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LEARNING OF THE BEASTS.
A FA B L E.
FOR THE YEAR 1795.
THE Lion, as king of the forest, issued a a proclamation, requiring beasts of every kind to assemble on a certain day, and give him an account of their several opinions and discoveries : “ For," said he, “I wish to know better than my ancestors seem to have done, the temper of my subjects, and the degree of proficiency to which the capacity of beasts will carry them. That some may not be afraid of others, I shall issue a noli prosequi to all beasts of prey; and I promise á safe conduct to all such as are defenceless, that they may be under no fear of attending the assembly. All creatures will be required to speak their minds without reserve, for no advantage will be taken of what they shall think proper to say. And it is ex
pected that every tribe will depute some individual that will speak with ability, and is the best informed of his kind.”
On this day appointed the assembly met, and were disposed into a circle by the Jackall. The Tyger began:
“ An't please your Majesty, I hold my rank as a beast of prey, and I perceive that the state of nature is a state of war ; for how are tygers to subsist but by making war upon other beasts? If there were to be a peace, what must tygers do? Of the arts of peace they know nothing; they can make no bread, they can drink no milk; their bread is flesh, and their drink is blood. The teeth of a tyger and his claws are offensive weapons; they were made to be used, and their use is in tearing and destroying other creatures ; and nature being the sovereign law by which we are directed, there can be no harm in acting up to it. I therefore kill and slay without remorse, and I think myself, placed in a very honourable station. Let the ass carry burdens, let the ox draw the plough, let the horse be whipped and driven ; I live like a beast of arms, upon plunder: and if tygers were to go in droves, they would drive the world before them; and all inferior creatures would soon be
put into a state of requisition, to be devoured at our pleasure.” Here some of the tame beasts that were present looked very uneasy, and the lion in consequence desired he would carry the subject no farther; so the wolf was ordered to speak next.
of Sir,” said he addressing himself to the Lion, smy honourable friend the Tyger delivered some very noble sentiments, in which I perfectly agree with him. He observed, that if tygers were to associate together they would drive the world. That is the case with us wolves; we go in gangs, and when we are in great want we can attack a whole village : and we hold, that whatever we can catch and overpower we have a right to seize and feed upon. We find the night more convenient for our purposes than the day, and think it was made chiefly for our use. The sun may be admired for his brightness, but he is of much less value to us than the moon. We argue that power and right are the same thing; and that nature intended we should exercise what power we have. Why else was it given ? Exclusive property we utterly declare against : every beast ought to have as much as he can get, and to make his appetites the measure of his conduct. The law of terror is the only law.
that cannot be contradicted: and if every wolf in the world were to be consulted, your Majesty would find them invariably of my opinion. I am no orator, my temper is rough, and my reasons are short ; and having great expectation from the shining abilities of the fox, I beg to be excused from proceeding any farther.”
The Fox was then desired to speak, who began as follows:-“ I am not a beast of such power as the wolf or the tyger. In the use of power I am exactly of their mind; but it is my way to effect my purposes by policy and cunning; and I can prove the world to be my own, by a set of principles which I have long studied. I allow your Majesty,” addressing himself to the lion, '“ to be a king in fact; but I hold, that all beasts are members of one great and indivisible republic; and that there is by right of nature as much majesty in a fox as in a lion. My father was brought up under a fox who was a profound politician, and began to teach me while I was a cub, that power is inherent in beasts of every kind ; and that there was a time, when they all met together and made a lion amongst them by contribution. One gave him his shaggy mane, another gave him a tooth, and another a clay, while others gave him his
nerves and his sinews. What they thus gave they have a right to resume, should the lion be found to exercise his authority improperly : and they themselves are judges of the occasion when this happens.” He added, “ that his theory was greatly to the honour of the lion, because it was better that he should reign by the kindness of his subjects than by conquest, or by any right and title of his own : and that the idea of the latter was so hateful to every beast of sense and spirit, that if there should be found an individual in the brute creation who should be of a different opinion, the foxes had agreed together to chace him out of society, or accuse him to the lion as a traitor against the na, tural rights of the brute creation. As the Lion had proclaimed liberty of speech (the birthright of foxes), he would proceed so for as to say that there was a scheme in agitation among the wolves, to extinguish the regal character in the lion, and revive it in jack-asses and all other beasts of the lower order : that he had a favourable opinion of the scheme, though it was not yet quite ripe ; and he hoped to see the time when foxes should send and receive ambassadors instead of the lion; in which case, he would graciously condescend to give them his tail to