The Nursery-Man And The Plantation

Fences around a nursery broke. Nursery-man asked the trees to donate branches. They said no assuming a prison. Cattle came unimpeded and no more trees.

Consider wise advice instead of ignoring it out of self-importance.


JN Fable 060

Sketch: James Northcote; Wood drawing: William Harvey; Engraving: G.W. Bonner (1828)

A careful Nursery-man observing the fences round a young Plantation to be much out of repair, proposed to the Trees in it, that a quantity of their branches should be assigned to him, in order to put the fence in such a condition as should secure them from the inroads of some cattle, who were coming that way and would injure or destroy them. This scheme seemed to meet with general approbation, when a large white Thorn, who appeared a very sharp plant, addressed them thus: “Friends and fellow-Trees, what are you about to do? What? would you consent to give up your precious limbs to this tyrant, in order that be may circumscribe and enclose you like prisoners? No! let the world be open to us, and let us be open to the world. What is life without liberty and free air?” This advice was unanimously approved and adopted, when the cattle quickly arrived, and as there was no obstruction to their progress, the defenceless Plantation became a miserable spectacle, exhibiting nothing but headless trunks and leafless branches.


This Fable ill designed to show the extreme folly of those persons who, obstinately depending on their own self-sufficiency, will not give up an iota of their importance, however precarious may be their situation; but proudly reject the wisest advice, conceiving themselves humbled by the offer: thus running headlong after their puerile imaginations into calamities which they might easily have avoided by timely prudence, or by making a small sacrifice on an emergency, have secured to themselves a lasting good.

This Fable also may afford a vindication of some of those unpopular measures, which governments are obliged to have recourse to in time of civil commotion. For when doctrines subversive of all order, and whose inevitable consequences or at least direct tendency appear to be an overthrow of the constitution and laws of the country, are attempted to be spread abroad, the only question at issue between the parties seems to be this: Is the danger arising from the means to be pursued by governments to suppress these doctrines, greater than the permitting their unrestrained progress? It cannot be denied, that it becomes a choice between two evils, each teeming with calamity. Contests between a government and its subjects destroy the operation of the laws, and must be determined by force, so that whichever party becomes the victor, it must have been by the sword, and what has been gained by the sword, by the sword must be maintained. The victor of course becomes possessed of despotic power, and as conquerors are lawless, they generally are tyrants. J. N.