Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
Containing some account of the Symzonian engine of defence.—Story of a very ancient war with at; internal nation called Belzubians, which caused the invention of this engine.—Opposition of the Good men to its being used.—Fultria the inventor's speech in defence of it.—Deliberations of the Council.—Termination of the war.—Sentiments of the people on the subject.
The prohibition by the Best Man of any information being given to me of their engines of defence, excited my curiosity. I was anxious to discover what those engines were, and why a people so good, so benevolent, and so harmless, could have any occasion for them. I dared not ask for airy direct account of their nature, as I knew that an attempt to induce any one to break through the Best Man's injunctions, would be considered as the greatest of offences, and cause my immediate expulsion from the favoured district.
All my efforts to obtain the desired information indirectly, fell short of my object. I however gathered from casual observation,
and from some manuscripts which fell into my hands, that in times long past, the people of Symzonia maintained a commercial intercourse with a nation on the opposite side of the internal world, beyond the equator, called in their ancient manuscripts Belzubians. This intercourse was kept up for many years; for the Wise men contended that it was beneficial, by enabling the people of Symzonia to obtain many things cheaper than they could themselves produce them. But in process of time, the Good men discovered that the people became poorer, more addicted to idleness, and given to the indulgence of many inordinate desires and extravagant vanities. At length the unworthy became so numerous, as to endanger the morality and virtue of the whole community, and it was necessary to banish them to a place of exile. in the hot regions near the extreme limit of the world at the north.
This was the origin of the system of casting out the corrupted members of society. At the time of its adoption, the government endeavoured to remove the cause of the evil by prohibiting, as they had a clear right to do, all further intercourse, for purposes
of trade, with the Belzubians: but the latter had become so depraved and sordid, by their addiction to traffic, and were so puffed up with the idea that they were the most powerful nation of the two, that they resolved to maintain a commerce with the Symzonians by force, in defiance of the regulations of the government.
The Good men were thus placed in a most painful dilemma. They could not prevent this forced intercourse entirely, without shedding the blood of their fellow beings, to which they felt an insurmountable aversion. For a time they contented themselves with endeavours to reclaim the people. They exhorted them to abstain from the use of the things brought by the Belzubians; and finally succeeded so far as to diminish the advantages which their enemies had before derived from the trade, so as to make it no longer worth pursuing. The Belzubians then sent armed men in their ships to take possession of Symzonia, and compel the Good men and the people to submit to the contaminating intercourse demanded by their cupidity.
The most frightful distress now pervaded the land. The enemy having to do with a
people who had no arms, and who were in the highest degree averse to the shedding of blood, easily conquered a large portion of the country. Those who had been corrupted by intercourse with them, joined the standard of the Belzubians, and forwarded their views.
The total subjection of the country, and the destruction of its virtues and happiness, would have ensued, but for the timely appearance amongst them of a man of singular ingenuity. This man, named Fultria, invented the air vessels, one of which I have before spoken of. He also invented the engine of defence, the description of which was prohibited. The knowledge of its construction, and the manner of using it, was confined to a few select Good men, who were bound to secrecy by the most solemn obligations. I could obtain no other idea of it, than that it was a vast machine moved upon wheels, and rendered of but little specific gravity, by means of the apparatus employed in their air vessels, by the help of which it could, on an emergency, be raised into the air for a short time, to cross rivers or broken ground.
It was propelled by means of a great number of tubes, projecting very obliquely through the bottom near the ground, through which air was forced with such prodigious violence, that the resistance of the earth and atmosphere impelled the machine forwards: in this way it was moved with astonishing velocity. From all sides of this engine a great number of double tubes projected, through which two kinds of gas were caused to issue. These gases uniting at the extremities, produced a flame of intense heat, like that of our compound blow-pipe on a large scale, which flame, according to tradition, was ejected with such force, as to consume every thing for half a mile in every direction. The interior of the machine was sufficiently capacious to admit men enough to direct its motions and prepare the gases, and also the materials and apparatus necessary to their production.
When this terrific engine was completed, Fultria proposed to exterminate the enemy at once; whereupon all the Good and many of the Wise men objected to so barbarous a proceeding. They contended that it would be contrary to the practice
of civilized nations, and taking an unjustifiable advantage of the enemy, by using means of warfare not resorted to by civilized men, and not much better than poisoning them secretly. They could not consent to such unheard of barbarity; at best it was justifying the means by the end, and doing evil that good might come; but it was better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.
Fultria, on hearing these objections to the use of the means of emancipation which he had provided with so much labour and ingenuity, ascended the platform, and addressed the Best Man in Council in defence of his engine and his views. I found his speech on record, it having been carefully preserved, notwithstanding the lapse of many centuries. I translated it with the aid of Surui,, but our language is not sufficiently nervous to convey the sentiments of this enlightened man with the energy and conciseness of the original language. I endeavoured to put down the substance of it in English, but it cannot be expected that a sailor should do such justice to a fine specimen of Symzonian eloquence as might be done by some of our professed
belles lettres scholars, who pass their lives in studying the arrangement of words and in admiring the elegance and dignity of their compositions.
“Best Man of our race! you have been told that it would be barbarous in us to exterminate the corrupt and contaminating invaders—should we not be more barbarous to submit to depravement and degradation?
“You have been told that by using the engine I have invented, you would take an unjustifiable advantage of our foes—do they not take unjustifiable advantage by employing their superior skill in the diabolical arts of physical warfare and moral turpitude, to prostrate the strength and destroy the virtue of our people?
“You have heard it urged, that the practices of civilized men do not justify the use of such means of warfare, and that the adoption of them would be the extreme of inhumanity. What then shall we do? Shall we permit the wicked to gratify their cupidity by plundering the feeble and devastating the defenceless, with little
danger of hardship to themselves, and many allurements of advantage from success, and thus perpetuate war by rendering the pursuit of it safe and attractive?
—“No, Sir; it is most humane to cut off the instigators and performers of inhuman deeds.
“I would show my abhorrence of war by rendering it too horrible to be encountered.
“I would abolish war by ensuring inevitable destruction to all who engaged in it.
“I would utterly destroy the invaders that none may hereafter dare to draw the sword for invasion.
“Let all who take the sword perish by the sword, and war will be known no more.”
The Council deliberated upon the measures recommended by Fultria, and upon the miserable situation of the country. They had no support but their confidence in the Sovereign Ruler of the world, and no hope of relief but from the favour of his Providence. They feared that a majority of the people had now become so degenerate in their minds, and so exasperated by their circumstances, that they would be
eager to second the views of Fultria, and engage in the work of destruction. But, for themselves, with a few exceptions, they remained steadfast in their virtuous principles and feelings, and could by no means consent to do what every dictate of reason and religion forbade. They were accountable for their own acts, not for the acts of others, or their consequences. They knew that to do right, and that alone, was safe. If they acted, that must be their rule. The end could not justify the means.
At last it was thought that the exhibition of this terrible machine, with all its engines in operation, in sight of the Belzubians and their adherents, would impress them with such dread and horror, as to drive them immediately from the country, and effectually deter them from ever returning. This expedient was therefore tried, and it was completely successful. The enemy fled with as much precipitancy and haste as did the Midianites at the sight of the lamps and the noise of the broken pitchers of Gideon. The land was presently cleared of the Belzubians and their apostate followers; all intercourse with their country
was prohibited; and since that time war had not been known.
Three or four thousand years had now passed away, and doubts were entertained whether this were matter of genuine history, or an ingenious allegory, intended to present to the people a glowing picture of the evils which might follow a gross departure from purity of life and rectitude of principle. There were very few who could conceive it possible that human nature had ever sunk to such extreme depravity, and that so great a proportion of mankind had been enslaved by evil passions, as to render the wicked the most numerous. In general, therefore, it was supposed that Fultria, willing to exhibit a magnificent specimen of his genius, and being somewhat under the influence of vanity, as Wise men often are, fancied it possible for such a deplorable state of corruption and violence to happen in a long course of ages, and stated an imaginary case, as an excuse for constructing his tremendous engine.
I did not express my opinions on this subject, for I thought it most discreet to conceal the fact, that such a state of things actually existed in the external world.—
[paragraph continues] My silence, however, did not avail; for, having put my books, among which were Ree's Cyclopediæ, Shakspeare's works, Milton's Paradise Lost, and many volumes of modern history, poetry, and novels, into the hands of Surui, I was soon called upon for explanations as to what was true, and what fictitious.