On Gradual Abolition


In the phrenzy of the day, some weak minded powers, in Europe, begin to consider what is called the African trade as a moral wrong, and to provide for a gradual abolition of it. If they will abolish it, I approve of its being done gradually; because, numbers being embarked in this trade, it must ruin them all at once, to desist from it. On this principle, I have always thought it a defect in the criminal codes of most nations, not giving licence to the perpetrators of offences, to proceed, for a limited time, in larcenies, burglaries, &c. until they get their hands out of use to these pursuits, and in use to others. For it must be greatly inconvenient to thieves and cut-throats, who have engaged in this way of life, and run great risks in acquiring skill in their employment, to be obliged all at once to withdraw their hands, and lay aside picking locks, and apply themselves to industry in other ways, for a livelihood.

——Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Modern Chivalry.

On Avoiding Wit and Humor


It is indeed acting but a poor part in life, to make a business of laughing at the follies of others. It is injurious to one’s self; for there is a great deal more to be gained by soothing and praising what men do, than by finding fault with them. It may be said of satire, what was said of anger by some philosopher, It never pays the service it requires. It is your scratching, rump-tickling people, that get into place and power. I never knew any good come of wit and humor yet. They are talents which keep the owner poor. For this reason, I have taken care to repress all propensity to this vice; and I believe I can say with truth, that since I have come to the years of a man’s understanding, I have carefully avoided every thing of this nature.

——Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Modern Chivalry.

[It is probably not necessary to remark that Judge Brackenridge writes ironically here.]