The Old Black
Bull by Jonathan
It's poor human natur', all out, to wrangle and quarrel now and
then, from the kitchen to the parlor, in church and state. Even the
fathers of the holy tabernacle are not proof against this little
weakness; for people will have passions, people will belong to meetin',
and people will let their passions rise, even under the pulpit.
But we have no distinct recollection of ever having known a
misdirected, but properly interpreted letter, to settle a
chuckly plug muss, so efficiently and happily as the case we have in
Old John Bulkley (grandson of the once famous President Chauncey
) was a minister of the gospel, and one of the best edicated men
of his day in the wooden nutmeg State, when the immortal (or ought to
be) Jonathan Trumbull was around, and in his youth. Mr. Bulkley was
the first settled minister in the town of his adoption,
Colchester, Connecticut. It was with him, as afterwards with good old
brother Jonathan (Governor Trumbull, the bosom friend of General
Washington), good to confer on almost any matter, scientific,
political, or religiousany subject, in short, wherein common sense
and general good to all concerned was the issue. As a philosophical
reasoner, casuist, and good counselor, he was looked up to,
and abided by.
It so fell out that a congregation in Mr. Bulkley's vicinity got to
loggerheads, and were upon the apex of raising the evil one instead
of a spire to their church, as they proposed and split upon. The
very nearest they could come to a mutual cessation of the hostilities,
was to appoint a committee of three, to wait on Mr. Bulkley,
state their case, and get him to adjudicate. They waited on the
old gentleman, and he listened with grave attention to their
It appears to me, said the old gentleman, that this is a very
simple casea very trifling thing to cause you so much vexation.
So I say, says one of the committee.
I don't call it a trifling case, Mr. Bulkley, said another.
No case at all, responded the third.
It ain't, eh? fiercely answered the first speaker.
No, it ain't, sir! quite as savagely replied the third.
It's anything but a trifling case, anyhow, echoed number two, to
expect to raise the minister's salary and that new steeple, too, out of
our small congregation.
There is no danger of raising much out of you, anyhow, Mr.
Johnson, spitefully returned number one.
Gentlemen, if you please beseechingly interposed the sage.
I haven't come here, Mr. Bulkley, to quarrel, said one.
Who started this? sarcastically answered Mr. Johnson.
Not me, anyway, number three replies.
You don't say I did, do you? says number one.
Mr. Bulkley, you see how it is; there's Johnson
Yes, Mr. Bulkley, says Johnson, and there's old Winkles, too, and
here's Deacon Potter, also.
I am here, stiffly replied the deacon, and I am sorry the
Reverend Mr. Bulkley finds me in such company, sir!
Now, gentlemen, brothers, if you please, said Mr. Bulkley,
this is ridiculous,
So I say, murmured Mr. Winkles.
As far as you are concerned, it is ridiculous, said the
This brought Mr. Winkles up, standing.
Sir! he shouted, sir!
But my dear sirs beseechingly said the philosopher.
Sir! continued Winkles, sir! I am too old a mantoo good a
Christian, Mr. Bulkley, to allow a man, a mean, despicable toad,
like Deacon Potter
Do you call meme a despicable toad? menacingly
cried the deacon.
Brethren, said Mr. Bulkley, if I am to counsel you in your
difference, I must have no more of this unchristian-like bickering.
I do not wish to bicker, sir, said Johnson.
Nor I don't want to, sir, said the deacon, but when a man calls
me a toad, a mean, despicable toad
Well, well, never mind, said Mr. Bulkley; you are all too excited
now; go home again, and wait patiently; on Saturday evening next, I
will have prepared and sent to you a written opinion of your case, with
a full and free avowal of most wholesome advice for preserving your
church from desolation and yourselves from despair. And the committee
left, to await his issue.
Now it chanced that Mr. Bulkley had a small farm, some distance from
the town of Colchester, and found it necessary, the same day he wrote
his opinion and advice to the brethren of the disaffected church, to
drop a line to his farmer regarding the fixtures of said estate. Having
written a long, and of course, elaborate essay to his brethren, he
wound up the day's literary exertions with a despatch to the farmer,
and after a reverie to himself, he directs the two documents, and next
morning despatches them to their several destinations.
On Saturday evening a full and anxious synod of the belligerent
churchmen took place in their tabernacle, and punctually, as promised,
came the despatch from the Plato of the time and place,Rev. John
Bulkley. All was quiet and respectful attention. The moderator took up
the document, broke the seal, opened anda pause ensued, while dubious
amazement seemed to spread over the features of the worthy president of
Well, brother Temple, how is itwhat does Mr. Bulkley say? and
another pause followed.
Will the moderator please proceed? said another voice.
The moderator placed the paper upon the table, took off his
spectacles, wiped the glasses, then his lipsreplaced his specs upon
his nose, and with a very broad grin, said:
Brethren, this appears to me to be a very singular letter, to say
the least of it!
Well, read itread it, responded the wondering hearers.
I will, and the moderator began:
You will see to the repair of the fences, that they be built high
and strong, and you will take special care of the old Black Bull.
There was a general pause; a silent mystery overspread the
community; the moderator dropped the paper to a rest, and gazing over
the top of his glasses for several minutes, nobody saying a word.
Repair the fences! muttered the moderator at length.
Build them strong and high! echoed Deacon Potter.
Take special care of the old Black Bull! growled half the
Then another pause ensued, and each man eyed his neighbor in mute
A tall and venerable man now arose from his seat; clearing his voice
with a hem, he spoke:
Brethren, you seem lost in the brief and eloquent words of our
learned adviser. To me nothing could be more appropriate to our case.
It is just such a profound and applicable reply to us as we should have
hoped and looked for, from the learned and good man, John Bulkley. The
direction to repair the fences, is to take heed in the admission and
government of our members; we must guard the church by our Master's
laws, and keep out stray and vicious cattle from the fold! And, above
all things, set a trustworthy and vigilant watch over that old black
bull, who is the devil, and who has already broken into our enclosures
and sought to desolate and lay waste the fair grounds of our church!
The effect of this interpretation was electrical. All saw and
took the force of Mr. Bulkley's cogent advice, and unanimously
resolved to be governed by it; hence the old black bull was put hors
du combat, and the church preserved its union!