The Merry Tales of the Three Wise Men of Gotham
by James Kirke Paulding
TALES OF THE
THREE WISE MEN
OF GOTHAM. THE
MAN MACHINE; OR,
THE PUPIL OF
STORY OF THE
SECOND WISE MAN
STORY OF THE
THIRD WISE MAN
"Three Wise Men of Gotham
"Went to Sea in a Bowl:
"If the Bowl had been stronger,
"My Tales had been longer."
Although most of the celebrated cities of antiquity have been
described with such accuracy, and their situations pointed out with so
much precision, that there is little difficulty in at least making a
tolerable guess at their remains; yet are there two most remarkable
exceptions. To this day no one has succeeded in establishing beyond
question where Babylon once stood, and still less have the most
indefatigable inquiries even led to a reasonable conjecture as to the
site of the little less renowned city of Gotham. No circumstance can
furnish a higher proof of the superiority of the works of the head,
over those of the hands, than that the fame of these two great cities
should have been preserved in books long after every other certain
vestige of their existence, had perished from the face of the earth.
History, sacred and profane, alone preserves the remembrance of
Babylon; and of Gotham, we possess scarcely any other memorial than the
immortal lines, to be found in the title-page of this work. And this
example furnishes a striking proof of the importance of heroes, poets
and philosophers in cities and states. How many of these have been
utterly forgotten in the lapse of time, merely for want of some great
man to rescue them from oblivion! How many of the most insignificant
have, on the contrary, become renowned solely in consequence of having
been the birth-place or residence of some illustrious citizen! Who
would ever have heard of Stagira, but for the nativity of Aristotle?
Who would have remembered half the cities that contended for the honour
of being the birth-place of Homer, had it not been for that illustrious
rivalry? who would not go ten miles out of the way to avoid Arpinum,
but for the glory of Cicero? And who, finally, would ever have dreamed
of the existence of such a city as Gotham, had it not been for the
unparalleled distinction of having possessed three sages at one and the
same time, a circumstance which places her far above all the cities of
ancient Greece. They had their single wise men; and all that the force
of ancient genius seems to have been capable of, was to produce one of
these at a time. In short, a thousand proofs are extant to show that
the memory of illustrious men constitutes those everlasting links which
bind together the different ages and nations of the earth; and that
were it not for these indestructable landmarks of time, we should
scarcely have any thing to remind us, that we have been preceded by
hundreds of generations.
These reflections may serve to place in a more striking point of
view the ingratitude of mankind, in so often neglecting or persecuting
those profound sages and philosophers, who not only confer upon them
while living the most substantial benefits, but carry the renown of
their birth-place to the latest posterity. The virtues, talents, and
glorious services, of illustrious men of every nation, constitute their
best inheritance, their most rational source of pride and exultation,
and it has often happened that the renown of a people, like that of the
Thebans, began and ended with a single man. Yet how often we find
nations either entirely indifferent to their best benefactors, or
persecuting them with all the barbarous rigors of religious, political,
or philosophical intolerance! Not to mention the numerous instances
recorded of ancient times, we shall find, even in the most enlightened
ages, humanized by the mild and forgiving precepts of Christianity,
these examples if possible still more numerous and flagrant. Galileo is
a hackneyed instance; but it is not so generally known that Newton was
charged by biogtry and ignorance with holding opinions at war with
orthodoxy, and Locke expelled from that reverend bedlam, Oxford, by
political intolerance. Among the most illustrious reformers, as well
as the most enlightened of reasoners, Melancthon, Erasmus, and even
Theodore Beza, were suspected and denounced, because they did not keep
pace with the rampant zealots of the times, who would willingly have
warmed them at the stake. In short, it would seem to be among the
inflexible dispensations of Providence, that no selfish motive should
ever operate upon the great benefactors of mankind, in their glorious
endeavours, since all they can rationally anticipate as their reward in
this world, is to pass their lives amid persecutions and slanders,
among a race of ungrateful beings, who never become sensible of their
ingratitude or their obligations, still it is too late to make
Owing to this waywardness of mankind it has happened, that now when
a disposition prevails to do justice to the illustrious dead, and for
want of a sufficient number of distinguished persons to employ the pens
of the innumerable biographers that stand ready, pen in hand, to strip
the dead before they are cold, and lay their foibles open to the world,
they are fain to bestow their labours on persons whose greatest merit
is their insignificance.—Owing to this, I say, it has happened that
not only the precise place occupied by the famous city of Gotham, but
likewise the æra in which her three sages flourished, cannot now be
ascertained. All that can be done is to grope in the obscurity of vague
conjecture, and then leave the matter more obscure than before. It may
be, however, worth while to pass in review the different opinions
heretofore advanced upon this important point.
Some will have it, that Gotham was the ancient capital of the Goths,
of whom, we thank our stars, king Roderick was the last, according to
Mr. Southey. At any rate we hope it will be the last of the laureate's
epics. Others, on the contrary, have maintained with great zeal that
Gotham is a corruption of Gotha, the seat of a northern university,
where they philosophise pretty deeply, and study metaphysics. A third
class of inquirers affirm, that such a city never existed, because they
have not been able to find any traces of its existence, which in our
opinion is the poorest reason in the world. The four lines of our
title-page, furnish better proof of its existence than all the
fragments of Carthage, or stately ruins of Thebes and Palmyra.
Antiquaries ought to blush for such frivolous doubts! They are utterly
unworthy of the strong faith which should ever animate this class of
Among the vast variety of opinions upon this point, that which
identifies Gotham with the famous city of Gottingen, which is the seat
of a university, founded by the renowned Baron Munchausen, is not the
least plausible at first sight. There are numerous examples not only of
cities but of empires, whose names, being ill adapted to poetry, have
been changed into others more musical and harmonious. In short, almost
all countries have a prosaical and a poetical name—Gallia, Iberia,
Ausonia, Hesperia, Albion, Hibernia, Columbia, and a hundred others,
will at once occur to the general reader. It will readily be concealed
by all unprejudiced persons, that Gottingen, is neither sonorous,
musical or poetical, and therefore without any great violation of
probability, we may suppose a poet of a delicate ear would soften it
down to Gotham, a name wonderfully adapted to poetry. But there is a
still stronger presumption in favour of this opinion. At Gottingen, as
we are credibly informed, the professors actually adventure upon animal
magnetism, phrenology and such dangerous sciences, which would seem to
justify a shrewd suspicion, they would not be a whit too good to
venture out to sea in a large bowel, well ballasted with punch, such as
whilom used to be placed upon the smoking board of a jolly New
Netherlander, by four stout menials on new year's eve, ere the dire
irruption of liqueurs, and other outlandish poisons. Nor would this
adventure have appeared so rash as might seem at first sight, since we
have been assured by a person of great experience in nautical affairs
and punch drinking, that there is a natural antipathy between salt
water and punch, insomuch that being once half seas over, he fell into
the ocean with a bowl of punch in his hands, and floated several
hours, quietly sipping, until he was taken up again; not a single drop
of sea water had polluted his beverage all this while. He declares a
punch bowl is far preferable to a life boat, and a skin well lined with
punch, a thousand times superior to a cork jacket. These facts are
sufficient to put to the blush, all those who conceive it any
imputation upon our Three Wise Men, that they should venture to sea in
But there is one opinion put forth by certain English writers, who,
if they could bring it about, would not leave the rest of the world a
single philosopher, which we are inclined to treat with infinite
contempt. We mean the absurd notion, that Gothan is actually a town in
Northamptonshire, or rather a rotten borough, which, although entirely
destitute of inhabitants, returns three members, who are generally
called the Wise Men of Gotham, because they instinctively vote with the
ministry, agreeably to the instructions of their constituents. It is
said that this place was remarkable for goats in the time of William
the conqueror, and that the people used to ride them, instead of
horses, which, in the opinion of some, gave rise to their being called
the Wise Men, or according to the opinions of others, the Mad Men of
Gotham. A great Oxford antiquary, of whom it has been said that he
remembered whatever others forgot, and forgot whatever other people
remembered, speaks of the "Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham," a
work in great repute in his time, when the kindest name given to a
philosopher, was that of madman, a phrase which often saved him from
the stake or the block. This work was long supposed to be extinct, but
at length came to light, not long since, at Mr. Bindley's sale, and was
bought by a young American traveller for a trifle, owing to the
deplorable ignorance of two munificent noblemen, who little suspected
that it was the only copy in the known world, and for that reason
considered it as worth nothing.
It is this work which is now presented to the reader, divested of
its antique garb, that it may be more extensively circulated and
understood, and restored to its genuine title of the "Merry Tales of
the Three Wise Men of Gotham." It was thought inhuman to hoard up the
treasure, and keep all this huge bundle of knowledge to ourselves,
after the manner of certain great lovers of literature, who think a
book is like a mistress, of no value if her beauties are enjoyed by
another. But to return to our subject.
Though we have adopted the work as genuine, we are by no means
inclined to humour the English writers in their claim to this
illustrious city. They are welcome to London and Liverpool, and even to
Oxford and Cambridge, with all our heart. But as to the renowned city
of Gotham, we will not yield a single hair of its head to England or
any other country. We are willing to let the matter rest as it is, so
that every nation may have an equal claim, but our disinterestedness
will go no farther. All we will concede is, that Gotham, like some
illustrious philosophers and benefactors of the human race, is a city
belonging to the whole civilized world. The emporium of the arts, the
head-quarters of philosophy, and the illustrious seat of the perfection
of reason. Whether in the new or the old world, is of little
consequence, since such is its glory and renown, that there is quite
enough of it to satisfy half a dozen worlds. Leaving this part of our
inquiry to take care of itself, we will proceed to discuss other
equally important matters.
It cannot be sufficiently lamented by those who rightly consider the
forgetting of any thing a great misfortune, whether it was worth
remembering or not, that such a culpable carelessness and indifference
prevailed in early times in respect of the little peculiarities and
private particulars which no doubt distinguished the great men of those
days. It is melancholy to think how much we read, and how little we
know of, the great writers of antiquity. The race of pains-taking
biographers, who in the present age so amply furnish all these
interesting particulars, was unknown at that time, at least none of
their works have come down to us. It is owing in a great measure to
this circumstance, that the great men of antiquity preserve a sort of
prescriptive superiority over the moderns; not that they were really
wiser or more virtuous, or brave, but because there were no prying,
curious, industrious, pains-taking persons, who noted their foibles,
set down their folly for wisdom, and made use of the intimacy they had
obtained by cringing sycophancy, to furnish themselves with materials
to shame them with posterity.
Thus it is that the ancients tower above the moderns, because of the
former we know scarcely any thing but what is great, and the greatness
of the latter is overshadowed by littlenesses. Their virtues and vices,
their wisdom and folly, their magnanimity and meanness, their strength
and their weakness, are so mixed up, and withal so impartially dwelt
upon by the faithful biographer, that we approach the most illustrious
sage with the familiarity of a pert valet, by long service become
acquainted with all the foibles and secrets of his master. We become as
it were quite relieved from that sense of degrading inferiority
inspired by the naked simplicity of ancient virtue, as handed down to
us by writers so neglectful of their duty, as one half the time to
forget whether their heroes had in reality any vices to bring them down
to the level of humanity.
Still more is it to be regretted that the noble ambition of
collecting those works which derive their peculiar value from having
been long since forgotten, did not originate somewhat earlier, and
before so many valuable relics, so much invaluable information, had
been irretrievably lost. Follies and weaknesses that might have been
dignified by the examples of illustrious men, are become degraded by
being supposed to appertain exclusively to the vulgar; and the mousing
gossips of literature cheated of all chance of pulling to pieces the
character of an ancient worthy.
This blameable neglect in recording the littlenesses and preserving
memorials of the vices of great persons, can perhaps best be accounted
for and excused, on the supposition that a great portion of the now
illustrious sages of antiquity had not their merits brought to light
until long after they were dead, when the only memorials of their
having once existed, were their immortal works. Conquerors, heroes, and
fashionable bards, receive the admiration of their cotemporaries, and
reap their harvest while living; but sages and virtuous men must, for
the most part, content themselves with being venerated in their ashes,
and rewarded in a future world. The difference between the mere vulgar
idol of a fashionable mob, and the retired votary of wisdom, genius,
and virtue, is, that the one is remembered while living and forgot when
dead, while the other emerges to light and immortality at the moment he
ceases to live. It is then that the literary "resurrection men," for
the first time, discover that he is worth disinterring, and that they
set about disturbing his ashes, and raking up, with pious industry, the
memory of all those little, frivolous, and impertinent particulars, the
knowledge of which answers little other purpose but that of adding to
our contempt for poor human nature. Thus it is, that the longer the
time which clapses after the death of great men, before mankind
discover they were really great, the more fortunate for their lasting
reputation. They revive with greater lustre, when all the little clouds
and shadows which dimmed their glories are passed away, and appear in
the imperishable brightness of their own immortal productions. Of
Homer, Shakspeare, and the few names that occupy the summit of the
temple of Fame, how little do we know; while every body knows all about
the lesser lights, that will twinkle for a little while in the darkness
which surrounds them, and then go out for ever. The "Great Unknown,"
has, we are credibly informed, not less than six industrious
"resurrection men," watching day and night only for the breath to be
fairly out of his body, to make an example of him. Nay, so impatient
are they for his decease, that it is currently rumoured on this side
the water, they have it in serious contemplation to make away with him
the first convenient opportunity, in their apprehension that he will
cheat them of his biography, by unluckily outliving them all. We
earnestly advise him not to go out at night, nor wander in solitary
places; or at least, if he will, to wear a coat of mail, and take every
reasonable precaution. It would be twice unfortunate, to be first made
away with, in cold blood, and afterward murdered in a biography. The
best way, we think, and we advise him to it forthwith, will be to write
his own life, after the manner of certain persecuted worthies, who, in
order to disappoint the mob of a public spectacle, fairly hang
themselves up the night before execution. Be this as it may, it is,
without doubt, owing in a great measure to the fact, that our Three
Wise Men were of the class of the immortals who live only in after
ages, that their fame has lain thus long, as it were in abeyance, while
so many insignificant persons have been handed down with honour, not
indeed from generation to generation, but from the reviewer to the
magazines, and from the magazines to the newspapers.
A still greater uncertainty, obtains in respect to the precise æra
in which our sages flourished, than exists in relation to the place of
their nativity. In the original Black Letter copy, neither the date of
the publication, nor the name of the printer, are preserved, so that we
are left entirely in the dark, as to these interesting particulars.
Neither can any thing decisive be inferred, from the nature of the
topics discussed, or the events alluded to, in the course of the work,
since nothing is more certain than that the opinions as well as the
events of the world, like the world itself, are perpetually moving in a
circle. Revolving years, as they bring about a return of the same
seasons, and the same fashions in dress, reproduce at the same time
similar errors of the vulgar, and absurdities of the wise. Old errors
are pretty sure to return, after having been absent long enough to be
forgotten, under a new name, and with a new face. They are like
spaniels; we cannot beat them from us. Thus it is, in like manner, with
the theories and inventions which are daily passed upon us for
original, but which for the most part, will be found to be nothing more
than revivals of old and exploded fashions, which the world had wore
till it was tired, and then thrown by among the lumber of antiquity,
for some new rattle, that had its day, and then followed its
predecessor, quietly into a temporary oblivion. To argue then that the
following work is modern, because it treats of topics fashionable at
the present day, is in effect to deny, what is certainly true, that one
age is a mere edition of another, with some alterations, but the
contents substantially the same. It tickles human vanity, to tell us,
that we are wiser than our fathers; and it is one of those
propositions, which is likely to pass without contradiction, from the
circumstance that all those most interested in denying it, are dead
and gone. But if the grave could speak, and the churchyards vote upon
the question, we living boasters would be in a most pitiful minority.
That the knowledge of mankind is not always progressive, and one age
inevitably wiser than another, is exemplified most miserably in the
history of the world. It is only to cast our eyes towards the country
of Homer, of Aristotle, and of Socrates, to behold millions of living
testimonies to prove that the mind of man, like the crab, moves
backwards and forwards with equal facility, and that ages of knowledge
seem naturally succeeded by ages of ignorance. Man cannot do or know
every thing at once; and it is not altogether improbable, that in
proportion as a succeeding age adds to the knowledge of a preceding
one, it makes way for it, by displacing something equally important.
Men may forget as well as learn; and, without doubt, many, very many,
wise and virtuous habits and practices have been from time to time
elbowed out of the world, to make room for outlandish and pestilent
novelties. He, therefore, who should take upon him, to pronounce this
work a production of the present age, merely on the authority of the
topics it discusses, would very probably decide that the elderly
gentlemen about town are all young, because some of them dress like
dandies, dance cotillions, and aspire to the possession of youthful
Some may suppose that the names of the Three Wise Men, might
possibly lead to detection. But we feel bound in candour to confess
that these are of our own invention. Such is the innate modesty of true
wisdom, that not one of this illustrious trio ever took occasion to
disclose his name to any living person, so far as we have been able to
discover. Certain it is, that if they did, the author or compiler,
whose name is equally unknown, has either wilfully or ignorantly
omitted it through the whole course of the work, leaving blanks, which
we thought proper to fill up to the best of our judgment, as the
frequent omissions had an unpleasant effect on the eye of the reader.
The circumstance of their going to sea in a bowl, we are rather
inclined to consider as allegorical; or perhaps it may be a poetic
licence. At all events, whether it be so or not, it indicates in the
most striking manner, the opinion entertained by the poet, of their
daring intrepidity in thus venturing out upon the most unstable of all
elements, in so frail a barque. It shows a contempt of danger, when
encountered in search of knowledge, far above that of Belzoni, Parke,
Hornman, or any martyr to Egyptian mummies, incognita African rivers,
or northwest passages. A love of knowledge, so elevated above all fear
of consequences, places them on a level with that distinguished
phrenologist of Edinburgh, who is reported to have knocked out his own
brains, for the purpose of demonstrating the truth of his favourite
Having now, as we presume to flatter ourselves, sufficiently
established to the satisfaction of the reader the three points we set
out to prove, to wit, that neither the birth-place, the æra, or the
names of the Three Wise Men of Gotham, can now ever be known, we shall
put an end to our inquiry. Before we conclude, however, we will take
occasion to state, that the engraving in the title-page, is an exact
copy of the frontispiece to the Black Letter copy. Should any doubt the
existence of the original, we refer them to our publisher, for further
It may be proper to add that there is neither introduction nor
preface to the originals of these Tales; no explanation of the
particular circumstances which brought our Three Wise Men together; nor
of the occasion which prompted them to relate their stories to each
other. We may reasonably, however, suppose that it was done to while
away the tedium of a long voyage; and that upon some placid summer
morning, while the wave was calm, the sky serene, the sea-birds
skimming over head, and the dolphins playing beside them, the Man
Machine, being politely requested by his companions, began, as will be
seen in the following pages.
New Amsterdam, -
February, 1826. xxx
THE MERRY TALES OF THE THREE WISE
MEN OF GOTHAM. THE MAN MACHINE; OR, THE PUPIL OF "CIRCUMSTANCES."
I was born, began the first Wise Man of Gotham, in a country that I
consider unworthy of my nativity, and for that reason I shall do all in
my power to deprive it of the honour, by not mentioning its name. I am,
moreover, descended from a family, which must necessarily be of great
antiquity, since, like all old things, it has long since fallen into
decay. My father had little or no money, but was blessed with the poor
man's wealth, a fruitful wife and great store of children. Of these I
am the eldest; but at the period I shall commence my story, we were all
too young to take care of ourselves, until the fortunate discovery was
made by some great philanthropist, that little children, of six or
seven years old, could labour a dozen or fourteen hours a day without
stinting their minds, ruining their health, or destroying their morals.
This improvement in the great science of PRODUCTIVE LABOUR, delighted
my father—it was shifting the onus, as the lawyers say, from
his own shoulders to that of his children. He forthwith bound us all
over to a cotton manufactory, where we stood upon our legs three times
as long as a member of congress, that is to say, fourteen hours a day,
and among eight of us, managed to earn a guinea a week. The old
gentleman, for gentleman he became from the moment he discovered his
little flock could maintain him—thought he had opened a mine. He left
off working, and took to drinking and studying the mysteries of
political economy and productive labour. He soon became an adept in
this glorious science, and at length arrived at the happy conclusion,
that the whole moral, physical, political and religious organization of
society, resolved itself into making the most of human labour, just as
we do of that of our horses, oxen, asses and other beasts of burthen.
I was nine years old when I went into bondage, and had previously
learned to read and write pretty fluently; for in my country there are
few so poor that they cannot obtain these advantages. It was lucky for
me, for I never learned any thing afterwards but the art of adding to
the amount of productive labour. I continued in this happy asylum of
infant innocence till I was thirteen years old. I say happy, according
to the glorious science of productive labour. It is true we had little
to eat, but as we had but little time to eat it in, it was of little
consequence whether we had plenty to eat or not. The short space
allowed us for eating had another great advantage, as the
superintendent assured us. By swallowing without chewing, our food was
longer in digesting, and of course administered more to our
nourishment. He instanced the snakes, who always swallowed their prey
whole—and the wisdom of serpents was proverbial. Food and time were
precious things, and people ought to make the most of them. It was also
a maxim with him that too much liberty or leisure, was quite as bad as
too much food and too much time to eat it in. It made people radicals
and unbelievers. Thus he clearly proved that the little we had to eat,
and the little time to eat it, was highly beneficial.
To enforce this salutary doctrine, there was a system of fines,
which for a long while made a great hole in our pockets. Our moments
were all numbered—there was a fine for every moment we exceeded the
limited time of meals—a fine for every moment we went beyond the
specified time allowed for all the ordinary operations of nature—a
fine for looking out at a window—a fine for opening a window,
although we might be suffocating in an atmosphere of cotton
exhalations, heated like an oven—a fine for sneezing, lest we should
blow away some of the particles of cotton, and thus diminish the amount
of productive labour. There was a fine for nodding over a spinning
jenney, when the poor souls, worn out with the endless monotonous toils
of the day, involuntarily sought refuge in a momentary forgetfulness.
In short, we were chained and enslaved by a system of petty fines and
exactions, which, in addition to the certainty of being punished on
Saturday night, when we brought home our diminished earnings, soon made
us as docile as the galley slave at his oar. We had neither time to
learn, nor inclination to play, for the short intermission of our
labours was passed in dozing. We became stupified in mind, and the
functions of our bodies gradually obeyed the impulses of the engine,
which gave life and motion to the machinery. By the time I had been
there three years, I became sensible that my soul had transmigrated
into a spinning jenney, and that I had actually become a piece of
But the happy discovery that even little children of six or seven
years old could add to the amount of productive labour, instead of
wickedly eating and being merry at school or at play, was fated to be
improved upon, like every thing else in this most improving age. Some
persons of rather morbid sensibility, began to surmise that this mode
of calling out the productive labour of little children of six or
seven years old, was not altogether either humane or politic. It was
discovered in the course of inquiry, that this seclusion from air,
exercise, instruction and amusement, together with the total absence of
all variety in the routine of their existence, each so essential to the
welfare and happiness of children, was highly pernicious to their
health, their morals and their minds. Though it might add to the great
mass of productive labour, it was equally certain that it also added to
productive vice and ignorance. Various plans were accordingly suggested
from time to time, for combining perpetual confinement and labour, with
the necessary freedom, instruction and amusement; and for arresting the
progress of moral and physical degeneracy, without infringing upon the
paramount claims of productive labour—the grand and only desideratum
of the social compact.
It was in pursuance of this great object that a celebrated
philosopher, or philanthropist, I hardly know which, fortunately
conceived a plan by which these desirable effects might not only be
produced, but combined with an entire new state of society, which would
remove all temptation to crime, and consequently all necessity for
punishment. Accordingly he lost no time in establishing in our
neighbourhood a manufactory for the spinning of cotton and the
perfectibility of man.
My father was quite taken with this improvement in the glorious
science of productive labour, which he considered would be killing two
birds with one stone; and for my part I was quite willing to go just
whither he pleased. I had lost all habit of thinking or acting for
myself, and being pretty well assured that I could not be much worse
off, felt perfectly resigned to go any where else, than where I was. I
never envied any thing that I recollect, but a little bird that had
made its nest within view of the window where I worked, and whose merry
notes and wayward liberty, sometimes brought the tears into my eyes,
without my knowing what was the matter with me. The superintendent
caught me at it one day, and fined me for losing time in wiping them
away with my sleeve. I accordingly joined the new establishment with as
little anxiety or anticipation as the blind man changes his prospect.
When about five hundred men, women and little children were got
together, our master, the manufacturing philosopher, made us a speech,
in which he proceeded to lay down his first principles. I think I
remember almost his very words, for they made a great impression at the
time, and he often repeated them afterwards. My memory being the only
faculty I ever had occasion to exercise during the early part of my
life, has likewise become very retentive.
"I consider," said he, "the people employed in my establishment as a
part of the machinery, the whole of which it is my duty and interest to
combine, so that every hand, as well as every spring, lever and wheel,
shall effectually co-operate to produce the greatest pecuniary gain
to the proprietors, which is what I understand by the perfectibility of
the Man Machine.
"You are well aware of the advantages of having good substantial
machinery, and the necessity of keeping it clean, well arranged and in
a high state of repair; and that if it is allowed to get dirty, and out
of order, it produces unnecessary friction, and consequently will not
perform the same quantity of work. If then a want of due care as
to the state of your inanimate machines, produces such mischievous
results, what may not be expected when the MAN MACHINE is suffered to
get out of order by neglect?
"When you shall acquire a right knowledge of these machines, their
curious mechanism—their self-adjusting power—when the proper main
spring shall be applied to their various movements, you will become
conscious of their real value, and you will be readily induced to turn
your thoughts more frequently from your inanimate to your living
machines; you will discover that the latter may be easily trained and
directed to procure A LARGE INCREASE OF PECUNIARY GAIN, while you may
also derive from them high and substantial gratification.
"Now the main springs, or first principles, which I would apply to
the regulation of these Men Machines, are equally obvious and
simple. In the first place, I am fully satisfied that children are
merely compounded of corporeal machinery; and that, as you may equally
apply the powers of a steam engine to the manufactory of cotton or the
destruction of mankind, so you may with equal ease direct the machinery
of man to good or evil purposes. In the one case, it is done by
regulating the operation of the steam engine by certain rules of
science and experience, in the other by example and education.
Unhappily, however, the talents and ingenuity of men, have lately been
too much turned to the object of improving inanimate machinery,
forgetting, it would seem, that the labour of the Man Machine may, by
proper regulation, be so regulated and arranged that one man may be
able to do the work of twenty.
"Not only this, but I will venture to assert, without fear of
contradiction, that as you may improve the Man Machine so as to make it
doubly operative in adding to the mass of productive labour; so may you
in like manner give it, at the same time, any character you please, by
means which are at the command of all those who influence the affairs
of the world and take a proper advantage of circumtances. I also
assert, that a community may be so trained, as to live without
idleness, without poverty, without crime and without punishment, by the
mere application of circumstances.
"I assert, in the second place, that the will of man has no power
over his opinions, and therefore it is absurd to make him accountable
for errors which originate entirely in a defective system of education,
over which he has no control whatever, at the period in which he
receives all his impressions. In fact, my dearly beloved machines, it
is susceptible of demonstration, that from the creation of the world
to the present time, all men have been erroneously trained, and hence
all the inconsistencies and misery of this world. Hence, it arises
that generation after generation have been taught crime from their
infancy, and when so taught, hunted like beasts of the forest, until
they are entangled beyond escape in the toils and nets of the law. All
this would have been avoided had CIRCUMSTANCES been altered. The judge
would have been at the bar, and the criminal on the bench.
"From these undeniable facts, it results that as the human machine
cannot be accountable in the eye of reason for opinions originating in
an erroneous system of education over which it has no control, so
neither can it be legally or morally accountable for its actions so far
as they are influenced by those opinions. To punish the Man Machine for
these by fine, imprisonment or death, is therefore about as rational
and just, as to punish a spinning jenney for going wrong, after being
constructed on wrong principles. Indeed nothing can be more absurd or
barbarous than the whole system of punishments. Punishment, I will
venture to assert, never has, nor ever can have any effect to prevent
the commission of crime, as is proved by the daily commission of
crimes, notwithstanding these punishments.
"Punishment does not entirely prevent the commission of crimes;
therefore it does not prevent them at all; therefore it is absurd,
inexpedient, and cruel. Experience therefore has settled the question.
But even if this were not the case, analogy would be decisive on the
subject. It is the opinion of some of the best philosophers, that
mankind originally derived all their knowledge and a great portion of
their virtues from the example of the beasts of the field; and
certainly this is a much better foundation, than the erroneous system
of education which has been pursued for the last six thousand years,
and which by gradually substituting the precepts of blockheads, for the
examples of nature, hath brought ruin upon a thousand generations. Look
round then upon all nature, and see what her unsophisticated votaries
practice. Is the eagle punished by the rest of his tribe for robbing
the fish-hawk of the prey he has attained by long and laborious
watchfulness? Is the rat or the weasel clapt up in his hole, for the
better part of his life, by a jury of rats or weasels, for making
inroads upon a cheese, or robbing a hen-roost that did not belong to
him? Is the tyger hung in chains by his self-styled rulers, for tearing
a lamb to pieces? Or is the lordly lion shut out from the light of
heaven, and fed on bread and water, because he follows the instinct of
nature in hunting down and devouring the weaker animals? No, my dear
Men Machines, the wise animals of the forest, are too reasonable to
punish their fellows, for doing what nature, habit, example, and
education have made it impossible they should not do.
"Extend the analogy through all creation, and you will find man
alone arrogating to himself the prerogative of punishing his fellow
creatures, for the absurd purpose of preventing crime. And what has
been the consequence? Beyond doubt, mankind are absolutely allured into
the commission of crimes, by the very terror of punishment, in the same
manner, that birds are inevitably drawn into the jaws of the serpent,
from the actual fascination of terror.
"Besides this, it is demonstrable, that criminal laws, instead of
preventing, create crime, by making that criminal which was before
innocent. I recollect hearing an observation made by an innocent man,
who had been forced into the commission of murder, by the erroneous
system of education pursued for the last six thousand years, which made
a great impression upon me, and gave the first hint of my New View of
Society. `Alas!' said the unfortunate, or as the vulgar say, guilty
man—`alas! what an unlucky being am I. If society had not thought
proper to punish murder, I might have passed for an innocent man.' By
following this train of reasoning we shall find that the sole use of
criminal law is to create criminals, who are only so because the law
capriciously inflicts punishments upon certain acts which would
otherwise be perfectly innocent.
"The error of these wise lawgivers, is in mistaking the real object
and end of all laws. They have been pleased to suppose, that laws are
intended as restraints upon the extravagant impulses of the PASSIONS,
those phantoms which like all other phantoms had their origin in the
ignorance and bigotry of mankind, and which I have altogether excluded
from my New View of Society. Now if religion and morality cannot
prevent men from committing crimes, what is the use of religion and
morality, or what is the use of laws to prop up such a patchwork
system? If one cannot answer the end, all three together cannot do it.
If religious and moral impressions connot restrain mankind from the
commission of crime, then the laws will not do it. If the stings of
conscience, and the fear of eternal punishment is insufficient; then
the fear of temporal punishment must be equally so—therefore law and
religion are entirely useless in the world, and therefore I have
banished them entirely from my New View of Society. In fine, my dear
young pupils, be assured that crimes will never cease in this world,
till all punishments are abolished, and mankind taught virtue by means
of an inveterate habit; by certain fixed and inflexible rules, inherent
as it were in the Man Machine, like the laws of motion which govern the
spinning jenney, and from which it cannot depart, without a dissolution
of its parts, equivalent to the cessation of motion called death, in
the Man Machine.
"Yes, my dear pupils, nothing is wanting to restrain these crying
evils, and repair as far as possible the miseries inflicted on the Man
Machine for the last six thousand years, by an absurd and erroneous
system of education, than an habitual, invariable, and inflexible
adherence to the sublime maxim, that self-love properly understood
and uniformly practised, is the basis of all virtue, as well as
happiness, in the social state. Instead of burthening you with
abstract principles of right and wrong, which have no other effect than
to confound all distinctions between virtue and vice, I shall merely
advise you, whenever you have any doubt on the subject to consult your
self-love, that is to say, in other words, inquire what course will
best conduce to your own individual happiness, and depend upon it, that
will point unerringly to the happiness of society. I will now dismiss
you, the elder to the instructive lessons of the steam engine and the
spinning jenney; the younger to the play ground, where they will be
taught all the duties of self-love, at leap-frog and jackstones. Take
notice, however, I prohibit you all from playing at push-pin, a game
which, by giving rise to mischievous ideas of individual property, may
justly be denominated the root of all evil."
Unfortunately I was too old to be permitted to learn all my social
duties in the play ground, so I was dismissed to the spinning jenney
for a lesson. Here as before, I worked so many hours in the day for the
benefit of productive labour, and the honour of the New View of
Society, that I had little leisure, and less inclination, to trouble
myself with nice distinctions between the social and moral duties.
Indeed, I considered them as of little consequence to the perfection of
the Man Machine, recollecting that nothing but self-love, properly
regulated, was necessary to the most perfect virtue and happiness. Now
I had as much self-love as most people, and as my master had laid it
down as the so very excellent a thing, I thought as a matter of course,
the more I had, and the more I indulged it, the better for myself and
the world. I soon found, however, there was little or no room for
cultivating and indulging this excellent fundamental principle of
happiness. I had a natural inclination for good eating, and my
self-love was always particularly gratified, by playing with children
somewhat smaller than myself, over whom I could exercise a reasonable
degree of influence and authority. This propensity to ambition, was,
however, carefully checked during the play hours, when we were
superintended by certain worthy old ladies, who taught us, that the
only ambition compatible with a well regulated self-love, and the
perfectibility of the Man Machine, was that of labouring most
advantageously for our master. As this was a community of which the
most perfect equality was to be the basis; it would be highly improper,
they said, to attempt any undue exercise of talents or energy. It would
be only generating envy, jealousy, and all those passions which had
been the bane of society, ever since the serpent seduced Eve, with the
temptation of superior knowledge.
As the whole system of our master-proceeded upon the assumption,
that the Man Machine was as much without passions as a steam engine,
and that they were generated in him by the abominable mode of education
inflicted upon each succeeding race, for the last six thousand years,
he organized the system accordingly. All the children, being of course
born without passions or desires, it was his opinion that it was only
necessary to tell them to do right, and they would do it of course. We
were accordingly very seriously told, what all children, so far as I
know, have been told from the creation of the world, "that we were
never to injure our play-fellows, but on the contrary to contribute all
in our power to make them happy." "This principle," would our master
say with infinite self-complacency—"this principle, this simple
precept, when properly comprehended, if no Counteracting Principles
oppose its influence, will effectually supersede all the errors which
have hitherto kept the world in ignorance and misery."
But these "counteracting principles," as our master called them, and
which I suspect were nothing more than those passions which are
supposed by some ignorant people to be implanted in human nature, were
always getting between his legs, as it were, and tripping up his
theory. Emulation was continually peeping forth, in one wicked little
rogue outrunning another, and thus mortifying his feelings. In
wrestling, the stronger machine was very apt to impose upon the weaker,
by throwing it down with as little ceremony as possible. At leap-frog,
a mischievous urchin would sometimes designedly bump a little fellow
down on his nose, by not leaping high enough. In short, these
"counteracting principles" were so troublesome and inconvenient, that
my master more than once wished them fairly at the d—l, they stood so
in the way of the perfectibility of the Man Machine.
My master was indeed sometimes highly provoked at these
"counteracting principles," thus eternally thrusting their noses into
his plan of perfectibility. It puzzled him confoundedly to find where
his theory was out at the elbows. At last he discovered that his
children were not young enough to give his system a fair chance. It
was his opinion that children received those impressions which give a
decided direction to their future character, almost the moment they are
born. Nay, he went still further, and maintained, with great appearance
of reason, that they took special notice of every thing that happened
at the time, he himself recollecting perfectly well, being very much
alarmed, when the nurse first took him in her arms, least she should
let him fall on the floor.
Accordingly he determined to go to the fountain head, by introducing
into the establishment the institution of matrimony, and having the
children begotten to his hands. "I shall take them ab ovo," said
he, a phrase of which I have since learned the meaning, although at
that time I did not exactly comprehend it. The first born of this new
and perfect race in perspective, was a little boy, who from the moment
of his birth was allowed to hear nothing but the repetition of the
great precept, not to harm his play-fellows, but to do all in his power
to make them happy. At three years old he was launched into the play
ground, and made his debut by biting the finger of one of the matrons
who presided over our sports, and who attempted forcibly to keep him
from indulging the instinct of the Man Machine, for dabbling in a
mud-puddle. Our master cast about for the "counteracting principle"
that had produced this enormity, that he might give it a sound
drubbing, and to his great satisfaction discovered it in a habit, which
the mother had a long time indulged, of biting her nails. This practice
was strictly forbidden; but as one of the fundamental principles of my
master was, that no punishments were necessary to keep the Man Machine
in order, any more than the steam engine, nobody minded the
prohibition, and the women bit their nails, as usual, when vexed or
perplexed. Notwithstanding the all-powerful precept which lays at the
root of the perfectibility of the Man Machine, and which was not spared
upon the little biting boy, there was some "counteracting principle"
which certainly baffled detection, or at least opposition. By the time
he was twelve years old the machine became so completely out of order,
that my master turned him out of the establishment as a disgrace to his
Still the plan of inculcating perfection into the Man Machine, by
play, would certainly have answered the end completely had it not been
for two "counteracting principles." The first, was those same
inconvenient products of that erroneous system of education pursued for
the last six thousand years, which my master called circumstances, and
which, coming perpetually in conflict with his first principles, for a
long time pretty generally got the better, and routed them completely.
To subdue these entirely, or to direct them uniformly to the
furtherance of that self-love, which is the source of all virtue and
happiness, was found rather of the nature of an impossibility. The
second "counteracting principle" was, that the little pupils of the
play ground, by having their plays always prescribed to them, and by
being eternally under the eyes of the superintending matrons, who were
perpetually telling them not to do this and to refrain from that—who
were in fact always standing over them, repressing their gambols,
directing their sports and restraining entirely the free will of the
Man Machine, became at last entirely indifferent, or rather frequently
declined going out to play. When they did, they preferred sitting
quietly still, rather than be perpetually restrained, lectured, advised
and dosed with the eternal repetition of the grand precept. The
consequence was, there was no room for the practical exemplification of
the virtues of the system, at play. For my part, although I was
principally confined to the spinning jenney for instruction, I freely
confess that such was the weariness of mind and lassitude of body,
produced by this mode of eternal supervision over our hours of
relaxation, that it became a task at last from which I was glad to
escape by sleeping away my play hours. But notwithstanding all these
discouragements, the practicability of the system ere long began to be
fully exemplified. There was one little machine that was at last
brought, if not quite, very nearly, to perfection. Owing to the absence
of those "counteracting principles" which played the deuce with most of
the pupils, this little machine, at last became so completely
regulated, that my master pronounced it almost as perfect as the
machinery of a cotton mill. If he had a task to do, he was sure to do
it exactly, and no more. If he was told to go to a certain place, he
could no more be brought to go a step further than a horse in a mill or
a turnspit at the jack. He never discovered any disposition to excel
his companions in their sports or their exercises—never did any thing
but what he was told—never committed an offence—never resented an
affront—but always appealed to the golden rule. In short, he seemed
happily free from the operation of those mischievous "counteracting
principles," erroneously called the passions. If my master could only
have made us all exactly like him, we should have represented the
millennium. But unfortunately there were as yet too many "counteracting
principles" among us, to admit of universal "HARMONY," and the perfect
Man Machine fared but indifferently. He was a sort of butt, and instead
of righting his own wrongs, always carried his complaints to the
matrons. This got him the name of tell-tale, and the ill will of his
fellows. My master considered him as a living evidence of the triumph
of his system, and at length when he grew up, made him one of his
"committee of management" or supreme junta. In the course of his
performance of the duties of this new station, he one day had occasion
to walk to a neighbouring town, on his way to which he met a wagon, and
not having my master, or one of the matrons, to tell him what to do,
suffered it to walk right over him, while he was considering the
matter. He was the first perfect Man Machine I ever saw, and my master
ever afterwards held him up as an example.
I had now reached the age of eighteen; but I must confess that my
machinery was not a little out of order. The perpetual routine of the
same employments—the want of those excitements, or rather a field
where the excitements of emulation, ambition, desire of riches and
distinction, might bestir themselves, became at first irksome, then
stupifying. My faculties sunk into a benumbing apathy, for want of
exercise—and my personal activity expired under the drudgery of the
same daily task, neither more or less, that I had to perform as my
contribution to the state of perfectibility. Still I was fully
persuaded that the system was practicable, and that its operation would
certainly produce the perfection of the Man Machine, were it not for
the unlucky force of those "counteracting principles" which beset it on
every side. Nothing, I was convinced, but those vile passions, which
are not natural, but absolutely forced upon us, by a preposterous
system of education for six thousand years past, could possibly prevent
its ultimate and final consummation, in the perfection of the Man
But unfortunately these impertinent and troublesome passions, are
always nestling about one's heart, and playing the most intolerable
pranks with our machinery. In process of time there grew up some young
girls in our establishment, and I was moved with a desire to marry.
There was, it is true, the most perfect equality reigning among us,
together with a perfect community of interests. But it unluckily
happened that, owing to some "counteracting principle" or other, the
machinery of some of these damsels was better constructed, more highly
finished, and somewhat more sightly than that of others. There was one
especially who was so superior to the rest that she played the mischief
with my master's system of equality. All the young fellows were anxious
to marry her; and as there was no community of goods allowed here, my
master's old enemies, the "counteracting principles," began to bestir
themselves with great activity. In vain he represented to us that it
was only the mischievous influence of these villains that made us think
one woman better than another—that it was their equally villainous
coadjutors, the five senses, and the rest of the gang of countervailing
circumstances, that assisted in leading us to the preposterous
conclusion, that it was necessary to our happiness we should marry this
pretty girl. All would not do—we quarrelled about it—fought about
it—and the machinery of the whole establishment was at times thrown
into great confusion.
My master's indefatigable enemies, the "counter-acting principles,"
were in fact continually at work, throwing stumbling-blocks in the way
of our perfectibility, and going about like roaring lions among us. It
was enough to provoke a saint to see how they succeeded for a time in
thwarting the success of my master's plans, for the harmony of the
universe. The great difficulty was to produce that perfect state of
equality which would preclude all possibility of one machine envying
another. Now it happened unfortunately that this perfect equality, and
this perfect community of goods, which were both so essential to the
perfection of the system, proved for a long time very difficult to
preserve. The least breath ripples even the stagnant pool, and renders
the surface unequal, and the least "circumstance," was sufficient to
create jealousies and rivalships among us, until by degrees, we quietly
sunk into a calm acquiescence to the will of the committee of
management, and acquired a habit of perfect submission, which is one of
the principal ingredients in the pure state of perfectibility.
It was thus in our community. Although their rights and their duties
were all equal—and all equally shared in the common fund in
proportion to their labours; still, as those who had laboured in the
community ten years, had of course twice the stake in the common fund
of those who had only laboured five, this single counteracting
circumstance produced a broad and palpable inequality. Accordingly a
lady whose husband had twice the claim on the great fund, did not fail
to look down on one who had not a claim to half as much. She valued
herself on her fortune, just as if it had been in her own possession,
and for aught I could see, the passions engendered by this species of
inequality were precisely those of the world, in the degraded state it
has been brought to, by the "erroneous training" of the last six
thousand years. Nay, I am sorry to say, they seemed far more bitter
and malignant, from the parties being continually as it were under the
same roof, and brought together many times a day, every day of their
lives. But even if this provoking inequality had not existed, there
were other "counteracting principles," which assailed the Man Machine,
from different quarters, and occasionally put it out of order.
It sometimes happened, that one member of the community by the
regularity of his machine, and by being perhaps less beset by those
intolerable rascals, the "counteracting principles," would by a course
of conduct as regular as clock-work, entitle himself to the special
notice and rewards of our master. This approach to perfectibility in
the Man Machine, instead of operating as an example and stimulus to
others, as it would have done but for the "counteracting principles,"
produced only disorder. Every body was jealous of the unfortunate Man
Machine who had approached so much nearer to perfectibility than
themselves—instead of imitating, they envied him, not his
perfectibility, but the particular honours and rewards he acquired. To
be sure it is just so in the world, where the "counter-acting
principles" go about like roaring lions; but it ought not to have been
so in our new state of society; and that it was so, is to me quite
I speak from my own experience. My ambition, which I take to be one
of the "counteracting principles," at length prompted me to put my
machinery in order, and make a dash at perfectibility, that I might
obtain the particular notice of my master, and perhaps something more
substantial. I succeeded, and became the most miserable dog in the
community. I had upset the beautiful system of equality, upon which the
whole establishment rested; I was no longer their equal, and they began
to envy, of course to hate me, by the mere force of the "counteracting
circumstances." To make my peace with these pragmatical machines, and
to restore the equilibrium of the society, I was actually obliged to
backslide a little in order to bring myself down to the dead level of
perfectibility. Thus I found to my great mortification, that individual
perfectibility, was incompatible with the perfectibility of the whole,
and that the only way to preserve "HARMONY" was to be no better than
The rascally "counteracting principles," received aid and assistance
from other sources, besides the inequality of wealth, and the different
estimation in which different persons were held by the society at
large, and especially by our master. Some of the married women, had
prettier children than others—and this was a source of inequality.
Some were without any children at all, and sorely envied their more
happy next door neighbours, whose pretty little curly pated machines,
were playing themselves into perfectibility on the lawn, before their
doors. On the other hand, some of the men had better, younger, or
prettier wives than others, who not being specially instructed in such
matters, did frequently break the tenth commandment. My master was, in
truth, for a long while the victim of "counteracting circumstances;" he
at one time, as I have heard, had serious thoughts of cutting off all
the women's noses, to bring them to a level, and so organizing his men
and women machines, by the mere force of education, as that they should
conform to the law of nature which ordains, that every bird shall lay
only so many eggs within a certain period. He had no doubt of bringing
this about, if he could only begin ab ovo, and dodge his old
enemies the "counteracting circumstances."
But he was for some time deterred from this plan by the astounding
objection that, though he might regulate the number of children, it
would be difficult, if not impossible, to regulate their looks, and
prevent one from being handsomer than another. He had no doubt that
nature produced none of these ridiculous inconsistencies, but that they
were the offspring of that diabolical system of education under which
mankind had groaned for the last six thousand years. "Some pigs,"
quoth he, "are, it is true, handsomer than others—but then the pig is
sophisticated by associating with man, and suffering under the
influence of the counter-acting circumstances. Doubtless all young wild
boars are perfectly equal in a state of nature. I will inquire into
these matters." His inquiries ended, I imagine, in conviction, for he
attempted some reforms in these matters; which caused so much
dissatisfaction among our women, that they came near seceding in a
body, and thus putting an end to all prospect of the perfectibility of
mankind. My master accordingly gave up the point, satisfied that though
he might regulate the man machine to some little purpose, the woman
machine, was too much under the influence of the "counteracting
principles," ever to become perfect, without an entire new organization.
Scarcely had this danger blown over, when a dispute occurred, which
again threatened the destruction of our "HARMONY" and the prospective
perfectibility of mankind. This affair unfortunately originated in too
near an approach to the perfect system of equality contemplated by my
master. There were two married women, living in opposite sides of the
square which formed our village, whose circumstances, situation,
husbands, children, characters and persons were so singularly equal in
all respects, that they hated each other mortally, for no other reason
that I could ever learn than because their pretensions were so equally
balanced, that the rest of the community could never agree as to which
was entitled to be considered the most happy. What was still more
provoking, as there were no reasonable grounds of quarrel between them,
and nothing to complain of, they were obliged to take it out in civil
speeches. In this state of affairs, one of them luckily discovered,
that her best room fronted north, while that of her rival looked to the
south, and consequently monopolized all her sunshine, great part of the
year. Here was a manifest hole in the elbows of my master's great
system of equality. There was no dividing the sunshine equally among
mankind. He might have altered his village, so as to make the whole of
it front south: but his whole system so completely hung on the shape of
his village, that it would have fallen to the ground, on the least hint
of an alteration. He was horribly puzzled by this counteracting
In the mean time, a northern and southern interest sprung up among
us, such as prevails in some countries, and founded upon equally
important differences. The lady of the north front had her faction,
which held firmly to the principle, that there was a manifest
partiality in favour of the lady of the south front; while the lady of
the south front had also her friends, who swore roundly that they could
perceive a leaning in favour of her of the north. Each had her party,
whose clamour was exactly loud in proportion to the insignificance of
the occasion, the few causes of excitement among us, and the narrow
sphere in which they were exercised. In short, there was the deuce to
pay among the Men Machines, the Women Machines, the first principles,
and the "counteracting circumstances," which all pulled different ways,
so that my master hardly knew which way to turn himself to get rid of
these implacable enemies. He was inclined to suspect at one time, that
it might be possible to shave the chin of equality so close as actually
to draw blood from the patient, who, though his beard might be all of
equal length, might be himself in a humour to knock him down. But he
was not a man to knock under to "counteracting circumstances," nor any
such saucy fellows, while there was the remotest prospect, to use his
own words, "of making one woman to do the work of twenty," "of
improving man as an instrument of labour," "and training him so as to
produce a large increase of pecuniary gain," "a return not less than
fifty per cent.," on all the investments and expenditures for the
improvement of the Man Machine.
But these pestilent villains, the "counteracting circumstances,"
were not so easily managed as might be expected. They had in the long
period of six thousand years, in which the Man Machine has been
debauched and corrupted by education, insomuch that it is a thousand
miracles that his machinery is not irretrievably out of order— I say,
they had acquired such power, and withal such a thorough knowledge of
the Man Machine, that as fast as they were driven out of one door they
popped in at another. Nay, if the doors were all shut they climbed in
at the window, and if there was no window, they managed to squeeze
themselves through the keyhole. Thus in the case of the two ladies of
the northern and southern exposure; my master had no sooner quieted the
two factions, by demonstrating that to be out of the sun in summer, was
equal to being in it in winter, when the "counteracting circumstances,"
like vile traitors as they were, changed sides before you could say
Jack Robin son, and the Men Machines forthwith fell into a great
quarrel, about which party would have been in the right, provided the
case had stood as they originally apprehended. As to the two ladies,
they hated each other worse than ever, when they found my master had
decided there was not a toss up of copper between them. "Marry come up,
my dirty cousin," exclaimed each of the other—"I should be very sorry
if I was no better than I should be."
But I have not come to the worst yet. Not only the wicked
"counteracting principles," played pranks with my master, but it
sometimes unluckily happened that his own principles would turn upon
him, and show their teeth terribly. For example, it was easy to
comprehend the simple principle of self-love, which, as I have said,
constituted the great primum mobile of the Man Machine,
according to my master's theory. But to apply it successfully to the
attainment of the great end of perfectibility was a different affair.
When the good man talked to them about the absolute necessity of
attending exclusively "to the happiness of self,"
 as the only means of promoting the happiness of the community,
they were extremely apt to comprehend this, as not only a permission,
but an exhortation, to follow the bent of their passions and appetites,
or in other words, the "counteracting principles," without any regard
to the happiness of others, taking for granted that would come as a
matter of course. My master in vain attempted to set the Man Machine
going according to the nice adjustment of the self-love and social
principles. The one was perpetually getting the better of the other,
being a hot-headed self-willed rascal, and withal a great bully; while
the other had hardly a word to say for itself. It was in vain to
threaten an appeal to the laws, for as there was to be no crimes in our
community, there was no necessity for restraints or punishments.
I will give an example here, of the terrible blunders some of us
made, in the application of this grand fundamental principle of my
master, whose whole system, I am convinced, was perfect, except that it
was not calculated for the particular kind of Men Machines, he had to
do with. These have been so bedeviled, by the horrible system of
education pursued for the last six thousand years, that I question
whether it will not take at least six thousand years more, to put their
machinery in perfect order. But to my example.
There was among us, a wild, sprightly man machine, which, owing to
being as it were, under high steam pressure, was continually getting
into the claws of the "counteracting principles," and making sad
misapplications of my master's precepts. It was next to impossible to
bring his passions and appetites under the dominion of metaphysicks, or
to instil into him a proper comprehension of the great abstract truth,
that the indulgence of our self-love, consists in restraining it. One
day my master brought him up before us all, for the purpose of
lecturing him for the benefit of the community.
"Well, Sandy," quoth my master, mildly, "I am afraid I shall never
be able to make a perfect machine of you."
"How so, sir," replied Sandy.
"Why, you are continually violating the sublime fundamental
principle of self-love."
"I don't know how that can be, sir, for I do all I can to gratify
it, as you have convinced me it is my duty to do."
"Yes, but you did not properly comprehend me. The self-love I mean,
is the sacrifice of our wishes and desires to those of others—it is
in fact the absence of all self-love."
"Why did you not tell us so at first," said Sandy, rather
sulkily—"I'm sure I should never have thought that it was possible a
thing could be exactly what it is not."
"That doubt is owing to the imperfection of our sophisticated
nature, which cannot comprehend the sublime truth, that man is a
machine, originally constructed with a due regard to the two great
moving principles of matter, the centripetal and the centrifugal
forces. By the first, his passions, appetites, wants, wishes, desires,
and gratifications, are perpetually urging towards the centre, thus
exclusively concentrating in his own individual gratification. By the
second, a continued endeavour is made to resist and overpower the
first, by forcing or attracting the passions and appetites from this
disposition towards the centre or self, and giving them a wider and
more beneficial sphere of indulgence. It is in the proper balancing and
restraining the centripetal force of the passions, by the interposition
of the centrifugal, that these, the gratification of which is the grand
object of self-love, become the foundation of all worldly
happiness, and constitute the perfect state of the Man Machine."
This confounding of matter and spirit, and jumbling together the
ideas of mechanical, physical and moral action, was what always puzzled
us, and gave an air of incomprehensibility to my master's theories. The
Man Machine Sandy, was at first either convinced, or confounded, I
hardly know which; but he soon rallied again, and to say the truth, I
sometimes was half inclined to think his common sense pretty nearly put
my master to a dead halt.
"You have exactly hit upon my case, sir, and the very difficulty
that prevents me from becoming a perfect machine in the shortest time
possible. Somehow or other, I can't get this same centrifugal force, my
master talks of, to do its duty. It is a lazy, lounging, indifferent
principle, that is half the time asleep while the other is as busy as a
bee, and some way or other, manages to get the better nine times in
ten. My good wishes, instead of going abroad now and then, as they
should do, are almost always attracted to the centre by that rascally
centripetal gentleman you mentioned."
"That is because you don't suffer my fundamental principles to
operate upon you properly; and wilfully resist the natural and
inevitable result of a perfect system of education, which can be
nothing less than a perfect state of the Man Machine."
"Indeed, sir, I don't—I try all I can to love myself in the proper
manner; and to be persuaded that perfection is as easy as kiss your
hand. But somehow or other, I confess I do love Jenny better than
Kate—and the centripetal principle especially moves my self-love to
prefer kissing her, to seeing any body else do it."
"Out upon you," exclaimed my master—"this is all owing to the
"What are they, sir. I confess I never could fairly understand them."
"Why—hem—why—ha—he—hum"—my master appeared a little
puzzled here—"Why the counteracting principles are a sort of—a kind
of— stumbling-blocks, which education, habit, and bad systems have
thrown in the way of the perfectibility of man. In short, they are what
"I reckon you mean the wants, desires, and passions of us Men
Machines," quoth Sandy.
"And I reckon you are a great blockhead," exclaimed my master—"How
often have I told you that the Man Machine has naturally, neither
wants, desires or passions—They are the product of that erroneous
training which has produced all the miseries and inconsistencies of
"What! no passions, sir?"
"None—not an atom more than a piece of calves-foot jelly."
"Why, Lord bless you, sir, I always heard say, that if we had no
passions, desires, and all that sort of thing, we should be without any
motives of action whatever."
"Pooh—self-love would keep us going."
"But what is this self-love, sir?"
"A bundle of circumstances," quoth my master.
"I reckon its a bundle of passions," quoth Sandy.
"And I reckon thou art a confirmed, incorrigible, irreclaimable
blockhead of a Man Machine," cried my master in a great passion—"I
say, sir, may the d—l take thee for a sophisticated idiot—I affirm
that man is born without passions—that there are no such scoundrels
in the creation—that they are nothing but
circumstances—circumstances, sir— counteracting
principles—counteracting principles, sir—which an erroneous system
of education has conjured up to the confusion of all those who labour
for the perfectibility of the Man Machine."
Hereupon my master seized Sandy by the shoulders, and would have
thrust him forth from the community had he not offered to acknowledge
the supremacy of "circumstances," to knock under to the "counteracting
principles," and swear there were no such villains as the passions in
"After all," quoth Sandy, a little doggedly— "after all, thank
fortune, I am not answerable either for my opinions or my actions."
"Not answerable!—I'll make you know to the contrary, sirrah."
"No, sir—you tell us every day that the will of man has no power
over his opinions, and that it is therefore absurd to make him
accountable for his errors. You teach us, that children have no
control over their early education, which is conducted uniformly upon
mischievous principles—that they are not only taught to think and
reason wrong, but actually to commit those crimes for which they are
afterwards punished—that, therefore, when they grow up they cannot be
justly charged either with the errors of their opinions or the
wickedness of their actions.
 I thank my stars, therefore, that if I think or act wrong, my
teachers are to blame, not I."
Here was the mischief to pay again among the "counteracting
principles," which thus turned short upon my master, and bit him
shrewdly. His first and great principle, that the errors and
inconsistencies of men proceeded entirely from an erroneous system of
education, and that they were therefore not accountable for them, here
did him the worst office that could be. It convicted him, in the sight
of the whole community, of getting in a passion contrary to fundamental
principles, and that the man who professed to teach perfectibility was
He might as well attempt, thought I, to teach music without
understanding the gamut. But this was a momentary doubt, which soon
yielded to the force of habit, and I still continued to think my master
a perfect Man Machine, although the "counteracting principles" were
sometimes permitted to assail him, as Satan did Job, merely to try his
The Man Machine Sandy continued to exemplify from time to time the
influence of the centripetal force, and the mischievous activity of the
counteracting principles. He was perpetually demonstrating the notion
of my master, concerning the diabolical errors of an erroneous system
of education. But these errors being, according to his theory, not his
fault, but that of his parents who were both dead, could not be
punished without a terrible perversion of justice. To compromise
matters as well as he could, my master at length dismissed him into the
wide world, where, as I afterwards learned, the poor fellow, acting
upon the principle of not being accountable for his opinions or
actions, appropriated to himself certain bank notes that did not belong
to him, and was hanged in defiance of all the rules of justice, as well
as in utter disregard to the sublime notion of a community of goods.
In the course of my master's experiments upon the Man Machine, there
were a great many machines that left the establishment, or were turned
away for being too much under the influence of the counteracting
principles. They took with them their share of the common stock which
had accumulated during their induction into the mysteries of
perfectibility; but somehow or other there were so many deductions, for
this, that and the other matter, that the Men Machines complained
loudly at the smallness of their dividend. But there was no help for
it; for my master's system proceeded entirely upon the principle, that
as the Men Machines who presided over this perfect establishment, must
of necessity be entirely and exclusively perfect in themselves, there
was no necessity to guard their administration of the public fund, with
that jealous circumspection requisite towards less perfect rulers, in a
less perfect system.
Upon the whole, however, our community sustained its numbers pretty
well. The children that were born, and the recruits that came in from
time to time, prevented any apparent diminution. For my part I had no
inclination to leave the establishment. I had at last become a model,
as my master assured me, of a perfect Man Machine. I had neither
virtues to exercise, nor counteracting principles to lead me astray. I
worked my task as regularly as the spinning jenney went through hers: I
ate like a machine, at a particular time—I slept by rule, rose by
rule, and did every thing by rule. In short, I did every thing like a
perfect machine of a man. In process of time our whole community also
arrived at a perfectibility that was truly astonishing, considering
its apparent impossibility. It might be said that we had neither
virtues nor vices, at least there was neither room for the exercises of
the one, nor excitement for the indulgence of the other. There is no
doubt that we all became quite perfect.
My master valued himself exceedingly at having at last got
completely the upper hand of his old enemies, the counteracting
circumstances. He had not the least doubt but that his system would in
a little time be universally adopted, and that there would then be no
further use for law or gospel in this perfect state of society. But of
all the pieces of machinery ever invented, the most wayward, perverse,
and inconsistent beyond all doubt is the Man Machine. No sooner does it
become perfect, but it begins to decay, grows rickety and good for
nothing. At least so it was with the machinery of our establishment.
Our perfectibility at last centered exclusively in the performance of
our daily duties. These consisted in working at our tasks regularly—
eating, drinking, sleeping regularly—and in fact doing every thing we
had to do with a regularity becoming perfect machines. Every thing was
in common; therefore no one was in want; and therefore there was no
room for the exercise of charity and benevolence. The children were all
taken care of by the community, and the aged and sick were nursed and
sustained by persons expressly ap pointed to superintend them—the
relative duties of parent and child, were therefore of little
consequence among us, and were seldom or ever called into exercise. In
short, as the system of our society was so perfect as not to require
the cement of mutual wants, mutual weaknesses, and mutual dependence,
there was no room, nor indeed any occasion, for the exercise of the
social virtues, except so far as they are negatively exercised in
refraining from actual violence or injury.
Again, as the perfection of my master's system, and of his Men
Machines, consisted in the total absence of the passions, or rather the
annihilation of the counteracting principles, it is obvious that this
could only be brought about by the absence of those excitements which
stimulate them into rebellion. In removing these, it was requisite, or
rather it was unavoidable, that most if not all the motives for any
extraordinary exertion of talent, or vigorous exercise of the
intellect, should be wanting. Our talents, therefore, as well as our
virtues, soon became rusty for want of exercise. Our master and the
committee of management,
 were the only persons to whom the exercise of any but the
working faculty, was at all necessary. They thought for us, and they
acted for us. They made the laws, and they administered them. They took
care of our morals, our manners, and our money, while we, thrice happy
machines, had nothing to do but move ourselves about, with all the
regularity of a spinning jenney—we worked by rule, ate by rule, slept
by rule, and were as merry as so many cabbages, growing in regular
lines. As the endeavour to excel our companions, in any thing but work,
would have savoured of a design to overturn the perfect system of
equality, all such unseemly ambition was studiously repressed as one of
the mischievous counteracting principles which it was necessary to put
down in the most summary manner. As there was no such thing as
exclusive property in our community, and even a man's soul could not be
called his own, being under the exclusive direction of my master's
first principles— the passion of avarice, or the desire of
accumulation, had certainly less influence over us, and we worked
solely for the good of the whole. It is true we did not labour with
that spirit and alacrity men do when they are labouring for themselves,
but from a habit acquired by the machine, which went its regular course
day after day. But this, my master considered as the highest proof of
perfectibility, which properly understood, consisted in doing every
thing necessary to the happiness of the community not from a sense of
duty but from a habit acquired by the Man Machine. "It is much
better," would my master say, "to do good from habit than impulse,
sentiment, or feeling, which are such capricious rascals they can never
be depended upon." On the whole there is no doubt but we actually
became perfect machines. We believed in all my master's first
principles—in the encouragement of crime for the last six thousand
years, by an erroneous system of education—in the non-accountability
of man for his opinions or actions—in the wickedness of punishing
crimes—the division of labour—the community of goods—the perfect
equality, and above all, in the committee of management. If this was
not perfection, I believe there is no such thing in this world.
But scarcely had my master demonstrated the great truths of the New
View of Society, and made his Men Machines quite perfect in their
evolutions, when his old enemies the counteracting principles, rallied
again, and became as troublesome as ever. My master in a little time
discovered, that though it was quite easy to make the Men Machines
perfect, it was not quite so easy to keep them so. As the inanimate
machine becomes rickety, out of order, and wears out in time, so does
the animated machine called man, continually give way to that
mischievous counteracting principle, called backsliding. Scarcely
therefore were the great counteracting principles, of ambition, love
of glory, and desire of knowledge, thus totally subdued, than the
lesser and more ignoble ones began to cut a figure, like corporals and
sergeant-majors, in the absence of the commanding officers. The
counteracting principle of envy, the most grovelling, contemptible, and
at the same time, the most malignant, began to erect itself, and to do
the duty of half a dozen others, in sowing the seeds of dissolution in
the perfect system of society. Experience, as I sometimes thought,
gradually developed a truth that my master had left out in his
catalogue of counteracting circumstances, to wit, that it is utterly
impossible to place the Man Machine in any situation where he is out of
the reach of the "counteracting principles." On a desert island, said
I, mentally, in my moments of disappointment, where no other human
being exists, it actually seems that he will envy his fellow men the
enjoyment of social intercourse, and the birds the wings that enable
them to go whither they will, while he is confined to his solitude.
Place him in a dungeon, and, I dare say, he will envy others the
enjoyment of air, exercise, and free action. Place him in beggary, and
he will very likely envy the dog his bone—and place him on a throne,
he will envy the poorest peasant his ruddy health and active limbs.
Whereever there is inequality of any kind, there, as it would seem,
will envy subsist—and if it were possible to produce the most
perfect equality in physical and mental qualities—in every species of
possession—in all that Providence can bestow upon man, I could almost
swear there would still be the same necessity for the ten commandments
as the rules of our actions, and of laws to enforce them, that there is
at this moment. Yet for all this you are not to suppose that I have
ever doubted, except in momentary intervals of vexation or
disappointment, the possibility of introducing a universal state of
perfectibility into this world, provided it is not destroyed too soon
to give my master's first principles a fair chance of operating upon
the Men Machines. How long did mankind go on patiently doing the work
of steam engines and spinning jenneys, until an inspired nobleman
suggested the idea of the one, and an inspired barber demonstrated the
possibility of the other? Ages elapsed from the first suggestion of the
application of the power of steam to mechanical purposes, and the
application itself—and still other ages, before the machine was
perfected. Can we then expect that the Man Machine, equally complicated
in its mechanical organization, will all at once spring into
perfection? No, my friends; as the nice skill of the moulder labours
whole days to prepare for the perfect casting, so must the nice skill
of the reformer labour whole years, not to say centuries, to produce
the perfect man. Nothing, I am convinced, is necessary to the
perfectibility of the human machine, but the same labour and
perseverance which has perfected the steam engine and cotton machinery,
co-operating with the proper application of "circmstances" and the
absence of the rascally "counteracting principles." Then, gentlemen—
then there will be no further occasion for laws or
religion—punishments or rewards—potentates or presidents,—the
whole universe will be governed by "A COMMITTEE OF MANAGEMENT," of
which I expect to be treasurer, and then— "Hey diddle diddle, the
cat and the fiddle, "The cow jumped over the moon"— Here the Man
Machine jumped up and began to caper about till he came nigh
oversetting the bowl, and putting an end to the perfectibility of man
at once. It was some time before he recovered his gravity sufficiently
to proceed, as follows:—
But however this may be, I must confess that besides the little
malignant counteracting principle of envy, which is ever the substitute
of emulation and ambition, there were certain other "circumstances," as
my master called them, such as those unnaturally natural appetites, or
instincts, which, however trifling and contemptible, like rats and mice
on board a ship, often endangered his whole system. These were
perpetually thrusting themselves forward in the disguise of a
preference of beauty to deformity—of light hair to dark—of blue
eyes to black—of youth to age—of fair to brown, and of brown to
fair. Sometimes two machines would agree in their preferences, and this
agreement at once gave play to a whole train of counteracting
circumstances, which caused my master infinite trouble and vexation. At
other times two machines would differ about what my master in his New
View of Society, had expressly stipulated there should be no difference
about. For instance, one was a presbyterian, another an episcopalian,
and another had no religion at all. This was sufficient for argument,
which on such subjects generally becomes contention, and often abuse.
In the great and good-for-nothing old system of society which subsists
in the world, where the excitements to the passions are divided and
subdivided almost to infinity, such disputes are easily forgotten and
forgiven, except among those whose interest it is to keep up the
antipathy of sects. But in our community, we had so few causes of
excitement, that one answered the end of the whole, and seemed to
concentrate within itself the fury of all the passions. No matter
therefore what was the cause, however insignificant, it produced the
same effects. The perfect Man Machine who saw his neighbour machine
receive particular notice or approbation from my master, envied as
bitterly as the courtier who sees his rival supersede him in the
favour of the king. My master lectured away, on the sublime principle
of self-love, but it all would not do. That incomprehensible scoundrel,
human nature, seemed to set his face against him; and it happened too
often that the man of nature, aided by the rascally counteracting
circumstances, got the better of the Man Machine and caused him to
But my master did not despair, for amidst all these discouraging
circumstances, the common fund increased, and the committee of
management had every year a larger amount of property to manage— for
the community. But for my part, I began to be discouraged—not that
the reflections I have just now made, occurred to me at that time; they
are the product of succeeding experience in the great world. I firmly
believed, and believe still, that the fault of all this was not in my
master's system, but in human nature, that is to say, human nature
debased and corrupted by six thousand years of "erroneous training," as
my master called it.
"Rome was not built in a day," said my master one time—"and a
system of six thousand years can only be completely routed by a
counteracting system of equal duration. I shall not live to see
it—but it will certainly happen; if my system is pursued six thousand
years it will become completely successful. I will not despair. And
who knows after all what may happen? Who knows but the moral
perfectibility may bring about the mechanical perfectibility of the Man
Machine. If my system can only prevent, as I have proved it can, for a
time, the commission of all sin, then of course there will be no
necessity for future rewards and punishments, and as a natural
consequence no necessity for a man to die. Who knows but I may live
long enough to see the millennium? It is only applying the principle of
perpetual motion to the Man Machine."
My master was highly delighted with this new light, and went on with
new hopes and spirits. He was quite sure his Men Machines had been
perfect, at least for an hour or two, and though they had afterwards
got a little out of order he had fairly established his principle, that
they were susceptible of absolute perfectibility. All therefore that
was necessary was to make this perfectibility everlasting, and this
could only be done by operating upon a long succession of generations
of Men Machines. So he held faster to his system than ever, and so did
I. Indeed I had no doubt that each succeeding race of our community,
provided they were properly trained, and the counteracting principles
could be kept down, would approach nearer and nearer to the perfect
state, and at length reach it permanently at last. Nay, I carried my
anticipations so far as to calculate that in the course of three or
four centuries, at farthest, our surplus fund would increase to such an
extent as to enable my master, if he lived so long, to purchase all the
land in the kingdom, and thus make perfect Men Machines of all my
countrymen by actually buying them up as we do other machinery.
But alas!—one of my master's old and desperate enemies, was
destined, by that envious Providence which, as it would seem, could not
bear to see a vile system which it had permitted to exist for six
thousand years, routed by his New View of Society, to destroy all my
anticipations in the bud. My master had unaccountably forgot, that in
order to make his system complete, it was necessary that the rulers as
well as the people should be equally perfect. A reciprocity of
perfection was indispensable. But here my master's system was terribly
out at the elbows, and presented a signal example of the extreme
difficulty of introducing perfection into this world, or in other
words, of reconciling impossibilities. It is obvious that the Men
Machines, having the management of the surplus fund—the buying and
selling—in fact, every thing connected with the pecuniary affairs of
the community, must of necessity mix with the world and become
acquainted with the value of money, the arts of bargaining, and other
matters indispensable to a judicious superintendence of our fund. They
would therefore be assailed not only by the bad examples of people
educated in that "erroneous system" which has prevailed for six
thousand years, but also by all those temptations, or "counteracting
principles," which constitute what are called the seductions of the
great world. It is hardly possible, therefore, but that their machinery
should get more or less out of order, and they themselves backslide
from the summit of perfectibility.
Thus it happened that the treasurer of our establishment, who, at
the time of his election, was considered the most perfect Man Machine
amongst us, being assailed by the "counteracting principle" called a
love of money, and by the other "counteracting principle," the desire
of appropriating other people's property to his own use, played us all
a saucy trick. He fell from grace— his machinery got terribly out of
order; and he backslided into a far country with nearly the whole
proceeds of the surplus fund we had been labouring to accumulate for
years. The committee of management ran after the treasurer— my master
ran after the committee, and we were left alone like so many babes
howling in the wilderness. Having been so long in leading strings, not
one of us could walk alone, and it became sufficiently evident that
after all, the perfectibility of the system entirely depended, not upon
our selves, but upon a runaway treasurer, a runaway committee, and a
runaway reformer. From the mere force of habit our machinery continued
to perform its task—to eat and sleep, to rise in the morning and lie
down at night—but the rest was all a vacuum—a blank—a state of
absolute perfectibility, produced by a state of stagnation.
In process of time my master, who was perfectly innocent of all
participation in the fraud of that infamous Man Machine, the treasurer,
except in so far as he had not sufficiently provided against the
influence of the "counteracting circumstances," returned from an
unsuccessful pursuit of many hundred miles. We had now the world to
begin again. But to say the truth, perfectibility is such a horrid dull
thing, and there was such a want, a total absence of the charm of
variety in our lives and occupations, that for some time past a great
portion of our community had hung loose upon the establishment. It was
only the cement of the "surplus fund," that kept them together, and
that being gone they longed like children, for such in fact they were
in knowledge of the world, to go forth and see its distant wonders. In
one word, they sighed for that freedom of will, that release from
eternal restraint—eternal supervision—and eternal monotony, which
they were obliged to submit to, in order to arrive at perfection. The
idea of freedom was so exquisitely grateful, that they forgot their
losses, and in a little time, in spite of my master's exhortations,
and the logic of his New View of Society which he read over to them six
times, they flew away like gay birds in all directions, leaving him a
disconsolate teacher without any scholars, but myself, and a few of the
lame, blind and incapable of the community who were left behind. The
ties of kindred and the feelings of humanity had, in truth, been very
much weakened for want of exercise in our establishment, if they were
not entirely left out in the march to perfectibility. What became of
the grown up children, thus putting themselves upon their country,
destitute of the habits and experience necessary to self-government,
security, nay, existence in the wide world, I know not to a certainty.
I have heard that many of them were wrecked upon the unknown coast of
the world, and that the remainder, during a great part of their lives,
were indebted for support, to that society which they had deserted, in
pursuit of perfection. My business is not however with them. I am to
relate my own story, which will exemplify the situation of human
beings, such as it would in all probability be in the event of the ill
success of my master's great plan, and the consequent necessity of
their again mixing with the world as it is, with the obligation of
obeying its laws, conforming to its institutions and fulfilling its
I continued with my master some time after the backsliding of the
treasurer, and the dispersion of his flock. Notwithstanding his little
eccentricities, I could not help liking him for the trouble he took to
make the world perfect. Besides, as the apostate Man Machine of a
treasurer could not run away with the village, the land and the
improvements, our establishment was not altogether ruined, and recruits
begun to flock in from time to time. It would seem indeed that whatever
may be the situation of a man, good, bad, or indifferent, there will
always be found some one to occupy it the moment it is vacant. Be this
as it may, my master railed more than ever against the "erroneous
system" of education pursued for the last six thousand years, and I
verily believe would actually have hung up the "counteracting
principles" in a row, could he have fairly got them in his clutches,
notwithstanding his opinion of the injustice of all punishments.
We used to hold conversations together, and my master, who had great
confidence in the perfection of my machinery, frequently consulted me
on the subject of either converting these vile counteracting principles
to his own notions, or exterminating them entirely. On one of these
occasions, I thought I would bring him fairly to the point, by asking
what he meant exactly by these counteracting principles, which seemed
to be always in his way.
"To tell you the truth, sir," said I, "although my corporeal Man
Machine is perfect, so far as respects its being entirely and
exclusively governed, directed, set going and stopped, by the great
principle called the force of habit, whereby the mischievous influence
of the passions is entirely obviated; yet I fear that I am not equally
perfect in my comprehension. I confess, sir, I have never yet been able
to understand exactly which you mean by the counteracting principles. I
have no doubt they are a set of diabolical rascals, but I should like
to have so particular a description that I might know them half a mile
off, and get out of the way when I saw them coming."
"What I mean," replied he, after some considerable pause—"what I
mean by the `counter-acting principles,' or `the force of
circumstances, ' is, all those vices, follies, inconsistencies,
absurdities, habits, principles, and feelings, which an erroneous
system of education for the last six thousand years has implanted in
the human race, so as to change, as it were, their very natures, making
them almost unsusceptible of perfectibility, and it would seem,
incapable of remaining perfect when I have made them so. O! if I could
only get rid of these, what a world I would make of it—there would be
no use in a better, I promise you."
I was just as far off as before, and went on.
"May I ask, sir, what you mean by an erroneous system of education?"
"A system which counteracts human nature, sir."
"But how, sir?—You have always told us that human nature is
nothing but a bit of wax, on which any impression may be made, if taken
while it is soft. It seems to me, though I know I am mistaken, that
there can be no such thing as human nature, and therefore that it
cannot be counteracted by an erroneous system of education."
"Right, sir—right—human nature is an absurdity, a
non-entity—a—a—in short, man is nothing but a machine, and his
nature, or the first principle of his existence, nothing more than the
force of an innate—an innate—an—a—law of matter like that which
causes the wheel to go in a circle, and the runner in a horizontal
"But it has often puzzled me, sir, why—if human nature is a mere
machine with its one inflexible law of action like that of a
wheel—why you should take so much trouble to make it go better. But
after all, sir, I don't see how this explains the counteracting
"Look'e, sir," said my master, who was so well satisfied with the
truth of his theory that he never would allow any body to question it,
without growing rather sore—"Look'e, sir—the counteracting
principle is that tendency to wrong and mischief, which is implanted
in the Man Machine by an erroneous system of education; and the force
of circumstances is nothing more than the temptations thrown into his
way by this erroneous system."
"As how, sir?"
"By the counteracting principles, sir."
"I believe I am very stupid, sir—but really I do not even yet
comprehend these principles. What are they?"
My master began to redden.
"Why, sir—if I must take the trouble to answer your impertinent
questions, sir, I tell you—that avarice, lust, ambition, envy, malice
and revenge, are what I call the counteracting principles."
"O! I understand now—what we used to call the passions."
"The passions!—'tis false, sir—they are not what we used to call
the passions—the passions are phantoms—they have no existence
except in the brain of stupidity—they are the infamous incestuous
product of the vile system of education pursued for the last six
thousand years. There is no such thing as passion—or I say, there
should not, and there would not, be such a thing, if it were not for
the rascally counteracting principles—you are a blockhead, sir—and
may go—where you please."
"It may be—but I am a perfect machine for all that—nobody shall
convince me to the contrary."
"You are a perfect ass," said my master, turning his back upon me in
great wrath—"you are a perfect ass—and the machinery of your upper
works is not worth a tobacco-stopper. I wonder how I could make a
tolerable cotton spinner of you."
This attack upon my perfectibility, nettled me a good deal; neither
was I quite satisfied with my master's definition of the counteracting
principles. I began to hang rather loose upon the establishment; but am
not sure I should have left it, but for a "circumstance," which I
consider the most unlucky that ever happened to me in my whole life.
It is time to remind you that I had once a father, mother, brothers
and sisters. The pursuit of perfectibility, with other important
matters, has hitherto prevented my telling you that I lost them all,
one after the other, in the course of a few years. My father—but I
will not expose him—he died. My mother did not long survive; and my
poor little brothers and sisters dropt one after another, into that
yawning tomb prepared for their reception by the glorious champions of
productive labour. They withered like so many poor ignoble little
flowers, shut out from air and sunshine—they waxed pale, sickly, and
yellow—they became stinted in growth, dry, flimsy, inactive—and at
last incapable. One after another they died away, as it were of no
other disease than that of the spinning jenney. When I think of them
now, the tears come into my eyes, although it was so long ago; but
their fate at the time made but little impression. I was too busy
attending upon the evolutions of the ever turning wheel, the sole
object of my earthly contemplations. From long watching the eternal
round of the spinning jenney, its action became so impressed on the
pupil of my eyes, and its buzzing noise upon the drum of my ear, that
present or absent, sleeping or waking, my brain retained no other
image, and bore no other impress but that. The wheel was perpetually
dancing before me; and as a man after looking at the bright sun in the
firmament, for a few moments, sees when he withdraws his eyes a
thousand orbs dancing before him, so did I a thousand spinning jenneys.
It was thus that my natural feelings and nicer perceptions, died away
for want of exercise, and when I saw myself alone in the world, by the
death of all my family, I tried to be sorry, but could comprehend
nothing distinctly but the spinning jenney.
About the time my master insulted me for not properly comprehending
the counteracting circumstances, and while I felt a little sore on the
subject, one of these diabolical villains was let loose upon me before
I was aware of it. News was brought me that a person possessing a good
estate in a distant part of the country, had died intestate, and that
after minute investigation it was found I was next heir to the whole
of his property. I was therefore regularly summoned to take possession.
Here was a "counteracting circumstance," as my master called it, enough
to make one's hair stand on end—turn his whole New View of Society
wrong side outwards, and destroy the perfectibility of man.
My views, perceptions, and opinions were for a time changed, as if
by magic. When I had nothing I was a great admirer of a community of
goods—now I was rich I turned up my nose at the very idea of such an
odd ridiculous notion, and argued with my master on the subject with a
degree of independence at which he was quite astonished. I offered to
bet him a round sum to back my opinions, and this was better than all
his first principles put together. My master proposed to make me
treasurer, but as there was no common fund, but what I might
contribute, I resisted the tempting offer of being allowed to take care
of my own money, manfully. In an evil hour, I determined to give up all
the delights of perfectibility—to yield to the force of the
counteracting circumstance— to follow the bent of the enlarged
principle of social self-love, and return to the great world again, to
set a good example and reform its abuses. Before I went, I resigned my
portion of the village, the land and its improvements, to the remnant
of the community that had laboured with me, after which I sallied
forth, full of hopes, fears and anticipations of I knew not what. I
remember the first thing that alarmed me in my debut, was seeing two
pigs fighting, an atrocity which none of the orderly swine brought up
under the New View of Society ever were guilty of while in a perfect
state. They are terribly under the influence of the counteracting
principles, said I, to a person who happened to be near.
"Of what?" said he, turning quick upon me.
"Of the counteracting principles," said I.
"They are under the influence of passion," said he.
"My dear sir, there are no such things as the passions—they are
nothing but circumstances."
"Who told you so?" replied he, eyeing me with a queer look, half
surprised and half angry.
"My master—he can prove to you, by his precepts, if not by his
example, that there are no such things in his New View of Society, as
passions. They are nothing but circumstances and counteracting
principles, as I said before."
"Tut," replied he—"'tis only a new name for an old thing—your
master, whoever he is, may call black white, or white black, yet that
won't alter the colour."
"I see you have never read the New View of Society—you are
suffering all the evils, miseries and inconsistencies of that
abominable system of education which has prevailed in the world for
the last six thousand years. You have `been taught crime from your
youth,' as my master says, and I dare affirm, will one day be unjustly
subjected to punishment for those very offences which it was impossible
you should not commit."
"Abominable system of education! Taught crime from my youth!
Punished for offences it was impossible I should not commit! What do
you mean, sir?" cried he, in a passion.
"I mean," said I, with perfect politeness— "I mean that it is more
than an equal chance that you will one day be hanged by the mere `force
of circumstances'—as my master says."
Upon this the imperfect Man Machine unluckily gave way to the
rascally counteracting principles, and came forward with an evident
intention to knock me down.
"I'll teach you to throw out reflections upon me"—
"My dear Man Machine—I meant no reflection,— none in the
world—if you should happen to be hanged it will not be your
fault—it will be the fault of your education, for which you are no
more accountable than for your subsequent actions. If any body deserves
to be hanged, it is your father and mother, who brought you up in a
profound ignorance of the `counteracting principles,' and that
delightful self-love, which is the basis of all social happiness."
"My good friend," replied he, in a tone of contempt— "you are
either a fool or a madman—I can't tell which."
"I am a philosopher."
"The difference is not much now-a-days," quoth he—and coolly
As I proceeded on my way to take possession of my estate, I every
moment discovered that I had got into a new world, where I was a fish
out of water. Every thing seemed at sixes and sevens—and there was a
horrible freedom of will and of action that kept me in perpetual
trepidation—neither man nor beast seemed to pay the least attention
to the sublime precepts of the New View of Society. In our
establishment there was a perfect equality— except that no person was
permitted to have a voice in choosing the committee of management,
unless he was worth a hundred pounds.
 There was also a perfect freedom of action—except that the
committee regulated the employment of every member "consistently with
the public good." In short, there was a regularity—a beautiful
monotony, like the ticking of a clock, or the evolutions of a spinning
jenney—men, women, and children—pigs, ducks, geese and chickens—
hogs, dogs, horses, cows, oxen, sheep and asses—there seemed scarcely
any perceptible difference between them—the instinct of the one
seemed quite equal to the reason of the other— and if there was any
difference, it was in favour of honest instinct. The committee of
management constituted the great moving principle, which set the whole
machinery of the establishment going—they were the steam to the
engine. I should do injustice to one of the most perfect machines I
ever saw, if I neglected to mention in this place, a most sagacious
donkey, whose special vocation it was to carry water. He would go to
the well and return with his load as regularly as a Man Machine, and
that too without a driver. But no reasoning, no violence, no first
principles, could make him go one step beyond the well, or carry a
single load after the hour of twelve. He knew as well as any Man
Machine, when the clock struck twelve, and whenever it was attempted to
make him take another trip to the well, the "counteracting principle"
became invincible. What more could we expect from your boasted rational
But the world into which I had got, was a melancholy contrast to
this perfect system. Every man seemed to be actually in some measure
governed, and impelled by his own will, and of course every man took
his own way. Every one chose his own occupation, without consulting, or
being directed by a committee of management, which by relieving the
community from the labour of thinking for itself, leaves every one at
full liberty to do nothing—but labour for the joint benefit of
others. As with the biped so with the quadruped machines. Not one of
them seemed to know its place as in my master's establishment; each
rambled and fed, apparently where it liked, and so it performed its
appropriate task, or answered its destined end, was allowed every other
species of freedom. The worst of it was, that though I could not help
pitying and despising all of them in a lump, I was provoked to see them
look a hundred times happier and more sprightly than my master's two
legged, and four legged machines. The men whistled and the women sung
at their work—the little children laughed and shouted in a most
unseemly manner amid their unregulated gambols, where they sometimes
fought and squabbled horribly. Their happiness was unaccountable—and
could only proceed from an utter ignorance of my master's New View of
Society. If they could only read that, thought I, they would go near to
destroy themselves. The poor creatures little anticipated, that
probably two thirds of them would live to be hanged or otherwise
punished, only for committing crimes actually forced upon them by the
erroneous system of education inflicted on mankind for the last six
thousand years. But the greatest enormity I saw, was an ox who seemed
so particularly delighted with the liberty he enjoyed of doing as he
pleased for a little while, that he actually cut a caper that would
have scandalized all the sober machines of my master's establishment. I
could not help drawing a contrast between the gaiety I now saw, and the
philosophic ennui, which at all times displayed itself in our
establishment, and which increased with every advance to perfection.
These impressions and reflections, however insensibly, gave place to
others, as I gradually approached towards my new home, where I at
length arrived without any material accident. It was a retired spot, in
a remote county—pleasantly situated, and within two miles of a little
town. The old servants of the late owner received me with attentive
respect, and conducted me to a room where dinner was served up in
handsome style. I asked them if they had dined, and on their replying
in the negative, invited them to sit down with me. They at first
thought I was joking—but on my peremptorily insisting upon it, they
sat down with awkward embarrassment. It was plain to me they never had
read the New View of Society—and knew nothing of the community of
goods—the perfect equality—the incapacity of the Man Machine to
govern his opinions or actions—the horrible system of education of
the last six thousand years—the divine impulse or circumstance of
self-love, and the counteracting principles. Here was a fine field for
the application of my master's theory.
I resolved to lose no time, and as soon as dinner was over, began by
laying down the first principles of the New View. I taught them that
man was a machine, and might be governed like all other pieces of
machinery—that as men were taught crime by the very education they
received, there was no necessity nor even justice in inflicting
punishment— that from the beginning of the world to the present time,
all men had been erroneously trained, and hence all the inconsistencies
and misery of mankind—that a man's will has no control over his
opinions nor his actions, so far as they are influenced by those
opinions—that as all crimes originated in an erroneous education over
which we had no control, we could not be justly accountable for them,
either in the sight of God or man—that self-love was the prime source
of all virtue and happiness—that man was a machine having naturally
no passions but what are instilled into him by an abominable system of
education— that he is capable of perfectibility—and that nothing
stands in the way of it but the rascally counteracting principles.
These doctrines I repeated every day, until my people got them by
heart and could repeat them. Nay, I put them in the form of a
catechism, which I heard every Sunday, instead of sending them to
church to hear the parson "dogmatize." I put in force a number of my
master's regulations, and adopted his system in all its material parts,
having no doubt that in a reasonable time, I should produce a great
reform in my household. And so I should without doubt, but for my
master's old enemies, some of whom followed me into my retirement, and
were as busy as ever in counteracting our plans for the perfectibility
of the Man Machine.
My establishment consisted of an old house-keeper, with whom I had
more trouble than with all the rest put together. She had long reigned
mistress, and master too, of the house—for I have been credibly
informed, that my predecessor, an old bachelor, was more afraid of her
than my master was of the counteracting principles. Indeed, my
experience has long since taught me, that it is no way of escaping the
tyranny of the sex to remain single. I never yet saw an old bachelor
that was not sooner or later most awfully henpecked by some bitter old,
or sweet young housekeeper, nurse, cook, or bed-maker. Mistress
Jeannie, as she was called, was one of the very pillars of aristocracy.
She could not bear the sight of your "ruff scruff," as she called them,
and disliked your poor people inordinately. The pedigrees of all
around, far and near, were known to her a thousand times better than
at the herald's office, and Lyon, King at Arms, was a fool to her in
genealogy. You could tell the antiquity of a family by the courtesy she
made to its representative at church. In short she had been used to the
exercise of power; and held herself considerably above the majority
around her—two of the great counteracting principles in the way of
reform. It will always be found, I fear, that the desire, or the
abhorrence of a system of equality, entirely depends upon the question,
whether it will raise or depress us in the scale of society.
The other members of my establishment, were a steward, or manager, a
shrewd, wary Scotsman, of whom it was said that he paid much attention
to the affairs of his master, and much more to his own. He was supposed
to be considerably under the influence of the counteracting
principles— something of a hypocrite, and a little more of a rogue.
His name was Macnab, and he prided himself upon what he was pleased to
call his Celtic origin. There was a footman, a coachman, stable boy,
and one or two others of miscellaneous occupation, together with two
maids, one of whom was no beauty, and the other had as much vanity and
affectation as a dutchess of three tails. Rather unpromising machines
for perfectibility, thought I— but what of that? I have no doubt, as
my master affirms, that any character may be given to a community, or
to the world at large, by means which are at the command of those who
influence human affairs.
Much to my satisfaction, I discovered in a little time, that my
people glided with perfect ease into the New System of Society, so far
as respected their intercourse with me. They set down at meals at the
same table with me, and so far from displaying any awkward
embarrassment, or making any sacrifices of appetite in consideration of
my authority, they made a point of helping themselves to the choice
bits on all occasions. This was promising, and I had little doubt of
ultimate success, when all at once the villainous counteracting
principles made their appearance, and hatched a plot against me that
had well nigh overturned my New System.
The first was the counteracting principle of insubordination. My
steward, the Celtic Macnab, began to demur most sturdily to my
directions— insisting that as we were upon a perfect equality, in all
other respects, he, as the person that had most experience in these
matters, ought to have the sole superintendence of the agricultural
part of the system. On my demurring to this, he turned away without
ceremony, muttering some thing exceedingly disrespectful to spinning
jennies and machinery. He then went to honest Murdoch the ploughman, a
brave Kilkenny boy as ever broke heads for amusement, and directed him
to plow a certain field for the purpose of planting ruta baga.
"Ruta what?" quoth Murdoch.
"Turnips," said Macnab.
"The divil burn such articles as turnips, say I."
"But you must plant them for all that."
"Must—must, did you say? That for you Macnab," cried Murdoch,
snapping his fingers—"there is no must here in the New Jerusalem.
Turnips!— faugh!—would you set an Irishman planting turnips when
there is such a ting as the beautiful patate, in the land of the
living. Divil burn me Macnab, if I plant a turnip if you christen them
by the name of the best saint in the calendar."
"But I say you must and shall—an't I the manager? You forget
yourself, Mr. Murdoch."
"Faith, Macnab, you're out there—I'm just beginning to remember
myself. You manager!— take notice, ye old Celtic dried up mushroom,
there is to be no manager or management here—our master—that is to
say, our instructor, for all other master's I disdain—has satisfied
me that we have nothing to do with making our own opinions—now my
opinion is decidedly in favour of planting patatees— and if I am
wrong you will please put it down to the errors of my
education—patatees for ever! ye old worn out Man Machine," cried
Murdoch, throwing up his hat—"huzza for patatees!"
"I say turnips," vociferated Macnab.
"And I say patatees," vociferated Murdoch. "If I plant any thing but
patatees, may they rise up and ate me, instead of my ating them."
Macnab was on the point of referring the matter to me, when he
recollected that this would be acknowledging my authority. So he gave
up to Murdoch, who planted his potatoes in triumph.
One day I desired my coachman to get up the horses, for a ride to
the neighbouring village. But he declined the motion, observing that
the principle of self-love, which I had convinced him was the
groundwork of all happiness, prompted him to go in the carriage
himself, having made a party with the pretty chambermaid to the fair.
Accordingly, he went to the stables and ordered out the horses. The
stable boy demurred; it appears he also had made a party to the fair,
and would not give up to the coachman. The counteracting principles
waxed warm within them—they incontinently fell together by the ears,
and battered each other till the Man Machine was terribly disarranged.
The inside of my house was in a worse state if possible, than the
outside. There was the mischief to pay among the Women Machines. The
authority of the old housekeeper fell to the ground—and her long
established system of domestic economy was assailed by the whole force
of the New View of Society. The Women Machines in fact carried my
master's first principles to such an extreme that they actually
degenerated into the counteracting principles, and went over to the
enemy. The principle of perfect equality, in their hands became
self-willed disobedience—the principle of a community of goods,
became the counteracting principle of helping themselves to whatever
they wanted— and the great fundamental principle of self-love became
anti-social, by the prevalence of my master's grand counteracting
principle of the centripetal attraction. In short, there was one
eternal squabble in the house, and poor Jeannie, who had never
throughly come over to the principle of universal equality in all
things, almost fell a victim to the sublime doctrine of perfectibility.
Half the time I had no dinner cooked, and was obliged to lie in an
unmade bed, owing to the predominating influence of the counteracting
"O! man, man!" I sometimes exclaimed in despair—and more
emphatically—"O! woman, woman!—after all I fear that thou art
nothing but a bundle of counteracting principles. But perseverance does
wonders. My master certainly made Men Machines perfect at one time—I
will not despair."
With this resolution I set about a reform, as speedily as possible,
for to say the truth, I found that if we went on in this way much
longer, I should be obliged either to take up money or starve. Saving
honest Murdoch's potatoes, our crop this year was nothing. It really
appeared, that owing to some misunderstanding or misapplication of my
master's first principles, that his perfect system of equality,
resulted in making every body dependent exclusively upon the person
whose duty it was to perform the particular office required. Thus I was
entirely at the mercy of my cook for a dinner— my coachman for a
ride—and my housemaids for a new-made bed. This I was satisfied must
be the work of the counteracting principles. I will set about
counteracting them forthwith.
I called these refractory Machines together and lectured them on the
spirit of insubordination, paying at the same time proper respect to
the principle of equality. I told them that equality was, after all,
not the entire absence of every species of inequality, but such an
equality as was consistent with a due spirit of subordination—that a
community of goods, did not mean the right of helping ourselves to just
what we wanted—that the sublime principle of self-love, was not the
love of self, but of society—and that the idea of a man not being
accountable for his opinions and actions, only meant to apply to those
opinions he might indulge, and those actions he might commit, with a
due regard to the laws and customs of society.
"Och murder," roared Murdoch—"Och murder and Irish—our teacher
has gone over to the counteracting principles. Divil burn the New
System of Society, say I; it is nothing but the old one in disguise
Here it will be perceived that the counteracting principles carried
the Man Machine, Murdoch, from one extreme to the other. The moment I
talked to him of restraining one of my master's first principles, he
and all the rest of them immediately protested that I abandoned my
whole system. I was almost tempted to believe that if man was a
machine, it must be a pendulum, which never stops, except at extremes,
until it ceases its motion entirely.
Thus it happened with the machines of my establishment. I could
never get them to stop at the right place. The villanous counteracting
principles, were always tugging at the skirts of the men, and the
petticoats of the women, now pulling them over the line this way, and
now that, from one side to the other, to the total disarrangement of my
plans, and the downfall of perfectibility. As I proceeded to qualify
the application of my master's great fundamental principles, they all
help up their hands, and raised their voices against such unheard of
restraints in a perfect system of society.
"Arrah!" exclaimed orator Murdoch—"here's a pretty kettle of fresh
fish all turned salt. Here's a pretty attack on the perfectibility of
man. Here's splitting of hairs and philosophising people out of their
liberty. I'm for none of his wishey-washey, half-and-half equality, and
community. Neck or nothing with Murdoch. By St. Patrick, who set all
the sarpents and frogs free from old Ireland, I'd rather be a slave
outright, than not be as free as a mother Carey's chicken. By J—s,"
added he, after a pause—"let's vote him down. Here's six of us, each
equal to him—six to one—all hollow—vote him down—vote him
down—huzza for the first principles, and let every one do as they
The counteracting principles carried all before them—the
resolution passed by acclamation, and I found myself in the situation
of a man, who in getting through a wall, has made a hole which he can't
stop again for his life. Still I did not despair, being positively
certain that my master had at one time succeeded in making Men Machines
perfect, and that what had been done might be done again. I determined
to discharge my present machines as incorrigible, and collect a new
set, younger, and less under the influence of the counteracting
circumstances. Calling them together, I announced my intention of
dismissing them, on the score of their not comprehending my master's
first principles. But an unexpected difficulty presented itself, in
the shape of a counteracting principle as usual.
Not one of them would go, unless I consented to make a fair division
of the common property. With the exception of the old housekeeper, who
sighed for the restoration of her ancient dominion over the household,
I was deserted by all. They clamoured for a division of property,
although I tried to convince them, that as they had not contributed any
thing to the common fund, but had spent twice as much as they earned,
they were entitled to nothing.
"Och, then, he denies the sublime principle of equality," cried
Murdoch—"he has fallen from the state of perfectibility. My sweet
ones, what say you—let's vote him out—let's banish him the
community as an outlaw—a white boy—an imperfect machine—a
traitorous adherent to those diabolical villains the counteracting
Murdoch's motion was carried without opposition, except from the
housekeeper, and yielding to the force of the counteracting principles,
I quietly went into banishment at the neighbouring village. Thus I
found to my no small astonishment, that the operation of my master's
first principles, being somehow or other got under by the force of the
counteracting principles, had actually turned me out of my inheritance.
I have said nothing of the Celtic Macnab of late. The truth is, he
seemed to join but little in these revolutionary proceedings. He was
generally either busy or affecting to be busy elsewhere, and kept
himself perfectly quiet. It will be seen anon what he was about all
this while. At the village, I was waited upon by the minister of the
parish, who, hearing of my situation, came to offer me advice and
consolation. He advised me to appeal to the laws for redress. I shook
"That would be giving up my system entirely."
"What system, I pray?" asked the old man.
"The system of perfectibility, as exemplified in my master's New
View of Society."
"So then, you believe in the perfectibility of man?"
"Certainly—I believe that if the Man Machine was only freed from
that erroneous system of education which has prevailed for the last six
thousand years—and could escape the influence of the counteracting
principles—he would almost as a matter of course, become a perfect
Machine—as perfect as a steam engine."
The good man shook his head, and smiled a melancholy smile—
"So then, you intend to put up with this wrong, and refrain not only
from claiming your rights, but from punishing those who have invaded
"Certainly—I hold that as all the miseries, inconsistencies, and
crimes of the Man Machine, proceed from the errors of his early
education, over which he can have no control, it follows as a matter of
course, that he ought not to be punished for them. He can no more help
them, than a machine constructed upon false principles, can help going
"And you seriously believe the world has been going wrong ever since
the creation, and that you are destined at last to set it going right."
"I and my master."
"O! the inordinate pride of human nature," quoth the old man,
shaking his white locks.
"Pooh!—there is no such thing as human nature, or any other kind
of nature. Nature is nonsense— an absurdity, a phantom, conjured up
by folly and prejudice. Man, sir, is a machine—you might as well talk
of the nature, the passions, the innate impulses, of a spinning jenney,
as of a man."
"Your principles go to the complete disorganization of the present
system of society."
"To be sure they do—and that is exactly what I conceive
constitutes their peculiar excellence. The whole system is radically
wrong, and I and my master mean to set it right if we can only baffle
those scoundrels the counteracting principles, and evade the force of
"But what is there so very wrong in the present system, that you
wish to overturn it?"
"In the first place—people are actually taught crime, and then
punished for it by the operation of an unjust system of laws. Now, sir,
in order to remedy these crying evils, I would first put the judge in
place of the criminal and hang him, to a certainty. Then I would
abolish the whole system of punishments, as unjust and
unnecessary—for nothing can be plainer, than that as all crimes and
errors proceed from an erroneous system of education, it is idle and
cruel at the same time, to make laws for their punishment."
"Then—to return to the point—you mean to leave these people in
possession of your estate."
"I must—or abandon my system."
"Your estate is worth a dozen such systems."
"For shame, sir—do you value a few paltry acres more than the
perfectibility of the Man Machine. I never saw a machine so completely
under the influence of the counteracting principles, as you are."
We had many similar conversations, all ending in the same
unsatisfactory manner. In the mean time, my honest friend, the Celtic
Macnab, was quietly maturing a plan to arrest in the most effectual
manner, the perfectibility of man, so far as it depended upon myself.
He had represented me to the proper authorities as a mischievous
madman, going about propagating principles that struck at the whole
existing institutions of society—an enemy to property, order and
religion. He further stated that I was totally incapable of managing my
estate, and that it was the duty of the commission to appoint an
administrator to take it out of the hands of my domestics, who had
possession, and were wasting it as fast as they could.
In pursuance of this information, I was unexpectedly taken into
custody, and carried before a commission, to undergo an examination.
Macnab stated shortly what I have heretofore detailed to the reader,
and I was called on for an explanation of the motives of my conduct. I
detailed in the clearest manner, the first principles of the New View
of Society, and stated the grand objects my master and I had in view,
in thus attempting to overturn the whole system of the world. I never
was so eloquent before or since. But the machines constituting the
commission of inquiry were sadly out of order, and the vile
counteracting principles were too strong for my arguments. They
pronounced me mad, although I proved to them that a man could not
possibly be made accountable for his opinions, and appointed honest
Macnab administrator to my estate.
I was carried to a neighbouring city and placed in a lunatic asylum.
I made no resistance, for I was satisfied they could not place me among
a set of people more mad than those I had just left. Nay, a sudden
hope dawned upon me, that I might possibly in time introduce my New
System of Society among the machines of the asylum. Accordingly, one
day when all the most quiet and manageable among us were amusing
ourselves in the enclosure appointed for that purpose, I took an
opportunity of laying down my master's first principles. Contrary to my
expectations there was a decided opposition to the principle of
equality, as well as that of a community of goods.
"Shall I, who am Alexander the great, sink to a level with Alexander
the coppersmith?" cried one.
"Shall I, who have written verses, ten thousand times superior to
Milton, or Homer, twaddle arm in arm through Grub-street with Croly and
Mrs. Hemans?" cried another.
"And shall I, who have made the Apocalypse as clear as noonday,
grovel on the same level with the expounder of a Chinese puzzle?"
exclaimed a third.
"And shall I, who have demonstrated the grand principle of perpetual
motion, acknowledge an equality with a mere inventor of steam engines?"
roared a fourth.
"And shall I, who have completed a canal to connect the Icy Sea with
the North Pole, degenerate into an equality with an Irish ditcher?"
roared a fifth.
"And shall I, who have invented a New System of Society, to
supersede law, gospel, crime and punishment, be placed on the same
shelf, with such fellows as Moses, Solon, Peter the Great, Napoleon
Bonaparte, and Jeremy Bentham?" roared a sixth.
You are the man for my money, thought I. I will make you treasurer
of the Society, which I have observed is always the favourite office of
great reformers and philanthropists. I could almost have persuaded
myself that this was my master speaking, but it proved to be a poor
fellow, who in the sequel demonstrated that he had not above half his
discretion. Before I could proceed to enforce my doctrines by some of
my master's best arguments, the counteracting principles began to play
away finely. The indignation of the whole party fell upon me, whom they
looked upon as a leveller, a democrat, a radical, who wished to deprive
them of their just claims to superiority.
Alexander the Great seized Perpetual Motion by his thin spindle leg,
with which he proceeded to serve me as he had done old Clytus, and run
me through with his javelin. The poet thundered forth an anathema, that
beat that of Ernulphus, or even one of lord Byron's curses, quite
hollow—the expounder of the Apocalypse pronounced me the beast with
seven heads and ten horns—the lawgiver proceeded to a breach of his
own laws, by knocking me on the head with a corn-stalk— the internal
improvement man threatened to make me read all that had ever been
written on the subject— and the champion of the New System, forfeited
all claim to the office I had destined for him, by seizing me by the
collar, and demanding whether I dared to question the eternal truth,
that no man was justly accountable for his opinions.
The uproar brought out the keepers, who having traced its origin in
the promulgation of my New System of Society, immediately placed me in
solitary confinement. Here I had full leisure to reflect, and to mature
my plans for the perfectibility of mankind. What a world is this,
thought I, and to what has it been brought by the erroneous system of
the last six thousand years! It has I fear entirely unfitted mankind
for any thing like a state of perfectibility. Neither men in their
senses, nor men out of their senses are willing to adopt the New
System, which seems like the unlucky tailor's coat that fitted nobody.
I had many tight arguments with the keeper who had me in charge, and
who was sadly under the influence of the counter-acting principles. I
could never convince him that the world had been going completely wrong
ever since the creation, that all mankind were in error, and my master
alone right. He insisted the first was a reflection upon Providence,
and that it was entirely contrary to reason that one man should be so
much wiser than all the rest put together. I have indeed observed that
reason is always in the way of us great reformers, and have often heard
my master say, it was one of the strongest counter-acting principles he
had to deal with. There was another obstacle always in his way, which
he called a "circumstance," namely, the experience of mankind, which my
master swore, was the most obstinate blockhead in the world.
I remained in this state of solitary abstraction for about a month,
during which my enthusiasm in behalf of the New System of Society
somewhat abated. I had all the zeal in the world, but had no ambition
to become a martyr. At the end of the month, the visitor, a benevolent
physician, came to examine into the cases of these unfortunate beings.
He visited me, and we had a long conversation, in which I studiously
abstained from the doctrines of the New System of Society. I considered
that no man was bound to sacrifice himself to a theory; and that at all
events, I could do nothing to propagate the perfectibility of man,
while thus shut up from all communion with my fellow creatures. It was
impossible to reform society, from the inside of a mad-house. The
doctor was surprised at my rationality, and seemed inclined to report
me as being perfectly restored, when, unfortunately, happening to
differ with him in some point, I apologized, by observing, that no man
was accountable for his opinions or actions in this world.
"Good day, my friend," replied the doctor, bowing almost to the
ground, with great gravity—"I am afraid you are not quite cured yet,"
and away he went. I could have bit off my tongue, and made a solemn
resolution not to say a single syllable about the Man Machine—the
perfectibility of man— the counteracting circumstances, or any such
matters, the next time the doctor came.
At the end of a month the visitor came again, and I conducted myself
with such discretion that he immediately procured an order from the
trustees of the asylum for my release. The keeper, as he bade me
farewell, warned me against perfectibility, and I was very near being
shut up again for cautioning him against the counteracting principles.
Without losing any time I bent my steps towards my estate with a design
of bringing the Celtic Macnab to a reckoning, for procuring me to be
shut up in a mad-house. When, however, I came to recollect, that all
the errors, inconsistencies, vices and crimes of the Man Machine
originated in his being set going wrong at first by an erroneous system
of education, and that he could not in strict justice be called to
account for his opinions or actions, I determined to treat him in the
most friendly manner. We accordingly had an amicable meeting, in which,
in discussing the subject of the New View of Society, he observed, that
the old world was not the proper sphere for trying the experiment. Old
habits, old errors, and old establishments, were difficult to change,
or pull down. It was in the wide space of the new world, where there
was plenty of elbow-room to give it a fair trial, and where habits,
manners and opinions had not attained to that rigidity of muscle which
renders them unalterable, that it was undoubtedly destined the
experiment should completely triumph. He also casually mentioned that
my old master, had already made arrangements for the grand experiment,
and had sailed for the new world.
I caught at the idea—and after some little discussion, such was my
impatience to follow my master, agreed with Macnab to leave him in
quiet possession, for a sum of money which hardly amounted to two
years' purchase. It was a good estate, although my people, yielding to
the force of the counteracting principles, had dilapidated it sadly.
Macnab had turned them all out except the old housekeeper, who still
maintained her rank and her authority. I know not what became of the
rest, only that orator Murdoch took a trip to Botany Bay, for acting
too largely upon my master's grand principle of a community of goods. I
went to bid the good old parson farewell.
"You are going on a wild goose chase," said he.
"Yes—but people sometimes catch wild geese."
"Much oftener than perfectibility."
"Aye—aye," said I, good humouredly—"you parsons can't bear the
idea of perfectibility, because it would put down your calling."
He answered my smile—
"Well, go thy ways for an odd Man Machine. Thou wilt one day
discover the Providence is wiser than thou art—Farewell. Tell me how
you get on in the new world—when your community becomes quite
perfect, send for me. I will come to show you, that we parsons are not
afraid of perfectibility."
As I was going away he called me back—
"Stay, friend Perfectibility," said he, merrily. "Thou mayest want
some person to certify for thee in the new world, that thou art not
quite as mad as a March here. I will give thee a letter to an American,
formerly a fellow student of mine at Edinburgh, who will befriend thee
He then sat down, and in a few minutes finished a letter, which he
gave me, directed to Mr. Robert Ashley, at Bristol, Pennsylvania.
Full of anticipations, I went down to a neighbouring seaport, and
embarked for the new world, where I arrived after a short passage
without any accident or event worth recording. During the passage, I
had some conversations on the New View of Society, with an old sailor,
who I attempted to bring over to my master's theory. At last, however,
he cut me short by "D—g his eyes if he believed there was any way to
make a man perfect, except by making a perfect sailor of him."
There was, however, a fellow passenger on board, who I found to be
more reasonable, and less under the dominion of the counteracting
principles. We had frequent discussions on the subject, and I opened to
him all my plans without reserve, not omitting the sum of money I had
with me, to invest in the perfect community. He became a complete
convert to the New View of Society, and we agreed to co-operate
zealously in the great work of perfectibility. We went to live at the
same lodgings, where we digested a plan of operations for the future.
The second day after landing, he came to me, to say that by a great
piece of ill luck, the merchant on whom he had a credit for a large
sum, was out of town, and could not supply him with funds.
"But I should not have minded that so much," said he, "except that
another merchant to whom I am indebted in part of this money, insists
on my paying him immediately. Now all I want is for you to advance me
the sum, till the day after to-morrow, when the person on whom my bills
are drawn will be in town."
He offered to show me the bills, but on second thoughts, had left
them with the merchant's clerk. The sum he wanted was nearly all I was
worth in the world, but I lent it with as little hesitation as my
friend borrowed it. He then left me to go and pay the debt he spoke of,
desiring me to have dinner ready at four o'clock, when he would
certainly be back. But four came, without my friend, and hour after
hour passed without his appearing. The dinner grew cold, for I had no
inclination to eat—not that I was uneasy about my money, but my
friend. I was afraid that his simplicity had been imposed on, or that
like me he might have been mistaken for a mad-man, and put in a lunatic
asylum. A week passed away without my seeing him, during which time the
remainder of my money had disappeared also. I began to grow
uneasy—and one day took a solitary walk, in the envrions of the city,
to reflect on my situation, and ponder on the mysterious disappearance
of my friend. What was my joy, on turning round a short corner, to meet
him face to face when I least expected. I was rejoiced to see him, but
I cannot say that he appeared to share my raptures.
"My dear Man Machine," cried I, "I am so delighted to meet you
again—I was afraid they had put you in a mad-house, for believing in
perfectibility. By the way—I have spent every farthing of my money
and will thank you to let me have what I lent you."
"What, in a community where all things are to be in common? You
forget the New View of Society," said he, with a sort of sneer I did
"Yes, but the system you know is not yet in operation."
"No matter, the principles on which it is founded are eternal and
immutable, sir. If a community of goods is right in one case, it is
right in another. Your money is gone."
"You don't say so," said I, in great dismay.
"Gone, sir—I have considered myself as acting up to the sublime
principles of the New System, by distributing it among the community,
upon the just basis of mutual wants, and mutual conveniences. The
tailor has some of it—the jeweller—the hatter— the tavern
keeper—has each his share— but the last guineas went for a couple
of dozen Bingham wine, which would do your heart good even to smell at.
You shall come this blessed day, and help crack a bottle—hey! my fine
piece of perfectibility!"
"So then, you have spent all my money?"
"Your money? my dear friend, you again forget the sublime doctrines
of the New System of Society. You have only to consider each of these
persons who have received a share of your money, as members of our
community, and you will acknowledge that it could not possibly belong
"I believe you are a great rascal."
"My dear friend, how can you make that out?"
"You have cheated me of my money."
"My good friend, you are certainly under the dominion of the
counteracting principles, if ever a man was in this world. But suppose,
for the sake of argument, that I had defrauded you of your money. What
then—am I to blame?"
"Who else in the name of common sense?"
"Don't mention common sense, I beseech you— it has nothing to do
with the New System of Society. We must try the question by our great
master's first principles."
"Well then, can you deny that all the errors, inconsistencies, and
crimes of the Man Machine, for the last six thousand years, may be
traced in a direct line to the absurd and mischievous system of
education which has prevailed all that time."
"Very well—and can you deny the immortal, and immutable truth of
the great principle of perfectibility, that no man can be justly held
responsible for his opinions or his actions?"
"I do not deny it."
"Very well; then answer me, thou ricketty, addle-pated, imperfect
machine, whether, even supposing I had actually defrauded you of your
money, I am to be blamed for it? You must blame the erroneous system of
society, and if you punish any body, it must be my parents who did not
take sufficient care to put down the rascally counteracting principles."
"And you think yourself justified on these grounds?"
"Certainly, certainly—besides, it was my opinion that if I did not
rid you of your money, somebody else would, that might not make as good
use of it; and the sublime circumstance of self-love, which you know is
the basis of all social duties, prompted me to give the preference to
myself. You at least cannot blame me for acting up to first principles."
"First principles! If the truth were known these are nothing but my
master's great enemies the counteracting principles."
"They are the principles of perfectibility."
"They are the principles of the d—l, who it is said can even quote
scripture to his purpose."
"My dear machine, how can you, a perfect man, talk about such
antiquated stuff as the scriptures. Don't you know they are entirely
unnecessary to the perfect state."
"I don't know," cried I, in despair—"I know nothing, I believe."
"There now you may pass muster in your master's great community. To
know nothing and to be conscious of it, is the most perfect state of
the Man Machine." Then assuming all the air of a mentor, he added,
"Look'e, Mr. Harmony, I will give you a piece of advice, which if
you follow it, will be worth more than all your money, so that we shall
be quit at all events. The next time you meet with a stranger, don't
attempt making him a convert to principles that will not only justify
his borrwoing your money without ever paying, but picking your pocket
into the bargain." So saying, he marched off at a long trot, and
presently disappeared in the great wilderness of houses.
I was now left destitute in a strange land, and what was most
provoking of all, as it were, by the operation of my master's first
principles, which, now for the first time I began to distrust not a
little. What to do I knew not, for I had been so used to be told every
day what to do, and to do every day the same thing, that I was a
perfect inanimate machine, so far as respected the total absence of the
principle of self-government. I stood with my hands in my
breeches-pockets, I dare say with a most rueful expression of face,
when suddenly I felt the letter of the worthy old parson crumpled
between my fingers. As the last resort, I determined to go and deliver
it to Mr. Ashley, and claim his good offices. He lived a considerable
distance from the city, but being a man well known, I soon got a
direction to his country seat.
In the morning, I was about getting into a stage with my trunk, when
the master of the house came up with very little ceremony, or rather
none at all, and presented me a bill. I began to talk about the first
principles, the community of goods, and the New View of Society. But
this was one of the most intractable machines I ever had to do with. He
told me his first principle was to get his money if he could—his
second to send his boarders to jail, when they ran in debt without
being able to pay. These sounded to me very much like some of my
master's old enemies, the counteracting principles. But the truth is, I
began to be so confused about principles, that I could hardly tell one
from another. Be this as it may, I was carried to prison, when,
according to one of my master's first principles, the landlord, who
applied for, and the magistrate who granted the commitment, ought to
have been put there in my place. Here I was admitted into a society
which came nearer to my master's New View, than any thing I ever saw
before or since. Here all were equal, and there was a perfect community
of goods, each man borrowing from his neighbour without ever thinking
of payment. They all moreover agreed perfectly, in laying the blame of
all the evils they had suffered, and all the faults they had committed,
to the errors of their education, and were equally unanimous, in
declaiming against the injustice of legal punishments. I verily believe
there was not one of them, that would not have come most heartily into
my master's idea of a community of goods, throughout the whole world.
Indeed, I thought our community in some respects preferable to that of
my master, seeing we had nothing to do, and had the best possible
chance for perfectibility, being removed from the temptations of this
world, and out of the reach of the counteracting principles. We had
iron bars, and double doors to keep the villains out.
Notwithstanding some symptoms of ennui, which began to creep over
me, I felt myself so comfortable that I hardly knew whether to be glad
or sorry, when one day a gentleman was ushered into my room, who
announced himself as Mr. Ashley.
"I just now," said he, "received a letter from an old friend of
yours and mine, who says he gave you one to me, and inquires whether I
have seen you. Being in town upon some business, I thought I would look
you out, and after some little tracing, found you, where I am very
sorry to see you, sir."
"I have nothing to reproach myself with, and very little to complain
of," said I. "Our society here approaches tolerably near to the New
View, and the men come as near to the state of perfect machines, as any
I have seen, except my master and myself."
He looked at me with a mixture of pity and wonder.
"I am glad you have been so comfortable here. But at all events I
hope you will have no objection to go home with me for a little time.
I have paid your small debt, and though our society may not be quite so
perfect as this, I hope you will be able to tolerate it."
There was an honest freedom, mingled with hearty kindness, about Mr.
Ashley, that won my confidence, and after some little struggle with
myself I agreed to accompany him home. His establishment was large, and
he had about him a number of workmen and labourers. But I regretted to
see that he had made little or no advance in the great plan of
perfectibility. He paid no regard to the system of perfect equality,
except so far as the administration of justice required, and the grand
principle of a community of goods, was entirely banished. Instead of
treating his men and women like machines, he actually put them on the
footing of rational beings, accountable for their actions, forgetting
entirely that these proceeded from an erroneous system of education,
over which they had no control whatever. He laughed at the idea of
entirely banishing idleness, poverty and crime, and of course the
necessity of punishment, by means of any system ever yet invented. As
to the counteracting principles, he went so far as to say that this was
a phrase invented by my master, who by giving new names to old things,
had sought to screen the absurdity of his new system, from the eyes of
Nevertheless, Mr. Ashley was a shrewd, clearsighted man, who had
seen much, read much, and reflected much in the course of his life.
Like all the well educated Americans, I have seen, he had those
practical notions of liberty, that are essential to its existence, and
which only the habitual enjoyment of it can thoroughly implant in the
mind. When the rational inhabitants of the new world, speak of freedom
and equality, they mean nothing more than the privilege of making their
own laws, and an equality of civil and religious rights. "The first
right of a people," said Mr. Ashley to me, in one of our
discussions—"the first right of a people is that of making their own
laws— their first duty is to obey them. They and the magistrates who
administer them, are the only sovereigns." This is a sentiment, I may
say a habit, with the Americans; and I often have had occasion to
observe that one of the last things they think of, is resisting laws
assented to by their own peculiar legislature. My friend and I had long
and frequent arguments, upon the advantages of the old and new system,
for though he was my benefactor, I was determined not to give up to him
on that account.
"Your master, as you call him," said Mr. Ashley to me, one day that
I had advanced the doctrine of perfectibility—"your master appears to
consider all the vices and crimes of mankind as proceeding from
"Certainly," said I, "they are the necessary and inevitable
consequences of ignorance, as my master affirms."
"As an abstract proposition and taken in its broadest sense it is
probably true. Could we conceive the idea of any being, but Omnipotence
alone, gifted with perfect knowledge, that being would probably be free
from all vice. Perfect knowledge presupposes a perfect conviction of
the futility of indulging the passions, except to the extent in which
they are essential to the existence of the grand system of the
universe. Perfect knowledge, or wisdom, would know that inordinate
lust, avarice, ambition, gluttony, selfishness, envy, malice, revenge,
and all those passions which lead to the commission of crime, were in
fact sources of misery, repentance and despair. It would therefore,
having this perfect conviction, abstain from the criminal indulgence of
"I am happy," said I, "that you are a convert to one of my master's
first principles at least."
"In its abstract, not in its application. I consider it, when
applied to man, as a preposterous absurdity."
"Because it can never apply to him to the extent necessary to your
first principle. It must be perfect wisdom, or the argument falls to
"But do you not believe, that in proportion as we lose our
ignorance, we recede from vice?"
"Indeed, I do not. In the main, I do believe that the acquisition of
knowledge, unless," said Mr. Ashley, smiling, "it meets with one of
your master's counteracting principles, is favourable to virtue. But he
must be little acquainted with the world, as it has been, and as it is,
not to be convinced, that in the scale of virtue there is little
difference between knowledge and ignorance, except in the refinement
with which the one, and the grossness with which the other indulges its
vices. Generally speaking, ignorance is not the fault of mankind, but
their misfortune. It would therefore impeach the justice of Providence
to suppose they were the worse on that account."
"Here, at least," said I, eagerly, "you have admitted one of my
master's first principles. You say that ignorance is generally not the
fault, but the misfortune of mankind. Is not this acknowledging what my
master affirms, that, as no man directs his early education, so no man
can justly be accountable for his opinions or his actions."
"Indeed, it is not. What I find fault with, in your master's first
principles, is, that though they are, a great many of them, such as
have been admitted by the writers on morals and metaphysics, yet until
now they were never carried to that mischievous extent of practical
application, which I consider the defect, I might almost say, the
wicked, ness of your master's system. Consider what would be the result
of the application of your principle of non-accountability. A perfect
latitude of crime, and a complete freedom from punishment—the absence
of all restraints of conscience or law."
"But where would be the harm, if the Man Machine was perfect?"
"Neither you or your master have a right to ask the question until
you make them so."
"But you will admit that if they were perfect, there would be no
harm in it?"
"Certainly—only make them perfect, and I will become a convert to
the New System."
"Only give us time, and you will see it all come about. All that is
necessary is to get rid of the rascally counteracting circumstances."
"O certainly—there I agree with you perfectly," said Mr. Ashley,
smiling. "But as time is, you acknowledge, necessary to make man
perfect, what is to become of society in the mean while, when all the
restraints of accountability and punishment are thus suspended? It will
fall into a state of nature, if there ever was such a thing—a perfect
anarchy— a dissolution will take place."
"My dear friend, that is just what we want. If we could only
dissolve the present state of society, and produce a perfect chaos, we
would then begin ab avo, as my master says, and do what we
pleased afterwards in remodeling it."
"But to return," continued I, "to the inseparable connexion between
vice and ignorance. You don't believe in it?"
"Let me answer you by another question, in our yankee fashion. Which
are most free from vice, children or grown people?"
"Why, children, to be sure."
"And which have most knowledge, children or men?"
"Why, men, to be sure."
"Then how can ignorance be the sole cause of vice?"
Mr. Ashley seeing me rather posed, went on.
"My good friend, be assured the great error of all system makers, is
that of ascribing to one cause, what is the result of the operation of
many. Degrees of vice are not to be measured by degrees of
ignorance—nor does the mere teaching of what is right furnish any
absolute guarantee for acting rightly. There are a thousand temptations
assailing us, from which all the knowledge that will ever fall to the
lot of man, can be but an inadequate defence?"
"That is owing to the intervention of the rascally counteracting
"Call them what you will," said Mr. Ashley, "names do not alter
things, nor can all thy master's jargon about principles and
circumstances, disguise the passions and appetites of human nature,
from those who are not governed by mere words. It is indeed a happy
circumstance that the morals of mankind do not depend upon the
understanding of metaphysical distinctions, else I fear there would be
little of morality in this world."
"Then," said I, after a pause, "you do not believe in the influence
of knowledge at all?"
"Pardon me," said he, "I believe it has great influence, and that to
know our duties, is essentially necessary to the practice of them. They
are, to a certain extent, indispensable to the maintenance and
enjoyment of that freedom which is the basis of national prosperity and
happiness. If to know what is right is essential to practice, it is
still more essential to the enjoyment of our rights, that we should
know in what they consist. This cannot be known without education. All
I deny is, that human knowledge will suffice to the total prevention of
crimes, or obviate the necessity of penal statutes and punishments."
"Punishments!" said I, "my master allows of nothing of this kind. He
has proved that punishment is not only cruel, but entirely ineffectual
in the prevention of crime."
"Why because, notwithstanding these punishments, crimes are
committed every day," said I.
"Ah! that is your master's usual mode of drawing conclusions.
Because punishments do not prevent crime entirely, he concludes that
they are of no effect whatever. Because they don't do every thing, it
follows in his system that they do nothing. He sees that crimes are
committed in spite of the punishment; but only Omniscience can see how
many others are refrained from, in the apprehension of the punishment
that awaits them. In good truth, my friend, of all thy master's
absurdities, and truly they are manifold, the absurdity of dispensing
with punishments altogether, because those already denounced are
insufficient for the total prevention of crime, is the greatest. It is
as if a parent should say to a wayward and obstinate child, `Go thy
ways, and do as thou pleasest; I find ten stripes will not prevent thee
from transgressing, therefore I will not increase them to twenty, but
let thee off in future, without any punishment at all."'
"But my master relies upon the force of habit, the absence of
temptation, and the hope of reward," said I.
"My good friend, thy master relies upon insufficient securities. The
force of habit is strong I allow, but where is thy master's surety that
men will not adopt bad habits as well as good?"
"The absence of all temptation to do evil," replied I.
"My friend," replied Mr. Ashley, "where there are temptations to do
good, there will be temptations to do evil. They are coeval,
co-existent and inseparable."
"But we are to have neither temptation to one or the
other—temptation is to be banished entirely."
"Then what becomes of the hope of reward— is not that a temptation
to do good? But be assured that rewards will not do alone in this
world, without the aid of punishments. You may punish a man for
committing a crime, but it would be impossible for society under any
view, new or old, to reward all persons for abstaining from it. But
even if society had the means, how is it to arrive at a knowledge of
the degree of temptation resisted, of the degree of virtuous
forbearance exercised, so as to proportion the reward to the
resistance? It would be confounding all degrees of virtue to reward all
alike, and it would be arrogating to ourselves the Omniscience of the
Supreme Being, to pretend to discriminate between the temptations and
forbearance of all those who abstain from the commission of crime.
Solon, one of the wisest of lawgivers, ancient or modern, has said,
that in order to make men virtuous, you must allure them by rewards,
and deter them by punishments. All legislators have proceeded upon
these principles. Is thy master wiser than the wisest of all ages? To
me it appears that his system, so far from indicating superior wisdom,
is founded in a total practical ignorance of man; and a complete
misapplication of the little abstract knowledge he possesses."
"Then you deny that the hope of reward operates in favour of
virtue," said I.
"Indeed, not I. I only deny that it is sufficient in itself to
restrain the passions of mankind—I find fault only with thy master
for affirming it to be so. A perfect system can no more be made out of
a single principle like this, than a perfect man could be made with
only one leg. Thy system has but half a leg in truth."
Here I observed that I thought my master at least sincere and
disinterested, in his plans for improving the happiness of the human
family, and that however he might be led astray by an unlimited
application of his first principles, his object at least should shelter
him from ridicule.
"Why, I don't know," replied Mr. Ashley—"a good intention
certainly goes far to sanction a reasonable degree of theoretical
absurdity. But when such absurdities strike at the root of the whole
frame of society, and in their operation go to unsettle the very
fundamental principles of religion, morals and government, the author
of them becomes Feroe Naturoe—a sort of common enemy, whom it
is lawful to run down, either by reason or ridicule, whichever may be
most efficacious. Now, my good friend, I believe the sage Don Quixote
was the last man that ever seriously undertook to fight with a
windmill; except it may be that I am somewhat liable to a similar
imputation, in having seriously attempted to battle with thy master's
first principles. To oppose fanaticism, or uncloak hypocrisy, by
serious argument, is a hopeless task, because the former neither
reasons, nor listens to reason, and the latter is always too interested
to become a convert. I do not doubt thy master's sincerity, although he
talks a little too much, I think, about increase of profit, pecuniary
gain, and such like worldly matters, which slip out occasionally; but
whether sincere and disinterested or not, he has no right to demand, or
you either, that because he is serious, others must of necessity be
serious too. Goodness of intention, like charity, covers a multitude of
sins—but a good intention can only be known to him who searches all
hearts, while its evil consequences may be estimated by every rational
being. It would be making error perpetual to approach it on all
occasions with a most profound and reverential gravity. Such is indeed
the infirmity of our nature that what is often impenetrable to reason,
and invincible to persecution and torture, is brushed away by the light
feather of ridicule in a single moment. There is another good practical
reason for using this weapon in cases like the present. Errors and
mischievous absurdities, are best put down by the good sense and good
feeling of the people, excited and awake nedby addresses to both. This
excitement is to be produced, either by verbal arguments or by printed
publications, which last, to be of any service, must be read. Now,
hundreds will read a book that makes them laugh, where one will read a
book that only makes him wise. I never expect to attack thy master's
first principles, in a book, but I claim the privilege of laughing at
them when I please, notwithstanding your gravity. I hope you will take
it in good part, for I promise you, that in some ages and countries,
your master would not have been let off with a laugh."
These arguments were renewed almost every day, and I confess that
each one contributed in some degree to unsettle for a moment my faith
in the New View of Society. But though weakened I was not overcome, and
I exulted from time to time in detecting Mr. Ashley in what I supposed
inconsistencies and contradictions.
"If I understand," said I one day, "you deny my master's first
principle, that any character may be given to a community, or to the
world at large, by means which are in the power and at the command of
those who influence human affairs?"
"I do, as usual," replied Mr. Ashley, "to the extent to which he
"Then you deny the influence of power, wealth, talent, superstition,
corporeal strength—in short, whatever has enabled men to obtain an
influence over nations, and to modify their systems of government?"
"My good friend, it appears to me the pupils of perfectibility have
a very imperfect mode of understanding argument. You, for example, seem
to suppose that I deny every thing you advance, because I don't assent
to every thing. I believe if I were to deny that this was a bright
sunshiny day, merely because it rains, you would take me up as
affirming there was no such thing as sunshine in this world. Here, as
usual, your master's proposition is true to a certain extent; but to
affirm that the character of a community entirely depends on its
rulers, or in other words, `those who influence human affairs,' is
running into an extreme, and all extremes are absurdities. This would
be making man a machine at once, to be set in motion entirely at the
will or caprice of another. I certainly believe in the very weighty
influence of rulers and lawgivers, but I don't believe all of them put
together, could make the native of Lapland or Kamschatka, an Italian
amateur of the fine arts, any more than I believe a pig could be
brought to prefer wiping his nose with a cambric handkerchief by the
influence of either his master's precepts or example. I have seen a
learned pig it is true, but his scholarship originated in a proper
distribution of rewards and punishments, both which your master
discards from his new system. That power, wealth, virtue and genius,
give certain men great influence in the formation of the community in
which they live, is certain. But there are a thousand other
`circumstances, ' as your master would call them, either aiding or
counteracting this influence, and modifying habits, manners, and
opinions. Your master is only wrong here, as he generally is, in
ascribing all to the influence of man, and leaving nothing to those
more powerful instruments wielded by Providence. He appears to deal in
none but secondary causes."
Proceeding in the discussion of my master's first principles, we at
length came to the community of goods, the perfect equality, and the
great axiom, that nothing was necessary to supersede the whole
complicated system of education, government and religion but the proper
understanding of the great truth, that self-love and social are the
same. In discussing these points Mr. Ashley observed—
"That the object of my master, in making a perfect equality, and a
community of goods, two of the fundamental principles of his system,
appeared to be that of withdrawing from his Men Machines three of the
great sources of injustice and crime among mankind, to wit, ambition,
avarice and envy. But the idea of so perfect a system of equality, so
perfect a community of every thing, as would place people out of the
reach of the operation of these passions"—
"Counteracting principles, if you please."
"Well, counteracting principles then," said Mr. Ashley, good
naturedly—"the idea, I say, is absurd and preposterous. There is an
inequality in nature, if nowhere else, which is beyond the control of
systems and theories; and even admitting there were not, unless you
could produce a perfect equality in that estimation in which men hold
the good things of this world, it would be impossible to prevent them
from envying some one or other—from indulging a desire to appropriate
what is not their own, and to control the opinions and actions of their
fellows. In short, you must place man in the grave before you can place
him beyond the reach of the pass— I beg pardon, the counteracting
principles. But were it even possible to introduce and sustain for any
length of time so perfect an equality, as that all should be precisely
on a footing with regard to worldly goods, and worldly sources of
enjoyment, I fear there would not be the less play of the little and
malignant passions. Experience, which is a surer guide than the
vagaries of sanguine or deluded theorists, has convinced me that it is
precisely in this state of perfect equality that these ignoble passions
are most excited, and most mischievously, for the happiness of the
community. My observation has taught me that those who are far above,
or far below, or far distant from us in any respect, are seldom the
objects of our envy or jealousy. But even if they should become so,
they are placed beyond the reach of their daily effects. It is among
our equals, and companions, those who rival us in our favourite
pursuits—who cross our paths in the attainment of what we most
ardently covet—who share with or deprive us of the gratification of
some long sought good or pleasure—it is towards these that the
malignant passions are most frequently and most bitterly excited.
People so circumstanced, are perpetually coming into conflict with each
other, in the attainment of those objects, which in any state of
society I have ever been acquainted with, must and will constitute our
most powerful excitements. These petty rivalries, so far from being
diminished, only rage the more venomously, where people are cooped up
in a small space and crowded together under the immediate eye of the
dispenser of honours and rewards. Proximity is to the passions, what
oil is to the fire; it makes them rage ten times more furiously. They
will be found to operate in a narrow and confined sphere much more
actively, incessantly and vehemently, than out in the broad space of
the great world, where there is such a vast variety of pursuits, and so
much elbow-room for all, that the passions seem to lose their force and
malignity by expansion. There are so many temptations, and interests,
each pulling a different way, and each in turn exercising a momentary
influence, that the mind is in a vast many cases saved from the worst
of all tyrannies, that of a ruling passion, the source of most of the
crimes and excesses that blot the history of the human race."
Mr. Ashley was no better pleased with my master's great principle,
"that all that was necessary to the perfection of society was self-love
"Like all the rest of your master's principles," said he, "it is
alike absurd and dangerous in its application, by being carried to an
extreme. Besides, it is refining too much. Mankind are not to be
governed by metaphysical niceties, and it is especially dangerous, to
attempt to make that the foundation of all virtue, which has ever been
considered the foundation of all vice. In the language and perceptions
of ordinary people, self-love, is synonymous with the total absence of
all the social duties, and the danger of inculcating it as the basis of
social happiness, is, that you may persuade them that excessive sensual
indulgences, are not only allowable, but praise-worthy. With ordinary
minds, I imagine it will be difficult to make out a clear comprehension
of the difference between that self-love which seeks its fruition in
the indulgence of the selfish passions, and that which finds it in
administering to the happiness of others. The latter, the ignorant, at
least, would be much more apt to call self-denial, rather than
self-love; and I should have been much better pleased with your
master's system, had he condescended to administer to their
comprehension, by giving it a name they can understand."
"But my master's system is addressed to the wise, instead of the
ignorant. There will be no such thing as ignorance in the new system of
society. We are all to be philosophers."
"What! a community of philosophers! That is but another name for
bedlam. And philosophers too, passing the greater portion of their time
at the spinning jenney, the loom and the steam engine. The school of
Socrates certainly was nothing to this. No doubt you will all be
perfect in time."
"Aye, sir, perfect Men Machines."
"I have no doubt of it," said my friend dryly.
"But," said I, "we are not to be always learning philosophy and
metaphysics at the spinning jenney— we are to be taught all the moral
duties, that is to say, the children—and instructed in their exercise
at the play ground. There, under the superintendence of sage mentors,
the little candidates are to be initiated into all the mysteries of the
proper application of the great fundamental principle of self-love."
Mr. Ashley shook his head.
"My good friend, there is a time for all things a time for play and
a time for instruction. If you make the plays of children a medium for
inculcating either morals or knowledge, they cease to be recreations,
they become tasks, and the whole end and object of plays, to wit,
relaxation of mind, and wholesome exercise of body, is lost. You may
teach children to forget they are hungry by play— but neither
philosophy or morals, I imagine, are to be learned at children's plays,
which essentially consist, and in fact derive their principal
excitements, from the strife of strength, skill, courage, swiftness of
foot, or some other physical qualities. Besides, if you are to make
philosophers by play, it is essential that they should play nearly the
whole time, and then what becomes of the spinning jenney and the common
"Then," replied I, in great vexation, "you don't believe in one
single one of my master's first principles?"
"Not to the extent to which he carries their operation. Every one of
them in my opinion, are practically false."
"Nor in the force of `circumstances?"'
"Certainly, if you mean the temptations of this life."
"My good sir, I mean no such nonsense."
"What then do you mean?"
"Why—the—the—force of circumstances—and I suppose you deny
that the counteracting principles are the greatest rascals in the
"If you mean the passions, I do not deny it."
"Pshaw! I beg pardon, but you talk nonsense. There is no such thing
as passions in my master's New View of Society."
"That may be, but this don't prove they have no existence."
"You believe, in short, that the present state of society cannot be
"There you go again—because I don't believe it can be made
perfect, you make me say it cannot be improved. I think it may be
greatly improved, but not by such reformers as your master. His system
may increase the amount of productive labour— it may, to use his own
words, produce to the administrators of a community of this kind, `a
large increase of pecuniary gain, preserve the body in a good working
condition, and enable one woman to do the work of twenty.'
 If this is perfectibility then you will undoubtedly be
These arguments, and a variety of others Mr. Ashley from time to
time brought forward against my master's new system, I confess
undermined for a time my firm reliance upon its practicability. By
degrees, I abandoned all present thoughts of joining the new
association of which I saw flaming accounts in the public papers, and
begged Mr. Ashley to procure me some employment.
"With all my heart," said he, "what are you fit for? Can you plow?"
"No, sir—but I can tend a spinning jenney."
"Can you mow?"
"Have you learned any trade?"
"No—except tending a spinning jenney."
"Can you handle an axe?"
"Do you know when to plant, when to gather in harvest, and at what
season to perform the different operations of rural economy?"
"No—all seasons were alike with us, and there was a time not for
all things, but for one thing only, watching the spinning jenney. But I
dare say I can learn—try me, sir."
Accordingly I went into the fields with Mr. Ashley, to assist in
some light labours of the field, but I made a poor hand of it. One day
he set me to driving a cart, and found me about an hour afterwards,
standing before the wheel watching till it should begin to go round
like a spinning jenney. From time to time, he tried me at other
occupations, but I know not how it was, I could never get on, for want
of the inspiring din, and clattering wheels of the cotton machinery,
and was either found quite becalmed in the fields, or watching the
motion of a water wheel, belonging to a mill upon the estate. At
length, however, Mr. Ashley hit upon an expedient, that partly answered
the purpose of setting my machinery going. He procured a machine called
in America, a horse-fiddle, which was placed on a pole in the field
where I was to be employed. So long as that went, I went; but when the
weather was calm, the fiddle stopt, and so did I. The people about
laughed at me most unmercifully, but I was delighted with the
experiment, which demonstrated entirely to my satisfaction, that I had
become a perfect Man Machine. In fact I became more than ever a convert
to my master's new system, and nothing could afterwards shake my
conviction of the perfect ease with which the perfectibility of man
might be attained, if we could only get rid of "the circumstances," and
their confounded abettors the rascally "counteracting principles."
But not even the consciousness of superiority, can sustain a man for
any length of time against the ridicule of all around him. I began to
be tired of Mr. Ashley, and he, I believe, became quite tired of me,
finding I was proof against his sophistry. It one day chanced to fall
out, that I came across the sublime theory of the Concentric Spheres,
which struck me exceedingly. I determined at once to leave Mr. Ashley,
and as I had become convinced that the outside crust of this world was
not fitted for my master's theory, nor my master's theory for it,
decided to try the experiment, and see what the inside would do for us.
"Where art thou going, my good friend," said Mr. Ashley.
"To search for the perfectibility of man, among the Concentric
"Right, thou wilt find them together, I'll warrant thee." And thus
we parted. The rest you know.
STORY OF THE SECOND WISE MAN OF
THE PERFECTION OF REASON.
"My brother Harmony," said Mr. Quominus, the second Wise Man of
Gotham, "has fallen a sacrifice to the perfectibility of man; I, on the
contrary, am a martyr to the Perfection of Reason. I was born in a
country, where they have sufficient wisdom to make their own laws, but
not quite enough, as it would seem, to understand them afterwards. In
order to remedy this singular inconvenience, they resorted to a method
equally singular, and original. They enlisted the wise men of other
nations in their behalf; and justly considering that it was quite a
sufficient effort of human wisdom for one country to make its own laws,
they determined to resort to another for their interpretation.
Accordingly, they made a vast number of laws, believing they could not
have too much of a good thing, and then sent beyond sea to get them
explained. In a couple of hundred years, these explanations, being all
carefully recorded in books, amounted to upwards of three thousand
volumes, of goodly size, containing upon an average, each, one hundred
contradictory interpretations of different wise men. Such a mass of
wisdom, and such a variety of opinions, supported by such unanswerable
arguments, never got together under the same roof in this world. Some
very aged persons, who had lived long enough to get about half through
this invaluable collection, discovered that it was like the sermon that
suited any text, and the text that suited any sermon—for every man
could find in it, a decision, or at least, an opinion, to suit his
purpose. A system so supported on all sides, by all sorts of opinions,
certainly merited the honour of being called a science; and such a
science, as certainly, deserved a respectable name. It was accordingly
aptly denominated the perfection of reason, because it furnished every
man, however different his opinions might be, with reasons in support
In addition to this great requisite of every perfect system, namely,
that it should suit every body— this accumulation of contradictory
opinions, it was affirmed, possessed another irresistible claim to the
dignified appellation it had obtained. It cannot be denied, said the
admirers of this science, that although the laws are expressly devised
to settle such disputes, or conflicting claims, as might otherwise
occasion a resort to force, still it is never the intention of a wise
legislator, that people should actually appeal to them for this
purpose. They are merely to be held up in terrorem, or rather
like buoys, to float on the surface of society, for the purpose of
warning mankind of the shoals and quicksands below. In this point of
view, then, it is apparent, that the more intricate and inconsistent
the laws, and the more various and contradictory their interpretations,
the greater delay and expense there will be found in settling appeals
to them, and consequently the number of law-suits be greatly
diminished. Thus, when the laws become perfectly unintelligible, they
are absolutely perfect, for then nobody in their senses will go to law,
and the science will do its duty after the manner of a scarecrow, which
frightens the birds from the corn, merely by flourishing its
unintelligible rattle. Thus you see, that no other name than that of
the perfection of reason, could possibly have suited this excellent
In addition to the singular happiness of being born in a country,
governed according to the perfection of reason, I was brought up under
an uncle, (my father dying when I was quite a child,) who adored the
law, and might be said never to have had any other mistress. He was a
bachelor, of competent estate, but rather indifferent education— he
was better fed than taught; and, when I say he could read and write and
cipher a little, I go as far as strict biographical veracity will
warrant. He was without a profession, rich, and a bachelor. Such a man
has but one chance for happiness in this world—he must get unto
himself a hobby, and ride away as if the sheriff was at his heels. To
trace a man's hobby to its first cause, is like searching for the
source of the Niger. Yet I think I can account for that of my uncle. He
had gained possession of a large part of his property, by a law-suit,
and ever after held law to be the perfection of reason, while the
honest gentleman who lost the estate, held it in utter abhorrence. The
suit lasted nineteen years, at the expiration of which, there was found
a great flaw in the defendant's title. He had no more money, and no man
ever successfully appealed to the perfection of reason, with an empty
From this time, it was his great delight to attend the courts,
where, as he used to affirm, with surprising satisfaction, they
sometimes nearly argued his head off his shoulders, and so confounded
his notions of the distinctions between right and wrong, that he could
hardly tell the difference, until he went home and looked over the ten
commandments. I remember the delight with which he related a case he
had read in some book of reports, where a man tried on a confession of
murder, was acquitted by the jury, under the express direction of the
judge, because the charge set forth that he committed the murder
outside, whereas it appeared in evidence that it was done inside, of a
certain door. Another time, he fell into an ecstasy at a decision which
he always held to the day of his death, to be the most exquisite
specimen of nice legal distinction he had ever met with in the whole
course of his life. It seems a fellow had been caught with a bundle of
counterfeit notes, which the indictment set forth was found in his
right breeches pocket, when it appeared in evidence it was taken from
his left breeches pocket. "After three days hard argument, the court
decided," said my good uncle, rubbing his hands—"they decided that
the prosecutor had mistaken the locus in po or the hocus in
quo"— my uncle, as I said before, was no scholar—"and therefore
the prisoner must be acquitted." Had the law never done any thing else,
but make this distinction between a man's pockets, it would in his
opinion have fully merited its title of the perfection of reason. "It
is worth while to go a thousand leagues," would he say, "to find out
how little the actual commission of a crime has to do with the real
matter of fact, in the eye of the perfection of reason. It is all
settled by the hocus in quo—which I suppose is what we call hocus-pocus in English." Like a vast many ignorant people, he
mistook quibbling subtilty for deep reasoning—the art of confounding
with that of enlightening the understanding— incomprehensibility for
clearness, and perplexity for wisdom—forgetting, or rather, never
having discovered, that true wisdom is perfect simplicity.
The good gentleman, however, almost exclusively confined his
idolatry to the common law. He considered it not only the perfection
of reason, but the wisdom of ages. Nothing, indeed, could equal his
admiration of the common law, except his thorough contempt for statute
and civil law. If he could have had his will, he would have outlawed
the statutes, and made it capital to read Justinian, Mercy upon us! how
he would rail at Caius, Ulpian, Papinian, Tribonian and the rest of the
civil law gentlemen, whom he called by no other name than pettifoggers
of the forum. Not that he knew, or had ever read a word of either of
these writers. His contempt was perfectly gratuitous—it was the
homage of ignorance at the shrine of prejudice. Next to his veneration
for the common law, was his profound respect for English judges
confounding— I beg pardon, expounding it. Even their contradicting
themselves every day, did not alter his opinion that they were the only
inspired high priests of the perfection of reason. Towards the judges
and jurists of other countries he looked rather askew, believing that
human reason never attained to any tolerable degree of perfection out
of the three kingdoms, and that a French, Italian, German, or Dutch
judge, knew no more about managing the common law, than they did about
boxing, or any other abstruse science. But of all the judges, past or
present, he, like most ignorant people, held those of his own country
the cheapest for divers reasons. He maintained that they either had no
opinions of their own, or were afraid to assert them. That they were in
fact little better than instruments in the hands of subtle lawyers, or
mere echoes of the decisions of others. He once went so far as to
swear, he could teach a parrot to retail the decisions of his betters,
and thus make a capital judge of him, for his gravity would pass for
wisdom. So far indeed did he carry this unjust prejudice, as to declare
it his firm conviction, that if the developement of their organs, was
examined by a competent phrenologist, nine out of ten would be found
destitute of the organ of judgment. But in this, I am convinced,
notwithstanding the causes I have to complain of the perfection of
reason, the good gentleman carried his prejudices beyond all reasonable
bounds. I have had, as you will perceive in the course of my narrative,
pretty sufficient reason for dissatisfaction on this head. But
notwithstanding I am free to bear testimony to the talents, learning,
and uprightness of the great majority of the judges of my native
country. As respects the administration of justice, they are in my
opinion, as able and upright, as the perfection of reason will permit
them to be. If they err at all, I am inclined to think it is in
permitting too great a latitude to the subtilties and sophistries of
ingenious pleaders; and in giving undue weight to ancient precedents,
derived from reasons long since inapplicable to the state of our
manners, habits and social relations. A want of sufficient confidence
in their own opinions, appears to me another fault, which, however,
almost deserves to be pardoned on account of its novelty. It has
happened to me more than once, to hear a judge decide upon a case, on
the ground of some recorded decision of another judge, when I myself
would a thousand times rather have trusted it to his own unbiassed
sense of right and wrong. It seems odd, to see a lawyer teaching a
judge his lesson, out of a pile of books, and making him who is there
as a master, appear more like a scholar, learning his alphabet from
some beardless pedagogue.
However this may be, my uncle had a most vehement and perfect
veneration for the common law, and for English judges sitting in
judgment upon it, and from time to time pronouncing it to be, sometimes
flesh, sometimes fish, and sometimes fowl. I verily think, if he could
only have found out in what impenetrable labyrinth the common law was
enshrined, he would have made a pilgrimage to the spot. Indeed, he once
talked very seriously of going to England only to see the chief justice
of the common pleas in his gown and wig. But he was prevented by one of
those untoward accidents, which disconcert the great schemes of life.
He died before he could come to a determination. This, however, was
long after he had condemned me to study the perfection of reason. He
decreed that I should be a lawyer, though I am unalterably convinced,
that both nature and fate intended me only for a client.
I was accordingly sent into the country to live with a learned
jurist, who boarded a certain number of pupils, to whom he read law
lectures three times a week. In the intervals, we dipt into the works
of the famous writers who have analyzed and laid down the great
principles of the law. We knew nothing, however, and learned nothing of
the real mysteries of the profession; nor did I discover until after
long experience in the world, that the theory and the practice of the
law, were no nearer related to each other, than the two extremes of the
same earth. They were the antipodes of each other. Here in the
retirement of a country mansion, and apart from the great business of
the world, which alone furnishes the practical application and
infallible test of all human institutions, I revelled in the beautiful
theory of the law. Every where I read the most lofty and eloquent
eulogiums on the science, from the pens of the greatest names; and
every where I saw in the English books, the highest, most unqualified
testimony to the unequaled excellence of the common law, above all
others. It was the aggregate of human experience, the perfection of
reason. I actually fell in love with it, and studied with an amorous
enthusiasm which I can hardly believe possible, now that my mistress
has jilted me so many times.
At the end of three years, I was sent for to my worthy uncle, who
was dangerously ill. I found him in the hands of a physician, who had
himself invented six new diseases, and of course must have been a
clever fellow. But my poor uncle's time was fast approaching—he grew
worse every day, and the doctor invented a new name for every new
symptom that appeared. Calling me one morning to his bed side, he
expressed his affection for me, and said he had left me all he was
worth in the world. "You will find yourself rich—but remember that
riches make themselves wings, and fly away. Remember too, that the only
way to restrain their flight, is by a proper knowledge of the laws
whereby you will be enabled to take care of your wealth. By knowing
what is lawful and what is not lawful—by applying the immutable rules
of right and wrong as defined by the laws—I mean the common law—you
will have a due sense of your rights and duties, and thus no danger can
Rising upon his elbow, he continued, with an enthusiasm that lent
new light to the dying taper—
"Law is indeed the perfection of reason—therefore it must
necessarily conform to the purest principles, and inculcate the
soundest doctrines of morality. It is therefore the great worldly
monitor to teach us what is due to ourselves and to others. It is in
fact, a practical commentary upon the great and divine precept, `that
we should do to others, what we would they should do unto us.' It is
likewise a `rule of action,' as hath been truly defined. It must
therefore be founded upon immutable principles. It is intended for the
daily use and government of people of common sense—therefore, it must
of necessity be so plain and simple in its precepts, as to be within
the comprehension of the most ordinary understanding. Dost thou
reverence this noble science, my dear nephew?"
"I do," replied I, bowing reverentially.
"Dost thou believe in Holt, Hale, Somers, Hard-wicke, lord Raymond,
chief justice Coke, judge Buller, lords Mansfield, Thurlow,
Ellenborough and all the English judges?"
"In every mother's son of them," said I, little wotting that I had
pledged myself to the belief of greater contradictions, than I could
digest for the rest of my life.
"And in the common law?" quoth he.
"I believe it to be the perfection of reason."
"Enough, my dear son—now take my last advice. Never resort to any
tribunal but the common law, if you are aggrieved, assaulted, or
defrauded. Eschew the court of chancery, as clogged, impestered, and
corrupted by an infusion of that mischievous quality miscalled equity,
which the common law abhorreth. Thou hast only to appeal to the common
law for redress—for that is the perfection of reason."
"It is the perfection of justice," said I.
"I affirm it with my latest breath," said my good uncle, and expired
with a smile of triumph. When the doctor arrived he discovered symptoms
of a new symptom, which he immediately christened by a new name. There
was a swelling under the tongue.
"It was only an unnatural expansion of the organ of common law—did
he examine the angle of constructiveness," interrupted Mr. Le Peigne,
the third Wise Man of Gotham.
"Not that I know of," said Mr. Quominus.
"What an imperfect machine your uncle must have been," said the Man
Machine, "not to know that in the perfect state of society, there is no
use for either law or gospel."
"Very likely," replied Mr. Quominus, "but he was kind to me, and
left me a good estate. I am therefore bound not to hear his memory
"No intention in the world," returned the other, "but as you made
free with the old gentleman yourself"—
"That may be," quoth Mr. Quominus, "but I don't like other people to
take the same liberties."
He then proceeded with his narrative.
Finding myself in possession of a plentiful estate, I determined not
to enter upon the practice of the law, except now and then con amore
, and in the meanwhile, amuse myself with such recreations as my
fortune placed in my power. As I was fond of riding, I bought a horse
of a famous dealer, for which I paid a high price, being verbally
assured that he had an amazing number of good qualities, and no faults.
In a day or two, I discovered he was broken-winded, and blind of an
eye; of course I insisted on returning the horse and receiving my money
back again, on the ground of deception. The jockey refused, alleging
that neither loss of wind, or of an eye, was the fault of the horse,
but his misfortune, and therefore when he denied his having any fault,
he practised no deception whatever. Moreover, he snapt his fingers at
me in defiance.
This was in my opinion a proper occasion to resort to the perfection
of reason for redress. I accordingly invoked the shade of my uncle, and
commenced taking my first practical lesson in the common law, by
bringing a suit against the jockey. I cannot describe my feelings on
this first occasion of applying to the grand tribunal of human
reason—I looked upon myself, as now exercising the highest privilege
that could possibly fall to the lot of humanity, and entered the court
with the awe of a young devotee for the first time kneeling at the
shrine of his patron saint. Being somewhat addicted to blushing, which
our lecturer assured us was always a sign of a bad cause, I employed on
this occasion, a lawyer, who was seldom, if ever, guilty of that legal
enormity. The jury being called and sworn, the trial commenced.
I proved all I thought necessary, namely, that I had paid the full
price of a good horse, and got one that was good for nothing. I was
satisfied that in the eye of the perfection of reason, this would of
course be deemed a case of deception, if not fraud. But I was mistaken
with a vengeance—the perfection of reason was not so easily
satisfied. I was cross questioned for three quarters of an hour, by a
fellow that had the throat and the impudence of ten brazen trumpets,
until I began to doubt whether I had actually bought a horse, or a cow.
I fell into a horrible perspiration. As the trial proceeded, I found
this was not by any means so clear a case as I imagined. Common sense
to be sure would have been perfectly satisfied that I had been cheated;
but in the eye of common law and the perfection of reason, it appeared
exquisitely doubtful. The difficulty was in finding out whether I had
in fact received a warranty for the horse. My lawyer insisted that
paying the full price of a good horse, was presumptive proof of
warranty—no man in his senses would wilfully give as much for a horse
he knew to be bad, as for a good one. The brazen trumpet then attempted
to prove me out of my senses, at the same time stoutly maintaining that
by the perfection of reason, every man had a right to the benefit of
his superior knowledge in making a bargain. He has a right too, to
keep secret every fact that may operate to his disadvantage.
"Accusare nemo se debet nisi coram deo," cried he, "no man is
obliged to accuse himself—or his horse."
"Ignorantia facti excusat," exclaimed my champion, "my client
was ignorant of the facts of blindness and broken wind."
"Ignorantia non excusat legem," brayed he of the trumpet.
"Communis error facit jus," retorted my lawyer. "Lord Raymond
is on our side, in addition to whose high authority, I have four chief
justices, one baron in eyre, and equity besides in our favour."
"A fig for equity—common law has nothing to do with it," brayed
"In omnibus quidem maxime tamen, in jure Aequitas est,"
exclaimed our side—"precedents innumerable in our favour."
"Pish!—Judicandum est legibus non exemplis," quoth
"Caius, Ulpian, Tribonian."
"St. Thomas Aquinas."
"The French judges on our side."
"The English judges on ours."
"Do unto others as you would they should do unto you."
"That's not law."
"No, but its gospel."
"The opposite counsel must be hard run for law, your honours, when
he is obliged to resort to gospel."
"Omne actum ab agentis intentione est Judicandum," said our
"Caveat Emptor!" answered the brazen trumpet.
This did our business—at that awful annunciation my counsel was
struck dumb, and word spake never more—the judge nodded approbation—
Caveat emptor carried the day—the jury gave a verdict in favour
of the jockey, and my horse being thus legally reinstated in the
possession of his eye and his wind, was left on my hands as an
I must acknowledge this decision a little undermined my faith in the
common law, as in addition to a bad horse on my hands, I had a bill of
costs to pay besides. However, impressions of long growth and standing
are not worn away at once. To be sure, law was I found rather an
expensive article. But after all, it is the price that constitutes the
value of a thing in the common estimation, and it is doubtful whether
the ignorant would not come to despise the law, if they could get it
for nothing. Upon the whole, I continued to cherish a profound devotion
for the perfection of reason.
This devotion was, however, destined to receive another shock, in
consequence of a very trifling affair, which, however cost me no small
expense and vexation. It happened that one day being in immediate want,
I called in at a shop, picked out a pair of ready made boots, paid for
them the full price and ordered them to be sent home. After wearing
them a day or two, they went to pieces, the leather and workmanship
being equally bad. Upon the cobbler absolutely refusing to take back
the boots and return the money, or make any other satisfaction, I again
resorted to the great tribunal of human reason. I was certain the law
was on my side on this occasion, for I had witnessed not long before a
decision on a case which I believed exactly parallel, in which the
buyer had recovered. I employed the same lawyer, who as ill luck would
have it, was again opposed by he of the brazen trumpet.
To make all sure, the boots were produced in open court, and
admitted on all hands to be utterly infamous. Even the opposite counsel
could say nothing in their behalf. But he had a great deal to say for
all that. He produced six maxims in good law latin in his favour; but
as my counsel matched him with six more on our side, that account was
pretty well balanced. We then quoted opinions and decisions without
number, showing there was always an implied warranty where a fair price
was given for a pair of boots. The opposite side denied that this was
law, and to it they went, tooth and nail, marshalling Grotius, Wolf,
Puffendorf, Ulpian, Papinian, and Tribonian, Hale, Holt, Mansfield,
Thurlow and Ellenborough, against each other; for, however strange it
may seem, the perfection of reason, is precisely what the most
reasonable people differ about in toto. There was a bloody battle of
words between them, and all about a pair of bad boots—that nobody
denied were bad.
"'Tis contrary to reason that a man should pay for what is worth
nothing," said we.
"Reason has nothing to do with the question," said the other.
"Law is the perfection of reason—and the perfection of reason is
to be honest."
"I appeal to the court if that is law?"
The court decided it was not law.
"'Tis reason and philosophy. Socrates, says that the principles of
all law are founded in philosophy."
"Pooh!—Socrates was no lawyer."
"But he was a sage of antiquity."
"Yes, but he was not a sage of the law—and as for antiquity—they
had no books of reports, and how should they know any thing of the law?"
"But for all that," said my counsel, "lord Mansfield calls Socrates
`the great lawyer of antiquity."'
"The d—l he does—I beg pardon of the honourable court—but
really my surprise—lord Mansfield says so—why, then there is
something in it. He was a sage of the law. I submit to the
definition of Socrates, and my learned friend is welcome to all he can
make of it."
The two combatants, each in his turn, read a number of opinions and
cases, from a pile of books as high as a man's head, each differing
from the other so completely, that I was at that moment seriously
inclined to compare the law to Hydra, with its hundred heads, each
uttering a different language. What, however, surprised me most, was,
that the opinions of our own judges seemed to be of little or no
authority. Whence I concluded that human reason was not quite so
perfect here, as in England and elsewhere. I began to be weary of all
this turmoil about my boots, and fairly wished them in the Red sea.
"May it please the court," said I, with due submission, "I thought I
came here to be judged by a court and jury of my own fellow citizens
and not by Grotius, Papinian, or my lord chief justice of England, whom
I don't wish to trouble about such a small affair. To cut the matter
short, if the counsel on both sides will say no more about it, we will
put the law quite out of the question and leave it to the jury to say
whether the boots were bad or not."
"That is impossible," said the judge, "the law must take its course
now, and the cause be decided secundum artem. Go on, gentlemen."
"Facilis descensus," said the brazen trumpet, winking at my
Away they tilted again, and the desperate battle of the books was
renewed with greater vigour than ever. Common law, civil law and
statute law took the field in the armour of a thousand words, and long
before the contest ended, neither myself or the jury, such is the
perfection of reason, could tell what was law, or what was reason—or
whether there were any such things in the world. Law maxims flew about
like hail, and as it appeared to me quite as much at random, for I
confess I could not make out the application of some of them.
"Velutas pro lege semper habetur," said the brazen trumpet,
"it has always been the custom to sell bad boots and that is common
"Quid leges sine moribus vanae proficiunt? What are laws
without morals, as Horace says."
"Horace was a jack pudding—the learned counsel is irrelevant."
"Ubi jus incertum ibi just nullum—uncertain law is no law."
"Tot homines quot sententiae—every man has a different
opinion of his own."
"Semel malus semper praesumitur esse malus— your client has
often cheated before."
I began to tremble and so did my counsel. Nevertheless he would not
give up the ghost—but faintly rejoined—
"Aequitas sequitur legem."
"Actus legis nulli facit injuriam," said we still fainter and
"Caveat Emptor!"—brayed the trumpet, with a blast that carried all
before it. My counsel, after gaining a little breath, said he committed
his cause to the court and jury. The judge then addressed the jury, as
nearly as I can recollect, as follows:
"Gentlemen of the jury,
"There are four kinds of law, the civil law, the canon law, the
statute law, and the common law. Three of these are decidedly against
the defendent, but the fourth, which is the perfection of reason, is
fortunately for him, at least one half on his side. It is true the
other half is against him, but of that I make no account since it
appears sufficiently evident from the authorities produced by the
learned counsel for the defendent, that the half of the law which is
against him does not apply to the present case.
"Gentlemen, law is the perfection of reason, and of course, nothing
but a perfect reason can comprehend it. It is, therefore, not to be
wondered at, that there should be so many different opinions as to what
law is. It is also a rule of action— but every rule has its
exceptions, and in some cases the exceptions are very often too strong
for the rule. Law, gentlemen, I speak of common law, is also the
wisdom of ages; but as might reasonably be inferred from experience,
the wisdom of one age being the folly of another, and the wisdom of
different nations altogether different in kind and degree, there is
much difficulty in defining exactly what is the wisdom of ages. That it
is the common law is certain, but nobody can tell exactly what is the
common law. It is best defined, as the perfection of reason.
"Nevertheless, gentlemen of the jury, there is not that uncertainty
in the rules of the common law, that might be inferred from these
observations. Various judges decide in various ways, and upon various
grounds. Sometimes we go according to Lord Coke; sometimes according to
Lord Hard-wicke; sometimes according to Lord Mansfield— sometimes
according to law—and sometimes, but very rarely according to our own
conscience and judgment of the case before us. Now, in this case,
gentlemen of the jury, conscience has nothing to say—it must be
quiet, and refrain from interfering in the deliberations of the court,
and the decision of the jury. It is a question of common law—and not
of justice or equity. It is not for us to inquire whether the boots
were bad boots, or whether in conscience or in honesty the maker ought
to take them back again, but whether the great maxim which lies at the
root of the common law, of Caveat emptor, applies to this
particular case. Gentlemen, the buyer is bound to beware in all
purchases, and most especially in purchasing from persons of bad
character. It appears by the testimony of credible persons, that the
defendant is notorious for selling bad boots. Now if a person will deal
with a tradesman of bad character, it is his own fault if he is taken
in. The fault in the eye of the common law, is not in the seller for
being a rogue, but in the buyer, for not governing himself by the maxim caveat emptor, and taking care of himself more especially on this
"But we will admit for the sake of argument, and not with any view
to weaken the cause of the defendant in this suit—that he is a man of
fair character. Still, gentlemen of the jury, this would furnish no
justification to the plaintiff in disregarding the great maxim of Caveat emptor, since the common law, which is the perfection of
reason, goes upon the supposition, that every man, whatever may be the
character he bears in society, is a rogue in grain, and therefore, in
dealing with all men it is necessary to bear in mind, that Caveat
emptor. Hence it is absolutely requisite, that in all purchases,
the buyer should procure a warranty in order to guard against this
presumption of the common law. If he neglect this, he cannot pretend to
recover damages for any fraud or deception, except in particular cases.
"In purchasing, for instance, a pair of ill made boots, the whole
question of fraud or deception turns upon the fact whether the
shoemaker took measure of him for that particular pair of boots or not.
If he did, the common law holds, that this taking measure amounts to a
warranty, and the buyer is released from all responsibility to Caveat emptor. If, on the contrary, no measure was taken, the
bootmaker however bad may be his boots, is exonerated from all blame
and responsibility in the eye of the common law. And this distinction,
gentlemen of the jury, is manifestly founded in the perfection of
reason, and the wisdom of ages. The mere act of measuring a man for a
pair of boots, is in the eye of the common law in the nature of a
covenant with warranty. And why?—a shoemaker's measure is either of
parchment or paper— if of parchment the covenant and warranty is the
stronger. Now, gentlemen of the jury, it cannot be necessary to apprise
you, that all covenants are written either on parchment or paper, and
according to the reasoning of the common law, the substance or material
made use of in measuring a man for a pair of boots, being the same with
that used in all covenants, it follows, from analogy, that it is in the
nature of a covenant with warranty. This is one ground, therefore, on
which the law makes so wide a distinction between being measured for a
pair of boots, and purchasing the boots without being measured. Another
ground of distinction is this. The presumption is, that when a man
buys a pair of readymade boots of bad quality, without having been
measured for them, that these boots were actually made for another
person, or at least not expressly for him. The intention, therefore, of
the maker was not to cheat him, but some other purchaser. All that can
be said is, that a bad bargain lay in his way and he found it. There
was no intention to defraud him especially, and therefore, in the eye
of the common law, no fraud was practised towards him individually. The
buyer in this case has clearly no right to redress for an injury not
originally intended against him, but some one else. It is like an
unintentional blow, which it is not lawful for him to resent, and it is
in the nature of a sort of Quixotic career, to undertake resenting
wrongs, or redressing injuries intended for other people.
"There is another light, gentlemen of the jury, in which the conduct
of the defendant is justified in the eye of the perfection of reason.
It is held that every man is permitted to make a fair use of his
superior sagacity and knowledge, and that ignorance is no ground on the
part of the buyer for setting aside a covenant. The ignorant indeed are
apt in the extreme, to confound this exercise of superior sagacity and
knowledge, with downright fraud and deception. But in the eye of the
common law, and consequently in that of reason, there is a wide and
manifest distinction between deceiving an ignorant man by superior
knowledge, and deceiving him wilfully.
"Knowledge, gentlemen of the jury, is a quality of which a man
cannot divest himself at pleasure. It is impossible for a wise man to
be ignorant—or to refrain from making use of his wisdom. If then by
an involuntary exercise of his knowledge of facts, of value, of defect,
or of quality in an article, he deceives one ignorant of all these, and
makes a good bargain out of him, in the eye of the common law, which is
the perfection of reason, this is but the natural and inevitable
consequence of the eternal and irreversible distinction between
knowledge and ignorance. As well might you expect the stronger animal
to yield to the weaker in a contest of strength, as knowledge to yield
to ignorance in a contest of bargaining. The more knowing man therefore
does not deceive the other wilfully, which constitutes the essence of
every offence, but simply because he cannot help it if he would.
Physicians are punished for being flagrantly ignorant of their
profession, and people that choose to make bargains without knowing any
thing about it, must take the consequences.
"The law in this case, gentlemen of the jury, is, that the
plaintiff, not being measured for his boots, there is no implied
warranty. The defendant is therefore to be considered as having merely
made a legal use of his superior knowledge of boots, and the complaint
of the plaintiff must be dismissed with costs. You will find this laid
down distinctly in Twigg vs. Twist—and innumerable other
cases. The principle may in fact be said to be settled on the immutable
basis of common law, common sense and common justice."
The jury were so convinced of the soundness of these principles,
that they gave a verdict against me without leaving the court. One of
them, it is true, made me an apology afterwards. "We were convinced you
had been cheated abominably—but the law was against you, and what
could we do, my good friend?" I don't know, not I, replied I, hardly
knowing what I said, for to confess the truth, I began to be strangely
bewildered in the fathomless profundity of the perfection of reason. It
was three days, before I got rid of a strange buzzing in my head, and
came to any tolerable perception of the distinction between right and
wrong. Indeed, I am free to confess, that this argument of the judge,
has ever since strangely confused me, so that to this day, I am apt to
mistake the voice of the law, for the whisperings of conscience; and to
confound the latitude allowed by the former, with the restrictive
morality of the latter. The continuation of my story will furnish more
than one example of this.
This last decision in the matter of the boots, made me for sometime
rather shy of the perfection of reason, and I came to a resolution,
like some quarrelsome persons who get winged once or twice in a duel,
never to go to law again, except on the defensive. But it was not long
before my habitual confidence in the common law, together with the last
advice of my good uncle, again made me the victim of Caveat emptor
It happened about this time that an agricultural society was
instituted among us, and I became a member, having a landed estate in
the neighbourhood. In order to prove myself worthy of my station, I
went largely into the improvement of the breed of horses, and purchased
several fine ones from time to time. One day a fellow brought me a most
beautiful animal, which he presented to me as a full blooded horse,
with a pedigree equal to a first rate legitimate monarch. After a good
deal of chaffering, I purchased him at a great price, and the
exhibition of the society happening the next morning, presented the
animal, in the full expectation of bearing off the prize for the best
horse in the county. You may guess my astonishment and mortification,
when the committee of investigation solemnly decided that my horse was
a mare. They all burst into a roar of laughter—the story circulated
through the fair with prodigious rapidity, and there was a universal
giggle that shook the very firmament. I was quizzed to death, and to
this day the story is regularly told at the anniversary dinner of our
society. I was mortified to the bone, and determined on once more
appealing to the perfection of reason, in spite of Caveat emptor
, of whom by this time I began to stand in great awe. A fraud so open
and palpable, I was assured could not be sheltered even behind his
sevenfold shield. I could not rest a moment till I had brought this
rogue to condign punishment—which was very unfortunate, for under
various pretences, he managed to keep off the suit for two years—so
that I lost two years sleep, in addition to being the laughing stock of
the society. But for all this there is no doubt that the maxim, dilationes in lege sunt odiosae—is as true as the gospel. My
uncle believed it, and so did I. But time brings all things about at
last. Time gives and time takes away—time strengthens, time
weakens— time builds up, and time pulls down—time brings us into
the world and time takes us out of it—time in fact does every
thing—it can even put an end to a lawsuit.
My uncle used to dwell with rapture on the sublime gravity of the
law, and of those by whom it was administered. But I am bold to say
that on this occasion, there was not much to be said in favour of
either. However, as usual, I proved the sex of the animal, and the fact
of her being imposed on me for a horse. This seemed all that was
material to a decision of the case, and I remained a few moments
quietly expecting a charge from the judge to the jury denouncing most
exemplary damages for the injury done to my character and feelings, as
well as a restitution of the purchase money. So sure was I of the
justice of my cause that I had not employed any counsel. This was a
great oversight, since experience has taught me that justice is blind,
and of course requires a lawyer to direct her. By this omission of
mine, she fell into the hands of the opposite counsel, who led her
astray entirely from my interests. His address to the jury was, as
nearly as I can recollect, as follows:
"Gentlemen of the jury: The plaintiff in this suit, relying, it
would seem, on the justice of his cause, has omitted to employ counsel,
and thereby set a most mischievous example to the world. He has in
effect committed a fraud, by withholding from some worthy member of the
profession the fee to which his labours in the acquirement of legal
knowledge have justly entitled him. Gentlemen, you are bound to
discourage this dangerous example, by an exemplary verdict, if it be
only on the ground, that should it become general, you will in future
be deprived of the benefits of legal disquisition, and left as it were
alone in the wilderness of the law with no other guides to a just
decision, but the feeble and uncertain lights of reason and conscience.
"Gentlemen of the jury, the case on which you are now to decide, is
one of extreme intricacy, although to the eyes of superficial persons,
it may appear as clear as the sun. Indeed it is a common and fatal
error, to suppose that justice, law, and equity, can possibly be
apparent to reason and conscience at the first glance. Justice,
gentlemen, is represented as blind, and for what reason? To indicate
that she cannot see, except through the magic spectacles of the law,
upon the noses of the learned counsel. Law, gentlemen, is represented
as a bottomless pit, and why? To indicate metaphorically, that profound
depth and obscurity which baffles the visual organs of uninspired
people. Common law, gentlemen, what is it? It is the sublime of
incomprehensibility—it is the philosopher's stone, which has baffled
the wisdom and researches of ages—it is nothing, it is every
thing—it is here, there, every where, and nowhere. Sometimes it is
the conscience of the judge, and sometimes of the jury—sometimes it
is the voice of the dead, and sometimes of the living—it comes from
the mouldering tomb, and from the judges' bench—it is sometimes in
the head and sometimes in the heart—in short, it is an ethereal
essence, eluding the senses, and sporting before the imagination—a
mysterious, inexplicable, indefinable and invisible guide, that takes
us by a hand which we cannot feel, leads us by a light which we cannot
see, to a consummation utterly incomprehensible! I beg pardon for this
digression, gentlemen of the jury, to which I have been tempted, by my
veneration for the most sublime and mysterious of all sciences, and my
desire of warning you against indulging the common vanity of supposing
that the case is perfectly clear because it appears so to you. I trust,
if you will honour me with a portion of your serious attention, I shall
ere long convince you, that it is one of the most difficult and
complicated cases on which the wit of man was ever called upon to
decide. It is the error of ignorance to make up its mind quickly— it
is the province of learning to preserve the judgment in that salutary
equilibrium of doubt and uncertainty, which keeps us from deciding at
all, for fear of deciding wrong.
"Gentlemen of the jury, the question does not turn upon a mare or a
horse, nor upon the fact of the animal being purchased by the
plaintiff, for one thing and turning out to be another. All this, I
say, has nothing to do with the question. The question is, whether
there was fraud in the contract or not, and to this I shall confine my
argument. Gentlemen of the jury, there are cases of fraud, and cases of
deception—there are intrinsic defects and extrinsic defects that,
under circumstances, may vitiate a contract. Intrinsic defects are
different from extrinsic defects, and extrinsic defects are different
from intrinsic ones. Intrinsic defects are such as may not appear
externally, and therefore they may be made legal grounds for a
presumption of fraud. Extrinsic defects, on the contrary, are such as
address themselves immediately to the five senses, and are obvious at
first sight. In order, therefore, that the plaintiff may entitle
himself to relief in the present case, it is necessary for him to prove
that he was blind at the time of making the purchase. If he was not
blind, he must of necessity have perceived the difference between a
mare and a horse, and having so perceived it, if he purchased with his
eyes open, he purchased wilfully, and cannot plead deception. He became
in fact a party in the fraud.
"Gentlemen of the jury, there are frauds so monstrous as to amount
to no frauds at all—deceptions so gross, open and palpable, as to
argue, either wilful co-operation on the part of the person said to be
deceived, or a total deprivation of the organ of making bargains. In
such cases it is necessary for the person aggrieved, and seeking relief
at the hands of justice, to prove himself either non compos, or
so near it as to come within the statute of imbecility? The plaintiff
has neither done one or the other; on the contrary he affects to be
learned in the laws, and a judge of horses, although, I must take leave
to say that he is not very profound in either. Upon the whole,
gentlemen of the jury, there is no ground for the charge of deception
urged against my client. The fraud would be too monstrous for human
credulity; it is, as I said before, too great for a fraud.
"But, gentlemen of the jury, we will suppose, for the sake of
argument, the plaintiff in this suit is not only blind, but actually non compos. We will suppose him, moreover, a notorious swindler,
pick-pocket and cheat—we will moreover suppose him a person that has
murdered his father, mother, ununcle, aunt, and several others of his
nearest relatives— we will, in addition to this, suppose"—
I could stand this no longer—
"I beg pardon of the court," said I, "but the gentleman has no right
to suppose any such thing."
"What, not for the sake of argument? I appeal to the court, whether
it is not an allowable fiction of law, to suppose, for the sake of
argument, any person we please, a rogue."
The judge decided that fictions of law, and argumentative
suppositions, were allowable, and the counsel proceeded—
"As I was saying, gentlemen of the jury, when the gentleman thought
proper to interrupt me—we will suppose—but, as I perceive, these
suppositions are not relished by the gentleman, whose conscience seems
a little sensitive on these points—we will suppose, gentlemen of the
jury, for the sake of argument, that one half of you were non compos
, and the other half utterly incapable of distinguishing a mare from a
horse. Suppose further, for the sake of argument, that one half of you
were intoxicated at this present moment, and the other half asleep. Or
suppose, gentlemen of the jury, for the sake of argument, that you were
a low-bred, uneducated, ignorant, obstinate, dirty"—
Here one of the jurymen, a stout, hard-featured fellow, with little
of the polish of any court but a court of law, started up and exclaimed
in a passion—
"I'll tell you what, Mr. Lawyer, if you go on insulting the jury
with your suppositions, dam'me if I don't knock you down—for the sake
The counsel was rather alarmed at this formidable threat; but the
privilege of supposition was too dear to his profession, and too
essential to a long speech, to be easily given up.
"Will the court permit itself to be insulted in this manner?" said
he. "Shall a counsel be interrupted in the regular discharge of his
duty to his client? I throw myself upon the protection of the court,
and appeal to your honour, whether I have exceeded the reasonable line
of discussion allowed to counsel."
His honour decided that he had not, and threatened to commit the
juryman for contempt. "Go on, Mr. Quodlibet." Mr. Quodlibet proceeded—
"As the gentlemen of the jury, (at least one of them) seem not
inclined to lend a favourable ear to my suppositions, I will take the
liberty of supposing, for the sake of argument, that your honour is a
judge who brings nothing to the bench with him, but a superficial
knowledge of the quips, quibbles, and quiddities of the law. I will
further suppose— for the sake of argument—that your honour is a man
so utterly ignorant of those sublime distinctions that mark the
difference—the eternal and impassable separation between the two
sexes,—as not to know a horse from a mare. I will further suppose—
for the sake of argument—that your honour is entirely destitute of
the faculties of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling—that
you are neither mens sana, nor corpore sano—that you
are—in short—for the sake of argument—a miserable, ignorant,
conceited, supercilious pettifogger, destitute of every faculty, but
that of citing exploded decisions, and applying them to wrong
cases—that—for the sake of argument—you are a mere parrot, saying
only what you have learned by rote—an echo repeating nothing but
At each of these suppositions, his honour became more and more
uneasy in his seat—he looked this way, and he looked that—he blew
his nose, wiped his face, coughed and hemmed—but it came to be too
hot at last, and he could no longer stand the cross fire of these
"Really, Mr. Quodlibet, I don't see—I—really, sir, it appears to
me, that your suppositions have nothing to do with the question before
the court and jury. I cannot sit still and permit this line of
discussion. Be pleased to confine your remarks to the case in hand.
Really, sir, I don't like to hear myself abused, even for the sake of
"Why, may it please your honour," rejoined counsellor Quodlibet,
with a low bow—"what can I do? The plaintiff has come here with
malice prepense—he has brought no counsel into court, and has offered
no argument in his case. I must therefore either suppose he has argued
the question, and oppose a speech that has never been made—or I must
suppose a case and argue that—or I must say nothing, which is a case
not to be found in any of the books. Will your honour permit me to
suppose that the plaintiff has actually offered an elaborate argument,
in this case, and answer it accordingly? I must either suppose a case,
or suppose an argument."
"Any thing you please, Mr. Quodlibet, so you don't suppose me an
ignoramus, or a rogue."
Mr. Quodlibet then went on with increasing animation, seemingly
resolved to demolish the shadowy counsel and his imaginary speech.
"Gentlemen of the jury, the opposite counsel, or rather the
plaintiff in this suit, has asserted that a mare is a horse."
"May it please the court, I asserted no such thing."
"Well, then, gentlemen of the jury, the plaintiff in this suit has
ignorantly affirmed that a cow or a bull are synonymous."
"I deny it, may it please the court."
"Well, then, gentlemen of the jury, the plaintiff in this suit, has
founded his claim to a verdict, upon the preposterous assumption that
the law was expressly devised to protect the weak, the ignorant, and
the inexperienced, against the violence and fraud of the strong and the
cunning. Now, I affirm directly the contrary—I say, gentlemen of the
jury, the law, whatever may have been its original intention, is now
principally directed to the object of securing to the cunning and
experienced of this world, the fruits of that knowledge and sagacity,
to which in the eye of reason they are justly entitled. The law, at
least the common law as it is now quite settled by the decisions of the
English judges, rests upon the principle, that the weak and the
ignorant are naturally, and therefore properly, the prey of the strong
and the cunning, as much so as the weaker and less wary birds and
beasts are of the more wily and powerful. In a state of nature,
strength and courage constitute right; in a country governed by the
perfection of reason, superior knowledge, sagacity and cunning. Hence
originates the great maxim of Caveat emptor—(here I began to
quake) a maxim, gentlemen, which inculcates upon the purchaser of any
article whatever— the necessity of wariness, deliberation,
examination and suspicion—which says to him, if he makes a bad
bargain it is his own fault—that if he is ignorant, it is his own
fault—that if he is cheated, it is his own fault—and that, to sum
up all in one word, `Caveat Emptor."'
His honour, after a charge of three quarters of an hour, in which he
told the jury, what the law was not, at least twenty times, omitting at
the same time, to tell what it was, ended, so far as I can recollect,
nearly as follows:
"Gentlemen of the jury, to conclude—the case mainly turns, after
all, upon two points—first, whether a fraud may be so great,
impudent, brazen and enormous, as actually to lose its character, and
become something else. Secondly, whether, in the eye of the common law,
a mare is synonymous with a horse—a horse with a mare.
"As to the first point, I know of no case, nor any decision, bearing
directly upon it, by which to be governed. I regret this, because I am
thus under the unpleasant necessity of being obliged to resort to my
own judgment to decide, a course extremely troublesome and
inconvenient, and savouring of vanity. Fortunately, however, there is a
decision, in some one of the books, of a certain court of judicature in
the kingdom of Brobdignag, which, in the absence of all other
precedent, I shall rely on in this case. It was there solemnly decided
that a man might be actually too little for a dwarf. Arguing from the
analogy of the two cases, I am inclined to believe, that if a man may
be too little for a dwarf, so may a fraud be too great for a fraud.
Now, gentlemen, it is almost impossible to conceive a more impudent,
gross, and prodigious deception, than to sell a mare for a horse, to a
person having the use of his eyes. It is in fact so gross a fraud, that
it is quite impossible to believe the defendant intended it for a
fraud. When a human being gets beyond a certain size, he is no longer
called a man but a giant—so when a fraud is committed of an enormous
magnitude, it ceases to be a fraud—it is a misnomer to call it a
fraud, and the plaintiff would be nonsuited upon that ground, if there
were no other.
"Touching the second point, gentlemen of the jury, there is no doubt
that in ordinary acceptation, a mare is a horse, but it is not quite so
clear that a horse is a mare. The horse, gentlemen, or as he is called
in the latin tongue Equus, gave name to the equestrain order in
Rome, which was so called from riding on horseback. Now, gentlemen,
there can be little doubt that many of these equestrians rode upon
mares, yet they were called indiscriminately horsemen. I am, therefore,
inclined to believe that mare and horse were considered as synonymous
at that time. This is, however, opposed to the maxim, that though a
mare is a horse, a horse is no mare, which being a common saying,
whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, is of equal
authority with the common law, which cometh from we know not where. If
you believe, gentlemen, that a mare is a horse, you will find a verdict
for the defendant—if you believe, on the other hand, that a mare is
not a horse, you will find a verdict for the defendant on the ground
that the enormity of the fraud makes it no fraud at all—if you
believe, however, that a fraud is a fraud, however gross and palpable,
you must still find a verdict for the defendant on the ground that
I never heard this word, that it did not sound to my ears like the
croaking of the prophetic raven, or the screeching of the ominous owl.
The jury gave a verdict for the defendant, with costs of suit, out of
due respect for Caveat emptor, and all I gained by the
perfection of reason, was a bill of costs a yard-long, and the laugh of
the universe. I was, however, a little consoled, when an honest
neighbour told me I had certainly the most extraordinary team in the
world—"a sound horse that was blind of an eye and broken-winded—and
a mare that had been miraculously metamorphosed into a horse, by the
magic of the common law."
Never, surely, was a man so jilted by his beloved as I was by the
common law. This last decision, which established the doctrine, that a
mare was a horse, and a fraud no fraud, almost drove me mad, and could
I have conveniently found a country where there was no such thing as
law, I think I should certainly have sought it at that time. In truth,
these decisions coming thus one upon the back of another, at first gave
me a mortal distaste to the law, particularly the common law, with Caveat emptor at its head. But when again, I reverted to the
authority of so many sages, all agreeing in pronouncing it the
perfection of reason, I was thrown in the dilemma of at length being
obliged either to acknowledge the perfection of the common law, or to
confess myself an ass. I was never in truth very confident in my own
opinions, and yielding to the authority of great names, and early
impressions, I at length came to the conclusion that the sense of
justice, the suggestions of conscience, and the moral feeling, by which
it is supposed men may almost instinctively decide upon what is right,
and what is wrong, were so many jack-a-lanterns, when put in comparison
with the steady light of the perfection of reason. In short, I no
longer depended in the direction of my conduct upon my perceptions of
moral justice. I considered the perfection of reason as the only true
guide, and yielded implicit submission to Caveat emptor, firmly
believing, that if I could only get him on my side, I might cheat,
swindle and deceive, with perfect impunity, and in strict conformity
not only with the wisdom of ages, but the perfection of reason. You
will perhaps wonder at this conclusion; but I am clearly of opinion
that many an honest man has been made a rogue, by being disappointed
in his search after justice at the shrine of the common law, and many a
one perverted by its equivocal maxims. It is too much in the nature of
man, I fear, to convert decisions against him, which his own innate
sense of right teaches him are immoral in their tendency and unjust in
their principles, into a warrant for the indulgence of his own evil
propensities. Unquestionably, he who has frequently appealed in vain to
the law for redress, in cases where his own consciousness taught him he
was right, will be more apt, ever afterwards, to study what is law,
than what is right, and square his morality accordingly. At least, it
was so with me, and I have no hesitation in confessing that at one time
of my life, I became little better than a rogue, merely through the
seductions of Caveat emptor, and the perfection of reason.
While I was, however, wavering between my early impressions of
morality, and the temptations of the common law, I was unexpectedly
called upon to act on the defensive in an affair of much greater
consequence than any of the preceding. This was a suit brought for the
recovery of the estate, which I mentioned as having been gained by my
uncle in a lawsuit, at least thirty years before. He had remained in
quiet possession, and so had I, ever since; I should as soon have
expected a suit to turn me out of my skin, as out of my estate.
However, a suit was brought, and by a man that had failed four times,
since we had possession—given up all his property, or at least sworn
he had done so—and had never paid one tenth of his honest debts. If
he ever had any rights in the estate, they should, in the eye of
justice, have belonged entirely to his creditors. These, however, were
all dead or dispersed, and the gentleman had now a fair field.
I was served with a declaration of war, which made my hair stand on
end. First, I had entered by force of arms, and violently taken
possession of this honest man's estate—I had beaten him with staves,
sticks, stones and what-not, till he had scarcely a whole bone in his
skin. Then I had not only got possession viet armis, but not
content with this, had actually cheated him out of it afterwards. In
fact, if I remember right, I had got possession in ten different ways.
Nay, I did not stop here, rogue as I was. I had fraudulently, forcibly,
and illegally kept possession, and forcibly, fraudulently and illegally
converted the proceeds of the said honest man's estate, to my own use,
profit and behoof, fraudulently, forcibly and illegally. Now I declare
solemnly, there was not one word of truth in all this, yet it was no
joke I assure you.
After this first shot, my antagonist cited me to appear, defend
myself, and make good my title. I appeared, ready armed with two great
lawyers, as squires of the body, but as ill-luck would have it a
principal witness of the plaintiff was absent, and application was
made to put off the trial. Dilationes in lege sunt odiosae, said
his honor, and granted the motion. The next term, I appeared as
before— and the trial was again postponed. In this way matters went
on for five or six years, during which my opponent, under one pretence
or other, put off the decision. The different judges never failed to
quote dilationes in lege sunt odiosae—but then they all
granted the delay odious as it was in the eyes of the perfection of
reason. I begged of my counsel, as I was all this time kept in a state
of agitation and uncertainty, and could neither sell or improve my
estate, to bring matters to a close as quick as possible. They assured
me this was out of the question—it rested with the plaintiff to bring
his suit up when he pleased.
"And how long can he delay it?"
"Till doomsday—or until all his money is spent."
"Dilationes in leges sunt odiosae," said I, shrugging up my
"To be sure they are," replied my counsel with infinite gravity."
"And so he can keep me in this state of uncertainty all my life?"
"Yea—and you and your posterity for ever, to the hundredth
"And this is called the perfection of reason, when any wretch may
thus keep the lawful possessor of property as long as he pleases, in
this state of expense and suspense. This is the perfection of reason!"
"Unquestionably—it is as reasonable that you who enjoy the sweets
of possession, should suffer the fear of being turned out, as that he
who endures the pain of being out of possession, should enjoy the hope
of getting in. This is the perfection of equal justice."
At length an aged person, upon whose recollection of the facts
connected with the former history of the estate, I had relied
materially in maintaining my title, died. The very next term, the
plaintiff was ready and the trial came on. It was not the absence of
one of his witnesses but the presence of one of mine, that was so
inconvenient to him. The trial occupied three days—one in hearing
testimony— and two in hearing speeches, which after all signified
nothing as it appeared. It was the cases cited, that decided the
question of right. My counsel cited Holt—but he was knocked down by
chief justice Buller, who butted him quite out of court. After this
first round they took a little breath, and to it again. The opposite
counsel cited Strange—and mine Espinasse—they quoted
Fonblanque—and we Dallas—"Pish," said they, "this is only a dictum
of one of our own judges." "Your honour will turn to page 116, vol.
112, Troutback vs. Sturgeon." "Your honour," cried we, "will
please to turn to page 250, vol. 99, Crane vs. Peacock." "Lord
Coke says"—"Lord Mansfield affirms, your honour, in the famous case
of Cock-a-doodle manor, which settled the principle." This last blow
ended the second round, and in fact decided the question in my favour.
Lord Mansfield carried all before him, and our adversaries never held
up their heads afterwards. They gave in at the third round, with a
faint effort at milling a little with Glanville, and a few of the old
The judge was at last permitted to say a little for himself. In
truth I began to think, he was to have nothing to do in the business
and that my cause was to be tried by the judges of England, not those
of my own country. I have not sufficient recollection of his charge to
repeat it, but I remember his decision turned altogether on the
authority of lord Mansfield. Such was his exemplary modesty, that he
never intruded his own opinions, or appeared to consult his own
judgment. This seemed rather odd to me, although, I had by this time
become pretty well accustomed to it. I could not help thinking that a
plain man of good judgment and acquirements, who had heard all the
testimony appertaining to this special case, was better qualified to
decide upon it, than even my lord Mansfield, meaning no disrespect to
his lordship—who died long ago, and never dreamed of me, my adversary
or my cause. Thanks, however, to my lord, to whom I shall ever feel
grateful, and who I have no doubt was a very clever fellow, I gained my
suit, and rejoiced mightily in the laws, which were now entirely
restored to my good graces.
But I might have kept my joy for a better opportunity. My honest
friend was not satisfied like me, with my lord Mansfield's decision. He
appealed to a superior court—but luckily lord Mansfield reigned
paramount there also, and again I was triumphant. It cost me all the
proceeds of my estate that year though; it was one of Pyrrhus'
victories. My honest friend again appealed to a still higher court; I
thought there was no end to them. Here he kept me dangling for three
years more, waiting, as he afterwards boasted, for some new decision of
an English judge, that should overthrow lord Mansfield's doctrine, and
turn it upside down. At length such a decision was made by a sage of
the bench; one in fact that seemed made exactly to suit his purpose. It
was directly in the teeth of his lordship, and unsettled the law of at
least half a century. In charging the jury, his honour, delivered
himself to this effect:
"Gentlemen of the jury: The perfection and beauty of the law
consists in this—that it is not only a rule of action, but a rule
which, being founded in the perfection of reason and the wisdom of
ages, is not liable to those changes, to which all else is subjected in
this world. Such is the stability of this rule of action, that a man
may at all times know the extent of his rights and his duties, and the
course necessary for him to pursue, in order to secure those rights and
perform those duties. Law is, in fact, the result of the perfection of
reason, based on the accumulated wisdom of ages. This may be most
especially affirmed of the common law, which is expressly founded upon
maxims and practices, so ancient that the memory of man runneth not to
the contrary thereof.
"Yet, gentlemen of the jury, certain self-sufficient persons, misled
by that ignis-fatuus common sense, have affected to lament that,
notwithstanding this perfection of the common law, it is exposed to one
very serious imperfection. In the lapse of ages, necessary to produce
that perfect oblivion of the origin of any rule or custom which makes
it amount to law, mankind have from time to time forgot what the custom
actually is, and great doubts and uncertainties arise in consequence
thereof. Thus, say these cavillers, though there is no doubt that the
common law is really and truly the perfection of reason, if we could
only rescue it perfectly from the obscurity of ages, yet, as it is, we
must take it as we find it laid down by persons who differ continually
from each other. The mischief, continue they, is, that such is the
diversity, the waywardness, the pride and the obstinacy of human
reason, that these oracles differ one among another, upon almost every
principle of the common law. By this means, the common law, in effect,
ceases to be a rule of action, since it is impossible to say that a
dozen different rules can make one rule.
"In order to decide upon these contradictory decisions, different
judges resort, not to their own opinions, but to the opinions and
decisions of others. Some are of opinion, that as the whole force and
authority of the common law is derived from its antiquity, it follows,
of course, that the people of these remote ages were wiser than those
which succeeded them. As a matter of course, if this position be
correct, then the decisions of persons living the nearest to the
sources and origin of the common law, must be of the greatest authority
in settling its principles. They argue that if those ages, and sages,
which produced and expounded the doctrines and practice of the common
law, were not wiser, or at least as wise as we are at present, it were
best to discard it entirely, or so modify it as to make it comport with
the wisdom of the present times.
"Some, gentlemen of the jury, on the other hand, maintain a contrary
doctrine, in expounding the principles of the common law. They argue
that as it is a received axiom, that every succeeding age is wiser
than its predecessor, the probability is, that it must produce wiser
men in every science. Hence, it would seem to follow, say they, that
those decisions which approach the nearest to our time should be most
relied upon,—in other words, that every succeeding decision, is of
weightier authority than the preceding one; and consequently that it
operates somewhat in the nature of a new law, which abrogates the old.
Among those who believe that human reason is every day becoming more
perfect, I profess myself to be one, and of consequence I consider, the
latest decisions on points of law as unquestionably the best. We prefer
new fashions in dress, furniture and other matters, on account of their
superior elegance, and why should we not in like manner, prefer new
opinions? There is in fact a fashion in science and literature as well
as in every thing else; and not to follow it, is to depart from the
spirit of the age. A man who should at this time of day, believe in
animal magnetism, and reject phrenology, would be considered quite as
antediluvian as one that should discard high capes and put on high
cuffs. Were a physician to confine himself to the lessons of
experience, and invent no new theories, he would never become president
of a medical college—and were a lawyer to found his practice on the
simple rules of a written code, it is almost a moral certainty, that he
would never grow rich. There would be an end to the glory of the
profession, and the still more glorious uncertainty of the law.
"Gentlemen of the jury, it is a vulgar error to suppose, because the
common law is the perfection of reason, that it is to remain stationary
and unalterable. To be permanently perfect, it must be changing
continually, in order to accommodate itself to the wisdom of the age,
which for the time being, is always the perfection of wisdom. Every
thing new, is undoubtedly an improvement upon the old. It may be
objected, perhaps, to this doctrine, that as the common law is a rule
of action, it is indispensable that the rule should be known to all,
and consequently that it should be permanent. This reasoning is
entirely fallacious. In the first place, there is no necessity that a
rule should be settled, or permanent, to constitute it a rule. The moon
changes every day, and yet nobody denies it to be a moon. No two years
are exactly the same, and yet the seasons remain unalterable—and no
man continues unchanged to the end of his life—yet nobody denies that
he is still the same man. So is the rule a rule, though it should alter
every day of the year. The same fallacy is observable in the argument,
that a rule of action should necessarily be known to those who are
expected to be guided by it in the common affairs of life. Such a
doctrine, gentlemen, would be fatal to the liberal and learned
professions. Men are expected to get well, when they grow sick—yet
is it absolutely requisite to have physicians to cure them. They are,
moreover, expected to be acquainted with the laws which are to regulate
their conduct—yet it is necessary to have lawyers and judges to
interpret them, which we all know is rather a difficult matter. If
mankind were all virtuous, there would be no need of preachers—if
they were all in good health, there would be no occasion for doctors—
and if they were all wise, there would be no occasion for lawyers or
judges—for no man would ever go to law.
"Gentlemen of the jury, I flatter myself, I have now succeeded in
establishing the following positions: First, that the common law is the
perfection of reason, because it adapts itself to our reason, or our
reason adapts itself to the common law. Secondly, that inasmuch, as the
common law derives its authority from its early adoption by our
ancestors, it seems to follow as a matter of course, that the latest
decisions on it must be the most irrefragable. There is thus the
wisdom of invention belonging to our ancestors, and the wisdom of
improvement belonging to their descendants—both which, combined,
constitute the perfection of reason. Thirdly, that though the law is a
rule of action, there is no necessity that it should either be
understood by every body alike, nor indeed by any body but gentlemen of
the profession. Nor is it proper that even they should understand it
exactly alike, for in that case the judges instead of having perhaps
ten or a dozen different opinions to take their choice of, would be
confined to one alone. Besides this, as two different opinions are
necessary to a suit at law, if the rule were so simple and plain as to
be comprehended by persons of ordinary understanding, there would be
none but fools that would go to law, and that would destroy the dignity
of the profession. Fourthly, that a rule of action need not be
permanent to constitute it a rule, as instanced in the case of the
moon, which, although not laid down in any of the books, is conclusive.
"From these positions it results, gentlemen of the jury, that you
will find a verdict for the plaintiff. I am free to confess, that had
the decision of lord Mansfield, in the matter of the manor of
Cock-a-doodle, been posterior to that of my lord chief justice
Bridlegoose, I should have given an opinion directly to the contrary.
The decision of judge Bridlegoose, being the latest, is certainly the
best, as he has the advantage not only of lord Mansfield's, but his own
wisdom besides, to direct him—which is two to one at least. I
acknowledge it is a hard case, gentlemen, a very hard case—and I
could almost wish judge Bridlegoose had delayed his opinion till this
suit was decided. The defendant has, however, his remedy at law. He can
wait till a new opinion comes out, in opposition to judge Bridlegoose,
and then commence a suit for the recovery of his property."
What a pity lord Mansfield had not been a little later in coming
into the world! I should have been a rich man probably to this day, in
spite of the perfection of reason. As it was, I lost my estate, only
because judge Bridlegoose unfortunately for me, had the last word. I
would have appealed from this decision, but unluckily there was no
court to appeal to—we had got to the top of the ladder, and there was
an end to the perfection of reason.
This blow was soon followed up by another, and yet another, which
both together left me destitute of every thing like real property in
this world, if the word real can apply to any thing which lies at the
mercy of the perfection of reason. In producing the papers necessary to
establish my right to the property of which I had been divested, in the
manner just related, by the perfection of judge Bridlegoose's reason, I
unwarily exhibited two deeds relating to two other pieces of land of
which my good uncle and his ancestors had been in possession almost a
century. It happened that one of these was without a seal, and the
other did not specify that the conveyance was made to the purchaser,
his heirs and assigns for ever. The lawyer who examined them,
immediately scented a couple of exquisite lawsuits. He went to work and
after more than half a year's indefatigable research discovered the
heirs of the persons from whom my uncle derived his title.
I was again accused, in technical phrase, of assaulting, beating,
bruising and maltreating, some half a dozen men, women and children
whom I had never seen, and of fraudulently keeping possession of
property, which had descended to me through two or three generations.
Formerly I should have smiled at these attempts to dispossess me, but I
began to doubt whether, in the eye of the perfection of reason, there
was such a thing as an indefeisible title even to the possession of a
man's own head. Besides, I was horribly afraid that judge Bridlegoose
might have been giving another opinion, that would do my business as
effectually as the first.
In the first of these cases the flaw in my title consisted in the
want of a seal to the deed of conveyance. There was no doubt as to the
hand-writing of the person who made it; but still it was contended that
the absence of the seal rendered the whole a nullity. It was the seal
and not the hand writing which verified the instrument. I produced
receipts for the purchase, proving beyond doubt that a full and fair
value was given and received, but all would not do. Even my own counsel
had nothing to say in favour of my right. All argument was waved for
once, and the judge gave his charge to the jury. I was rejoiced to see
that he was a different person from the judge who had such a great
opinion of chief justice Bridlegoose, but I soon found I had only got
out of the fryingpan into the fire. His honour began—
"Gentlemen of the jury: I cannot sufficiently congratulate both
myself and you, that we are here deliberating and deciding under the
purest and most perfect system of laws, with which any people were ever
blessed; a system combining the wisdom of our ancestors with that of
our own—a system happily characterized by the sages of the law, as
the result of the experience of ages, and the perfection of reason. I
speak, gentlemen, of the common law—which is, I will venture to
say—I can hardly say what it is— sometimes it is one thing,
sometimes another—sometimes it is founded upon a rule, and sometimes
upon exceptions to a rule—sometimes it is defined and sometimes it is
not defined—sometimes it is the product of ages of darkness,
illustrated and explained by the wisdom of ages of light—and
sometimes it is the offspring of ages of light, mellowed down as it
were into an agreeable twilight, by the obscurities of ages of
darkness. It is in fact, gentlemen, a chaos of wisdom and experience,
out of which issues beauty and order, as did the fair creations of this
harmonious universe. Even its inconsistencies and diversities, may be
justly said to contribute to its unequalled perfection. As in a
concert, the different instruments all played by different persons, and
the different voices attuned to different pitches, men, women and
children; counter, tenor, treble, and bass, all conduce to the nicest
and most accurate harmony; so do the different opinions of different
judges and jurists, administer to the harmony, beauty and perfection of
the common law.
"Another excellence peculiar to the common law, is its capacity of
adapting itself to times, changes and circumstances, without any other
violence than an occasional departure from common sense, a species of
instinct which the law holds in little respect. Hence we find it in one
age, one thing, in another age, another thing—in the mouth of one
judge it speaks one opinion, in that of another judge, another opinion,
according to the variations produced by time, the difference of
climate, the wind, the fashion and other modifying circumstances. Hence
too, and this is another peculiar excellence of the law, that let a
man's case be apparently ever so bad, it is ten to one but he can find
somewhere or another, a decision of some court or judge, that makes in
his favour. This is what is meant by the law looking with equal eyes on
all persons, and presuming every man to be innocent till he is found
guilty. The common law has in fact all the qualities of the famous pair
of enchanted seven-league boots, which, it is recorded, fitted every
body, great and small, from little Hop-o'-my-thumb, to the great giant
Gentlemen of the jury, the common law is, above all, venerable
forits antiquity, a point on which I shall insist, particularly, as it
has a direct bearing upon this case. Its very essence consists in the
obscurity of its origin, like the claim of many families to nobility.
From this early origin arises the indispensible requirement of the
common law, that a seal should be necessary to constitute a legal
conveyance of real property. The necessity of this, will become
sufficiently apparent, when we consider the fact, that in those remote
periods, which produced that stupendous edifice of wisdom, called the
common law, not one in a thousand, could either read or write. I leave
it to you, gentlemen of the jury, to explain how it happened, as it did
undoubtedly happen, that the perfection of wisdom should have orginated
in the perfection of ignorance. It is a severe reflection upon learning
and refinement, certainly, that to this day they have not been able to
improve upon this great work of ignorance and barbarity. However, this
we must leave to inquirers in other places—until the English judges
have decided upon this matter, I shall hold my tongue. People that
cannot write, or who consider writing beneath their dignity and rank,
generally make their mark now-a-days, in the shape of a cross, to
indicate, I imagine, that by this sacred symbol, they pledge themselves
to what they have thus signed. But in those early ages of the
perfection of reason, it was the custom to affix a seal bearing some
legend or device, identifying it with the person to whose act, or
deed, it was appended. This custom appears at least as ancient as the
æra of Solomon, and thus far we can distinctly trace the antiquity of
this peculiarity of the common law. Gentlemen, Solomon was a wise man
and must have had good reasons for what he did. The seal of Solomon is
frequently alluded to in the Koran. In like manner we find the ancient
kings of Asia, signifying their sovereign, behests, by sending a person
with their seal, as evidence of the orders he carried. To intrust a
favourite with a seal in the days of Haround Alraschid, was to give
into his hands the power of the whole empire of the Caliphs. The
custom, therefore, of affixing a seal, is sanctioned by great names,
and long usages, the eternal basis of truth and justice.
"The practice thus derived from the remotest antiquity, subsists in
the present age, in the law alone, the great depository of all the
sacred relics of time and ignorance, preserved by the hallowed industry
of the profession. I had like to have forgotten, however, to observe
that the reasons on which it was founded have entirely ceased. In this
country at least, almost all persons of both sexes, who can ever be
supposed in a situation to make conveyance of land, can write their
names. If there should be occasionally a solitary instance to the
contrary, witnesses can always be obtained to sign their names, and
thus verify the instrument. I will not deny too, that the signature of
a person in his own proper hand-writing, properly attested by
witnesses, and verified by the signature of a magistrate, is rather
stronger evidence of authenticity than the mere affixing a seal. But
this does not in reality render a seal less necessary, as a
corroborative and security, in addition to the signatures. It is easy
for a man to sign the name of another, and to imitate it with
sufficient exactness for all the purposes of fraud; but it is not so
easy to get a wafer or bit of wax for a seal. The seal, therefore, is
additional security that the instrument is genuine. Besides, if it were
not so, the very tenor of the instrument is "witness my hand and seal
." Now, if there is not seal, the conveyance asserts what is not
true—it presents on the face of it a falsehood—it is therefore a
fraudulent conveyance, and must be set aside."
The jury accordingly set it aside; and thus was I deprived of my
land, only because king Solomon, and Haroun Alraschid, not being able
or willing to write their names, signified their sovereign will by a
seal. It is not for nothing, that the most enlightened statesmen
consider learning as so mischievous an ingredient in human affairs. If
there had been no such villanous practice as that of writing of names,
my unlucky conveyance would have had a seal to it, and I might have
been in quiet possession of my land to this day. As it was, I lost it
for lack of a wafer, or a little bit of wax, not worth a stiver. I
confess I considered it rather a hard case, that I should lose one
estate in consequence of one judge's veneration for the latest,
and a second on account of another's veneration for the earliest
practice under the common law.
Well was it said that riches make to themselves wings and fly away;
and if I am not mistaken, one of these wings is the common law. At
least it was so with me. The very next day, as if to take me while I
was going, the other cause came on, for the farm that had only been
conveyed to my grandfather, and not to his heirs, as was undoubtedly
intended by both parties. The amount of the purchase money was
acknowledged on all hands to be far too great to admit of the
supposition that my ancestor, who was at the time of purchasing, almost
seventy years old, contemplated only a life estate. Common sense
offered another presumption in my favour, in the fact that the property
had never been questioned or claimed till the present moment, a lapse
of more than half a century, by the adverse party. But these
presumptions, although conclusive in the eye of common sense, were of
no account in the estimation of the perfection of reason. The law was
against me, and there was an end of the business. It was, moreover, an
old law, which like old wine ought always to take precedence.
Moreover, it had been no doubt founded in the perfection of reason at
some time or other, and though the reasons had long since ceased to
exist, still the law remained, and it was the perfection of reason to
retain the law, when the reason had passed away. It was unquestionably
the misfortune of my ancestor that the conveyance was not full—but
Caveat Emptor! Whenever I heard Caveat Emptor quoted, I knew it was all
over with me, and quietly resigned myself to be dealt with according to
the perfection of reason, which has decided that if one man places
confidence in another, he forfeits all right to the protection of the
common law. Thus it appeared to me that while the law inculcated
morality, it upheld fraud—an inconsistency which could not but be
highly injurious to the integrity of mankind. The judge charged the
jury, that though there was not the least doubt that the property was
purchased in fee simple for ever, and that it was both unjust and
unreasonable to deprive me of it—yet, as by the common law, which was
undoubtedly the perfection of reason, I had no title to the possession,
they must of necessity find against me. As by the common law and indeed
the law in general, a jury is considered as having no comprehension of
any thing but matter of fact, a verdict was given against me as a
matter of course. The opposite party condoled with me on this untoward
result; but comforted me at the same time with the assurance that
though he had an undoubted claim to the back rents, for at least half a
hundred years, still he was too generous to bring it forward against me.
Thus does the law visit the sins of the father upon the children to
the third and fourth generation, and thus was I dispossessed of three
estates, one after the other—the first, by the authority of my lord
chief justice Bridlegoose, who was good enough to decide upon my case
without my knowledge or consent— the second, by the inexcusable
carelessness of one ancestor in omitting to have his deed sealed, as
well as signed—and the third, because another of my ancestors, forgot
that in buying for himself he was not buying for his heirs. I think,
however, I may say with perfect truth, that the trouble my losses gave
me was nothing to the trouble I had to reconcile these decisions to the
wisdom of ages and the perfection of reason. My perplexity was such,
that I fell sick, and for some time became actually deranged in the
attempt to bring about this hopeless reconciliation. In short, I fairly
lost my wits in searching for the wisdom of ages and the perfection of
reason in the inextricable labyrinth of the common law. When I
recovered, I was told that during my temporary alienation of mind, I
had delivered more than one legal opinion, that would have done honour
to a lord chancellor.
On my recovery, my thoughts naturally turned to the state of my
affairs. What, with the wisdom of ages, the perfection of reason, and
judge Bridlegoose, I had scarcely sufficient left for the support of a
gentleman. I had a few thousands in the funds, but did not know how
soon I should be deprived of these, by the decision of judge
Bridlegoose, or some new luminary of the law that might spring up in
foreign parts, to my utter confusion and ruin. In casting about for the
best means of retrieving my affairs, an opening seemed to present
itself in the pursuits of commerce. I saw hundreds around me,
apparently sporting in the sunshine of wealth, and rising from nothing
to the summit of opulence, as if my magic. I resolved to commence
business, upon the capital I had still left, and the experience I had
acquired in the common law. I flattered myself I understood Caveat
Emptor pretty well, and with it all the mysteries of bargaining.
I must apologize for the transactions of that portion of my life
upon which I am now entering. I confess, when I look back I am ashamed
of it. But we have covenanted to disguise nothing from each other, and
I shall not spare myself. Thus much, however, I will offer in
extenuation. I had been accustomed from my earliest youth to consider
the common law, not only as the perfection of reason, but as the
standard of moral obligation, the guardian of ignorance, the protector
of weakness; and the shield of the oppressed. But I had appealed to it
to avenge frauds committed upon me in vain, and I had been stripped of
a large portion of my property, by decisions which my own reason, that
guide and monitor which is the only true prompter of man's conscience,
proclaimed were not only unjust, but absurd and ridiculous. These
decisions had not only weakened my respect for the laws, but my
perceptions of right and wrong. Awed by the authority of ancient
usages, and great names to support them, I was often tempted to think,
that I had myself mistaken the immutable principles of morality and
justice, and that the laws were after all the only unerring standard.
In that case, I had a right to make use of the experience I had so
dearly purchased, and to avail myself of the knowledge which had cost
me so much. Heaven knows I had paid dear enough for it, and I thought I
might exert it, agreeably to the precepts of the wisdom of ages and the
perfection of reason. In fine, gentlemen, I believe it will too
frequently be found, that a man who often appeals in vain to the laws
when his own reason and conscience teach him that his cause is just; or
who suffers by their operation, without any fault of his own, will be
very apt either to take the law into his own hands, or revenge his
injuries and disappointments, by converting his dear bought experience
into the means of repairing his losses, at the expense of others. There
is nothing perhaps which is so productive of violence and fraud, as a
general want of confidence in the justice of the laws.
I confess with shame and contrition that I entered into trade with a
full resolution of making Caveat Emptor pay back all it had
deprived me of in the whole course of my life. I was not quite a rogue;
but I was sufficiently so I fear to go to the full length morality of
the common law—and that is far enough in all conscience. Preparatory
to commencing business, I determined to reduce my establishment, which
indeed I had not the means of keeping up any longer. In the first
place, I cast about how to dispose of, to the best advantage, my famous
span of horses, which I was resolved to believe most firmly, were not
only both horses, but both perfectly sound and free from fault—they
having been so pronounced by the perfection of reason. By the way,
gentlemen, my last purchase, turned out a bad bargain in other
respects, having all the obstinacy of her sex, and as many tricks as a
There was an old lady, a neighbour of mine, very rich, and nearly
blind, who had an old coachman half blind himself, and so phlegmatic,
that whenever he drove his mistress an airing, a pleasant, lively,
talkative young lady, of the neighbourhood, was always invited to be of
the party, to sit on the front seat, and keep him awake by incessant
talking. In short, the lady was old, the coachman old, all the
servants of the establishment so old, that they had hardly one of the
five senses in perfection—the horses and carriage were old, and the
cats and dogs so very old, that they had outlived their instincts, and
lay down like the lion and the lamb in peace together.
This worthy old lady, hearing I was going to break up housekeeping,
took it into her head to buy my horses, to replace her own, one of
which had been knocked up in the desperate effort to trot down a hill.
I sent them over for her to look at, and the whole household turned out
I was told to examine their points. There was not a good eye among the
whole of them. The old lady bought my span, and the very next day,
being Sunday, set forth to a neighbouring church to exhibit her new
acquisition. She arrived there, after no small vexation and delay,
owing to the vagaries of the ever memorable feminine horse which has
heretofore figured in my story. She had a habit of stopping short now
and then, but was not otherwise vicious; and it was worth while to see
the one eyed gentleman, her companion, turn round and look at her on
these occasions, as if to ask an explanation. He was certainly a horse
of great parts, though he had but one eye and was broken-winded.
There was not a soul at church but knew my horses, and had heard the
story of the mysterious animal that was a horse in the eye of the law,
and a mare in the eyes of every body else. They all flocked round, and
the tale was repeated at least two hundred times. Never since the days
of Gil Blas' mule, was an animal so taken to pieces, criticised,
reviewed, and held up to nought, as were those of the good old lady.
She was in such a passion, that when she got home, she could not tell
either chapter or verse of the text. The next morning she sent them
over, with a tart note, charging me with deception, and demanding her
money back again.
"Caveat Emptor!" cried I, and snapt my fingers at the old lady, just
as the horse jockey did at me. I was sure I had the common law on my
side this time, and defied justice and all her works. I had given no
warranty, and had not even verbally answered for my horses. The old
lady brought a suit; but I cared not a rush for it, and only cautioned
my lawyer to ply them well with Caveat Emptor, whenever he had
an opportunity. I ought to mention there was a new judge on the bench;
the admirer of judge Bridlegoose and his decisions, being absent on
some account or other. As ill luck would have it the brazen trumpet,
who by his eloquence had wrought the jury to pronounce one of these
same horses, a sound horse in the eye of the common law, was again
opposed to me.
In the first place, the old lady proved the horses were both bad.
But this I did not mind, so long as I had honest Caveat Emptor
on my side.
In the second place, she proved that I knew they were bad. The
counsel read the record of the decision, by which I had the blinker
thrown on my hands, to prove him an unsound horse. Now this was the
very decision on which I had relied, in conjunction with Caveat
Emptor, to bring me off with flying colours. I calculated to prove
by it, that as he had been decided virtually at least, to be a sound
animal, by being thrown on my hands as a fair purchase, I had a right
to dispose of him as such at any time.
After the testimony was concluded, the brazen trumpet attacked me
with the whole force of his lungs, and tore me all to nought, for doing
exactly what the perfection of reason authorises every body to
do—making use of my superior knowledge in bargaining. I am sure I had
paid for it. He contradicted every word he said on a former trial, and
made me out to be one of the greatest rogues in existence. And so I
was, for aught I know, for I had been corrupted by the common law, and Caveat Emptor. My old counsel made an excellent defence—indeed he
and the other counsel, seemed to have exchanged souls, or at least
tongues on this occasion. I remarked that the trumpet used the very
same arguments against me as defendant, that my present counsel did in
my favour when I was plaintiff, in a similar suit, and that on the
contrary my counsel borrowed his old arguments to apply to this new
suit. All this struck me as odd, but I suppose the perfection of reason
consists in the capacity of accommodating itself to time and occasion.
But it was the argument of the judge that threw me into despair.
"Gentlemen of the jury," said he, "the common law is not only the
wisdom of ages, and the perfection of reason, but it is likewise
essentially a moral code which at the same time that it protects and
vindicates the rights of the people, teaches them their duties. The
learned counsel for the defendant has relied mainly upon the suit,
which has just been cited, in which the very horse now in question, was
decided to be a fair purchase and left on his hands. He contends that
this decision was in effect sanctioning the practice of imposing an
unsound animal upon a purchaser, or at least if not so, he contends
that it decided the character of the horse as a sound animal, in the
eye of the common law.
"Gentlemen, the learned counsel forgets, that though this is the
same horse, the court and jury are very different from those which
decided the former case. My worthy brother, for whose learning,
sagacity and legal acumen, I have the most exalted respect, is,
however, I must be permitted to say, rather too much under the thumb of Caveat Emptor, and follows the practice of the English judges, who
I think give it too great a latitude in covering fraud and deception.
Now, I, gentlemen, incline to the doctrines of Grotius, Wolf and others
of the writers on natural law, which rests in fact on the same basis
with the common law, and who mingle a considerable portion of equity in
their ideas of covenants. They differ with many of the English
authorities, in their exposition of the maxim of Caveat Emptor,
and consequently in their estimate of the degree of diligence and
circumspection necessary in the buyer, and the latitude to be given to
the seller in disguising, or making use of his superior knowledge in
the article of which he is about to dispose.
"Gentlemen of the jury, I am free to confess, that though, in some
respects, I agree with preceding authorities, in others I differ from
them all, and so differing I shall take leave to consult my own ideas
of justice in this case.
"In the first place, there is a manifest distinction between being
silent as to defects in the article which forms the subject of the
covenant, and fraudulently concealing them. By merely being silent on
these defects, you practise no deception, because you leave the buyer
the free use of his eyes, and other senses, which are the guides and
guardians of human nature in all the ordinary transactions of life. If
the buyer should chance to be ignorant of the nature and value of the
article, that is his own fault; the seller is not obliged to instruct
him to his own damage and loss. He had in fact no business to purchase
an article of the qualities and value of which he was totally ignorant.
Ignorance is not involuntary—it is in the nature of a blameable
negligence not to acquire knowledge—and as Ignorantia legis
neminem excusat, so ignorance of the points that constitute the
value, or of the defects which diminish the value of a horse, is no
ground for vacating a covenant, or recovering damages.
"But, gentlemen of the jury, it is far otherwise with those natural
and involuntary defects which render it impossible for a person to be a
judge of the article purchased. The plaintiff in this suit is an
elderly lady, who in the first place, lies under no sort of obligation
to become acquainted with the value of horses—her ignorance is
therefore no bar in law to recovering in this suit. Had the deception
been practised in the purchase and sale of a carpet, a silk gown, or
any article of that kind, of which females are bound to be judges, it
would have been a different affair altogether. But not only is the
plaintiff not obliged by her sex to become a judge of horses, but if
she were, it is in proof, that she has become incapacitated by a defect
in the organs of vision. Now, gentlemen, physical defects are viewed in
a very different light by the common law, from defects of knowledge,
judgment and experience. To impose upon an ignorant person, is held
lawful; but to impose upon one who is incapable from nature or
infirmity, of judging, is fraud. These distinctions are founded in the
wisdom of ages and the perfection of reason. I am, therefore, of
opinion, that the defendant take back his horses, return the purchase
money, and pay the costs of the prosecution."
Thus was I obliged to receive back my horses, in spite of
Emptor, who seemed destined in one way or other to be my utter
ruin. I could not help complaining to myself, that I had been obliged
to keep them on my hands after being cheated in the purchase, solely
because one judge had no opinion of his own; and now was obliged to
receive them again, merely because another judge chose to have an
opinion of his own. If the judges had only been exchanged, I might have
gained both suits—as it was, both were decided against me. "What a
misfortune," thought I, "that though the common law is always the same,
the judges are so different, and that the perfection of reason should
be expounded by persons whose reason is so imperfect!" Fearful that my
horses would play me some more tricks, I took the first opportunity to
give them away—taking the precaution to accompany the donation by a
special warranty, certifying one to be unsound, and the other worth
Having got these incumbrances fairly off my hands, I invested the
remainder of my fortune in trade, and plunged in the mysteries of
buying and selling, under the guidance and protection of honest Caveat
Emptor, notwithstanding the many ill turns I had received at his hands.
I purchased articles at a low price and sold at a high one, always
taking care to avoid any express warranty; and though I was from time
to time sued by the ignorant for thus making a legal use of my superior
knowledge, I always escaped with flying colours, under the broad shield
of Caveat Emptor, who I will do him the justice to say, stood by
me like a brave fellow. Thus I sailed before the wind for some time and
laid up money. My avarice as usual expanded with my acquisitions, and I
determined to launch out into foreign trade. I accordingly purchased a
large ship, which the owner assured me was one of the finest vessels
that ever sailed the salt seas, and put in her a valuable cargo, for
Europe. In order to cover all losses, I made insurance for the full
amount of vessel and cargo, and despatched her on her voyage. This
time, I happened to be perfectly honest. I believed the vessel to be an
excellent one, in all respects, for as such I had bought her, and the
cargo was precisely as I had represented it to be. It was on my part, I
solemnly assure you, a fair transaction.
About a month from the sailing of my great ship, news came that she
had sprung a-leak, a few days after getting to sea, and was run
ashore, where she went to pieces. However, this gave me no very great
uneasiness, as I calculated on being completely covered by the policy
of insurance. To my surprise and mortification, payment was positively
refused on the ground that I had practised fraud, or at least
deception. Even if this had been the fact, I should have relied on my
friend Caveat Emptor to bring me off—but I was entirely
innocent, and innocence, although of little weight in the eye of the
perfection of reason, is of some value in keeping up a man's courage. I
commenced a suit for the recovery of my money, in full confidence of
not only having the law, but justice likewise on my side.
But, miserable is the man who depends upon his innocence in a suit
at common law; he might better depend upon his guilt, for guilt is
careful if possible to get the law on its side, while innocence relies
upon itself. The defence of the insurers was, that I had practised a
fraud in representing the vessel to be what she was not. It was proved
by the honest gentleman, of whom I had bought her, that she was not
only not a first rate vessel, but quite the contrary. That he had built
her to sell, and that both in materials and workmanship, she was
defective in a very great degree. The captains and mate, who had
escaped the wreck, also testified, that she was rotten in many of her
timbers, leaky, and in fact not seaworthy. They would not have trusted
themselves in her, if they had known her condition.
Here I took the liberty to ask, how I, who was totally ignorant of
ships, could be supposed to know of defects, which had escaped the eyes
of professional men?
"Caveat Emptor!" replied the court. I acquiesced, without a
murmur, for I relied less upon my innocence on this occasion, than upon
my friend Caveat Emptor. 'Tis a bad rule that wont work both ways,
thought I, for I had not become sufficiently aware what a trimming
turn-coat rascal this Caveat Emptor was, and how he changed sides, with
as little ceremony as a first rate politician. I desired my counsel to
lose no opportunity of touching them up with Caveat Emptor, but he
struck me dumb by replying—
"My dear friend,
Caveat Emptor won't do in this case."
"Then the Lord have mercy upon me," I exclaimed in despair—"if
honest Caveat goes over to the enemy I am a dead man."
I pass over the arguments of the counsel, who marshalled armies of
judges and volumes of decisions, one against the other, and made such a
variety of beautiful distinctions, that not a single man in court,
gifted with common sense, could tell black from white, or make out what
the law was for the soul of him. But the charge of the judge deserves
to be remembered as a warning to posterity.
"Gentlemen of the jury," said he, "the principle involved in the
case before you, has been settled by so many solemn decisions in the
English courts, that no argument, or decision of mine can fix it more
irrevocably. It is only necessary, therefore, to state one or two nice
distinctions, and to recapitulate the arguments on which it is to be
presumed these decisions were founded.
"The plaintiff hinted in the course of the trial, that he expected
to avail himself of the maxim Caveat Emptor, but it is hardly
necessary to tell you that it does not apply in this case. Gentlemen,
the common law being the perfection of reason, accommodates itself in
the happiest manner to the accidents of situation and circumstance. It
is immutable, and unalterable—yet it is different and variable. It is
founded in the wisdom of ages—and it contradicts itself without the
least inconsistency. I will acknowledge, gentlemen, that had this been
an affair of the land, instead of the water, the maxim Caveat Emptor
would go to exonerate the plaintiff from all suspicion of fraud, but
happening as it did on the water, the case is diametrically opposite.
And the distinction most strikingly exemplifies the wisdom of the
common law. Gentlemen of the jury, there is one species of animals for
the earth, and another for the sea—there is one kind of vehicle for
ploughing the fields, and another for ploughing the ocean—and there
is also one law for the land, and another for the water. As well might
you attempt to go to sea in a plough, or turn up the earth with the
keel of a ship of the line—as well might you travel by land on the
back of a whale, or cross the seas mounted on an elephant—as to apply
the same maxims of law to the ocean and the land. The elephant would
drown in the fathomless deep, and if I might be allowed the
personification, Caveat Emptor cannot breathe in the atmosphere
of salt-water; his lungs are too weak for it.
"Hence, gentlemen of the jury, it follows from strict deduction of
analogy, that there must of necessity be a law for the land and a law
for the sea, or the law could not possibly be the perfection of reason.
Hence too, it is law, that when a man buys a ship ready built, the
parties being on Terra Firma, he does it at his peril, and must look
out for Caveat Emptor. But if, on the contrary, he purchases a
vessel, the parties being on the water, I should say that Caveat Emptor
would not apply. However this may be, I have no hesitation in saying,
that though the buyer of a ship is bound to beware, the person who
insures her is entirely exonerated from that obligation. In the one
case if the buyer purchases a bad vessel it is at his own risk; in the
other, if the insurer takes a risk upon her, it is not necessary in the
eye of the perfection of reason, that he too should beware. Again,
gentlemen of the jury, a man on land has a perfect right by the common
law, to make use of his superior knowledge of certain articles of
merchandise in disposing of them to another who has not an equal
knowledge; but he has no right to the benefits either of superior
knowledge or superior ignorance, in dealing with an insurance company,
which, though not exactly a sea animal, is a sort of amphibious
monster, entitled to the privileges of both elements.
"Gentlemen of the jury, the counsel for the plaintiff in this suit
has relied upon a decision, in a cause where he himself was obliged to
take up with a broken-winded horse he had purchased, by virtue of the
maxim Caveat Emptor. But this case resembles the present in no one
ground of principle. Between the defects of a horse and those of a ship
there can be no possible analogy. Whoever heard of a ship being
broken-winded or blind of an eye, or indeed having any eyes but dead
eyes, which in the eye of the common law are no eyes at all? If the
animal had been a Sea horse, I am not quite clean that there
might not be some ground of analogy on which to found an application of
the same principle equally to both cases. As it is, gentlemen, you must
find for the defendants, in spite of Caveat Emptor."
I had now but one resource against absolute poverty, to which
nothing can reconcile a reasonable man, but the reflection that it puts
him in some measure beyond the reach of the laws. Without money he
cannot sue; and without it there is no cause for his being sued. He may
therefore snap his fingers at the perfection of reason and defy Satan
and all his works, among the worst of which I reckon the subtilties of
the law. I made one effort more; I brought an action against the person
who sold me the ship, which it had just been decided to be a fraud for
me to get insured. I had only to produce the record of that trial to
prove that I had been deceived in the purchase. But the case was now
altered—there was one law for the land, and another for the sea; and
my old friend Caveat Emptor once more changed sides to my utter
There being no actual warranty, the court instructed the jury, "that
according to the maxim Caveat Emptor, it was my own fault if I bought a
bad vessel, although the price I paid might furnish presumptive
evidence I thought her a good one. The plaintiff has relied on the
decision of this court, in a case where it was decided partly upon the
evidence of the seller of this very vessel, that she was not
sea-worthy, to prove that the defendant knew she was so at the time he
sold her to the plaintiff. Now there is no proof that he did actually
know the situation of the vessel at the precise moment of making the
bargain. He might have become acquainted with these defects afterwards,
for aught we know. But at all events, if he did know, he was not bound
to disclose them. The defendant in this cause, is a seaman by
profession, and once commanded this very ship. Now, gentlemen, it is a
maxim in law, accusare nemo se debet, &c. and it is a common
saying, which amounts to a precept of common law, that "every sailor is
a piece of his ship;" of course he cannot be bound in law or justice to
disclose her defects. I am free to acknowledge that this is a hard
case, but that is neither your fault nor mine. The law must have its
course, let what will become of morality and justice; for it is a maxim
in law, that injustice to individuals is the good of the whole. There
is no other foundation, under the common law, for individual right, but
individual wrong; and as one man's meat is another man's poison, so the
decision of a law-suit, in opposition to reason and conscience, only
the more firmly establishes the perfection of reason. It is with law as
with religion. Each has its martyrs, whose sacrifice is the strongest
possible proof of the divinity of its origin. Gentlemen of the jury,
you will find for the defendant on the ground that Caveat Emptor
Thus was I, like many of my fellow men, ruined by the very friend
upon whom I placed the greatest reliance. Caveat Emptor, whether as
friend or foe, seemed destined to be my bane in conjunction with the
perfection of reason. I had now nothing left in the world, but a
thirty-sixth part, as tenant in common, of a piece of land about
thirty feet square, in one of the out wards of my native city; together
with a claim of very considerable amount, on a merchant in a
neighbouring seaport town. This last I determined to put in suit in
good time. But first I took special care to find out how honest Caveat
Emptor stood affected towards me, in this particular instance. To my
great content, I discovered that my case did not turn upon that pivot
at all. I then proceeded to apply all my dear bought knowledge to the
case—consulted the laws—ransacked the decisions of every court for
precedents—applied principles, and in short, had, as I thought, made
myself thoroughly master of the whole subject. After this, to make all
sure, I wrote out a fair statement of my case, and sent it with a fee
to two of the first counsel of the place where my antagonist resided.
They assured me my claim was perfectly good. Upon this I sent him a
defiance, at least my counsel did, of twenty folio pages. He accepted
the challenge and I was to meet him on his own ground in the course of
a few months, to decide the matter then and there, according to law.
I was on the spot in time, as confident of victory as ever was
knight errant, gifted with an enchanted sword, and invulnerable armour.
The trial opened, and after some little preliminary forms, the lawyer
on the opposite side got up and began to talk about something that Lord
Ellenborough, and a late deceased chief justice of Pennsylvania had
thought and decided in a certain case of Twaddle vs. Tweedle.
What the plague have I to do with Twaddle vs. Tweedle, thought
I, in no little perplexity at finding that my cause was in danger of
being decided by the ghosts of Lord Ellenborough and the chief justice
of Pennsylvania, instead of the chief justice then sitting on the bench
My astonishment was increased tenfold, on hearing my counsel instead
of saying any thing about me or my cause, begin to talk about a certain
law-suit between one Dick Harvey and a Mr. Moody. Upon this, the other
side got up, and talked about the great decision between Fairbanks vs
. Fairchild, which it seems, was too strong for Dick Harvey and Mr.
Moody. Down he popt, and up jumped we with the still greater and later
decision of my Lord Somebody, in the case of Cannon vs. Swivel.
The opposite lawyer was not in the least daunted, but produced another
and later decision of the same judge, which as he maintained nullified
the other. Whose cause are you trying? whispered I to my counsel. I
thought mine was to come on to-day. Before he could answer me, the
judge rose and said something about Locus in quo, whereupon my
counsel turned round to me very coolly and said— "You've lost your
cause." It was too true, though heaven is my witness that to this day I
could never tell why or wherefore. All I know is that Locus in quo
treated me quite as bad if not worse than Caveat Emptor, and that
between them both, I had now nothing left but the thirty-sixth part of
thirty feet square of land in my native city. But fate had determined
that I should become a perfect martyr to the perfection of reason.
It seems an industrious young lawyer, having just then no business
in hand, purchased out one of the joint tenants, and being very anxious
to get exclusive possession of his foot of land that he might improve
it, applied for a partition. I had, I confess, received notice of this,
but considered it a trifle not worth attending to at the time. But I
found to my cost that there are no such things as trifles in the common
law. On my return from the signal overthrow I had received at the hands
of Locus in quo, I was saluted with a bill of costs of
partition, amounting to considerably more than my share of the land was
worth. I was glad to make it over to the professor of the perfection of
reason, for his trouble and expense in procuring the partition, and he
generously relinquished all further claim upon me. Thus we settled the
partition by my being partitioned out of the last shilling of property
that Caveat Emptor and Locus in quo had left me.
Gentlemen, I hope you will not think me unreasonable if, by this
time, I began to lose my respect for the perfection of reason. If my
worthy uncle had risen from the grave, I don't think he could have
restored it to my good graces. Like a mistress, so full of caprices,
contradictions and coquetries, that she at last tires out and disgusts
the most ardent admirer, the perfection of reason had played me so many
tricks, that I turned my back on it in utter disgust. It appeared to me
that whatever the law might have been in ages of comparative ignorance
and simplicity, it had now become so refined in its distinctions—so
subtle in its metaphysics—so complicated and contradictory in its
decisions—so wearisome and capricious in its sinuosities, as to be
compared to nothing but an Indian trail through some pathless
wilderness, invisible to all eyes, untraceable by all feet, save those
only which are guided by an infallible instinct, the joint offspring of
nature and necessity. So far from being the perfection of reason, it
seemed to me nothing more than the perfection of quibbling sophistry.
Instead of a plain straight forward rule of action, simple in itself
and easy of comprehension to those who are to be governed by its
provisions, it appeared to my awakened senses little else than a
farrago of contradictory decisions, pursued through all the mazes of
inextricable subtilty into the obscurity of fathomless darkness—a
jumble—a chaos without a sun to enlighten, or a hand powerful enough
to reduce it to order and beauty. In short, under the influence of my
perpetual disappointments at the hands of the perfection of reason, I
actually rejoiced that I had now nothing left in the world, and was
consequently above the laws. If any thing can reconcile a reasonable
man to the ills of poverty, it is the consoling reflection, that he has
passed into that bourne where the lawyers cease from troubling, and the
client is at rest.
The remainder of my story is soon told. I was a ruined man, and that
too, at the hands of the perfection of reason. Being without the good
things of this world, there was nothing left me, but to turn
philosopher, and despise them. Indeed, I have always observed, that in
proportion as a man gets money he contemns wisdom, just as he who
becomes poor despises wealth and takes to wisdom. Money is certainly
the root of all evil, as every man is convinced the moment he sees it
in the hands of others. There are three things which constitute as it
were the three sheet anchors that keep a man riding steady in the same
roadstead all his life— property, friends, and a home. My fortune had
gone off with honest Caveat Emptor and Locus in quo—my
friends followed closely after—and as to home—I was a bachelor, and
a bachelor has no home.
In casting about for employment during the remainder of my days, I
at length determined to travel over all parts of the world, and return
laden with improvements from all countries for the good of my own. I
will visit, thought I, the distant and polite regions of the earth,
and like the bee return laden with honey. I will bring home with me the
newest fashions in dress, and the latest opinions in morals—the most
exquisite refinements in taste, and the most fashionable models in
literature—the rarest plants, and the most odoriferous flowers. I
will introduce the thistle from Canada—the black rose and the black
swan—mummies from Egypt— dust from the pyramids, and cobwebs from
the catacombs—little wooden shoes and white lions from China—paper
systems and joint stock companies from the British isles—Perigord
pies from France, and music from Italy. My return will be hailed as a
new era, and I shall be remembered as the benefactor of my country by a
hundred succeeding generations. But from this I was deterred by the
reflection, that with the exception of the source of the Niger, and the
northwest passage, there was nothing new to be discovered under the
sun. The world had been in fact ravaged, not by an irruption of Goths
or Vandals, but by armies of peaceful warriors, who instead of
destroying with fire and sword, deluged whole countries with bloody
ink, and put men, women and children to the point of the pen without
mercy, insomuch that a nation stood no more chance of a tolerably
decent character among them, than a man who keeps a company waiting
dinner two hours for him. There was, in truth, not a hole or corner,
either above or under ground, a pyramid, a cataract, catacomb,
subterranean temple, or inexplicable oddity that had not been
ransacked and described half a dozen times over.
Like Alexander, I wept for a new world, and remained in sorrowing
perplexity, when, one lucky day, at least a dozen of them made their
appearance in the nick of time, each ready to be served up in
Paternoster Row, to the literary epicures, like boiled eggs at a
breakfast. I allude to the promulgation of the sublime theory of the
CONCENTRIC SPHERES, which hath sufficiently demonstrated that this
globe of ours, instead of being as it were all outside crust, is like
the famous pie, which, when opened, discovered four-and-twenty
black-birds all gayly singing a beautiful Italian air. Thus, in a
similar manner, the centre of this mundane terrene, when it comes to be
explored by adventurous travellers, instead of being tenanted by worms,
ground hogs, embryo locusts, field mice, pismires, and other inglorious
subterraneans, will be found, beyond doubt, to be peopled by an
enlightened race of illustrious Troglodites, who from the very nature
of their locality must of necessity see deeper into a subject than
other people. At once my mind was made up. I determined to seek these
pure and unsophisticated mortals who, being thus retired from the great
outside world, must of necessity be free from those vices, follies, and
crimes which have entailed upon us the disagreeable necessity of being
governed by THE PERFECTION OF REASON.
STORY OF THE THIRD WISE MAN OF
THE PERFECTION OF SCIENCE.
My brother Harmony, began the Third Wise Man of Gotham, has, it
seems, been shipwrecked in pursuit of the Perfectibility of Man; and my
brother Quominus has fallen a victim to the Perfection of Reason, or
the Wisdom of Ages, I can hardly tell which—I, on the contrary, am
the martyr of Science.
I was born and educated in the most scientific, literary, and
philosophical city of the world—for the women were all Blues and the
men Metaphysicians. In truth, I may say, with perfect veracity, there
were so many people running after science, that there were not sciences
enough for them to run after. The business was overdone; the game was
exhausted, as in countries too thickly settled and too much cultivated;
and nothing was left for them but the invention of new sciences, to
give them employment. Besides, such had been the unwearied industry,
the deep sagacity, with which they had pursued the old sciences, that
they had driven them from their most secret recesses; detected all
their arcana; exposed their occult mysteries; and, in fact, pulled
them by the ears, as it were, out of every hole and corner where they
had entrenched themselves for ages. Strangers, who were allured to the
city by the fame of its learning, observed with astonishment, that the
women could call every thing by its scientific name, and that even the
very children talked nearly as wisely as the best of them. Learning,
science, and philosophy, were becoming vulgar, insomuch that several
people of the highest rank and fashion, began to study ignorance, and
actually sent their children to school to unlearn every thing. It was
high time, therefore, for the lovers of science to begin to look about
them; for the writers and lecturers upon the old Grey Beard
mathematics, philosophy, botany, and chemistry, instead of an audience
of pretty fashionables, with nodding plumes, were content to confine
their instructions to classes of rusty students, who actually came for
no other purpose than to learn. The fashionable young ladies began to
yawn at conversations, where they met to relax themselves with
political economy and metaphysics; and a universal alarm prevailed,
when a great heiress, who was considered the bulwark of the blues,
backslided, and married a regular dandy, with a thin waist and no
It was high time to get up something new for these people, and as
the natives of our isle are more apt to improve upon the inventions of
others than to invent any thing themselves, I was selected by a
coterie of philosophers, and sent out into the world to discover a new
plaything for these grown up children of knowledge. I travelled, and
travelled, and travelled, as the story books say, over divers countries
that have neither latitude nor longitude; I visited all the colleges,
scientific institutions, and bedlams; sought out the most learned and
adventurous philosophers of christendom; consulted the Pundits of
India; the Chingfoos of China, the Dervises of Turkey, and the Jugglers
of the Flathead Indians of the Missouri. In short, I ransacked the
uttermost ends of the earth, and was returning disconsolate, through
Germany, to my native city, with a firm conviction that there was
nothing new under the sun, when an unexpected adventure befel me on the
eve of a long day's journey.
Owing to various untoward accidents, one of which was the lameness
of my horse, I had been overtaken by twilight in the midst of the
forest of Teutoburgium, not far, as it afterwards proved, from the spot
where Varus and his legions had been cut off by the German hero
Arminius. As the night gathered thick around me, obscured into
Cimmerian darkness by the overarching shades, I became more and more
confused and uncertain of my way. I heard the growling of bears, the
howling of wolves, the hooting of owls, and the shrill whistle of the
bandit, mingling with the sighing and moaning of winds as they
wandered in the impenetrable shades. At length my progress was arrested
by a cold and heavy hand, forcibly applied to my mouth, with such
excellent aim, considering it was so dark, that it stopt it entirely
and prevented me from calling for help, had I bethought myself of doing
it. So forcible was the blow, that it knocked me from my horse, and I
lay on the ground for a few moments insensible to every thing around
me. As I gradually recovered—the pain of my fall—the loneliness of
my situation—and the apprehension that the bandit would return with
his companions, and finish, perhaps, what he had begun, overcame me
entirely, and I groaned at intervals aloud. Nothing for a time answered
me, but the dismal echoes of the forest, and once or twice the
neighings of what I supposed my own horse, who had wandered to a
distance. At length, however, my cries were answered by a voice which
seemed close to my ear.
"Who and what art thou, that thus wanderest alone, at midnight, on
the spot where the bones of tens of thousands have been bleaching for
ages?" cried a hollow and tremulous voice.
"I am a pilgrim," exclaimed I, "from a far distant country,
travelling the earth in search of a new science."
"Thou hast hit the nail on the head," replied the invisible voice.
"Follow me—give me thy hand —thou art a lucky man, and hast been
born, without doubt, with a silver spoon in thy mouth."
"But my horse," quoth I.
"He is safe," replied the voice, taking me by the hand. As I lifted
it to my lips in token of thankfulness, I started back with horror.
"It smells of mortality!" cried I.
"True—It hath handled nothing but the bones of Varus and his
legions, for more than thirty years."
"Art thou a sexton?"
"A grave digger?"
"Follow me, and thou shalt know."
I again gave him my hand with trembling reluctance, and we struck to
the right in a direction towards a dim light, which had till now
escaped my notice. After proceeding some distance, we approached the
entrance of a cave, which descended gently into the bosom of the earth,
through a passage dimly lighted by a lamp, leading into an apartment
that struck me with inexpressible dismay. It was a charnel-house of
skulls, which I took for granted appertained to thousands of murdered
wretches, made away with by a band of robbers, of which this wily old
wretch was the stool-pigeon, or chief, I hardly knew which. His whole
appearance was a composition of supernaturalhorrors. There did not seem
a drop of blood in his body, or an ounce of flesh on his bones. His
eye, deep sunk in his head, glimmered dimmer than the half expiring
lamp which obscured rather than illuminated the passage by which we had
descended; and his cheeks, for want of the support of teeth, had sunk
in on either side, and met together lovingly in the roof of his mouth.
His head was without a single hair, and the glossy surface of the
skull, divided by lines into different copartments, like the divisions
of a map. Each of these was numbered after the manner of sheet maps,
for teaching children geography. "Gracious heaven!" exclaimed I,
mentally, "he is not only a robber but a necromancer! perhaps the wild
huntsman! perhaps one of the infernal quizzical imps of Number Nip!
perhaps the wood demon himself. This forest has long been famous for
evil doings, and these lines and figures are doubtless the spell by
which this diabolical caitiff works his infernal ends." I cast my eyes
from the necromancer to the paraphernalia by which he was surrounded.
Nothing was seen but skulls piled up in various recesses, or lying
about in horrible confusion, so that at every step, they rolled beneath
my feet, and grinned in my face, as if in scorn of these impotent
injuries. The rest of the embellishments of this Golgotha, have escaped
my recollection, for as I continued to stare around, my courage
deserted me, my senses wandered, and I trembled from head to foot.
"Thou art cold and doubtless hungry too," said the old mystery of
horror—"I was inhospitable not to offer thee something to eat."
He then arose and went to an obscure part of the cave. "He is gone
to prepare for me the feast of the worms," thought I, "or perhaps he
will presently invite me, like the ghost in Don Juan, to an
entertainment of shin-bones and petty-toes. Would I were home again,
and perish all new sciences." Presently, however, he returned, and to
my very agreeable surprise, presented a piece of cold venison, some
bread and a flaggon of beer. "Eat, drink and be merry," quoth he—"for
to-morrow I die!" responded I, inwardly, with a sigh. However, hunger
is lord of the world, and will swallow up fear, when he is sharp set. I
fell upon the venison, and ate as if it were my last; I swallowed
oceans of beer, in hopes it would infuse into me a portion of Dutch
courage, but in vain. While I was taking my meal, the necromancer or
whatever he might be, was examining a large skull, divided and marked
in like manner with his own, and apparently comparing it with mine,
while he ever and anon exclaimed—
"Bless me!—astonishing!—wonderful!—one would think they had
belonged to one and the same person!—Pray, my good friend, if you can
stop eating for one moment, tell me, had you ever any other head on
your shoulders than the one you carry now?"
"Not that I know of," replied I.
"Astonishing—curious—remarkable—never saw such an
comparison—causality—love of approbation—order— combativeness,
and what not! I would give thousands for your skull. Why, sir, you must
be a universal genius. You have the finest collection of organs in the
world. You are a poet, a mechanic, a chymist, a philosopher, a
musician, a lover of children, an artist, a metaphysician, and any
thing else you please, besides."
I began now to be ashamed of myself, that I should have dignified
this old fellow with the rank of a bandit and necromancer, when as it
now plainly appeared, he was only a harmless madman. At once my terrors
subsided, and I became quite jocular.
"Pray," said I, "how came you to know my character and talents so
perfectly in this short acquaintance?— I don't think I have spoken
five words on any subject connected with these acquirements and
qualifications. Have you the faculty of penetrating the interior of the
brain, or exploring the secrets of the heart, extemporaneously?"
"The secrets of the heart!" replied the old man
contemptuously—"you talk like a blockhead in defiance of the
infallible augury of your cerebral development. The heart, young man,
hath nothing to do with sensations, affections, impulses, passions,
affinities or antipathies. You might as well locate them in the liver,
the gizzard, the great toe, the seat of honour, or any other obscure
and contemptible part of the human machine—"
"Did he actually call it a machine?" interrupted the Man Machine,
"He did, upon my honour—he called it a machine," said the other,
"Know, young man," continued the hermit, "that I perceive by the
infallible augury of the only real science upon the face of the earth,
thou art destined to be a burning and shining light among the benighted
of this earth. Thou shalt carry the lamp even to the uttermost ends of
the earth, and into the concentric spheres. Listen and learn." The
whole frame of the old man now dilated into actual sublimity—his
voice gradually swelled in tones of lofty declamation, and his eye
brightened with what I then supposed was inspiration. But I have since
ascertained that the eye has nothing to do with the mind, any more than
a pair of spectacles. It is only made to see with.
"I was born and brought up," continued he, "within the walls of a
college, the name of which I shall withhold, least it might become too
vain of the honour; and my ancestors had been professors of the same
faculty for fifteen generations. Not one of them, so far as my
knowledge and belief extends, ever was out of sight of the venerable
Alma Mater. They studied science in books, and to books they resorted
for that knowledge of mankind and of the world, which, being the same
in all ages, can only be acquired in the unchangeable lessons of time
and experience recorded in books. My father was considered a monster of
erudition, who, after having exhausted all the old sciences, imagined
new, which he exhausted with equal facility. He went on in this way so
long that at last he was sorely puzzled for new sciences to conquer. He
came very near dying of ennui, for want of a new difficulty to knock on
the head, and in the absence of some excitement of this kind, used to
amuse himself whole days with a parrot and a monkey; one of which he
had taught to talk quite learnedly upon scientific subjects; and the
other to go through a variety of philosophical experiments.
"He soon, however, got tired of this, and then found a temporary
amusement in studying natural history in the persons of a great variety
of dogs, that used to congregate for amusement and fighting in the
large court-yard in front of his residence in the college. Here, for
the first time, he noticed that peculiarity of the canine race which
exhibits itself in two strange dogs when they come together. He
observed that instead of looking into each other's faces for
information, as to the character, objects and intentions of their new
acquaintance, they invariably went round to the rear for that purpose.
At first he was inclined to believe that they carried their names on
the stern, as he had observed was the case with the boats on the river
which ran near the city; but on examination he could discover nothing
of that kind. It naturally occurred to him, to ask himself the reason,
or rather the instinct, of this singular practice. After deep
reflection it struck him that it could be no other than a mode pointed
out by nature for gaining a thorough insight into the character, views
and qualifications of those animals, thus superseding the necessity of
long acquaintance and continued scrutiny. He saw too, that these
animals signified their satisfaction, and indeed expressed most of
their sensations, by wagging their tails, and became thereupon
convinced that with them at least the eyes and the face were not the
index of the mind. He observed that a stiff tail denoted hostility,
while a wagging tail on the contrary expressed sometimes pleasure,
sometimes eagerness of anticipation, sometimes confidence, sometimes
doubt, sometimes affection; and that whenever it hid itself between the
hinder legs, it was the invariable indication of fear. In short, he had
no doubt that a complete system of the operations of canine instinct
might be deduced from the developments of the organs of the tail; and
he was only deterred from announcing it to the literary world by the
apprehension of being laughed at by ignorant persons.
"A hint is, however, sufficient for the wise. Newton caught his idea
of gravitation from seeing an apple fall to the ground; Hutton his
theory of the formation of the earth by the operation of an internal
fire, from a confectioner making sugarplums; another philosopher from
accidentally seeing a nest of iron pots one within the other, with
pismires crawling between them, conceived his theory of the concentric
spheres; and my father erected the most stupendous science of modern
times upon the wagging of a mastiff's tail. Reasoning upwards by the
stair-case of analogy, he gradually arrived from the mastiff's tail to
a man's head, which he found closely resembling each other in a vast
variety of particulars. Both were covered with hair; both were at the
extremity of the animal; one nodded, the other wagged. There were other
points of resemblance of which expert theorists make a great use,
called analogies of opposition, in which the likeness or affinity
consists in one thing being the direct antipodes of another.
Altogether, my father, from long and intense observation and
contemplation, came at last to the conclusion that the tail of the dog,
and the head of the man, was certainly the true index of the mind and
propensities of each respectively.
"I perceive you smile, as if this idea of a man's head being the
seat of sensation and the index of mind was no very great discovery. In
the course of my details you will see that this was only the mere
threshold, the first step in those speculations that are destined ere
long not only to astonish but confound the world. The discovery that
the head was the seat of sensation was in fact no discovery at all. But
the improvements he made, and the ends to which he applied it, are what
constitute his glory. Columbus it is true discovered that there was
actually such a place as the new world; but this did not deprive those
who subsequently explored, settled, planted, and divided it into
separate states, districts, counties and towns, of their portion of
credit. In like manner, others had, it may be justly said, discovered a
man had a head; but it was reserved for my father to turn that head to
some account, by dividing it into different sections and compartments;
detailing its peculiarities of soil and climate; describing its various
properties and productions; the temperature of the air; the animals
that inhabit it; and in fact, giving as it were a complete statistical
account of the whole region."
Here, perceiving me yawn a little, the old man took the hint. He
proposed retiring for the night, and resuming his details in the
morning. Accordingly he showed me into a small recess where was a bed
of moss, in which I laid myself down, and dreamed all night of the
catacombs of Egypt. The next morning the good hermit would hardly allow
me time to eat my breakfast, so impatient was he to continue his story.
"My father," began he, "next proceeded to lay down his first
principles, which he justly considered were more than half the battle.
He knew he could look out afterwards at leisure for facts and examples
to sustain them. A true philosopher always makes his facts and
reasonings dependent on his theory, and not his theory on his facts and
reasonings. When his theory is well digested and arranged, a man of the
least ingenuity will find all nature administering to his use.
Appearances and phenomena which he never dreamed of before will come,
like Sancho's proverbs, pat to his purpose; and what in the eyes
of indifferent persons will seem fatal to his hypothesis, to him will
afford unanswerable confirmation. Young man, if thou ever meanest to
become a philosopher, follow the example of my father, for be assured
if thou waitest for experience to authenticate thy theories, thou wilt
die without ever becoming the father of a single new one. Aware of this
truth, my father, as I said before, proceeded first to lay down the
principles of his new science, intending afterwards to trust to
Providence, his own ingenuity, and the liberal spirit of the age, to
establish them by facts and demonstration.
"He first laid it down as a maxim, that the head of a man was, as it
were, a great organ full of pipes, on which the different qualities,
propensities and passions each played their favourite tunes, and on
that particular pipe the tone of which best pleased the said quality,
propensity or passion.
"That as the pipes of the mechanical organ, being made of materials
incapable of expansion, cannot be dilated or contracted; so the pipes
of the man-organ, being composed in like manner of materials directly
the contrary in their nature and capacity, it follows by analogy of
dissimilitude that the animate and inanimate organ are one and the
same, for all the purposes of science and philosophy.
"That the form of the brain, and the functions of the several organs
or pipes thereof may be ascertained by irrefragable indications,
especially by comparing their size, with the power of manifesting the
mental faculties. The more a particular organ or pipe of the organ was
used the larger it would undoubtedly become; for as friction uniformly
diminishes inanimate machinery, so in like manner does it not diminish
but strengthen, develop and expand the animated machinery, to wit, the
pipes, organs and cavities of the brain.
"To prove this position, he instanced the rope-dancer's legs; the
fiddler's right elbow; and above all the female tongue, each of which,
he maintained, was uncommonly large and fully developed in consequence
of continued and violent exercise. The eyes of children, he observed,
were always larger in proportion than those of grown up people, simply
because as every object was new to the former, they naturally stared
and wondered at every thing. Again: the nostrils of a snuff-taker were
always more dilated than those of ordinary persons; and people given to
listening at key-holes always had great ears. All these positions he
intended to establish as occasion might offer; and if it proved upon
experience that the facts were not according to his theory, all they
had to do was to accommodate themselves to it as fast as possible; for
it was not to be expected that a philosopher should abandon an
hypothesis, merely because it was contrary to facts and experience.
"My father was resolved that his science should be quite original.
Lavater had already taken formal scientific possession of the face, and
as it were, converted all the seaboard of the country to his use. My
father was for that reason resolved to have little or nothing to do
with the old settlements, but to travel into the interior and cultivate
the back lands. Accordingly he marched round and settled himself upon
the remote, uncultivated regions of the cerebellum. Besides the canine
example which had given the first idea, and the determination to occupy
entirely new ground, he had another argument in favour of this novelty
on which he strongly relied. He compared the head to those houses in
the city of Edinburgh, which being built on a side-hill, exhibit a bold
front a dozen stories high, but which when approached in the rear
dwindle into complete insignificance. Thus there was no such thing as
telling what they were until you examined them from behind; and thus
too by analogy, all conclusions drawn from the face of a human being
were vague and uncertain in the highest degree. It was, moreover,
proverbial for people to put their best face as well as their best foot
"Having thus developed the theory of his new science, he was just
setting about propping it up by facts and examples, when he fell ill,
and died. It rarely happens indeed that the same person invents, and
perfects his invention. Life is too short for any but a chosen few, to
acquire the glory of beginning and completing a new science. It was
reserved for me to rear up and bring to perfection the magnificent
edifice of which my father had laid the foundation.
"At the time of my father's decease, I was a young man of about
forty, and had scarcely ever been beyond the walls of our college. I
once indeed ventured out into the world to see a fair in the
neighbourhood, but happening to meet a person whose organ of
destructiveness I perceived was horribly developed, I was afraid he
would kill me, and ran home as fast as I could. As a proof of the
infallibility of my science, it was afterwards rumoured that this very
man, or somebody very like him, was found guilty of manslaughter at a
village about two hundred miles distant. My whole life had been passed
between four thick stone walls, in a chamber, the light of which was
admitted through the ceiling, where I saw nobody but my parents, and an
old female servant whose organ of languages bespoke her prowess, for
she could out-talk the whole family. Indeed our prevailing character
was that of shyness, awkwardness, and silence. We seldom or ever mixed
with the world, and my principle recreation had been to philosophise,
smoke my pipe, and drink small beer. Ever since my father propounded
his theory of the organs to my alarmed and awakened imagination, I
believe I may say, that I never looked a human being in the face.
Indeed it was the custom of the whole family to walk leisurely round
and examine the back of the head to ascertain each other's wants,
feelings and sensations. I can proudly say that my father was never but
once mistaken in this infallible augury, and then he fell into such a
passion with the organs that they ever afterwards took good care to
accommodate themselves to his theory.
"From the period that I became an orphan, I determined to devote my
remaining days to the establishment of his favourite science, by actual
experiment and observation. I considered it as a sister orphan in a
state of helpless infancy left to my bringing up, and for whose future
fate I was in a great measure responsible. Accordingly I declined the
hereditary professorship which had been in our family three centuries,
and in order that I might study the human character without
interruption, retired to this forest, and secluded myself from mankind.
I was induced to select this spot in preference to all others, because
it afforded me the most ample scope and materials for laying the
everlasting basis of what may be emphatically called the science of
human nature, taught, not by the quick, but the dead; derived not from
the lying tongues and deceitful eyes of living men, but from the tomb,
whence the hollow socket and the tongueless, fleshless lips, proclaim
in accents of eternal truth, the secrets of the hitherto unvisited
brain. Let no one say that when the brain is out, the man will die, for
it is then only that he may be figuratively said to live, to speak, and
to disclose through the medium of the sublime organs of the cerebellum
the secrets of his heart and head, the mystery of what he was when
living. Here," said he, with lofty enthusiasm, exhibiting a skull
divided and numbered as I have described—"here is the world I study,
and here the history of the human race written in characters of eternal
truth with the pencil of immortality. I do not want to read Tacitus to
know what the owner of this was when living— I know he was rash,
self-willed and brave, and that in the very nature of things, he must
have been governed by the organ of combativeness. Look at it—it is
the skull of Quintilius Varus, who was cut off with his three legions
on this very spot by our illustrious Herman, whom the historian calls
Arminius, to make his name sound like that of a Roman."
"How do you know it is the skull of Quintilius Varus," asked I.
"What is that?" asked I again.
"The infallible science invented by my father. It is called
phrenology, from phrenzy or phrenetic; my illustrious father having
been considered mad during the latter part of his life, like almost all
other daring geniuses who have had the courage to instruct mankind.
They swallow knowledge with as much difficulty and as many wry faces as
they do physic, and reward their benefactors for enlightening them, by
calling them mad. But to go on with my story.
"I have mentioned that this cave is in the centre of the encampment
where Varus and his legions were slain by the Germans, and their skulls
piled up in heaps as recorded by Tacitus. It was for this reason I
selected it for the field of my achievements in demonstrating the
truths of phrenology. Here I could find innumerable examples to suit my
theory—here I could make what use I pleased of those reliques which
elsewhere the ignorant hold sacred; and here, above all, I could remain
free from the intrusion of vulgar curiosity, for not a peasant in forty
miles will approach this spot except unwittingly. You will wonder
perhaps that those skulls should have remained so perfect as you now
see them for such a length of time. But when I tell you that with the
exception of the Egyptians, the Romans had the thickest and most solid
skulls of any ancient people, you will not be incredulous. You
recollect Herodotus bears testimony to the thickness of the Egyptian
skulls, a fact sufficient in itself to explode the vulgar opinion that
a thick skull is synonymous with stupidity.
"Here I proceeded to establish my science upon the eternal basis of
demonstration. In the first place I looked into Tacitus, and found that
Varus had imprudently advanced far into the pathless forests of
Germany—that he had encamped on unfavourable ground; had finally been
surprised by Arminius, and himself and all his legions slain. It
followed pretty clearly from these premises, that Varus was a daring,
uncalculating sort of a person, who beyond all doubt had the organ of
combativeness strongly developed, and that of secretiveness exceedingly
small. Accordingly, I selected from the skulls scattered around me one
which exhibited these two features in the most marked and conspicuous
manner. This was beyond all question the skull of Varus; and here it
is. Examine it— Here is the organ of combativeness, or fondness for
fighting; observe how it projects and is expanded. Here—no—here is
the organ of secretiveness, or in other words, the propensity to hide
away when danger approaches. Observe, it is almost imperceptible. It is
plain that the owner of this skull was without the sense of fear; of
course it must be the skull of Varus. There is no doubt of it—to
disbelieve would argue absolute stupidity—it would be flying in the
face of demonstration."
"Without doubt," said I, for I began to be of opinion that this old
man was a sage, and in all probability might furnish me with what I had
hitherto sought in vain over half the world.
"Very well," continued the sage, "we have thus established the fact,
that these particular organs do actually and invariably indicate the
qualities my father ascribed to them. The next step was to identify
other organs with other qualities until I had made out a complete
system, comprehending all the moral, physical and intellectual
faculties of the human race. Accordingly I proceeded to select and
classify the skulls that lay scattered around, placing all those
together which exhibited the same or similar peculiarities. After
having done this I proceeded to christen them agreeably to the
nomenclature of the infallible science. One heap I dubbed men of
genius, because it was the smallest—another thieves— another
murderers—some I called lovers of order— some lovers of tune—some
of numbers—some of novelty—some I disposed of in one class, some in
another, as situation and circumstances required. For instance, in this
very cave which I have now inhabited almost thirty years, I found on my
arrival a great many skulls lying dispersed on the floor, or the
recesses within. These I took it for granted appertained to persons who
had retreated there for shelter—had been discovered by the German
army, and put to death. They must therefore have hid away—and
therefore the organ of the brain the most remarkable and most strongly
developed must of necessity be that of secretiveness or hiding away. I
confess that there was a great diversity in the phrenology of these
runaways, and that not a few of them exhibited a most provoking
development of the organ of combativeness, or fighting. This was a
formidable obstacle to my progress, but I got over it at last, by
supposing what was very natural, that these latter might have been the
skulls of the valiant Germans who, pursuing the runaways into their
last retreat, were slain in combat with these cowards, for cowards will
fight when desperate.
"There was one particular projection or development of the organ
common to all the skulls I examined, which I called the organ of order.
The soldiers of Varus were of the veteran Roman legions, who had
doubtless been in service almost all their lives. Now the
distinguishing characteristic of a soldier, is order and discipline,
which are in fact, one and the same. Therefore that organ which is most
universally and strongly developed in soldiers, must be the organ of
"In this manner I continued to build up by degrees my favourite
science upon the impregnable basis of experience and demonstration,
until I had selected a class of skulls to represent the whole range of
human passions and human faculties. In this way too, by unwearied
patience and assiduity, I `established' the truth of my father's theory
in a manner that I defy the world to shake. So perfectly am I convinced
of its unerring principles, its unassailable strength and accuracy,
that were I not so old I would go forth into the world and fearlessly
govern myself by the infallible criterion of phrenology in my judgment
of mankind. As it is I must leave it to some young and enterprising
adventurer to accomplish the only remaining point necessary to convince
mankind and overturn the mischievous absurdities of the contemptible
science (as by courtesy it is called) of physiognomy."
Here Dr. Gallgotha, for that I found was the hermit's name,
concluded his details, which, in their progress, had entirely changed
my first impressions in relation to his character and pursuits. As he
proceeded in the development of his system, he called forth my wonder
and admiration; and long before he concluded, I had become a convert to
his principles. It appeared to me impossible, indeed, that a rational
being could shut up his understanding to the conviction of its
irresistible demonstrations; and my imagination expanded with the hope
of being able, at last, to succeed in the mission which had cost me so
many toils and dangers. I remained several days in this abode of
science, during which time the doctor gradually unfolded the minutia of
his system, and taught me the whole mystery of development. Every day
we became more enthusiastically convinced of the impregnability of the
science; and nothing could equal the delight of the old man at finding
such a scholar, except mine at meeting such a preceptor.
"Thou art just the disciple I should have selected from the whole
world—for thou hast the finest development of the organ of faith I
ever remember to have seen. Come, I will take my staff and skulls, and,
like the sages of old, go forth into the world to teach and to
enlighten. Wilt thou be my companion, my disciple, my son by adoption?"
You may suppose I acceded to this proposal with a transport of
delight; and it was accordingly arranged to depart the very next day,
so anxious were we to begin our scientific pilgrimage. "We shall want
nothing," said Dr. Gallgotha—"I will instruct the people, and they in
return will gratefully administer to our trifling necessities, when
what we have is spent."
Accordingly, the next day, having deposited the skull of Quintilius
Varus with other specimens exhibiting each of the cerebral developments
essential to the demonstration of the doctor's first principles, in a
bag, thrown over my horse, we bade a final adieu to the cave of
Macpelah, and sallied forth, agreeing to ride and walk by turns. In
passing the spot where I had been knocked from my horse by the
mysterious hand, I observed a limb projecting over the road, apparently
about the height of my mouth when on horseback, and incrusted with an
icy sleet. It occurred to me, it might have been this limb that knocked
me down and thus, as it were, became a providential instrument in
bringing about my meeting with this inspired old man.
Emerging from the forest, we entered a fine picturesque country,
full of grassy verdure, blushing vines and laughing villages. At one of
these last we stopped for refreshment, and were introduced into a
public room where sat perhaps a dozen travellers around a large old
fashioned oak table. The old man immediately began to exercise his
talent in demonstrative science. He put on his spectacles, and walked
leisurely round the table, stopping behind every man and studying the
infallible index of his mind at the back of his head. At length he
came to one, at the first view of which, he retreated with horror. He
then approached it again, and as if impelled by the irresistible
fascination of overwhelming terror, put his fingers upon a part of the
man's skull. The fellow started up, and turning furiously round upon
the doctor, exclaimed—
"D—n you! what are you about with my head?"
"N—n—n—n—nothing," replied the doctor, in a voice quaking
with terror—"I—I—Heavens and earth! what a supernatural
development of the organ of —. Pray, my dear sir, when did you commit
your last m—. I'll give you a hundred rix dollars for that skull of
"Old man," replied the fellow, gruffly, "its well for you that you
are old, and, as I suspect, not very wise, or I would—"
"O dont—now dont m—m—. Pray now, my dear sir, dont kill me!"
"Kill you!" said the other, with a contemptuous smile, "though my
trade is killing, it is not such tough old animals as you I deal with."
He then quietly sat down again, while the doctor sidled up to me, and
taking my elbow, drew me significantly out of the room.
"We must depart instantly," said he.
"What, without our breakfast?" said I.
"Aye—or it is all over with us. That man is one of the greatest
villains in existence—he has the organ of murder, almost as large as
the bass pipe of the great organ at Antwerp—He cannot have committed
less than a hundred assassinations. Come— come—let us depart
secretly that the murderer may not know which way we go." What an
invaluable science, thought I, that thus intuitively announces to us
the dangers, which others discover only when it is too late.
We now moved ourselves quietly out of the inn unnoticed by any of
the domestics, who, as we owed them nothing, were indifferent to our
motions. The old man, and indeed so did I, often looked back to see if
the murderer was coming after us, but luckily we turned an angle of the
road, and were out of sight before he made his appearance.
"What a lucky escape!" quoth the doctor.
"Miraculous!" responded I.
We proceeded on slowly till the sun began to wax low in the western
horizon, when being tired and withal exceeding hungry, we gladly
descried a pretty considerable village, in a rich vale which spread its
soft evening beauties under our eyes as we reached the summit of a
hill, at whose feet it lay nestling. We pushed forward with new
spirits, and gaily footed down the hill, close to the bottom of which
was an inn, bearing on its sign-post the head of the great Frederick.
"There," quoth the doctor triumphantly—"there is a living proof of
the falsehood of that delusive science, which Lavater palmed upon the
world. If you look at that head in front, it is the head of a
blockhead—if in the rear, it is that of the greatest man Germany ever
produced, with the exception of my father, and one other, whom I shall
not at present name."
The doctor's self gratulations were speedily put to flight by the
appearance of the tremendous assassin we had escaped from in the manner
just related. He rode up to the inn, which I afterwards learned was a
place where horses were let, dismounted, gave his beast to the hostler,
and turned away, carelessly exclaiming, with a significant nod at the
"O! you're there, are you?"
"Its all over with us," cried the doctor, in despair— "I shall
perish, and what is worse than all, the most noble science ever
invented will perish with me?"
"Pray, sir," said I to the landlord, who had just made his
appearance, with a portly figure, a laughing eye, and a jolly careless
gait, giving shrewd promise of a pestilent wag—"Pray, sir, what is
the name of the person who rode up just now?"
"Why we call the fellow Abaellino," answered mine host.
"The great bandit," echoed I.
"You may say that," replied he—"that fellow is the greatest robber
and murderer in a hundred miles round."
"I told you so," said the doctor aside to me.
"Divine science of phrenology!" aspirated I with fervour.
"A robber and murderer!" resumed the doctor after a pause—"why is
he not secured and punished?"
"O, we can't well do without him," rejoined the other—"he is the
butcher of the village, and though he regularly robs us in the way of
his business, we don't like to turn our backs upon his beef and
mutton." So saying, he invited us into the house, and at our request
showed us into a room he called the moon, by ourselves. After sitting
silent awhile with his face rather averted, the doctor slowly moved his
head upon the pivot of his neck, and looking me full in the eye,
"This mistake, as it doubtless appears to you who are not yet
thoroughly initiated into the mysteries of the science, only the more
convinces me of the infallibility of the organs of the cerebellum, in
disclosing to the scientific adept, the mysteries of every variety of
human character. With what unerring instinct, as it were, did I dive
into the secret propensities of the man who has just left us. That his
trade or profession was murder, I had not the least doubt; but whether
a murderer of men or beasts, the cerebellum does not sufficiently
indicate; at least I confess I have not yet detected the precise
development of the organ of murder, which points out the difference
between the slayer of men, and the slayer of beasts."
"What a pity!" replied I, sighing.
"Certainly it is to be lamented," continued the doctor, "but it is
no impeachment of a science, to say that it is not perfect. There are
other defects in our science, which it is one of the objects of this
pilgrimage to remedy or remove. It is not yet settled in my system,
whether mind operates upon matter, or matter upon mind; in other words,
whether those developments, which so unerringly indicate the presence
or absence of certain qualities, or propensities of the animal man—"
"I thought you said he called man a machine," interrupted the Man
Machine rather impatiently.
"So he did at first," replied Le Peigne—"but this time I am
positive he called him an animal."
"He was a fool for his pains—but I beg pardon; go on, sir."
Doctor Gallgotha, continued Mr. Le Peigne, was saying that he was
not satisfied in his own mind whether those cerebral developments,
which so unerringly indicated the presence or absence of certain
decided and governing qualities or propensities of the animal man, were
the cause or the effect of these qualities and propensities. "This
doubt," continued he, "has occasioned me infinite trouble and vexation,
since upon its decision depends the great point, whether mind or matter
is predominant in intellectual beings. Whether in fact, mind is the
seal, and matter the wax, or vice versâ, is what I must of
necessity decide experimentally and demonstrably, before I publish my
system to the universe."
At this moment there was a loud uproar and bawling in the passage,
which attracted our attention, and drew us to that quarter, where we
found the jolly landlord chastising a boy belonging to the house, for
some fault or other. The lad roared manfully, but the landlord
continued his discipline, until at our intercession he let him off. I
observed that doctor Gallgotha took particular notice of the stick with
which the chastisement was inflicted, and picking it up, examined it
with strict attention. When we returned to our room, he seized my hand,
and squeezing it with trembling enthusiasm cried out,
"Heureka! Heureka! I have found it!"
"Found what?" said I, a little alarmed least the doctor had lost
some such thing as his wits, rather than found any thing valuable.
"I have received a full solution of my doubt, in the simple incident
we have just witnessed. Behold how we philosophers differ from other
men, in converting apparently the meanest, most trivial incidents into
the foundation and supports of a theory. Look at this stick—it has
settled a point that has puzzled the wits of the wisest of all ages."
I looked at the stick, and was obliged to confess that I saw nothing
very particular about it—it was not even a witch-hazel. The doctor
smiled with an ineffable yet condescending look of superiority.
"Didst thou observe how the application of this stick affected the
mind of that boy so as to cause him to writhe, and shrink, and cry out
"And didst thou see or hear any thing of this kind proceeding from
"Very well—thus then we have a convincing example, better than all
the argument in the world, that it is matter which operates upon mind
and not mind upon matter, since we see this stick, which is altogether
composed of matter, is not the least affected by the stripes, at the
same time that the mind of the lad is entirely overcome, even unto
tears and wailings."
I could almost have fallen at the feet of the man whose capacious
mind could thus, as it were, like some potent enchanter, settle the
whole universe with the aid only of a little stick or wand. Every
moment he gained upon my admiration, and I had forgot even that I had
not tasted food all day long, when the maid servant opportunely came in
with our supper. Scarcely had she placed it on the table when the
doctor cried out—
"Come hither, my pretty girl."
She approached, blushing and bridling, and really looking quite
"Pshaw!" said the doctor, "turn your back—I don't want to see your
face—its not worth looking at. Mercy upon us! what a development of
the organ of amativeness—truly thou hast a neck like a bull! Thou art
over head and ears in love, I warrant thee—and here—here too is the
organ of secretiveness, big enough to hold a stout strapping lover as
secretly as a kernel in a nutshell. And here, bless me!—here is the
organ of inquisitiveness swelled out to an enormous size—Damsel,
confess now, thou hast listened at a half-open door, and peeped through
a key-hole many a time and oft— hey?"
The damsel took this insinuation in dudgeon, flounced out of the
room in a hurry, and proclaimed in the kitchen that there was a witch,
or a necromancer in the moon. There was no getting her into the room
again the whole evening. After supper we lighted our pipes, for I had
learned to smoke at the instance of the doctor, who assured me it was
the best medium for philosophising in the world. Doctor Gallgotha then
resumed the conversation on the mysteries and doubts which gave him so
much trouble and stood so directly in the way of the progress of this
stupendous science. By degrees we penetrated deeper and deeper into
the profundity of phrenology, and step by step arrived at the
conclusion that it was not only the most noble of all the sciences, but
that, if it could only be brought to perfection, it would supersede the
necessity of all other modes of human knowledge. In proportion as the
smoke of our pipes became more dense and impenetrable, did our mental
vision seem to become more clear and penetrating, until we discovered
through the mists that enveloped us, the consummation of all our
anticipations in the universal establishment of the sublime mysteries
of the cerebral development. Then experience would be unnecessary and
knowledge of the world superfluous—then men would no longer depend
upon the vague and uncertain indications of character exhibited by
human actions—then inexperience would no longer be the dupe of
cunning and deception—and even children might be taught a profound
insight into the characters of each other, by studying the infallible
auguries of the cerebral development.
Suddenly however we were brought down to the level of humanity, by a
confusion of voices, screams and exclamations, which proceeded from the
adjoining room, where we had deposited our baggage. On hastening
thither we beheld a scene which beggars description. It seems the jolly
landlord had that evening expected a bag of cabbages from a garden he
possessed, a little way out of the village, but had gone to bed
without thinking to inquire whether they were actually arrived. The
circumstance occurred to him while in bed, and as he was one of those
fidgety impatient bodies that can never sleep with a doubt on their
minds, he had rung the bell and directed the fair damsel with the organ
of inquisitiveness so finely developed, to search for the bag of
cabbages, and let him know whether it had come. In pursuance of this
order, she at length encountered our bag, and feeling something round
in it, untied the string, put in her hand and brought out the identical
skull of Quintilius Varus, grinning defiance to Arminius and all his
host. The poor girl screamed and fell flat on the floor, upsetting at
the same time the bag, which poured forth its contents, rolling in all
directions about the room. The scream brought out every living thing
within the house, not excepting the cat and the dog. As they entered
the room to see what was the matter, they encountered the implements of
phrenology, and tumbled one upon the other in horrible confusion,
screaming with terror as they discovered the obstacles that had
occasioned their fall. The jolly host trembled from top to toe, and
swore as loudly as his chattering teeth would permit, as he stood with
his tufted nightcap on one side of his head; the innamorato of the
inquisitive damsel, who was no other than the hostler, now hovered over
his mistress blubbering, and now fell a kicking the innocent causes of
her catastrophe—while pussy delighted with so pretty a plaything, was
purring and pawing with the phrenological index of poor Varus. There
was not a face less white than a sheet in the whole party, except that
of the African cook, which became absolutely ten times blacker than
ever with terror and dismay.
When doctor Gallgotha saw the pillars, as it were, of his science
thus overthrown and rolling on the floor, subject to the kicks of an
illiterate clown and the pawings of an ignorant pussy, he lost all
patience, and exclaimed in a hollow voice that seemed to come from one
of the tongueless remains before us, and startled even me—
"Avaunt! base and illiterate plebeians—fly— skip—and leave the
sacred depositories of the most sublime and incomprehensible of all
sciences which ye have thus impiously assailed—leave them I say—
and thou most sacrilegious of the feline breed, no longer pollute with
thy unhallowed paw the remains of thy betters. Look at me," continued
he—"I come from the regions of the dead—I have been for more than
thirty years the companion of these eloquent remains that speak without
tongues and philosophise without brains—I have conversed all my life
with dead men's bones—and may say without exaggeration that I come
into the world an envoy from the grave!"
"A ghost—a ghost!" shrieked men, women and children, at this
appalling speech; and indeed the doctor had something extremely
supernatural about him at that moment. His pale and hollow cheeks,
sunken eyes, shining forehead and skull of polished ivory, unshadowed
by a single hair, as he stood holding up the knob of Varus in his hand,
altogether seemed to justify the renewed terrors of the group, which
now hurried helter-skelter out of the room into the dark entry, where
the jolly landlord fell over the damsel with the organ of
inquisitiveness so finely developed—the black cook over the jolly
landlord, and the rest one upon another in horrible confusion. On their
departure the doctor replaced his treasures in the bag, which he
desired me to carry up into our sleeping room, where we disposed
ourselves to rest. The last thing the good man did before he fell
asleep was to observe to me the singular exemplification of the truth
of his principles which had just occurred. "It was phrenologically
impossible," said he, "that any other person in the house, but the
damsel with the organ of inquisitiveness, should have had the curiosity
to open my bag."
We slept late in the morning, partly owing to the fatigue of our
day's journey and partly to the circumstance of remaining entirely
undisturbed. Not a soul knocked at the door, and the region about us
seemed as quiet as if inhabited only by Varus and his speechless
companions. Seeing the sun shining bright into our window, I got up,
dressed myself, and waking my companion, we descended together into the
room we had occupied the night before. Not a soul came near us, and
there was no symptom of preparation for breakfast. I opened a door
which led into the bar-room to inquire for somebody, and detected the
inquisitive damsel peeping through the key-hole. She screamed, and fled
away like a wild crane. "More confirmation of the sublime science,"
exclaimed the doctor, rubbing his hands—"but I should like something
to eat." Once more I opened the door and sallied forth, but could find
no living soul save ourselves in the whole house. I then proceeded to
the stable, where by good luck, as I supposed, I encountered the
hostler, who, the moment he saw me with the doctor at my heels, who by
this time had overtaken me, seized his pitch-fork and exclaimed, "Doant
ee coom noigh me—now dont ee—oi should'nt mooch loike to kill a
spook, but by gum an ye coom ony noigher oill make day light shoine
through two holes in ee, I wool—so I wool." So saying, he retreated
under cover of his fork into the recesses of the stable and there
entrenched himself behind a large goat who shouldered his horns at us
Perceiving no prospect of getting any breakfast here, after a little
preliminary discussion, we decided to saddle our horse and proceed
forthwith to the next town as fast as possible, least the panic should
precede us. The hostler stood behind his entrenchment and witnessed
our preparations without the least apparent disposition to interfere.
When all was ready, the doctor proffered payment for our entertainment
and that of our horse.
"Noa—noa," was the reply—"Oi want none of thy diabolical money,
not oi—oi dare to say 'twould set moi breeches afire or turn into
snakes in moi pocket—noa—noa—goa ee away to the grave where the
old mon says he belongs—art welcome to the provender—dang it if I
did'nt think he eat his oats different from a Christian horse
loike—goa—now do goa, or dang me if I doant stick ee."
"Let me first examine your cerebral development to see if you are
really inclined to commit murder," quoth the doctor, advancing.
"Shalt see it quick enough if thee comest any noigher," said
hostler, marshaling his pitch-fork.
"Let us begone," said the doctor—"I'd as soon attempt to teach the
sublime science to a horse as to that illiterate Cyclops."
Accordingly we proceeded to the house still silent and deserted as
before, placed our baggage upon the horse, and leaving what we supposed
sufficient for our fare upon the table, departed from the village. As
we turned to take a last look at the inn, we detected the inquisitive
damsel, peeping cautiously out of a garret window. "Still new
demonstrations," cried the doctor, and for a time forgot he had eaten
no breakfast. I afterwards learned that the appearance of the doctor
had become a regular ghost story, already incorporated into the country
legends, and that the jolly landlord would not touch the money we left
on the table until it had been soundly exorcised.
Proceeding on our journey, about noon we arrived at a town, which,
being the seat of government of a sovereign prince, who had one sixth
of a vote at the Diet, and whose territory was full a league and a half
square, was a place of some consequence. Here we determined to stop for
the purpose of refreshment, and with a design to stay long enough to
deliver a lecture at least. Accordingly, advertisements were posted up
in the most conspicuous quarters—for it is to be observed the prince
would not allow of a newspaper in his dominions, for fear it might
overturn his empire—an invitation was also sent to the prince and
princess, together with the lords and ladies of the court, to honour
with their presence a lecture on the sublime science. No further
particulars were given. "We will surprise them," quoth the doctor,
"with an entire novelty."
The best apartment of the inn was procured, and dimly lighted to
suit the solemn obscurity of the science to be illustrated; and the
table behind which the doctor stood to deliver his lecture was covered
with a student's black cloak, borrowed for the occasion. It was
somewhat late in the evening before the lecture began, for the prince
always took a nap after dinner, with his head in the lap of his
mistress. Besides this, some delay occurred in consequence of several
disputes about precedence among the nobility, which the prince settled
on his arrival. It is currious by the way, that every where else except
at courts, when two well-bred persons are going into a room together,
the contest is not who shall go first but who shall go last. At length,
however, every thing was settled, and the doctor commenced his lecture
by explaining the first principles, and general outlines of the sublime
science. All this the company endured with exemplary decorum. But when,
for the purpose of exemplification, he resorted to his bag, which stood
at his side, and one by one leisurely brought forth the skulls of Varus
and his companions, there was a terrible uproar among the votaries of
science. The sovereign princess shrieked and fainted; of course the
ladies of the court could do no less than follow her example. During
their insensibility they some way or other managed to get out of the
lecture-room, leaving me and the doctor alone, like the children in the
wood. The prince was so enraged that he threatened to shut us up in a
prison he had, called the Seven Towers; but from this he was dissuaded
by a cunning old fox of a minister who reminded him of the practice of
throwing a tub to a whale. "It will keep the people from thinking and
talking about a representative government and such dangerous matters,"
said he, "which is the great use of the arts and sciences." So we
escaped the prison of the Seven Towers. We heard afterwards that the
reigning princess had been brought to bed of a young prince whose
cerebral development was exactly that of Quintilius Varus.
I shall pass over the various incidents of the remaining portion of
our journey till we reached Paris, merely observing that the doctor, by
reason of enlisting every thing that fell in his way among the
demonstrations and exemplifications of the sublime science, had
established it, in his own mind, ten times stronger than ever, and so
firmly convinced himself and me, that we would have laid down our lives
in defence of its principles. By the time we arrived at Paris, we were
precisely in that state of enthusiastic excitement, which the vulgar
call madness, but which philosophers and theorists well know proceeds
from an innate and heaven-born conviction of the truth, connected with
a vehement zeal in its propagation.
At Paris we found the throne of science, as it were, deserted and
vacant. Ever since the fashionable world became scientific, it has been
observed that nothing but novelty will go down at lectures. They get
tired even of inspiration, if too often repeated, and the noblest
truths of the most sublime sciences are interesting and attractive only
so long as they continue to be new. They coquette with the sciences,
as they do with their lovers, and a new science to a fashionable blue
stocking, is as a new face or a new fashion. In this state was Paris on
our arrival. The astronomers with their great telescopes had ransacked
the heavens until not a single incognito star remained; the botanists
could find no new plants to christen with unchristian names; the
naturalists having exhausted the living world, were busily employed
upon antediluvian bones; the chymists having become tired of enacting
the bottle conjuror, were fast relapsing into their former usefulness
and confining their lectures to those who only came there to be
instructed. In short, the old thread-bare sciences were quite out of
favour with the fashionable amateurs, as affording nothing but useful
practical knowledge, only fit for musty scholars and greasy mechanics.
There was not a good joke stirring in all Paris—nor a new tragedy to
frighten the government, with declamations about liberty in the mouth
of a Greek patriot—nor a rumour of a conspiracy, an intrigue, or a
change in the ministry to keep people from dying of ennui, which they
certainly would have done if it had not been for a certain
ultra-viscount and his new theatre. In short, we came in the nick of
time, and the whole world was, as it were, before us.
The doctor lost no time in announcing his arrival, and calling upon
some of the most confirmed Mæ cenii of the city, who are said to be so
fond of patronage that they consider it a great obligation for any body
to apply for it at their hands. One of these was a good lady, who
immediately got into her carriage, and before night had engaged half
the beau-monde of Paris to come to the lecture on an entire new
science, which had never before been heard of among the learned. In
truth, a most brilliant audience collected to hear the doctor, who on
this occasion for the first time promoted me to the office of handing
and returning the cerebral developments as he had occasion to use them
in the course of his lecture.
The lecture with which Dr. Gallgotha commenced his course in Paris,
was the same that frightened the sovereign princess and her court into
fits; but I will do the ladies of Paris the justice to say that they
stood the display of our phrenological specimens, like heroines;
whether it be that the French women are naturally bolder than the
German, or that a certain fashionable philosopher had in some degree
prepared them for scientific horrors, by his exhibition of fossil
remains. The thing took amazingly— there was something new in the
idea of looking at the back of the head, instead of the face, to
ascertain the peculiarities of human character, and novelty is
indispensable to the existence of people who have exhausted all other
pleasures. There were indeed some ladies belonging to the coteries of
the old lecturers, who affected to laugh at the doctor's theory, but
even they were effectually silenced by a discovery of my master, that
the organ of tune was developed in the head of the famous composer
Rossini, to such a degree that it had actually monopolized nearly the
whole of his cerebellum. There was no resisting this proof, not only
that Rossini was a great composer of tunes, but likewise that the
doctor's science was infallible. The fiddler and the doctor accordingly
were the two greatest men in Paris. The rage for cerebral developments
became intense, and thenceforward every lady of the least pretensions
to fashion or science procured a skull, marked and mapped conformably
with the principles of the sublime science, which she placed on her
toilet in order that she might dress and study at the same time. Two or
three of the most zealous female devotees actually fell in love with
the doctor, being deeply smitten with his cerebral development. The
fashionable gentlemen whose sole business is to make love, began to
grow jealous of Varus and his legions, and one or two ludicrous
anecdotes occurred which set all Paris tittering. I will relate them,
although I cannot vouch for their truth any farther than to say that
every body believed them.
A young nobleman was deeply enamoured of a beautiful lady of high
rank, and particularly jealous of one of his rivals who wore powder in
his hair. He had been absent some weeks on military duty, and
returning to town one evening, proceeded directly to the house of his
mistress intending to surprise her with a visit. Finding a servant at
the door, he inquired for the lady, and was told that she was so deeply
engaged that she could see nobody. The jealousy of the lover was
alarmed, and pushing the servant aside, he proceeded silently towards
the lady's boudoir, the door of which he found shut. Pausing a moment,
he heard as he imagined two voices within exchanging words of most
particular endearment, and something in the pauses that sounded like
kissing. Human nature could stand it no longer. He peeped through the
key-hole where he saw a sight that drove him to madness. The lady was
sitting by the light of a fire which was fast going out, caressing and
fondling a figure, the whiteness of whose head too well indicated his
detestable powdered rival. From time to time he heard the words
amativeness, adhesiveness, hope, secretiveness and elopement, or
something that sounded very like it. The thing was perfectly
plain—they were exchanging professions of love and planning an
elopement. The sight and the conviction was no longer to be borne. He
burst open the door furiously, and being in full uniform as an officer
of the guards, drew his sword and making a desperate blow at the
powdered head, it flew off the shoulders and rolled upon the floor. The
lady shrieked and sunk from her seat; and the jealous lover hearing a
noise in the outward apartments, and supposing he had done the
gentleman's business pretty effectually, bethought himself that it was
high time to take care of himself. He accordingly made the best of his
way out of the house, towards the gate St. Honoré, through which he
hurried into the country, nor stopped till he had safely lodged himself
within his castle in Normandy.
From thence he wrote a letter filled with the most cutting
reproaches—charging his mistress with falsehood, cruelty, deceit, and
all sorts of villany, and vowing on the cross of his sword, never to
see her more. The lady laughed two full hours on the receipt of this
defiance. When she had done laughing, as she really had a regard for
her admirer, she sat down and wrote him the following reply:
"Good Monsieur Jealousy—
"You are welcome to call me what you will, except it be old or ugly.
However, I forgive you, and so does the formidable rival whose head you
so dexterously severed from his body, and who I give you my honour is
not the least the worse for the accident. I solemnly assure you, you
may come back to Paris without the least danger of being prosecuted by
the family of monsieur M— or being received by me with ill humour,
for I shall laugh at you terribly.
This epistle puzzled the lover not a little, and caused him fifty
sensations in a minute. First he would return to Paris, and then he
would not— then he resolved never to see his mistress again— and
next to mount his horse, return immediately, look her stone dead, and
then set out on his travels to the interior of Africa. This last
resolution carried the day, and he forthwith returned to Paris in as
great a hurry as he had left it. When the lady saw him, she was as good
as her word—she laughed herself out of breath, and the more he
reproached her, the louder she laughed. However, as anger and laughter
can't last for ever, a truce took place in good time, and the lady
addressed her lover as follows:
"Cease thy reproaches, my good friend, and hear me. I am determined
to give you the most convincing proof in the world of my truth and
attachment, by delivering your rival into your hands, to be dealt with
as you think proper. Know that he is now concealed in this very room."
"Is he?" replied the other in a rage—"then by heaven he has not
long to live—I shall take care to cut off his head so effectually
this time that the most expert surgeon in Paris shall not put it on
again— where is the lurking caitiff?—But I need not ask— I see
his infernal powdered head peeping from under the sopha—come out
villain and receive the reward of thy insolence in rivalling me."
So saying, he seized the treacherous powdered head, and to his
astonishment drew it forth without any body to it. He stood
aghast—and the lady threw herself on the sopha, and laughed ten times
louder than before.
"What in the name of woman," cried he at last, "is the meaning of
all this mummery?"
"It means that I am innocent—and that your worship is—jealous of
the skull, or what is worse, the plaster counterfeit of the skull of
your greatgrand-mother, the immortal author of the Grand Cyrus. I was
but admiring the beautiful indication of the amative organ, from which
it plainly appears impossible that any other person could have written
such prodigiously long developments of the tender passion."
"But why did you kiss the filthy representation of mortality?"
"You were mistaken," answered the lady—"as the room was rather
dark, I placed my face eloce to it in order the better to see and
admire its beautiful cerebral development."
"Its what?" replied the lover impatiently.
"Its phrenological indications."
"And what in the name of heaven are these?" cried the lover in some
alarm for the intellects of his fair mistress. The lady then proceeded
to explain to him the revolution in science which had taken place
during his absence; and a reconciliation being the consequence, that
night took him to the doctor's lecture that he might no longer be an
age behind the rest of the world. The story got abroad—indeed the
lady could not resist telling it herself to a friend with strict
injunctions of secrecy— and all Paris became still more devoted to
the sublime science for having afforded such an excellent subject for a
The other story relates to a young nobleman whose situation near the
king, and orthodox ultraism, made him a very distinguished person in
the beau-monde. But he was distinguished only in a certain way; that
is, he was a sort of butt, on whose shoulders every ridiculous incident
was regularly fathered, whether it owed its paternity to him or not. As
Pasquin stands sponsor for all the wise sayings of Rome, so M. the
Viscount came in for all the foolish actions of Paris. He was, as it
were, residuary legatee to all the posthumous follies of his ancestors,
as well as the living absurdities of his noble contemporaries. He was
one of those people who fancy themselves most eminently qualified for
that for which they are most peculiarly unfit, and whom folly and
vanity combined, are perpetually stimulating to act in direct
opposition to nature or destiny. He was contemptible in his person—
yet he set up for a beau and Adonis—he was still more contemptible in
mind—yet he never rested till he had bought the title of a Mæcenas
and a savan, of an industrious manufacturer of ultra-doggerel rhymes,
whom he had got into the National Institute. He was, moreover, born for
a valet, or at best, a pastry cook—yet he aspired to the lofty
chivalry and inflexible honour of a feudal baron; and he became a
soldier, only, as it would seem, because he was the greatest coward in
all Paris. It was well known that he gave five hundred franks to a
noted bully to let him beat him at a public coffee house, and
afterwards allowed his brother, a tall grenadier, a pension not to kill
him for it.
The viscount had likewise been absent some months at a small town,
in one of the northern departments, whither he had gone to suppress an
insurrection, began by two or three fish women, stimulated as was
shrewdly suspected, by an old gardener, who had, as was confidently
asserted, been one of Napoleon's trumpeters. On his return, he for the
first time heard of the sublime science and its progress among the
beau-monde. The viscount hated all innovations in science, or indeed
any thing else. He aspired to be a second Joshua, and to make the sun
of intellect at least stand still, if he could not make it go backwards
as he had good hopes of doing. Without waiting to hear any of the
particulars of our exhibition, he hastened, armed and in uniform as he
was, to the hotel where the doctor was at that moment just commencing a
The valiant viscount advanced with great intrepidity close to the
table, and leaning gracefully on his sword, listened in silence to
discover whether there was any thing that smacked of democracy or
heterodoxy. At the proper moment I put my hand into our Golgotha, and
leisurely drew forth the farfamed skull of Varus, who I have always
considered the most fortunate man of all antiquity, in having been
surprised and slain in the now more memorable than ever forest of
Teutoburgium. As we scientific gentlemen have a hawk's eye for a new
comer, one of whom is worth a host of old faces at a lecture, I took
care in bringing the cerebral development forth, to thurst it directly
towards the face of the viscount with the teeth foremost. The viscount
fell back, fainted, and lay insensible for some minutes. But the moment
he revived, he started upon his legs in a phrenzy of terror, and began
to lay about him with his good sword so valiantly that nobody dared to
come near him. First he attacked the doctor and myself, who he charged
with the massacre of the eleven thousand virgins, and the introduction
of infidel skulls into France, which was tantamount to preaching
infidelity. The innocent cerebellum of poor Varus, next felt the
effects of his terror-inspired valour. He hacked it until the cerebral
development was entirely destroyed, and then proceeded in like manner
to make an example of the contents of the bag, which he shivered
without mercy, with his invincible sword. In short, before he fairly
came to his senses, the worthy gentleman had demolished almost every
thing in the room—put out the lights and frightened every soul from
the lecture. The solitude and darkness which succeeded, brought him
gradually to his recollection, when finding himself thus left alone
with the ruins of so many pagan skulls, he gave a great shriek,
scampered out of the room, and did not stop until he had sheltered
himself in the very centre of a corporal and his guard, belonging to
his regiment, who all swore they would stand by him to the last drop of
This adventure was fatal to my master, Dr. Gallgotha. In the first
place, it deprived him of nearly the whole of his phrenological
specimens, and without these he was like a workman despoiled of his
tools. Besides, the viscount had the very next morning demanded an
audience of the king, in which he denounced the doctor, as tinctured
very strongly with liberalism, and its invariable concomitants of
sacrilege and impiety. Now I will venture to affirm, that the good
doctor was not only perfectly ignorant of the very meaning of the word
liberal, but that he was equally innocent of the other two charges. The
truth is, all his organs of faith, morality and politics, were
swallowed up, or elbowed out of the cerebellum, by the prodigious
expansion of the organ of ideality or invention. However this may be,
the king was more afraid of the three abominations of liberalism, than
of plague, pestilence and famine. He consulted the Jesuits, who
forthwith decided upon taking the poor doctor and all his works into
custody. The valiant viscount, who always volunteered in all cases of
liberalism and impiety, undertook the task, aided by a guard of
soldiers armed in proof, for he did not know but the doctor might have
another bag full of pericraniums. Advancing with great caution they
surrounded the house, while the captain of the guard with three stout
resolute fellows, entered for the purpose of reconnoitering the ground
and especially of ascertaining that there were no skulls to frighten
the viscount. That gallant soldier, having settled the latter point to
his satisfaction, charged bayonet, in the rear of his guards, and
rushing up stairs in spite of Varus and his legions, detected the
doctor in the very act of committing to memory a new lecture he had
just composed for the purpose of demonstrating that there was a certain
organ of the cerebellum, the enlarged development of which always
entailed upon its possessor the absolute necessity of committing
murder. The doctor and I were clapped up in prison, and his lecture
carried to court to undergo a strict examination by the king's
confessor and the Jesuits.
It was sometime before these expert mousers of radicalism and
infidelity could make any thing of the doctor's lecture, or discover
any offence to church or state. At length they came to that part
where, in summing up the subject, he laid down the doctrine of the
actual necessity certain persons laboured under of committing murder,
and that the rule applied as well to kings as to their subjects.
"He inculcates the doctrine of equality," cried one—"he denies the
divine right of kings."
"He is a republican," cried a second.
"He is a traitor," cried a third.
A little farther on they found the following assertion— "I deny
that the three legions of Varus formed one body."
"Behold!" said the confessor—"he denies the trinity—he maintains
that three is not one—enough, let us burn the book and hang the
Some of the more moderate counsellers, however, as I afterwards
learned, petitioned for a mitigation of the sentence, which was finally
commuted into perpetual banishment. We were sent for to hear our doom,
and the viscount who always liked a good natured errand was the bearer
of the message. As we followed him into the palace, which we all
entered uncovered, the doctor observed to me that the viscount had a
most formidable development of the organ of self-esteem. The confessor
lectured the doctor upon his vile infidelity, his liberalism, and
disaffection to church and state, all which came as naturally together
as so many chymical affinities. The doctor demanded the proof, and was
referred to the passages I have just repeated.
It was in vain that he referred in turn to the other members of the
sentences thus garbled, to prove that he was neither alluding to
religion or politics in his lecture.
"No matter," said a cunning Jesuit, who could convert a wink of the
eye into treason, and a nod of the head into blasphemy—"no matter—a
proposition may be both treasonable and heterodoxical in itself,
although it has no immediate application to either politics or
religion. The assertion that three does not make one, is complete in
itself, and requires no reference either to what precedes or what
follows. In two months you must be out of France."
And thus were we banished from the paradise of lecturers, only
because doctor Gallgotha had wickedly and impiously asserted that the
physical organs of kings were the same with those of cobblers, and that
three legions, separately encamped, did not make one body. The
confessor advised us to go to the new world, where, as there was
neither loyalty or religion, we should be in our element. But in truth,
the doctor was become tired of Paris, and of the world of fashion,
which had begun to discover symptoms of ennui for some little time
past. Indeed, several of his greatest admirers had lately absented
themselves, to go and see an automaton, who delivered lectures on the
physical organization of man, to the astonishment of all the
fashionable lovers of science. Besides all this, the determined valour
of the viscount had demolished the precious materials by which he
exemplified his theory, and he knew not where to supply the loss
without resorting to the forest of Teutoburgium. While we were debating
whither to frame our course, and just as I had almost brought the
doctor to consent to accompanying me to the city of my nativity, the
good old man fell sick, or rather the fabric of nature sunk under him,
and the lamp which had illuminated it, began to twinkle so faintly in
its socket that it was plain the oil was quite spent.
He took to his bed, from whence he never rose again. I was going to
send for a physician. "No," said he with a languid smile—"I will die
a Christian, but not a martyr. It is cruel to torture age with
unavailing remedies. Besides, I have not money to pay a doctor, and it
would mortify my pride to be killed for nothing."
I have a satisfaction, even at this distance of time, in the
recollection that I attended him faithfully to the last, supplied his
wants and administered to his infirmities, as if he had been my father.
About four o'clock one morning, a little before the dawning of the day,
and just at the period of time when nature seems to be in her last and
profoundest repose, preparatory to waking—the doctor, after laying
perfectly still for upwards of an hour, suddenly raised himself upon
his elbow—and with an eye clear and bright, surveyed the room all
around with a slow and measured turn of the head. For a moment his eye
rested upon me—but he did not speak. He then sunk easily upon his
pillow—I put my face close to his—he breathed into it once—and
there was a long pause. He is gone, said I—no, he breathed again, and
there was another still longer pause. It is all over now, said I—but
he respired yet once again—and that was the last—I waited, but he
breathed no more.
They would not let me bury him in a church-yard, because, as the
confessor maintained, he was no Christian, and therefore was not
entitled to Christian charity and forgiveness, after he was dead. But I
buried the old philosopher, where the grass grew as green, the flowers
bloomed as gay, and the birds warbled as sweetly as if the spot had
been blessed by the confessor himself. Having done this, I turned my
face towards the Athens of the north, which I now felt myself
thoroughly qualified to enrich with an entire new science. I had
succeeded, indeed, beyond all expectation, and our society having had
from time to time, mysterious hints of my progress, was expecting me
with anxious impatience.
I accordingly gathered together the wrecks of my old friend's
lectures, which had escaped the researches of the ultra-viscount, and
set out on my return to my own country.
Without troubling you with the incidents of my journey which are of
no consequence, I arrived in safety at the seat of the sciences. I had
been expected with anxiety, and was received with rapture, as one
destined to revive the dormant excitement of the fashionable devotees.
I found there had been a terrible falling off in my absence. Money had
actually got the upper hand of merit; feasts were preferred to
philosophy; dances to dogmatizing; gallants to gallypots; and what was
worst of all, the most invincible blue stocking, without beauty, was no
match for a country simpleton, with blue laughing eyes, rosy cheeks,
and a partridge figure. Such was the backsliding which had taken place,
that a fashionable baronet ventured to declare publicly in favour of
downright ignorance; and an old professor of anatomy, was detected in
deserting a discussion upon fossil remains, to go and look at a pretty
girl who was dancing a cotillion. In short, the temple of science was
tottering, and nothing could save it but starting new game, and
creating an excitement by some absolute originality.
My accomplices wanted to know very much what I had brought home with
me to tickle the lovers of science; but I was determined neither they
or the public should learn any thing on the subject, until I disclosed
it in a public lecture. I was determined to take the northern Athens
by surprise. Accordingly, it was announced that I would deliver a
lecture on phrenology on a particular evening. Phrenology! it sounded
indeed like something new. The blues ran to their technological
dictionary, but for once they were baffled—the word had not yet got
there. It was an entire new coinage. The great difficulty was in
procuring the necessary cerebral developments for the purposes of
illustration, without subjecting myself to the penalty of the laws.
Finding nothing better could be done, I one night went out of the city
upon the common, and picked up a number of skulls of animals,
principally dogs, to serve me on this one occasion. There was one which
had doubtless belonged to a large bull dog, that I was resolved should
stand for the identical skull of Varus, which the wrathful viscount had
so inhumanly demolished at Paris. Every exertion was made by the
society and its friends to get together a fashionable auditory, and
accordingly the capacious lecture-room of the northern Athens was
crowded with bonnets and feathers most magnificently. There was a
brilliant audience, as was erst said of play-houses, and is now said of
churches and lecture-rooms.
I confess I felt somewhat skittish, in this first attempt to try on
an entire new science. However, I put a good face on the matter, and
lectured away, regardless of consequences. I must do them the justice
to say they took it with great good humour. When I talked of the organ
of amativeness, the young folks tittered, and began to feel for it at
the back of each other's heads—I was assured that many secret
attachments were brought to light by this scrutiny, three of which
resulted in elopements the next day. But when I brought forth the skull
of the bull dog, which I announced as that of Quintilius Varus, the
effect was sublime. There was a general scream from the ladies, and two
or three heroes of the Peninsula, in full uniform, were observed to
look hard at the door. However, they stood their ground manfully, and
by putting a bold face on the matter, reassured the more timid of the
auditory. Upon the whole, I got through with flying colours, and the
debut of the new science was pronounced eminently successful. By the
next lecture, I procured a real apparatus of cerebral developments,
which I had mapped out to the best of my recollection, according to the
theory of Dr. Gallgotha.
After this successful debut, I continued my course, and made
proselytes at every lecture, until at length they became sufficiently
numerous to form a society, which was accordingly established under the
name of the Phrenological Institute. So alarming indeed was my
progress, that the old sciences which had once been belles, and still
retained a strong disposition to coquette it a little with their
veteran beaux, began to wax jealous. Finding themselves, like the
ancient Britons, likely to be subjected by the very power they had
called over in their own defence, they raised the standard against me
and my phrenological brethren.
They pronounced my science no science at all; affirming that unlike
all others it was subject to no rules, or at least, to none but
imaginary ones, that were neither susceptible of demonstration, nor
maintainable on the ground of experiment or reasoning. The
physiognomists especially, led the van against me, as being their most
formidable opponent; and as a wag of our society observed, we were of
necessity in a minority, because all persons without brains would, of
course, take sides against a science founded on the supposed existence
of what nature had denied them. We continued to make head against this
formidable array, and to maintain our ascendancy until, in an evil
hour, some workmen in digging among the foundations of a ruined abbey,
discovered the skull of king Robert Bruce, which falling into the hands
of our enemies, was forthwith arrayed against Varus and his legions. It
was immediately put to the phrenological test, and found wanting in
many of the cerebral developments characteristic of the known qualities
of that renowned deliverer of Scotland, and destroyer of phrenology. As
ill luck, or destiny, would have it, the development of his organs was
phrenologically at war with the whole history of his life; and there
was no getting over this desperate anomaly except by either denying
its identity, denying its history, or lastly, explaining the incidents
away in such a manner as to reconcile them to our theory. "If the
mountain wont come to Mahomet," said the wag of a member, "Mahomet must
go to the mountain— if the head of king Robert wont accommodate
itself to our science, we must make his history do it, which will be
just as well." Accordingly he set about the task, and at our next
meeting produced a dissertation, in which he proved pretty clearly that
king Robert was altogether a different person from what all the world
had believed him to be for centuries; and that so far from his cerebral
development contradicting the principles of the sublime science, it
demonstrated their truth beyond question.
This dissertation was immediately made public, but although every
member of our society believed it would effectually silence all our
opponents, such is the obstinacy of long received opinions, and such
the inveteracy of jealous rivalry, that it had little influence on the
world, and the skull of king Robert proved in the end the battle of
Bannockburn to our society. Daily desertions took place from the
benches of my lecture-room; the young lovers began again to look into
each other's eyes and study the changeable velvet of the cheeks, for
indications of the universal passion; and at length it came to pass
that none but the canine race thought of going to the rear to study
characters. What the head of king Robert had begun, another head was
destined to finish.
A gentleman just arrived from abroad, brought with him, and
presented to our society, a cast which he assured me was an exact
representation of the skull of Servin, immortalized in Sully's Memoirs,
as a monster compounded of the sublimest genius and the most grovelling
detestable vices. On examination, I discovered to my infinite delight
that the cerebral development exhibited the character and propensities
of Servin, with a degree of precision that, if known, would silence all
cavilling, and go far to establish my system beyond question. I
determined at once to bring it into the field in opposition to the head
of king Robert, and let them fight it out before the public.
Accordingly I announced the receipt of my treasure, and invited all
sceptics to come and receive a demonstration of the sublime truths of
phrenology. I had not seen such an audience for many a day, although
the evening was stormy, and commenced my lecture on Servin's head, in
high spirits. I pointed out the development so exactly corresponding
with the character— here the organ of ideality, announcing the extent
of his genius—and there the organ of cunning and cruelty, announcing
the extent of his crimes and duplicity. Here the organ of tune,
demonstrating his taste for music; there the organ of languages,
exemplifying his unequalled capacity for their acquirement. Here
philoprogenitiveness—there destructiveness— here
secretiveness—there concentrativeness. In short, I proved that the
head could have belonged to none but a person of great intellectual
capacity, contrasted with equal depravity. In the triumph of my heart,
I held it up to the audience as the hero of phrenology, the invincible
rival and conquerer of king Robert. I shook it in the faces of the
unbelievers, and handled it at length with so little discretion, that
it fell from my grasp upon the floor, and the plaster flew about in all
directions. I hastened to lift it up again, and presenting it to the
light, was struck with horror and dismay. The scaling of the plaster
had exposed to view the rude outlines of one of those wooden heads
which sometimes ornament the coasting vessels of my native country. I
had not the presence of mind to put it out of sight, but stood in
stupifying embarrassment without uttering a word, when I was at length
roused by a hoarse voice crying out—"D—n my eyes, Tom, is'nt that
the head of the Lovely Nancy, that some rascally land lubber stole from
her bows the other night?" Tom immediately confirmed this with a round
sailor's oath, adding—"'Tis a lucky godsend that we came in here for
a harbour from the storm to-night, to unkennel this thief of the world,
with his outlandish gibberish about serving heads—if this is the way
he serves them, he'll get served with a baker's dozen at the gangway
before long." So saying, the two gallant tars advanced to the table and
seizing the head of the Lovely Nancy bore it off in triumph, amid
shouts of laughter on all sides.
There was no lecturing in the northern Athens after this untoward
accident, which shook the faith even of the true believers. All my
disciples left me with the exception of a worthy advocate, who was
saved from utter condemnation as an insuperable blockhead, only by the
uncommon development of the organ of ideality, which sufficiently
demonstrated the extent of his genius. It was neck or nothing with
him—he must either be an ass or a phrenologist. The others were all
laughed away from me.
There was now but one way left me to establish the truths of the
sublime science, and that was to demonstrate them by actual
practice—to make them the guides of my conduct in life, and to
disregard entirely the flickering lights of experience, as well as
those vague, uncertain, and delusive indications of character which are
supposed to exhibit themselves in the conduct and disposition of
mankind. I determined either to show the world the superiority of the
unerring test of the cerebral developments, over all other touchstones
of human passions, or perish in the attempt. Men have in all ages and
nations sacrificed themselves to the establishment of great
truths—nay, many have voluntarily become victims to the most absurd,
vain and mischievous theories. Superstition has had, if possible, more
enthusiastic and willing martyrs than true religion; and thousands have
shed their blood for the support of falsehood, who would have shrunk
from doing it in defence of truth. I will therefore, said I, not flinch
from the duty before me. I will become the high priest, or the martyr
of my science; and if I cannot prove its sublime truths, will at least
offer a demonstration that I believe in them myself.
For this purpose it was necessary to leave for awhile the path of
philosophy and abstraction, for the busy occupations and pursuits of
practical life. It is these and these only, that in the eyes of the
vulgar and near-sighted of mankind, furnish the test of truth. They
judge of a science, or a theory, not by the unerring standard of its
abstract beauty, ingenuity or grandeur, but by its pitiful practical
operation, within the sphere of their own actual experience. The great
and radical difference between the ignorant and the wise is, that the
former persist in obstinately believing what they see, without being
able to explain its causes; while the latter consider the evidence of
the five senses as only fit for a court of justice, and believe in
nothing but what they can account for. They justly consider, that as
man is emphatically a reasoning being, he ought not to give credit to
any fact, however obvious it may be to his senses, unless it is
supported by at least one good substantial reason on either side, like
a bladder under each arm of a swimmer. The vulgar, for example, believe
that beef killed in the decrease of the moon, will always shrink in the
boiling, because they see it every day, although they can't account for
the phenomenon; while the wise go upon surer grounds—they first
decide whether a thing is theoretically possible and then assert that
it exists. The vulgar are like the blind man, who denied the existence
of light, because he could not feel it with his fingers, nor snuff it
up with his nose, nor taste it with his tongue, nor hear it with his
ears; while the wise may be likened to the ancient philosopher who
would not believe his eyes when he saw his house set fire to by
lightning, because he could not account for the phenomenon. In fine,
the ignorant are the dupes of the five senses; while the wise are
governed by the imagination alone—that sublime and almost omnipotent
faculty which creates worlds out of nothing, and makes laws for those
that never had an existence. But to return from this digression.
The practical business of this life, it will be found, consists
principally in three things—getting married—getting a family—and
getting rich. There are other miscellaneous occupations—such as
driving tandem—running in debt—bilking landlords and tailors—and
walking up and down the streets—but these are not so general as to
form any of the grand divisions of human pursuits. In the furtherance
of my great object of demonstrating the sublime truths of phrenology by
the vulgar mode of practical application, I resolved to kill two birds
with one stone by entering into business, and looking out for a wife at
the same time. Not knowing much of the ordinary transactions of the
mercantile world, I found it necessary in the first place to choose a
partner, with whom I could entrust my capital, and in whose skill I
might rely in the transaction of our business. Some people would have
gone about, inquiring whether this man or that man was a prudent,
honest, sensible and experienced person; and whether he had been long
enough known in the community to have established, as the vulgar phrase
is, a good character. But I was determined to go a short way to work. I
advertised for a partner with a head as like Sir Thomas Gresham as
possible, having the zygomatic process very projecting, the organ of
order strongly developed, and the sentiments of cautiousness,
conscientiousness, veneration, benevolence and firmness all beautifully
exhibited on the cerebellum. Without all these, I was fully convinced
no man could be a great merchant or build a royal exchange.
In the course of a few days several offered themselves to
inspection, whose characters were excellent, but whose cerebral
developments convinced me they either had been, or would be, in the
course of their lives, consummate rogues. It is astonishing indeed to
see how the world is frequently, not to say continually, imposed upon
by people who actually go down to their graves, with the reputation of
virtue, although fate and phrenology both ordained it should be
otherwise. I can only account for it on the ground of deception, or
want of opportunity. Being resolved not to be imposed upon by the
specious seductions of a good character, I dismissed these applicants
one after the other as civilly as possible. At length a person
presented himself, who underwent the phrenological test greatly to my
satisfaction. He had the finest development for a merchant I ever saw.
The organ of acquisitiveness was on a great scale.
"Where is that?" asked Mr. Quominus.
"At the anterior inferior angle of the parietal bone."
"Hum," quoth Mr. Quominus—"and what does the said organ indicate?"
Sometimes it indicates the tendency to acquire and the desire to
possess in general. It is the organ in which the idea of property first
originated. Sometimes it leads to the collection of coins, minerals,
paintings and other curiosities of science—sometimes to the
collection of bugs, butterflies and beetles. In men of sense it gives
rise to the disposition to acquire useful things; in fools and idiots,
to collect those that are worth nothing. In some it is the love of
science; in others the love of money. A man with the organ of
conscientiousness pressing upon that of acquisitiveness, will, if he
has a hundred acres of land, feel vast delight in acquiring one hundred
more, but he will not resort to any improper means to attain them;
while another man who hath the organ of acquisitiveness, combined with
that of secretiveness, will become a thief in spite of himself. He
cannot help it if he would. Among the inferior animals, beavers, bees
and ants, are observed to have the organ of acquisitiveness in great
perfection. Indeed, it is conspicuous in all hoarding animals.
"What a wonderful science!" exclaimed the other two Wise Men of
To proceed with my story, said Le Peigne, such was the apt,
admirable and harmonious association of organs in the cerebellum of
this person, that I perceived it was quite unnecessary to make any
inquiries into his character, qualifications and pursuits. I saw at
once that he was destined to be another Cosmo de Medicis, and forthwith
entered into articles of trade with him on the spot.
My next business was to get an experienced clerk, which I soon did,
by applying the touchstone of the infallible science. I found a man
whose organ of number was beautifully developed, and most harmoniously
associated with that of individuality.
"Where are they situated?" asked Mr. Quominus.
The organ of number, is designated by the arch of the eyebrow being
either much pressed downwards. or very much elevated.
"Then," observed the Man Machine, "it seems that two appearances
exactly opposite to each other, denote the same thing in the science of
phrenzy— I mean phrenology?"
No such thing, replied the other—it only proves that two
appearances entirely dissimilar may yet be as like as two peas. The
development of this organ to any extraordinary extent, renders it
impossible for the owner not to be a most expert hand at figures and
calculations; and when associated with the organ of individuality—
"Where is that?" interrupted Mr. Quominus.
In the middle of the lower part of the forehead.
"And what does it indicate?"
It is the organ of the memory and the sense of things—and it is
always most strongly developed in children. It is also the organ which
indicates a proneness to adopt new theories—to embrace the opinions
of others, and a vast facility in accommodating ourselves to customs,
manners and circumstances. Persons with this organ strongly developed,
have moreover a desire, accompanied by the ability, to know facts and
things in general—it prompts to observation and investigation—it
greatly aids in producing a talent for all practical business involving
details, and hence, to the medical practitioner, the lawyer and the
merchant it is invaluable— it communicates power to the orator—art
to the novelist—it tends to allegory and personification— it
inspired Spenser and John Bunyan—and above all, it delights in the
analysis of specific existences.
"What an invaluable organ!" exclaimed Mr. Quominus—"it indicates
but every thing, and I should think ought to have been christened the
organ of universality, rather than of individuality."
You are mistaken, quoth the other—it is not so universal as you
may imagine. A person having it strongly developed, retains only
general ideas— he is not able to command his knowledge without
previous preparation, and therefore can hardly ever become learned, or
a great extemporaneous orator. This has been proved by an examination
of the skulls of almost every species of animals from the frog to the
"But what has the head of a bull-frog to do with that of a man?"
asked the Man Machine.
Just as much as the tail of a dog, said Le Peigne, rather
"I believe it," said the other dryly. "But really, with submission,
sir, it appears to me that in your science not only different and
opposite developments signify the same thing, but what is still more
remarkable, the same development of an organ signifies things
altogether different—you first tell us that the organ of
individuality is the source of oratory, and then that it prevents a man
from speaking extemporaneously, a quality very essential in oratory, I
should think. You tell us it is indispensable to certain sciences which
children cannot comprehend, and certain pursuits, such as law, physic
and merchandise, which children cannot engage in, and yet you say it is
most strongly developed in children. It seems to me this savours as it
were of contradiction—two assertions so contradictory cannot, I
should think, be both true."
Sir, replied Le Peigne—you had better stick to the perfectibility
of man and the counteracting principles. Do you not know of the modern
discovery, that what is morally impossible, may yet be scientifically
true? No science is now considered perfect, except it can not only
reconcile contradictions, but impossibilities. My dear sir, I never
doubted the perfectibility of your Men Machines; pray allow me the
perfection of science.
"With all my heart," said the other. "Be pleased to proceed, brother
Le Peigne. Did you engage the Man Machine with the supernatural
development, that signified so many opposite yet reconcileable things?"
You shall hear, returned Le Peigne, whose good nature soon smoothed
down any little irritation. I had now got a partner and a clerk, on
whom I could confidently rely, for the successful conduct of our
affairs, and the speedy acquisition of fortune. Nothing was now wanting
but a wife, selected and chosen with a proper regard to the infallible
auguries of the cerebral development. As this was the most important
matter of all, I resolved to be very particular, and to apply the rules
of my art with more than ordinary circumspection. In the first place,
it was indispensable that she should have a perfect development of the
organ of amativeness—
"Excuse me for interrupting you," said Mr. Quominus—"where is that
same organ and what does it signify?"
It is situated, sir, between the mastoid process on each side of the
projecting point, in the middle of the transverse ridge of the
"Any man but an anatomist might as well look for the northwest
passage as for these incognito organs," said Quominus—"But the
The organ of amativeness is placed first in the sublime science,
because it indicates the propensity to falling in love—the desire of
propagating our species without which there would be neither dog's
tails, nor men's heads, and of course no science of phrenology. It is
in fact the foundation of all the sciences. Besides this, it is the
organ of a variety of other propensities. Monsieur Flourens, who
amused himself occasionally with trepanning bullfrogs, discovered that
it was the organ for regulating muscular motion. "On removing the
cerebellum over this part," says he, "the animal loses the power of
executing combined movements,"—he can move one leg, but not both at
the same time. It is also the organ of retrograde motions. Doctor
Magendie, who is famous for illustrating the nature of man by the
peculiarities of frogs, in performing some experiments upon these
animals, discovered that disturbing this organ "occasioned an
irresistible propensity in the animal to run, jump or swim backwards."
Other scientific inquirers have found that when one part was cut the
animal rolled—when another, it went forward in extenso—when
another, it bent double.
"O! I see," interrupted the Man Machine. "This organ is a sort of
jack of all trades—it can turn its hand to almost any thing. I don't
wonder you think it so indispensable in a wife, who should always be
particularly expert at jumping and swimming backwards."
The next indispensable requisite in a wife, continued Le Peigne, not
heeding this interruption, is the organ of philoprogenitiveness.
"What is that?" said Mr. Quominus.
The organ which indicates an instinctive love of offspring.
"I should suppose that to be universal."
By no means.
Peg Macquarrie, who murdered her child, was
entirely without it—and so was the skull of Varus, who I have no
doubt, as Tacitus don't mention his wife or children, was a confirmed
bachelor. Many animals of good reputation drive their offspring from
them when young; and the birds turn their little ones neck and heels
out of the nest as soon as they are fledged. All these, it is very
remarkable, are destitute of the organ of philoprogenitiveness. It is
situated immediately above the middle part of the cerebellum, and
corresponds to the protuberance of the occiput. It is large in the
Hindoo, Negro and Carib women.
"Do they love their children better than other women?" asked the Man
If they don't, they ought to do it; they are scientifically under
the necessity of being what nature plainly intended they should be. The
next cerebral development indispensable in the organization of a good
wife, is that of concentrativeness.
"Where is that, and what doth it signify?" interrupted Mr.
Quominus—"I beg pardon, but as I may one day marry myself it may
stand me in stead to know something of these matters."
It is just above philoprogenitiveness and just below self-esteem. It
indicates sedentary habits and love of home—as is proved by the organ
being enormously expanded in a toad that was found imbedded in a solid
block of marble, where he must have remained for centuries. It is
likewise very strongly developed in snails, who seldom go from home, as
"I suppose then it must be something like a horn, such as the snails
have," said the Man Machine.
Le Peigne gave him a queer side look and proceeded.
Doctor Gallgotha observed, in addition to this love of retirement
and indisposition to motion, that the development of this organ was
very perceptible in the chamois and other animals fond of climbing
heights and browsing upon precipices.
"An excellent quality in a wife," quoth Quominus.
"And a most exquisite organ," said the Man Machine— "it plays so
many different tunes. Who would have thought that the same thing could
signify the propensity of a toad, a snail, and a wife for staying at
home, and the propensity of a goat to climb perpendicular rocks and
browse upon the edge of precipices?"
The next organ essential to the perfection of woman, or, as the
learned say, the sine qua non of a good wife, is—
"What?" said the Man Machine, rubbing his hands eagerly.
The organ of adhesiveness, which is just above the lambdoidal
suture. It is designated by No. 4, on the phrenological map of the
"Have you got the map with you? I should like to take a look at
it," said the other, again interrupting him.
I will show it you, when I have finished my story, said the doctor,
and went on. I cannot better define the indications of this organ than
in the words of one of Dr. Gallgotha's lectures.
"The faculty of adhesiveness," says the doctor, "produces the
instinctive tendency to attach one's self to surrounding objects,
animate and inanimate. Those persons in whom it is very strong, feel an
involuntary impulse to embrace and cling to the object of their
affections. In boys it frequently indicates itself by attachment to
dogs, horses, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and other animals. In girls it
shows itself in affectionate embraces of—
"Of what?" interrupted the Man Machine eagerly.
Of dolls, replied the other. It is stronger, and the organ is larger
in women than in men. When too strong it produces the disease called
"What's that?" asked Mr. Quominus.
When feeble, Dr. Gallgotha says, it turns men into hermits, and
women into nuns. The organ is large in Mary Maginnes.
The last cerebral development I was resolved to insist upon in the
phrenology of my wife, was the organ of order.
"Where is that to be found?" asked Mr. Quominus.
It lies contiguous to the angle of the frontal bone, and indicates a
love of regularity, and habit of keeping every thing in its proper
place. Doctor Gallgotha established this indication from seeing a Dutch
woman, who had a large development of this organ, actually faint away
at finding a chair out of its place. It is also prominent in the Termes Bellicosus, the honey bee, and all animals and insects that
live in communities. No animal, however, exhibits it in such perfection
as the beaver.
"And did you get such a wonder for a wife?" asked the Man Machine.
You shall hear, returned the other. It was a long time, and not
until I began almost to despair of meeting a woman phrenologically
perfect, that I succeeded to my wishes. At length, in passing through a
country where I was a stranger, I encountered one that answered exactly
to all these indications. I inspected her cerebral development and
found all the indications quite perfect. This was all I wanted—I made
no further inquiries, being determined to put down the enemies of the
sublime science by actual demonstration.
"Had she the
sine qua non, as you call it?" quoth the Man
Beautifully developed, said the other. I made short work of it. We
were married out of hand, and after being acquainted just long enough
for me to examine the cerebral development. I brought her to town in
triumph, as a being destined to insure the triumph of the sublime
science. I took a fine house, and lectured to all the company I could
persuade to visit us, upon her irrefragable cerebellum. So immersed was
I for some time in this extatic scrutiny, that I forgot my business, my
partner, and my clerk, until a friend came to me one day, and with a
face of concern, hinted that our business was going on at a sad rate.
"Your partner," said he, "is either a rogue or an ignoramus— and your
clerk spends his time at taverns and brothels. Every thing is at sixes
and sevens—you will be ruined to a certainty, if you are not so
already." "What! in spite of the cerebral development." "In spite of
fate," replied my friend. "Pshaw!" replied I—"fate is a mere
flea-bite compared to phrenology." He left me shaking his head with an
air of great concern.
I confess, notwithstanding my reliance upon the cerebral
development, I was a little uneasy at these warnings of my friend. My
wife too did frequent violence to the organs of order and
adhesiveness— for she left my house at sixes and sevens, and seemed
to adhere to nothing but her own will. We never had any children, so
that I can't say how it was with the organ of
philoprogenitiveness—and as to that of amativeness, the truth of its
augury was demonstrated—only there was a little mistake— she
embraced her lap-dog ten times oftener than me. I shall pass over the
remainder of my story with all brevity, as it is not very pleasant to
my recollection, nor very material to my purpose of establishing the
practical truths of the infallible science. My partner dissolved the
firm about two years after my marriage, by running away, and leaving me
answerable for debts which consumed all I had in the world. He took
with him every thing he could lay his hands on; even my invaluable
clerk with the beautiful development, accompanied the second Cosmo De
Medicis, and I never saw either of them again.
My house and furniture, together with all my phrenological
specimens, not excepting my wife, soon departed from me, either by
course of law or course of nature. Though entirely destitute of the
organ of combativeness, she held John Doe and Richard Roe at bay three
whole days, and defended the fortress like another Jane de Montfort. At
length, however, they came to terms. She stipulated for permission to
march out with bag and baggage, and I took it for granted that, like
the women of Abensburg, she would leave all her finery and carry me off
on her back triumphantly. But I was sadly disappointed, when, after
packing up her clothes, trinkets and other things exclusively
appertaining to herself, she came up to me, and making a low courtesy,
bade me good bye.
"Where are you going, my dear?" said I—"what will you do alone in
the world, without your faithful husband. You had better stay and
accompany me to prison."
"No, thank you, my dear, as much as if I did," replied she, making
another low courtesy—"I am too prudent a woman to trust myself alone
in the world, and am not very fond of retirement. One of my husbands is
waiting outside with a hackney coach to take me home with him."
"One of your husbands!" cried I—"Why, how many have you?"
"A baker's dozen," replied she, gliding gracefully out of the room.
"A baker's dozen!" cried the Man Machine— "this comes of the organ
of amativeness and the sine qua non."
"Well," said Mr. Quominus gravely—"I suppose this put an end to
all doubts as to the infallible auguries of the cerebral development?"
"It did," replied the other—"it established their truth in my mind
beyond all contradiction or question."
"You don't say so," quoth the other.
But I do say so, cried Le Peigne, waxing rather warm—I affirm that
the failure of my experiment is the best possible proof of the
sublimity of the science."
"Of its sublimity—not of its truth," observed Quominus.
"Of its truth, sir. Every failure in demonstrating the truth adds to
the certainty of its existence, and leads most directly to a discovery.
You might as well say that there was no new world before Columbus
discovered it, as that nothing is true until it is proved to be so. The
science of phrenology may be compared to an undiscovered country—
"A terra incognita," said the Man Machine.
"An island of Atalantis," said Quominus.
"An Utopia," cried the other.
"A survey of a canal across the Alleghanies," cried Quominus.
"A rail-way over the Atlantic," roared the Man Machine.
"A mountain in the moon," vociferated Quominus.
"But really," said the Man Machine, after a short pause—"were you
really—excuse me—were you really such a goose as to believe in the
cerebral developments after they had treated you so scurvily? What
could possess you?"
"The same spirit that possessed you to believe in the perfectibility
of man, and your friend in the perfection of reason."
"And you don't believe in the perfectibility of man," roared the Man
"Nor in the perfection of reason," exclaimed Mr. Quominus, half
laughing, as if he did not believe in it himself, though he did not
like other people to call it in question.
"No more than I believe the moon is made of green cheese, and
peopled with Welsh rabbits. But I do not wonder at your putting these
visionary follies and absurd theories in competition with my
demonstrative science, since I perceive quite plainly, each of you is
entirely destitute of the organ of comparison."
"No organ of comparison!" exclaimed the Man Machine.
"No organ of comparison!" cried Quominus.
"No, sir—nor of wit—nor order—nor time— nor tune—nor
causality—nor constructiveness—nor colouring—nor number—nor
ideality—which is synonymous with genius. Your cerebral developments
are horrid—your indications abominable— your cerebellums no better
than pine barrens—and the backs of your heads have no more meaning
than other people's faces."
"No genius!" cried the Man Machine.
"A pine barren!" exclaimed Quominus.
"He is terribly under the influence of the counteracting principles."
"He is worse than Caveat Emptor, or Locus in quo."
"I could make better skulls out of a potatoe," said Le Peigne,
"Or the head of the Lovely Nancy," retorted the Man Machine, who
with Quominus burst into a roar of laughter at this lucky hit.
I have seen people keep their temper when the argument was against
them, but I never knew even a philosopher that could stand two to one
against him in a laugh. Le Peigne lifted up a stout ivory headed cane
with intent, as I believe, to let it fall on the cerebral development
of the Pupil of Circumstances; but that expert Spinning Jenney warded
off the blow with his cocked hat, which was unfortunately knocked
overboard, and the cane lighted directly on the combative organ of the
Perfection of Reason. Each of the Wise Men now started up for the
purpose of defending his person, or his theory; and in the confusion
the jolly Bowl, being left without a cockswain, imperceptibly drifted
into the eddying circles of a great whirlpool, supposed to be the
Maelstrom of Norway. Here, after whirling round and round for some
time, it unluckily struck against the head of the Man Machine, who was
dodging to avoid a second application of the ivory headed cane. The
concussion of these two hard bodies proved fatal to the Bowl, which
parted exactly in two pieces, just as it floated to the centre of the
vortex, in which the whole party was suddenly engulphed. The last
vestige of them that was seen, was the tip of the ivory headed cane,
which the doctor seemed still flourishing in vindication of the
What became of these renowned philosophers is not precisely known.
The most probable, and at the same time, the most consoling opinion is,
that this tremendous vortex was one of the great avenues to the newly
discovered Concentric Spheres; and that, consequently, there is a
possibility at least that our illustrious trio may have found in some
other world, what they vainly sought in this.