Sunday, December 27, 2009

Democracy for the Dogs

On Board Balloon "Skylark"
April 5, 2848

I am almost devoured by ennui. Pundit is the only conversible person on board; and he, poor soul! can speak of nothing but antiquities. He has been occupied all the day in the attempt to convince me that the ancient Amriccans governed themselves! -- did ever anybody hear of such an absurdity? -- that they existed in a sort of every-man-for-himself confederacy, after the fashion of the 'prairie dogs' that we read of in fable.

He says that they started with the queerest idea conceivable, viz.: that all men are born free and equal -- this in the very teeth of the laws of gradation so visibly impressed upon all things both in the moral and physical universe. Every man 'voted', as they called it -- that is to say, meddled with public affairs -- until, at length, it was discovered that what is everybody's business is nobody's, and that the 'Republic' (so the absurd thing was called) was without a government at all.

It is related, however, that the first circumstance which disturbed, very particularly, the self-complacency of the philosophers who constructed this 'Republic', was the startling discovery that universal suffrage gave opportunity for fraudulent schemes, by means of which any desired number of votes might at any time be polled, without the possibility of prevention or even detection, by any party which should be merely villainous enough not to be ashamed of the fraud. A little reflection upon this discovery sufficed to render evident the consequences, which were that rascality must predominate -- in a word, that a republican government could never be anything but a rascally one.

While the philosophers, however, were busied in blushing at their stupidity in not having foreseen these inevitable evils, and intent upon the invention of new theories, the matter was put to an abrupt issue by a fellow of the name of Mob, who took everything into his own hands and set up a despotism, in comparison with which those of the fabulous Zeros and Hellofagabaluses were respectable and delectable. This Mob (a foreigner, by the by) is said to have been the most odious of all men that ever encumbered the earth. He was a giant in stature -- insolent, rapacious, filthy; had the gall of a bullock with the heart of an hyena and the brains of a peacock. He died, at length, by dint of his own energies, which exhausted him. Nevertheless, he had his uses, as everything has, however vile, and taught mankind a lesson which to this day it is in no danger of forgetting -- never to run directly contrary to the natural analogies.

As for Republicanism, no analogy could be found for it upon the face of the earth -- unless we except the case of the 'prairie dogs', an exception which seems to demonstrate, if anything, that democracy is a very admirable form of government -- for dogs.

From Mellonta Tauta by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in February, 1849.

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