I have opined, in a recent entry, that no matter how obscure or advanced the work you are doing, and no matter how studiously Society as a whole ignores said work, there is always somebody out there who "gets" you. I don't know if that's true, now, as regards past-life memory; but perhaps there is a historian out there somewhere, who "gets" that aspect of what I'm doing.
You know that I always like to put my money where my mouth is. So yesterday, I suggested that, while writing for the New Orleans "Daily Delta," Mathew Franklin Whittier (myself in that century) was actually making contact with abolitionist sympathizers, and then reporting those contacts in his published articles in a kind of code. By "code," I don't mean cryptography; I mean veiled references.
So today, I thought I'd give an example. At least, I am pretty darned sure that's what this is. I don't know who the people are that Mathew is meeting with. But I'd have to guess that's what's going on, here. Mathew has to report back to William Lloyd Garrison, and his followers, who he has made contact with. They will know the people he is representing, as characters on a fishing expedition. This is the "Piscatorian Brotherhood," which is to say, they are "fishers of men." Not in the Biblical sense, perhaps--more likely, in the sense of the Underground Railroad.
This piece, which looks as though it was intended as a series, is the last that I found of Mathew's work in the "Delta." My hunch is that somebody got suspicious, and he had to return to Boston. The piece I'm sharing, here, was published on June 1, 1848--and the first of the slave market reports, which is published in the June 19, 1848 Boston "Chronotype," was dated on this same day. So Mathew probably had to leave New Orleans at about that time.
This piece is safely unsigned, but as for the matter of its authorship, I am reasonably certain it is Mathew, given the writing style and a number of clues. For example, we see references to Diogenes and Plato (Mathew frequently referenced ancient Greek philosophers), and the characterization of the "burletta of the Mexican War." "Theodore" is undoubtedly a reference to abolitionist Theodore Parker--the very mention of whom, in the South, would get you ridden out on a rail. (I have a hunch that may have been the mistake which alerted his enemies to his activities--that, and the "burletta" comment.) Among the members, Mathew is probably the "Secretary," a role he seems to have frequently adopted in these meetings, given that he was proficient in shorthand. Clearly, the "Big Sachem"* is someone prominent in the abolitionist movement, or prominent in some other way. In fact, as I key in the HTML, I recognize a whole bunch of clues, too numerous to analyze, here. I do know that when Mathew drops a reference that is oxymoronic, or inherently nonsensical, he's up to something. Thus, "child of twenty summers sporting in its mother's lap" means something. Something, or someone, is 20 years old at this point; and "sporting in its mother's lap" is clearly symbolic. It could be a person, or perhaps a movement or an organization--perhaps, the Underground Railroad (I would have to check the historical record), or the abolitionist movement, itself. But without looking it up, if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that the Underground Railroad in the South, where it has been "sporting" right in its "mother's lap," is 20 years old as of this writing.**
Mathew had been trained in mysticism by his first wife, Abby Poyen, though when she first began tutoring him on this and other subjects, he was a skeptic. Gradually, he began to take it seriously, but often, in his published humorous works, he played a bit fast-and-loose with it. Here, he is pretending to summarize the historical search for mystical Truth as though it were the "Free and Easy," i.e., an attitude of being nonchalant. This stems from his particular interest in the ancient Greek Stoic philosophers, the ones he most strongly resonated with. (I have evidence for all of this.)
As regards the fishing expedition which forms the core of this account, it might be interesting to see what I said in 2013 about Mathew's undercover work in the South. This was several years before I learned of his writing for the "Daily Delta." I remember that at this point in the regression, I seemed to go "under" deeply enough that the past-life memories were "clicking." By "newspaper," I am referring to the Portland "Transcript," Edward Elwell's paper, and I'm speaking of attending what appear to be publishers' conventions.
S: Well I'm doing two things. I am ostensibly a representative of this newspaper. But I'm also spying.
S: With regard to Abolitionism. And I think I'm connecting with people who are against slavery down there, which is very touchy.
C: Uh hum.
S: Very touchy. So I have to constantly always have another rationale for everything I do. Everything has to have a double rationale. You can't ever do anything that would be out of character for your main purpose. (cough) See.
C: For your surface person.
S: Yeah. You can't go anywhere or see anybody or do anything, if it doesn't have a rationale. Yeah. Or you're in trouble.
C: And, so, is this sort of fun in a way?
S: No. I never thought it was fun. It was always awful. (laughs) Yeah. Scared the crap out of me every single time. I never thought it was fun. I don't think I did that many times, but...(laughs)...yeah.
The following is Mathew at his jocular obfuscating best. He layers it on in direct proportion to the danger of being discovered; and here, he has put on several extra coatings. If anybody who has studied the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century has any insights about this piece, I'd certainly appreciate it if they would drop me a note. (You can adopt a pseudonym, if you don't want to risk your colleagues learning that you contacted a crazy reincarnationist.)
The New Orleans "Daily Delta"
June 1, 1848
Chronicles of the Piscatorian Brotherhood.
Eds. Delta--As the pleasing task has been assigned me, of recording and transmitting to you the sayings and doings of the Cordial Fraternity, I must enjoin it upon you not to take anything that you may here find written for granted--but rather submit all the matter herein recorded to the test of your own knowledge of the "Genus Homo,"--or else try them by the Council of Experience--then, if they do not outrage the one, or beggar the other, why you may take them as they had been written on oath.
This Order has been created, by the fraternization of the Military, with the Civil and Religious Mingoes of Baton Rouge, and has for its object, (as these veritable chronicles will abundantly set forth in the sequel,) the discovery of the secret of the genuine "Free and Easy,"--a secret which has occupied the attention of all the Virtuousos, Antiquarians, and Savans, since the ancients first began to write "Anno Mundi," down to the present time, A.D. 1848.
A comical old burlesque, by the name of Diogenes, reduced himself to such destitution in the pursuit of this secret, that he could not raise even enough to buy a decent pair of breeches, and so had to stick himself down into an Athenian tub, with just his head visible--and he died without ever arriving any nearer a consummation of his wishes, than when he trampled on the pride of Plato, and told Alexander to get out of his sunshine. He has ever since been considered a famous humbug.
Then there was Peter Stylus, who lived on top of a brick pillar and eat bean soup for eighteen years. Well, he never found it, and has been set down ever since as not only a humbug but a hypocrite, and not a true searcher. Subsequently came Thomas a'Becket, then >Peterkind Warbeck, then Godwyn, then Shelley; while our own day has given to this lofty pursuit the names of a Gideon and a Theodore--but they have all failed, while this mighty secret lies hidden like a diamond embedded in the bowels of the dusky mine.
But we, though the fulfilment of our wishes is so uncertain, seeing that the drama of Sixty Centuries, followed by the burletta of the Mexican War, and the whole concluded with the laughable farce of the Court of Inquiry, or Gideon in a Fix, have failed to show us a character that ever attained to anything like our idea of the genuine Free and Easy--yet we, animated as we are by the sacred impulse of making this world happier to the happy, and more tolerable to the unfortunate, are determined to spend the remainder of our lives, natural and unnatural, in ahchahesting everything and everybody, until this gorgeous mystery, this rara avis in terris shall reveal its Divine features to our inspection.
First Visit of the Piscatorians to the Amite, in search of the "Free and Easy."
The earliest hint had scarcely been given upon the horizon, as to the locality of that point of the compass termed East,--while yet the mist of early morning hung heavily upon the bosom of the Father of Waters,--in a word, it was daybreak in Baton Rouge, and the distant wind of a horn, or the far-off rumbling of the butcher's wagon, on his way to market with tough beef, were the only sounds that stirred the stillness of the early morn. As the last note of the horn died away, and as the butcher halted his wagon before the stall in the market place, five Piscatorians might have been seen clustered around a venerable coach, to the tongue of which a pair of illy matched nags were being harnessed, by a little specimen of the descendants of Ham, about 12 years old.
All are impatient to be off:--the daylight was fast dappling the eastern sky, while "the stars that shine with meekest ray" were winking at the approach of the rising God, whose dazzling beams were so soon to melt them into the abyss of Light. These signs gave an additional impetus to the exertions of the impatient five, although all was ready--the ice packed behind, which the Sage, Shadegasko, was deputed to watch in case it should feel inclined to drop off, the frying pan was lashed athwart ship, the poles secured by twine bands, and the driver mounted to his seat;--then there was a tremendous lifting in of baskets and bundles--segars, wine, &c. The Captain, he had a mammoth willow grave, in the bowels of which a quantity of choicest viands were buried, patiently awaiting their resurrection. The Secretary sported two bundles, containing pepper, salt, fatmeat, and stale-bread, he having been appointed cuisinier for the nonce. The Big Sachem, considering the transportion of small packages incompatible with his dignity, carried no bundle, but a monstrous linen mystery, about the size of Daniel Lambert's bib; this, he said, was to be used as a rustic table-cloth upon which to spread our Forest Feast.
All at length being in readiness, we stowed ourselves away in and about the vehicle. Shadegasko, the Sage, and the Big Sachem, by the right of seniority, occupied the back seat, with the Captain and Joshua for their vis-a-vis. The Secretary comforted himself with the more airy position alongside the aforesaid African Unit. And away we rolled in a great good humor for the Amite, to ensnare with treacherous allurements the hungry and confiding Finitees. The dim discovered prospect of houses, chimneys, pedestrians, fields, fences, trees, &c., rushed past us on either side, as if they were running a foot race to--no place in particular--with a hot breakfast for the wager.
"The oscillating, vibratory undulations" of the coach having been previous pronounced by the Big Sachem as decidedly promotive of a somniferous suspension of animation, that venerable gentleman at once proceeded to demonstrate the truth of his assertion by going off into a ham-and-egg-supper-snore. The Sage, Shadegasko, after having satisfied himself of the unfeigned character of the Sachem's slumbers, proceeded, without fear of contradiction or argument, to discuss to his remaining coadjutors the character of the Amite as a fishing stream--its limpid waters, deep and tranquil, eddying under the green shade of the water-willow--its grassy marge, with here and there a shelving sand-bank sheering away to the channel, and bearing upon its pebbly bosom the rushing waters, sparkling, leaping, and murmuring, like a child of twenty summers sporting in its mother's lap!
"The trout," said the Sage, Shadegaska, "called by the Latins trocta, or trutta, is a fish of prey, and is chiefly found in the edges of the swift current, watching for the small fry that are often whirled away out of the eddies and shallow water by its treacherous encroachments. Whenever this is the case the trout remains passive until the minnow becomes intoxicated by the frequent somersets and lateral evolutions, which the conflicting currents cause him to make in his futile efforts to escape back to the still water. So soon as he is rendered unconscious of his position, and altogether unable to define it, the merciless foe darts up and embowels him."
"Next to the trout," continued the Sage, "which is esteemed to be the best of all the Southern fresh-water fish, is the 'goggle-eyed perch.' His haunt is among the dark water caverns along a bluff shore--the foot of an old stump, down among his roots, is his favorite domicil;--there he watches for bugs, flies, and worms, which he darts upon and captures by suction. The red earthworm is the best bait with which to tempt these hermits. It must be dropped stealthily and noiselessly down in the deepest, darkest spot; the more roots and logs that environ the place the better; for he loves a dark, secluded place, and from this particular feature of his character, he is by some Piscatorians called the 'log perch.' There is no nibbling with him; as soon as he discovers the worm squirming upon the hook, he drifts up to it like a shadow, pauses before it a second, opens his great jaws, and the cork disappears beneath the surface;--and now you must be quick, or else he winds your line about the old roots and snags, and bids defiance to your skill to get him out. I have caught them with hooks in their mouths that had evidently undergone the oxidation of months. This experience has determined me on a point, the decision of which I have had some difficulty in making. It is this, that fish are not skilled in the science of chirugery!"
While the Secretary was making a minute of this important discovery upon a packet of segars, the Big Sachem awoke with a snort, and immediately demanded where he was. Upon being promptly informed by Joshua that he was about five miles from Baton Rouge, he pulled out his watch, announced the hour, and lighting a segar, abandoned himself to a philosophical contemplation of the causes why man ever used tobacco.
END OF CHAPTER I.
Stephen Sakellarios, M.S.
*The reference "Big Sachem" is another strong clue as to Mathew's authorship, inasmuch as he has already used that term in the "Chronotype" for two scathing satires on Caleb Cushing's involvement in the Mexican War, in February of the previous year. Those, also, are written anonymously, but in that instance I consider Mathew's authorship proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
**The online sources I looked up after writing this entry, take it back to 1820 or even earlier. But Mathew may have casually estimated "20 years" (taking it to 1828) based on his own knowledge of the history. Or, he may have been referencing a particular organization. If the "fishing" going on was rescuing slaves, then the reference would mean that the Amite River had figured in the Underground Railroad for 20 years.
Music opening this page: "Follow the Drinkin Gourd," traditional,
sung by Richie Havens, from the album, "Songs of the Civil War"