GROWING weary with the objects within the smoke of my chimney, I fixed myself as decently as I could, and made my tour through the adjacent country. The first man that saluted me was a hard-handed laborer, with his sickle in his hand. After the usual remarks on the weather, without any solicitation of mine, he proceeded to give the following history of himself.
“I am a laboring man, and get my bread by the sweat of my face. I began the world with nothing, but by labor and frugality, have gained a considerable property. I make it my practice, when I am in company, to talk as loud, and as much, as any of them. If I hear a man reading, I often interrupt him, and make my remarks on the subject; if I see a man writing, I look over his shoulder to see what he is about. On politics, I give my opinion with independent freedom, for I carry no velvet mouth in my head. I have heard, that in the southern states they give a man time to think, without forcing him to speak or to hear, and conceive it a great rudeness to interrogate a stranger, or interrupt the student or speaker; but, thank God, I am no Buck-skin, Tuckahoe, or Vandalian, but a true born Yankee, and interrogate and animadvert constantly, keeping the wind-mill and clatter always in motion, when I am in company, and think when I have leisure: by these means I have gained more information than many of those who make such a bustle about education, as if bookish knowledge was every thing. Such men read books, but I read men and facts: such men talk much of the advantages of literature, but if the laborers did not support them, they would soon “be as poor as Job’s turkey.”
Sir, said I, will you be pleased to give me some information of your discoveries?
“Ah! you need not sir me,” said the man, “but, if you have got a head for it, I can easily do it, for the Almighty has made a good turnpike from my brains to my mouth. I have found that two hundred and seven thousand, three hundred and sixty rails, each noting eleven feet, will enclose a square containing two hundred and seven thousand, three hundred and sixty acres of land, with a fence six rails high, and I question whether many of the soft fingered tribe know it. This I did not learn from Sir Isaac, but was self-taught, myself original.
“Again. One penny at simple interest, five per cent, from the birth of Christ to 1800, would be no more than seven shillings and seven pence. But the same penny, at compound interest would amount to the amazing sum of nearly one hundred and thirty five thousand quatrillions of tons of gold, avoirdupoise: which ball of gold would be heavier than four hundred and forty-four millions of such globes as this.”
I then bid the man adieu, remembering what I had read, that a pearl is found in an oyster-shell, and in a toad’s head.
I had not traveled far, before I was overtaken by a gentleman, neatly clad, well mounted, with a very small pair of saddle-bags. Remembering that I was in a country where questions would not be unpleasant, I asked the gentleman his occupation and destination. To which he replied with a smile, “sir, I am a doctor of physic, and am going to visit a circle of patients; the season is sickly, and I have abundance of custom; not less than forty are now indisposed; and, notwithstanding, it is an evil day among the people, yet it is fine times for doctors. ‘Every dog has his day.’”
“Are your saddle-bags large enough to carry medicines for so many patients,” said I? “Plenty large,” said the doctor, “I have medicine enough in them for three hundred people. Once there was a time, when physicians studied the difference of constitutions, as well as the difference of diseases: but in these days of improvement and patent rights, it is become obsolete. Mercury, mercury is now the catholicon: nearly all other medicines are in disuse, and he who differs from the mercurial line, is cried down as a quack: and it certainly has one preference, being so energetic, a small quantity answers; hence little saddle-bags, and a small horse, will do.”
“Are all your patients willing to be quicksilvered so much,” said I? “They are not,” said he, “but we know how to work it with them. We use our technical phrases, to raise their admiration, and have so many preparations of mercury, that we get it down before they know it; and when we get them well charged, their resistance leaves them. And, besides, if they were only spleeny before, the mercury makes them sick, and when they revive, we get the praise of being skilful physicians. We have established a great importance among the people, especially those who are superstitious: if we direct them to give seven drops once in seven and a half minutes, they durst not measure in the tea-spoon, nor intermit eight minutes, believing that life depends on the exact quantity and time which we prescribe. If nature triumphs over the disease, we impute it all to medicine; but if nature sinks, we preach up the foreordination of God. The clergy and lawyers have a great ascendency over the people, and we endeavor to keep up our end of the yoke. We studied as long as they did before we began practice – we know how to make our charges as well as they do – we love money, like them, and are as intent to get it.”
On saying this, the doctor outrode me, and left me behind to reflect on this query: “does the devil and doctors know any thing about the inside of men?”
Soon after this, I overtook a man, affecting genteel gravity, with a huge pair of saddle-bags: he soon opened the conference in the following manner: “Where do you live sir? What sort of religion is most fashionable in your parts? Are there any vacant parishes that you know of? Are there any ministerial funds and perquisites in those parishes? What do preachers generally have by the year among you?” >etc.
“Pray sir,” said I, what mean your huge saddle-bags ?“ “My saddlebags,” he replied, “contain a valuable treasure; I am a minister of the gospel, and go to sojourn where I can find a place. I am now on a mission to visit the destitute, and the heathen, but while I am performing my missionary labors, I am looking out for a settled place of abode. St. Paul could leave his cloak, books and parchments behind him, and when winter was approaching, could send word to Timothy, to bring them along with him; but I have no Timothy to do the like for me; I, therefore, carry all along in my saddle-bags. I have, therein (besides my clothes,) my diploma, my license, my Bible, and psalm book – many necessary assistants, and notes enough for one whole year, provided I settle myself; if not, they will suffice for seven years. I am now in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, having stocked myself before my departure. If I can find an opening that pleases me, I shall engage with the people, but if not, I shall turn my attention to law or merchandize, for the expense of my education must some how or other be reimbursed.” Here he closed, and here we parted. He pursued his course, and I returned home, musing on some of Paul’s words. “I conferred not with flesh and blood, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – necessity is laid upon me, yea woo is me if I preach not the gospel.”
Miscellaneous Essays, In Prose and Verse.
Elder John Leland
Published sometime since 1810 (precise year unknown)
The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland
Pages 430 – 432