Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
The Author is ordered to depart from Symzonia.—The Best Man's reasons for sending him away.—His ineffectual efforts to obtain a place of rendezvous for purposes of trade.
It was on my return from this visit to the pearl wash maker, that I received notice to wait upon the Best Man. I immediately repaired to his dwelling, with a light heart, in expectation of my usual intellectual feast from his conversation, little suspecting that this interview was to be the last. He received me with a mild solemnity of manner, which warned me that the interview was for some purpose of importance. He did not keep me in suspense, but in a kind and benevolent manner informed me that the Wise men, to whom the copies of my books had been given, had all made their reports, which, together with the accounts of those who had observed the habits of myself and people, and been in the most favourable situation to ascertain my sentiments, had been submitted to him in council; that he had taken full time to reflect
on the subject, before he determined on the painful measure which his duty to his people imposed upon him:
That, from the evidence before him, it appeared that we were of a race who had either wholly fallen from virtue, or were at least very much under the influence of the worst passions of our nature; that a great proportion of the race were governed by an inveterate selfishness, that canker of the soul, which is wholly incompatible with ingenuous and affectionate good-will towards our fellow-beings; that we were given to the practice of injustice, violence, and oppression, even to such a degree as to maintain bodies of armed men, trained to destroy their fellow-creatures; that we were guilty of enslaving our fellow-men for the purpose of procuring the means of gratifying our sensual appetites; that we were inordinately addicted to traffic, and sent out our people to the extreme parts of the external world to procure, by exchange, or fraud, or force, things pernicious to the health and morals of those who receive them, and that this practice was carried so far as to be supported with armed ships, a thing unheard of, except from some very
ancient manuscript accounts of the Belzubians, which had been considered by the Good men of Symzonia, for ages, as nothing more than fables.
After stating these and many other charges against the externals, he added, that many of his council seriously apprehended that it was only our inordinate thirst for gain, that had induced me and my people to hazard our lives in an unknown region, and that it had not escaped their notice, that my vessel was provided with terrific engines of destruction, no doubt to enforce our will where our purposes required it: Wherefore he, the Best Man, in council, had come to a resolution, that the safety and happiness of his people would be endangered by permitting any further intercourse with so corrupt and depraved a race. He therefore required that I should repair forthwith to my vessel. and there remain until the season of bright light was sufficiently advanced to enable me to return to my country in safety; and ordered that all necessary supplies of food, and whatever was wanted to refit my vessel, should be furnished at the expense of the state; but that I should not be permitted
to take away any of the products of the country which I esteemed valuable for traffic, lest the cupidity of my countrymen should lead them to send an armed force to obtain such things.
They were fully aware, he said, of the articles which were most coveted by the externals; for my books had described them, and the purposes to which they were applied; and Efficients would therefore be appointed to examine my vessel, and see that I took away none of those articles. He felt confident that they had additional security for a strict compliance with this prohibitory order, in my integrity, of which he had formed a favourable estimate, notwithstanding the corruption of my nature, and did not apprehend that I would break through his injunctions, after partaking so largely of the hospitality of the country.
I was petrified with confusion and shame, on hearing my race thus described as pestiferous beings, spreading moral disease and contamination by their intercourse, and by thus seeing all my hopes of unbounded wealth at once laid prostrate; and I did not recover from the despondency which overwhelmed me, till I recollected that
[paragraph continues] Mr. Boneto would no doubt have a full cargo of seal skins ready against my return to Seaborn's Land, which would ensure me a handsome fortune.
Any attempt to dissuade the Best Man from his purpose, or to obtain a revocation of the decree, I knew would be altogether vain. I therefore endeavoured to soften the judgment he had formed of the externals, by representing the books, from which the Wise men and himself had drawn their opinions, to be the works of the islanders whom I had described to him as the supposed descendants of the Belzubians, and that they were only re-printed in my country as they had been in his; that we professed to be much more enlightened than those islanders, and styled ourselves emphatically the most enlightened people on the face of the earth, by which we meant no disrespect to the Symzonians, the face of the earth being the outside of it only, and we were not sufficiently enlightened, when the declaration was made, to know that there existed any such people; and that there were many people amongst us who would eagerly emulate the purity and goodness of the Symzonians,
could they but have the benefit of their example, and behold the happiness which attended their course of life. I specified one numerous class in particular, who were remarkable for simplicity of habits, active benevolence, and good will towards mankind.
I admitted that the permission of a free intercourse with the externals, might be productive of great mischief to his people, by introducing vice and disease, which had been observed to spring up amongst the South Sea islanders, and other unsophisticated nations, soon after their discovery by Europeans and Americans; but urged that a limited intercourse, under strict regulations, might be productive of much good; and that the Symzonians would, in that case, enjoy the sweet reflection, that they had contributed to the reformation of many of the externals, by the beauty and loveliness of their example, and at the same time have the benefit of more expanded views of the works of a beneficent Creator, through the information which they might derive from the externals.
To effect this very desirable end, I proposed, that Token Island should be established
as a place of meeting and intercourse, where the externals might erect places of abode, and remain through the winter, and have communication with such of the Symzonians as the Best Man, in council, might be pleased to license for that purpose; and that the useful metal iron, which was not to be found in Symzonia in sufficient quantities to supply the wants of the people, was very abundant in the external world, and would be brought and exchanged for articles which the Symzonians considered useless, or nearly so.
The Best Man objected to this scheme. He had not forgotten the evils related to have followed the ancient commerce with the Belzubians. He also urged, that Token Island was situated in the worst region of the earth, where the extreme heat and great humidity of the air would generate violent diseases amongst those who should have the temerity to remain there in the presence of the sun.
Unhappily, in my eagerness to carry my point, I assured him that this would be no objection to the externals; that in the pursuit of gain, they defied plague, pestilence, and famine; that the rich merchants who
sent out adventurers, never took the climate of a country into consideration, viewing it as of no concern to them how many of the lives of shipmasters and mariners might be sacrificed, nor how many widows and orphans were thus created, provided they could make money by their business; that the externals would come to Token Island so long as there was any thing to be gained by it, even if one half of their number should perish annually; and that the Symzonians could visit them in the temperate season, when they would be quite safe.
The Best Man heard me out, and then told me I had said enough. It would be much less dangerous to his people, he believed, to visit Token Island in the hottest season, than to hold intercourse with such a depraved, covetous, and sordid people at any time of the year. The plan was inadmissible—I must prepare for my departure—The decree would be rigidly enforced.
I expressed my reluctant acquiescence, and begged to be fully informed of his will and pleasure, that I might not in any respect deviate from the course I was desired to pursue. I closed by expressing a
hope, that the numerous manuscripts which the Wise and the Good had bestowed upon me, might not be taken away, but that I might be permitted to carry them to my country, to instruct the externals in the wisdom they contained. After a moment's hesitation he replied, that good books could not do harm in any world, and I might retain them. This was joyful to my ears. I felt sure of instructive and profitable employment for life in translating these productions for the benefit of my fellow externals, and took my leave of the Best Man, with the comfortable reflection that I had not discovered a new world wholly in vain.
On my return to my lodge, I found it deserted of the usual visiters, Surui and other Efficients, appointed to provide for my wants, being the only persons who approached or held conversation with me.—All other persons, from this time until my departure from Symzonia, avoided me in a manner as little calculated to hurt my feelings as possible.
My books were all returned to me; but, to mark my acquiescence in the justice and propriety of the measures adopted by the
[paragraph continues] Best Man, I sent to him by Surui my best telescope, a solar microscope, an excellent sextant, a pair of globes, and a set of charts and maps of the external world. The instruments being superior to any thing possessed by the Symzonians, and all these articles being calculated to extend their views of creation, I knew they would be highly esteemed. All these articles were cordially received as a tribute of gratitude on my part; and I was even given to understand, that the Best Man derived more satisfaction from this indication of my heart, than from the possession of the very useful and desirable things I had presented to him.