Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
The Author leaves the ship to visit the seat of government.—Description of the country.—Account of the polity of the Symzonians, as stated by his conductor.—Comparison of the industry, its objects and ends in the two worlds, and of the necessities and habits of the internals and externals.—Expulsion of the unworthy from Symzonia, to a place of exile near the north pole.—External world supposed to have been peopled by the outcasts.
It was the 2d of January, 1818, that I set out on this delightful visit. A native boat came alongside to convey me, into which I stepped with no more sense of fear than might be excited on going among the spirits of the blessed; so perfectly did the appearance, manners, conduct, and expression of countenance of this people accord with my ideas of purity and goodness.
On the way to the place of assembly, which was about one hundred miles by water from the harbour where the ship lay, much occurred to gratify my senses, instruct my mind, and delight my heart. We ascended the river, the banks of which, and all the country near them, appeared like
one beautiful and highly cultivated garden, with neat low buildings scattered throughout the scene. No crowded cities, the haunts of vice and misery, hung like wens upon the lovely face of nature. An appearance of equality in the condition and enjoyments of the people pervaded the country. The buildings were all of them large enough for comfort and convenience, but none of them so large, or so charged with ornament, as to appear to have been erected as monuments of the pride and folly of the proprietor.
Great numbers of small cattle and other domestic animals enriched the view, and a profusion of flowers, tastefully arranged in the vicinity of every house, filled the air with perfume, and charmed the eye with their variegated beauties. No fogs or vapours obscured the charming prospect, nor formed in wainrows * to ornament the scene, the mild influence of the sun not being sufficient to produce rapid exhalations, nor the nights cold enough to condense them into
vapour. Nature's fairest landscape requires no mantle to obscure its beauties, or to heighten their effect.
The active inhabitants all seemed engaged in something useful. Some were tending their cattle; some cultivating vegetables, fruits, and flowers, while others practised the mechanic arts.
As we passed on through this enchanting country, Surui, the eldest of my conductors, instructed me in the civil polity, customs, mariners, and habits of this people. From him I learned. that in Symzonia all power emanated from the people; that the affairs of the nation were directed by
1. A chief, who was honoured with the title of Best Man, and who held his situation for life, unless impeached of crime; but whose issue was considered ineligible to the same office for one generation after his decease.
2. An ordinary council of one hundred worthies, who assembled twice in each year, and oftener when circumstances made it necessary, to give advice to the Best Man.
3. A grand council of worthies, who assembled once in tour years, to admit members
to their body, collect the sense of the nation on all public affairs, and aid the Best Man with their judgment in the appointment of Efficients to discharge the executive duties of the state.
The Best Man could only be elected by an unanimous vote of the grand council.
The Worthies are of three orders—the Good, the Wise, and the Useful.
The first, who have the title of Good, are such as have, by active benevolence, exemplary conduct, and constant efforts to promote the happiness of their fellow beings, obtained an expression of the public voice, that they are superior to the generality of men. W hen any such spontaneous testimony is given in favour of a man, it becomes the duty of the worthies of the district to which he belongs, to make the fact known to the grand council. The council examine minutely into the grounds of the popular opinion, and if they find it well founded, and that the man is truly good, benevolent, and virtuous, they admit him a member by the title of Good.
The second class of worthies, are such as have in like manner been ascertained to have promoted the interests of society by
improvements in science, and the advancement of useful knowledge. Such men, if free from vice, although not distinguished by benevolence, or the highest class of virtues, are admitted to the order of worthies by the title of Wise. This class corresponds to that of the philosophers of the external world.
The third, are all such as have manifested superior skill and diligence in their respective callings, with evident and constant good will towards their fellow men; such as have introduced useful inventions and improvements in the arts, set good examples to their neighbours, and are free from vicious propensities: these, on being found. justly entitled to such characters, are admitted to the order of worthies by the title of Useful.
The executive department is managed by Efficients, who are appointed by the Best Man, assisted by the Grand Council; and, in the interval of their session, if vacancies occur, by the ordinary council of One Hundred.
It is the duty of the worthies to notice the conduct of the people in their respective districts, to aid the feeble and distressed,
if any such be found, to encourage the wavering, and reward the meritorious. Whenever any one of them discovers a man of retired but useful life, active but unobtrusive benevolence, extensive usefulness, with that modest shunning of the public exhibition of his doings which is necessary to possess the public in his favour, it becomes the duty of the Worthy to name him to the Grand Council, as a man of modest and exemplary merit; and if his character is, on investigation, found to be agreeable to the representation, he is admitted accordingly.
Amongst the standing rules of this body, Surui mentioned the following:
1st. Any man setting forth pretensions to superior merit, with a view to obtain a place among the worthies, is to be recorded as a vain man, and to be for ever debarred the privilege of membership.
2d. Any man convicted of taking measures to gain a false reputation for merit, or of secretly influencing any person or persons to exert themselves to forward his nomination to the Grand Council, is to be recorded as a deceitful man, and to be thereby for ever disqualified.
3d. Any man known to have been guilty of unjust or oppressive conduct towards any of those within his sphere of influence, or to have persecuted any who have been placed within the control of his power, to be recorded as a tyrannical man, and considered as wholly unfit to have any agency in the government of his fellow beings.
4th. Any man known to have affected a servile devotion to men of influence and power, or to have courted popularity by flattering the prejudices or passions of the people, to be recorded as a hypocritical man, and to be considered for ever unworthy of admission to the distinguished orders.
5th. All persons guilty of crimes, all who infringe the rules of virtue and morality, all who lead irregular lives, or who set a bad example in society, are for ever excluded from a place among the worthies. The last clause of this rule is understood to include old batchelors.
All the Efficients are appointed from the order of Worthies; no man being considered eligible to a place of trust who has not by his exemplary conduct, usefulness, and undeviating rectitude, acquired the notice and confidence of the public.
The Grand Council being very numerous, transacts business by a committee of three members from each district, to whom the other members communicate such information and advice as they may deem necessary. The recommendations to office are made by this body, to whom the cause of each nomination, and the qualifications of the persons nominated, are set forth in writing. The names of three individuals are always sent up to the Best Man, with a description of their qualifications and merits, for each office, of whom he selects and appoints the one who is, in his opinion, most deserving of it.
The exercise of intrigue and backstair influence being a bar to office, the offices of government are filled with the most intelligent, upright, and valuable men in the country, selected with the sole view of promoting the best interests of the nation.
I could not refrain from expressing my admiration of a system so wisely calculated to give the state the benefit of all the talents, information, and tried integrity of the nation. Surui asked with apparent surprise, if we the Externals did not select men to fill the places of honour, power,
and trust, with the same scrupulous attention to their character, purity of life, usefulness in society, and goodness of heart. I was ashamed to acknowledge the truth, and gave him a specimen of the veracity of an External by replying, "yes, much the same, at least in the State of New-York, where I am best acquainted."
I inquired whether the order of Worthies was a numerous body, and was informed that it embraced a majority of the men of mature age; all of whom were called in turn according to the order of their admission, to fill a place in the ordinary council of the Best Man. This council consists of one hundred; fifty-five of whom must be of the Good, forty of the Useful, and five of the Wise. Such persons, however, as had failed to maintain the character which obtained their admission to the order, might be excluded from a participation in the government; and the Best Man had the power to pass their names when summoning his ordinary council, provided he did not at any time pass more than one-tenth of the names on the list: for that proportion was deemed the
utmost that could possibly deviate from the paths of rectitude.
It appeared to me to be a very troublesome form of government, which required the assemblage once in four years of more than half the men of the nation. But l found this to be a great mistake. Surui assured me, that the labour necessary to procure all the essential comforts and rational embellishments of life, in this fruitful country, and with the temperate habits of the people, required but a small proportion of the labour which could be performed; that there was abundant leisure for an annual assemblage of all the people, without any detriment to the business of society; and that every member of it enjoyed an abundance of the comforts of life, without excessive or constant labour. So far was the quadrennial assembly of the worthies from being regarded as an evil, that the arrival of the time of its occurrence was hailed as a season of great enjoyment, instruction, and usefulness.
The numerous inlets of the sea, which intersected this beautiful country in every direction, rendered travelling very easy and expeditions; so that not only the Worthies,
but also such of their families as were of sufficient age to mingle with society, repaired to the district of the assembly, in which none but the Good, the Wise, and the Useful, were permitted to reside.—In the vessels in which they are conveyed, they take a sufficient quantity of substantial provisions for their own consumption, or to exchange for such as they may prefer during their visit. They also carry tents, in which such as cannot be accommodated in the houses of their friends reside, during their stay.
None but Worthies are permitted to enter the district of the assembly during the sitting. The first month of the assembly is passed in devotional exercises, and the interchange of visits and civilities, all vieing with one another in endeavours to advance the happiness of those about them, and in conversing on matters important or useful to the commonweal. After comparing ideas with one another for a month, they appoint a committee from their number to sit in grand council one month, and no longer. All but the committee then return home, unless business, or a desire to offer their advice on some subject to the particular
notice of the committee, induces them to remain.
Surui described the enjoyments of the season of the grand assemblage with the most enthusiastic expressions of delight.—None but the Good, the Wise, the Useful, none but the virtuous and benevolent, are then within the circuit of the district. The rarest gratifications of which the human mind is susceptible in intellectual intercourse, were then enjoyed without a sense of evil.
To me, who had been accustomed to see a great proportion of mankind constantly devoted to hard labour, or incessantly applying to business, to obtain a precarious subsistence; to see them, not content with the efforts which might be made by day, wearing out their health and lives in toil by the midnight lamp, and scarcely obtaining what are considered the necessaries of life,—it was difficult to comprehend how a great proportion of this people could leave their business and their homes, to pass months in a non-productive state, without oppressing the remainder of the people with intolerable burdens. But I was told that the Worthies received nothing for their
services, and were able to provide without difficulty for themselves: all the revenue of the country was devoted to the maintenance of the Efficients, (who were paid for the time actually devoted to public affairs,) and to works of public utility.
This state of things appeared to me at first to be beyond the limits of possibility in the external world. My mind was for some time occupied by reflecting upon the extraordinary difference in the natural condition of the internals aid externals; and I commenced a comparison of the varieties and objects of industry in the two worlds, and of those necessities and habits which demanded the products of labour. This brought me to a clear view of the matter. I perceived that the greater part of the labour of the externals was devoted to the production of things useless or pernicious; and that of the things produced or acquired, the distribution, through defects in our social organization, was so unequal, that some few destroyed, without any increase of happiness to themselves, the products of the toil of multitudes. Instead of devoting our time to useful purposes, and living temperately on the wholesome gifts of Providence,
like the blest internals, so as to preserve our health and strengthen our minds, thousands of us are employed in producing inebriating liquors, by the destruction of wholesome articles of food, to poison the bodies, enervate the minds, and corrupt the hearts, of our fellow beings. Other thousands waste their strength to procure stimulating weeds and narcotic substances from the extreme parts of the earth, for the purpose of exciting diseased appetites, whereby, in the case of those who possess good things, the ability to enjoy them is destroyed. Still greater numbers give their industry and their lives to the acquisition of mere matters of ornament, for the gratification of pride, an insatiable passion, which is only stimulated to increase its demands by every new indulgence. I saw that the internals owed their happiness to their rationality, to a conformity with the laws of nature and religion; and that the externals were miserable, from the indulgence of inordinate passions, and subjection to vicious propensities.
I inquired of Surui how I should know the distinguished orders? what badge or outward sign was worn by them? To
which he replied, "They are known by their undeviating rectitude of conduct the good by their benevolence, the wise by their knowledge, the useful by their works." In answer to my inquiries as to the condition of those who were not of the order of Worthies, I was informed that it was very various, according to their conduct. Most of the people, seeing the happy condition of the Worthies, and being extremely desirous to partake of the refined enjoyments of the grand assemblage, strove earnestly to become deserving of a place among them; but some, giving way to their carnal appetites and passions, fell into intemperate indulgences, whereby they produced disease to their bodies, and a necessity for much labour to supply their unreasonable consumption, and at the same time an aversion to the performance of the labour which is necessary to the preservation of health; that the constant exhortations and efforts of the Worthy were found insufficient to restrain some of the youth from forming such pernicious habits, so that before they were sufficiently taught by experience and the examples before them, that to be good is to be happy, they
degenerated into vice. This too often led to crime. To support their wastefulness, they infringed the rights of others. When such men became, in the opinions of the select worthies, incorrigible and dangerous to society, they were transported to a land far distant to the north, the extreme limit of the world, where a part of the year the heat is intense. There they continue in their vicious course, pursuing the gratification of their sensual appetites, and are punished with diseases of body which enervate their faculties, inordinate passions which torture their minds, and fierce desires which are incapable of being satisfied.—The influence of their gross appetites and of the climate, causes them to lose their fairness of complexion and beauty of form and feature. They become dark coloured, ill favoured, and mis-shapen men, not much superior to the brute creation. They retain, indeed, said Surui, some of the customs and manners of Symzonia; and the ceremony of pulling the nose in salutation by those who had strayed to the "icy hoop," and were seen by Captain Ross, of whom I had spoken, was no doubt a corruption of the graceful mode of salutation
practised where I then was. On my first appearance, they had apprehended that I was of that outcast race; for it had been observed by those who had conveyed delinquents to the place of exile, that the descendants of the outcasts were enlarged in stature and size, owing to the grossness of their habits, and at the same time that they had lost their strength and activity. One of the pure race, it was believed, was able to lift three times as much as any one of the degenerates, or to leap three times as high. Their suspicions of my being of the outcast tribe, were allayed by the testimony of reverence to the Supreme Being which I had given, by falling on my knees, and imploring the aid of heaven in my embarrassed situation; whereby they knew that I could not be unworthy of their regard.
I felt not a little humbled by this account of the origin of the northern internal people, and, cautiously avoided my observation that might discover, to my intelligent conductor, the suspicion which darted through my mind, that we the externals were indeed descendants of this exiled race; some of whom, penetrating the "icy hoop" near the
continent of Asia or America, might have peopled the external world. The gross sensuality, intemperate passions, and beastly habits of the externals, all testified against us.
I inquired of Surui where this place of exile was situated. He said it was at the extreme northern part of the earth, as near the fountain of light and heat as mortals could go, without danger of perishing by fire: that they could only visit it in the temperate season, because during the rest of the year, the sun was seen directly over head, when the heat was so great as to render existence extremely painful. By this account I knew that the place of exile must be situated somewhere on the verge of the rim of the north polar opening, as there, and there only, could the sun be seen directly over head, without going to the external tropic.
118:* Wainrows, rows formed for the convenience of loading wains; not winrows, as the learned Professor Silliman has it.