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Niobe and Latona.

we remember that when we were the reporter of a respectable country newspaper, we were sent to take notes of the doings of a Whig meeting, and of the speech of a certain Southern orator who had been sent for to come over and help us. After he had finished his nonsense, he approached our humble table [214] with the front of Jupiter. “Sir,” said he, “do you intend to report my speech?” Certainly, “was the response.” Sir, “he returned, you cannot do it. You might as well try to report red-hot balls.” We took him at his word; wrote a respectable speech for him and printed it, and thereby, we then did flatter ourselves, saved for the Whigs at the election a very pretty handful of votes. We have been reminded of this little incident by reading “Cause and contrast,” which is a highly peppered pamphlet, the parturient pangs of which were borne by Mr. Thomas W. McMahon, now of Richmond, in the United States, Territory of Eastern Virginia, but formerly private secretary of the Hon. Fernando Wood.

Mr. McMahon is a gentleman also whose acquaintance with that rare work, “Lempriere's classical Dictionary,” we can vouch for, since he compares the South to Niobe and the North to Latona, and since he also calls plain sea-faring “sporting with the Nereides of the deep.” Now, why he should compare the South to Niobe, we do not precisely comprehend, unless it is conceded by him to be stone dead; and why he should liken the North to Latona we do not any better comprehend, unless he expects us to shoot him and the rest of Niobe's progeny. But when Mr. McMahon is well-mounted upon his rhetorical charger, he dashes ahead like a particularly Headless Horseman; and no martingale of sense is strong enough to stop him. That which puts him upon his most perilous paces is the prosperity of the North. One grievous fault in the character of Latona, [215] is not so much that we have conspired against Niobe's babies, as that we have “banks.” Also “insurance offices.” Likewise “stage-coaches, railroads and steamboats.” Moreover, “commercial emporiums, prosperous and magnificent.”

And how have we obtained all these comfortable things? The off-hand answer of a poor, plain man would be, that we have banks because we have capital; and insurances offices because we have something to insure; that we have “stage-coaches” and other criminal, though convenient, vehicularities, because we have something or somebody to carry, and that our “emporiums” are “commercial” because we have a commerce. But Mr. Thomas W. McMahon knows better than that. All these things have come to us--

1. From the tobacco plantations of Virginia and Tennessee.

2. From the flowery and fruitful regions of Opelousas.

3. From the sugar lands of Attakapas.

4. From the silver shores of the Mississippi, perfumed by groves of orange and citron.

5. From----

But enough of this, though we leave a great deal of excellent fooling unquoted. The truth is that as “An ass once spoke, as learned men deliver,” so he is speaking now again. What on earth has the Bank of Commerce in this city to do with “the orange and citron on the banks of the Mississippi?” What in the name of common sense, or uncommon sense, has the Erie Railroad to do with “the flowery and fruitful regions of Opelousas?” We are not aware that any [216] gentleman in this “emporium” has gone into business, and much less made money, because “the silver shores of the Mississippi are perfumed” with anything — orange, citron or river mud. If “the picturesque and beautiful T. W. McMahon,” as The Richmond Enquirer calls him, had more of sense and less of sonority, he would hardly have fallen into the Hibernian blunder of enumerating the means of wealth at the South as the causes of her poverty; nor would he have attempted to show that Niobe is poor because she has had a monopoly of two of the most valuable productions of the world.

It is difficult to see why Latona is to be thus shrewishly berated because she has been a good customer. If we have bought cotton, have we not paid for it before spinning and weaving it? If Latona has been indebted to Niobe for tobacco, we ask in the name of Justitia — for we also like to be classical now and then — we ask in the name of Justitia, and Themis, and Equitas, and other goddesses, and all the appropriate gods-we ask, if Latona has not paid for that tobacco, short-cut, long-cut, pig-tail, plug, Cavendish, honey-dew, before chewing or smoking it? And as for cotton, the writer of this article has every reason to believe that the shirt which he has on, when in its original condition — its cottonian condition — was not only bought upon what Thomas calls “the blessed sea-island coasts,” but was also bought at a price fixed by the Blessed Sea-Island Coasters themselves; that they drew for the money, and that the bills were cashed at maturity; so that the shirt in question is [217] not — to be classical again — in the least a new Nessus-shirt to the wearer, but an honest garment to be received from the washerwoman without remorse and to be put on without a pang.

Now, can McMahon lay his hand where his heart should be, and say as much of his shirt? Is he sure that the cloth of which his pantaloons are built, bought, doubtless, by an enterprising Richmond tailor in New York, has ever been paid for by the aforesaid tailor? Is he sure that he, the said MeMahon, had not on at the moment of penning his splendid production, a pair of French boots bought in New York, but, alas! in New York never paid for? Niobe owes us millions upon millions, but how much do we owe Niobe, O picturesque and beautiful McMahon! If the facts could be arrived at, we should be willing to wager six cents that the pen with which this philosopher wrote, the ink which he misused, the paper which he spoiled, were all bought in New York, and remain unpaid for and to this we will add another wager of two-pence, that the press upon which this brilliant pamphlet was printed, and the ink with which it was printed, and the virgin paper deflowered by its printing, were all bought in this or some other Northern “emporiums,” and remain unpaid for. Considering all these things, we are willing to confess that McMahon's blarney is about the boldest which has recently come to our notice.

Everybody has heard this McMahon's style of lamentation in private life. One man is thrifty, industrious, intelligent, and, therefore, successful.; [218] while his neighbor is everything that he is not. No. 1 gets rich, builds a fine house, pays his debts, and lives in ease and contentment. No. 2 gets poor, hires a squalid house, is turned out of it for not paying his rent, lives at sixes and sevens with society, and thinking himself vastly injured, damns No. 1 as the source of all his woes. He fancies that if No. 1 had remained poor, he, No. 2, would by some fortunate bit of prestidigitation have become opulent — and he makes a fool of himself, and growls fiendishly at No. 1 accordingly. He says in the language of madness and drivel: “See that fellow — he has made his money out of me — he rides in my carriage — he drives my horses — he lives in my house, and he eats my food and he drinks my wine, and he uses my plate, and he wears my clothes.”

“Two hundred and thirty one millions of dollars were,” says McMahon, “the annual dowry which the South (Niobe) cast at her (Latona's) feet.” He then goes on in a dreadfully low-spirited style, to say that the South is a pelicans; that we are her progeny; that she has drained her breasts to feed us; and he concludes by uttering other flapdoodle for the nourishment of the Richmond mind. We congratulate our provincial friends in Virginia upon the possession of such a warm writer in this cold weather; and we are confident that a copy of his pamphlet placed near the feet upon going to bed, will be found equal to the hottest hot-water jug ever corked up to lay between the sheets.

January 22, 1862.

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Niobe (10)
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