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The world in general is pretty well aware of what is to be understood by the former classes of delinquents; but as the latter has never, I believe, been specifically defined, and as we are determined to instruct our readers to the extent of our abilities, and their limited comprehension, it may not be amiss here to let them know what we understand by a great man.
First, therefore, let us (editors and kings are always plural) premise, that there are two kinds of greatness; one conferred by Heaven—the exalted nobility of the soul;—the other, a spurious distinction, engendered by the mob, and lavished upon its favourites. The former of these distinctions we have already contemplated with reverence; the latter we will take this opportunity to strip naked before our unenlightened readers; so that if by chance any of them are held in ignominious thraldom by this base circulation of false coin, they may forthwith emancipate themselves from such inglorious delusion.
It is a fictitious value given to individuals by public caprice, as bankers give an impression to a worthless slip of paper, thereby giving it a currency for infinitely more than its intrinsic value. Every nation has its peculiar coin, and peculiar great men; neither of which will, for the most part, pass current out of the country where they are stamped. Your true mob-created great man is like a note of one of the little New-England banks, and his value depreciates in proportion to the distance from home. In England, a great man is he who has most ribands and gew-gaws on his coat, most horses in his carriage, most slaves in his retinue, or most toad-eaters at his table; in France, he who can most dexterously flourish his heels above his head-Duport is most incontestibly the greatest man in France! - when the Emperor is absent. The greatest man in China is he who can trace his ancestry up to the moon; and in this country our great men may generally hunt down their pedigree until it burrows in the dirt like a rabbit. To be concise; our great men are those who are most expert at crawling on all-fours, and have the bappiest facility in dragging and winding them selves along in the dirt like very reptiles.
seem a paradox to many of my readers, who with great good nature be it hinted, are too stupid to look beyond the mere surface of our invaluable writings; and often pass over the knowing allusion, and poignant meaning, that is slyly couching beneath. It is for the benefit of such helpless ignorants, who have no other creed but the opinion of the mob, that I shall trace, as far as it is possible to follow him in his ascent from insignificance, the rise, progress, and completion of a little great man.
In a logocracy, to use the sage Mustapha's phrase, it is not absolutely necessary to the formation of a great man that he should be either wise or valiant, upright or honourable, On the contrary, daily experience shows that these qualities rather impede his preferment, inasmuch as they are prone to render him too ivflexibly erect, and are directly at variance with that willowy suppleness which enables a man to wind, and twist, through all the nooks and turns and dark winding passages that lead to greatness. The grand requisite for climbing the rugged hill of popularity,--the summit of which is the seat of power, is to be useful. And here once more, for the sake of our readers, who are of course not so wise as ourselves, I must explain what we understand by usefulness, The horse, in his native state, is wild, swift, impetuous, full of majesty, and of a most generous spirit. It is then the animal is noble, exalted, and useless. trap bim, manacle him, cudgel him, break down his lofty spirit, put the curb into his mouth, the load upon his back, and reduce him into servile obedience to the bridle and the lash, and it then he becomes useful. Your jackass is one of the most useful animals in existence. If my readers do not now understand what I mean by usefulness, I give them all up for most absolute nincoms.
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 of dirt, which it rolls laboriously along, like Diogenes in his tub; sometimes head,
sometimes tail foremost, pilfering from every rat and mud hole, and encreasing 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 rudi. ments 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 new 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, aud 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 sprung 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 be 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, one and all, declared that 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 himself;-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 grovelling 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; ranted 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 harangued 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 signitication; 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 toadeater and parasite,-laugh at all their jokes; and, above all, endeavour to make them laugh: if you only now and then make a 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, 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 scarecrow 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 predestined 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 causes of the sovereign people; adapted his dress to similitude of dirty raggedness; argued most logically