Chapter 12

From the right of suffrage, to the right of delegation, the transition was easy; and hence the idea of admitting beasts to a vote in elections, naturally led to that of beasts being voted for, and elected to a representative body. Why not, said an advocate for this policy? Because said an adversary, they cannot speak; brutum pecus that have no utterance; not even to say aye, or no.

That is the very reason, said the other, that it behooves to chuse such delegates. What do we not suffer from the verbiage, and loquacity of members? A measure of peace or war cannot be carried but over the belly of a thousand harangues protracted to an immeasurable length, by orators that know as little of the subject as a whipperwill, or a jaybird; and yet chatter continually so as to prevent the question being taken. Commend me to a brute beast, a buffalo, or sheep that would chew the cud, and hold its tongue. If there were at least a mixture of those, there would be fewer speakers, and take up less time. Unless you gag a member, he will speak even though no one would wish him to open his mouth, unless to take a quid of tobacco. If an elf, or a horse were to speak, he would make the speech short, if we were to infer from that pithy speech made by Balaam’s ass; coming to the point at once, and saying all in a few words, that most of your human orators now-a-days in deliberative bodies, would chuse to say in a speech of many hours. These would seem to make conscience of giving quantity for quality, and this is the only apology that can be made for interminable rhapsodies. Nor is it enough that they waste time in speaking, but they must write out what they have said and trouble the public with conceptions in the papers; crude as they would seem to be, and tiresome, to read. If any one should undertake to travel through them; it can only be such as have much leisure on their hands, and at a loss to know what to do with their time. But the mischief is not altogether to be avoided by the not reading them, because the journals are taken up with such effusions in the place of which something better might be selected for the public. There is a double advantage in a brute animal to whom nature had denied the power of speech, in being a member of congress, because in this case there is usually denied to such, the talent of writing speeches. If a member, conscious to himself of not excelling in extempore eloquence, should hold his tongue, like a dumb creature, yet it is ten to one but he will write speeches that he has saved from his prolixity, yet the press is made to groan under the oppression of his verbosity. give me a young colt that will say little, rather than a jackanapes of the human species that will be eternally on the floor. I am for sending a few asses, not figuratively, but literally, to our council, who will bray, but will do no more than bray a reasonable length of time, and suffer the more intelligent of the members to arrange and carry through the business. No ass brays more than a few minutes at a time, unless you pinch it, or occasion it uneasiness in some way. Whether is it more against nature to send nominally something else but, in fact, an ass?

If a beast of the forest should go to the house, he will not be continually turning his head round to listen, and to hear what other beasts say of his speeches, or his vote. He will be more independent of his constituents that are running at large upon the hills, or in the pasture, nor will the idea come into his head, that he is bound by their instructions; a thing inconsistent with the delegating representatives to think where they will have a better opportunity of knowing what is for the good of the commonwealth. If this doctrine is correct, it is the constituent that stays at home that is to think, and the representative that goes to a public body, not to think at all; at least not to make use of his thoughts; which by the bye, is an argument for beasts going, and men staying at home. Will the desire of popularity induce your wild, or tame cattle to make long speeches or to regard what Tom, Dick, or Harry may say about their votes? they may be led to prolong the session for the sake of oats and corn, which they have in their mangers; but, it will not be by many words that this will be done. One cause, at least, of the mischief will be struck away. The desire of members to retain their seats, and procure a re-election, will not exist so strong with the denizens of the woods and fields, who will naturally not have the same attachment to a house, as human creatures that are accustomed to be within doors. On all these grounds, there will be more independence in our councils, and less subservience to popular opinion. Individuals will not be continually looking out to see which way the wind blows; nor will they covet place, and preferment so much, looking out to be ambassadors; or to have other appointments abroad, or at home. I am for keeping at home, at least a portion, of the servile pecus, and sending real cattle to the public bodies. One advantage farther; there would be no canabalism in the blockheads of the human shape that are sent with them, knocking down a member bullock at the end of a session; nor would there be an inconvenience in riding a colleague horse home.

Sir, said an adversary, your object seems to be to burlesque a representative government.

I deny it, said the advocate; it is to burlesque the abuses of elections, and of the elective franchise.--If people go to employ a mechanic, or manufacturer of any sort, they look out for a capable person; one skilled in the art or occupation, and with science and experience requisite for the thing to be made, or the object to be accomplished. But, to manage the affairs of a notion, nothing more is sought than simply the being of a party; or the being capable of being made so by some master of the drama at home in a village or district. It is never enquired whether he has two legs or four, provided he answers the purpose of a junto in a neighbourhood. Hence--what?

“Words that breathe, and thoughts that burn.”

No; stupidity or local selfishness; and words, in order to hide in the rubbish, the want of ideas.

If that is the case, said the adversary, and you do not mean to advocate the giving of beasts suffrages, or sending them as representatives, I have no quarrel with you.--What these people will do, into whose hands it has been put, is more than I can tell. It is said to be an easy thing to raise the devil; but to lay him, requires all the art of the free-mason with a wand, circle, and a black cat.

I do not think it would do any great harm if it was tried, said the advocate. The truth is, I am so much dissatisfied with this mischief in sending incompetent persons to represent us in legislative bodies, talking a long time and saying nothing, or worse than nothing, that I must either laugh or cry; and I think it is as well to laugh; to be Democritus, rather than Heraclitus. But if there is any remedy for this evil, it must be ridicule; and I am willing to try my hand a little at it. If a cow or a horse was chosen, people would begin to think; by pushing the thing to an extremity, the contrast is better seen. If a dumb beast should obtain a majority of suffrages, it would be asked why he did not obtain such a seat; and it would be answered, because he was dumb; and in that case could not be a long-speaking member.

But is there no remedy for these things upon principle? said the adversary. I know of none, said the advocate, unless the having fewer members, might curtail a little, there not being so many to take up time; or the putting of muzzles on them like young calves; but that would keep them from eating as well as speaking.--Ridicule, by sending a young bull to the house, because he would hold his tongue; except bellowing a little, will, I take it, be found the ultimate remedy. A very few members, were they so disposed, would take as much time as the greater number, unless there were so very few that they could not relieve each other when out of breath. Loquacity is the fashion of the day; and I wish to bring taciturnity back again, which has been out of date almost since the school of Pythagoras. I will have, at least, a reasonable proportion of dumb creatures put up at our elections, and sent to the representative bodies.

This was a dialogue, aside, between the advocate for the eligibility of beasts, and the individual who opposed it; it had little effect, one way or the other, not being in the presence of the multitude.