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a fine large engraving is laid flat on the floor, smaller prints are piled upon it, and the superincumbent weight cracks the glasses of the lower tier: but this is of no consequence. A valuable picture is placed leaning against the sharp corner of a table, others are made to lean against that, until the pressure of the whole forces the corner of the table through the canvass of the first. The frame and glass of a fine print are to be cleaned; the spirit and oil used on this occasion are suffered to leak through and spoil the engraving; no matter, if the glass is clean and the frame shine, it is sufficient; the rest is not worthy of consideration. An able arithmetician has made an accurate calculation, founded on long experience, and has discovered that the losses and destructions incident to two whitewashings are equal to one removal, and three removals equal to one fire.
The cleaning frolic over, matters begin to resume their pristine appearance. The storm abates, and all would be well again; but it is impossible that so great a convulsion in so small a community should not produce some farther effects. For two or three weeks after the operation, the family are usually afflicted with sore throats or sore eyes, occasioned by the caustic quality of the lime, or with severe colds from the exhalations of wet floors or damp walls.
I know a gentleman who was fond of accounting for everything in a philosophical way. He considers this, which I have called a custom, as a real periodical disease, peculiar to the climate. train of reasoning is ingenious and whimsical, but I am not at leisure to give you a detail. The re sult was, that he found the distemper to be incurable; but, after much study, he conceived he had discovered a method to divert the evil he could not subdue. For this purpose he caused a small building, about twelve feet square, to be erected in his
garden, and furnished with some ordinary chairs and tables, and a few prints of the cheapest sort were hung against the walls. His hope was, that when the whitewashing phrensy seized the females of his family, they might repair to this apartment, and scrub, and smear, and scour to their heart's content, and so spend the violence of the disease in this outpost, while he enjoyed himself in quiet at headquarters. But the experiment did not answer his expectation; it was impossible it should, since a principal part of the gratification consists in the lady's having an uncontrolled right to torment her husband at least once a year, and to turn him out of doors, and take the reins of government into her own hands.
There is a much better contrivance than this of the philosopher, which is, to cover the walls of the house with paper; this is generally done, and though it cannot abolish, it at least shortens the period of female dominion. The paper is decorated with flowers of various fancies, and made so ornamental, that the women have admitted the fashion without perceiving the design.
There is also another alleviation of the husband's distress; he generally has the privilege of a small room or closet for his books and papers, the key of which he is allowed to keep. This is considered as a privileged place, and stands like the land of Goshen amid the plagues of Egypt. But then he must be extremely cautious, and ever on his guard. For should he inadvertently go abroad and leave the key in his door, the housemaid, who is always on the watch for such an opportunity, immediately enters in triumph with buckets, brooms, and brushes; takes possession of the premises, and forthwith puts all his books and papers to rights, to his utter confusion and sometimes serious detriment. For instance:
A gentleman was sued by the executors of a
tradesman, on a charge found against him in the deceased's books to the amount of £30. The defendant was strongly impressed with an idea that he had discharged the debt and taken a receipt ; but, as the transaction was of long standing, he knew not where to find the receipt. The suit went on in course, and the time approached when judgment would be obtained against him. He then sat seriously down to examine a large bundle of old papers, which he had untied and displayed on a table for that purpose. In the midst of his search he was suddenly called away on business of importance; he forgot to lock the door of his room. The housemaid, who had been long looking out for such an opportunity, immediately entered with the usual implements, and with great alacrity fell to cleaning the room and putting things to rights. The first object that struck her eye was the confused situation of the papers on the table; these were, without delay, bundled together like so many dirty knives and forks; but, in the action, a small piece of paper fell unnoticed on the floor, which happened to be the very receipt in question: as it had no very respectable appearance it was soon after swept out with the common dirt of the room, and carried in a rubbish-pan into the yard. The tradesman had neglected to enter the credit in his book; the defendant could find nothing to obviate the charge, and so judgment went against him for the debt and costs. A fortnight after the whole was settled and the money paid, one of the children found the receipt among the rubbish in the yard.
There is also another custom peculiar to the city of Philadelphia, and nearly allied to the former. I mean that of washing the pavement before the doors every Saturday evening. I at first took this to be a regulation of the police, but, on a farther inquiry, find it is a religious rite preparatory to the Sabbath, and is, I believe, the only religious rite
in which the numerous sectaries of this city perfectly agree. The ceremony begins about sunset, and continues till about ten or eleven at night. It is very difficult for a stranger to walk the streets on those evenings; he runs a continual risk of having a bucket of dirty water thrown against his legs; but a Philadelphian born is so much accustomed to the danger that he avoids it with surprising dexterity. It is from this circumstance that a Philadelphian may be known anywhere by his gait. The streets of New-York are paved with rough stones; these, indeed, are not washed, but the dirt is so thoroughly swept from before the doors that the stones stand up sharp and prominent, to the great inconvenience of those who are not accustomed to so rough a path. But habit reconciles everything. It is diverting enough to see a Philadelphian at New-York; he walks the streets with as much painful caution as if his toes were covered with corns, or his feet lamed with the gout: while a NewYorker, as little approving the plain masonry of Philadelphia, shuffles along the pavement like a parrot on a mahogany table.
It must be acknowledged that the ablutions I have mentioned are attended with no small inconvenience; but the women would not be induced, from any consideration, to resign their privilege. Notwithstanding this, I can give you the strongest assurances that the women of America make the most faithful wives and the most attentive mothers in the world; and I am sure you will join me in opinion, that if a married man is made miserable only one week in a whole year, he will have no great cause to complain of the matrimonial bond. I am, &c.
ON THE CRIMINAL LAWS AND THE PRACTICE OF PRIVATEERING.
Letter to Benjamin Vaughan, Esq.
MY DEAR FRIEND
March 14, 1785.
AMONG the pamphlets you lately sent me was one entitled Thoughts on Executive Justice. In return for that, I send you a French one on the same subject, Observations concernant l'Exécution de l'Article II. de la Déclaration sur le Vol. They are both addressed to the judges, but written, as you will see, in a very different spirit. The English author is for hanging all thieves. The Frenchman is for proportioning punishments to offences.
If we really believe, as we profess to believe, that the law of Moses was the law of God, the dictate of Divine wisdom, infinitely superior to human, on what principle do we ordain death as the punishment of an offence which, according to that law, was only to be punished by a restitution of fourfold? To put a man to death for an offence which does not deserve death, is it not a murder? And as the French writer says, Doit-on punir un délit contre la société par un crime contre la nature ?*
Superfluous property is the creature of society. Simple and mild laws were sufficient to guard the property that was merely necessary. The savage's bow, his hatchet, and his coat of skins, were sufficiently secured, without law, by the fear of personal resentment and retaliation. When, by vir
* Ought we to punish a crime against society by a crime against nature?