Chapter 6

Provisions had begun to fail; and though they had a fire-arm or two in company, with a little ammunition, yet they were not the best marks-men, and nothing had presented itself, in these woods to take down and barbecue. Harum Scarum, was the commissary; but he could devise no ways and means of supplying food, unless by sending a challenge to the game, and calling them out to a duel, where they might be shot at pleasure.

It was thought absurd to suppose that deer or buffaloe, or even a wild cat or oposum, would stand upon a point of honour, and come out of the woods at a card, in the manner of men, piqued upon their courage.

Why not? said Harum Scarum, do not men come and stand up to be shot at, like a post without stirring? Have not men more sense than beasts? at least they have more learning, and boast of their education. I can bring a fellow out to me almost at a wink; and shall I be at loss with a brute beast, who has not half the prudence, though it may have the same self-love, and principle of preservation?

You may try it, said the Captain. I shall wonder a little if the event “corresponds with the intention.”

Harum Scarum, having made out his challenge, made choice of Will Watlin for his second, to bear the cards, and disperse them in the forest.

No answer came, and no bear or panther appeared, or came upon the ground.

The next thing was to post them; which he did, and put up billets upon trees. They were to this effect.

“Take notice, that I Harum Scarum, gentleman, do hereby post and publish the beasts of these woods, to be scoundrels, liars, and cowards, of which let all men take notice; that no man of honour may keep company with them, but consider them as paltroons and rascals.”

THIS was what is called the mad-cap settlement; the inhabitants being of an irritable disposition, and apt to take offence. Accordingly seeing those upon trees, as they were looking for their cattle in the woods, they were highly vexed, and put into great passion. Sundry of them had fallen in stragglers of the company, gathering root and berries, or looking for a shot, and had come to high words, under a mutual misunderstanding of the circumstance which gave offence. Collecting a large party at a pass, the mad-caps had come forward, and determined to give battle. The captain saw the necessity of some active measures on his part, and collecting his men, began to form. He had with him the player on the bag-pipes, and Tom the Tinker, who turned a piece of tin that he had into a kettle drum, and beat on it the rogues march, which was the only point of war that he could beat. Will Watlin had a saplin of hickory, and O’Fin had his flail, which he brought along with him, not knowing but he might get a job of threshing by the way.

He had now got a job, it is true; but not of the same kind that he meant, wheat at six-pence a bushel, but people’s brains to beat out, or their bones to break; a thing as unprofitable as it is unlawful. The Captain being a military man, was thinking of the science, and manoeuvres put in proctice by the ancients, by which they had gained battles. He was at a loss whether to advance in single column, until within a certain distance and then halt with the head, while the rear wheeled round, and struck like a serpent with its tail, in the manner Epaminondas gained the battle of Leuctra. Or whether he should imitate Hannibal at--I forget at what battle, with the Romans; and oppose a semicircle, with a convex to the enemy; and which yielding in the center changed to a crescent, and received the adversary in its horns, which encompassing the flanks, cut them to pieces. He was debating with himself whether he should advance to a certain height; or rely upon an ambuscade among the bushes in the plain, when, in the mean time, Clonmel, the ballad singer, struck up a song in the center, and the mad-caps began to listen; and though they had as many arms as a learned lawyer puts in his declaration: ‘swords, staves, and knives,’ they dropped them all, and seemed to return to good humour.

The song of Clonmel was as follows.

What use is in fighting, and gouging, and biting,
Far better to let it alone;
For kicking, and cuffing, and bozing, and buffing,
It makes the flesh ache, and the bone.

But give me the whiskey, it makes one so friskey,
But beating, and brusing makes sore;
Come shake hands my cronies, come near, my dear honies,
And think of your grudges no more.

We are a set of poor fellows, just escap’d from the gallows,
And hunting a wolf or a bear.
And what with a tail on, except the camelion,
Can live upon fog, or the air?
Some venison haunches, to fill up our paunches,
Come see if you cannot produce,
A barbecued pig; a nice mutton leg,
Or turkey, or bit of a goose.
We have store of good liquor; so bring something quicker;
And club your potatoes and yams.
We’ll make a great feast, and turn all to jest;
So away with your frowns and your damns.
There is nothing like love, which comes from above,
And tickles the youngsters below.
It is vain man’s own fault, that he so brews his malt,
As ever cry out heigh-ho!
Alexander and Caesar, and Nebuchadnezzar,
Found out to their cost this was true;
Now who will be fools, to drink at the pools,
Of ambition, and war, we or you?

The mad-caps were settled like a hive of bees, and coming forward, began to gather in a cluster round the ballad singer. Some took him by the hand, others asked for the keg of whiskey, and in a short time amity was established, and they were all as well acquainted, as if they had been together seven years. Several of them knew Tom the Tinker, having served under him, in the western insurrection, in the year 1794. Store of provisions were in a short time brought in, and forage for the Captain’s horse and the blind mare. Having refreshed themselves with the rest, a day or two, maintaining still a good understanding with the mad-caps, and mixing occasionally with hunting parties that shot squirrels, and racoons, who declined to accept challenges, and fight upon equal terms, they began to think of the object of their emigration. Orders were given to put the troops in motion; and taking up the line of march, the cavalry in front, they set out and passing through the mad-cap country, no interruption happened, until they began to enter that of the democrats.

This is a settlement contiguous to the mad-caps. The inhabitants are a very happy people, no demagogues having yet arisen among them, to propel to licentiousness, as for instance, to propose agrarian laws or an equality of goods and chattles; or to excite them to contention amongst themselves, or to war with foreign powers, in order that they may show their oratory, attain power, and become something in the state. Such had not yet begun to call out against laws, and the administration of justice; sciolists and young persons, too indolent to acquire solid knowledge, declaiming against rules, the policy of which they do not comprehend; affecting to discuss points in their lucubrations, of elementary jurisprudence, as to form or substance of which, they are as incapable as half a tradesman at any other profession, could be of pointing out the excellencies or defects of an improvement on the tools, or machines in use. It takes a great general to improve tactics; not a half year soldier just taken from a drill-serjeant. Yet such are the most presumptuous, and never are convinced of their incapacity, until the experiment forms the rejection. But in the mean time, the democratic character is levelled, and incurs the imputation of being unfit for government.

The state of democracy much resembled that of the Achaean common wealth; not so much in the form of the constitution, as the principles of government, and the virtues of the people. I shall take the description of it from Polybius. It is contained in the eulogium which he makes, in the course of his history upon this peopel.

“From whence then, has it happened,” says he, “that, not the people of those countries only, but all the rest of the inhabitants of Peloponesus, are so well pleased to receive, not only their laws, and form of government, but their very names also, from the Achaeans? In my judgment, the cause is, nothing else, than equality, and liberty, in a word, that democratical species of government, which, is found more just and perfect in its kind, among the Achaeans, than, in any other state. This republic, was at first composed of a small part only, of the inhabitant of Peloponesus; who voluntarily associated themselves into one body; but, a greater number soon joined themselves to them, induced to it by persuasion, and the manifest advantage of such a union. And, some, as opportunities arose, were forced into the confederacy. But they were satisfied with the violence, by which they had been compelled to embrace so excellent a form of government. For the new citizens were suffered to enjoy all the rights and previleges that were permitted to the old. Every thing was equal among them all. Thus employing the means that were of all things, the most effectual for their purpose, equity and gentleness, they soon arrived at the point which they had in view.”

When the Thebans, after the great and unexampled victory, which they obtained, against the Lacedemonians, in the battle of Leuctra, began, with the surprize of all, to lay claim to the sovereignty of Greece, various troubles, and contentions arose among the people of the country, and especially between the two contending parties, for the one refused to submit as conquered; while the other persisted to claim the victory. In these circumstances, they at last agreed to yield all the points that were in dispute between them to the sole judgment and decision of the Achaeans. Nor, was this preference obtained by any superiority of thought, or power; for they were at that time, the last of all the states of Greece; but was confessedly bestowed upon that integrity and love of virtue, by which they became distinguished above all other people.

This is the real character of democracy; and who, in this view of the character, would be unwilling to be called a democrat? Yet there have been revolutions in the public mind, with respect to the honorary, or disreputable nature of this application. It will be recollected, that after the adoption of what is called the funding system, by the administration of the federal government, societies were instituted about the years, 1791-2-3, under the denomination of democratic societies. It was the intemperance of some of these bodies, and the insurrection of 1794, which brought a cloud upon these societies, and caused them to be discontinued. Prudent men and patriots, were willing to avoid a name which had incurred disreputation from the excesses of those attached to it.

But the errors of the federal administration, or at least measures thought to be errors, having overthrown that administration, the name, before buried, began to obtain resuscitation, and to be able to show its head in a new existence, and with fresh honours, instead of insult and degradation. The term democrat, has ceased to be a stigma; and begins to be assumed by our public writers, and claimed by our patriots, as characterstic of a good citizen. That of republican, which alone had been vented on for some time, is now considered cold, and equivocal, and has given way, pretty generally, to that of democratic republican. In a short time, it will be simply, the democracy and a democrat.

But how long will this be so, in the United States, or, in these states? Its duration will be in proportion to the wisdom of those who occasionally obtain the ascendency in the government. It is him alone, “who gathereth the winds in his fists,” that can calculate the revolutions that depend upon the temper, and the passions of men.