Chapter 20

 The Captain and the two on foot journeyed from hence together, without any material incident falling out, or any thing to attract the attention; save what arose from the sparring of the bog-trotters. This took place on the ground of irreligion in Teague, and disregard for the covenants; but more especially on a difference of opinion with regard to the desert of their respective services, in the late rencounter with the highwaymen, as they were disposed to call them; Teague alleging that he had intimidated them by grinning, and wry mouths; Duncan claiming the credit by the display of his cudgel. The Captain had a good deal of trouble, in parrying a decision of their respective pretensions; or adjusting them in such a manner as to satisfy both. They were likely sometimes to come to blows. He was relieved, however, by the approach of the revenue officer to his district, into which they now began to enter.

After some days peregrination through it, having made choice of a central situation, it was thought proper to open an inspection office, which was done by hiring a house, and writing over the door, Inspection Office of Survey, No. &c.

Suspicion had existed on the part of the government, that opposition would be made in this district to the opening an office; or at least to the collection of the revenue. These were founded not only in reports of threats of that nature; but in some instances of actual violence, clandestinely committed on deputies. It was for this reason, amongst others, that the President had made choice of O’Regan, a stout and resolute man, as he thought him, with a shelalah in his hand, who could repel occasional insults. So far these suspicions appeared to be without foundation; the officer having conspicuously traversed the district, and opened an office without molestation.

The Captain was now about to return home, having seen the establishment of his ward in an office under government. But before he parted with him, he thought it not amiss to give him lessons with regard to the discharge of his duty in his present appointment. With this view, drawing him into a walk the second day, a small distance from the village, he began his lecture in the following words:

Teague, said he, for I am still in the habit of giving you that appellation, not having yet ascertained whether you are to be stiled, your worship, your honour, or your reverence; or at least not having yet been accustomed to add these epithets; Teague, I say, you are now advanced to great dignity; a limb of the executive of the union. It is true, your department is ministerial. Nevertheless it requires the wisdom of the head to conduct it. But the integrity of the heart is the great object to be regarded. Keep your hands from bribes; and by a delicate impartiality towards all, even from the suspicion of taking them. I should regret indeed after all the pains I have taken in fitting you for an office, and contributing to your appointment, to hear of an impeachment against you, for a misdemeanor in that office. By conducting yourself with a scrupulous honour and pure morality in your present trust, the way is open to a higher grade of advancement; and there is no kind of doubt, but that in due time it will be attainable. The President of the United States, from whom you have received your commission, is said to have the virtue, or rather the excess of one, never to abandon the person whom he has once taken up; or at least to carry his attachment to an extreme of reluctance in that particular; whether owing to great slowness in conceiving unfavourably of any one; or to pride of mind, in an unwillingness to have it thought that his judgment could be fallible. Your will have an advantage here; but at the same time there is an ultimate point in this, as in all things, beyond which it is impossible to preserve a man. Bear this in mind, and be honest, attentive, and faithful in your duty, and let it be said of you, that you have shown yourself a good citizen.

Just at this instant a noise was heard, and looking up, a crowd of people were discovered at a considerable distance, advancing towards them, but with acclamations that began to be heard. They were dragging a piece of timber of considerable length, which appeared to be just hewn from the woods; and was the natural stem of a small tree, cut down from the stump, and the bark stripped off. At the same time a couple of pack-horses were driven along, which appeared to be loaded with beds, and pillow cases.

The Captain was led to believe that these were a number of country people, who having heard of the revenue officer coming to his district, had come forward to pay their respects to him, and to receive him with that gratulation which is common to honest but illiterate people, in the first paroxysms of their transport. Having understood that country to be chiefly peopled with the descendants of the Irish, or with Irish emigrants themselves, he had supposed that hearing the new officer was a countryman, they had been carried forward, with such zeal to receive him, with huzzaing and tumult. On this occasion, he thought it not amiss to turn the conversation, and to prepare the mind and the manners of the deputy for this scene, which being unusual, might disconcert and embarrass him.

Teague, said he, it is not less difficult to preserve equanimity in a prosperous situation, than to sustain with fortitude a depression of fortune. These people, I perceive, in a flow of mind are coming forward, to express, with warmth, the honest but irregular sallies of their joy, on your arrival amongst them. It was usual in the provinces under the Roman republic, when a Quaestor, of whom a favourable impression had preceded, was about to come amongst them. It is a pleasing, but a transient felicity, and a wise man will not count too much upon it. For popular favour is unstable, to a proverb. These very people in the course of a twelve-month, if you displease them, may shout as loud at your degradation, and removal from dignity. At the same time this ought not to lead you to be indifferent, or at least to seem so, to their well meant expressions of favour at present; much less to affect a contempt, or even a neglect of them. A medium of ease and gracefulness in receiving their advances, and answering their addresses, whether it is a rustic orator in an extempore harangue, or some scholar of the academy, or school-master, they may have prevailed upon to draw up a speech, and read it to you. There is no manner of doubt, but the President of the United States, may have been a thousand times embarrassed with the multitude of addresses delivered or presented to him; and it required no small patience and fortitude to sustain them. Yet it has been remarked, that he has received them all with complacency; showing himself neither elevated with the praise, nor irritated withthe intrusion. And it is but reasonable, and what a benevolent man would indulge; for it is a happiness to these creatures, to give themselves the opportunity of being distinguished in this manner.

Duncan who had heard a rumour in the village of what was going forward, had in the mean time come up, and understanding from the last words of the Captain what had been the drift of his conversation with Teague, and discovering his mistake, interrupted him at this place. Captain, said he, ye need na be cautioning him against applause, and popularity, and the turning o’ the head, wi’ praise, and guid usage: for I doubt muckle if it comes to that wi’ him yet. I wad rather suspect that these folks have na guid will towards them. I dinna ken what they mean to do wi’ him, but if a body might guess frae the bed ye see there on the poney’s back, they mean to toss him in a blanket. But if it were to be judged frae the tree they hae trailing after them, I wad suppose they mean to make a hanging matter o’it, and take his life a’ thegether. There is na doubt but they are coming in a mob, to make a seizure o’ the gauger, and the talk o’ the town is o’ a punishment I dinna understand, o’ tarring and feathering. I have heard o’ the stocks, and the gallows, and drowning like a witch, but I never heard o’ the like o’ that in Scotland. I have heard o’ tarring the sheep, to keep them frae the rot, but I never heard o’ tarring a human creature. May be they mean to put it on his nose, to hinder him frae smelling their whiskey. I see they got a keg o’t there in their rear, drawn upon a sled; at least, I suppose it to be whiskey they hae in that keg, to take a dram, as they gae on wi’ the frolic; unless it be the tar that they talk of to put upon the officer.

This last conjecture was the true one. For it was tar; and the stem of a tree which they drew, was what is called a liberty pole, which they were about to erect, in order to dance round it, with hallooing, and the whoop of exultation.

The cavalcade now approaching, they began to cast their eyes towards the groupe of the three as they stood together.

By de holy faders, said Teague, I see de have deir looks upon me. Dey look as wild as de White Boys, or de Hearts of Oak in Ireland. By de holy apostles, dere is no fighting wid pitch forks; we shall be kilt, and murdered into de bargain.

Teague, said the Captain, recollect that you are an officer of government, and it becomes you to support its dignity, not betraying unmanly fear, but sustaining the violence even of a mob itself with fortitude.

Fait, and I had rader be no officer at all, said Teague, if dis is de way de paple get out o’ deir senses in dis country. Take de office yourshelf; de devil burn me, but I shall be after laying it down, as fast as I ever took it up, if dis is to come of it; to be hooted at like a wild baste, and shot, and hanged upon a tree, like a squirrel, or a Paddy from Cork, when de foolish boys hang him upon de 17th of March, wid potatoes about his neck, to make fun o’ de Irish. I scorn to be choaked before I am dead; de divil burn de office for me, I’ll have none of it. I can take my Bible oath, and swear upon de holy cross, dat I am no officer. By shaint Patrick, and if dere are any Irish boys amongst dem I would rather join wid dem. What is de government with offices to a son o’ d a whore dat is choaked, and cannot spake to his acquaintance in dis world? By de holy apostles, I am no officer; I just took it for a frolic as I was coming up de road, and you may be officer yourshelf, and good luck wid de commission, Captain; I shall have noting to do wid it.

t this instant the advancing crowd raised a loud shout, crying, Liberty and no excise, liberty and no excise; down with all excise officers.

Teague began to tremble, and to sculk behind the Captain. By de holy vater o’ de confession, said he, dey are like de savages, dey have deir eyes upon me, I shall be scalped; I shall be kilt and have de hair off my head, like a wolf or a shape. Dear love you, Captain, spake a good word to dem, and tell dem a good story; or by de christian church, I shall be eat up like a toad, or a wild baste in de forest.

The bog-trotter was right; for this moment, they had got their eyes upon the groupe; and began to distinguish him as the officer of the revenue. An exact description had been given them, of his person and appearance, for these people had their correspondents, even at the seat of government; and travellers, moreover, had recognised him, and given an account of his physiognomy, and apparel.

There he is, there he is, was the language; the rascally excise officer; we shall soon take care of him. He is of the name of O’Regan, is he? We shall O’Regan him in a short time.

Devil burn me, if I am de excise officer, said Teague. It is all a mistake gentlemen. It is true I was offered de commission; but de Captain here knows that I would not take it. It is dis Scotchman dat is de officer. By my shoul, you may tar and feather him, and welcome.

No, said the Captain, stepping forward, no gentlemen: for so I yet call you; though the menaces which you express, and the appearance of force which your preparations exhibit, depart from the desert of that appellation. Nevertheless, as there is still a probability of arresting violence, and reclaiming you from the error of your meditated acts, I address you with the epithet of gentlemen. You are not mistaken in your designation of the officer of the revenue, though he has not the candour to avow himself; but would meanly subject a fellow bog-trotter to the odium and the risk; an act of which, after all the pains that have been taken of his education, to impress him with sentiments of truth and honour, I am greatly ashamed. No, Gentlemen, I am unwilling to deceive you, or that the meditated injury should fall on him, who, if he has not the honour of the office, ought not to bear the occasional disadvantage: I am ready to acknowledge and avow, nor shall these wry faces, and contortions of body, which you observe in the red-headed man, prevent me; that he is the bona fide, actual excise officer. Nevertheless, gentlemen, let me expostulate with you on his behalf. Let me endeavour to save him from your odium, not by falsehood, but by reason. Is it not a principle of that republican government which you have established, that the will of the majority shall govern; and has not the will of the majority of the United States enacted this law? Will---

By this time, they had sunk the butt-end of the sapling in the hole dug for it, and it stood erect with a flag displayed in the air, and was called a Liberty Pole. The beds, and pillow cases had been cut open, and were brought forward. A committee had been appointed to conduct the operation. It was while they were occupied indoing this, that the Captain had without interruption gone on in making his harangue. But these things being now adjusted, a principal person of the committee came forward, just at the last words of the Captain.

The will of the majority, said he; yes, faith; the will of the majority shall govern. It is right that it should be the case. We know the excise officer very well. Come lay hands upon him.

Guid folk, said Duncan, I am no the gauger, it is true; nor am I a friend to the excise law, though I came in company wi’ the officer; nevertheless I dinna approve o’ this o’ your dinging down the government. For what is it but dinging down the government to act against the laws? Did ye never read i the Bible, that rebellion is warse than witchcraft? Did you never read o’ how mony lairds and dukes were hanged in Scotland lang ago, for rebellion? When the government comes to take this up, ye sall all be made out rebels, and hanged. Ye had better think what ye are about. Ye dinna gie fair play. If ye want to fight, and ony o’ ye will turn out wi’ me I sal take a turn wi’ him; and no just jump upon a man a’ in ae lump, like a parcel o’ tinklers at a fair.

The committee had paid no attention to this harangue; but had in the mean time seized Teague, and conveyed him to a cart, in which the keg of tar had been placed. The operation had commenced amidst the vociferation of the bog-trotter, crossing himself, and preparing for purgatory. They had stripped him of his vestments, and pouring the tar upon his naked body, emptied at the same time a bed of feathers on his head, which adhering to the viscous fluid, gave him the appearance of a wild fowl of the forest. The cart being driven off with the prisoner in this state, a great part of the mob accompanied, with the usual exclamation of “Liberty, and no excise law. Down with all excise officers.”