Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
Containing some account of the strange rationality of the Symzonians.—Their simplicity of dress.—Manner of making cloth.—Circulating medium.—Taxes.
The friendly reception which had been given to me by the Best Man, and his commands that information should be freely communicated to the stranger, were a sufficient introduction for me to the notice and kind offices of this benevolent people. They required no other evidence that my rank was sufficiently elevated to render me a fit associate for them, than the fact that the Best Man had found my conversation so interesting as to induce him to pass several hours in my company. I was visited by all classes of the community, and gave scope to my eager desire to possess myself of all the useful knowledge and science possessed by the most intelligent of the people.
I gave my attention in the first instance almost exclusively to the Wise, in expectation of finding their conversation most instructive;
but I soon found that like our philosophers they were more given to abstract theories than to practical knowledge, and would contend for hours to establish some fanciful hypothesis, to the neglect of plain and practical subjects of inquiry. I therefore turned my attention to the Good and the Useful, who never spoke on subjects they did not understand, and whose information, though not so abstruse as that of the Wise, extended to all matters of established utility. Moreover they could be implicitly relied on; for having no favourite hypotheses to maintain, and no selfish ends to answer, they explained every thing to me frankly and in an intelligible manner.
In this way, and by frequent interviews with the Best Man, as also by actual observation, I ascertained the following, among numberless other interesting facts:
That the fatal sin cupidity, which drove our first parents out of Paradise, is almost wholly unknown to the pure and uncontaminated Internals. They view the gifts of a bountiful Providence as an abundant supply of good things for the benefit of all, and sufficient to gratify all the rational
wants of all the creatures for whom they are provided. They admire and adore the beneficence which could find pleasure in creating intelligent beings, and in providing for all their wants; and are emulous to approximate towards the spirit of love and goodness to which they are indebted for all their blessings. They are continually striving to improve themselves in this respect, by unceasing efforts to render one another, and all creatures within the sphere of their influence, happier and better; instead of exerting all their faculties, like the Externals, to gain advantages over their fellow men, to acquire the means of gratifying the worst passions of their nature, or to advance their own pleasures by rendering others miserable.
All the real wants of men in society are provided for in the most simple and natural manner. Usefulness is the test of value. That artificial wealth which exists amongst the Externals, and depends for its support upon their capricious passions, has no place with the Symzonians; our whole list of fancy articles, all our ornaments, every description of things which are only calculated to gratify pride or vanity, are considered
by them as worse than useless. They wear garments because they defend the body, and are necessary to decency; but it never occurred to their simple minds, that the fairest work of an Infinite Being could be unproved by trinkets and fripperies of man's device. Their judgments are not so much perverted, nor their tastes so much depraved. Therefore, having ascertained a mode of providing necessary raiment in the most convenient manner, they one and all adopted it, and, by dressing alike, they maintain a perfect equality in their wants in that respect.
Their cloth is a beautiful substance, manufactured in a peculiar manner, by a process resembling that employed by the natives of the South Sea Islands, and not unlike our mode of making paper.
The material is found in caves and amongst the rocks of the mountains, where a species of insects, larger than our spider, produce it in great abundance. They form webs somewhat like those of spiders, but of a firmer texture, and more compactly woven. These webs have the properties of asbestos, owing probably to the insects
subsisting upon that or some similar substance. The inhabitants collect them with great care, and lay them in a mould of the dimensions of the piece of cloth to be made, placing so many of them one upon another as the intended thickness of the cloth requires. This done, a fluid preparation which hardens by the influence of fire, without losing its elasticity, is poured over it. It is then pressed firmly together, and passed over a heated cylinder, which completes the operation.
This cloth is extremely convenient. Being incombustible, like asbestos, it is only necessary to pass a garment through the fire to purify it perfectly. It is also very durable; and being exquisitely white, it corresponds admirably with the delicate complexions of the people, and the mild light of the region they inhabit.
All the divisions of labour necessary to the convenience and welfare of society, are here perfectly understood. The community is not bewildered by a voluminous and complex system of political economy, consisting of abstract principles, buried in abstract and unintelligible words, and rendered
too intricate to be understood by those who have common sense, or too inapplicable to civilized society to be adopted by those who have any sort of sense—invented by the Wise men of one country to mislead the politicians of another, and to depress the Good and the Useful.
Their circulating medium consists of tokens for every variety of things, and every description of services. These tokens are originally issued by the government, for services performed and articles supplied for the national benefit. One description represents one day's labour; a second, a standard measure of grain; a third, a small measure of pulse; a fourth, a given quantity of a particular fruit; a fifth, a measure of cloth, and so forth. There being a sufficient variety to represent all the articles which are in common use, they have all the advantages of exchange, without the trouble of delivery when the things are not wanted for actual consumption.
When, by any circumstances, the supply of any particular article in any district falls short of the demand to such a degree, that
the tokens will not command what they represent, it is the business of the government to draw from the more fruitful districts a sufficiency to equalize the value, either by direct purchase, or by requiring the contributions of the fruitful districts in kind, and sending the articles to the place of scarcity, or by receiving the contributions of the district in which scarcity prevails, in tokens, and thus raising their value, or by both these operations in extreme cases.
Commerce is practised only for the common convenience of society. The accumulation of wealth, and indulgence in luxury, being disreputable, and a bar to admission to the distinguished orders, an overreaching and avaricious spirit is not generated by traffic, as in the external world, but every operation of trade and transfer is performed on the most reasonable terms, which will enable him who performs it to live upon an equality with his fellow-men.
All contributions are required directly from the people, that every one may know the full extent of his proportion of the expense of government. Every man under
the age of one hundred years, is rated at the same amount, unless he have young children; in which case the tax is reduced in proportion to the number of such children, according to a graduated scale. This tax is so light that nothing but a criminal want of industry or frugality can hinder any one from paying it.
The whole revenue of government requires no more than one or two days labour of each man per annum; and as the government exists for the sole purpose of preserving the freedom of the citizens, in the pursuit of happiness, and in the enjoyment of all those privileges and immunities which are compatible with the well-being of society, all are equally indebted for its benefits. Property being altogether a matter of secondary consideration, is not considered a proper object of taxation. In case of an accumulation of good things in the hands of an individual, beyond his wants, the surplus is in general voluntarily devoted by him to the use and benefit of his fellow-beings, in some shape or other, for the promotion of his own happiness. Doing good is here considered as the highest of earthly
gratifications. When a man is more than one hundred years of age. he is considered to have performed his full share of public service, and to be entitled to exemption for the remainder of his days.