Wlliam Gilmore Simms
As Good as a Comedy and Paddy McGann >> As Good as a Comedy, or The Tennesseean's Story >> Proem

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Proem

Novella | U of South Carolina P | 1972
Transcription PROEM7
masters, teaching the same eternal notion of the saintly mission of
the Puritans, and the perfect virtues of their descendants? The
genius of that State was certainly born a pedagogue, with birch in
one hand and horn-book in the other! There was a machinist from
Maine, a queer, quaint, shrewd, knowing, self-taught Yankee, who
had lost half his fingers in experimenting with his own machines, and
who was brim-full of a new discovery which is to secure us that
"philosopher's stone" of the nineteenth century perpetual motion!
The principle of our machinist seemed to lie in the amiable good-
nature with which certain balls, precipitating themselves upon certain
levers, would thus continue a series of ground and lofty tumblings
which should keep the great globe itself in motion without other
motive agencies. Our New Yorker was an editor, bound first for
New Orleans, and then for Ashland, where he proposed to visit the
god of his political idolatry. We had a Pennsylvanian, who seemed
to feel as if all the shame of State repudiation lay on his own
particular shoulders; and a Mississippian, who appeared to deplore
nothing so much as that he could not claim more than the merit of a
single vote in the glorious business of defying the foreign creditor of
the Union Bank. The encounter between these two parties the
humbled and desponding tone of the one, contrasted with the exulting
and triumphant convictions of successful right in the other furnished
a picture of opposites that was perfectly delightful. The leading idea
which troubled our Virginian was, that Tyler was to be the last of
the Presidents which his State would furnish to the Union; while
the South Carolinian, with whom he seemed intimate, consoled him
with the assurance that his regrets were idle, as the Union would
not much longer need a President. He indulged in the favorite idea
that a dissolution was at hand. "The Union," said he, "answered
the purposes of the time. It has survived its uses." Our Georgian,
on the contrary, was for the extension of the confederacy by the
incorporation of as many new States south of us as we could persuade
into the fold. He was even then upon his way to Texas, provided
with his rifle only, in order to be in the way to help in the matter of
annexation. Then we had a North Carolinian, a lank-sided fellow
from Tar River, who slept nearly all the way, spite of toss and
tumble, talked only (and constantly) in his sleep, and then chiefly