744. Massachusetts Gazette, 19 February 1788

Mr. ALLEN, Being in company a few evenings since, I was entertained with the following short dialogue, and if you think it will amuse any of your readers you are at liberty to insert it in your Gazette.

The BUSY INVESTIGATOR, and the MAN of INDIFFERENCE.

Busy investigator. How do you do to day, sir?

Man of indifference. So, so, I thank you—you are well, sir, I hope.

B. investigator. Tolerably well,—though I have not quite got rid of the cold I contracted by attending the debates of convention—the air was so hot and unwholesome in the house, that it was very disagreeable to be there—but I felt myself so much interested in the matter that I could not refrain being an auditor. But pray sir, if I may take the liberty to ask the question, what is your opinion of the constitution?—and do you approve or disapprove of the decision of our state respecting it?

Man of indifference. Why, sir, I am no party man, neither am I a statesman or politician—I never made it my business to investigate the constitution, or pry into the principles of any particular form of government, and all my knowledge of national affairs is gathered from a few incidents which have occurred in the different revolutions since my remembrance.—I have a small income, and move in a confined sphere: my greatest concern in this world is about my rents, and when they are collected (and my tenants are pretty punctual) I sit down and enjoy my bottle, my pipe, and my friend, & laugh at the conduct of many of my fellow mortals, who spend so much of their time about what so little concerns them—for my part, I never troubled myself any more about the decision you speak of, than I do about the hour at which the khan of Tartary dines; and it is, in my opinion, really diverting to see so many of the commonalty engaged in conversation about the affairs of government. Since I have said thus much, suffer me to relate a short fable which at this moment recurs to my memory, I think it is one of Æsop’s.

A heap of apples and a heap of horse-turds, were placed very near each other on the banks of a river—the tide rising, overflowed the banks, and carried both heaps down the current together, the horse-turds seeing this, exclaimed, see how we apples swim!

MORAL.

We will have our rights secured to us, says the porter—We will have our trial by jury kept sacred, says the shoe-black—We will have the freedom of the press in its fullest extent, says the scullion—We will have liberty of conscience, says the chimney-sweeper—and we will have our annual elections, says the man that carries guts to the bear, &c. &c.

B. investigator. If your sentiments, sir, are not to be condemned in the gross, the chief of them certainly can never have a tendency to promote the good of society in general. Every subject ought in a degree, to interest himself about the affairs of government, as the calling, however menial, by which he obtains his subsistence, depends upon the existence of government. You have a small income you say, and your greatest care is about the collection of your rents. Of what avail would be your income, without a government to secure it to you; and how would you be able to compel your tenants to pay you, if they should prove dishonest, and refuse, except the government you lived under was calculated to promote and establish justice between man and man. What you have yourself said, sufficiently proves, that, instead of that supineness and inattention you affect towards government, you ought to exert and interest yourself in its promotion and preservation. To lie dormant, in hopes that others will see to it, is a dangerous and very discommendable example. It is an old maxim, and I believe a true one, that no man will pay that attention to another’s business, which he would to his own. Whenever a people become negligent of their national concerns, a door is open for the introduction of anarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, or any thing else. It therefore behoves every one to be upon the look-out, and according to the sphere in which he moves, exert himself in regard to what his protection and support essentially depends upon—the establishment of a good government.