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that the bison-skin wearers were not to be upon a perfect footing with
the best monikins of the land?"

"Blast me, if I did!"

But, Sir John Goldencalf, the Socratic method of reasoning - "

"Was first resorted to by yourself, my lord - "

"Nay, good Sir - "

"Permit me, my dear lord - "

"Sir John - "

"My lord - "

Hereupon the gentle Chatterissa again advanced, and by another timely
interposition of her graceful tact, she succeeded in preventing the
reply. The parallel of the runaway horse was acted over, and I came to
another stand-still. Lord Chatterino now gallantly proposed that the
whole affair should be referred, with full powers, to the ladies. I
could not refuse; and the plenipotentiaries retired, under a growling
accompaniment of Captain Poke, who pretty plainly declared that women
caused more quarrels than all the rest of the world, and, from the
little he had seen, he expected it would turn out the same with
monikinas.

The female sex certainly possess a facility of composition that is
denied our portion of the creation. In an incredibly short time, the
referees returned with the following programme:

PROTOCOL of an Interview between, &c., &c.

The contracting parties agree as follows, viz.:

ARTICLE 1. There shall be an amicable, logical, philosophical, ethical,
liberal, general, and controversial interview.

ART. 2. The interview shall be amicable.

ART. 3. The interview shall be general.

ART. 4. The interview shall be logical.

ART. 5. The interview shall be ethical.

ART. 6. The interview shall be philosophical.

ART. 7. The interview shall be liberal.

ART. 8. The interview shall be controversial.

ART. 9. The interview shall be controversial, liberal, philosophical,
ethical, logical, general, and amicable.

ART. 10. The interview shall be as particularly agreed upon.

The cat does not leap upon the mouse with more avidity than Lord
Chatterino and myself pounced upon the third protocol, seeking new
grounds for the argument that each was resolved on.

"Auguste! cher Auguste!" exclaimed the lovely Chatterissa, in the
prettiest Parisian accent I thought I had ever heard - "Pour moi!"

"A moi! monseignear!" I put in, flourishing my copy of the protocol - I
was checked in the midst of this controversial ardor by a tug at the
bison-skin; when, casting a look behind me, I saw Captain Poke winking
and making other signs that he wished to say a word in a corner.

"I think, Sir John," observed the worthy sealer, "if we ever mean to let
this bargain come to a catastrophe, it might as well be done now. The
females have been cunning, but the deuce is in it if we cannot weather
upon two women before the matter is well over. In Stunin'tun, when it is
thought best to accommodate proposals, why we object and raise a breeze
in the beginning, but towards the end we kinder soften and mollify, or
else trade would come to a stand. The hardest gale must blow its pipe
out. Trust to me to floor the best argument the best monkey of them all
can agitate!"

"This matter is getting serious, Noah, and I am filled with an esprit de
corps. Do you not begin yourself to feel human?"

"Kinder; but more bisonish than anything else. Let them go on, Sir John;
and, when the time comes, we will take them aback, or set me down as a
pettifogger."

The Captain winked knowingly; and I began to see that there was some
sense in his opinion. On rejoining our friends, or allies, I scarce know
which to call them, I found that the amiable Chatterissa had equally
calmed the diplomatic ardor of her lover, again, and we now met on
the best possible terms. The protocol was accepted by acclamation; and
preparations were instantly commenced for the lecture of Dr. Reasono.




CHAPTER XI. A PHILOSOPHY THAT IS BOTTOMED ON SOMETHING SUBSTANTIAL - SOME
REASONS PLAINLY PRESENTED, AND CAVILLING OBJECTIONS PUT TO FLIGHT BY A
CHARGE OF LOGICAL BAYONETS.


Dr. Reasono was quite as reasonable, in the personal embellishments
of his lyceum, as any public lecturer I remember to have seen, who was
required to execute his functions in the presence of ladies. If I say
that his coat had been brushed, his tail newly curled, and that his air
was a little more than usually "solemnized," as Captain Poke described
it in a decent whisper, I believe all will be said that is either
necessary or true. He placed himself behind a foot-stool, which served
as a table, smoothed its covering a little with his paws, and at once
proceeded to business. It may be well to add that he lectured without
notes, and, as the subject did not immediately call for experiments,
without any apparatus.

Waving his tail towards the different parts of the room in which his
audience were seated, the philosopher commenced.

"As the present occasion, my hearers," he said, "is one of those
accidental calls upon science, to which all belonging to the academies
are liable, and does not demand more than the heads of our thesis to
be explained, I shall not dig into the roots of the subject, but limit
myself to such general remarks as may serve to furnish the outlines of
our philosophy, natural, moral, and political - "

"How, sir," I cried, "have you a political as well as a moral
philosophy?"

"Beyond a question; and a very useful philosophy it is. No interests
require more philosophy than those connected with politics. To
resume - our philosophy, natural, moral and political, reserving most of
the propositions, demonstrations, and corollaries, for greater leisure,
and a more advanced state of information in the class. Prescribing to
myself these salutary limits, therefore, I shall begin only with nature.

"Nature is a term that we use to express the pervading and governing
principle of created things. It is known both as a generic and a
specific term, signifying in the former character the elements and
combinations of omnipotence, as applied to matter in general, and in
the latter its particular subdivisions, in connection with matter in
its infinite varieties. It is moreover subdivided into its physical and
moral attributes, which admit also of the two grand distinctions just
named. Thus, when we say nature, in the abstract, meaning physically,
we should be understood as alluding to those general, uniform, absolute,
consistent, and beautiful laws, which control and render harmonious,
as a great whole, the entire action, affinities, and destinies of
the universe; and when we say nature in the speciality, we would be
understood to speak of the nature of a rock, of a tree, of air, fire,
water, and land. Again, in alluding to a moral nature in the abstract,
we mean sin, and its weaknesses, its attractions, its deformities-in a
word, its totality; while, on the other hand, when we use the term,
in this sense, under the limits of a speciality, we confine its
signification to the particular shades of natural qualities that mark
the precise object named. Let us illustrate our positions by a few brief
examples.

"When we say 'Oh nature, how art thou glorious, sublime,
instructive!' - we mean that her laws emanate from a power of infinite
intelligence and perfection; and when we say 'Oh nature, how art thou
frail, vain and insufficient!' we mean that she is, after all, but a
secondary quality, inferior to that which brought her into existence,
for definite, limited, and, doubtless, useful purposes. In these
examples we treat the principle in the abstract.

"The examples of nature in the speciality will be more familiar, and,
although in no degree more true, will be better understood by
the generality of my auditors. Especial nature, in the physical
signification, is apparent to the senses, and is betrayed in the
outward forms of things, through their force, magnitude, substance, and
proportions, and, in its more mysterious properties, to examination, by
their laws, harmony, and action. Especial moral nature is denoted in the
different propensities, capacities, and conduct of the different classes
of all moral beings. In this latter sense we have monikin nature, dog
nature, horse nature, hog nature, human nature - "

"Permit me, Dr. Reasono," I interrupted, "to inquire if, by this
classification, you intend to convey more than may be understood by the
accidental arrangement of your examples?"

"Purely the latter, I do assure you, Sir John."

"And do you admit the great distinctions of animal and vegetable
natures?"

"Our academies are divided on this point. One school contends that all
living nature is to be embraced in a great comprehensive genus, while
another admits of the distinctions you have named. I am of the latter
opinion, inclining to the belief that nature herself has drawn the line
between the two classes, by bestowing on one the double gift of the
moral and physical nature, and by withdrawing the former from the other.
The existence of the moral nature is denoted by the presence of the
will. The academy of Leaphigh has made an elaborate classification of
all the known animals, of which the sponge is at the bottom of the list,
and the monikin at the top!"

"Sponges are commonly uppermost," growled Noah.

"Sir," said I, with a disagreeable rising at the throat, "am I to
understand that your savans account man an animal in a middle state
between a sponge and a monkey?"

"Really, Sir John, this warmth is quite unsuited to philosophical
discussion - if you continue to indulge in it, I shall find myself
compelled to postpone the lecture."

At this rebuke I made a successful effort to restrain myself, although
my esprit de corps nearly choked me. Intimating, as well as I could, a
change of purpose, Dr. Reasono, who had stood suspended over his table
with an air of doubt, waved his tail, and proceeded: -

"Sponges, oysters, crabs, sturgeons, clams, toads, snakes, lizards,
skunks, opossums, ant-eaters, baboons, negroes, wood-chucks, lions,
Esquimaux, sloths, hogs, Hottentots, ourang-outangs, men and monikins,
are, beyond a question, all animals. The only disputed point among
us is, whether they are all of the same genus, forming varieties or
species, or whether they are to be divided into the three great families
of the improvables, the unimprovables, and the retrogressives. They
who maintain that we form but one great family, reason by certain
conspicuous analogies, that serve as so many links to unite the great
chain of the animal world. Taking man as a centre, for instance, they
show that this creature possesses, in common with every other creature,
some observable property. Thus, man is, in one particular, like a
sponge; in another, he is like an oyster; a hog is like a man; the
skunk has one peculiarity of a man; the ourang-outang another; the sloth
another - "

"King!"

"And so on, to the end of the chapter. This school of philosophers,
while it has been very ingeniously supported, is not, however, the one
most in favor just at this moment in the academy of Leaphigh - "

"Just at this moment, Doctor!"

"Certainly, sir. Do you not know that truths, physical as well as moral,
undergo their revolutions, the same as all created nature? The academy
has paid great attention to this subject; and it issues annually an
almanac, in which the different phases, the revolutions, the periods,
the eclipses, whether partial or total, the distances from the centre
of light, the apogee and perigee of all the more prominent truths, are
calculated with singular accuracy; and by the aid of which the cautious
are enabled to keep themselves, as near as possible, within the bounds
of reason. We deem this effort of the monikin mind as the sublimest of
all its inventions, and as furnishing the strongest known evidence of
its near approach to the consummation of our earthly destiny. This
is not the place to dwell on that particular point of our philosophy,
however; and, for the present, we will postpone the subject."

"Yet you will permit me, Dr. Reasono, in virtue of clause 1, article
5, protocol No. 1 (which protocol, if not absolutely adopted, must be
supposed to contain the spirit of that which was), to inquire whether
the calculations of the revolutions of truth, do not lead to dangerous
moral extravagances, ruinous speculations in ideas, and serve to
unsettle society?"

The philosopher withdrew a moment with my Lord Chatterino, to consult
whether it would be prudent to admit of the validity of protocol No.
1, even in this indirect manner; whereupon it was decided between them,
that, as such admission would lay open all the vexatious questions that
had just been so happily disposed of, clause 1 of article 5 having
a direct connection with clause 2; clauses 1 and 2 forming the whole
article; and the said article 5, in its entirety, forming an integral
portion of the whole instrument; and the doctrine of constructions,
enjoining that instruments are to be construed like wills, by their
general, and not by their especial tendencies, it would be dangerous
to the objects of the interview to allow the application to be granted.
But, reserving a protest against the concession being interpreted into a
precedent, it might be well to concede that as an act of courtesy, which
was denied as a right. Hereupon, Dr. Reasono informed me that these
calculations of the revolutions of truth DID lead to certain moral
extravagances, and in many instances to ruinous speculations in ideas;
that the academy of Leaphigh, and, so far as his information extended,
the academy of every other country, had found the subject of truth, more
particularly moral truth, the one of all others the most difficult
to manage, the most likely to be abused, and the most dangerous to
promulgate. I was moreover promised, at a future day, some illustrations
of this branch of the subject.

"To pursue the more regular thread of my lecture," continued Dr.
Reasono, when he had politely made this little digression, "we now
divide these portions of the created world into animated and vegetable
nature; the former is again divided into the improvable, and the
unimprovable, and the retrogressive. The improvable embraces all
those species which are marching, by slow, progressive, but immutable
mutations, towards the perfection of terrestrial life, or to that last,
elevated, and sublime condition of mortality, in which the material
makes its final struggle with the immaterial - mind with matter. The
improvable class of animals, agreeably to the monikin dogmas, commences
with those species in which matter has the most unequivocal ascendency,
and terminates with those in which mind is as near perfection as this
mortal coil will allow. We hold that mind and matter, in that mysterious
union which connects the spiritual with the physical being, commence
in the medium state, undergoing, not, as some men have pretended,
transmigrations of the soul only, but such gradual and imperceptible
changes of both soul and body, as have peopled the world with so many
wonderful beings - wonderful, mentally and physically; and all of which
(meaning all of the improvable class) are no more than animals of the
same great genus, on the high road of tendencies, who are advancing
towards the last stage of improvement, previously to their final
translation to another planet, and a new existence.

"The retrogressive class is composed of those specimens which, owing to
their destiny, take a false direction; which, instead of tending to the
immaterial, tend to the material; which gradually become more and
more under the influence of matter, until, by a succession of physical
translations, the will is eventually lost, and they become incorporated
with the earth itself. Under this last transformation, these purely
materialized beings are chemically analyzed in the great laboratory of
nature, and their component parts are separated; thus the bones become
rocks, the flesh earth, the spirits air, the blood water, the gristle
clay and the ashes of the will are converted into the element of fire.
In this class we enumerate whales, elephants, hippopotami, and divers
other brutes, which visibly exhibit accumulations of matter that must
speedily triumph over the less material portions of their natures."

"And yet, Doctor, there are facts that militate against the theory; the
elephant, for instance, is accounted one of the most intelligent of all
the quadrupeds."

"A mere false demonstration, sir. Nature delights in these little
equivocations; thus, we have false suns, false rainbows, false prophets,
false vision, and even false philosophy. There are entire races of both
our species, too, as the Congo and the Esquimaux, for yours, and
baboons and the common monkeys, that inhabit various parts of the world
possessed by the human species, for ours, which are mere shadows of the
forms and qualities that properly distinguish the animal in its state of
protection."

"How, sir! are you not, then, of the same family as all the other
monkeys that we see hopping and skipping about the streets?"

"No more, sir, than you are of the same family as the flat-nosed,
thick-lipped, low-browed, ink-skinned negro, or the squalid,
passionless, brutalized Esquimaux. I have said that nature delights in
vagaries; and all these are no more than some of her mystifications.
Of this class is the elephant, who, while verging nearest to pure
materialism, makes a deceptive parade of the quality he is fast losing.
Instances of this species of playing trumps, if I may so express it, are
common in all classes of beings. How often, for instance, do men, just
as they are about to fail, make a parade of wealth, women seem obdurate
an hour before they capitulate, and diplomatists call Heaven to be a
witness of their resolutions to the contrary, the day before they
sign and seal! In the case of the elephant, however, there is a slight
exception to the general rule, which is founded on an extraordinary
struggle between mind and matter, the former making an effort that is
unusual, and which may be said to form an exception to the ordinary
warfare between these two principles, as it is commonly conducted in the
retrogressive class of animals. The most infallible sign of the triumph
of mind over matter, is in the development of the tail - "

"King!"

"Of the tail, Dr. Reasono?"

"By all means, sir - that seat of reason, the tail! Pray, Sir John,
what other portion of our frames did you imagine was indicative of
intellect?"

"Among men, Dr. Reasono, it is commonly thought the head is the more
honorable member, and, of late, we have made analytical maps of this
part of our physical formation, by which it is pretended to know the
breadth and length of a moral quality, no less than its boundaries."

"You have made the best use of your materials, such as they were, and
I dare say the map in question, all things considered, is a very clever
performance. But in the complication and abstruseness of this very moral
chart (one of which I perceive standing on your mantelpiece), you may
learn the confusion which still reigns over the human intellect. Now, in
regarding us, you can understand the very converse of your dilemma. How
much easier, for instance, is it to take a yard-stick, and by a simple
admeasurement of a tail, come to a sound, obvious and incontrovertible
conclusion as to the extent of the intellect of the specimen, than by
the complicated, contradictory, self-balancing and questionable process
to which you are reduced! Were there only this fact, it would abundantly
establish the higher moral condition of the monikinrace, as it is
compared with that of man."

"Dr. Reasono, am I to understand that the monikin family seriously
entertain a position so extravagant as this; that a monkey is a creature
more intellectual and more highly civilized than man?"

"Seriously, good Sir John! Why you are the first respectable person it
has been my fortune to meet, who has even affected to doubt the fact. It
is well known that both belong to the improvable class of animals, and
that monkeys, as you are pleased to term us, were once men, with all
their passions, weaknesses, inconsistencies, mode of philosophy, unsound
ethics, frailties, incongruities and subserviency to matter; that they
passed into the monikin state by degrees, and that large divisions of
them are constantly evaporating into the immaterial world, completely
spiritualized and free from the dross of flesh. I do not mean in what is
called death - for that is no more than an occasional deposit of matter
to be resumed in a new aspect, and with a nearer approach to the grand
results (whether of the improvable or of the retrogressive classes) - but
those final mutations which transfer us to another planet, to enjoy a
higher state of being, and leaving us always on the high road towards
final excellence."

"All this is very ingenious, sir; but before you can persuade me into
the belief that man is an animal inferior to a monkey, Dr. Reasono, you
will allow me to say that you must prove it."

"Ay, ay, or me, either," put in Captain Poke, waspishly.

"Were I to cite my proofs, gentlemen," continued the philosopher, whose
spirit appeared to be much less moved by our doubts than ours were by
his position - "I should in the first place refer you to history. All the
monikin writers are agreed in recording the gradual translation of the
species from the human family - "

"This may do very well, sir, for the latitude of Leaphigh, but permit
me to say that no human historian, from Moses down to Buffon, has ever
taken such a view of our respective races. There is not a word in any of
all these writers on the subject."

"How should there be, sir? History is not a prediction, but a record
of the past. Their silence is so much negative proof in our favor. Does
Tacitus, for instance, speak of the French revolution? Is not Herodotus
silent on the subject of the independence of the American continent? - or
do any of the Greek and Roman writers give us the annals of
Stunin'tun - a city whose foundations were most probably laid some time
after the commencement of the Christian era? It is morally impossible
that men or monikins can faithfully relate events that have never
happened; and as it has never yet happened to any man, who is still a
man, to be translated to the monikin state of being, it follows, as a
necessary consequence, that he can know nothing about it. If you want
historical proof, therefore, of what I say, you must search the monikin
annals for evidence. There it is to be found with an infinity of curious
details; and I trust the time is not far distant, when I shall have
great pleasure in pointing out to you some of the most approved chapters
of our best writers on this subject. But we are not confined to the
testimony of history, in establishing our condition to be of the
secondary formation. The internal evidence is triumphant; we appeal
to our simplicity, our philosophy, the state of the arts among us, in
short, to all those concurrent proofs which are dependent on the
highest possible state of civilization. In addition to this, we have the
infallible testimony which is to be derived from the development of our
tails. Our system of caudology is, in itself, a triumphant proof of the
high improvement of the monikin reason."

"Do I comprehend you aright, Dr. Reasono, when I understand your
system of caudology, or tailology, to render it into the vernacular,
to dogmatize on the possibility that the seat of reason in man, which
to-day is certainly in his brains, can ever descend into a tail?"

"If you deem development, improvement and simplification a descent,
beyond a question, sir. But your figure is a bad one, Sir John; for
ocular demonstration is before you, that a monikin can carry his tail as
high as a man can possibly carry his head. Our species, in this sense,
is morally nicked; and it costs us no effort to be on a level with human
kings. We hold, with you, that the brain is the seat of reason, while
the animal is in what we call the human probation, but that it is a
reason undeveloped, imperfect, and confused; cased, as it were, in an
envelope unsuited to its functions; but that, as it gradually oozes
out of this straitened receptable towards the base of the animal,
it acquires solidity, lucidity, and, finally, by elongation and
development, point. If you examine the human brain, you will find it,
though capable of being stretched to a great length, compressed in a
diminutive compass, involved and snarled; whereas the same physical
portion of the genus gets simplicity, a beginning and an end, a
directness and consecutiveness that are necessary to logic, and, as has
just been mentioned, a point, in the monikin seat of reason, which,



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 11 of 34)