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Captain Andre’s Dream – Silas Deane – General Charles Lee – William Livingston – John Jay

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

January 7.—At Mr. Deane’s, in New York, last evening Captain Andre1 read an extempore on Love and Fashion, and a characteristic “Dream” about the rebels, for which he gained much applause from the “fair and the bold.” His allusions to Jacky Jay, Paddy M’Kean, and other rebellious —— were excellent.2

The following is the production referred to above: “I was lately in company where the Metempsychosis became the subject of conversation, and was ably explained by a gentleman of erudition, who traced it from the Braehmans in the East, to Pythagoras in the west, and very learnedly demonstrated the probability and justice of this ancient system. How it was possible to deny that when mankind degraded themselves from the character of rational beings, it became proper that they should assume the figure of those beasts to whose properties they were already assimilated. On the other, how pleasing was it to trace the soul through its several stages, and to behold it rewarded or punished according to its deserts in a new state of existence. Many fanciful observations immediately occurred to the company. Besides several pair of turtle doves, some cock sparrows, and one or two butterflies whom we found among our acquaintances, we were led to take a survey of superior characters. We entertained ourselves with viewing the soul of Louis XIV. transmigrated into a half-starved jackass, loaded with heavy panniers, and perpetually goaded by a meagre Frenchman, who, from the most humble of his slaves, was become the master and tormentor of this absolute and universal monarch. Alexander the Great, for whose ambitious views this whole orb had been too confined, was changed into a little sorry horse, and doomed to spend his life in the diurnal drudgery of turning a mill to which he was constantly fixed with blinds over his eyes. Charles of Sweden made his appearance in the figure of a Russian bear, whilst his wiser competitor was placed at the head of a warlike and industrious monarchy of bees. The poetical soul of Sappho continued to warble in the character of the “Love-born nightingale,” and that of our countryman Pope (into which those of Homer, Horace, Juvenal, and Lucretius had been before blended and transfused) was again revived and admired in the melodious Swan of Twickenham.

“Full of the ideas which this singular conversation had suggested, I retired to my chamber, and had not long pressed the downy pillow before the following vision appeared to my imagination:

“I fancied myself in a spacious apartment, which I soon discovered to be the hall wherein the infernal judges administered justice to the souls which had animated the bodies of men in the superior regions. To my great surprise, instead of those grim personages which I had been taught to expect, I found the judges (who were then sitting) to be of a mild, gentle, and complacent appearance, unlike many dispensers of justice in the vital air, who add terror to severity, and by their very aspect not only awe the guilty, but discourage the innocent. At one end of the hall, after a short interval, appeared a numerous crowd of different shades, ushered in and conducted by Mercury, whose business it was to take charge of the criminals and see the sentences executed. As dreams are of an unaccountable nature, it will not (I presume) be thought strange that I should behold upon this occasion the shades of many men, who, for aught I know, may be still living and acting a conspicuous part upon the worldly theatre. But let this be as it will, I shall go on to relate simply what appeared to me, without troubling myself whether it may meet with credit from others.

“The first person called upon was the famous Chief-justice McKean,3 who I found had been animated by the same spirit which formerly possessed the memorable Jeffries. I could not but observe a flash of indignation in the eyes of the judges upon the approach of this culprit. His more than savage cruelty, his horrid disregard to the many oaths of allegiance he had taken, and the vile sacrifices he had made of justice to the interests of rebellion, were openly rehearsed. Notwithstanding his uncommon impudence, for once he seemed abashed, and did not pretend to deny the charge. He was condemned to assume the shape of a blood-hound, and the souls of Roberts and Carlisle4 were ordered to scourge him through the infernal regions.

“Next appeared the polite and travelled Mr. Deane, who from a tricking, hypocritical, New England attorney; was metamorphosed into a French marquis, with all the external frippery that so eminently distinguishes the most trifling characters of that trifling nation. The judges deliberated for a time whether they should form their sentence from the badness of his heart, or the vanity of his manners; but in consideration of the many mortifications he had lately experienced, they at length determined upon the latter, and the most excellent ambassador to his most Christian majesty, skipped off, with very little change in the character of “The monkey who had seen the world.”

“The celebrated Gen. Lee, whose ingratitude to his parent country was regarded with the utmost detestation, assumed (by direction of the court) the figure of an adder; a reptile that is big with venom, and ready to wound the hand that protects, or the bosom that cherishes it, but whose poison frequently turns to its own destruction.

“The black soul of Livingston, which was ‘ fit for treason, sacrilege, and spoil,’ and polluted with every species of murder and iniquity, was condemned to howl in the body of a wolf; and I beheld, with surprise, that he retained the same gaunt, hollow, and ferocious appearance, and that his tongue still continued to be red with gore. Just at this time, Mercury touched me with his wand, and thereby bestowed an insight into futurity, when I saw this very wolf hung up at the door of his fold, by a shepherd whose innocent flock had been from time to time thinned by the murdering jaws of this savage animal.

“The President of the Congress, Mr. Jay, next appeared before the tribunal, and his trial was conducted with all the solemnity due to so distinguished a character; I heard, with emotions of astonishment and concern, that in various human forms he had been remarkable for a mixture of the lowest cunning and most unfeeling barbarity; that having, in his last shape, received from nature such abilities as might have rendered him useful in his profession, and even serviceable to the public, he had, by a semblance of virtue, acquired the confidence of his fellow-citizens, which he afterwards abused to all the horrid purposes of the most wanton rebellion, and that being indefatigable in the pursuits of ambition and avarice, by all the ways of intrigue, perfidy, and dissimulation, he had acquired the station of a chief justice, and, in imitation of the infamous Dudley, had framed and enforced statutes that destroyed every species of private security and repose. In fine, that by his whole conduct he had exemplified his own maxim that princes were not the worst and most dreadful of tyrants,5 and had given a fresh demonstration that power could never be well used when lodged in mean and improper hands. “The court immediately thought fit to order that this criminal should transmigrate into the most insidious and most hateful of animals, a snake; but to prevent his being able any longer to deceive, and thereby destroy, a large set of rattles was affixed to his tail, that it might warn mankind to shun so poisonous a being.

“The whole Continental army now passed in review before me. They were forced to put on the shape of the timid hare, whose disposition they already possessed. With ears erect, they seemed watching the first approach of danger, and ready to fly even at the appearance of it. But what was very singular, a brass collar was affixed to the neck of one of their leaders, on which I saw distinctly the following lines:

‘They win the fight, that win the race.’

Alluding to the maxim he had always pursued, of making a good and timely retreat.

“This timorous crew having hastily retired, I beheld a great and magnanimous commander of antiquity, transformed into a game cock, who at once began to crow and strut about as if he was meditating a combat, but upon the appearance of a few cropple crowned hens, he dismissed his purpose, and I could see him at some distance from the hall, brushing his wing, and ruffling his feathers at every Dame Partlet in the company. The oddity of this transformation, and of the circumstances attending it, excited in me such a disposition to laugh, that I immediately awakened, and was forced reluctantly to resign the character of A Dreamer.”6


1 Afterwards Major John Andre.
2 Elliot Manuscript.
3 Thomas McKean, LL. D. Ho was a member of the Continental Congress, and voted for Independence. In 1799 he succeeded General Mifflin as governor of Pennsylvania, and remained in office until 1808. He died in 1817, aged eighty-four.
4 Two Quakers, who were executed in Philadelphia for treason, on the 22d of November, 1778.
5 See a pamphlet called (I think) The Nature and Extent of Parliamentary Power Considered.
6 Rivington’s Royal Gazette, January 23.