FUN AT THE CAPITOL OF MISSISSIPPI.
JACKSON, Miss., Feb 8, 1844.
To the Editor of the Tropic : — We have had quite an exciting day in this our metropolis of Mississippi, and as the events are worth chronicling, I snatch an hour from the night to give you my memoranda in their original freshness. About 11 o’clock, A.M., the fire bell of the city sounded with portentous earnestness ! The Capitol, the just pride of every Mississippian, was pronounced to be on fire ! The House of Representatives hurried through the form of adjournment, but the Senate dissolved without form or order in the most individual manner. “ Mr. President, the Capitol is on fire,” said a Senator. “ The hell it is !” said the President, and he instantly ran out of the place, without his hat, followed by the whole of the august body, in a sauve qui peut dismay. The fire never made itself visible, but a little smoke from a flue served as an excuse for the Fire Company to pump and play against the chimnies and over the roof, after dragging an interminable quantity of leaky hose through every department of the capitol.
There never has been a positive fire in the city of Jackson. Judge, then, of the excitement of our firemen, when, in the early part of the evening the bell again sounded, and a body of flame was seen ascending from the roof of the Eagle, the principle hotel in the city. Another disappointment ;—a drunken gambler had thrown his whiskey bottle into the fire, and the blaze passed through the chimney without even igniting the roof.
At the evening session every member of the House was in his place, and a crowd of ladies graced the gallery. Some rare fun was expected, as it was known that Lindsay, the Representative from Stawamba county was to speak. This person, a repudiating loco foco, is, or was, a Methodist Preacher, uncouth in his manners, ungainly in his person, and illiterate in his discourse. Some idea of this man’s fitness for his position may be gathered from the following verbatim report of his speech on the motion to reduce the salaries of the Judiciary, a loco foco measure, introduced a few days since, and opposed by the respectable of both parties. “ Where I was raised, in Old Alarbarm, we never gin a judge of any sort more nor fifteen hundred a year—and if I may be allowed to conjecture, I do reckon that we had just as good judges in Alabarm as you can raise in Messeysap. My consti-chew-ents sent me here to practise ‘conomy—tharfore, I goes for ‘conomy ; and sorry am I to observe that many which I thought knowed better, are a strainin’ and a reachin’ arter the high puss"—(purse.)
This learned legislator on this evening, Thursday, introduced a bill, which the Clerk of the House several times attempted to read, but was prevented by his own fits of laughter and the tumultuous cachinations of the members.
“ A Bill to relieve the Free Citizens of Mississippi and Travellers. Be it hereby enacted, that it is lawful for any white citizen of Mississippi to sell alcoholous, vinous, and other fermenting liquors in any quantity over a quart, provided he keeps order in the house when the same is drunk.”
Amid the heartiest laughter, the speaker left the chair, and the house resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to consider the Bill, which was again and again read over by the Clerk, Dr. L. was desired to explain who was to keep order and who was to be drunk ? He arose and uttered the following speech :—
“ Well, I railly aint no objection myself to ‘splain the bill, becas I think the bill ‘splains itself. We all on us like a little drap o’ suthin’ ardent—some genelmen carries a bottle—some genelmen don’t—I allus carries a bottle myself, and I knows many genelmen now standin’ and sittin’ around me who takes a drop whenever they kin—and these genelmen, as well as myself, is now by law obleeged to buy a gallon when we oney wants half a pint, which is contrary to the Constitution, contrary to human natur, and contrary to the rights of all free white citizens of the state of Masseysap, and travellers in giniral.
“ I knowed a gentleman—a right genteel gentleman too he was, I do assure you, gentlemen, who was travellin in this State with his wife and hull crowd o’ leetle ones in a waggin, and his lady was tuck with the shakes, and his bottle was run out. There was a fix to be in, gentlemen ! he didn’t want to buy a gallon of ardent becas it warn’t convenient —so he asked the landlord to fill his bottle at a fair price—and the landlord, who was a clever feller, and knowed what it was to have the shakes and be out o’ licker, why he filled the gentleman’s bottle at a fair price, when another gentleman who was standing by, says “ your’e a goin” contrary to the laws of Misseysap, and then this gentleman goes out and informs agin the landlord for selling licker to the gentleman whose wife had the shakes by less than a gallon, and if they hadn’t knowed him well all round them parts he’d a been fined and imprisoned for doin’ as any gentleman would like to be done when ‘is bottle is run out, which is contrary to the rights of any white man, traveller or not.
“ I knowed another gentleman whose horse was tuck right sick, and he was told that a little brandy and a haaf pint o’ campfire would cure the beast. Now he was temperate and never drinked, but for all that he was obleeged to buy a gallon when he oney wanted a drap to mix with the campfire. Is this law for any white man to live by ?
“ Why, I myself, gentlemen, were once travellin down there by the Yellerbusher, with a friend, beside myself, when I felt like takin a small horn, havin been movin right smartly through the swamps the hull day, which my friend said was correct and unanimously agreed with me in the same. Well, I myself was obleeged to pay for a gallon when I oney wanted to fill a three half pint bottle—which is my size as it fits well into the side pocket of my top coat, though some gentlemen’s bottles is larger, but I never knowed a gentlemen to carry a bottle big enough to hold a gallon.”
This speech was loudly cheered throughout, and Mr. L.’s solemn earnestness of manner contributed materially to heighten the effect. The best of the joke is that his bugbear, “ the gallon law,” as it is called, had been repealed for some considerable length of time.
A member moved to strike out “ alcoholous and vinious,” and insert “ table beer.”
An amendment was moved and seconded, and put on paper—the clerk read it aloud, and it proved to be a parody on Russell’s song, “ A Life on the Ocean Wave,” beginning “ A day in a muddy swamp.”
Another “ amendment” introduced the epigram now going the rounds of the papers about the marriage of a Mr. Bee to a Miss Flower, ending with
“ And soon there will, if heaven pleases, Be a swarm of little Beeses.”
Here the fun grew fast and furious—the ladies left the gallery—the chairman rapped in vain, and Mr. Balfour rose in great heat and said—
“ Mr. Speaker, look at that chandelier !—look at this splendid pile of building—look at every body about us—is this a place to play the fool ? I look—I look upon the bill proposed as a disgrace to the nation—a disgrace to the State—a disgrace to the house of God !”
The committee reported progress—the bill was ordered to lay upon the table, and the house adjourned about ten o’clock at night.
D. V. M.
Source: New York Spirit of the Times 14.3 (16 March 1844): 27. University of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
 Original text reads “convenieut.”
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