jaw, in the mean
time, as she mewed, he would make her pronounce something that resembled
the saying Erin go bra, which was Irish; and by another kind of movement,
and braking of the voice, it would seem to be, bacon, fat bacon, which
was English. From this specimen, it was thought that if put at the head
of an academy to teach beasts to articulate, he might succeed better than
any had yet done. He was called principal, and being made a Doctor of
laws, was put at the head of the institution. But it took more time to
teach the principal, I mean the bog-trotter, to make him mark and write
something like L.L.D. at the end of his name, than it had done him to
teach the cat; and if you had not known that it was L.L.D. that the letters
ought to be, you would have been at a loss to know what they were. It
is necessary that a man in a station which bespeaks learning, be a Doctor
of laws; but it does not always follow that he be learned in the laws;
at least I have known some that are not the most profound scholars, on
whom this degree has been conferred. To make the bog-trotter a Doctor
of laws was some advance; but, it would be more to confer that degree
on one of his pupils, a bear, or a young elk; at least it would occasion
The Visionary Philosopher had made out a system of rules and regulations
for the government of the academy; in other words the discipline of the
institution; such as conditions of admission, price of tuition, grade
of classes, freshman, sophomore, &c. books to be read, hours of study,
and vacation; meals, kind of food, with matters, that regarded the decency
of manners, such as that squirrels should not crack nuts, nor pigs eat
apples in the school rooms; nor racoons chew tobacco or smoke segars.
It was particularly inculcated on all, that they should rise early, wash
their snouts, comb their hair, and pare their nails as becomes a student.
All things were arranged for this menagerie; and a proper number of the
more tractable of animals got together to begin with, such as young cubs,
whelps, &c. when it was put into the head of the Principal, by some
of the more high minded of his countrymen, that it was a degradation to
have it said, that an Irishman was teaching beasts; to be called
a horse professor, and the like. Whether it was that the pride of the
bog-trotter took alarm at this, or that he saw the ridicule himself; he
threw up the trust and would have no more to do with it. The people were
dissatisfied, and his popularity fell as rapidly as it had risen.
Transit gloria mundi; There is nothing so fleeting as sublunary
joys; and of all these, popularity is the most evanescent. It was but
a short time ago, which was the occasion of the bog-trotter teaching the
cat, and having succeeded, that he was caressed by the multitude, followed,
chaired, &c. but it so happened that the chairing took place in a
small cabin; and when he was raised suddenly, those hoisting, not having
due regard to the height of the story, he struck his head against the
ceiling, or rather rafters; for there was no ceiling; at which the Latin
"Sublimi feriam sidera vertice."
But what gave him more consolation, was the having a dinner given him,
the Chief Justice presiding, and toasts drank. For it is not in our time
as it was at the Olympic games, or a Roman triumph, or ovation, that an
oak leaf, or a sprig of laurel, or a bunch of ivy, a branch of olive,
or some other unsubstantial vegetable was the gift. In modern and more
improved times, we have solid food of flesh, and sauces, to gratify the
palate. Certain it is, the bog-trotter had been feasted abundantly during
his popularity; but not on the ebb of this, he had declined so far in
reputation, that he could not have been made a constable. So fortuitous
and unstable is the popular voice. Whereas heretofore during the current
of his favour, things were imagined to his advantage that he had never
done, and words framed that he had never spoken; so now the reverse took
place; speeches were framed it is true, but they were all to his disadvantage;
as for instance, that he had said the moon was made of green cheese; that
a snake was a vegetable; that the only conversion with the fanatics was
the turning the heels where the head should be; that he had reflected
on the general government, saying that gun boats were only fit to make
Virginia hog-toughs; that an embargo was like yoking pigs where there
was no fence; that borrowing money only became a young spendthrift, who
was afraid to apply to his father of his guardians; that there were faults
on both sides, weakness on the part of administration, and wickedness
on the part of the opposition.
might be all true enough; but he had not the sense to make them; but being
down, every thing must be heaped upon him. An editor of a paper, who had
boasted he could write down any man in six weeks, opened his battery;
charged him with tumbling and bog-trotting, and shaving himself with a
bad razor; some things frivolous, and some things false; but it went to
compose a paragraph. There was no standing this. The bog-trotter was at
a loss what to do; whether to withdraw from society, and take a hut to
himself in some corner of the settlement; or to quit the country and to
live amongst the savages, and wild beasts, when a mere accident gave him
some countenance in the community. It was reported that he had found a
stone; and doubtless he had, for it was an easy matter to find a stone
on a piece of ground which had been once the bed of the river; and these
stones also round and lubricous; but it was suggested to be what is called
the philosopher's stone. This hint, some wag had communicated to the Visionary
Philosopher, who went immediately in quest of Teague. The truth is, the
stone had something singular in its configuration, and was perhaps a petrifaction.
The Philosopher, though somewhat irritated at the Irishman's desertion
of the trust in educating beasts, yet as it is natural with visionary
men, was struck with this new idea, as what might be turned to account
in making gold and silver in the present scarcity of specie, the banks
having refused to issue any for their notes; and adopting a conciliatory
address, he bespoke the bog-trotter. Teague, said he, I am not come to
take you up, not being an officer of justice; nor having any thing to
do with the matter of your teaching beasts; for it has occurred to myself,
that if taught to speak, and sent to congress, they might gabble like
magpies, and the remedy would be worse than the disease; so that I came,
not displeased with you, on account of your relinquishing the tuition;
more especially as you have found out the means of replenishing the national
treasury, by this stone that has fallen in your way. It is a desideratum
in chemistry that has been long sought after; and if Redheiffer had turned
his attention to that, instead of the perpetual motion, it would have
been better for the public. For though an editor made a demonstration
of it as plain as a problem in Euclid, yet some still doubt the fact of
a perpetual motion being discovered, except in the tongue of a member
Have you made any silver out of this stone yet? I should like to see a
little of it.
I have made a pewter spoon, said the bog-trotter, and dat is de next ting
to silver, and a lead bullet, and a piece of copper; but de spalpeens
have robbed me o' dese, and took dem out o' my pocket whilst I was aslape,
and no body de wiser for it; bad luck to dem, de shape-stalers, and tiefs.
Come back with me to the settlement, said the Philosopher, and I will
make a man of you.
Dat I will, said the bog-trotter; and see de Governor, and show him de
The stone was shown to the Governor, who was glad to see the bog-trotter
again; but had no faith in the discovery.
said the Governor, is a very pretty stone, made by the rolling and tumbling
of the water, in one part, and breaking off in another; or it has been
originally a piece of wood, cut by a joiner, and is petrified; but I would
just as soon take a stick to make gold, as I would a stone.
A stick to hold in one's hand, and compel a robbery, would be as efficatious
as a stone; and this is the only way that I know of making money, suddenly,
which cannot be done, unless you have some one to rob that has money.
The Philosopher with Teague, appealed to the people, and reported that
the Governor was averse to the having money made. --The only remedy in
this case was, the threatening that they would turn him out and put Teague
in, or the Visionary Philosopher for Governor. With a view to this, and
to refresh his popularity, a dinner was once more given to the bog-trotter.
The toasts were, Down with paper money; gold and silver the genuine circulating
medium, &c. &c. &c.
When the bog-trotter retired, a volunteer was given: "Our noble bog-trotter."