Chapter 16

Were I to imitate the action of an epic poem, it would now be the time to give the history of the Governor, before he had set out upon his travels; deducing my narrative from his early years. His ancestry also might be touched upon; but the fact is, as I have said, I know little about him prior to the time of his setting out; and still less of his descent, and pedigree. I should be better pleased if I had it in my power to give some account of the progenitors of Teague, as being a character of greater singularity; but that is not in my power. From his ambition for eminence, I should think it very probable that his descent was noble, and from some of the old Irish kings, if the heraldry could be traced; but, in the sacking of towns, and burning of castles in the civil wars in Ireland, and foreign conquests by Danes, and by John Bull, all documents of ancestry have been lost; so that we are at liberty to imagine what we please upon this head. Philosophers dispute with each other; but the divines all agree that we all came from Adam. If the divines are right, we are all relations tag rag, and bobtail; kings, emperors, and bog-trotters. I am content to have it so; for it is a way of thinking, favourable to benevolence; and I do not know that I should gain any thing by the idea of there having been different stocks; for though I should get quit of some rascals, that have sprung from Adam, I might have others on my hand not much better. The truth is, I know nothing of my own ancestry, farther back than the year 1715, where a certain M'Donald did good service with his claymore at the batte of Killicrankey, under Dundee. He was the grand father of my father, by the maternal line. I mention him, because he is the only one I have ever heard spoken of as being a dead-doing man. My father's father, called out in a conscription of feudalists under Argyle, fell at the battle of Culloden; and this is all I know of him.

It has occurred to me sometimes, that coming from a remote island, and an obscure part of it, I might feign an ancestry with coats of arms, as others have done. The bracken, or brecken, as it is indifferently spelled by the Scottish poets, is the most beautiful ever-green of that part of the island; and might furnish something towards an escutchen. The brecken is introduced by Burns, as an ornament of Caledonia.

Their groves o' sweet myrtle let foreign lands reckon,
Where bright-beaming summers exalt the perfume;
Far dearer to me yon lone glen o' green brecken,
Wi' the burn stealing under the lang yellow broom:
Far dearer to me are yon humble broom bowers,
Where the blue-bell and gowan lurk lowly unseen:
For there, lightly tripping amang the wild flowers
A listening the linnet, aft wanders my Jean.

Tho' rich is the breeze in the gay sunny vallies,
And cauld Caledonia's blast on the wave;
Their sweet-scented woodlands that skirt the proud palace
What are they? The haunt o' the tyrant and slave:
The slave's spicy forests, and gold bubbling fountains,
The brave Caledonian views wi' distain;
He wanders as free as the winds of his mountains,
Save love's willing fetters, the chains o' his Jean.

The ridge o' green brecken, would have done as well as the glen; for it grows on the ridge as well as in the valley, which is the meaning of the word glen, a narrow valley, overhung by a ridge on each side; and so lone or lonely; that is wild and romantic, by the small stream murmuring through it. This is the origin of the name breckan, or brackenridge. But I am running off at a tangent, and wandering from my subject. Having nothing to say of the ancestry of the Governor, or of that of the bog-trotter, I must omit, or rather cannot accomplish the dramatic form of the epic.

The neighbouring country being peopled a good deal from the north of Ireland, the early teachers of youth were from thence. What were called redemptioners, or persons unable to pay for their passage, contracting to be sold in this country for what time might be necessary to raise the money, were bought for schoolmasters; or put to that employment in the summer; and in the winter to weaving, or cord-waining, or whatever other trade, or occupation, they were qualified to exercise, from the use of it in the old country. It was in this way that Greece had her first preceptors from Crete; and again, Rome from Greece. And in the same manner, letters were brought into Italy, by the emigrants after the fall of Constantinople. It was under the tuition of one of these that the governor had been taught the first elements. The master, as he was called, had a small staff attached to a strap of leather cut into thongs; the flagellum, or whip, and ferule in the same instrument. Nor was he sparing in the use of this inforcer of discipline. For as he had not a facility of communication of ideas, it was necessary to drive more by hand; for "when the iron is blunt, you must put to more strength:" which was rendered still more necessary from the want of those introductions to spelling, by division of words into syllables, which are now in use. Thornton in his prize essay, on the facilitating early pronunciation, has shown the advantage of beginning with the consonants, to give the sounds, and letting the vowels follow. This, ba, be, instead of ab, or eb. But such nicety was not attended to by the resolute men by whom the youth of that day were initiated in the first mysteries. The conjoining, and the reaching of sounds, was less studied; the system being that of direct force. I have seen a score go through their facings on a Monday morning, by flagellation; for it was thought most advisable to whip first, and go to get their tasks afterwards. --And in proportion as the scholar was a favourite, he was the more roughly handled.

A higher grade of men of this education, and discipline, had got possession of the pulpits; the leading doctrines of which, in the mouth of some of these, were not calculated to give the most favourable impressions of the nature of the divinity.

It is of a later period, that we are indebted to this cunabula for editors of papers.

Said I, to one of these, why do you attack me, who have no ill will to you? Said he, it is not you I am attacking; it is the party. This set me a thinking; and certainly one has no more reason to be offended with a shot from one of these; for they mean nothing more personal, than with the gunner who points the battery. It is not an individual that he aims at, as individual; but as one of the squadron; the more eminent the character, the more prominent the aim; and instead of defamation, it is a compliment, to be thought worthy of a piece levelled, or the artillery directed. In the midst of abuse, this has reconciled me to the bearing it; and, in fact, in the contention of parties, the passing by a man, is a sure proof that he is insignificant.

Speaking of foreign emigration, it occurs to me to say a few words on the subject of French influence: and in doing this, I must take notice, that those who canvass this matter, do not go far enough back. It could not but have been agreeable to France, to hear of the revolt from the authority of Britain, being a rival nation; and the presumption was, that France would at least wish well to the opposition. In fact, they did wish well, and at a very early period, began to discover it in acts. If she did not openly receive our ambassadors at first, she did it privately; and under the idea of commercial arrangements by individuals, slurred supplies of ammunition, and the means of war. --French engineers and soldiers of fortune, came to serve in our armies; and young nobility, as to a military school. Even an army came in due time, when she had acknowledged our independence; and French money was distributed: many thousand French crowns were circulated. But for this we could not have carried on the war. France is certainly opposed to our giving up our independence, and returning to our obedience to Great Britain. But, be this as it may, certain it is, that the success of the French arms, at Marengo, at Jena, at Austerlitz, at Friedland, at Wagram, and other places, have obstructed our return; which may be termed an indirect French influence. I shall not pursue this train of thinking; it is enough to have given a hint. It cannot be denied, however, but that one thing the French have done for the world, the advantage of which all protestants will agree in admitting; the putting down the Pope. Nor is the prospect hopeless, but that Mahomet will be reduced; a thing remembered in the prayers of those whom we call the faithful, for a long time in Christendom.