« FöregåendeFortsätt »
THE STORY OF THE MUCH-WRONGED MAN.
EDITED BY WILLIAM M. GOUGE.
I WAS born no matter when, and no matter where. Neither is it of any consequence who my father was, much less my grandfather. It has been said that in this republican country of ours, any man who can go back for three generations without stumbling over a cobbler's stool, is a nobleman. For my part, I think it the height of aristocratic presumption for any man in this country to have had a grandfather, or, at least, if he has had one, to know anything about him.
And yet, if disposed to boast of my parentage, I might, perhaps, excite the envy of some of those who plume themselves most on the gentility of their descent. What would they say, if I should tell them that my father's chief residence was a noble castle, on a most delightful site, called Cherry Hill! And that he had another residence in a place known by the romantic name of Moyamensing!† The front of his castle in the latter place, (it is still standing), is the most beautiful specimen of the Gothic in the country, with the exception of the New York University.
But I waive all titles to distinction founded on my illustrious ancestry. As little am I disposed to boast of my education, though I received the greater part of my literary tuition at
a celebrated boarding-school in Howard-street. My own wrongs are quite sufficient to entitle my name to immortality. It is said that they who boast of their ancestry, are like the potatoplant, the best part of which is under ground. I am not of that number of vai-glorious fools. I rest my claims to distinction on my own doings, or rather on my own sufferings.
These sufferings commenced very early. The appetite for fruit is very strong in children; I endeavored to gratify it in the natural way, by seizing on fruit where I found it most abundant; that is, in the public marketplace. In so doing, I practised a truly Spartan policy, in being as secret as possible, for I wished to give no offence to either Jew or Gentile. But I was sometimes discovered, and as the market-women knew as little of ancient history as they did of natural philosophy, many were the kicks and cuffs I received from them, merely because I gratified my natural appetite in a natural way, by munching a few apples, or it may be a few pears.
The cruelties I suffered in the city, drove me into the country. But the farmers, when I attempted to pick a few cherries or a few plums, assailed me with sticks and stones, and sometimes set their dogs upon me. They were quite as inhuman as the marketwomen, and, I firmly believe, knew
• We know of no place in Pennsylvania, called Cherry Hill, except the site of the Eastern Penitentiary. The Penitentiary building is, indeed, a noble structure, having a front of six hundred and fifty feet, with turrets at the corners, and a fine tower in the centre edifice, but we presume this cannot be the castle to which "The Muchwronged Man" alludes.
† Moyamensing is the name of an incorporated district having the city of Philadelphia proper on the north, and Southwark on the east. There are in it two very fine castles, one in the Egyptian style, for insolvent debtors, the other, which has a Gothic front, is used as a county prison.
The only building on Howard-street, Spring Garden, Philadelphia, is the House of Refuge. But, no doubt, there are in other cities, other Howard-streets, having in them other boarding-schools. There is no reason for believing that "The Muchwronged Man" was born in Pennsylvania.
VOL. XIL.—NO. LX.
quite as little of ancient history and of natural philosophy. Why else should they have objected to a poor, innocent child like me, gratifying his natural appetites in a natural way?
Since I have come to have orchards, and fruit-gardens, and graperies of my own, I confess that a new light of philosophy has broken upon me. But there are, I will maintain, two philosophies: one proper to shirtless and penniless boys, the other proper to men of wealth and station. I believe in both, and have in my time lived up to both. I should like to see the boy that would venture to take an apple or a pear from one of my trees. I would soon teach the young rascal the difference between meum and tuum.
I was born for a hero. I always knew I was. The story of the Spartan youth, who stole a fox, and then suffered it to eat out his own bowels rather than confess the theft, early excited my emulation. The noble Spartans encouraged their youth in stealing, and made the whole offence consist in being found out. The Spartans were true philosophers. Throughout my life I have endeavored to act on Spartan principles.
The histories of Pizarro and Cortez used to delight me exceedingly; and often did I regret that I could not, like them, act out my true character. This is, as the great German poet, Goethe, says, the end of our being, and I agree with him. Circumstances were against me; but I did what I could. I used to stand at the doors of the theatres, and appropriate to myself every now and then a pocket-handkerchief, and occasionally a pocket book. Shall I relate what I suffered in consequence from inhuman and unphilosophic watchmen and constables, to say nothing of aldermen and other committing magistrates? I will not. I fear the details would be too much for the feelings of the sympathizing reader.
Spartan heroism of this kind is little esteemed in modern days. Could I get the ears of the rising generation, I would, from my own sad experience, caution them to beware of its exercise. Beloved youth, listen to one who loves you as a father. There is a pleasure, I know, in picking pockets at the theatre, and sometimes a profit. But danger attends it. Besides this, it is not respectable.
Think not I wish to deprive you of the opportunity of gratifying your natural appetites in a natural way. I am not so unphilosophical. Man was not born to labor or to save. It is evident that he was not, for otherwise he would have been born naturally industrious and economical, as is the ant or the bee. View human nature as it is, and you cannot but be convinced, that man was born that he might enjoy the fruits of other men's labors, if he has dexterity enough to appropriate them to his own use. This is the true end of our being. To eat or to be eaten, is the first law of nature. If we do not eat, the worms will eat us. So, to cheat or be cheated, is the first law of civilized society. In one or other of these two categories do all mankind arrange themselves. Let the youthful reader bear this in mind. He will find it of more practical value than all the philosophy that has ever been written.
One of the most beloved friends of my youth was named Snooks-Jerry Snooks. My own name is ScrogginsGiles Scroggins. So intimate were we, that our companions used to say that Orestes and Pylades could never have been more closely united than were Snooks and Scroggins. We suffered about equally from the inhuman market women, and the no less inhuman farmers, when endeavoring to gratify our natural appetites in a natural way, and were united in affliction when brought before committing magistrates for our exploits at the doors of theatres.
As we grew older, we looked out for wider and for nobler fields of action. We were not long in discovering that certain persons in the country had stored away large amounts of hard money. "This is absolutely too bad," said Snooks. "Instead of investing their money in Vicksburg or United States Bank stock, as sensible men would do, these curmudgeons are hoarding it where it is of no more use, either to themselves or others, than so much money at the bottom of the sea. Let us remove the deposits." "With all my heart," said I. Nothing can be more patriotic than to bring this hoarded treasure into circulation. And
while we are thus benefiting our country, we shall do an essential favor to the present possessors of the money by relieving them from a load of care."
With these praiseworthy and truly Christian-like sentiments, we went to work, and removed a considerable amount of gold and silver from a place in his barn-yard, where a German farmer had deposited it for safety, to what we considered a place of far more security, namely, our own pockets. But, oh! the ingratitude of the world in general, and of German farmers in particular! Though we relieved this man of a load of care, he cried out against us as if we had injured him sorely. And the world in general, though we were benefiting it, by increasing the amount of active circulating medium, pursued us as thieves and robbers, brought us before courts and magistrates, had us convicted, and sentenced us to a long imprisonment. Yes, they imprisoned us, both Snooks
When we were released from confinement, my beloved friend and myself took counsel together as to what way we should next attempt to serve our country, and render our own names illustrious. "Let us show to the world," said Snooks, "that the age of heroism is not past. Let us become knight-errants." Nobly advised!" said I. "Lord Byron used to say that if the stocks failed, he meant to take to the highway, for that was the only course now left for honest men. Our case is precisely that which Lord Byron supposed might be his. We have no stocks, and we are honest men. Therefore, let us do what his lordship said he would do, if he were in our condition."
To the highway we accordingly took, and our feats of prowess were such as might in former ages have been rehearsed by many a bard. But alas! in these degenerate days, knighterrantry is called by the vulgar name of highway robbery, and punished as an offence against the statutes. Again we were pursued, again caught, again convicted, again imprisoned.
When released from confinement, we held another council of war. "You and I," said Snooks, "are two little Julius Cæsars, or two little Napoleon Bonapartes. The only difference is, that their operations were on a more
"Yes," ," continued I, "and what an utter disregard is paid to the muchvaunted principles of free trade,' in our particular case! What the world is pleased to call thieving and robbing, is our trade. It is the one to which we were apprenticed, and affords the only way in which we know how to get an honest livelihood. The political economists of highest repute, from Adam Smith to Condy Raguet, all agree in declaring that every trade and profession is best regulated if left to itself. Why, then, make a particular exception in regard to our business? Can any one say that it is more injurious to the community than the trade of a distiller, or many other trades that might be mentioned? Surely, surely, we are both of us much-wronged men."
"We are indeed," replied Snooks. "But there is no use in contending with the prejudices of mankind. There are,' says Dr. Franklin, but three modes of acquiring wealth. The first is by agriculture, the only honest way. The second is by robbery, the course the Romans pursued. The third is by commerce, which is generally cheating.' We have tried the Roman way, and found it not acceptable to our compatriots. We must accommodate ourselves to the age in which we live, and the country in which we dwell. What do you say, Scroggins, to our aiding the operations of commerce by establishing a money manufactory?"
"What, counterfeiting !" I exclaim"Oh, Snooks! conscience! conscience!"
"Now, Scroggins," said he, "don't make a fool of yourself. I have as much regard to conscience as you or any other man living has. If you will listen to me candidly, I will prove to you that the undertaking I propose is not only innocent, but highly laudable."
"Do it," I replied, "and I will at once become your partner."
"I cannot see," said I, "why they should not. Every counterfeit, till its true character is discovered, performs the same functions as a genuine note. When the circulation of small notes was suppressed in Pennsylvania, it was found that many of the dollar notes which had for years formed part of the currency of that State, were counterfeits. Yet exchanges were effected by them as well as they could have been by genuine notes, or even by silver dollars. As they performed all the uses of money, the original issuers of them rendered a benefit to society; while they who proclaimed them counterfeit, caused a destruction of value exactly equal to the amount of notes that were in consequence withdrawn from circulation."
"They acted more sensibly," continued Snooks, "in certain districts of New Jersey, where, as I am credibly informed, the whole circulating medium, some years ago, was made up of counterfeit notes. Everybody knew they were counterfeit; but as everybody consented to receive them, they answered the same purposes in trade that genuine notes did in other parts of the country."
"As money is something entirely conventional," rejoined I, “it is evident that if people will only consent to take them, counterfeit notes will serve the same purposes as genuine. And if we can make our counterfeit notes so much like the genuine that it will be difficult to distinguish the one from the other, I can see no great harm in engaging in the business. It is innocent, I know: but how will you prove it laudable?" "Well, now, Scroggins," said he,
"you a Whig, and a subscriber to the 'New York Courier and Enquirer,' to ask such a question! For what other object is our party laboring than to increase the amount of circulating medium? Do not all our Whig orators and Whig editors unite in declaring that scarcity of money is the cause of all the calamities the country is suffering? Are they not equally unanimous in declaring that paper is, as a material for money, far preferable to gold and silver?"
"You need say no more," I replied. "I see the force of your argument. Want of circulating medium is the great want of the country. It is this that has caused the fall in the prices of labor and of produce, of stocks and of real estate. We have plenty of land, plenty of pork, plenty of cotton, plenty of great men, plenty of everything, in short, except money. Let us go to work to supply this deficiency."
For a time the money manufactory that was established by Snooks and myself was highly useful to the country. Our issues, which were abundant, answered as good a purpose as could have been answered by silver dollars or golden eagles. If we had only been "let alone," we should have produced that rise of prices which is the devout object of all Whig aspirations. Some malicious Loco-Focos saw this, and to frustrate our patriotic intentions, they had us again arrested.
I must confess that on this occasion my spirits sunk within me. Here was I, laboring to the best of my ability to promote an object which the whole Whig party had long been endeavoring in vain to effect, and my ungrateful countrymen, instead of rewarding me for my pains, were for punishing me as a felon. So disgusted was I with mankind that I would, if I could, have fled for refuge to the deserts of Arabia; but even this small consolation was denied me. I was shut up within the four walls of a prison, there to await my trial.
Such were my feelings at the time; but we little know the uses of afflic tion.
Feeling the want of religious conso