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could devise, to cause power and influence to pass into
new hands. This was the one great object of the whole
procedure, and, of course, it was not neglected.

When the new constitution was completed, it was re
ferred back to the people for approval. At this third ap
peal to the popular voice, rather less than half of all the
electors voted, the constitution being adopted by a majority
of one-third of those who did. By this simple, and exquisite
republican process, was the principle of the sway of major
ities vindicated, a new fundamental law for the colony pro
vided, and all the old incumbents turned out of office.
' Silence gives consent,' cried the demagogues, who forgot
they had no right to put their questions !

Religion had a word to say in these changes. The cir
cumstance that the governor was an Episcopalian recon
ciled many devout Christians to the palpable wrong that
was done him ; and it was loudly argued that a church
government of bishops, was opposed to republicanism, and
consequently ought not to be entertained by republicans.
This charming argument, which renders religious faith
secondary to human institutions, instead of human institu
tions secondary to religious faith, thus completely putting
the cart before the horse, has survived that distant revolu
tion, and is already flourishing in more eastern climes. It
is as near an approach to an idolatrous worship of self, as
human conceit has recently tolerated.

As a matter of course, elections followed the adoption
of the new constitution. Pennock was chosen governor
for two years ; the new lawyer was made judge ; the editor,
secretary of state and treasurer ; and other similar changes
were effected. All the Woolston connection were com
pletely laid on the shelf. This was not done so much by
the electors, with whom they were still popular, as by means
of the nominating committees. These nominating com
mittees were expedients devised to place the power in the
hands of a few, in a government of the many. The rule
of the majority is so very sacred a thing that it is found



442 TUB CRATER;

necessary to regulate it by legerdemain. No good repub*
lican ever disputes the principle, while no sagacious one
ever submits to it. There are various modes, however, of
defeating all ' sacred principles,' and this particular ' sacred
principle' among the rest. The simplest is that of caucus
nominations. The process is a singular illustration of the
theory of a majority-government. Primary meetings are
called, at which no one is ever present, but the wire-pullers
and their puppets. Here very fierce conflicts occur be
tween the wire-pullers themselves, and these are frequently
decided by votes as close as majorities of one, or two.
Making the whole calculation, it follows that nominations
are usually made by about a tenth, or even a twentieth of
the body of the electors ; and this, too, on the supposition
that they who vote actually have opinions of their own, as
usually they have not, merely wagging their tongues as the
wires are pulled. Now, these nominations are conclusive,
when made by the ruling party, since there are no con
certed means of opposing them. A man must have a fla
grantly bad character not to succeed under a regular nomi
nation, or he must be too honest for the body of the electors ;
one fault being quite as likely to defeat him as the other.

In this way was a great revolution effected in the colony
of the crater. At one time, the governor thought of knock
ing the whole thing in the head, by the strong arm ; as he
might have done, and would have been perfectly justified
in doing. The Kannakas were now at his command, and,
in truth, a majority of the electors were with him; but
political jugglery held them in duress. A majority of the
electors of the state of New York are, at this moment, op
posed to universal suffrage, especially as it is exercised in
the town and village governments, but moral cowardice
holds them in subjection. Afraid of their own shadows,
each politician hesitates to ' bell the cat.' What is more,
the select aristocrats and monarchists are the least bold in
acting frankly, and in saying openly what they think;
leaving that office to be discharged, as it ever will be, by
the men who true democrats, and not canting democrats
willing to give the people just as much control as they
know how to use, or which circumstances will allow them
to use beneficially to themselves, do not hesitate to speak



R, VBECAN'S PEAK. 443

with the candour and manliness of their principles. These
men call things by their right names, equally eschewing
the absurdity of believing that nature intended rulers to
descend from male to male, according to the order of pri
mogeniture, or the still greater nonsense of supposing it
necessary to obtain the most thrifty plants from the hot
beds of the people, that they may be transplanted into the
beds of state, reeking with the manure of the gutters.

The governor submitted to the changes, through a love
of peace, and ceased to be anything more than a private
citizen, when he had so many claims to be first, and when,
in fact, he had so long been first. No sovereign on his
throne, could write Gratia Dei before his titles with stricter
conformity to truth, than Mark Woolston ; but his right
did not preserve him from the ruthless plunder of the de
magogue. To his surprise, as well as to his grief, Pen-
nock was seduced by ambition, and he assumed the func
tions of the executive with quite as little visible hesitation,
as the heir apparent succeeds to his father's crown.

It would be untrue to say that Mark did not feel the
change ; but it is just to add that he felt more concern for
the future fate of the colony, than he did for himself or his
children. Nor, when he came to reflect on the matter, was
he so much surprised that he could be supplanted in this
way, under a system in which the sway of the majority was
so much lauded, when he did not entertain a doubt that
considerably more than half of the colony preferred the
old system to the new, and that the same proportion of the
people would rather see him in the Colony House, than to
see John Pennock in his stead. But Mark we must call
him the governor no longer had watched the progress of
events closely, and began to comprehend them. He had
learned the great and all-important political truth, THAT

THE MORE A PEOPLE ATTEMPT TO EXTEND THEIR POWER

DIRECTLY OVER STATE AFFAIRS, THE LESS THEY, IN

FACT, CONTROL THEM, AFTER HAVING ONCE PASSED THE
POINT OF NAMING LAWGIVERS AS THEIR REPRESENTA
TIVES ; MERELY BESTOWING ON A FEW ARTFUL MANAGERS
THE INFLUENCE THEY VAINLY IMAGINE TO HAVE SECURED

ro THEMSELVES. This truth should be written in letters
f gold, at every corner of the streets and highways in a



444 THE CRATER;

republic; for truth it is, and truth, those who press the fore*'
most on another path will the soonest discover it to be,
The mass may select their representatives, may know them,
and may in a good measure so far sway them, as to keep
them to their duties ; but when a constituency assumes to
enact the part of executive and judiciary, they not only get
beyond their depth, but into the mire. What can, what
does the best-informed layman, for instance, know of the
qualifications of this or that candidate to fill a seat on the
bench ! He has to take another's judgment for his guide ;
and a popular appointment of this nature, is merely trans
ferring the nomination from an enlightened, and, what is
everything, a RESPONSIBLE authonty, to one that is un
avoidably at the mercy of second persons for its means of
judging, and is as IRRESPONSIBLE AS AIR.

At one time, Mark Woolston regretted that he had not
established an opposition paper, in order to supply an anti
dote for the bane ; but reflection satisfied him it would have
been useless. Everything human follows its law, until
checked by abuses that create resistance. This is true of
the monarch, who misuses power until it becomes tyranny ;
of the nobles, who combine to restrain the monarch, until
the throes of an aristocracy-ridden country proclaim that
it has merely changed places with the prince ; of the people,
who wax fat and kick ! Everything human is abused ; and
it would seem that the only period of tolerable condition
is the transition state, when the new force is gathering to
a head, and before the storm has time to break. In the
mean time, the earth revolves, men are born, live their
time, and die ; communities are formed and are dissolved ;
dynasties appear and disappear; good contends with evil,
and evil still has its day ; the whole, however, advancing
slowly but unerringly towards that great consummation,
which was designed from the beginning, and which is as
certain to arrive in the end, as that the sun sets at night
and rises in the morning. The supreme folly of the hour
is to imagine that perfection will come before its stated
time.



OR. VULCAN'S PEAK. 445



CHAPTEE XXX.

* This is thy lesson, mighty sea !

Man calls the dimpled earth .his own,
The flowery vale, the golden lea ;

And on the wild gray mountain-stone
Claims nature's temple for his throne I

But where thy many voices sing
Their endless song, the deep, deep tone

Calls back his spirit's airy wing,
He shrinks into himself, when God is king \"

LuiCT.

FOR some months after the change of government, Mark
Woolston was occupied in attending to the arrangement
of his affairs, preparatory to an absence of some length.
Bridget had expressed a strong wish to visit America once
more, and her two eldest children were now of an age
when their education had got to be a matter of some soli
citude. It was <he intention of their father to send them
to Pennsylvania for that purpose, when the proper time
arrived, and to place them under the care of his friends
there, who would gladly take the charge. Recent events
probably quickened this intention, both as to feeling and
time, for Mark was naturally much mortified at the turn
things had taken.

There was an obvious falling-off in the affairs of the
colony from the time it became transcendantly free. In
religion, the sects ever had fair-play, or ever since the arri
val of the parsons, and that had been running down, from
the moment it began to run into excesses and exaggera
tions. As soon as a man begins to shout in religion, he
may be pretty sure that he is " hallooing before he is out
of the woods." It is true, that all our feelings exhibit
themselves, more or less, in conformity to habits and man
ners, but there is something profane in the idea that the
spirit of God manifests its presence in yells and clamour,
even when in possession of those who have not been
38



446 THE CRATER;

trained to the more subdued deportment of reason and
propriety. The shouting and declamatory parts of religion
may be the evil spirits growling and yelling before they are
expelled, but these must not be mistaken for the voice of
the Ancient of Days.

The morals decayed as religion obtained its false direc
tions. Self-righteousness, the inseparable companion of
the quarrels of sects, took the place of humility, and thus
became prevalent that most dangerous condition of the
soul of man, when he imagines that he sanctifies what he
does ; a frame of mind, by the way, that is by no means
strange to very many who ought to be conscious of their
unworthiness. With the morals of the colony, its prospe
rity, even in worldly interests, began to lose ground. The
merchants, as usual, had behaved badly in the political
struggle. The intense selfishness of the caste kept them
occupied with the pursuit of gain, at the most critical mo
ments of the struggle, or when their influence might have
been of use; and when the mischief was done, and they
began to feel its consequences, or, what to them was the
same thing, to fancy that the low price of oil in Europe
was owing to the change of constitution at the Crater,
they started up in convulsed and mercenary efforts to coun
teract the evil, referring all to money, and not manifesting
any particular notions of principles concerning the man
ner in which it was used. As the cooler heads of the
minority perhaps we ought to say of the majority, for,
oddly enough, the minority now actually ruled in Crater-
dom, by carrying out fully the principle of the sway of the
majority but, as the cooler heads of the colony well un
derstood that nothing material was to follow from such
spasmodic and ill-directed efforts, the merchants were not
backed in their rising, and, as commonly happens with the
slave, the shaking of their chains only bound them so
much the tighter.

At length the Rancocus returned from the voyage on
which she had sailed just previously to the change in the
constitution, and her owner announced his intention to go
in her to America, the next trip, himself. His brothers,
Heaton, Anne, their children, and, finally, Captain Betts,
Friend Martha, and their issue, all, sooner or later, joined



OR, VULCAH'S PEAK. 447

the party ; a desire to visit the low shores of the Dela*
ware once more, uniting with the mortification of the re
cent changes, to induce them all to wish to see the land
of their fathers before they died. All the oil in the colony
was purchased by Woolston, at rather favourable prices,
the last quotations from abroad being low: the ex-governor
disposed of most of his movables, in order to effect so
large an operation. He also procured a glorious collection
of shells, and some other light articles of the sort, filling
the ship as full as she could be stowed. It was then that
the necessity of having a second vessel became apparent,
and Belts determined to withdraw his brig from the fishery,
and to go to America in her. The whales had been driven
off the original fishing-ground, and the pursuit was no
longer as profitable as it had been, three fish having been
taken formerly to one now ; a circumstance the hierarchy
of the Crater did not fail to ascribe to the changes in the
constitution, while the journal attributed it to certain
aristocratical tendencies which, as that paper averred, had
crept into the management of the business.

The vessels were loaded, the passengers disposing of as
many of their movables as they could, and to good advan
tage, intending to lay in fresh supplies in Philadelphia, and
using the funds thus obtained to procure a freight for the
brig. At the end of a month, both vessels were ready ; the
different dwellings were transferred to new occupants,
some by lease and others by sales, and all those who con
templated a voyage to America were assembled at the
crater. Previously to taking leave of a place that had be
come endeared to him by so many associations and inte
rests, Mr. Woolston determined to take the Anne, hiring
her of the government for that purpose Governor Pennock
condescendingly deciding that the public interests would
not suffer by the arrangement and going in her once more
through the colony, on a tour of private, if not of official
inspection. Bridget, Heaton, Anne, and Captain Betts,
were of the party ; the children being left at the crater, in
proper custody.

The first visit was paid to Rancocus Island. Here the
damage done by the pirates had long been repaired ; and
the mills, kilns and other works, were in a state of pros-



448 THE CRATER;

perous industry, The wild hogs and goats were -now so
numerous as to be a little troublesome, particularly the for
mer ; but, a good many being shot, the inhabitants did not
despair of successfully contending with them for the pos
session of the place. There were cattle, also, on this isl
and ; but they were still tame, the cows giving milk, and
the oxen being used in the yoke. These were the descend
ants of the single pair Woolston had sent across, less than
twelve years before, which had increased in an arithmetical
proportion, care having been taken not to destroy any.
They now exceeded a hundred, of whom quite half were
cows; and the islanders occasionally treated themselves to
fresh beef. As cows had been brought into the colony in
every vessel that arrived, they were now in tolerably good
numbers, Mark Woolston himself disposing of no less than
six when he broke up his farming establishment for a visit
to America. There were horses, too, though not in as
great numbers as there were cows and oxen. Boats were
so much used, that roadsters were very little needed; and
this so much the less, on account of the great steadiness
of the trades. By this time, everybody understood the
last ; and the different channels of the group were worked
through with almost the same facility as would have been
the case with so many highways. Nevertheless, horses
were to be found in the colony, and some of the husband
men preferred them to the horned cattle in working their
lands.

A week was passed in visiting the group. Something
like a consciousness of having ill-treated Mark was to be
traced among the people ; and this feeling was manifested
under a well-known law of our nature, which rendered
those the most vindictive and morose, who had acted the
worst. Those who had little more to accuse themselves
of than a compliant submission to the wrong-doing of
others, in political matters everywhere the most numerous
class of all, received their visitors well enough, and in
many instances they treated their guests with delicacy and
distinction. On the whole, however, the late governor
derived but little pleasure from the intercourse, so much
mouthing imbecility being blended with the expressions of
regret and sympathy, as to cause him to mourn over tho



on, VULCAN'S PEAK. 449

compliance of his fellow-creatures, more than to rejoice at
their testimony in his own favour.

But, notwithstanding all these errors of man, nature and
time had done their work magnificently since the last
" progress" of Woolston among the islands. The channels
were in nearly every instance lined with trees, and the
husbandry had assumed the aspect of an advanced civiliza
tion. Hedges, beautiful in their luxuriance and flowers,
divided the fields ; and the buildings which contribute to
the comforts of a population were to be found on every
side. The broad plains of soft mud, by the aid of the sun,
the rains, the guano, and the plough, had now been some
years converted into meadows and arable lands ; and those
which still lay remote from the peopled parts of the group,
still nine-tenths of its surface, were fast getting the cha
racter of rich pastures, where cattle, and horses, and hogs
were allowed to roam at pleasure. As the cock crowed
from the midst of his attendant party of hens and chickens,
the ex-governor in passing would smile sadly, his thoughts
reverting to the time when its predecessor raised its shrill
notes on the naked rocks of the Reef!

That Reef itself had undergone more changes than any
other spot in the colony, as the Peak had undergone fewer.
The town by this time contained more than two hundred
buildings, of one ort ana anotner, and the population ex
ceeded five hundred souls. This was a small population
for so many tenements ; but the children, as yet, did not
bear a just proportion to the adults. The crater was the
subject of what to Mark Woolston was a most painful law
suit. From the first, he had claimed that spot as his private
property ; though he had conceded its use to the public,
under a lease, since it was so well adapted, by natural forma
tion, to be a place of refuge when invasions were appre
hended. But the crater he had found barren, and had ren
dered fertile ; the crater had even seemed to him to be an
especial gift of Providence bestowed on him in his misery ;
and the crater was his by possession, as well as by other
rights, when he received strangers into his association
None of the older inhabitants denied this claim. It is the
last comers who are ever the most anxious to dispute an
cient rights. As they can possess none of these established
38*



450 .H. TMB GRATBR;

privileges themselves, they dislike that others should enjoy
them; and association places no restraints on their cupi
dity. Pennock, once in the hands of " the people," was
obliged to maintain their rights, or what some among them
chose to call their rights ; and he authorized the attorney-
general to bring an action of ejectment against the party
in possession. Some pretty hard-faced trickery was at
tempted in the way of legislation, in order to help along
the claim of the public ; for, if the truth must be said, the
public is just ae wont to resort to such unworthy means to
effect its purposes as private individuals, when it is deemed
necessary. But there was little fear of the "people's"
failing; they made the law, and they administered it,
through their agents ; the power being now so completely in
their hands that it required twice the usual stock of human
virtue to be able to say them nay, as had formerly been the
case. God help the man whose rights are to be maintained
against the masses, when the immediate and dependent
nominees of those masses are to sit in judgment ! If the
public, by any inadvertency, have had the weakness to
select servants that are superior to human infirmities, and
who prefer to do right rather than to do as their masters
would have them, it is a weakness that experience will be
sure to correct, and which will not be often repeated.

The trial of this cause kept the Woolstons at the crater
a week longer than they would have remained. When the
cause was submitted to the jury, Mr. Attorney-General had
a great deal to say about aristocracy and privileged orders,
as well as about the sacred rights of the people. To hear
him, one might have imagined that the Woolstons were
princes, in the full possession of their hereditary states,
and who were dangerous to the liberties of the mass, in
stead of being what they really were, citizens without one
right more than the meanest man in the colony, and with
even fewer chances of maintaining their share of these
common rights, in consequence of the prejudice, and jea
lousy, and most of all, the envy, of the majority. Woolston
argued his own cause, making a clear, forcible and manly
appeal to the justice and good sense of the jury, in vindi
cation of his claims; which, on every legal as well as
equitable principle, was out of all question such as every



OR, VULCAN'S PEAK. 451

civilized community should have maintained. But the
great and most powerful foe of justice, in cases of this
sort, is SLANG ; and SLANG in this instance came very near
being too much for law. The jury were divided, ten going
for the ' people,' and two for the right ; one of the last be
ing Bigelow, who was a fearless, independent fellow, and
cared no more for the bug-bear called the ' people,' by the
slang-whangers of politics, than he did for the Emperor of
Japan.

The day after this fruitless trial, which left Mark's claim
in abeyance until the next court, a period of six months,
the intended travellers repaired on board ship, and the brig,
with her party, went to sea, under her owner, captain Betts,
who had provided himself with a good navigator in the
person of his mate. The Rancocus, however, crossed over
to the Peak, and the passengers all ascended to the plain,
to take leave of that earthly paradise. Nature had done so
much for this place, that it had been the settled policy of
Mark Woolston to suffer its native charms to be marred as
little as possible. But the Peak had ever been deemed a
sort of West-End of the Colony ; and, though the distribu
tion of it had been made very fairly, those who parted with
their shares receiving very ample compensations for them,
a certain distinction became attached to the residence on
the Peak. Some fancied it was on account of its climate;
some, because it was a mountain, and was more raised up
in the world than the low islands near it ; some, because it
had most edible birds, and the best figs ; but none of those
who now coveted residences there for their families, or the
name of residences there, would allow even to themselves,
what was the simple fact, that the place received it highest
distinction on account of the more distinguished individuals
who dwelt on it. At first, the name was given to several
settlements in the group, just as the Manhattanese have
their East and West Broadway ; and, just for the very same
reasons that have made them so rich in Broadways, they
will have ere long, first-fifth, second-fifth, and third-fifth
avenue, unless common sense begins to resume its almost
forgotten sway among the aldermen. But this demonstra



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 29) → online text (page 41 of 42)