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body a more military contour than comported with his real character
were it not for a red petticoat that was made shorter than common; less,
however, with a view to show a pretty foot and ankle than to leave the
nether limbs at liberty to go through with certain extravagant efforts
which the Savoyards were unmercifully exacting from his natural agility.
He wore a Spanish hat, decorated with a few bedraggled feathers, a white
cockade, and a wooden sword. In addition to the latter, he carried in
his hand a small broom.

Observing that my attention was strongly attracted to this party, the
ill-favored Savoyards immediately commenced a series of experiments
in saltation, with the sole view, beyond a question, to profit by
my curiosity. The inoffensive victims of this act of brutal tyranny
submitted with a patience worthy of the profoundest philosophy, meeting
the wishes of their masters with a readiness and dexterity that was
beyond all praise. One swept the earth, another leaped on the back of
a dog, a third threw himself head-over-heels again and again without a
murmur, and the fourth moved gracefully to and fro, like a young girl in
a quadrille. All this might have passed without calling for particular
remark (since, alas! the spectacle is only too common), were it not for
certain eloquent appeals that were made to me through the eyes by the
individual in the hussar jacket. His look was rarely averted from
my face for a moment, and in this way a silent communion was soon
established between us. I observed that his gravity was indomitable.
Nothing could elicit a smile or a change of countenance. Obedient to
the whip of his brutal master, he never refused the required leap; for
minutes at a time his legs and petticoat described confused circles in
the air, appearing to have taken a final leave of the earth; but, the
effort ended, he invariably descended to the ground with a quiet dignity
and composure that showed how little the inward monkey partook of the
antics of the outward animal. Drawing my companion a little aside, I
ventured to suggest a few thoughts to him on the subject.

"Really, Captain Poke, it appears to me there is great injustice in the
treatment of these poor creatures!" I said. "What right have these two
foul-looking blackguards to seize upon beings much more interesting
to the eye and, I dare say, far more intellectual than themselves, and
cause them to throw their legs about in this extravagant manner, under
the penalty of stripes, and without regard to their feelings or
their convenience? I say, sir, the measure appears to me intolerably
oppressive, and it calls for prompt redress."

"King!"

"King or subject, it does not alter the moral deformity of the act. What
have these innocent beings done that they should be subjected to this
disgrace? Are they not flesh and blood like ourselves - do they not
approach nearer to our form and, for aught we know to the contrary, to
our reason, than any other animal? and is it tolerable that our nearest
imitations, our very cousins, should be thus dealt by? Are they dogs
that they are treated like dogs?"

"Why, to my notion, Sir John, there isn't a dog on 'arth that can take
such a summerset. Their flapjacks are quite extraor'nary!"

"Yes, sir, and more than extraordinary; they are oppressive. Place
yourself, Mr. Poke, for a single instant, in the situation of one of
these persons; fancy that you had a hussar jacket squeezed upon your
brawny shoulders, a petticoat placed over your lower extremities, a
Spanish hat with bedraggled feathers set upon your head, a wooden sword
stuck at your side, and a broom put into your hand; and that these two
Savoyards were to menace you with stripes unless you consented to throw
summersets for the amusement of strangers - I only ask you to make the
case your own sir, and then say what course you would take and what you
would do?"

"I would lick both of these young blackguards, Sir John, without
remorse, break the sword and broom over their heads, kick their
sensibilities till they couldn't see, and take my course for Stunin'tun,
where I belong."

"Yes, sir, this might do with the Savoyards, who are young and feeble - "

"'Twouldn't alter the case much if two of these Frenchmen were in their
places," put in the Captain, glaring wolfishly about him. "To be plain
with you, Sir John Goldencalf, being human, I'd submit to no such monkey
tricks."

"Do not use the term reproachfully, Mr. Poke, I entreat of you. We call
these animals monkeys, it is true; but we do not know what they call
themselves. Man is merely an animal, and you must very well know - "

"Harkee, Sir John," interrupted the Captain, "I'm no botanist, and do
not pretend to more schooling than a sealer has need of for finding his
way about the 'arth; but as for a man's being an animal, I just wish to
ask you, now, if in your judgment a hog is also an animal?"

"Beyond a doubt - and fleas, and toads, and sea-serpents, and lizards,
and water-devils - we are all neither more nor less than animals."

"Well, if a hog is an animal, I am willing to allow the relationship;
for in the course of my experience, which is not small, I have met
with men that you might have mistaken for hogs, in everything but the
bristles, the snout, and the tail. I'll never deny what I've seen with
my own eyes, though I suffer for it; and therefore I admit that, hogs
being animals, it is more than likely that some men must be animals
too."

"We call these interesting beings monkeys; but how do we know that
they do not return the compliment, and call us, in their own particular
dialect, something quite as offensive? It would become our species to
manifest a more equitable and philosophical spirit, and to consider
these interesting strangers as an unfortunate family which has fallen
into the hands of brutes, and which is in every way entitled to our
commiseration and our active interference. Hitherto I have never
sufficiently stimulated my sympathies for the animal world by any
investment in quadrupeds; but it is my intention to write to-morrow to
my English agent to purchase a pack of hounds and a suitable stud of
horses; and by way of quickening so laudable a resolution, I shall
forthwith make propositions to the Savoyards for the speedy emancipation
of this family of amiable foreigners. The slave-trade is an innocent
pastime compared to the cruel oppression that the gentleman in the
Spanish hat, in particular, is compelled to endure."

"King!"

"He may be a king, sure enough, in his own country, Captain Poke; a fact
that would add tenfold agony to his unmerited sufferings."

Hereupon I proceeded without more ado to open a negotiation with the
Savoyards. The judicious application of a few Napoleons soon brought
about a happy understanding between the contracting parties, when the
Savoyards transferred to my hands the strings which confined their
vassals, as the formal and usual acknowledgment of the right of
ownership. Committing the three others to the keeping of Mr. Poke, I led
the individual in the hussar jacket a little on one side, and raising
my hat to show that I was superior to the vulgar feelings of feudal
superiority, I addressed him briefly in the following words:

"Although I have ostensibly bought the right which these Savoyards
professed to have in your person and services, I seize an early occasion
to inform you that virtually you are now free. As we are among a people
accustomed to see your race in subjection, however, it may not be
prudent to proclaim the nature of the present transaction, lest there
might be some further conspiracies against your natural rights. We will
retire to my hotel forthwith, therefore, where your future
happiness shall be the subject of our more mature and of our united
deliberations."

The respectable stranger in the hussar jacket heard me with inimitable
gravity and self-command until, in the warmth of feeling, I raised
an arm in earnest gesticulation, when, most probably overcome by the
emotions of delight that were naturally awakened in his bosom by this
sudden change in his fortune, he threw three summersets, or flapjacks,
as Captain Poke had quaintly designated his evolutions, in such rapid
succession as to render it for a moment a matter of doubt whether nature
had placed his head or his heels uppermost.

Making a sign for Captain Poke to follow, I now took my way directly
to the Rue de Rivoli. We were attended by a constantly increasing crowd
until the gate of the hotel was fairly entered; and glad was I to see
my charge safely housed, for there were abundant indications of another
design upon their rights in the taunts and ridicule of the living mass
that rolled up as it were upon our heels. On reaching my own apartments,
a courier who had been waiting my return, and who had just arrived
express from England, put a packet into my hands, stating that it came
from my principal English agent. Hasty orders were given to attend to
the comfort and wants of Captain Poke and the strangers (orders that
were in no danger of being neglected, since Sir John Goldencalf, with
the reputed annual revenue of three millions of francs, had unlimited
credit with all the inhabitants of the hotel); and I hurried into
my cabinet and sat down to the eager perusal of the different
communications.

Alas! there was not a line from Anna! The obdurate girl still trifled
with my misery; and in revenge I entertained a momentary resolution of
adopting the notions of Mahmoud, in order to qualify myself to set up a
harem.

The letters were from a variety of correspondents, embracing many of
those who were entrusted with the care of my interests in very opposite
quarters of the world. Half an hour before I had been dying to open
more intimate relations with the interesting strangers; but my thoughts
instantly took a new direction, and I soon found that the painful
sentiments I had entertained touching their welfare and happiness were
quite lost in the newly awakened interests that lay before me. It is in
this simple manner, no doubt, that the system to which I am a convert
effects no small part of its own great purposes. No sooner does any one
interest grow painful by excess than a new claim arises to divert the
thoughts, a new demand is made on the sensibilities; and by lowering
our affections from the intensity of selfishness to the more bland and
equable feeling of impartiality, forms that just and generous condition
of the mind at which the political economists aim when they dilate on
the glories and advantages of their favorite theory of the social stake.

In this happy frame of mind I fell to reading the letters with avidity
and with the godlike determination to reverence Providence and to do
justice. Fiat justitia ruat coelum!

The first epistle was from the agent of the principal West India estate.
He acquainted me with the fact that all hopes from the expected crop
were destroyed by a hurricane, and he begged that I would furnish the
means necessary to carry on the affairs of the plantation until another
season might repair the loss. Priding myself on punctuality as a man of
business, before I broke another seal a letter was written to a banker
in London requesting him to supply the necessary credits, and to notify
the agents in the West Indies of the circumstance. As he was a member of
parliament, I seized the occasion also to press upon him the necessity
of government's introducing some early measure for the protection of the
sugar-growers, a most meritorious class of his fellow-subjects, and
one whose exposures and actual losses called loudly for relief of
this nature. As I closed the letter I could not help dwelling with
complacency on the zeal and promptitude with which I had acted - the
certain proof of the usefulness of the theory of investments.

The second communication was from the manager of an East India property,
that very happily came with its offering to fill the vacuum left by the
failure of the crops just mentioned. Sugar was likely to be a drug
in the peninsula, and my correspondent stated that the cost of
transportation being so much greater than from the other colonies, this
advantage would be entirely lost unless government did something to
restore the East Indian to his natural equality. I enclosed this letter
in one to my Lord Say and Do, who was in the ministry, asking him in the
most laconic and pointed terms whether it were possible for the empire
to prosper when one portion of it was left in possession of exclusive
advantages, to the prejudice of all the others? As this question was
put with a truly British spirit, I hope it had some tendency to open the
eyes of his majesty's ministers; for much was shortly after said, both
in the journals and in parliament, on the necessity of protecting
our East Indian fellow-subjects, and of doing natural justice by
establishing the national prosperity on the only firm basis, that of
free trade.

The next letter was from the acting partner of a large manufacturing
house to which I had advanced quite half the capital, in order to
enter into a sympathetic communion with the cotton-spinners. The writer
complained heavily of the import duty on the raw material, made some
poignant allusions to the increasing competition on the continent and
in America, and pretty clearly intimated that the lord of the manor
of Householder ought to make himself felt by the administration in a
question of so much magnitude to the nation. On this hint I spake. I sat
down on the spot and wrote a long letter to my friend Lord Pledge, in
which I pointed out to him the danger that threatened our political
economy; that we were imitating the false theories of the Americans (the
countrymen of Captain Poke), that trade was clearly never so prosperous
as when it was the most successful, that success depended on effort, and
effort was the most efficient when the least encumbered, and in short
that as it was self-evident a man would jump farther without being
in foot-irons, or strike harder without being hand-cuffed, so it was
equally apparent that a merchant would make a better bargain for himself
when he could have things all his own way than when his enterprise and
industry were shackled by the impertinent and selfish interposition of
the interests of others. In conclusion there was an eloquent description
of the demoralizing consequences of smuggling, and a pungent attack on
the tendencies of taxation in general. I have written and said some good
things in my time, as several of my dependents have sworn to me in a way
that even my natural modesty cannot repudiate; but I shall be excused
for the weakness if I now add that I believe this letter to Lord Pledge
contained some as clever points as anything I remember in their way; the
last paragraph in particular being positively the neatest and the best
turned moral I ever produced.

Letter fourth was from the steward of the Householder estate. He spoke
of the difficulty of getting the rents; a difficulty that he imputed
altogether to the low price of corn. He said that it would soon be
necessary to relet certain farms; and he feared that the unthinking cry
against the corn-laws would affect the conditions. It was incumbent
on the landed interest to keep an eye on the popular tendencies as
respected this subject, for any material variation from the present
system would lower the rental of all the grain-growing counties in
England thirty per cent, at least at a blow. He concluded with a very
hard rap at the agrarians, a party that was just coming a little into
notice in Great Britain, and by a very ingenious turn, in which he
completely demonstrated that the protection of the landlord and the
support of the Protestant religion were indissolubly connected. There
was also a vigorous appeal to the common sense of the subject on the
danger to be apprehended by the people from themselves; which he treated
in a way that, a little more expanded, would have made a delightful
homily on the rights of man.

I believe I meditated on the contents of this letter fully an hour. Its
writer, John Dobbs, was as worthy and upright a fellow as ever breathed;
and I could not but admire the surprising knowledge of men which shone
through every line he had indited. Something must be done it was clear;
and at length I determined to take the bull by the horns and to address
Mr. Huskisson at once, as the shortest way of coming at the evil. He
was the political sponsor for all the new notions on the subject of our
foreign mercantile policy; and by laying before him in a strong point of
view the fatal consequences of carrying his system to extremes, I hoped
something might yet be done for the owners of real estate, the bones and
sinews of the land.

I shall just add in this place that Mr. Huskisson sent me a very polite
and a very statesman-like reply, in which he disclaimed any intention of
meddling improperly with British interests in any way; that taxation was
necessary to our system, and of course every nation was the best
judge of its own means and resources; but that he merely aimed at the
establishment of just and generous principles, by which nations that had
no occasion for British measures should not unhandsomely resort to
them; and that certain external truths should stand, like so many
well-constructed tubs, each on its own bottom. I must say I was pleased
with this attention from a man generally reputed as clever as Mr.
Huskisson, and from that time I became a convert to most of his
opinions.

The next communication that I opened was from the overseer of the estate
in Louisiana, who informed me that the general aspect of things in that
quarter of the world was favorable, but the smallpox had found its way
among the negroes, and the business of the plantation would immediately
require the services of fifteen able-bodied men, with the usual
sprinkling of women and children. He added that the laws of America
prohibited the further importation of blacks from any country without
the limits of the Union, but that there was a very pretty and profitable
internal trade in the article, and that the supply might be obtained in
sufficient season either from the Carolinas, Virginia, or Maryland.
He admitted, however, that there was some choice between the different
stocks of these several States, and that some discretion might be
necessary in making the selection. The negro of the Carolinas was the
most used to the cotton-field, had less occasion for clothes, and it had
been proved by experiment could be fattened on red herrings; while, on
the other hand, the negro farther north had the highest instinct, could
sometimes reason, and that he had even been known to preach when he
had got as high up as Philadelphia. He much affected, also, bacon and
poultry. Perhaps it might be well to purchase samples of lots from all
the different stocks in market.

In reply I assented to the latter idea, suggesting the expediency
of getting one or two of the higher castes from the north; I had no
objection to preaching provided they preached work; but I cautioned the
overseer particularly against schismatics. Preaching, in the abstract,
could do no harm; all depending on doctrine.

This advice was given as the result of much earnest observation. Those
European states that had the most obstinately resisted the introduction
of letters, I had recently had occasion to remark were changing their
systems, and were about to act on the principle of causing "fire to
fight fire." They were fast having recourse to school-books, using no
other precaution than the simple expedient of writing them themselves.
By this ingenious invention poison was converted into food, and truths
of all classes were at once put above the dangers of disputations and
heresies.

Having disposed of the Louisianian, I very gladly turned to the opening
of the sixth seal. The letter was from the efficient trustee of a
company to whose funds I had largely contributed by way of making an
investment in charity. It had struck me, a short time previously to
quitting home, that interests positive as most of those I had embarked
in had a tendency to render the spirit worldly; and I saw no other check
to such an evil than by seeking for some association with the saints,
in order to set up a balance against the dangerous propensity.
A lucky occasion offered through the wants of the
Philo-African-anti-compulsion-free-labor Society, whose
meritorious efforts were about to cease for the want of the great
charity-power - gold. A draft for five thousand pounds had obtained me
the honor of being advertised as a shareholder and a patron; and, I know
not why! - but it certainly caused me to inquire into the results
with far more interest than I had ever before felt in any similar
institution. Perhaps this benevolent anxiety arose from that principle
in our nature which induces us to look after whatever has been our own
as long as any part of it can be seen.

The principal trustee of the Philo-African-anti-compulsion-free-labor
Society now wrote to state that some of the speculations which had
gone pari passu with the charity had been successful, and that the
shareholders were, by the fundamental provisions of the association,
entitled to a dividend, but - how often that awkward word stands between
the cup and the lip! - BUT that he was of opinion the establishment of
a new factory near a point where the slavers most resorted, and where
gold-dust and palm-oil were also to be had in the greatest quantities,
and consequently at the lowest prices, would equally benefit trade and
philanthropy; that by a judicious application of our means these two
interests might be made to see-saw very cleverly, as cause and effect,
effect and cause; that the black man would be spared an incalculable
amount of misery, the white man a grievous burden of sin, and the
particular agents of so manifest a good might quite reasonably calculate
on making at the very least forty per cent. per annum on their money
besides having all their souls saved in the bargain. Of course I
assented to a proposition so reasonable in itself, and which offered
benefits so plausible!

The next epistle was from the head of a great commercial house in
Spain in which I had taken some shares, and whose interests had been
temporarily deranged by the throes of the people in their efforts to
obtain redress for real or imaginary wrongs. My correspondent showed a
proper indignation on the occasion, and was not sparing in his language
whenever he was called to speak of popular tumults. "What do the
wretches wish?" he asked with much point - "Our lives as well as our
property? Ah! my dear sir, this bitter fact impresses us all (by us
he meant the mercantile interests) with the importance of strong
executives. Where should we have been but for the bayonets of the king?
or what would have become of our altars, our firesides, and our persons,
had it not pleased God to grant us a monarch indomitable in will,
brave in spirit, and quick in action?" I wrote a proper answer of
congratulation and turned to the next epistle, which was the last of the
communications.

The eighth letter was from the acting head of another commercial house
in New York, United States of America, or the country of Captain Poke,
where it would seem the president by a decided exercise of his authority
had drawn upon himself the execrations of a large portion of the
commercial interests of the country; since the effect of the measure,
right or wrong, as a legitimate consequence or not, by hook or by
crook, had been to render money scarce. There is no man so keen in his
philippics, so acute in discovering and so prompt in analyzing facts, so
animated in his philosophy, and so eloquent in his complaints, as your
debtor when money unexpectedly gets to be scarce. Credit, comfort,
bones, sinews, marrow and all appear to depend on the result; and it is
no wonder that, under so lively impressions, men who have hitherto been
content to jog on in the regular and quiet habits of barter, should
suddenly start up into logicians, politicians, aye, or even into
magicians. Such had been the case with my present correspondent, who
seemed to know and to care as little in general of the polity of his own
country as if he had never been in it, but who now was ready to
split hairs with a metaphysician, and who could not have written more
complacently of the constitution if he had even read it. My limits
will not allow an insertion of the whole letter, but one or two of its
sentences shall be given. "Is it tolerable, my dear sir," he went on to



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Monikins → online text (page 8 of 34)