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smart struggle, however, prevailed in their firm
determination to have no more to do with Leap-
high. The sequel will show how far they were

Even preceding the struggle, so active was the
sentiment of patriotism and independence, that the
citizens of Leaplow, though ill-provided with the
productions of their own industry, proudly resort
ed to the self-denial of refusing to import even a
pin from the mother country, actually preferring
nakedness to submission. They even solemnly voted
that their venerable progenitor, instead of being, as
he clearly ought to have been, a fond, protecting


and indulgent parent, was, in truth, no other than
a rapacious, vindictive and tyrannical step-mother.
This was the opinion, it will be remembered, when
the two communities were legally united, had but
one head, wore clothes, and necessarily pursued a
multitude of their interests in common.

By the lucky termination of the war, all this was
radically changed. Leaplow pointed her thumb
at Leaphigh. and declared her intention henceforth
to manage her own affairs in her own way. In
order to do this the more effectually, and, at the
same time, to throw dirt into the countenance of
her late step-mother, she determined that her own
polity should run so near a parallel, and yet should
be so obviously an improvement on that of Leap-
high, as to demonstrate the imperfections of the
latter to the most superficial observer. That this
patriotic resolution was faithfully carried out in
practice, I am now about to demonstrate.

In Leaphigh, the old human principle had long
prevailed, that political authority came from God ;
though why such a theory should ever have pre
vailed anywhere, as Mr. Downright once expressed
it, I cannot see, the devil very evidently having a
greater agency in its exercise than any other influ
ence, or intelligence, whatever. However, the jus
divinum was the regulator of the Leaphigh social
compact, until the nobility managed to get the bet
ter of the jus, when the divinum was left to shift
for itself. It was at this epocha the present con
stitution found its birth. Any one may have ob
served that one stick placed on end will fall, as a
matter of course, unless rooted in the earth. Two
sticks fare no better, even with their tops united ;
but three sticks form a standard. This simple and
beautiful idea gave rise to the polity of Leaphigh.
Three moral props were erected in the midst of the


community, at the foot of one of which was placed
the King, to prevent it from slipping; for all the
danger, under such a system, came from that of
the base slipping; at the foot of the second, the no
bles ; and at the foot of the third, the people. On
the summit of this tripod was raised the machine
of state. This was found to be a capital invention
in theory, though practice, as practice is very apt
to do, subjected it to some essential modifications.
The King, having his stick all his own way, gave
a great deal of trouble to the two other sets of
stick-holders ; and, unwilling to disturb the theory,
for that was deemed to be irrevocably settled and
sacred, the nobility, who, for their own particular
convenience, paid the principal workmen at the
base of the people's stick to stand steady, set about
the means of keeping the King's stick, also, in a
more uniform and serviceable attitude. It was on
this occasion that, discovering the King never could
keep his end of the great social stick in the place
where he had sworn to keep it, they solemnly de
clared that he must have forgotten where the con
stitutional foot-hole was, and that he had irretriev
ably lost his memory, a decision that was the
remote cause of the recent calamity of Captain
Poke. The King was no sooner constitutionally
deprived of his memory, than it was an easy matter
to strip him of all his other faculties ; after which
it was humanely decreed, as indeed it ought to be
in the case of a being so destitute, that he could do
no wrong. By way of following out the idea on a
humane and Christian-like principle, and in order
10 make one part of the practice conform to the
other, it was shortly after determined that he should
do nothing ; his eldest first-cousin of the masculine
gender being legally proclaimed his substitute. In
the end, the crimson curtain was drawn before the


throne. As, however, this cousin might begin to
wriggle the stick in his turn, and derange the bal
ance of the tripod, the other two sets of stick-holders
next decided that, though his Majesty had an unde
niable constitutional right to say who should be his
eldest first-cousin of the masculine gender, they had
an undoubted constitutional right to say who he
should not be. The result of all this was a compro
mise; his Majesty, who, like other people, found the
sweets of authority more palatable than the bitter,
agreeing to get up on top of the tripod, where he
might appear seated on the machine of state, to
receive salutations, and eat and drink in peace,
leaving the others to settle among themselves who
should do the work at the bottom, as well as they
could. In brief, such is the history, and such was
the polity, of Leaphigh, when I had the honor of
visiting that country.

The Leaplowers were resolute to prove that all
this was radically wrong. They determined, in the
first place, that there should be but one great social
beam ; and, in order that it should stand perfectly
steady, they made it the duty of every citizen to
prop its base. They liked the idea of a tripod
well enough, but, instead of setting one up in the
Leaphigh fashion, they just reversed its form, and
stuck it on top of their beam, legs uppermost, placing
a separate agent on each leg, to work their machine
of state ; taking care, also, to send a new one aloft
periodically. They reasoned thus : If one of the
Leaphigh beams slip and they will be very apt to
slip in wet weather, with the King, nobles, and peo
ple wriggling and shoving against each other down
will come the whole machine of state, or, to say
the least, it will get so much awry as never to
work as well as at first; and therefore we will
have none of it. If, on the other hand, one of our


agents makes a blunder and falls, why, he will only
break his own neck. He will, moreover, fall in the
midst of us, and, should he escape with life, we can
either catch him and throw him back again, or we
can send a better hand up in his place, to serve out
the rest of his time. They also maintain that one
beam, supported by all the citizens, is much less
likely to slip than three beams, supported by three
powers of very uncertain, not to say unequal, forces.

Such, in effect, is the substance of the respective
National Allegories of Leaphigh and of Leaplow ;
I say Allegories, for both governments seem to rely
on this ingenious form of exhibiting their great dis
tinctive national sentiments. It would, in fact, be
an improvement, were all constitutions nenceforth
to be written in this manner, since they would ne
cessarily be more explicit, intelligible, and sacred,
than they are by the present attempt at literality.

Having explained the governing principles of
these two important states, I now crave the reader's
attention, for a moment, while I go a little into the
details of the modus operandi, in both cases.

Leaphigh acknowledged a principle, in the outset,
that Leaplow totally disclaimed, viz. that of pri
mogeniture. Being an only child myself, and having
no occasion for research on this interesting subject,
I never knew the basis of this peculiar right, until
I came to read the great Leaphigh commentator,
Whiterock, on the governing rules of the social
compact. I there found that the first-born, morally
considered, is thought to have better claims to
the honors of the genealogical tree, on the father's
side, than these offspring whose origin is to be
referred to a later period in connubial life. On this
obvious and highly discriminating principle, the
crown, the rights of the nobles, and indeed all
other rights, are transferred from father to son,


in the direct male line, according to primogeniture,
Nothing of this is practised in Leaplow. There,
the supposition of legitimacy is as much in favor
of the youngest as of the oldest born, and the prac
tice is in conformity. As there is no hereditary
chief to poise on one of the legs of the great tripod,
the people at the foot of the beam choose one
from among themselves, periodically, who is called
the Great Sachem. The same people choose an
other set, few in number, who occupy a common
seat, on another leg. These they term the Riddles.
Another set, still more numerous and popular in
aspect, if not in fact, fills a large seat on the third
leg. These last, from their being supposed to be
supereminently popular and disinterested, are fami
liarly known as the Legion. They are also pleas
ingly nicknamed the Bobees, an appellation that
took its rise in the circumstance that most of the
members of their body have submitted to the second
dock, and, indeed, have nearly obliterated every
sign of a cauda. I had, most luckily, been chosen
to sit in the House of Bobees, a station for which I
felt myself to be well qualified, in this great essen
tial at least ; for all the anointing and forcing re
sorted to by Noah and myself, during our voyage
out, and our residence in Leaphigh, had not pro
duced so much as a visible sprout in either.

The Great Sachem, the Riddles, and the Legion,
had conjoint duties to perform, in certain respects,
and separate duties, in others. All three, as they
owed their allegorical elevation to, so were they
dependent on, the people at the foot of the great
social stick, for approbation and reward, that is
to say, for all rewards other than those which they
have it in their power to bestow on themselves.
There was another authority, or agent of the pub
lic, that is equally perched on the social beam,


Ihough not quite so dependent as the three just
named, upon the main prop of the people, being
also propped by a mechanical disposition of the
tripod itself. These are termed the Supreme Arbi
trators, and their duties are to revise the acts of the
other three agents of the people, and to decide
whether they are or are not in conformity with the
recognized principles of the Sacred Allegory.

I was greatly delighted with my own progress
in the study of the Leaplow institutions. In the
first place, I soon discovered that the principal
thing was to reverse the political knowledge I had
acquired in Leaphigh, as one would turn a tub up
side-down, when he wished to draw from its stores
at a fresh end, and then I was pretty sure of being
within at least the spirit of the Leaplow law. Every
thing seemed simple, for all was dependent on the
common prop, at the base of the great social beam.

Having got a thorough insight myself, into the
governing principles of the system under which I
had been chosen to serve, I went to look up my
colleague, Captain Poke, in order to ascertain how
he understood the great Leaplow Allegory.

I found the mind of the sealer, according to a
beautiful form of speech already introduced in this
narrative, " considerably exercised," on the several
subjects that so naturally presented themselves to
a man in his situation. In the first place, he was
in a towering passion at the impudence of Bob in
presuming to offer himself as a candidate for the
Great Council ; and having offered himself, the rage
of the Captain was in no degree abated by the cir
cumstance of the young rascal's being at the head
of the poll. He most unreservedly swore " that no
subordinate of his should ever sit in the same legis
lative body with himself; that he was a republican
by birth, and knew the usages of republican go


vernments quite as well as the best patriot among
them ; and although he admitted that all sorts of
critturs were sent to Congress in his country, no
man ever knew an instance of a cabin-boy's being
sent there. They might elect just as much as they
pleased ; but coming ashore, and playing politician,
were very different things from cleaning his boots,
and making his coffee, and mixing his grog." The
Captain had just been waited on by a committee
of the Perpendiculars, (half the Leaplow commu
nity is on some committee or other,) by whom he
had been elected, and they had given notice, that
instructions would be sent in, forthwith, to all their
representatives, to perform Gyration No. 3., aa
soon after the meeting of the Council as possi
ble. He was no tumbler, and he had sent foi a
master of political saltation, who had just been with
him, practising. According to Noah's own state
ment, his success was any thing but flattering. " If
they would give a body room, Sir John," he said,
in a complaining accent, " I should think nothing
of it but you are expected to stand shoulder to
shoulder yard-arm and yard-arm, and throw
a flap-jack as handily as an old woman would toss
a johnny-cake! It's unreasonable to think of waring
ship without room ; but give me room, and I'll en
gage to get round on the other tack, and to luff
into the line again, as safely as the oldest cruiser
among 'em, though not quite so quick. They do go
about spitefully, that 's sartain !"

Nor were the Great National Allegories without
their difficulties. Noah perfectly understood the
images of the two tripods, though he was disposed
to think that neither was properly secured. A mast
would make but bad weather, he maintained, let it
be ever so well rigged and stay'd, without being
also securely stepped. He saw no use in trusting
the heels of the beams to anybody. Good lashings


were what were wanted, and then the people might
go about their private x (Fairs, and no fear the work
would fall. That the King of Leaphigh had no
memory, he could testify from bitter experience ;
nor did he believe that he had any conscience ; and,
chiefly he desired to know if we, when we got up
into our places on top of the three inverted beams,
among the other Bobees, were to make war on the
Great Sachem and the Riddles, or whether we
were to consider the whole affair as a good thing,
in which the wisest course would be to make fair
weather of it ?

To all these remarks and questions, I answered
as well as my own limited experience would allow;
taking care to inform my friend that he had con
ceived the whole matter a little too literally, as all
that he had been reading about the great political
beams, the tripods, and the legislative boxes, was
merely an allegory.

" And pray, then, Sir John, what may an alle
gory be ?"

" In this case, my good sir, it is a constitution.**

" And what is a constitution 1"

" Why, it is sometimes, as you perceive, an alle

" And are we not to be mast-headed, then, ac
cording to the book ?"

" Figuratively, only."

" But there are actually such critturs as the Great
Sachem, and the Riddles, and above all, the Bobees !
We are boney fie-diddle-tii-dee elected ?"

" Boney fie-diddle-di-dee."

"And may I take the liberty of asking, what it
is our duty to do ?"

"We are to act practically, according to the
literality of the legal, implied, figurative, allego
rical significations of the Great National Compact
under a legitimate construction."


" I fear we shall have to work double tides, Sir
John, to do so much in so short a time ! Do you
mean that, in honest truth, there is no beam ?"

" There is, and there is not."

" No fore, main, and mizzen-tops, according to
what is here written down ?"

" There is not, and there is."

" Sir John, in the name of God, speak out ! Is
all this about eight dollars a day, no better than a
take in?"

" That, I believe, is strictly literal."

As Noah now seemed a little mollified, I seizec
the opportunity to tell him he must beware how he
attempted to stop Bob from attending the Council.
Members were privileged, going and coming ; and
unless he was guarded in his course, he might have
some unpleasant collision with the serjeant-at-arms.
Besides, it was unbecoming the dignity of a legis
lator to be wrangling about trifles, and he to whom
was confided the great affairs of a state, ought to
attach the utmost importance to a grave exterior
which commonly was of more account with his
constituents than any other quality. Any one could
tell whether he was grave or not, but it was by no
means so easy a matter to tell whether he or his
constituents had the greatest cause to appear so.
Noah promised to be discreet, and we parted, not
to meet again until we assembled to be sworn in.

Before continuing the narrative, I will just men
tion that we disposed of our commercial investments
that morning. All the Leaphigh opinions brought
good prices ; and I had occasion to see how well
the Brigadier understood the market, by the eager
ness with which, in particular, the opinions on the
state of society in Leaplow, were bought up. But,
by one of those unexpected windfalls which raise
up so many of the chosen of the earth to their high
places, the cook did better than any of us. It will


be remembered, that he had bartered an article of
merchandise that he called slush against a neglect
ed bale of Distinctive Leaplow Opinions, which had
no success at all in Leaphigh. Coming as they did
from abroad, these articles had taken as a novelty
in Bivouac, and he sold them all before night, at
enormous advances ; the cry being that something
new and extraordinary had found its way into the
market !


How to enact laws Oratory, logic and eloquence, all consi
dered in their every-day aspects.

POLITICAL oaths are very much the same sort
of thing everywhere, and I shall say no more about
our inauguration than simply to state it took place
as usual. The two houses were duly organized,
and we proceeded, without delay, to the transaction
of business. I will here state that I was much
rejoiced to find Brigadier Downright among the
Bobees, the Captain whispering that most probably
he had been mistaken for an "immigrunt," and
chosen accordingly.

It was not a great while before the Great Sachem
sent us a communication, which contained a cample
rendu of the state of the nation. Like most accounts
it is my good fortune to receive, I thought it parti
cularly long. Agreeably to the opinions of this
document, the people of Leaplow were, by a good
deal, the happiest people in the world ; they were
also considerably more respected, esteemed, be
loved, honored, and properly appreciated, than any
other monikin community; and, in short, they were
the admiration and glory of the universe. I was
exceedingly glad to hear this, for some of the facts


were quite new to me ; a circumstance which shows
one can never get correct notions of a nation ex
cept from itself.

These important facts properly digested, we all
of us set about our several duties with a zeal that
spoke fairly for our industry and integrity. Things
commenced swimmingly, and it was not long before
the Riddles sent us a resolution for concurrence,
by way of opening the ball. It was conceived in
the following terms: "Resolved, that the color
which has hitherto been deemed to be black, is
really white."

As this was the first resolution that involved a
principle on which we had been required to vote, I
suggested to Noah the propriety of our going
round to the Brigadier, and inquiring what might
be the drift of so singular a proposition. Our col
league answered the question with great good na
ture, giving us to understand that the Perpendiculars
and the Horizontals had long been at variance on
the mere coloring property of various important
questions, and the real matter involved in the reso
lution was not visible. The former had always
maintained, (by always, he meant ever since the
time they maintained the contrary,) the doctrine
of the resolution, and the latter its converse. A
majority of the Riddles, just at this moment, are
Perpendiculars ; and, as it was now seen, they had
succeeded in getting a vote on their favorite prin

" According to this account of the matter, Sir
John," observed the Captain, " I shall be compelled
to maintain that black is white, seeing that I am
in on the Parpendic'lar interest?"

I thought with the Captain, and was pleased
that my own legislative debut was not to be char
acterized by the promulgation of any doctrine so
much at variance with my preconceived ways of


thinking. Curious, however, to know his opinion,
I asked the Brigadier in what light he felt disposed
to view the matter himself.

" I am elected by the Tangents," he said ; " and,
by what I can learn, it is the intention of our friends
to steer a middle course; and one of our leaders is
already selected, who, at a proper stage of the
affair, is to move an amendment."

" Can you refer me, my dear friend, to anything
connected with the Great National Allegory, that
bears on this point?"

" Why, there is a clause among the fundamental
and immutable laws, which it is thought was intend
ed to meet this very case; but, unhappily, the sages
by whom our Allegory was drawn up, have not
paid quite as much attention to the phraseology as
the importance of the subject demanded."

Here the Brigadier laid his finger on the clause
in question, and I returned to a seat to study its
meaning. It was conceived as follows : Art. IV.
Clause 6 : " The Grea' National Council shall, in
no case whatever, pass any law, or resolution, de
claring white to be black."

After studying this fundamental enactment to the
bottom, turning it on every side, and finally consi
dering it upside-down, I came to the conclusion that
its tenor was, on the whole, rather more favorable
than unfavorable to the horizontal doctrine. It
struck me, a very good argument was to be made
out of the constitutional question, and that it pre
sented a very fair occasion for a new member to
venture on a maiden speech. Having so settled the
matter, entirely to my own satisfaction, I held my
self in reserve, waiting for the proper moment to
produce an effect.

It was not long before the Chairman 01 the Com
mittee on toe Judiciary (one of the effects of the
resolution was entirely to change the coloring of


all testimony throughout the vast republic of Leap-
low) made his report on the subject-matter of the
resolution. This person was a Tangent, who had
a besetting wish to become a Riddle, although the
leaning of our house was decidedly horizontal;
and, as a matter of course, he took the Riddle side
of this question. The report, itself, required seven
hours in the reading, commencing with the subject
at the epocha of the celebrated caucus that was
adjourned sine die, by the disruption of the earth's
crust, and previously to the distribution of the great
monikin family into separate communities, and end
ing with the subject of the resolution in his hand.
The reporter had set his political palette with the
utmost care, having completely covered the subject
with neutral tints, before he got through with it ;
and glazing the whole down with ultramarine, in
such a way as to cause the eye to regard the mat
ter through a fictitious atmosphere. Finally, he
repeated the resolution, verbatim, and as it came
from the other house.

Mr. Speaker now called upon gentlemen to deli
ver their sentiments. To my utter amazement,
Captain Poke arose, put his tobacco back into its
box, and opened the debate, without apology.

The Honorable Captain paid he understood this
question to be one implicating the liberties of every
body. He understood the matter literally, as it was
propounded in the Allegory, and set forth in the
resolution ; and, as such, he intended to look at it
with unprejudyced eyes. " The natur* of this propo
sal lay altogether in color. What is color, after
all? Make the most of it, and in the most favorable
position, which, perhaps, is the cheek of a cornel)
young woman, and it is but skin-deep. He re
membered the time when a certain female in an
other part of the univarse, who is commonly called
Miss Poke, might have out-rosed the best rose in a


place called Stunin'tun; and what did it all amount
to 1 He should n't ask Miss Poke herself, for ob
vious reasons but he would ask any of the neigh
bors how she looked now? Quitting female natur',
fce would come to human natur' generally. He had

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 17) → online text (page 29 of 35)