« PoprzedniaDalej »
the vanished days of the by-gone past? Why have they toiled, and labored, and worked, and wrote ? And why, my fellow citizens, have our revolutionary fathers shed their blood, if the principles of ninety-eight, and our liberties — I say our liberties are to be taken away, trodden under foot, and wrested out of our hands !'
Mr. Bang here called for a glass of water, and having wiped his mouth, and passed his hand over his brow, proceeded : 'Gentle-men, who are those that would enslave you, that would drive you into bondage, that would rob you of your rights? Who are they? Aristocrats! They would fain ride in their carriages ; they would fain trample you down. Gentle-men, I know that I speak the sense of this meeting, when I say, we do n't want no kings to rule over the sovereign people; we do n't want no aristocrats; we do n't want no silk-stocking men; we do n't want no bank men! (Tremendous cheering, in the midst of which several of the anti-Fink party walked out, finding the waters too hot for them.) Gentle-men, I will say one word, and one only, on the subject of banks. You all know what a bank is; a great monied institution ; a monopoly - a monster; spreading destruction, and ruin, and consternation, in its path. Ours is a agricultural people. We do n't want no banks; we do n't want no paper-money; we do n't want no rags !' (Great Applause !)
It is very much to be regretted, that for want of room, it is impossible to present the reader with the whole of Mr. Bang's remarks :
Gentle-men,' said he, in conclusion, 'I can but exhort you to be at your posts to-morrow. To-morrow, the fate of this country, and the glorious principles of ninety-eight, may be decided. Let us go forth, shoulder to shoulder, and remember that, united, we stand, divided, we fall. Let us go forth to conquer or die ; and let our watchword be, • The country, the whole country, and nothing but the country.'
Having come to this euphonious conclusion, Mr. Bang would have sat down, had not a shrill voice incontinently cried out, from the extremity of the crowded room, 'Good, Bang! Go ahead!' The
approving words met the orator's ear, just as he was sitting down. He gradually returned to his upright position, stretched out his hand, took a glass of water, wiped his lips, and looked around : «Gentlemen,' continued he, smiling with much amiability, I could say more, but I shall encroach too much upon your time and patience, gentlemen; and I ought in justice to remark, that there are other speakers yet to come.'
'Go on! go on! go on! go on!' was echoed from all quarters, and Mr. Bang did go on, and finished what was called 'an able and eloquent speech.'
The next day dawned, big with momentous interests. The Fink party came out nobly; but the enemy came out likewise, in greater numbers than they had ever come before. All business was suspended, and the polls presented an animated spectacle. Many of the young farmers drove four-in-hand on that day, and some pugilistic encounters came off. On the last day of the election, the votes were as yet nearly equal, and the result hung in suspense. Wild Harry, a noted champion of the Fink party, drew his friend Bill Cork aside, VOL. XIII.
and told him, in a whisper, that he had overheard one of the enemy describe the exact position of a voter, who was then lying desperately drunk, in a field on the edge of a certain brook. Every one counts,' said he, and we'd best go and nab him to-once.' To this Bill Cork assented. So, taking a horse and wagon, which was on the ground for the express purpose of bringing voters to the polls, they drove most furiously to the place specified. They found no difficulty in discovering the situation of the voter. He was lying beneath a willow, where a water-wheel threw upon him a shower of spray, his head on a sod, his feet in a brook, and snoozing away in a deep trance.
Ikey Solomons !' shouted Bill Cork, in a voice of thunder, bending over, and violently shaking him by the shoulders; but no response came from Ikey, whose meditations were de profundis.' Ikey Solomons !' roared Wild Harry, giving him a grievous punch in the ribs.
Ugh!' was the response, in a tone something between a grunt and a growl.
A consultation was now held. It was evident that he could not help himself, nor cooperate in the least with those who helped him. He was more overcome than they thought he was, and they said . If they had 'a known he was so damned drunk, they would n't 'a come arter him.'
As it was, they were sorry to be engaged on a Tom fool's errand, and vexed that a willing man should be deprived of the elective franchise, for the want of a little assistance.
They stood hesitating.
• Lift him up!' said Wild Harry, suddenly. Bill Cork obeyed the summons, and taking him up by the heels and the head, they lifted him over the fence, and laid him in the wagon, being resolved that they would take him to the polls, and · do the best they could with him.' His hat fell off in the process, and a blue rum-bottle tumbled out of his pocket on the grass. Not a drop was visible in the bottom of it, when held up before the sun.
* Ah! the critter!' said Wild Harry; "he's drink'd it clean dry.' So saying, and having smelt and re-corked it, he tossed it into the brook. It rose up buoyant, and floated down stream.
The road over which they were to pass, was stony, abounding in deep ruts, to say nothing of occasional stumps; and fondly indulging the hope that the jolting would 'fetch him to, a little,' they laid on the lash, and beguiling the way with various conversation, drove up in good style before the inn. The arrival was hailed with an ejaculatory yell.
What 's the matter now ? shouted the crowd.
• Lay hola!' thundered the former; and without any delay, they seized him by the arms, and hurried him, unresisting, into the solemn presence of the inspectors of elections.
Here's a man that wants to vote !' said they, in a breath.
The inspectors looked at each other with mock solemnity. It is impossible to describe the harmless, diluted twinkle of Ikey Solomon's blue eyes. His countenance was phlegmatically calm, utterly devoid of any expression, and his nose was very, very red. Ever
and anon, his head fell dejectedly upon his breast. The by.standers had rushed in, to scrutinize this curious specimen of a voter; and, having cast eyes on him, could only inquire, 'where under heaven that fellow came from? They had never seen him before; and were struck with as much astonishment as if he had fallen suddenly from the clouds.
Your name, Sir ? inquired the inspector. • Ikey Solomons,' answered the man at his elbow. • Let him answer to his own name,' interposed somebody.
The vote having been peremptorily challenged, it was inquired upon what grounds.
He is a non-resident.' Swear him in !' roared a dozen. • I object to his being sworn,' interposed one of the board, whose countenance exhibited a rare indication of honesty ; 'I cannot conscientiously administer an oath to a man in his situation. That is just my opinion; what is yours, Mr. Flannigan ?'
Now the person to whom this appeal was made, told, by the twinkle of his eye, that he knew very well which way the vote would count. Nevertheless, he seemed gravely to consider the question for a moment, and then thoughtfully replied : “Why, I think I've seen drunker persons take the oath.'
• That may be,' interrupted the other, with some severity. Two wrongs never make a right. I ask, is he fit to take it ?'
To this the former simply replied, “ Well, I should say he was.'
The question having been put to the board, whether the oath should be administered, it was carried in the affirmative, and the voter having acquitted himself of the elective function, was carried out into an adjacent barn, and tenderly laid upon a wisp of straw.
When the two worthies already mentioned had performed this service, they started off after a sick man, who was actually unfit in leave his bed, but who had consented to go and cast his vote. He was indeed so near his end, that he might have died on the way; but in him was exhibited an illustration of that spirit which is common in a country where an equality of right prevails ; where even the lowest pride themselves in having a finger in the public affairs; and where the very sick man lends his decaying force to urge on the wheels of government. He was already waiting for his conductors, and presented a most miserable aspect; his pale brow, sparsely covered with lank hair; his eyes dull and glassy; his cheek-bones high and projecting, and his person shrunk, under the influence of disease, 'into the lean and slippered pantaloon.' His wife, a squat woman, had just completed his toilet, and was pinning a red 'kerchief around his cadaverous face. “I am a-fixin' him out for town-meetin',' said she, smiling very pleasantly.
• How are you, Hughson ?' inquired Wild Harry, with much concern upon his countenance.
* I don't get no better!' replied the sick man, sighing dejectedly.
*I heerd you was considerable smart to-day. We had a cold snap, last night, but it's abundantly warm this forenoon, and it's beautiful weather overhead. It aint no great ways to the polls; and you know you can take your time about it.'
So saying, they went out, at a snail's pace, Wild Harry flushed with health, and the sick man trembling on the verge of the grave. It was the last time that he visited the haunts of men, or looked upon the blue sky, or breathed the free air, alas! too impregnated with those coward oaths which vaunt them upon the lips of health, but which flutter and fly from the dull, cold lips of death! He performed his last public act for others, and lay down on his bed to die. He had reached the foot of life's declivity, and his feet were in the
grave. On the morrow, his name would be registered in another book, and he would be removed from the jarring elements of human government, patiently to await that last ballot, where deception cannot abide God's rigid scrutiny.
A sensation was now created at the polls, by an arrival of a singular character. The county poor-house had disgorged its inmates. They had come forth from their abode of squalid misery, where noisome Disease sits crouching on the threshold, and where Starvation is ever present, but never executes its threats. Oh! it was a happy thing, that they were not quite forgotten, and that in their melancholy state there were some to think of them still! There are times and seasons, when human sympathies appear peculiarly awakened, and when the chords of affection are drawn tighter which unite us to the human family. There are times, when we feel the heart yearning toward all mankind; when austerity of manners gives place to a mild courtesy; and when the roughest hand is grasped with a most brotherly warmth. The inmates of the poor-house were no doubt brought out at this time for a change of air, lest their health should be still more impaired by continued ill-treatment, and likewise through a laudable desire that they should not be deprived of their rights. First came twelve idiots, rank and file. I say idiots, for they had usually been accounted as not having that quantum of common sense which the law requires voters to possess. But whether their faculties bad been weighed in a different pair of scales, or whether they had newly acquired wisdom, there were those who not only repudiated their idiocy with indignation, but cried them up as men of considerable capacities. After them came the lame, the halt, and the blind; the paralytic, and men whose heads were continually nodding with palsy. They were a goodly company, and would have made the heart of the friend of equal rights to swell for joy. Oh! blessed freedom of elections ! Hail, happy land! where liberty is only too luxurious; where the ballot is as free as air to all men; where the sick and the drunken are supported to it, in the arms of their country. men, and not only pay nothing for this glorious privilege, but even receive a price!
Behold now a specimen of infantile voting. Two boys meet at the bar,' who may have passed their fourteenth year. •Come, fellows, drink! drink!' said the bolder, tossing a half-dollar on the counter, which spun round for some time, and then came to a stand.
• What 'll you lake, Phlip ? said he.
•Gin and sugar,' answered the boy, gruffly; and he had already stretched forth his hand to seize the delicious syrup, when his father, having come unexpectedly upon him, with one fling whirled him from the counter, and with another, completely out of doors, commanding
him forthwith home, there to receive that sound chastisement which, at his age, is the best preventive for gin-and-sugar.' But his dare-devil companion smacked his lips, and lighting a fresh cigar, walked boldly up to the polls. His arrival was greeted with thick deprecations; but he had backers, and promptly swore in his vote. Now mark the difference. A stout lubber, whose harsh whiskers indicated that he was at least full grown, being accused to his head that he was not of age, with a sheepish air, pleaded guilty to the charge, and walked off, amid the jeers of the crowd. But stand aside, ye beardless youths and bearded men! Cease your rude tumults, for a moment, and show respect to one whose silver hairs should defend him from the jostling crowd. Behold a centenarian approaches. With firm step and erect port, he comes to assert his high prerogative. Party malice dare not assail him. Are his eyes too dim to discern the public weal, to whom earthly considerations are as nothing, and who has shed his blood like water? He has borne his part in three wars, and has upon him the scars of an hundred battles. He is the living, breathing chronicler of the old war, when France and the savage contended on the one side, and the British and colonial arms on the other. And he has seen fighting at Du Quesne, at Crown Point, and Ticonderoga; and marches through morasses, and ambuscades; and can tell how Braddock fell in the wilderness, for he despised the young provincial. And when the colonies took up arms for themselves, he first rushed to their standard and pledged himself by the first blood at Lexington. And he was at Bunker's Hill, and at Quebec, on that tempestuous morning when the brave Montgomery fell, and was borne on the filial shoulders of young Burr, who afterward fell like Lucifer from his brightness. He was at Long-Island, at Trenton, at Bennington, at Saratoga, at Brandywine, and at Germautown; and never laid down his arms, while his country had need of bim. He was attached by the bonds of a bosom friendship to the great copatriots of the revolution ; but how his tongue waxed eloquent, and his eye re-kindled, and his whole countenance was encircled as with a glory, at the mention of WASHINGTON! In all times and seasons, he has suffered peril, yet he stands like the brave old oak’ in the forest, through whose boughs the storms of an hundred winters have swept in vain. By its side, the young sapling has become decayed at its core, and perished; and the strong tree has been rifted, and the tender shrub has been again and again consumed with fire. And generation after generation, who have feasted and danced under it, are laid in the near church-yard, yet it still renews its leaves in the summer, and bears its bright glories in autumn; and the generations yet to come shall rejoice in its refreshing shade.
Oh! with what reverence should we look upon the hoary relics of those days which were emphatically said to have tried men's souls !' Yet a few more years, and the noble order of the Cincinnati will have become extinct. For the grave, which has so long spared them, and whose avarice grasps at the young, the beautiful, and the gayesthearted, will gather in these gray hairs, which are most justly due. But the patriot's dust shall not be unhonored, though adorned only with the green sod and lowly flowers of the valley. Posterity shall mark the places where our soldiers repose, and history will not leave