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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated


Daniel P. Thompson

Fer opem, Lucina.

The 17th of April, 1790, was the day made memorable in the annals of American Masonry, by the birth of our hero, Timothy Peacock. The seal of future greatness having been stamped by destiny on the brow of the infantile Timothy, it is no marvel, therefore, that many incidents of a peculiarly singular and ominous character marked his birth and childhood. The day on which he was born, being the very day that terminated the earthly career of the illustrious Franklin, was of itself a circumstance worthy of particular notice; and it operated with much force on the astute mind of his doating father, who, being a firm believer in the doctrine of transmigration of souls, had a deep impression that the spirit of the departed philosopher had taken up its residence in his infant son. Again, a very remarkable potato had grown in Mr. Peacock's garden the previous season. This singular vegetable, which had grown in the form of an accute triangle, or a pair of open dividers, had been hung up in the cellar the fall before, as nothing more than a mere natural curiosity; but the moment Mr. Peacock cast his eyes upon it, a few days after the birth of Timothy, he instantly became sensible that things of far deeper import were involved in the formation of this mysterious production; and the truth, with intuitive rapidity, at once flashed across his mind: It was the well-known masonic emblem, the compass, and an undoubted omen that his house was about to be honored with a human production that was to become distinguished in the mysteries of that art thus strikingly designated. But these conclusions of Mr. Peacock, as well warranted as they were by that remarkable omen, were confirmed by a fact that he conceived could admit of no cavil or speculation. The child came into the world with the mark of a grid-iron clearly and palpably impressed, and that too, on those very parts which he knew, from experience, masonry particularly delighted to honor. I am aware that there are many among the would-be medico-philosophers of the present day, who would perhaps attribute the existence of this striking mark upon the infant, to the imagination of the mother, whose kind assiduities, as I have before intimated, had been put in requisition a few months before, on the occasion of her husband's initiation into the secrets of Masonsonry; but in reply to such conceited opinionists, I need only observe, that facts can never be outweighed by visionary speculations; and it was upon facts such as I have related, that Mr. Peacock founded his prophetic belief that his son was destined to future excellence, and that this excellence was to be more especially conspicuous in the path of masonic honors. Nor were the signs of future intellect at all wanting still further to confirm and justify his parents in the opinion they had formed of his brilliant destiny. Such indeed was the child's mental precocity, that new fears began to take possession of Mrs. Peacock, lest his extraordinary forwardness might be the forerunner of premature decay. But happily for the interests of Masonry, these maternal fears were never realized. The boy grew apace in body and mind. Before he was eight years old, he had nearly mastered all the intricacies of the English alphabet; and such was his progress in natural history, as illustrated in his horn book, that before he was ten he could readily tell the picture of a hog from that of a horse without any prompting or assistance whatever. Such wonders indeed may have since been witnessed under the system of infant schools lately brought into vogue, but it must be recollected that our hero at that day was deprived of the advantages of that incomparable method of hot-bed instruction. Mrs. Peacock, when viewing this unparalelled improvement of her darling son, would often heave a sigh of regret that she was doomed to bring up a child of such promise in this publican land, as she termed it, where he could never become a lord or a lord's gentleman, or wear any of those great titles to which his abilities would doubtless raise him in England. But Mr. Peacock was wont to soothe her grief on these occasions by suggesting that Timothy might, and unquestionably would, become a great Mason, and thus acquire all the grand titles of this order, which was no doubt introduced into this country as the only way of conferring titles and distinctions in this land of ragamuffinous dimecrats.

It was reflections like these, probably, that operated on Mr. Peacock about this time, and rendered him unusually anxious to advance still further himself in the higher degrees of Masonry, in which, as yet, he had made no other progress than that which we have already described in the preceding chapter. Botherworth had been applied to for this purpose, but that gentleman informed Mr. Peacock that he had already imparted all that was useful or instructive in all the degrees which he himself had taken, and that whoever wished for any more of the mystery, must obtain it from a regular lodge in which it could alone be conferred. Mr. Peacock accordingly made application to sundry Masons to obtain their intercession with the lodge in his behalf, but these applications, though backed by a frequent use of those signs and tokens which Botherworth had told him were so omnipotent, were never heeded, and all his attempts therefore to gratify his ambition in this line of preferment were entirely fruitless. This was a source of great mortification as well as of much perplexity to Mr. Peacock, who could by no means satisfactorily account in his own mind for these unexpected failures after having made so much progress in the art. He sometimes began to entertain serious doubts whether he had been properly initiated, and whether his masonry was of the legitimate kind. And in this, perhaps, he may be joined by some of my masonic readers. I cannot think, however, that these scruples of Mr. Peacock were well-grounded: At least, I do not consider that he had reason to complain of any injustice done him by the Worshipful Master, who initiated him, in withholding any useful masonic knowledge; for if he did not impart all those secrets, or perform in strictness all the ceremonies usual on such occasions, he substituted as many others as were a fair equivalent, and those too of a character which would not derogate from the decency or dignity of a legitimate initiation. But to return from this digression: Mr. Peacock finally gave up his doubts respecting the genuineness of his masonry, and attributed his want of success to the circumstance of his being a foreigner, which he supposed was sufficient to awaken the envy and provoke the hostility of even the fraternity in this land of titulary barrenness. This, however, was a disability to which his son would not be subject, and he concluded therefore to centre his hopes on Timothy for distinguishing his family by the reflected honors of that illustrious order. Accordingly he early endeavored to impress his young mind with reverence to the institution, and for that purpose had a little apron made for the boy, beautifully over-wrought with masonic emblems. His dog was named Jubelo, his cat Jubela, and his pet-lamb Jubelum. And thus, by keeping these rudiments of mystic knowledge continually before his youthful mind, those impressions were doubtless implanted, to which may be attributed the subsequent direction of mental energies that raised our hero to such a pinnacle of glory on the ladder of Jacob.

But as it may not be interesting to the reader to follow my hero through a minute detail of his various improvements to the completion of his education, I shall pass lightly over this period of his life, and content myself with observing that his progress in science, literature, and all the various branches of knowledge which he attempted, fully made good the promise of his childhood at the age when, as before mentioned, he accomplished his abecedarian triumph. It may be proper, however, here to notice one prevailing taste which he early manifested in the course of his education: This was a strong predilection for the study and exercise of the art of oratory, and that part of it more especially which, seeking the most dignified and sonorous expressions, constitutes what is called the Ciceronian flow. So high, indeed, was the standard of his taste in this particular, that he rarely condescended, when he attempted any thing like a display of his powers, to use any words, (except the necessary adjuncts and connectives) short of polysyllables.—And these, with the intuitive quickness of genius, he at once seized upon and appropriated to his use, selecting them from the great mass of those undignified cumberers of our language, monosyllables, by the same rule by which the acute farmer, in purchasing his scythe or his cauldron, or by which, in selecting his seed potatoes from his ample bin, he is accustomed to make choice of the largest and the longest. It was this trait, probably, in the intellectual character of our hero—this gift, so peculiarly adapted to give expression to the lofty dictums of masonic philosophy, that contributed mainly in rearing him to that eminence among the fraternity for which he was afterwards so conspicuous.

But these juvenile years flew rapidly away, and time rolling on, and bringing about many other events of moment to the world, brought also our hero to the age of twenty-one,— that important period which so often gives a turn to our destinics for life. It did so to Timothy. Mr. Peacock, who had long deliberated on the course of life most advantageous for his son to pursue, at last concluded, as he had no employment suitable for one of his genius at home, to send him abroad to seek his fortune. And although he could furnish but a small allowance of the needful for such an enterprize, his means having been sadly impaired of late years, not only in the education of Timothy, who had been sent one quarter to a neighboring academy by way of adding the finishing polish to his acquirements, but by the heavy drafts of Mrs. Peacock on the bar-box of the Doggery for the support of her show of the family dignity, yet he had little doubt but Timothy's talents and education would command for him both emolument and honor. This course having been once settled and confirmed by all parties in interest, arrangements were soon completed for his departure. The important day fixed on for this purpose at length arrived; and our hero having buckled on his pack for his pedestrian excursion, went to receive the adieus and blessings of his parents before leaving their kind roof for the broad theatre of the world, when Mr. Peacock, with the characteristic frankness of the high-minded English, thus addressed him:

"As you are now about to go abroad into the world, in the first place, remember, my son, that all men are scoundrels by nature, and especially in this country of dogs and dimecrats. But you have an Englishman's blood beneath your hide, which should make you hold up your head in any country. But blood, I know, won't do every thing for you without tallow; and as I have but little of the solid lucre to give you, why, you must cut and carve out a fortune for yourself. They will tell you that this rippublercan government is the best in the world; but they lie as fast as a dog will trot, except the fast trotting dogs. I see nothing here that compares with England, but masonry, which you must join as soon as you get settled, as I have often told you; then you will have titles that the dimecrats can't get away from you, do what they will. Then go, my son, and become a great man, and do something in the world that will make your ancestors proud of you till the last day of eternity, so mote it be, amen and good by to ye."

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