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with their more modern successors. The post of schepen, therefore, like that of assistant alderman, was eagerly coveted by all your burghers of a certain description, who have a huge relish for good feeding, and an humble ambition to be great men in a small way— who thirst after a little brief authority, that shall render them the terror of the alms-house and the bridewell that shall enable them to lord it over obsequious poverty, vagrant vice, outcast prostitution, and hunger-driven dishonesty—that shall place in their hands the lesser, but galling scourge of the law, and give to their beck a houndlike pack of catchpoles and bum-bailiffs—tenfold greater rogues than the culprits they hunt down !—My readers will excuse this sudden warmth, which I confess is unbecoming of a grave historian; but I have a mortal antipathy to catchpoles, bum-bailiffs, and little great
The ancient magistrates of this city corresponded with those of the present time no less in form, magnitude, and intellect, than in prerogative and privilege. The burgomasters, like our aldermen, were generally chosen by weight; and not only the weight of the body, but likewise the weight of the head. It is a maxim practically observed in all honest, plain thinking, regular cities, that an alderman should be fat—and the wisdom of this can be proved to a certainty. That the body is in some measure an image of the mind, or rather that the mind is moulded to the body, like melted lead to the clay in which it is cast, has been insisted on by many men of science, who have made human nature their peculiar study. For as a learned gentleman of our own city observes, “there is a constant relation between the moral character of all intelligent creatures and their physical constitution—between their habits and the structure of their bodies.” Thus we see, that a lean, spare, diminutive body is generally accompanied by a petulent, restless, meddling mind. Either the mind wears down the body by its continual motion; or else the body, not affording the mind sufficient house-room, keeps it continually in a state of fretfulness, tossing and worrying about, from the uneasiness of its situation. Whereas your round, sleek, fat, unwieldy periphery is ever attended by a mind like itself, tranquil, torpid, and at ease; and we may always observe, that your well-fed, robustious burghers are in general very tenacious of their ease and comfort; being great enemies to noise, discord, and disturbance : and surely none are more likely to study the public tranquillity than those who are so careful of their own. Who ever hears of fat men heading a riot, or herding together in turbulent mobs ?-Nonomit is your lean, hungry men, who are continually worrying society, and setting the whole community by the ears.
The divine Plato, whose doctrines are not sufficiently attended to by Philosophers of the present age, allows to every man three souls: one immortal and rational, seated in the brain, that it may overlook and regulate the body-a second consisting of the surly and irascible passions, which, like belligerent powers, lie encamped around the heart-a third mortal and sensual, destitute of reason,
and brutal in its propensities, and enchained in the belly, that it may not disturb the divine soul, by its ravenous howlings. Now, according to this excellent theory, what can be more clear, than that your fat alderman is most likely to have the most regular and well conditioned mind. His head is like a huge spherical chamber, containing a prodigious mass of soft brains, whereon the rational soul lies softly and snugly couched, as on a feather bed; and the eyes, which are the windows of the bed-chamber, are usually half closed, that its slumberings may not be disturbed by external objects. A mind thus comfortably lodged, and protected from disturbance, is manifestly most likely to perform its functions with regularity and ease. By dint of good feeding, moreover, the mortal and malignant soul, which is confined in the belly, and which, by its raging and roaring, puts the irritable soul in the neighbourhood of the heart in an intolerable passion, and thus renders men crusty and quarrelsome when hungryis completely pacified, silenced, and put to
Vest : whereupon a host of honest good-fellow qualities, and kindhearted affections, which had lain in perdue, slily peeping out of the loopholes of the heart, finding this Cerberus asleep, do pluck up their spirits, turn out one and all in their holiday suits, and gambol up and down the diaphraghm-disposing their possessor to laughter, good humour, and a thousand friendly offices towards his fellow mortals.
As a board of magistrates, formed on this model, think but very little, they are less likely to differ and wrangle about favourite opinions; and as they generally transact business upon a hearty dinner, they are naturally disposed to be lenient and indulgent in the administration of their duties. Charlemagne was conscious of this, and therefore (a pitiful measure, for which I can never forgive him,) ordered in his cartularies, that no judge should hold a court of justice, except in the morning, on an empty stomach.—A rule which, I warrant, bore hard upon all the poor culprits in his kingdom. The more enlightened and humane generation of the present day have taken an opposite course, and have so managed that the aldermen are the best fed men in the community; feasting lustily on the fat things of the land, and gorging so heartily oysters and turtles, that in process of time they acquire the activity of the one, and the form, the waddle, and the green fat of the other. The consequence is, as I have just said, these luxurious feastings do produce such dulcet equanimity and repose of the soul, rational and irrational, that their transactions are proverbial for unvarying monotony; and the profound laws, which they enact in their dozing moments, amid the labours of digestion, are quietly suffered to remain as dead letters, and never enforced when awake. In a word, your fair round bellied burgomaster, like a full fed mastiff, dozes quietly at the house door, always at home, and always at hand to watch over its safety : but as to electing a lean, meddling candidate to the office, as has now and then been done, I would as lief put a greyhound to watch the house, or a race-horse to drag an ox-waggon.
The burgomasters then, as I have already mentioned, were wisely chosen by weight, and the schepens or assistant aldermen, were appointed to attend upon them, and help them to eat; but the latter, in the course of time, when they had been fed and fattened into sufficient bulk of body and drowsiness of brain, became very eligible candidates for the burgomasters' chair have fairly eaten themselves into office, as a mouse eats its way into a comfortable lodgment in a goodly blue nosed, skimmed milk, New-England cheese.
AN OBEDIENT HEN-PECKED HUSHAND.
In that same village, and in one of these very houses, (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather beaten,) there lived many years since, when the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was a descendant of the Van Winkles who figured so gallantly in the chivalrous days of Peter Stuyvesant, and accompanied him to the siege of Fort Christina. He inherited, however, but little of the martial character of his ancestors. I have observed that he was a simple good-natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbour, and an obedient hen-pecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home. Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and maleable in the fiery furnace of domestic tribulation, and a curtain lecture is worth all the sermons in the world for teaching the virtues of patience and long suffering. A termagant wife may, therefore, in some respects, be considered a tolerable blessing ; and if so, Rip Van Winkle was thrice blessed.
Certain it is, that he was a great favourite among all the good wives of the village, who, as usual with the amiable sex, took his part in all family squabbles ; and never failed, whenever they talked those matters over in their evening gossipings, to lay all the blame on Dame Van Winkle. The children of the village, too, would shout with joy whenever he approached. He assisted at their sports, made their playthings, taught them to fly kites and shoot marbles, and told them long stories of ghosts, witches, and Indians. Whenever he went dodging about the village, he was surrounded by a troop of them, hanging on his skirts, clambering on his back, and playing a thousand tricks on him with impunity; and not a dog would bark at him throughout the neighbourhood.
The great error in Rip's composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labour. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar's lance, and fish all day without a mur mur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble. He would carry a fowling piece on his shoulder for hours together, trudging through woods and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild pigeons. He would never refuse to assist a neighbour even in the roughest toil, and was a foremost man at all country frolics for husking Indian corn, or building stone fences; the women of the village, too, used to employ him to run their errands, and to do such little odd jobs as their less obliging husbands would not do for them.-In a word, Rip was ready to attend to any body's business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.
In fact, he declared it was of no use to work on his farm; it was the most pestilent little piece of ground in the whole country; every thing about it went wrong, and would go wrong, in spite of him. His fences were continually falling to pieces; his cow would either go astray, or get among the cabbages; weeds were sure to grow quicker in his field than any where else; the rain always made a point of setting in just as he had some out-door work to do'; so that though his patrimonial estate had dwindled away under his management, acre