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which contained a programme of the proceedings to be observed at the
"Reception of the Honorable Robert Smut."

It would seem that the Horizontals and the Perpendiculars had made
so many spurious and mystified ballots, in order to propitiate the
Tangents, and to cheat each other, that this young blackguard
actually stood at the head of the poll! - a political phenomenon, as I
subsequently discovered, however, by no means of rare occurrence in the
Leaplow history of the periodical selection of the wisest and best.

There was certainly an accumulation of interest on arriving in a strange
land, to find one's self both extolled and vituperated on most of the
corners in its capital, and to be elected to its parliament, all in the
same day. Still, I did not permit myself to be either so much elated or
so much depressed, as not to have all my eyes about me, in order to get
as correctly as possible, and as quickly as possible, some insight into
the characters, tastes, habits, wishes, and wants of my constituents.

I have already declared that it is my intention to dwell chiefly on the
moral excellences and peculiarities of the people of the monikin world.
Still I could not walk through the streets of Bivouac without observing
a few physical usages, that I shall mention, because they have an
evident connection with the state of society, and the historical
recollections of this interesting portion of the polar region.

In the first place, I remarked that all sorts of quadrupeds are just
as much at home in the promenades of the town, as the inhabitants
themselves, a fact that I make no doubt has some very proper connection
with that principle of equal rights on which the institutions of the
country are established. In the second place, I could not but see that
their dwellings are constructed on the very minimum of base, propping
each other, as emblematic of the mutual support obtained by the
republican system, and seeking their development in height for the want
of breadth; a singularity of customs that I did not hesitate at once to
refer to a usage of living in trees, at an epoch not very remote. In
the third place, I noted, instead of entering their dwellings near the
ground like men, and indeed like most other unfledged animals, that they
ascend by means of external steps to an aperture about half-way between
the roof and the earth, where, having obtained admission, they go up or
down within the building, as occasion requires. This usage, I made no
question, was preserved from the period (and that, too, no distant one),
when the savage condition of the country induced them to seek protection
against the ravages of wild beasts, by having recourse to ladders, which
were drawn up after the family into the top of the tree, as the sun sank
beneath the horizon. These steps or ladders are generally of some white
material, in order that they may, even now, be found in the dark, should
the danger be urgent; although I do not know that Bivouac is a more
disorderly or unsafe town than another, in the present day. But habits
linger in the usages of a people, and are often found to exist as
fashions, long after the motive of their origin has ceased and been
forgotten. As a proof of this, many of the dwellings of Bivouac have
still enormous iron chevaux-de-frise before the doors, and near the base
of the stone-ladders; a practice unquestionably taken from the original,
unsophisticated, domestic defences of this wary and enterprising race.
Among a great many of these chevaux-de-frise, I remarked certain iron
images, that resemble the kings of chess-men, and which I took, at
first, to be symbols of the calculating qualities of the owners of the
mansions - a species of republican heraldry - but which the brigadier told
me, on inquiry, were no more than a fashion that had descended from the
custom of having stuffed images before the doors, in the early days of
the settlement, to frighten away the beasts at night, precisely as we
station scarecrows in a corn-field. Two of these well-padded sentinels,
with a stick stuck up in a fire-lock attitude, he assured me, had often
been known to maintain a siege of a week, against a she-bear and a
numerous family of hungry cubs, in the olden times; and, now that the
danger was gone, he presumed the families which had caused these iron
monuments to be erected, had done so to record some marvellous risks
of this nature, from which their forefathers had escaped by means of so
ingenious an expedient.

Everything in Bivouac bears the impress of the sublime principle of the
institutions. The houses of the private citizens, for instance, overtop
the roofs of all the public edifices, to show that the public is merely
a servant of the citizen. Even the churches have this peculiarity,
proving that the road to heaven is not independent of the popular will.
The great Hall of Justice, an edifice of which the Bivouackers are
exceedingly proud, is constructed in the same recumbent style, the
architect, with a view to protect himself from the imputation of
believing that the firmament was within reach of his hand, having taken
the precaution to run up a wooden finger-board from the centre of the
building, which points to the place where, according to the notions of
all other people, the ridge of the roof itself should have been raised.
So very apparent was this peculiarity, Noah observed, that it seemed to
him as if the whole "'arth" had been rolled down by a great political
rolling-pin, by way of giving the country its finishing touch.

While making these remarks, one drew near at a brisk trot, who, Mr.
Downright observed, eagerly desired our acquaintance. Surprised at his
pretending to know such a fact without any previous communication, I
took the liberty of asking why he thought that we were the particular
objects of the other's haste.

"Simply because you are fresh arrivals. This person is one of a
sufficiently numerous class among us, who, devoured by a small ambition,
seek notoriety - which, by the way, they are near obtaining in more
respects than they probably desire - by obtruding themselves on every
stranger who touches our shore. Theirs is not a generous and frank
hospitality that would fain serve others, but an irritable vanity that
would glorify themselves. The liberal and enlightened monikin is easily
to be distinguished from all of this clique. He is neither ashamed of,
nor bigoted in favor of any usages, simply because they are domestic.
With him the criterions of merit are propriety, taste, expediency, and
fitness. He distinguishes, while these crave; he neither wholly rejects,
nor wholly lives by, imitation, but judges for himself, and uses his
experience as a respectable and useful guide; while these think that all
they can attain that is beyond the reach of their neighbors, is, as a
matter of course, the sole aim of life. Strangers they seek, because
they have long since decreed that this country, with its usages, its
people, and all it contains, being founded on popular rights, is all
that is debased and vulgar, themselves and a few of their own particular
friends excepted; and they are never so happy as when they are gloating
on, and basking in, the secondary refinements of what we call the 'old
region.' Their own attainments, however, being pretty much godsends, or
such as we all pick up in our daily intercourse, they know nothing of
any foreign country but Leaphigh, whose language we happen to speak;
and, as Leaphigh is also the very beau ideal of exclusion, in its
usages, opinions, and laws, they deem all who come from that part of the
earth, as rather more entitled to their profound homage than any other
strangers."

Here Judge People's Friend, who had been vigorously pumping the
nominating committee on the subject of the chances of the little wheel,
suddenly left us, with a sneaking, self-abased air, and with his nose to
the ground, like a dog who has just caught a fresh scent.

The next time we met with the ex-envoy, he was in mourning for some
political backsliding that I never comprehended. He had submitted to a
fresh amputation of the bob, and had so thoroughly humbled the seat
of reason, that it was not possible for the most envious and malignant
disposition to fancy he had a particle of brains left. He had, moreover,
caused every hair to be shaved off his body, which was as naked as the
hand, and altogether he presented an edifying picture of penitence
and self-abasement. I afterwards understood that this purification was
considered perfectly satisfactory, and that he was thought to be, again,
within the limits of the most patriotic patriots.

In the meantime the Bivouacker had approached me, and was introduced as
Mr. Gilded Wriggle.

"Count Poke de Stunnin'tun, my good sir," said the brigadier, who
was the master of ceremonies on this occasion, "and the Mogul
Goldencalf - both noblemen of ancient lineage, admirable privileges,
and of the purest water; gentlemen who, when they are at home, have six
dinners daily, always sleep on diamonds, and whose castles are none of
them less than six leagues in extent."

"My friend General Downright has taken too much pains, gentlemen,"
interrupted our new acquaintance, "your rank and extraction being
self-evident. Welcome to Leaplow! I beg you will make free with my
house, my dog, my cat, my horse, and myself. I particularly beg that
your first, your last, and all the intermediate visits, will be to me.
Well, Mogul, what do you really think of us? You have now been on shore
long enough to have formed a pretty accurate notion of our institutions
and habits. I beg you will not judge of all of us by what you see in the
streets - "

"It is not my intention, sir."

"You are cautious, I perceive? We are in an awful condition, I confess;
trampled on by the vulgar, and far - very far from being the people
that, I dare say, you expected to see. I couldn't be made the assistant
alderman of my ward, if I wished it, sir - too much jacobism; the people
are fools, sir; know nothing, sir; not fit to rule themselves, much less
their betters, sir. Here have a set of us, some hundreds in this very
town, been telling them what fools they are, how unfit they are to
manage their own affairs, and how fast they are going to the devil, any
time these twenty years, and still we have not yet persuaded them to
entrust one of us with authority! To say the truth, we are in a most
miserable condition, and, if anything COULD ruin this country, democracy
would have ruined it just thirty-five years ago."

Here the wailings of Mr. Wriggle were interrupted by the wailings of
Count Poke de Stunnin'tun. The latter, by gazing in admiration at the
speaker, had inadvertently struck his toe against one of the forty-three
thousand seven hundred and sixty inequalities of the pavement (for
everything in Leaplow is exactly equal, except the streets and
highways), and fallen forwards on his nose. I have already had occasion
to allude to the sealer's readiness in using opprobrious epithets. This
contre-temps happened in the principal street of Bivouac, or in what
is called the Wide-path, an avenue of more than a league in extent; but
notwithstanding its great length, Noah took it up at one end and abused
it all the way to the other, with a precision, fidelity, rapidity and
point, that excited general admiration. "It was the dirtiest, worst
paved, meanest, vilest, street he had ever seen, and if they had it at
Stunnin'tun, instead of using it as a street at all, they would fence
it up at each end, and turn it into a hog-lot." Here Brigadier Downright
betrayed unequivocal signs of alarm. Drawing us aside, he vehemently
demanded of the captain if he were mad, to berate in this unheard-of
manner the touchstone of Bivouac sentiment, nationality, taste,
and elegance! This street was never spoken of except by the use of
superlatives; a usage, by the way, that Noah himself had by no means
neglected. It was commonly thought to be the longest and the shortest,
the widest and the narrowest, the best built and the worst built avenue
in the universe. "Whatever you say or do," he continued, "whatever you
think or believe, never deny the superlatives of the Wide-path. If asked
if you ever saw a street so crowded, although there be room to wheel a
regiment, swear it is stifling; if required to name another promenade
so free from interruption, protest, by your soul, that the place is a
desert! Say what you will of the institutions of the country - "

"How!" I exclaimed; "of the sacred rights of monikins?"

"Bedaub them, and the mass of the monikins, too, with just as much
filth as you please. Indeed, if you wish to circulate freely in genteel
society, I would advise you to get a pretty free use of the words,
'jacobins,' 'rabble,' 'mob,' 'agrarians,' 'canaille' and 'democrats';
for they recommend many to notice who possess nothing else. In our happy
and independent country it is a sure sign of lofty sentiment, a finished
education, a regulated intellect, and a genteel intercourse, to know how
to bespatter all that portion of your fellow-creatures, for instance,
who live in one-story edifices."

"I find all this very extraordinary, your government being professedly a
government of the mass!"

"You have intuitively discovered the reason - is it not fashionable to
abuse the government everywhere? Whatever you do, in genteel life, ought
to be based on liberal and elevated principles; and therefore, abuse all
that is animate in Leaplow, the present company, with their relatives
and quadrupeds, excepted; but do not raise your blaspheming tongue
against anything that is inanimate! Respect, I entreat of you, the
houses, the trees, the rivers, the mountains, and, above all, in
Bivouac, respect the Wide-path! We are a people of lively sensibilities,
and are tender of the reputations of even our stocks and stones. Even
the Leaplow philosophers are all of a mind on this subject."

"King!"

"Can you account for this very extraordinary peculiarity, brigadier?"

"Surely you cannot be ignorant that all which is property is sacred!
We have a great respect for property, sir, and do not like to hear our
wares underrated. But lay it on the mass so much the harder, and you
will only be thought to be in possession of a superior and a refined
intelligence."

Here we turned again to Mr. Wriggle, who was dying to be noticed once
more.

"Ah! gentlemen, last from Leaphigh!" - he had been questioning one of our
attendants - "how comes on that great and consistent people?"

"As usual, sir; - great and consistent."

"I think, however, we are quite their equals, eh? - chips of the same
blocks?"

"No, sir - blocks of the same chips."

Mr. Wriggle laughed, and appeared pleased with the compliment; and I
wished I had even laid it on a little thicker.

"Well, Mogul, what are our great forefathers about? Still pulling to
pieces that sublime fabric of a constitution, which has so long been the
wonder of the world, and my especial admiration?"

"They are talking of changes, sir, although I believe they have effected
no great matter. The primate of all Leaphigh, I had occasion to remark,
still has seven joints to his tail."

"Ah! they are a wonderful people, sir!" said Wriggle, looking ruefully
at his own bob, which, as I afterwards understood, was a mere natural
abortion. "I detest change, sir; were I a Leaphigher, I would die in my
tail!"

"One for whom nature has done so much in this way, is to be excused a
little enthusiasm."

"A most miraculous people, sir - the wonder of the world - and their
institutions are the greatest prodigy of the times!"

"That is well remarked, Wriggle," put in the brigadier; "for they have
been tinkering them, and altering them, any time these five hundred and
fifty years, and still they remain precisely the same!"

"Very true, brigadier, very true - the marvel of our times! But,
gentlemen, what do you indeed think of us? I shall not let you off with
generalities. You have now been long enough on shore to have formed some
pretty distinct notions about us, and I confess I should be glad to hear
them. Speak the truth with candor - are we not most miserable, forlorn,
disreputable devils, after all?"

I disclaimed the ability to judge of the social condition of a people on
so short an acquaintance; but to this Mr. Wriggle would not listen.
He insisted that I must have been particularly disgusted with the
coarseness and want of refinement in the rabble, as he called the mass,
who, by the way, had already struck me as being relatively much the
better part of the population, so far as I had seen things - more than
commonly decent, quiet, and civil. Mr. Wriggle, also, very earnestly and
piteously begged I would not judge of the whole country by such samples
as I might happen to fall in with in the highways.

"I trust, Mogul, you will have charity to believe we are not all of us
quite so bad as appearances, no doubt, make us in your polished eyes.
These rude beings are spoiled by our jacobinical laws; but we have a
class, sir, that IS different. But, if you will not touch on the people,
how do you like the town, sir? A poor place, no doubt, after your own
ancient capitals?"

"Time will remedy all that, Mr. Wriggle."

"Do you then think we really want time? Now, that house at the corner,
there, to my taste is fit for a gentleman in any country - eh?"

"No doubt, sir, fit for one."

"This is but a poor street in the eyes of you travellers, I know, this
Wide-path of ours; though we think it rather sublime?"

"You do yourself injustice, Mr. Wriggle; though not equal to many of
the - -"

"How, sir, the Wide-path not equal to anything on earth! I know several
people who have been in the old world [so the Leaplowers call the
regions of Leaphigh, Leapup, Leapdown, etc.] and they swear there is not
as fine a street in any part of it. I have not had the good fortune to
travel, sir; but, sir, permit me, sir, to say, sir, that some of them,
sir, that HAVE travelled, sir, think, sir, the Wide-path, the most
magnificent public avenue, sir, that their experienced eyes ever beheld,
sir - yes, sir, that their very experienced eyes ever beheld, sir."

"I have seen so little of it, as yet, Mr. Wriggle, that you will pardon
me if I have spoken hastily."

"Oh! no offence - I despise the monikin who is not above local vanities
and provincial admiration! You ought to have seen that, sir, for I
frankly admit, sir, that no rabble can be worse than ours, and that
we are all going to the devil, as fast as ever we can. No, sir, a most
miserable rabble, sir. - But as for this street, and our houses, and our
cats, and our dogs, and certain exceptions - you understand me, sir - it
is quite a different thing. Pray, Mogul, who is the greatest personage,
now, in your nation?"

"Perhaps I ought to say the Duke of Wellington, sir."

"Well, sir, allow me to ask if he lives in a better house than that
before us? - I see you are delighted, eh? We are a poor, new nation of
pitiful traders, sir, half savage, as everybody knows; but we DO flatter
ourselves that we know how to build a house! Will you just step in
and see a new sofa that its owner bought only yesterday - I know him
intimately, and nothing gives me so much pleasure as to show his new
sofa."

I declined the invitation on the plea of fatigue, and by this means got
rid of so troublesome an acquaintance. On leaving me, however, he begged
that I would not fail to make his house my home, swore terribly at the
rabble, and invited me to admire a very ordinary view that was to be
obtained by looking up the Wide-path in a particular direction, but
which embraced his own abode. When Mr. Wriggle was fairly out of
earshot, I demanded of the brigadier if Bivouac, or Leaplow, contained
many such prodigies.

"Enough to make themselves very troublesome, and us ridiculous,"
returned Mr. Downright. "We are a young nation, Sir John, covering a
great surface, with a comparatively small population, and, as you are
aware, separated from the other parts of the monikin region by a belt
of ocean. In some respects we are like people in the country, and we
possess the merits and failings of those who are so situated. Perhaps
no nation has a larger share of reflecting and essentially respectable
inhabitants than Leaplow; but, not satisfied with being what
circumstances so admirably fit them to be, there is a clique among us,
who, influenced by the greater authority of older nations, pine to be
that which neither nature, education, manners, nor facilities will just
yet allow them to become. In short, sir, we have the besetting sin of
a young community - imitation. In our case the imitation is not always
happy, either; it being necessarily an imitation that is founded on
descriptions. If the evil were limited to mere social absurdities, it
might be laughed at - but that inherent desire of distinction, which is
the most morbid and irritable, unhappily, in the minds of those who are
the least able to attain anything more than a very vulgar notoriety, is
just as active here, as it is elsewhere; and some who have got wealth,
and who can never get more than what is purely dependent on wealth,
affect to despise those who are not as fortunate as themselves in this
particular. In their longings for pre-eminence, they turn to other
states (Leaphigh, more especially, which is the beau ideal of all
nations and people who wish to set up a caste in opposition to
despotism) for rules of thought, and declaim against that very mass
which is at the bottom of all their prosperity, by obstinately refusing
to allow of any essential innovation on the common rights. In addition
to these social pretenders, we have our political Indoctrinated."

"Indoctrinated! Will you explain the meaning of the term?"

"Sir, an Indoctrinated is one of a political school who holds to the
validity of certain theories which have been made to justify a set of
adventitious facts, as is eminently the case in our own great model,
Leaphigh. We are peculiarly placed in this country. Here, as a rule,
facts - meaning political and social facts - are greatly in advance of
opinion, simply because the former are left chiefly to their own free
action, and the latter is necessarily trammelled by habit and prejudice;
while in the 'old region' opinion, as a rule - and meaning the leading
or better opinion - is greatly in advance of facts, because facts are
restrained by usage and personal interests, and opinion is incited by
study, and the necessity of change."

"Permit me to say, brigadier, that I find your present institutions a
remarkable result to follow such a state of things."

"They are a cause, rather than a consequence. Opinion, as a whole, is
everywhere on the advance; and it is further advanced even here, as a
whole, than anywhere else. Accident has favored the foundation of the
social compact; and once founded, the facts have been hastening to their
consummation faster than the monikin mind has been able to keep company
with them. This is a remarkable but true state of the whole region. In
other monikin countries, you see opinion tugging at rooted practices,
and making desperate efforts to eradicate them from their bed of vested
interests, while here you see facts dragging opinion after them like a
tail wriggling behind a kite. [Footnote: One would think that Brigadier
Downright had lately paid a visit to our own happy and much enlightened
land. Fifty years since, the negro was a slave in New York, and
incapable of contracting marriage with a white. Facts have, however,
been progressive; and, from one privilege to another, he has at length
obtained that of consulting his own tastes in this matter, and, so far
as he himself is concerned, of doing as he pleases. This is the fact,
but he who presumes to speak of it has his windows broken by opinion,
for his pains! NOTE BY THE EDITOR] As to our purely social imitation and
social follies, absurd as they are, they are necessarily confined to a
small and an immaterial class; but the Indoctrinated spirit is a much
more serious affair. That unsettles confidence, innovates on the right,
often innocently and ignorantly, and causes the vessel of state to sail
like a ship with a drag towing in her wake."

"This is truly a novel condition for an enlightened monikin nation."

"No doubt, men manage better; but of all this you will learn more in the
great council. You may, perhaps, think it strange that our facts should
preserve their ascendency in opposition to so powerful a foe as opinion;
but you will remember that a great majority of our people, if not
absolutely on a level with circumstances, being purely practical, are



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 27 of 34)