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


Daniel P. Thompson

"'Tis a rough land of rock, and stone, and tree,
Where breathes no castled lord nor cabined slave;
Where thoughts, and hands, and tongues are free,
And friends will find a welcome—foes a grave."

It was a pleasant morning in the month of May, when our hero shouldered his well-stored knapsack, and, with the blessings of his father and mother on his head, and their meagre outfit in his pocket, went forth into the wide world to seek his fortune wherever he might find it.

Such was the obscure and lowly beginning of the renowned hero of Mugwump!—Such the inauspicious and rayless rising of that masonic star which was destined soon to mount the mystic zenith, and irradiate the whole canopy of America with its peerless effulgence! But not wishing to anticipate his subsequent distinction, or waste words in bestowing that panegyric which a bare recital of his deeds cannot but sufficiently proclaim, I shall endeavor to follow my hero through the bright mazes of his eventful career, giving an unvarnished narration of his exploits, and leaving them to speak their own praise and receive from an unbiassed posterity, if not from this perverse and unmasonic generation, the meed of unperishable honor.

Steering his course westward, Timothy arrived at the end of his first day's walk at a little village within the borders of Massachusetts. Here he put up at a respectable looking tavern for the night. After a good substantial supper had somewhat settled the inquietudes of the inner man, he began to cast about him for companionship; and hearing those who came in address the landlord by the various titles of 'Squire, Colonel, &c., and concluding therefore that the man must be the principal personage of the village, he determined to have some conversation with him, and this for two reasons,—first, because he wished to make enquiries respecting the road to the State of New York, to which it had been settled he should proceed as a place well suited to give full scope to his splendid talents, and, secondly, because he thought it doing the landlord injustice to suffer him to remain any longer in ignorance of the great Genius with whose presence his house was now honored. He therefore opened the conversation in a manner which he deemed suitable to the occasion.—

"Landlord," said he, "comprehending you to be a man of superlative exactitude, I take the present opportunity for making a few nocturnal enquiries."

`Oh, yes; yes, Sir,' replied the landlord, with a bow at every repetition; `yes, Sir, I thank you,—may ben't, however, I don't exactly understand your tarms; but I'll answer your enquiries in the shake of a sheep's-tail.'

"I am now," rejoined the former, "meandering my longitude to the great State of New-York, where I contemplate the lucid occupation of juvenile instruction, or some other political aggrandizement, and I would more explicitly direct my enquiries respecting the best road to that sequestered dominion."

`Oh, yes, yes Sir, I thank you,' said the other— speaking of political matters—I have had some experience in that line, and about the road too; why, let me see—it is just four year agone coming June, since I went representative to the General Court in Boston.—They would make me go to the Legislature, you see.—Well, my speech on the Road Bill of that session as to the best rout to New-York; but may ben't you havn't read my speech.—Well, no matter.—But, my friend, don't you miss it to go to New-York? Now I'll tell you jest what I would do: I would go right to Old Varmount at once.—They are all desput ignerant folks there.—They must want a man of your larnen shockingly I guess.—Now spose you jest think on't a little.'

"Should you advise me then," observed Timothy, happy in perceiving his talents were beginning to be appreciated by the landlord, "should you advise me to concentrate to that dispensation?"

`Go there, do you mean?' replied the polished ex-representative— `why, to be sure I should.—These poor out-of-the-world people must be dreadfully sunk. You wouldn't find any body there that could hold a candle to you: and besides teaching, which you are a person I conclude every way fitting for it, I shouldn't wonder if you got to be governer in two year.'

Much did Timothy, on retiring to rest, revolve in mind the advice of the sage landlord. He could not but admit that the argument for going to Vermont was a very forcible one, and coming as it did from so candid a man, and one who had been a representative to the legislature, it seemed entitled to great weight;—so after mature deliberation, he concluded to follow the 'Squire's enlightened suggestions—go to Vermont, become a chief teacher of the poor barbarians of that wild country, till such time as they should make him their governor.

The next morning Timothy rose early, and under the fresh impulse of his late resolution, eagerly resumed his journey.

Nothing worthy particular notice occurred to our hero during the three next succeeding days of his pilgrimage for fame and fortune. Untroubled by any of those doubts and fears of the future which so often prove troublesome attendants to minds of a different mould, he pressed on in the happy consciousness that merit like his must soon reap its adequate reward. Emoluments and civil distinctions would await him as matters of course, but an object of a higher character more deeply engrossed his mind, and formed the grateful theme of his loftiest aspirations. This was the sublime mysteries of Masonry; and to the attainment of its glorious laurels he looked forward with a sort of prophetic rapture as a distinction which was to cap the climax of his renown and greatness.

With such bright anticipations of the future beguiling many a lonely hour, and shortening many a weary mile, he arrived at the eastern bank of the beautiful Connecticut— that river of which the now almost forgotten Barlow sings or says with as much truth as felicity of expression— "No watery gleams through happier vallies shine, Nor drinks the sea a lovelier wave than thine." Fearlessly passing this Rubicon, for such it was to one of his preconceived notions of the country beyond, supposing, as he did, its eastern borders to be the very Ultima Thule of civilization, Timothy found himself, as a certain literary dandy, who is now receiving " Impressions" among the naked Venuses of Italy, has been pleased to express it, "out of the world and in Vermont."

Vermont! Ah, Vermont! calumniator of the heavenborn Handmaid! How the mind of every true brother sickens at thy degenerate name!—How deeply deplores thy fallen condition!—How regrets and pities thy blindness to that light which, but for thy perverseness, might still have gloriously illuminated thy mountains, and soon have shone the ascendant in all thy political gatherings, thy halls of legislation and thy courts of justice—overpowering in each the feebler rays of uninitiated wisdom, and filling them with the splendors of mystic knowledge! What unholy frenzy could have seized thy irreverent sons thus to lay their Gothlike hands on the sacred pillars of that consecrated fabric, in which we behold accomplished the magnificent object for which the less favored projectors of ancient Babel labored in vain,—the construction of a tower reaching from earth to heaven, by which the faithful, according to the assurance of their wise ones, "Hope with good conscience to heaven to climb, And give Peter the grip, the pass-word and sign!" What high-handed presumption, thus to assail that institution which, as its own historians, as learned as the Thebans and as infallible as the Pope, have repeatedly informed us, commenced in Eden, (whether before or after the gentleman with the blemished foot made his appearance in the garden, they have not mentioned,) and which has since continued, from age to age, advancing in greatness and glory, till it has at length arrived at the astonishing excellence of nineteen degrees above perfection! What blind infatuation and unappreciating stupidity, thus to pursue with obloquy and proscription that heaven-gifted fraternity, who are, we are again informed, so immeasurably exalted above the grovelling mass of the uninitiated, that,

"As men from brutes, distinguished are, A Mason other men excels!"

No wonder this daughter of heaven is indignant at thy ungrateful rebellion to her celestial rule! No wonder her Royal Arch sons of light mourn in sackcloth and ashes over thy disgrace! No wonder her yet loyal and chivalrous Templars are so anxious to see thy "lost character redeemed!"

But from this vain lament over a country once honored and blest—by that glorious Light she has since so blindly strove to extinguish—over a country once happy and unsuspected in her fealty to those who, like the sun-descended Incas, are thus endowed with the peculiar right to govern the undistinguished multitude—over a land thus favored, but now, alas! forever fallen, and become a by-word and reproach among her sister states—let us return to those halcyon days of her obedience in which transpired those brilliant adventures which it has become our pleasing task to delineate.

After crossing the river, our hero entered a thriving village situated around those picturesque falls where this magnificent stream, meeting a rocky barrier, and, as if maddened at the unexpected interruption after so long a course of tranquil meanderings, suddenly throws itself, with collected strength, headlong down through the steep and yawning chasm beneath, with the delirious desperation of some giant maniac hurling himself from a precipice.

After a brief stay at this place, which, to his surprise, wore the marks of considerable civilization, and which he concluded therefore must be the strong out-post of the frontier, and the largest town of the Green-Mountain settlement, he pushed boldly into the interior. Taking a road leading north-westerly, with a view of passing through the mountains into some of the western counties of the state, which he had been told comprised the best part of Vermont, he travelled on several hours with increasing wonder in finding the country cultivated like other places he had been accustomed to see—the farm-houses comfortable, and not made of logs; and the inhabitants much like other people in appearance. In pondering on these, to him unaccountable circumstances, as he diligently pursued his way through a variety of scenery which was continually arresting his attention, he wholly forgot to acquaint himself with the relative distances of the houses of public entertainment on the road. At length, however, the setting sun, slowly sinking behind the long range of Green-Mountains, which now, with broad empurpled sides, lay looming in the distance, reminded him of his inadvertence, and warned him that he must speedily seek out a lodging for the night. But now no inn, or, indeed, any other habitation was in sight; and to add to his perplexity the road became more woody, and he was now evidently approaching a wilder part of the country. Undismayed, however, he pressed onward with a quickened pace, and after travelling some distance he came to a small farm-house. Determined to make application for a night's lodging at this cottage, as it was now nearly dark, he approached it and rapped for admittance. The rap was instantly answered from within, and at the same time a host of white-headed urchins crowded to the door, headed by the house-cur, yelping at the very top of his cracked voice. Presently, however, the owner of this goodly brood made his appearance, loudly vociferating, "Fraction! get out, get out, you saucy scamp! you have no more manners than a sophomore in vacation.—Number One, take a stick and baste the dog to his heart's content; and you, Number Two, Three, and the rest of ye, to your seats in a moment!" After thus stilling the commotion around him, the farmer cordially invited Timothy into the house, where the latter was soon made welcome for the night to such fare as the house afforded. As soon as the common-place remarks usual on such occasions were a little over, our hero, whose curiosity was considerably excited by the specimen of Green-Mountain manners which this family presented, began to make his observations with more minuteness; and taking what he here saw, as many other learned travellers in a strange country have done, for a fair sample of the rest of the inhabitants, he could not but marvel much on the singularity of this people. Every thing about the house exhibited a strange mingling of poverty, and what he had been taught to believe could only be the results of some degree of affluence. The family appeared to be in possession of the substantials of living in abundance, and yet rough benches were about their only substitute for chairs: Indeed, the usual conveniences of furniture were almost wholly wanting.— Again, there were two or three kinds of newspapers in the room, one of which two of the boys, each as ragged as a young Lazarus, were reading together by fire-light, with one hand holding up the tattered nether garments, and the other grasping a side of the sheet whose contents they seemed to devour with the eagerness of a young candidate for Congress on the eve of an election, occasionally making their sage comments, till one, coming to some partisan prediction or political philippic with which the newspapers at that period were teeming, suddenly let go the paper and exclaimed, "Hurra for Madison and the Democrats! Dad, we shall have a war, and I'll go and fight the British!"—while, "so will I!" "and I too!" responded several of the younger boys, starting up, and brandishing their sturdy little fists. While these tiny politicians were thus settling the destinies of the nation, an embryo Congress-member, the oldest boy, or Number One, (as his father called him) a lad of about fifteen, lay quietly on his back, with his head to the fire, studying a Greek Grammar, and furnishing himself with light by once in a while throwing on a pine knot, a pile of which he had collected and laid by his side for the purpose. These circumstances, particularly the latter, filled our hero with surprise, and he asked the farmer how he `contrivified,' in a place with no more `alliances for edifercation,' to bring his boys to such a `length of perfecticability' as to be studying Greek? To this the man replied, that they had a school in every neighborhood that furnished as many, and indeed more advantages than common scholars would improve; and he did not suppose boys in any country, whatever might be said of its advantages, could be very well taught much faster than they could learn. As to his own boys, he did not consider the smaller ones any great shakes at learning; but with regard to Number One, it came so natural for him to learn, that he did not believe the boy could help it. A college school-master, he said, teaching in their school the year before, had put the child agoing in the dead lingos and lent him some books;—since which, by digging along by himself nights, rainy days, and so on, and reciting to the minister, he had got so far that he thought of going to college another year, which he was welcome to do, if he could `hoe his own row.'

Timothy then asked him the reason of his `designifying' his children by such odd `appliances.' To this question, also, the farmer (who was one of those compounds of oddity and shrewdness who have enough of the latter quality to be able to give a good reason for the same) had his ready answer, which he gave by saying, that he never gave names to any of his children, for he thought that his method of numbering them as they came, and so calling them by their respective numbers, altogether preferable to giving them the modern fashionable double or treble names; because it furnished brief and handy names by which to call his children, and possessed the additional advantage of giving every body to understand their comparative ages, which names could never do; besides, there could be no danger of exhausting the numeral appellatives, which the other course, in this respect, was not without risk in the Green-Mountains; though as to himself, he said he did not know that he ought to feel under any great apprehensions of running out the stock of names, as he had as yet but seventeen children, though to be sure he had not been married only about fifteen years.

Our hero now retired to rest for the night, and, after a sound sleep, rose the next morning to resume his journey, when to his great joy a waggoner came along and kindly gave him a passage over the mountains, landing him at night at an inn in the open country several miles to the west of them.


[1] The expression of Hon. Ezra Meech, a Knight Templar Mason, in a letter written by him to certain gentlemen in Windsor County, after his nomination by the Jackson and National Republican parties, as a candidate for Governor, in opposition to the Anti-Masons.

[2] Allusion is doubtless here made to the starting career of a distinguished member of Congress from Vermont, now deceased, who is said to have commenced his classical studies under the auspices, and in the manner here described.—Editor.

[3] The following anecdote probably refers to some of the neighbors of the above mentioned individual. A boy being asked his name, replied that he had none. The reason being asked, he said his father was so poor he could not afford him one.—Ed.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014