Explaining The Surprising Equanimity Of A Nation Under Complicated Misfortunes By The Parallel Case Of A Great Philosopher Of The Sixth Ward J Confessing The Inexplicable Levity Produced By The Honest Sentiments Of A Solid Boston Man; And Celebrating The Grand Opening Of The Theatre Of War With The 8pectacular Drama Of Impeachment.
Washington, D. C, March 26, 1868.
Even as the exciting able editor of some reliable American morning journal surveys the whole world from his third-story backroom, and is sufficiently weakened in his mind thereby to write such an article on the Present State of the Universe as shall at once fill out a column, and spare his subscribers the shock of being tempted to read the " editorial page" for once in their lives; so do I look abroad, my boy, from the window of my room at Willard's upon this entire humorous nation of ours, and am so enfeebled in intellect by the spectacle of its unspeakable equanimity under Reconstruction and Impeachment, that orders for thoughtful newspaper-articles upon the Progress of Democratic Principles in Russia may be forwarded at once to my address. As I look thus extensively abroad - after incidentally nodding in a chaste and pleasing manner to a grenadine maiden at another casement - I cannot help observing to myself, " This is, indeed, equanimity," and reminds me of what once occurred in the Sixth Ward.
In that cradle of American liberty in which many a one has been " rocked " by political persons of Irish descent, there formerly resided a middle-aged top, of dumpling forehead and continual fatness of smile, who went beaming around everywhere like a private sun with spectacles on, and passed through two panics; and a cholera season, with so much equanimity that his friends concluded he must be either a statue of George Washington or a great philosopher. Did a vast fire break out in his district, an election go this way or that way, or a riot destroy all his neighbors' windows, -this fine old top would be out next morning in a perfect sunrise of contented smile, covering everybody all over with placidity, and being taken by strangers for both Benjamin Franklin and Mr. Greeley. Did half his family try to put him out of the house, or his two only sons half kill each other in a domestic fight, - this calm old top would keep shining on harder than ever, and plastering up his head and going to his daily business with such bright looks that many mistook him for an unmarried man. Persons from other wards would go to him and expostulate against so much equanimity, - telling him that it injured the value of their property and produced sickness in their minds; but he only shook hands with them all round in an extremely affectionate manner, and went beaming away to attend the funeral of his brother.
At last, however, a crowning calamity seemed to threaten this radiant top, and all his wife's relatives hoped that his time had come. In a high-moral life insurance company, of which he was an immense stockholder, a great dispute took place between the President and the Board of Directors. The former, between two meetings of the Board, took the responsibility of getting out a new style of " Policy," by which the person who insured under it was obliged to assert no more than that he had a sound Constitution. The Secretary of the Company, who had been made such under a former President, opposed this style of Policy with all his might; whereupon, the President suspended him from office, put in a Secretary ad interim, removed such agents of the Company in other cities as refused to adopt the new Policy, and commenced doing such a wholesale Constitutional business that all creation bade fair to be insured in a month. Then came the Meeting of the Directors, a majority of whom were patent-medicine men, and who, in the original Policy, had specified not only that the insured should have sound Constitutions, but that said soundness should have been specially produced by the use (affirmed under oath) of their patent-medicines. The Directors reinstated the original Secretary and Policy; the defiant President was arraigned before the Board with a view to his supersedure by the Vice-President; and, in the ensuing public scandal, the whole business of the Company stood still.*
Substitute the word Reconstruction for "Insurance," and this is a just and exact illustration of the quarrel between President Johnson and Congress.
Then all the wife's relatives of the middle-aged and philosophical top believed that they had him at last, and repaired in a body to his private residence to witness the overwhelming defeat of his equanimity; but to their unspeakable disgust they found him perusing, in great comfort, the latest news of the trouble in a stentorian daily journal, the while his features shone with that debilitating serenity which eternally characterizes the photographs we have taken for our unmarried female friends.
" Old man!" cried the relatives, rending their garments, and feeling sorry for it immediately after; "do you realize that this quarrel will ruin you, by making your stock in the Company worthless ? How, oh how! under this last awful go, can you exhibit so much equanimity ? "
"My friends," said this vivacious top, with a pleased expression, "why should I shed the briny? Under the Director's ' Policy' there would never be any business at all, which would be ruin. Under the President's ' Policy' the business would be wholesale recklessness, which would be ruin; and in the fight between the two Policies there is ruin any way. Give my love to your families, and send in the Sheriff".
After which the imperturbable top went cheerfully humming to put on his gaiters; and tripped away, with the utmost satisfaction, to register his name under the Bank-ruptfAct.
I have been thinking, my boy, I have been thinking, that perhaps the curious medical treatment of having its lower limbs kept in hot water for years, accompanied by the amazing surgical operation of having its head slowly sawed off, may not be the surest means of restoring health to the nation; and that the inexpressible equanimity of the latter under Reconstruction and Impeachment may possibly be based upon a philosophy like that which I have celebrated.