Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
The Author arrives at the seat of government.—Description of the Auditory.—Symzonian manner of assembling for devotion and public business.—Etiquette of the Symzonian Court.—He is admitted to an audience by the Best Man.—Account of the interview, and of his unfortunate efforts to exalt the character of the externals, by describing some of their splendid follies.
We were three days in passing from the ship to the place of assembly. Surui uniformly ordered a halt, when the light was so faint as not to permit me to have a distinct view of the country. Wherever we stopped, we were visited by great numbers of people, many of whom, to my extreme mortification, looked upon me with evident pity, if not with disgust. Yet they were very kind, and brought a profusion of the choicest fruits, vegetables, milk, and honey. and great quantities of beautiful flowers.—The face of the country became more and more beautiful as we approached the place of assemblage, which is in the most perfect part of this delightful region. The most
elegant specimens of ornamental gardening on the external world, give but a faint idea of the appearance of this whole district.
The principal object that attracted my notice on arriving at the seat of government, was the Auditory, which towered above all surrounding objects, and struck me with awe and admiration. I could not conceive how so stupendous an edifice could have been reared by such a people. I had indeed observed, that notwithstanding their inferiority in size, they were much stronger, .and more active than the Externals. The tallest men were about five feet high, but they leaped twenty or thirty feet at a bound without much apparent exertion, and easily lifted burthens which three of our men would find it difficult to move; still the vast fabric before me appeared out of all proportion to the ability even of mortals as highly gifted as these. It was a single dome of one arch, supported by a peristyle of huge columns, and covering at least eight acres of ground. The extreme elevation of the centre was seven hundred and fifty feet. The whole was formed of stone, in massy blocks, cemented with a
paste of the same material, so as to appear to be all of one solid piece.
Surui said that when the people determined to erect a temple, in which they might assemble for devotional exercises and expressions of gratitude to the Divine Being, they regarded the object as one towards which the whole nation ought to be allowed to contribute. They determined to construct a building in which the greatest multitude ever collected in that district might worship God; and which would also serve for the deliberations of the Grand Council, that they might always be considered to be in the presence of the Supreme Ruler, and discharge their high trust with a due sense of their responsibility to Him who seeth the heart. They had therefore built this Auditory by the surplus labour of the nation: each man having devoted so much of his time to the work as his private affairs would permit, and for no other reward than that of his own feelings and the good opinion of his fellow men.
The dome, which appeared so immense and so impracticable, was formed on a high conical hill, by which the site was originally
occupied. In the sides of this hill shafts were sunk to the intended level of the foundation, in which the columns were reared. The top of the hill was then shaped for the reception of the stone of the arch, which was thus easily constructed upon the solid earth. When the whole was completed, the earth both within and without the structure was removed, leaving the edifice as it now appeared upon the plain. Within the columns, the earth was formed into a concavity, with graduated steps to the centre, so that an individual in any part of the immense area could see every person within the circumference of the dome.
In the centre, on a large convex platform, the Best Man has a seat, fixed upon a pivot, which permits him to turn with ease to every part of the Auditory. Over this platform an orchestra supported on pillars accommodates five hundred musicians, whose melody, reverberated by the vaulted roof, fills this tremendous and unbroken space.
In this edifice all the Worthies assemble once a day, for religious services, during the preparation month. The exercises are
always commenced with music, to dispose the soul to heavenly contemplation. After the music, they all kneel and pray in silence. Speakers designated by the Best Man then ascend the platform by turns and deliver their sentiments on subjects worthy the attention of so enlightened and devout an assembly. The whole is closed with music, that all may depart in harmony of thought and feeling.
Three hours are thus devoted every day for a month, that the hearts and minds of the members may be improved, and that they may be prepared to deliberate upon the affairs of state in perfect fellowship and good will.
When the committee of the Grand Council, or the ordinary council of the Best Man, meet for the despatch of business, they take their seats in compact order upon one side of the platform, leaving the area below for spectators; and as the most important matters are fully discussed in conversation during the preparation month, and as all the Worthies have good sense enough to know that their own happiness will be most certainly promoted by a faithful and pure devotion to the true interests
of their fellow-men, the Best Man is not subjected to the inconvenience of listening for six hours together to a speech, calculated only to render a clear subject obscure and doubtful; nor is he who offers the fruits of his experience, or of his studies, insulted by the spectacle of an audience writing letters, reading newspapers, or sealing packets, to mark their contempt for his opinions.
I found a convenient and delightful lodge prepared for my reception. It was small, but sufficient for comfort. There were no servants attached to it, nor was there need of any. All necessary food, vegetables, fruits, milk, honey, &c. were sent daily, and placed where I could conveniently help myself. I soon learned that these supplies were voluntary contributions, and that the people took their turns in the privilege of administering to the wants of the stranger in their land.
Surui was accommodated in a similar manner, close by my dwelling. He passed a great part of the time with me; acting as linguist, and continuing to teach me the language of the country, in which I was still very imperfect.
The day after my arrival, I was honoured with an audience by the Best Man of this admirable people. I inquired of Surui as to the etiquette to be observed on going to court—whether I must uncover my head as in Europe, or my feet after the manner of the Asiatics? whether I must bow my head to the ground, making a right angle of my body, and walk backwards on retiring, as in the court of Great Britain, or flounder in flat on my belly, after the fashion of the Siamese? whether I was to stand or sit? if to sit, whether on the ground, or cross-legged, or on my haunches like a monkey?
Surui could not, or would not, understand me, and I concluded he wished the Best Man to see what the manners of an external would be, untaught in the customs of the country. I therefore determined to give them a specimen of the deportment of a republican freeman, and conduct myself with the easy respectful politeness of a gentleman and citizen of the world.
On approaching the dwelling of the Best Man, I was charmed to find that it differed in no respect from the ordinary dwellings of the people, except that it was of greater extent, owing to his numerous family, and a
superior neatness and regularity was apparent in the grounds, which were stocked with a variety of the most beautiful and fragrant flowers and shrubbery. The house was literally in a bower of sweets.
The Best Man put me entirely at my ease in point of etiquette, by meeting me in the open air, in the garden, and without either the stiffness of affected pomp, or the austere visage of assumed sanctity. He received me with that frank, affectionate manner, which constitutes true politeness, the offspring of benevolence.
By the aid of Surui, we entered immediately into conversation. The first inquiries of the Best Man were, as to whence I came, and my motives for leaving my country. By means of a globe, which I had brought from the ship, and which I now caused to be produced, I explained to him the situation of my country, and the phenomena attending the external region, of which, till now, he had no conception, except from some supposed ravings of a Wise man, who was thought to be mad. The frightful glare of the sun, and the great extremes of heat, as his imagination pictured them in
such an external region, were horrible to his apprehension.
My motive I stated to be, a desire to gain a more extended knowledge of the works of nature; adding, that I had undertaken this perilous voyage only to ascertain whether the body of this huge globe were an useless waste of sand and stones, contrary to the economy usually displayed in the works of Providence, or, according to the sublime conceptions of one of our Wise men, a series of concentric spheres, like a nest of boxes, inhabitable within and without, on every side, so as to accommodate the greatest possible number of intelligent beings.
I was already too well acquainted with the sentiments of this people, not to know that it would be extremely imprudent to suffer any expression to escape me which should discover that a desire of wealth; or of the means of sensual gratification, was among the motives which actuate the externals; such a disclosure being calculated only to excite their aversion and contempt.
The Best Man indulged me with a long interview; and it was a happy circumstance
that I had with me a globe, charts, maps, books, and drawings, to illustrate and corroborate my statements; for otherwise I might have caused him to suspect that I was a most desperate liar, so strange and absurd did many of my representations appear to him. Happily, Surui was already able to read English books; and when I observed an appearance of doubt on the part of the Best Man, I sought out some passage in a printed work to corroborate my statement, which Surui translated into the language of the country.
I spoke of the danger I had encountered from ice. This was incomprehensible to him. He assured me that water never congealed in the internal world; that the innate warmth of the earth was sufficient to prevent it, and he could not understand how so great a degree of cold could exist in. the external world, so much more exposed to the direct influence of the fountain of light and heat. I endeavoured to. account for this by explaining to him the generation of cold by evaporation and absorption, and promised to send to the ship for my air pump, to show him ice artificially
produced by absorption in an exhausted receiver. I then proceeded to account fir the equable heat in the internal world, and the extreme cold at the icy hoop, upon principles which appeared to me to be very obvious.
In the first place, the sun's direct influence is exerted on an equal portion of the globe at all times; which influence is felt, on the external surface, only where it is directly exerted. In such places it is felt intensely, but from the free action of the external atmosphere, so soon as that influence is withdrawn the heat escapes and flies off rapidly, generating cold in its passage, or by evaporation as we express it. Those parts of the external world from which the influence of the sun is withdrawn for the greatest length of time thus become intensely cold, excepting in the immediate vicinity of the polar openings, where the issue of warm air, from the internal cavity, tempers the atmosphere: but at a short distance from the verge of the opening the very influence of this warm air generates cold, by parting rapidly with its latent heat and condensing into snow and hail, which causes the circle of ice between
the 70th and 80th degrees of latitude, called the "icy hoop." This escape of heat from the warm air which issues from the internal world, is so great as to irradiate the atmosphere near the polar openings; and in the extreme cold of winter, during the absence of the sun, this irradiation is so vivid as to be visible fifty degrees towards the equator, where the inhabitants, being fond of simple names, call it Aurora Borealis.
On the other hand, as an equal portion of the globe is at all times acted upon directly by the sun's rays, the internal contents of that globe must be always subject to the same degree of heat, excepting such variations as may be occasionally produced by the direct rays of the sun admitted through the polar openings. Of this fact we had evidence on the external world, where, in the most intense cold weather, we had but to penetrate a short distance into the earth to escape its influence. The temperature of mines, dug a short distance into the earth, was always above the freezing point; and the degree of heat at a given distance below the general surface of
the earth, was found to be nearly the same in all latitudes, and at all seasons.
Hence what lie called the innate warmth of the earth, was nothing more than the collected heat of the sun absorbed and retained by the globe from the continued action of that luminary upon an equal proportion of it, at all times, in the same manner as a glass globe full of water, when set before a fire, will absorb and diffuse heat throughout the contents of the vessel equally, although but one side is exposed to the direct influence of the fire, while that part of the external surface of the vessel which is not exposed to the fire, but is subject to the influence of the cold air of the room, will obtain no other heat than may be communicated by the fluid within.
My printed books were subjects of great interest. The art of printing was unknown, although that of engraving was practised. I explained the process of making and using types, and promised the Best Man to instruct such persons as he might be pleased to direct, in the art, in return for the hospitality and civilities I had received.
He expressed a desire to be made acquainted with the form of government the
religion, habits, sentiments and practices of the people of the external world, particularly as to our acquirements in useful knowledge: on all which subjects I was extremely disinclined to converse, being aware that if I spoke the truth I should fill him with disgust, and if I endeavoured to disguise the truth, and to reply to his inquiries from my own imagination, I might be detected in falsehood, and deservedly turned with contempt out of the country.
To his inquiries respecting government,. I replied by describing briefly the principles of the American constitution, taking care to say nothing about the qualifications for office, nor of the means resorted to to obtain preferment. He thought the scheme well calculated for a very virtuous and enlightened people, but liable to many abuses through the want of a probationary course of qualification for places of trust and power.
On the subject of religion, I frankly confessed that every man was permitted to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and that our government did not recognize one form of worship in preference to another. With this he
appeared to be satisfied, but when I inadvertently added, that one of our wise men, who had filled the chair of "Best Man" of the nation, had expressed the opinion that it was of no importance whether the people worshipped one God or twenty, he started with horror, and expressed the greatest astonishment that an enlightened people should permit wise men to obtain controlling influence in a country; for, however useful and valuable they might be found to be within their proper sphere of action, like all powerful agents they were dangerous to the happiness of mankind if not restrained by powerful checks and controlling influences, to prevent their running into impracticable measures:—wherefore, not more than five wise men were permitted to sit in his council of one hundred.
On the subject of our habits, I was as brief as he would permit me to be, and took especial care to speak only of the habits of the most virtuous, enlightened and truly refined people of our external world; but in spite of my caution, he extracted much from me which filled him with disgust and pity. That the most pure of our people
should be afflicted with disease, was evidence to his mind that we were a contaminated race, descendants of a degenerated people. Having discovered from my remarks, that we ate the flesh of warm blooded animals, prepared in many forms with condiments and sauces to give it a higher relish, and, instead of confining ourselves to the pure fluid provided by nature to quench our thirst, that we indulged in fermented and distilled liquors even to inebriation, he was not at a loss for the cause of disease and misery, and was only surprised that such things were permitted, or, being permitted, that the race did not become extinct. Great inequality in the condition of our people, he inferred as a necessary consequence upon the indulgence in vice; because, while a virtuous man will perform so much of useful labour, or business of equal utility to society, as a matter of duty, as shall amount to his full share of consumption of the common stock of value, and if his labours be blessed with abundance, will not expend the surplus above his wants in things useless and pernicious or in the gratification of his passions, but bestow it upon the meritorious needy, to
support the unfortunate, or in useful public works, the vicious man is rendered averse to the performance of his duty, and becomes wasteful of the products of the industry of others, without regarding the means, whether just or unjust, by which he may possess himself of them. Therefore, men feeding upon animal food and costly drinks, and given to the indulgence of inordinate passions, must of necessity become very unequal in their condition, depraved in their appetites, and miserable in proportion to their aberrations from the strictest temperance, virtue, and piety.
Finding that the longer we conversed on the ha hits, manners, and sentiments of the externals, the lower they would sink in the estimation of this truly enlightened man, I endeavoured to turn the discourse to our acquisitions in useful knowledge, in full confidence that on this subject I should have a decided advantage, and be able to raise the people of the external world to a high place in his consideration. I spoke of the perfection to which we had arrived in the manufacture of apparel; of muslins wrought so fine as not to obstruct the sight; and worth per square yard, the value of
two months labour of an able-bodied man; of the shawls of Cashmere, so exquisitely made, as to be valued at two years labour of an industrious farmer or mechanic; of laces to ornament the dresses of our wives and daughters, one pound weight of which would amount to a sum sufficient to purchase the labour of four men for life; of splendid cut glass, and ornamental wares, dazzling to the eye of the beholder; of works of silver and of gold, so beautifully wrought, and so much valued, as to be objects of adoration to many of our people. The Best Man could hear me no further on this subject; he pronounced these things to be useless baubles, the creation of vanity, pernicious in their influence upon the foolish, who might be so weak as to place their affections on them, and the production of them a most preposterous perversion of the faculties bestowed upon us by a beneficent Creator for useful purposes. What possible use could there be for a garment, which would neither retain warmth to the body, nor protect it from external evils, or from the observation of others? And what apology could be found for wasting the labour of four men for life, which, properly directed,
would supply the wants of twenty human beings, to provide ornaments for those who, if not arrayed in the white robes of purity and virtue, must be odious, although bedizened with all the finery which human ingenuity can devise.
I spoke of our skill in arms, in hopes to excite his admiration; of the invention of gunpowder; of fleets of ships for the transportation of armies to invade the countries of our enemies, and contend in naval fight for the right of navigating the ocean. This was the most unhappy subject I had yet touched upon. Instead of exciting his admiration, I found it difficult to convince him that my account was true, for he could not conceive it possible that beings in outward form so much like himself, could be so entirely under the influence of base and diabolical passions, as to make a science of worrying and destroying each other, like the most detestable reptiles.
I felt a strong desire to draw directly from the fountain head of knowledge in this country, immediate information on a variety of subjects relating to the condition, sentiments, and knowledge of this remarkable people, but did not think it decorous to
question so exalted a character in this my first interview. I therefore limited myself to a demand to be permitted to moor my vessel in a secure place in the river, and remain until the return of the next summer's sun should render my return to the external world perfectly practicable.
I had but to explain the danger to which we should all be exposed, of perishing by cold on the passage, if I attempted to make it so late in the season, to obtain from the benevolent Best Man the desired permission to winter there; and orders were accordingly given to admit the Explorer into a river, and moor her in a place assigned for that purpose, but under an express stipulation that no person should land, or leave any communication with the people, unless officially authorized by the Best Man's orders, under the strict inspection of confidential Efficients. Enough had been already discovered of our sentiments and habits, to convince the Best Mari that a free communication with my people would endanger the morals and happiness of his.
To save myself the mortification of further conversation on the useful knowledge
of the Externals, I promised to put all my books into the hands of Surui, to be translated into the language of the country; and having heard the Best Man's orders that every attention should be paid to my wants and those of my people, and that information on all subjects interesting to me, except the construction of their engine of defence, should be freely communicated to me, and the records of the assembly opened to my examination, I took my leave. The Best Man kindly ordered Surui to bring me often to his house, to converse on matters relating to the External World, and to the promotion of the happiness of our fellow beings.