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A Fable

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

There was a large forest, inhabited by a few sheep. In the neighborhood was a nation of mastiff dogs, another of foxes, another of wolves, and another of boars. The sheep were protected by the dogs till they increased to a great multitude. After a bloody war, in which they were saved by the dogs from both the foxes and the wolves, the sheep imagined themselves to be a very mighty people, and some old stinking rams told them it was not proper that the dogs should any longer rule over them. The dogs had bit them they said, and intended to bite them more severely. And so the sheep proclaimed themselves a commonwealth of free people. Yet while they complained how the dogs had oppressed them, they boasted with the same breath, that so greatly had they prospered, that in twelve years they were become a match for the world, though it was evident that before that time they could not defend themselves against the foxes only. The dogs, upon this, resolved to bring them back to obedience, but the sheep implored the foxes, the wolves, and the boars to attack the dogs, which they gladly performed; and while the best mastiffs were in the country of the sheep, these different tribes so violently attacked their old formidable enemies the dogs, that they utterly broke their strength, and ruined them as a people. But the sheep did not long boast of their profound politics; the foxes, the wolves, and the boars poured in upon them, and soon rendered them the most abject and miserable of all animals.

 The Moral…

 is this. The Americans are, in reality, as defenceless as sheep; it is impossible they can, for several centuries, constitute an empire; they want many requisites. The English are generous, brave mastiffs; the French have always been sly, ravenous foxes, the Spaniards cruel wolves, when they conquer, and the Dutch mere wild boars, wherever they can effect a settlement. Amboyna and all their settlements witness this. But though, for the fable’s sake, I suppose the conquest of the mastiffs, I trust that event is yet very distant; and that half a million of determined fighting sheep, with all their ingratitude, (a circumstance infinitely more to be feared than the strength of their horns,) will never effect so unworthy a purpose. And let me add, there is a circumstance in the natural history of the sheep which greatly resembles American courage. When you go near a flock of sheep, a few will at first run, then the whole body of them will draw up in a line like soldiers; will watch your motions; will seem as if they felt vastly bold, aye, and will stamp their feet on the ground in a menacing manner; but let a mastiff walk up to them, and half a million of these determined threateners, will instantly take to their heels, and fly off in the greatest fear and confusion.1


1 “Britannicus,” in the Middlesex Journal, December 26.

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