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FABLE OF THE RATS.
TO THE ASSOCIATED FRIENDS OF LIBERTY AT THE FEATHERS
A LETTER of information with respect to a design of petitioning for relief in the matter of Subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, having lately been dispersed among the members of the House of Commons, I sent my copy to a friend, requesting his opinion of it, which I received in the form of
There was a certain house, into which the rats had made an entrance, by gnawing an hole in the bottom of the main door. It happened that the servants were grown careless, and the traps rusty with disuse; so that the rats were in a manner unmolested. Not satisfied with the scraps of the kitchen, they got into the library to nibble the books : they brought the old family-bible into a very tattered condition : they endangered the house, by burrowing deep into the ground and making themselves nests under some of the main pillars of the fabric. Notwithstanding all these advantages, they were very discontented. There were a few plain-spoken servants in the family, who were apt to cry out, a rat, a rat, if any of them were seen in the day-time which gave them great offence; and
they were now and then reminded of their rat-like nature by others, who shewed them the marks of their teeth at the bottom of the door.
It was therefore proposed among themselves, that the only way to spare their pride and improve their character, would be to persuade the heads of the house to take the main door off the hinges, that animals of all kinds might have free access : after which there would be no room for odious distinctions and reflections.
This proposal, though started only by one or two of the forwardest, was readily approved by many others; and their discontent having attained its highest pitch, just at a time when other creatures of the voracious kind were making petitions, they also agreed to make a petition. The difficulty was, how to put a good face upon the business. For as doors are affixed to houses, and porters are stationed on purpose to keep out ill-designing people, to take off the door by a deliberate act, would argue an intention of letting them in. This difficulty, however, did not stop their proceedings. They knew some would overlook it; and others, who were no friends to the family, would pay little regard to it; so it was at length voted, that the following reasons for making a petition should be submitted to the consideration of the family.
1st, That they apprehend rats have an instinct proper to themselves, which no power can deprive them of; and, consequently, that they have a natural right to follow it as far as they are able, in opposition to the tyranny of man. Why else was it given ?
2dly, That the door they wish to see removed is very ill made, very old fashioned, the work of an ignorant, çarpenter, who knew nothing of modern mechanics ;
and that if doors are necessary (as they are persuaded in their consciences they are not) they could make better themselves. That modest people, seeing the door shut, are shy of coming near the house that the best friends of the family are thereby kept at a distance, and the interest of the master thereby very greatly hurt—That the nature of rats is now much better understood than formerly—That men and rats are growing every day more and more like one another—That there have been two or three men of very great fame, who are known to have kept the tail of a rat privately in their snuff-boxes to smell to. That so long as the door keeps its place, they are under the necessity of eating their way through it, or of creeping through the hole made heretofore by their progenitors—That so long as they are obliged to act like vermin, they are liable to be reproached with the name of vermin by the most worthless members of the family, the professed adversaries of honesty and liberality-That the hospitality of the house is every where ill-spoken of, on account of the destructive practice of keeping up the door, and setting a porter at it-That weasels, polecats, foxes, and other like useful creatures, who are now obliged to follow the disreputable practice of catching poultry in the out-houses, would be invited to become do mestic animals, and tender their services to the family, according to their several persuasions.
3dly, That as the property of the family is already secured by the laws, and the penalties annexed to them, the door is superfluous; it being agreed in every well-ordered community, that it is better to punish an evil than to prevent it. That as there is no danger to be apprehended from any one species of animals except cats; some of the servants of the house having
been terribly scratched by them formerly, and the children bitten by a mad she-cat, who kept the whole family in fear for some time; they are ready to express their abhorrence of the teeth and claws of cats, and to give repeated assurance, as often as they shall be called upon, that they wish to see the whole generation of cats extinct.
It may be objected to this application, that weought to have waited for the concurrence of the servants who are our superiors in the house. To which we answer; that the grievance of being obliged to eat a way through the door, and subjected to the reproach of so doing, is no grievance of theirs, but peculiar to ourselves in our present unhappy condition. And we think proper to declare, that we have actually held no consultation with our friends in the qut-houses; that we have not the least connection with them, and that we have no hope of assistance from any other class of discontented petitioners - That nothing has moved us to appear in this cause but a sense of duty, a love of liberty, and a strict regard to the honour of the family; in which we hope to remain with indulgence and reputation, till our own private sentiments shall get the better of all human prejudices, and our spirit and manners become universal.
RATCHESTER, Nov, 27, 1771.
LEARNING OF THE BEASTS.
A F A B L E.
FOR THE YEAR 1795.
The Lion, as king of the forest, issued a proclamation, requiring beasts of every kind to assemble on a certain day, and give him an account of their several opinions and discoveries : “ For," said he, “I wish to know better than my ancestors seem to have done, the temper of my subjects and the degree of proficiency to which the capacity of beasts will carry them. That some may not be afraid of others, I shall issue a noli prosequi to all beasts of prey; and I promise a safe conduct to all such as are defenceless, that they may be under no fear of attending the assembly. All creatures will be required to speak their minds without reserve, for no advantage will be taken of what they shall think proper to say. And it is expected that every tribe will depute some individual that will speak with ability, and is the best informed of his kind.”
On the day appointed the assembly met, and were disposed into a circle by the Jackall. The Tyger began :
“ An't please your Majesty, I hold my rank as a beast of prey, and I perceive that the state of nature is