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to use any partiality toward any man or set of men; but whatsover I find nonsensical, ridiculous, or immorally dishonest I have and shall continue openly to attack, with the freedom of an honest man and a lover of my country.
I profess I can hardly contain myself, or preserve the gravity and dignity that should attend the censorial office, when I hear the off-hand and unaccountable expositions that are put upon some of my works through the malicious ignorance of some and the vain pride of more than ordinary penetration in others; one instance of which many of my readers are acquainted with. A certain gentleman has taken a great deal of pains to write a key to the letter in my No. IV. [upon annoyances from children], wherein he has ingeniously converted a gentle satire upon tedious and impertinent visitants into a libel on some of the government. This I mention only as a specimen of the taste of the gentleman I am, forsooth, bound to please in my speculations; not that I suppose my impartiality will ever be called in question on that account. Injustices of this nature I could complain of in many instances; but I am at present diverted by the reception of a letter which, though it regards me only in my private capacity as an adept, yet I venture to publish it for the entertainment of my readers :
“To CENSOR MORUM, Esq., Busy-Body-General of the
Province of Pennsylvania and the Counties of
Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex upon Delaware. “ HONORABLE SIR: I judge by your lubcubrations that you are not only a lover of truth and equity, but a man of parts and learning and a master of science; as such I honor you. Know then, most profound sir, that I have from my youth up been a very indefatigable student in and admirer of that divine science astrology. I have read over Scot, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa about three hundred times, and was in hopes, by my knowledge and industry, to gain enough to have recompensed me for my money ex. pended and time lost in the pursuit of this learning. You cannot be ignorant, sir (for your intimate, secondsighted correspondent knows all things), that there are large sums of money hidden underground in divers places about this town and in many parts of the country; but, alas ! sir, notwithstanding I have used all the means laid down in the immortal authors before mentioned, and when they failed the ingenious Mr. P-d-1, with his mercurial wand and magnet, I have still failed in my purpose. This, therefore, I send, to propose and desire an acquaintance with you; and I do not doubt, notwithstanding my repeated ill-fortune, but we may be exceedingly serviceable to each other in our discoveries, and that if we use our united endeavors the time will come when the Busy-Body, his second-sighted correspondent, and your very humble servant will be three of the richest men in the prov(ince. And then, sir, what may we not do? A word to the wise is sufficient. I conclude, with all demonstrable respect, yours and Urania's votary,
“ TITAN PLEIADES."
In the evening, after I had received this letter, I made a visit to my second-sighted friend and communicated to him the proposal. When he had read it he assured me that, to his certain knowledge, there is not at this time so much as one ounce of silver or gold hid underground in any part of this province; for that the late and present scarcity of money had obliged those who were living, and knew where they had formerly hid any, to take it up and use it in their own necessary affairs; and as to all the rest, which was buried by pirates and others in old times who were never likely to come for it, he himself had dug it all up and applied it to charitable uses; and this he desired me to publish for the general good. For, as he acquainted me, there are among us great numbers of honest artificers and laboring people, who, fed with a vain hope of growing suddenly rich, neglect their business, almost to the ruining of themselves and families, and voluntarily endure abundance of fatigue in a fruitless search after imaginary hidden treasure. They wander through the woods and bushes by day to discover the marks and signs; at midnight they repair to the hopeful spots with spades and pickaxes; full of expectation, they labor violently, trembling at the same time in every joint, through fear of certain malicious demons who are said to haunt and guard such places. At length a mighty hole is dug and perhaps several cart-loads of earth thrown out; but, alas ! no keg or iron pot is found. No seaman's chest crammed with Spanish pistoles or weighty pieces of eight! They conclude that through some mistake in the procedure, some rash word spoken, or some rule of art neglected, the guardian spirit had power to sink it deeper into the earth and convey it out of their reach. Yet when a man is once infatuated he is so far from being discouraged by ill success that he is rather animated to double his industry, and will try again and again in a hundred different places, in hopes at last of meeting with some lucky hit that shall at once sufficiently reward him for all his expenses of time and labor.
This odd humor of digging for money, through a belief that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us; insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately opened. Men, otherwise of very good sense, have been drawn into this practice through an overweening desire of sudden wealth and an easy credulity of what they so earnestly wished might be true; while the rational and most certain methods of acquiring riches by industry and frugality are neglected or forgotten. There seems to be some peculiar charm in the conceit of finding money ; and if the sands of Schuylkill were so much mixed with small grains of gold that a man might in a day's time, with care and application, get together to the value of half a crown, I make no question but we should find several people employed there that can with ease earn five shillings a day at their proper trades.
Many are the idle stories told of the private success of some people, by which others are encouraged to proceed; and the astrologers, with whom the country swarms at this time, are either in the belief of these things themselves or find their advantage in persuading others to believe them; for they are often consulted about the critical times for digging, the methods of laying the spirit, and the like whimseys, which renders them very necessary to and very much caressed by the poor, deluded money-hunters.
There is certainly something very bewitching in the pursuit after mines of gold and silver and other valuable metals, and many have been ruined by it. A seacaptain of my acquaintance used to blame the English for envying Spain their mines of silver, and too much despising or overlooking the advantages of their own industry and manufactures. “For my part,” says he, “I esteem the Banks of Newfoundland to be a more valuable possession than the mountains of Potosi ; and when I have been there on the fishing account have looked upon every cod pulled up into the vessel as a certain quantity of silver ore, which only required carrying to the next Spanish port to be coined into pieces of eight; not to mention the national profit of fitting out and employing such a number of ships and seamen.”
Let honest Peter Buckram, who has long without success been a searcher after hidden money, reflect on this and be reclaimed from that unaccountable folly. Let him consider that every stitch he takes when he is on his shopboard is picking up part of a grain of gold that will in a few days' time amount to a pistole; and let Faber think the same of every nail he drives or every stroke with his plane. Such thoughts may make them industrious, and, in consequence, in time they may be wealthy. But how absurd it is to neglect a certain profit for such a ridiculous whimsey; to spend whole days at the George in company with an idle pretender to astrology, contriving schemes to discover what was never hidden, and forgetful how carelessly business is managed at home in their absence; to leave their wives and a warm bed at midnight (no matter if it rain, hail, snow, or blow a hurricane, pro