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THE LITTLE GREAT MAN.
[The following is extracted from Salmagundi, a very amusing work,
published in America.]
To rise in this country * a man must first descend. The aspiring politician may be compared to that indefatigable insect called the Tumbler, (pronounced, by a distinguished personage, to be the only industrious animal in Virginia,) which buries itself in filth, and works ignobly in the dirt until it forms a little ball, which it rolls laboriously along, (like Diogenes's tub,) sometimes head, sometimes tail, foremost, pilfering from every rut and mud-hole, and increasing its ball of greatness by the contributions of the kennel Just so the candidate for greatness ; he plunges into that mass of obscenity the mob, labours in dirt and oblivion, and makes unto himself the rudiments of a popular name from the admiration and praises of rogues, ignoramuses, and blackguards. His name once started, onward he goes, struggling, and puffing, and pushing it before him, collecting liew tributes from the dregs and offals of the land as he proceeds, until, having gathered together a mighty mass of popularity, he mounts it in triumph, is hoisted into office, and becomes a great man, and a ruler in the land, -all this will be clearly illustrated by a sketch of a worthy of the kind, who sprang up under my eye, and was hatched from pollution by the broad rays of popularity, which, like the sun, can “ breed maggots in a dead dog."
TIMOTHY DABBLE was a young man, of very promising talents,—for he wrote a fair hand, and had thrice won the silver medal at a country academy ;-he was also an orator, for he talked with emphatic volubility, and could argue a full hour, without taking either side, or advancing a single opinion ;-he had still farther requisites for eloquence,-for he made very handsome gestures, had dimples in his cheeks when he smiled, and enunciated most harmoniously through his nose. In short, nature had certainly marked him out for a great man; for though he was not tall, yet he added, at least, half an inch to his stature by elevating his head, and assumed an amazing expression of dignity by turning up his nose and curling his nostrils, in a style of conscious superiority. Convinced by these unequivocal appearances, Dabble's friends in full caucus,t one and all, declared that
* America. † Assembly or committee. Vol. 11.]
he was, undoubtedly, born to be a great man, and it would be his own fault if he were not one. Dabble was tickled with an opinion which coincided so happily with his own,for vanity, in a confidential whisper, had given him the like intimation, and he reverenced the judgment of his friends, because they thought so highly of him ;-accordingly he set out with a determination to become a great man, and to start in the scrub-race for honour and renown. How to attain the desired prizes was, however, the question. He knew by a kind of instinctive feeling, which seems peculiar to groveling minds, that honour, and its better part,-profit, would never seek him out; that they would never knock at his door and crave admittance, but must be courted, and toiled after, and earned. He, therefore strutted forth into the highways, the market-places, and the assemblies of the people,ếranted like a true cockerel orator about virtue, and patriotism, and liberty, and equality, and himself. Full many a political windmill did he battle with; and full many a time did he talk himself out of breath, and his hearers out of their patience. But Dabble found, to his vast astonishment, that there was not a notorious political pimp at a ward-meeting but could out-talk him ; and, what was still more mortifying, there was not a notorious political pimp but was more noticed and caressed than himself, The reason was simple enough, while he harrangued about principles, the others ranted about men; where he reprobated a political error, they blasted a political character ;—they were, consequently, the most useful: for the great object of our political disputes is, not who shall have the honour of emancipating the community from the leading-strings of delusion, but who shall have the profit of holding the strings, and leading the community by the nose.
Dabble was likewise very loud in his professions of integrity, incorruptibility, and disinterestedness, words which, from being filtered and refined through newspapers and election hand-bills, have lost their original signification, and in the political dictionary are synonymous with empty pockets, itching palms, and interested ambition. He, in addition to all this, declared that he would support none but honest men ;-but, unluckily, as but few of these offered themselves to be supported, Dabble's services were seldom required. He pledged himself never to engage in party schemes or party politics, but to stand up solely for the
broad interests of his country ;—so he stood alone, and, what is the same thing, he stood still; for, in this country, he who does not side with either party is like a body in a vacuum between two planets, and must for ever remain motionless. *
Dabble was immeasurably surprised that a man so honest, so disinterested, and so sagacious withal, and one too, who had the good of his country so much at heart, should thus remain unnoticed and unapplauded. A little worldly advice, whispered in his ear by a shrewd old politician, at once explained the whole mystery. “ He who would become great," said he,“ must serve an apprenticeship to greatness, and rise by regular gradation, like the master of a vessel, who commences by being scrub and cabin-boy, he must fag in the train of great men, echo all their sentiments, become their toad-eater and parasite, laugh at all their jokes, and, above all, endeavour to make them laugh; if you only now and then make a great man laugh, your fortune is made. Look but about you, youngster, and you will not see a single little great man of the day but has his miserable herd of retainers, who yelp at his heels, come at his whistle, worry whoever he points his finger at, and think themselves fully rewarded by sometimes snapping up a crumb that falls from the great man's table. Talk of patriotism, and virtue, and incorruptibility !-tut, man !—they are the very qualities that scare munificence, and keep patronage at a distance. You might as well attempt to entice crows with red rags and gunpowder. Lay all these scare-crow virtues aside, and let this be your maxim, that a candidate for political eminence is like a dried herring, he never becomes luminous until he is corrupt."*
Dabble caught with hungry avidity these congenial doctrines, and turned into his pre-destined channel of action with the force and rapidity of a stream which has, for a while, been restrained from its natural course. He became what nature had fitted him to be ;-his tone softened down from arrogant self-sufficiency to the whine of fawning solicitation. He mingled in the caucuses of the sovereign peo
* The truth of this has been proved in this country, of late years. Sir Francis Burdett, with the same intention of standing up solely for the broad interests of his country, has frequently found that he stood alone.
+ The authors of Salmagundi have copied from nature; their observations will not prove inapplicable to our country.
ple, adapted his dress to a similitude of dirty raggedness, argued most logically with those who were of his own opinion, and slandered, with all the malice of impotence, exalted characters, whose orbit he despaired never to approach, - just as that scoundrel midnight thief, the owl, hoots at the blessed light of the sun, whose glorious lustre he dares never contemplate. He likewise applied himself to discharging, faithfully, the honourable duties of a partisan ;-he poached about for private slanders and ribald anecdotes ;-he folded hand-bills;—he even wrote one or two himself, which he car. ried about in his pocket, and read to every body : he became a secretary at ward-meetings, set his hand to divers resolutions of patriotic import, and even once went so far as to make a speech, in which he proved that patriotism was a virtue,the reigning bashaw a great man ;—that this was a free country, and he himself an arrant and incontestible buzzard !
Dabble was now very frequent and devout in his visits to those temples of politics, popularity, and smoak, the ward porter-houses ;* those true dens of equality, where all ranks, ages, and talents, are brought down to the dead level of rude familiarity. 'Twas here his talents expanded, and his genius swelled up into its proper size, like the loathsome toad, which, shrinking from balmy airs and jocund sunshine, finds his congenial home in caves and dungeons, and there nourishes his venom and bloats his deformity. It was here he revelled with the swinish multitude in their debauches on patriotism and porter, and it became an even chance whether Dabble would turn out a great man or a great drunkard. But Dabble in all this kept steadily in his eye the only deity he ever worshipped,-his interest. Having, by this familiarity, ingratiated himself with the mob, he became wonderfully potent and industrious at elections, knew all the dens and cellars of profligacy and intemperance, brought more negroes to the polls, and knew to a greater certainty where votes could be bought for beer, than any of his contemporaries; his exertions in the cause, his persevering industry, his degrading compliance, his unresisting humility, his stedfast dependence, at length caught the attention of one of the leaders of the party, who was pleased to observe that Dabble was a very useful fellow, who would go all lengths. From
* Public-houses or taverns, where the ward-meetings are held previous to an election, the same as at our elections in the city for common councilmen, &c.
that moment his fortune was made ; he was hand and glove with orators and slang-whangers, basked in the sunshine of great men's smiles, and had the honour, sundry times, of shaking hands with dignitaries, and drinking out of the same pot with them at a porter-house!
I will not fatigue myself with tracing this caterpillar in his slimy progress from worm to butterfly; suffice it to say, that Dabble bowed, and bowed, and fawned, and sneaked, and smirked, and libelled, until one would have thought perseverance itself would have settled down into despair ; there was no knowing how long he might have lingered at a distance from his hopes, had he not luckily got tarred and feathered for some of his electioneering manœuvres : this was the making of him! Let not my readers stare,—tarring and feathering here is equal to pillory and cropped ears in England, and either of these kinds of martyrdom will ensure a patriot the sympathy and support of his faction. His partizans (for even he had his partizans) took his case into consideration ; he had been kicked, and cuffed, and disgraced, and dishonoured, in the cause; he had licked the dust at the feet of the mob; he was a faithful drudge, slow to anger, of invincible patience, of incessant assiduity,--a thorough going tool, who could be curbed, and spurred, and directed, at pleasure ;-in short, he had all the important qualifications for a little great man, and he was accordingly ushered into office amid the acclamations of the party. The leading men complimented his usefulness, the multitude his republican simplicity, and the slang-whangers vouched for his patriotism. Since his elevation he has discovered indubitable signs of having been destined for a great man.-His nose has acquired an additional elevation of several degrees, so that now he appears to have bidden adieu to this world, and to have set his thoughts altogether on things above; and he has swelled and inflated himself to such a degree that his friends are under apprehensions that he will, one day or other, explode and blow up like a torpedo.*
MARRIAGE CUSTOMS, &c. OF VARIOUS NATIONS. When a Laplander intends to marry, he or his friends court the father of the damsel with presents of brandy ; if he gain
* " When men of infamy to grandeur soar,
They light a torch to shew their shame the more."