His great distress

On my arrival in port, I felt the importance which an ample fortune
gives a man in this external world. The arrival of a South Sea ship
from Canton, with a valuable China cargo, was no unusual occurrence,
and excited no extraordinary interest; but it was speedily rumoured
that the Explorer had made a splendid voyage, and that Capt. Seaborn
was as rich as a nabob. Abundant civilities were proffered to me,
and numberless invitations to dinner were politely given.
I had now to select some merchant to assist in disposing of my cargo,
my long absence, and consequent ignorance of dealers, rendering
it imprudent for me to transact my own business; besides which,
I found that, notwithstanding the whole of my merchandise was as
much the product of American industry, as though I and my people had
dug it out of the soil, (for instead of obtaining it with specie, we
had procured it by our own manual labour,) I was required to pay or
secure the enormous sum of one hundred and ninety thousand dollars
duties to government. A strange thing surely, that the same tax
should be levied on the privilege of bringing the fruits of our own
industry into the country, as on cargoes bought with silver dollars,
the carrying away of which impoverishes the nation. This did not seem
altogether right either for individuals or the country; but there
was no use in reasoning about it–it was required by law.
My own bonds for these duties could not be received, because I was
not a permanent resident In this exigency my friend, Mr. Worthy,
occurred to my mind as a very fit man to act as my factor. He was
an old acquaintance, a well informed merchant, and a man of strict
integrity; but, unhappily, at this time, rather low in credit, in
consequence of having lost a great part of his capital by endorsing
for his friends. It was doubtful whether his bonds would be thought
sufficient at the Custom-house, and I was assured that he could
not raise cash enough to answer the heavy demands which would be
immediately made upon me by my crew, and my own expenses. Moreover,
as I was now very rich, and had daughters nearly grown up, it was
proper that I should gain a place in genteel society, whereas my
friend Worthy, being a plain frugal citizen, did not mix with the
haut ton, and could give me no assistance in that particular. All
my friends (and they were now very numerous) protested against so
foolish a step as that of putting all my affairs into his hands,
for the sake of giving an honest man a commission of ten or twelve
thousand dollars, when there were so many great merchants who would
readily manage my concerns for a moderate per centage, and introduce
me to stylish society into the bargain.
I confess that the Symzonian doctrines had left so much impression on
my mind, as to cause me some compunction at the thought of neglecting
an opportunity to render my friend Worthy’s family comfortable, by
giving him my business, instead of bestowing the advantages of it upon
a merchant rolling in wealth, who, after being roundly paid, would
consider me under obligations for his services. My external habits
and sentiments, however, got the better of my sympathies for my old
friend, and, by the advice of my new friends, I addressed myself to
Mr. Slippery.
Mr. Slippery was undoubtedly a great merchant. He lived in a spacious
house in Broadway, rode in a splendid coach, walked like a man of
consequence in Wall-street, was a bank director, and had the handsomest
carpeted compting room in the city, and I know not how many clerks
writing in the next room. I knew him by sight, and did not altogether
like to apply to him, because of his haughty manners. I remembered
that when, some years before, I called at his compting room to offer
myself as a master for one of his ships, he kept me standing half an
hour, with my hat in my hand, before he condescended to notice me,
and was no ways pleased that I took the liberty to draw a chair to
seat myself until he might be at leisure. But he was certainly a
great merchant, and to him I went.
I was delighted on entering his room, to observe a visible improvement
in his deportment and manners. Instead of the distant, haughty
reserve I had expected, he met me halfway, with both hands extended,
and gave me a hearty welcome to my country after so long an absence;
inquired after my wife and children in the most touching manner;
was rejoiced to hear that I had made a great voyage, and should be
extremely happy to render me any service in his power. He finished
his preliminary address with, “I am a great admirer, Captain Seaborn,
of you men of enterprise, who draw riches from the great deep to the
benefit of the revenue, the extension of trade, and all that sort of
thing: you understand me, Sir?”
A hearty invitation to dinner, and a request to be permitted to
introduce me to his friends, followed in a breath. I was charmed with
him, poor fool that I was, little dreaming that it was the prospect
of handling the half million of dollars, which my cargo would produce,
that excited his cupidity.
There was no difficulty in settling terms. Mr. Slippery agreed to take
charge of my business for half a commission, a simple two and an half
per centum. He was aware, he said, that after a long voyage, I must be
disposed to devote my time to my family and my friends, and he would
take all the trouble of business off my hands. I had only to endorse
over my bills of lading, and direct Mr. Boneto to deliver the cargo
to his order; and, as for money, I might draw for what sums I pleased,
taking care, when I should draw for large amounts, to make my bills at
four or six months, as the goods must be sold on credit, and it would
be a long time before he should be in funds from the actual proceeds.
A few months flew on delightfully;–I had no cares, no
perplexities. Mr. Slippery recommended that the goods should be
sold at auction, to make sure of the best of endorsed paper, and I
consented. He paid my officers and men their shares, as I desired;
and although the auction sales did not produce for the goods, clear of
charges, auction expenses, and Mr. Slippery’s commission and guarantee,
the actual cost in Canton, I flattered myself that I should still be
rich enough, and at all events, I could send the Explorer on another
voyage, whenever I should want more wealth. I purchased a handsome
house for thirty thousand dollars, paid fifteen thousand dollars
cash, and gave a mortgage for fifteen thousand; relieved the wants
of all my poor relations; assisted many old acquaintances, who had
been unfortunate; and still felt myself perfectly secure of all the
good things of this world for the remainder of my days.
But, alas! we are short-sighted creatures. I was soon called to lament
the loss of my vessel, the partner of my adventures. Mr. Boneto not
being satisfied with a life of idleness on shore, and having a wish
to visit Europe, I permitted him to take the Explorer, without her
machinery, for a voyage to New-Orleans, and thence to Europe. He took
his money with him to purchase a cargo. On his way, he knocked that
charming vessel to pieces on the Bahama Banks, for want of Blunt’s
chart, improved by recent surveys, to warn him of all the dangers.
This misfortune grieved me not only for my own loss, but for
Boneto’s, who was plundered by the Providence wreckers of every
dollar. Yet it was but the beginning of affliction. A few days after,
I was thunderstruck by a rumour that my friend the great merchant,
Mr. Slippery, had stopped payment. But there was some comfort–I was
assured that it was no failure, nothing but a suspension. For some
time I was kept at bay by promises and plausible statements. The whole
truth, however, burst upon me at the appearance of Mr. Slippery’s name
in the Gazette, as an applicant for the benefit of the insolvent act.
My situation could no longer be concealed even from myself. I was
utterly ruined. Many of my drafts on Mr. Slippery remained unpaid,
and came back upon me. I was sued, and called a rascal for not paying
my debts. No one would believe that the Nabob was actually poor. I
pressed Mr. Slippery for assistance, but got no other comfort than
a cool recommendation to take the benefit of the act, as the most
judicious course I could pursue.
I went to my family in a state bordering upon distraction. The
troubles, mortifications, and miseries which followed, I forbear to
dwell on. I endeavoured to sell my house, but was told that property
had depreciated so much, it was worth no more than the mortgage,
for which the holder kindly took it off my hands. At length I was
constrained to take Mr. Slippery’s advice, and apply for the benefit
of the act abolishing imprisonment for debt.
I was now reduced to great straits, being confined to the Liberties,
as they are called–for the enjoyment of which restrained liberty I
found great difficulty in obtaining sufficient bail, my friends having
entirely disappeared. Fortunately I met with an old school-fellow,
who, on hearing of my distress, proffered his bail, notwithstanding
that the forfeiture of it would utterly ruin him.

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

At this period, when I frequently rose in the morning, without knowing
how I should provide food for my children through the day, I found
it difficult to feel and believe that it was all for the best. With
neither the means of subsistence for my family, nor liberty to go in
pursuit of them, my misfortunes and privations often weighed down
my spirits, and became almost insupportable. When I thought of my
situation, I felt no longer like a man. But the remembrance of the
pious resignation, the humility, the contentment, the peacefulness
and happiness of the Symzonians, recalled me to a conviction of the
truth, that with a temper of calm and cordial submission to the will
of Providence, a man may be happy under any circumstances, but without
it must be wretched.
At this period of pecuniary distress, Will Mackerel accidentally heard
of the misfortunes of his old commander, and hastened to see me. He
could not comprehend why my being possessed of the Liberties should
prevent me from going to sea, to acquire the means of subsistence for
my family. The worthy fellow was wholly incompetent to understand the
policy of depriving a man of liberty, preventing him from supplying
the wants of those dependant on him, and compelling him to cast them
as paupers upon the community, because he had, through misfortune,
lost all his property.
Will had spent most of the money obtained by his voyage with me; but
after hearing my story, and an account of the embarrassments under
which I laboured, he threw every dollar that remained to him upon
the table, and declared he would never touch a shilling of it whilst
his old commander was in distress, but would go to sea to render me
further aid. I accepted this generous bounty with the frankness with
which it was offered, and recorded Will in my heart as a true-hearted
sailor. It was but little that he had left to bestow upon me, but it
preserved me from the extremity of want for some time.
I was cheering myself with the prospect of obtaining my real liberty,
and of persuading some man of capital to equip a suitable vessel
for a second voyage to Seaborn’s land, on terms which would give
me a fair share of the advantages of the undertaking, when I was
informed that Mr. Slippery had neither paid nor provided for the
duties on the Explorer’s cargo; that the bonds which he had given,
owing to the long credits on China goods, were not yet due; and that,
as I was the importer, I was responsible for the whole amount, and
should be required to pay the uttermost farthing, or lie in jail
during the pleasure of government, no insolvent act being considered
of sufficient force to impair that prerogative of government, by which
citizens were deprived of their liberty when misfortune had deprived
them of every thing else.
I had now no chance of freedom left, unless an opportunity should
offer to fly the country before the bonds became due, for even
should government relinquish the duties, the costs of suit, which
amount in most cases to a large proportion of the debt, would not
be relinquished till doomsday. To avail myself, however, of this
only expedient, seemed impracticable. Even the shawls and trinkets
which I had bestowed upon my wife in the days of our prosperity, were
already sold, and the proceeds expended for bread. I was a fortnight
in arrears to my landlady, and had not a friend on earth from whom
I could obtain a dollar. How then could I get away with nothing to
pay my expenses, or those of my wife and children in my absence?
At this moment of difficulty I heard that Captain Riley had obtained
some pecuniary relief, by publishing a book of Travels, containing
accounts not much more marvellous than those which I could relate
of Symzonia. I therefore determined to make a brief extract from
my journal for publication, to raise the wind, reserving most of
the details of minute circumstances for my personal narrative, and
my scientific researches in statistics, geography, botany, ærology,
geology, mineralogy, zoology, ornithology, ichthyology, conchology,
entomology, horticulture, agriculture, &c. &c. &c. to be digested
hereafter under appropriate titles. The authenticity and genuineness of
these researches, since all the autographs and specimens collected to
corroborate them were lost by the bursting open of the ship’s paddle
port, must rest upon the authority of my extracts, translations,
journal, and memory. Should they even be questioned and disputed about
by the Scavans of the external world, the generality of readers will
probably trouble their heads very little on that score.
And now, kind reader, having transcribed thus much of my journal,
in a manner which, I hope, will not be thought derogatory to the
importance and dignity of the subject, I submit it to your inspection,
with an intimation, that I am ready to undertake a second voyage
to Seaborn’s land, or a voyage to Belzubia and the place of exile,
by the northern route, or another visit to Symzonia, and an ærial
excursion thence to the inner spheres, as soon as I am furnished
with the funds necessary to my escape from my present uncomfortable
situation on the Liberties, in the garret of a lofty house, where,
it being about the middle of dog-days, the sun exerts its utmost
power upon the roof, within eighteen inches of my head.