Chapter 14

The altercations which took place, were almost general with all ranks of the community, for the perfectibility of man and beast. And whereas some taking the side of the men, and others of the beasts, dwelt pretty much at large in their harangues, upon the want of talent, in the bulk of the community to execute offices, or discharge trusts; so with others, whose argument was the indiscriminate capacity of all persons, it was contended that there was no man so destitute of natural powers as not to be fit for any office. Nay, what is more, that even less than what men in general possess, might suffice. As it is the nature of all contraries to run to opposite extremes, so it was even at length carried so far that some undertook to sport an opinion that even that degree of mother with which some beasts possess, might suffice. In the heat of debate, in the warmth of argument, it was insisted on that the experiment ought to be made. Why did not the Governor appoint some quadruped to office, and see the result? Was there ever anything ascertained in matters of government, but from experience? Experience was the test of government. We did hear of horses and sheep being in office. This was meant as abuse; and might be the cause why a prejudice had been entertained in making these actually, and bona fide officers of government, or members of legislature.

It contributed much to give currency to this way of thinking that about this time there came a visionary man from the seat of the general government, who was called the visionary philosopher; and well indeed he might be so called; for he had adopted the opinion of the practicability of the civilizing beasts, and making them members of the community. It was with a view to reduce this system to practice, that he had made an excursion tot he new country, conceiving that prejudice in favour of the old system, would be less likely to be in a new country. He had been several months broaching the matter amongst the common people, which is always the way with innovators, before he thought proper to wait upon the Governor, and to broach it. This he had at length done. The Governor, as we have seen was a man of that mildness of character that he did not decline a conversation on the subject, though he thought it extremely absurd. But affecting to listen to his reasonings, he answered him at length with some abruptness, but in a tone of voice softened as much as the nature of the reply would admit.

It is a wild project, said he; but I see it must be tried. The people will have their way, and restraint will but dam up the current, and produce a flood that will produce an inundation, and carry all before it.