James Fenimore Cooper.

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with great nations. What was war? Did gentle
men know ? He would tell them.

Here the orator drew a picture of war that
caused suffering monikinity to shudder. He viewed
it in its four leading points : its religious, its pecu
niary, its political, and its domestic penalties. He
described war to be the demon-state of the monikin
rnind ; as opposed to worship, to charity, brotherly
love, and all the virtues. On its pecuniary penal
ties, he touched by exhibiting a tax-sheet. Buttons
which cost six-pence a gross, he assured the house
would shortly cost seven-pence a gross. Here he
was reminded that monikins no longer wore but
tons. No matter, they bought and sold buttons,
and the effects on trade were just the same. The
political penalties of war he fairly showed to be
frightful ; but when he came to speak of the domes
tic penalties, there was not a dry eye in the house
Captain Poke blubbered so loud that I was in an
agony lest he should be called to order.


"Regard that pure spirit," he cried, "crushed as
t has been in the whirlwind of war. Behold her
standing over the sod that covers the hero of his
country, the husband of her virgin affections. In
vain the orphan at her side turns its tearful eye up
ward, and asks for the plumes that so lately pleased
its infant fancy; in vain its gentle voice inquires
when he is to return, when he is to gladden their
hearts with his presence" But I can write no more.
Sobs interrupted the speaker, and he took his seat
in an ecstasy of godliness and benevolence.

I hurried across the house, to beg the Brigadier
would introduce me to this just monikin without
a moment's delay. I felt as if I could take him to
my heart at once, and swear an eternal friendship
with a spirit so benevolent The Brigadier was too
much agitated, at first, to attend to me; but, after
wiping his eyes at least a hundred times, he finally
succeeded in arresting the torrents, and looked up
ward with a bland smile.

" Is he not a wonderful monikin ?"

" Wonderful indeed ! How completely he puts
us all to shame! Such a monikin can only be in
fluenced by the purest love for the species."

" Yes, he is of a class that we call the third moni-
kinity. Nothing excites our zeal like the principles
of the class of which he is a member !"

** How ! Have you more than one class of the
humane ?"

"Certainly the Original, the Representative
and the Speculative."

" I am devoured by the desire to understand the
distinctions, my dear Brigadier."

" The Original is an every-day class, that feels
under the natural impulses. The Representative is
a more intellectual division, that feels chiefly by
proxy. The Speculatives are those whose sympa-


thies are excited by positive interests, like the las*
speaker. This person has lately bought a farm by
the acre, which he is about to sell, in village lots,
by the foot, and war will knock the whole thing in
the head. It is this which stimulates his benevo
lence in so lively a manner."

" Why, this is no more than a development of
the social-stake system "

I was interrupted by the Speaker, who called the
house to order. The vote on the resolution of the
last orator was to be taken. It read as follows :

" Resolved, that it is altogether unbecoming the
dignity and character of Leapthrough, for Leaplow
to legislate on the subject of so petty a consideration
as a certain pitiful treaty between the two coun

" Unanimity unanimity !" was shouted by fifty
voices. Unanimity there was ; and then the whole
house set to work, shaking hands and hugging each
other, in pure joy at the success of the honorable
and ingenious manner in which it had got rid of
this embarrassing and impertinent question.


An effect of logarithms on morals An obscuration, a disser
tation, and a calculation.

THE house had not long adjourned before Cap
tain Poke and myself were favored with a visit
from our colleague Mr. Downright, who came on
an affair of absorbing interest. He carried in his
hand a small pamphlet ; and the usual salutations
were scarcely over, before he directed our attention


to a portion of its contents. It would seem that
Leaplow was on the eve of experiencing a great
moral eclipse. The periods and dates of the phe
nomenon (if that can be called a phenomenon
which was of too frequent occurrence) had been
calculated, with surprising accuracy, by the acade
my of Leaphigh, and sent, through its minister, as
an especial favor, to our beloved country, in order
that we should not be taken by surprise. The ac
count of the affair read as follows :

" On the third day of the season of nuts, there
will be the commencement of a great moral eclipse,
in that portion of the monikin region which lies
immediately about the pole. The property in eclipse
will be the great moral postulate usually designated
by the term Principle ; and the intervening body
will be the great immoral postulate, usually known
as Interest. The frequent occurrence of the con
junction of these two important postulates has
caused our moral mathematicians to be rather neg
ligent of their calculations on this subject, of late
years ; but, to atone for this inexcusable indifference
to one of the most important concerns of life, the
calculating committee was instructed to pay unusual
attention to all the obscurations of the present year
and this phenomenon, one of the most decided of
our age, has been calculated with the utmost nicety
and care. We give the results.

"The eclipse will commence by a motive of mo
nikin vanity coming in contact with the sub-postu
late of charity, at 1 A. M. The postulate in question
will be totally hid from view, in the course of 6 h.
17 in. from the moment of contact. The passage
of a political intrigue will instantly follow, when
the several sub-postulates of truth, honesty, disin
terestedness and patriotism, will all be obscured in
succession, beginning with the lower limb of the


first, and ending with all the limbs of the whole of
them, in 3 h. 42 m. from the moment of contact
The shadow of vanity and political intrigue will
first be deepened by the approach of prosperity,
and this will be soon succeeded by the contact of a
great pecuniary interest, at 10 h. 2 m. 1 s. ; and in
exactly 2 s. and 3-7 s., the whole of the great
moral postulate of Principle will be totally hid from
view. In consequence of this early passage of the
darkest shadow that is ever cast by Interest, the
passages of the respective shadows of ambition, ha
tred, jealousy, and all the other minor satellites of
Interest, will be invisible.

" The country principally affected by this eclipse
will be the republic of Leaplow, a community whose
known intelligence and virtues are perhaps better
qualified to resist its influence than any other. The
time of occultation will be 9 y. 7 m. 26 d. 4 h. 16
m. 2 s. Principle will begin to reappear to the
moral eye at the end of this period, first by the
approach of Misfortune, whose atmosphere being
much less dense than that of Interest, will allow of
imperfect views of the obscured postulate ; but the
radiance of the latter will not be completely restored
until the arrival of Misery, whose chastening
colors invariably permit all truths to be discernible,
although through a sombre medium. To resume:

" Beginning of eclipse, 1 A. M.
Ecliptic opposition, in 4 y. 6 m. 12 d. 9 h. from

beginning of eclipse.
Middle, in 4 y. 9 m. d. 7. h. 9 m.

from beginning of eclipse
End of eclipse, 9 y. 11 m. 20 d. 3 h. 2 m.

from beginning.
Period of occultation, 9 y. 7 m. 26 d. 4 h. 16 m. 2 s."

I gazed at the Brigadier in admiration and awe.
There was nothing remarkable in the eclipse itself,


which was quite an every-day affair ; but the preci
sion with which it had been calculated added to ita
other phenomena the terrible circumstance of ob
taining a glimpse into the future. I now began to
perceive the immense difference between living
consciously under a moral shadow, and living under
i ; unconsciously. The latter was evidently a trifle
compared to the former. Providence had most
kindly provided for our happiness in denying the
ability to see beyond the present moment.

Noah took the affair even more at heart than
myself. He told me, with a rueful and prognosti
cating countenance, that we were fast drawing near
to the autumnal equinox, when we should reach the
commencement of a natural night of six months'
duration; and although the benevolent substitute of
steam might certainly in some degree lessen the
evil, that it was a furious evil, after all, to exist for
a period so weary without enjoying the light of the
sun. He found the eternal glare of day bad enough,
but he did not believe he should be able to endure
its total absence. Natur' had made him a ' watch
and watch' crittur'. As for the twilight of which so
much was said, it was worse than nothin', being
neither one thing nor the other. For his part, he
liked things ' made out of whole cloth.' Then he
had sent the ship round to a distant roadstead, in
order that there might be no more post-captains
and rear-admirals among the people ; and here had
he been as much as four days on nothing but nuts.
Nuts might do for the philosophy of a monkey, but
he found, on trial, that it played the devil with the
philosophy of a man. Things were bad enough as
they were. He pined for a little pork he cared
not who knew it ; it might not be very sentimental,
he knew, but it was capital sea-food; his natur'
was pretty much pork ; he believed most men had,
in some way or other, more or less cork in their


Human natur's ; nuts might do for monikin natur',
but human natur' loved meat; if monikins did not
like it, monikins need not eat it; there would be so
much the more for those that did like it he pined
for his natural aliment, and as for living nine years
in an eclipse, it was quite out of the question. The
longest Stunin'tun eclipses seldom went over three
hours he once knew Deacon Spiteful pray quite
through one, from apogee to perigee. He therefore
proposed that Sir John and he should resign their
seats without delay, and that they should try to get
the Walrus to the north'ard as quick as possible, lest
they should be caught in the polar night. As for
the Hon. Robert Smut, he wished him no better luck
than to remain where he was all his life, and to
receive his eight dollars a day in acorns.

Although it was impossible not to hear, and, hav
ing heard, not to record the sentiments of Noah,
still my attention was much more strongly attracted
by the demeanor of the Brigadier, than by the jere
miad of the sealer. To an anxious inquiry if he
were not well, our worthy colleague answered
plaintively, that he mourned over the misfortune of
his country.

" I have often witnessed the passage of the pas
sions, and of the minor motives, across the disk of
the great moral postulate, Principle; but an occul-
tation of its light by a Pecuniary Interest, and for
so long a period, is fearful ! Heaven only knows
what will become of us !"

"Are not these eclipses, after all, so many mere
illustrations of the social-stake system ? I confess
this occultation, of which you seem to have so much
dread, is not so formidable a thing, on reflection, aa
it at first appeared to be."

" You are quite right, Sir John, as to the char
acter of the eclipse itself, which, as a matter of


course, must depend on the character of the inter
vening body. But the wisest and best of our phi
losophers hold that the entire system of which we
are but insignificant parts, is based on certain im
mutable truths of a divine origin. The premises, or
postulates, of all these truths, are so many moral
guides in the management of monikin affairs ; and,
the moment they are lost sight of, as will be the
case during these frightful nine years that are to
come, we shall be abandoned entirely to selfishness.
Now selfishness is only too formidable when re
strained by Principle ; but, left to its own grasping
desires and audacious sophisms, to me the moral
perspective is terrible. We are only too much ad
dicted to turn our eyes from Principle, when it is
shining in heavenly radiance, and in full glory,
before us; it is not difficult, therefore, to foresee
the nature of the consequences which are to follow
its total and protracted obscuration."

" You then conceive there is a rule superior to
interest, which ought to be respected in the control
of monikin affairs?"

" Beyond a doubt ; else in what should we differ
from the beasts of prey?"

u I do not exactly see whether this does, or does
not, accord with the notions of the political econo
mists of the social-stake system."

"As you say, Sir John, it does, and it does noL
Your social-stake system supposes that he who has
what is termed a distinct and prominent interest in
society, will be the most likely to conduct its affairs
wisely, justly, and disinterestedly. This would be
true, if those great principles which lie at the root
of all happiness were respected ; but unluckily, the
stake in question, instead of being a stake in jus
tice and virtue, is usually reduced to be merely a
stake in property. Now, all experience shows that


the great property-incentives are to increase pro
perty, protect property, and to buy with property
those advantages which ought to be independent of
property, viz. honors, dignities, power and immu
nities. I cannot say how it is with men, but our
histories are eloquent on this head. We have had
the property-principle carried out thoroughly in our
practice, and the result has shown that its chief
operation is to render property as intact as pos
sible, and the bones, and sinews, and marrow of all
who do not possess it, its slaves. In short, the time
has been, when the rich were even exempt from con
tributing to the ordinary exigencies of the state.
But it is quite useless to theorize on this subject, for,
by that cry in the streets, the lower limb of the great
postulate is beginning to be obscured, and, alas ! we
shall soon have too much practical information."

The Brigadier was right. On referring to the
clocks, it was found that, in truth, the eclipse had
commenced some time before, and that we were
on the verge of an absolute occultation of Princi
ple, by the basest and most sordid of all motives,
Pecuniary Interest.

The first proof that was given of the true state
of things, was in the language of the people. The
word interest was in every monikin's mouth, while
the word principle, as indeed was no more than
suitable, seemed to be quite blotted out of the Leap-
low vocabulary. To render a local term into
English, half of the vernacular of the country ap
peared to be compressed into the single word " dol
lar." " Dollar dollar dollar" nothing but " dol
lar!" "Fifty thousand dollars twenty thousand
dollars a hundred thousand dollars" met one at
every turn. The words rang at the corners in the
public ways at the exchange in the drawing-
rooms ay, even in the churches. If a temple had
been reared for the worship of the Creator, the first


question was, how much did it cost ? If an artist
submitted the fruits of his labors to the taste of his
fellow-citizens, conjectures were whispered among
the spectators, touching its value in the current
coin of the republic. If an author presented the
offspring of his genius to the same arbiters, its
merits were settled by a similar standard; and one
divine, who had made a strenuous, but an ill-timed
appeal to the charity of his countrymen, by setting
forth the beauties as well as the rewards of the
god-like property, was fairly put down by a demon
stration that his proposition involved a considerable
outlay, while it did not clearly show much was to
be gained by going to heaven !

Brigadier Downright had good reasons for his
sombre anticipations, for all the acquirements, know
ledge, and experience, obtained in many years of
travel, were now found to be worse than useless.
If my honorable colleague and co-voyager ventured
a remark on the subject of foreign policy, a portion
of politics to which he had given considerable atten
tion, it was answered by a quotation from the stock-
market ; an observation on a matter of taste was
certain to draw forth a nice distinction between the
tastes of certain liquors, together with a shrewd in
vestigation of their several prices ; and once, when
the worthy monikin undertook to show, from what
struck me to be singularly good data, that the foreign
relations of the country were in a condition to re
quire great firmness, a proper prudence, and much
foresight, he was completely silenced by an an
tagonist showing, from the last sales, the high value
of lots up-town!

In short, there was no dealing with any subject
that could not resolve itself into dollars, by means
of the customary exchanges. The infatuation spread
*rom father to son; from husband to wife; from


brother to sister, and from one collateral to an
other, until it pretty effectually assailed the whole
of what is usually termed " society." Noah swore
bitterly at this antagonist state of things. He af
firmed that he could not even crack a walnut in a
corner, but every monikin that passed appeared to
grudge him the satisfaction, small as it was; and
that Stunin'tun, though a scramble-penny place as
any he knew, was paradise to Leaplow, in the
present state of things.

It was melancholy to remark how the lustre of
the ordinary virtues grew dim, as the period of oc-
cultation continued, and the eye gradually got to be
accustomed to the atmosphere cast by the shadow
of Pecuniary Interest. I involuntarily shuddered
at the open and undisguised manner in which indi
viduals, who might otherwise pass for respectable
monikins, spoke of the means that they habitually
employed in effecting their objects, and laid bare their
utter forgetfulness of the great postulate that was
hid. One coolly vaunted how much cleverer he was
than the law; another proved to demonstration that
he had outwitted his neighbor ; while a third, more
daring or more expert, applied the same grounds
of exultation to the entire neighborhood. This had
the merit of cunning; that of dissimulation ; another
of deception, and all of success !

The shadow cast its malign influence on every
interest connected with monikin life. Temples were
raised to God on speculation ; the government was
perverted to a money-investment, in which profit,
and not justice and security, was the object ; holy
wedlock fast took the aspect of buying and selling,
and few prayed who did not identify spiritual bene
fits with gold and silver.

The besetting propensity of my ancestor soon
began to appear in Leaplow. Many of these pure


and unsophisticated republicans shouted ** Property
is in danger !" as stoutly as it was ever roared by
Sir Joseph Job, and dark allusions were made to
" revolutions" and " bayonets." But certain proof
of the prevalence of the eclipse, and that the shadow
of Pecuniary Interest lay dark on the land, was to
be found in the language of what are called the
" few." They began to throw dirt at all opposed
to them, like so many fish-women; a sure symptom
that the spirit of selfishness was thoroughly awa
kened. From much experience, I hold this sign
to be infallible that the sentiment of aristocracy is
active and vigilant. I never yet visited a country
in which a minority got into its head the crotchet
it was alone fit to dictate to the rest of its fellow-
creatures, that it did not, without delay, set about
proving its position, by reviling and calling names.
In this particular "the few" are like women, who,
conscious of their weakness, seldom fail to make
up for the want of vigor in their limbs, by having
recourse to the vigor of the tongue. The " one"
hangs; the "many" command by the dignity of
force ; the " few" vituperate and scold. This is, I
believe, the case all over the world, except in those
peculiar instances, in which the "few" happen also
to enjoy the privilege of hanging.

It is worthy of remark that the terms "rabble,"
"disorganizes," "jacobins," and " agrarians"* were

* It is scarcely necessary to tell the intelligent reader
there is no proof that any political community was ever so
bent on self-destruction as to enact agrarian laws, in the vul
gar sense in which it has suited the arts of narrow-mindea
politicians to represent them ever since the revival of letters.
The celebrated agrarian laws of Rome did not essentially dif
fer from the distribution of our own military lands, or perhaps
the similitude is greater to the modern Russian military colo
nies. Those who feel an interest in this subject would do
well to consult Niebuhr. Note fey the Editor.


bandied from one to the other, in Leaplow, undo/
this malign influence, with precisely the same jus
tice, discrimination and taste, as they had been used
by my ancestor in London, a few years before.
Like causes notoriously produce like effects ; and
there is no one thing so much like an Englishman
under the property-fever, as a Leaplow monikin
suffering under the same malady.

The effect produced on the state of parties by
the passage of the shadow of Pecuniary Interest,
was so singular as to deserve our notice. Patriots
who had long been known for an indomitable reso
lution to support their friends, openly abandoned their
claims on the rewards of the little wheel, and went
over to the enemy ; and this, too, without recourse
to the mysteries of the "flap-jack." Judge People's
Friend was completely annihilated for the moment
so much so, indeed, as to think seriously of taking
another mission for, during these eclipses, long ser
vice, public virtue, calculated amenity, and all the
other bland qualities of your patriot, pass for nothing,
when weighed in the scale against profit and loss.
It was fortunate the Leapthrough question was, in its
essence, so well disposed of, though the uneasiness
of those who bought and sold land by the inch,
pushed even that interest before the public again
by insisting that a few millions should be expended
in destroying the munitions of war, lest the natior
might improvidently be tempted to make use of
them in the natural way. The cruisers were ac
cordingly hauled into the stream and converted
into tide-mills, the gun-barrels were transformed
into gas-pipes, and the forts were converted, as fast
as possible, into warehouses and tea-gardens. After
this, it was much the fashion to affirm that the
advanced state of civilization had rendered all future
wars quite out of the question. Indeed, the impetus


.hat was given, oy the effects of the shadow, in this
way, to humanity in gross, was quite as remark
able as were its contrary tendencies on humanity
in detail.

Public opinion was not backward in showing how
completely it was acting under the influence of the
shadow. Virtue began to be estimated by rent-rolls
The affluent, without hesitation, or, indeed, opposi
tion, appropriated to themselves the sole use 01 the
word respectable, while taste, judgment, honesty,
and wisdom, dropped like so many heir-looms
quietly into the possession of those who had money.
The Leaplowers are a people of great acuteness,
and of singular knowledge of details. Every con
siderable man in Bivouac soon had his social station
assigned him, the whole community being divided
into classes, of " hundred-thousand-dollar monikins"
" fifty-thousand-dollar monikins" " twenty-thou
sand-dollar monikins." Great conciseness in lan
guage was a consequence of this state of feeling.
The old questions of-' is he honest ?' ' is he capable v
1 is he enlightened ?' ' is he wise ?' ' is he good ?'
being all comprehended in the single interrogatory
of ' is he rich ?'

There was one effect of this very unusual state
of things, that I had not anticipated. All the money-
getting classes, without exception, showed a singu
lar predilection in favor of what is commonly called
a strong government ; and Leaplow being not only
a republic, but virtually a democracy, I found that
much the larger portion of this highly respectable
class of citizens, was not at all backward in ex
pressing its wish for a change.

"How is this?" I demanded of the Brigadier,
whom I rarely quitted ; for his advice and opinions
were of great moment to me, just at this particular

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 17) → online text (page 31 of 35)