I don't have time to spend on commentary, but each morning, these days, I am splitting my time between re-reading the evidence chapters of my book, and keying in a few of his pieces from 1831, recently gleaned from a perusal of the New York "Constellation," which was published in that era. I just finished the one I'm appending, below. I haven't had time to proofread it, so forgive any typos. As I catch them, if I come back to this, I'll correct them. Since I write so often in this blog, no-one may ever see this. Or, precisely the right person may see it--who knows how those things work?
This is Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in that lifetime), at age 18, writing for the "Constellation" as the junior editor, and signing with his accustomed non de plume at the time, "D." He is a Quaker in New York; he is already a philosopher. His future wife, Abby Poyen, has already begun tutoring him the previous fall, which sessions will be ongoing. Abby comes from an upper-class family but rejects the family wealth, because it originated with slavery in Guadeloupe. She is four years younger than Mathew, but brilliant, and has herself been privately tutored. Mathew, meanwhile, despite being raised on a farm, is a prodigy in his own right. So here, you are seeing both minds in concert.
In not too many years, they will collaborate on the manuscript which is later hurriedly re-written by Charles Dickens, and published by him under the title "A Christmas Carol." If you want to see the extensive evidence for this, you can find it in my book, "Mathew Franklin Whittier in his own words."
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
The New York "Constellation" January 15, 1831
WHO IS AN INDEPENDENT MAN?
We hold it an axiom, that to be really independent, a man should not be rich. And yet, how large a proportion of mankind--how almost the whole human family--are straining and striving, toiling and moiling, day and night, in season and out of season, from cradle to the grave, to become rich, and, as the phrase goes, to become independent.
Independent, indeed! Where is the independence of the rich man? In what does it consist? Is it to have heaped up treasures upon treasures, so that the care and anxiety, and perplexity of investing them, fill his thoughts by day and his dreams by night? Is it to own houses and lands, the value of which is so liable to be destroyed by the sudden mutations of trade? Is it to be largely interested in navigation and to embark his whole property in ships--to unfurl his hopes and his happiness to the breeze, to be wafted he knows not whither--to be made the sport of every idle wind and every fickle wave?
Where then is the independence of the rich man? Is it to be extensively engaged in business on terra firma to buy and sell and trafic in merchandise? The chances of business, as they are called, are but the chances of a lottery. The excitement of the merchant is as feverish, his hoeps are as liable to disappointment as the lottery speculator's. To such an extent is carried the system of credit, that no man, at the conclusion of a bargain, can say he is a gainer by it--nay, in many cases, he cannot even foretell that himself and his family are not ruined by the operation.
Where then is the independence of the rich man? Do you imagine that he may call it his own, who, after a long life of successful business, finds himself in possession of a million or that he inherits it who inherits a fortune? Look, for a moment, at the former. Behold him walking in the streets, his eyes fixed on the ground. He is thinking of his money, how he shall dispose of it, or rather how he shall keep it. See him in Wall Street, loitering among the bankers and brokers, and watching the fluctuations of stocks, as does the marriner the changes of the wind. Listen to his long-drawn sigh at the insurance office, where he is a principal stock-holder. The news is just arrived of losses to the amount of half of its capital. Listen to him again at midnight--he starts from his sleep--he exclaims "I am ruined! I am ruined!"
Where then is the independence of the rich man? Shall we turn from this scene to find it in the young heir, who by the hoardings and severe denials of his parents, has been left independent? But in what does his independence consist? He is beset by the idle and profligate--the gambler and the debauchee--he becomes entangled in their meshes and his ruin is complete. Or, perchance, the more innocent amusements of fashionable life, dress and the theatre, balls and parties, engage his attention. On them he is dependent for the occupation of his time. But the round of pleasure is soon trodden and then with no resources within, all outward means fail to preserve him from ennui.
What then is the independence of riches? They are full of trouble, care and anxiety. They bring in their train, if not positive evil, at least no positive good. The rich man is, indeed, of all others the most dependant. He can do nothing to assist himself--he cannot stoop to the menial offices of life--the work of servants would soil his delicate hands--to walk in the streets would be painful to his gouty toes. His carriage must be called, whenever he wishes to go abroad--if the coachman is absent from the stable, his master must stay at home. Then coem the etiquette and ceremony, which follow the rich man like his shadow--the invitations to dinner-parties and public meetings that he dares not refuse--and last not least, the thousand subscription-lists of the day, from which he would gladly withold his name, but as he is a rich man, he cannot act independently.
Who then is an independent man? It is he who blessed with honest and therefore honorable poverty, by his daily industry, supports himself and his family. He is the mechanic, the farmer, or the labouring-man, who returns home at night with a contented countenance, a light heart, and a good appetite. He lies down to rest, undisturbed by the troubles of business. What if merchants are falling around him? They owe him nothing and he sleeps on securely. What if the fire-bell sound its alarm? He has no property which the flames may devour and he sleeps on securely. What if the storm rage? He has no vessel at sea and he still sleeps on securely. His fortune is all centered in the little family around him. To provide for them, constitutes the sum of his anxieties. Their wants are [?] simple, and easily gratified, and the gratification of them keenly enjoyed.
Tell me not then of the independence of riches and the gratifications they can purchase. The pleasures of wealth, which, like the butterfly, appear so gaudy and captivating in the pursuit, lose their beauty directly they are obtained. Do you point me to yon carriage rolling in [?] [?dor] and its owner reclining in luxurious [ease?]--and fondly imagine that this is the man of independence? His countenance may glisten with smiles, as does his escutchon with varnish--but care and trouble tarnish the one, as surely as time effaces the other. His steps may be throned with flatterers and his wishes anticipated by crowds of dependants--but think you this same favourite of fortune enjoys that noble independence, which the honest labourer feels, when he sits down and partakes with his family the slender comforts his own hands have provided? No! assuredly, no!
Music opening this page, "Lucky Man" by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, from their first album