Chapter 16

Popular obloquy and reproach, had fallen upon the Captain, in consequence of his waiter having been with the conjurer, and acting in the capacity of devil. -Though, by the bye, it was the people themselves that had brought the thing about by the masking him with tail and horns. Son inconsistent is the multitude, that they blame to-day what they themselves had caused yesterday. The Captain being hurt at this, and willing to clear off reflections, for the future, determined to deliver up the bog-trotter to themselves, to make of him what they thought proper. Accordingly having called a town meeting, and bidding Teague follow him, and addressing more particularly, the officers of the incorporation, he spoke as follows:

Fellow citizens, said he, here is that young man, whom you have made a devil of in this town; for it was you that made him a devil, and yet you blame me, as accessary to the wickedness; or rather, the principal in the act. Now here he is, strippd of his tail and horns; and, I will not say, like the sun, “shorn of his beams,” for that would be too elevated a simile; nor like Sampson, “shorn of his hair;” for that would be also pompous. But I will say, like yourselves, without superfluous incumbrance. Take him therefore into your custody, and under your protection, and hew him into whatever shape you may chuse; fashion him as you please. Make him the editor of a newspaper, or transform him even to a judge of your courts. I shall not stand in the way of his promotion, or of your will any longer.

It was evident that the first impressions of the people, were favourable to the proposition; and that they took in good part, the condescension of the Captain to the public voice. But a factious man, in a leathern pair of breeches, who had never had an opportunity before of making himself heard, rose to speak. Captain, said he, Is it fair to attempt a burlesque on the democracy, by intruding your servant on the public mind, for a post of profit, or of honour? It is true, the greater part of us, are but plain men, and illiterate, if you chuse to have it so; but yet it is to be hoped, we are not just so hard run for persons capable of civil employments among ourselves, as to be under the necessity of recurring to your bog-trotter.

Heavens! said the Captain, roused a little in his mind, for he was not apt to swear; has it not been yourselves, that have proposed the matter, and brought all the trouble on my head respecting it? I did, it is true, in the first instance, suggest the idea of putting him at the head of a paper; but it was without consideration; and I retracted it, both in my own judgment and in my words to you, immediately after. For though the press has been degraded, by such as he is, in that capacity, yet I was not willing to contribute to the like evil. The making him a judge came from yourselves; it was an idea that never started in my brains. It was your own burlesque, not mine.

Why should I undervalue democracy; or be thought to cast a slur upon it; I that am a democrat myself. -What proof have I given you of this; my works show my faith. It is true, I have not undervalued learning, or exclaimed against lawyers; or joined in the cry of down with the judges; but, take the tenor of my life and conversation, since the foundation of the village. I was at the first settlement of it. Did I engross lots of ground? Has there been a necessity for an agrarian law in my case? Have I speculated on the wants of men, by forestalling, or regrating? Have I made haste to be rich? That is, have I overstepped the common means of industry? Do I value myself on my fine clothing? Do I indulge in luxurious living? Is my hat off to a rich man, sooner than to the poor? Do I oppress the stranger; or rather do I not assist him, and invite him to our habitations? Who has heard me call out against foreigners; or fixing a prejudice against emigrants?

Captain, said an Irish gentleman, coming forward, and beckoning with his hand; all dis, dat you tell us, is very well. But is it a genteel ting, to trow a ridicule upon de whole Irish nation, by carrying about wid you, a bog-trotter, just as you would an alligator; or some wild cratur dat you had catched upon de mountains, to make your game of paple dat have de same brogue upon deir speech; and de same dialect upon deir tongues, as he has? By de holy faders, it is too much in a free country, not to be suffered--

Phelim, said another of the same nation, interrupting him, but a man of more sense and liberality; you are a fool, said he, Phelim; if you were my own born brother, I would say so. You are a fool; de Captain means to trow no ridicule upon de nation. Gentlemen of all countries laugh at deir own fools, and make jokes upon dem; not to show de follies of de nation, but of human nature. In Dublin, we have our jokes upon our Dermots, and our Thadys, and de devil a duel about it; nor in dis country neider; wid men dat have travelled and can give a joke, and take one, just for the sake of peace and quietness, and good fellowship, and eating and drinking, which is much better dan breaking heads wid sticks, or shivering one anoder wid bits of iron de call cutlashes; or snapping pistols for noding at all, but de humour of de ting; when I can see no humour in it bur folly, and nonsense: so hold your tongue, Phelim, and let de Captain spake; I like to hear him very well. You might as well take exceptions to Don Quixotte, because he had his Sancho, and would make him a governor; if dere was any ridicule in it, it is upon dese paple demselves, dat are so imposed upon, to make a bog-trotter a justice of de pace, or a judge; and not upon de nation of Ireland, dat have men of sense, and fools like oder nations. Commend me to de fun of de ting. I like de joke very well. De burlesque consists in comparing de high wid de low, and de low wid de high: and de dialogues, and spaches mark de characters. It is de high dat is ridiculed, and not de low; when you compare de low wid it. De books and travels will tache you dat, Phelim. Let de Captain spake widout interruptions; and tell his story. I like to hear de Captain spake very well.

Far be it from me, continued the Captain, to undervalue Ireland, or to mean disrespect to the nation. On the contrary, it was from good will to the people, that I have taken the notice of this young man that I have. Much less have I intended a reflection upon a democratic government, in the countenance I have given to the proposition of advancing him in grades and occupations. Nor is it democracy, that I have meant to expose, or reprehend, in any thing that I have said; but the errors of it: those excesses which lead to its overthrow. These excesses have shown themselves in all democratic governments; whence it is that a simple democracy has never been able to exist long. An experiment is now made in a new world, and upon better principles; that of representation and a more perfect separation, and near equipoise of the legislative, judicial, and executive powers. But the balance of the powers, is not easily preserved. --The natural tendency is to one scale. The demagogue is the first great destroyer, of the constitution, by deceiving the people. He is an aristocrat; and seeks after more power than is just. --He will never rest short of despotic rule. Have I deceived the people? Why then am I suspected of a want of patriotism, and good will to the people? Why am I charged with ridicule at their expence, who wish nothing more than to inform their understanding, and regulate their conduct?

But is it not presumption in you, Captain, to undertake this, in any shape? said a man, with a shrill voice. Is it not an insult upon the people, to suppose that they can err: or supposing it, that you can set them right?

It is too much to bear, said a third person, with a grey coat. I am for repressing all such presumption. It leads to aristocracy.

The blind Lawyer got up to speak.

We will hear no lawyer, said a man with a long chin, and a pale visage.

It is the blind Lawyer, said a friend to the Captain.

Blind, or purblind, said the man with the pale visage, we shall hear no lawyer here. The Captain has bred a great deal of disturbance, since he returned to the village. He has opposed us in every thing that we proposed to do. No reform can be carried on, but he must have his objections, and exceptions from the nature of government. Just as if the making or keeping up a government, was a thing of mixture and composition, like a doctor’s drug. As if a man must learn it, as he would to make a watch or to keep it in repair like a clock. Can there be any thing more simple than for the people just to govern themselves? What needs all this talk of checks and balances? Why keep up laws and judges, at an expense, as if the people were not competent to give laws, and to judge for themselves?

Ye need na’ mind the Captain, said Duncan, coming forward, having a regard for him, and seeing him in a delicate predicament, the anger of the people kindling; ye need na’ mind the Captain, said he, for he’s no right in his head. He has got some kink in his intellect, that gars him conceit strange things. I was his waiter twa’ or three months; and I found him a wee thing cracked; and ye canna weel but find it sae, when ye tak a look at his vagaries, and imaginations. Just let him go about his business, and mind your ain affairs. It wad be a shame to fa’ out wi’ a man, that’s no right in his head.

If that be the case, said a man with a brown wig, great allowance ought to be made. None of ourselves can tell how long our natural reason may be continued to us. To be sure he talks like a man that is not just himself. --But we did not know but that it might be a disguise to conceal his views; a masque of simplicity the better to introduce monarchy.

Gentlemen, said the Captain, there is now nothing more difficult for a man than to prove that he is not mad. For the very attempt to prove it, admits that it may be doubted; or at least that it is doubted. Besides I shall not contradict Duncan, who, I am persuaded, believes what he says. But since my services amongst you at present, do not seem to be well received, though from my heart, well intended, I will leave you for a while, and call off the bog-trotter to another ramble. Considering it as a banishment in fact, though not in name; and adopting the language of some under like circumstances, I will wish, that the village may never have occasion to remember me or my observations.