Shell fish of Symzonia

I was allowed free access to the records of the Assembly: and, having
made such proficiency in the Symzonian language as to read it with
facility, I derived much amusement and instruction from the various
recommendations for admittance to the distinguished orders which had
been stated to the Grand Council and placed on record during a long
course of ages. These records were much too voluminous to admit of
my reading them in course. I therefore contented myself with opening
them at hazard, and reading whatever chanced to present itself.
One man was proposed to be admitted to the order of Worthies by the
title “Wise,” because he had given evidence of superior imagination
and ingenuity; he having fancied that he had discovered by studying
the laws of matter and motion, that the Internals were inhabitants
of the concave side of a hollow sphere; and, reasoning from analogy,
that the convex or outer side of that sphere must be inhabited by a
people enjoying a wider range of action, and more extended views of
objects floating in unlimited space: that the suns, moons and stars,
which they saw imperfectly by refraction and reflection, were only
visible through a dense atmosphere in their world, but must of
necessity be directly visible to the inhabitants of the External
World in all their effulgence. He had written a book to explain his
ingenious theory of an External World, in which he had endeavoured
to show by various calculations, that his extravagant hypothesis was
not absolutely beyond the limit of possibility.
This man was not proposed as one designated by the popular voice, but
was named by a certain Wise man as one of retired habits and uncommon
genius. The council unanimously rejected the application, and passed a
vote of censure on him for troubling them with the dreams of a maniac
or an enthusiast. The members of the council were generally of opinion
that to suppose the outside of such a world to be inhabited was as
absurd as to suppose men to dwell on the outside of their houses.
Another man was proposed as Wise, for devising a scheme to relieve
the government from the trouble of superintending the distribution
of things useful, in order to preserve equality in the comforts of
the people throughout the land; and from constant attention to the
emission and withdrawal of tokens, to maintain their regular value,
and insure their proper effect. His plan was to substitute in place
of the tokens a system of promissory obligations, to be issued by
an association of individuals who should be always bound to redeem
them. This plan, he contended, would greatly facilitate exchanges,
and contribute to the convenience of government.
His scheme was promptly condemned, as a device to cheat the people, by
causing perpetual fluctuations in the nominal price of things; and he
was recorded as a designing man, unfit to be of the order of Worthies.
Another was proposed for admission as Wise, for composing a code of
written laws, and writing a book to prove that the adoption of his
project of numerous and particular laws in writing would conduce to
the welfare of society, by enabling every one to know, with technical
precision, what he might and what he might not do.


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This man’s scheme, and the proposition founded upon it were both
rejected. The council said, that as to all the matters embraced in
this proposed system, public opinion, the established principles and
habits of the people, the prevalent sense of rectitude and benevolence,
had been and still was sufficient. Laws, if in accordance with these
principles, could add nothing to their efficacy; and if inconsistent
with them, they could not be enforced. The whole subject was at present
plain; technical phrases would but darken and perplex it. Language
was imperfect; words had different meanings; those who violated the
spirit of these laws would contrive to evade the letter; the people
would disagree in their judgments; the influence of public opinion
would be destroyed; bad passions would be generated; more laws would
be required; contest, disorder, and innumerable evils would be the
consequence. The education and discipline to which the people were
accustomed, the examples of the Good, the dictates of enlightened
consciences, the sense of accountability to God, the simplicity,
temperance, and practical piety of the people,–these formed the basis
of good conduct, and upon these dependance might be safely placed.
The most frequent grounds of recommendation for the distinguished
orders were regular and useful industry, temperate and exemplary lives,
and constant endeavours to improve themselves and others.
Many were admitted for discoveries in botany, whereby the people
were enabled to derive increased enjoyment from the vegetable world;
many also became Worthies by advancing the knowledge of entomology,
and finding how to guard against the ravages of insects, and how to
turn the efforts of the myriads of almost invisible beings to harmless
or useful ends.
I observed nothing of the nature of animals in use amongst this people
as food, except oysters and other testaceous creatures, which have
so little visible animation as to be considered by the Symzonians
on an equality with vegetables, and to be provided like them for
the nourishment of a higher order of life. They were probably led to
this conclusion, by the vast profusion of shell-fish which abound in
their waters. They are caught in astonishing quantities. The shells
are employed in building, and to promote vegetation.
The pearls, which they afford in great abundance, and of large size,
are used to glaze the walls of their apartments, being dissolved in
a liquid, and laid on like paint. This process gives a smooth and
elegant surface, like the inside of the pearl oyster-shell, which is
inexpressibly delicate and agreeable in the soft light of this country,
and at the same time renders the walls more durable.
I visited a maker of this pearl wash. My cupidity, I must confess,
was greatly excited by the sight of large heaps of pearls, which
would be of incalculable value in the external world. Even in the
atmosphere of this pure region, I could not prevent my imagination
from figuring the splendid palace, dashing equipage, and choice wines
I should enjoy, and the unbounded respect and obsequious attention
which would be paid to me by the great men of Gotham, on my return
there with the enormous wealth which a cargo of these pearls would
produce. I asked the workman for a specimen of the pearls, and he gave
me a handful that were as large as peas, which I put in my pocket,
intending to show them to the Best Man, as a sample of the article
with which I should be glad to load my ship.