Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Joseph McCoy’s Poem, “The Expedient,” [ca. 3 July 1809]


Joseph McCoy’s: “The Expedient”

The Expedient;
Addressed to Mr Jefferson

 Let the slave, with treacherous zeal,

Skill’d to weave the flattering wile,

 Win, without a heart to feel,

Folly’s friendship, greatness’ smile;

 Sage, not such addrisses thee—

No, to freedom early won,

 Proud he boasts a spirit free,

Friend of all as slave of none.

 Calm, thro thy eventful time,

Wedded to thy country’s fame,

 Thou hast led thy march sublime,

Honor’d still, for still the same.

 Peace thy lov’d retirement guard!

Happy be thy rural reign!

 Were desert its own reward

Not my warmest wish were vain.

 But not mine ’tis here to seek

Praise’s language, Sage revered;

 Let a glorious nation speak!

Let the great & good be heard!

 Thou thy fondest wish dost gain,

Ease domestic, rural peace;

 Hast thou done? does nought remain?

Do thy public wishes cease?

 No, while lives a vital spark,

Glowing in that patriot breast,

 As its genius shalt thou mark

Every movement of the West:

 As its genius, fondly true,

Watch to ward impending ill;

 As its genius cherish too

Taste & Wisdom, Toil & skill.

 Hence, the undistinguish’d Muse

Fond thy bow’rs among would steal;

 Haply fanciful her views—

Haply all his merit Zeal—

 Nations have their infant time;

Slow the steps, progressive traced,

 Which have led them to the prime

Mark’d by knowledge, Wealth, & Taste

  As political advance,

So is literary made,

 Harmonizing, not by chance1

This by that has still been sway’d.

 So the Nations have come forth,

But the western world is new;

 Not alone by recent birth,

But by modes of thinking too.

 Empires have been born, have grown,

Shook the world, & passed away;

 Yet, as this peculiar, none

Ever issued into day.

 Young in an enlighten’d time,

Well Columbia truth explored;

 Wisdom’s radience on her clime

Rich as morning sunshine pour’d

 Hence the mild & stable form

Of her plan of ruling pow’r;

 Not th’expedient in a storm

Rashly seazed to serve the hour.

 Balancing & balanced all,

’Tis a system self secure;

 On, as the terrestrial ball,

Rolling regular & sure.

 Yet this cause, that misery check’d,

And advanced this glorious end,

 Visits us with an effect

Which should wake his country’s friend.

 Britain’s2 rude barbaric rage

Gradual, feelings mild replaced;

 Gradual mounting, stage by stage,

Rose her learning, arts, & taste.

 How were those, in early time,

To the pen their lives who gave?

 Fed by Vanity or Crime

Or dependents of a slave.

 Public taste the Muse should guard;

Public taste gave not support;

 Great the toil for small reward,

Hence the piteous poor resort.

 Yet ’twas thus the british muse

Up the heights of glory drew

  But the course which she could choose

Will the western Muse persue?

 No: the cause her steps that press’d

Here exerts to urge astray;

 But strong causes of the West

Work with counteracting sway.

 Britain, tho up reason’s hill

Marching ’fore the neighbouring climes,

 Lugg’d with her, as lugs she still,

Relic’s of her feudal times

 Mark’d distinctions, severing wide

These from those, the gentle mind,

 Chill repress’d its native pride,

Oft to this poor shift inclined.

 No such here; or if there were

Where’s the man of regal wealth

 Animating stately glare

With thy eye-beam labouring Health?

 Or suppose that selfish care

Here might feed a minion crew;

 Yet what oft was kindness there

Were flat insult in our view.

 Thus, th’intelligence that gave

Western liberty to live,

 Then secured, to bless the brave,

All equality can give

  That, with ordering hand sublime,

Framed our mighty league profound,

 Fill’d with works of peace our [time?]3

Breathing life & joy around

 Habits settles, thoughts inspires,

Blackening the dependent’s views;

 For the West, while freedom fires,

Claims an independent Muse.

 Or if public scorn, that great,

Pow’rful scourge of graceless deed,

 By some spell had lost its weight,

Nor could make a heart to bleed;

 Genius ever had its pride,

Nought can combat here its force;

 Nor by birth nor wealth outvied

Merit mounts its lofty course—

 Here this pride, then, ne’er can fail

Ever, hence, must Genius’ soul

 Spurn, tho wrechedness assail,

Ostentation’s chilling dole.

 There’s the point: methinks tis plain

What oft guarded Britain bard,

 Individual bounty vain,

Ne’er the western muse can guard.

 Shall she perish then unknown?

Shall her pride her lyre destroy?

 Or, if not, shall she alone

Weep amidst a world of Joy?

 Time will come, a glorious time!

Rising fast, nor far away,

 When her warble, round our clime,

Welcome as delight, shall stray.

 Nought to cheer her, then, indeed,

Need peculiar hand extend,

 No defender will she need,

For a world will be her friend.

 Everywhere her steps shall rove,

All the continent her home,

 Open arms & looks of love

Waiting her where’er she roam

 Duty, then, shall, martyring Will,

Wake no more th’enthusiast’s sigh

 Wild her airy harp shall thrill

Vivid roll her radient eye.

 In the South, as breaks the morn,

Oft shall she, while all is still,

 Listening to the farm house horn,

Pause upon the distant hill

 Then from high too widely see

Driving Teams, & Youths who come

 O’er gray heights, with shouts of glee,

Hurrying to the harvest home.

 But when flames the sun on high,

Languid, hush’d the world beneath,

 Then, when scarce the South’s warm sigh

Stirs the thistle on the heath

 Wrapt into the mighty grove,

Cool while play the rustling leaves,

 She shall find the maid of love

Whose full bosom anxious heaves;

 And with wildest mellowest lay

Soothe her thought of fondness pure,

 Where the waters dash, that stray

Sounding down the dell obscure.

 Then the lover shall she mark

Gliding thro the path unknown

 Tracing swift the winding dark

Hid now in th’Elysium lone.

 In the North she fond shall stray

Where, to neighbouring shoreland height,

 Hums the lively City gay,

All its bustling ports in sight.

 Proud moves out th’Adventurer new,

Looking forth to unknown skies;

 Hark! she sounds the long adieu,

Wide the shouting port replies!

 Rising o’er the white sea foam

Mounts the dim sail, far away

 Lofty, now, rejoicing home,

Comes the great ship, thundering gay.

 Where near woody headland rude

Busy fishers haunt the shore

 Oft shall she, across the flood,

Sit to mark the clanking oar.

 And while in th’inclement night

Whistling whirls the drifting snow,

 From thy fairy watch-tow’r, White!

Hear the stormy sea below.

 Then, how will she shrinking gaze,

When, thro squally4 gloom so dark,

 Lone the lanthern’d ship-light’s blaze

Dances with the bounding bark.

 Or when, thro the night unblest,

Awful from the roaring main

 Signal guns of Ship distress’d

Flash, & pause, & flash again.

 Yes, her glorious day shall come,

Bright to rise, & long to last;

 But shall she unheeded roam

Till her day of gloom be past?

 Let us not th’unjudging join

Pleased to blame the mind:

 Gold is moulded ’ere ’tis coin

Form’d a nation ’ere refined.

 Flying crualty, & shame,

Persecuted, lorn, distress’d

 When the fathers of our name

Sought the solatery West

 Scatter’d round the mighty coast

Where treed Bear oft growl’d from high

 Was it their’s of song to boast?

Or in letter’d love to vie?

 No: while Safety might have bred

Genius to each art of grace;

 Danger that same Genius led

Proud to toil, to fight, & chace.

 When the rising Country’s hum,

Shrieks & war-whoops swell’d afar

 When the rolling frontier drum

Roused them to the midnight war

 Bold would they, with flaming eye,

Fortress seek array’d for fight;

 Or to marshalling bugle fly

Sounding from the ridgy height

 Then rush forth: The foes give way,

Dogg’d thro dell & woodland thick,

 Round the hills the bugles play,

Rattling rifles flashing quick.

 Toiling, battling, mastering game,

All their pow’rs & thoughts required

 Excellence in these gave fame

These Ambition roused & fir’d

 Thus were form’d the men to ills

Who in time we well may boast

 Bursting from their hundred hills

Hurl’d the ruthless from our coast.

 Revolution’s tumults o’er,

Purchased liberty divine,

 Might they Taste’s fair worlds explore

Anxious but to please, refine?

 Happier toil the race endears:

Freedom, as its nature pure,

 Hardly won, with blood & tears,

Twas their glory to secure.

 Struggling from their dangerous state

Careful they, new born to fame,

 As some tuneful Organ great,

Built their government’s fair frame

 Faintly yet Taste’s glimmer shone;

Yet the grand machine was new,

 Genuine to preserve its tone

Fir’d each thought, & fix’d each view.

 Thus, if languish Poesy

Without favour or applause,

 Ill distressful! yet may we

Trace it to a glorious cause.

 Murmers, then, were vile & vain,

Selfish spleen’s resort unwise,

 Yet, forbearing to complain,

Let us not the theme despise.

 Poesy, in Rudeness’ spite,

Wins to gentleness the mind;

 And, tho wild, it wakes delight,

Leaves no latent thorn behind.

 Here, where broadest views expand

Of a world of peace & joy,

  Skillful be the Muse, & bland,

Nor let drivelling thrift destroy.

 How has wakeful Wisdom watch’d

O’er the western counsels blest;

 Battle’s Genius, how unmatch’d,

Hast thou thunder’d in the West!

 Thou, Philosophey, hast mild

Bid the dancing lightnings play

 Round thy brow, & roving wild,

Off thy pointed finger stray!

 Fond Health’s guardian genius cheers

Beauty sinking on his breast;

 Sage, yet kind as youth in tears,

Goes he forth in blessing blest.

 Nor depress’d the maid who still

Spends in silent walk her hours,

 Thro the vale & round the hill

Placed gathering plants & flow’rs.

 Moral ethics, Politics

Clime more favouring never knew;

 Idle, hence, the Juggler’s tricks,

But, alas! deplored by few,

 Poesy the fields alone,

All her feet with brambles torne,

 Loose in air her tresses blown,

Strays, neglected girl! forlorn.

 On the lonely rock reclined,

Listening to the sounding fall,

 World! what art thou to her mind,

With thy cares & follies all!

 But such scene not still employs,

She is but of human mould,

 Human cares still human Joys,

Twining viper like, enfold.

 Till the bard unpunish’d may

Make his life a life of song,

 How shall she, till that proud day,

Struggle thro the listless throng?

 Shall she, as in Europe oft,

Be the minion of the Great

 While her gentle spirit soft

Sinks beneath dependence’ weight?

 Shall e’er, amidst th’alarms

Of mischance & poverty,

 Fly into a villain’s5 arms,

Or embrace an idiot’s knee?

 O, forbid it, Sire of Time!

Rather let the Maid unblest

 Never with a gleam sublime

Hence emblaze to shame the West—

 For the West is freedom’s home,

And, while seasons take their round,

 Never there, whate’er her doom,

Be a shackled spirit found.

 Yet to cheer her early hours

Can no glorious patron be?

 Sure not worthless that whose pow’rs

Soothe the gentle, fire the free.

 Let Columbia then be heard,

And, to bid her genius rise,

 From her senate house revered,

Shew on high the annual prize

 But not song alone should claim

Honours from the nation’s hand;

 Every studious son of fame

Scatters riches round the land.

 Nay, the theme must soon be scan’d;

Else some institution blest,

 National & bountious plan’d

Shall enliven Genius’ breast.

 Thus might grecian days revive

Maros, Newtons come again

 Talents would with Talents strive,

Never could such strife be vain.

 Yet the nation’s finger free

Annual pointing out th’elect,

 Tho it genius roused, would be

Still more glorious in effect.

 For the frequent test to ply

Must o’er genius’ toils refined

 Throw an air of import high

That would catch the public mind.

 Not all Homer’s blaze of soul

With all Newton’s world of mind

 Could so much effect the Whole

If to that one end combined.

 Silent as the mellowing dew

Show’rs refreshing thro night veil

 Would th’impression, soft as true,

On th’unconscious nation steal

 So enquiry, curious still,

Wide would knowledge rich difuse;

 And with touch of joy & skill

O’er her loved harp live the Muse

 O, whence was it, melting oft,

Long, that spelling pow’r you stole,

 That sweet witchery that so soft

Weaves itself thro feeling’s soul?

 Not rude genius e’er alone

Could the fairy charm impart;

 For, tho but to genius known,

Yet is, Poesy an art.

 One in which not taste refined

Genius pow’rful, subtile, warm,

 Till long practice mould his mind,

Can the graceful master form.

 Wandering rays, dispersed in air,

To a focus, must be lured

 ’Ere, concentring, glowing there,

Sense be of their force assured.

 At a point the mental beams

Thus converged, we bright behold;

 But if lost in scatter’d gleams

Faint each fitful glimmer cold.

 Where the mind’s full force to bind

Sweet seductive song to thee,

 Were fond boyhood’s dreams to end

E’en in want & misery.

 Shall the drivelling dolt complain

That his country’s genius sleeps?

 Nay, while, hapley, waked in vain,

Haughty in disgust, it6 weeps—

 Be the people roused to guard

Those who form the mind & heart;

 Let their toils command reward,

Else what bard dare court his art?

 For still be it full in mind,

The Republican with scorn,

 Child of feeling, proud as kind!

Private Patronage will spurn.

 Taste for fancy’s toils of fame

Rapidly gains ground, tis true,

 Nature, every where the same,

Renders sure its triumph too;

  Yet to it the touch of pow’r

May a hastening impulse give—

 So may Bards, at no far hour,

Live to write & write to live.

 In his vale, then, blest to prove

Thought & feeling’s full controul,

 Shall the son of song & love

Form his little world of soul

 Take sweet Eve’s relaxing walk

With his fond one, who, the while,

 Asks & tells, in playful talk

Twenty nothings, for a smile

  Elegance & tasteful care

Shall that home of love pervade

 Books & hearts each thought to share

Make it all home can be made.

 There shall fond, oer human strife,

Breathe the philanthropic pray’r;

 Pow’rful as the pulse of life,

Thrill the patriot feeling there.

 Thence shall, o’er our country wide,

Th’informing light of Genius play;

  Thence, in glow of patriot pride,

Come his Glory’s lofty lay.

 Honour’d be the Poet’s name!

Ever honour’d they who dare

 Glorious raise their country’s fame,

Tho denied that country’s care.—

 As for me, my pow’r is nought;

Fond the patriot thought I tell,

 Tho without t’endear that thought

E’en a friend to say “tis well”—

 Yet oft flying city noise

As thy banks that court delay

 Schuylkill, dear for pensive joys

In sequester’d walk I stray

 Pleased can I the strain unknown,

Hanging oft the blue wave o’er,

 Mingle with the gale that lone

Breathes along the silent shore.

 Nature’s both, they both shall die,

As, while no one listening heeds,

 Falls the Evening’s latest sigh,

Waving slow the distant reeds

MS (CSmH: JF-BA); undated; entirely in McCoy’s hand.

maros: the reference is to the Roman poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro).

1Manuscript: “chace.”

2Manuscript: “Britian’s.”

3Omitted word editorially supplied.

4Manuscript: “sqully.”

5Manuscript: “villian’s.”

6Manuscript: “in.”

Index Entries

  • McCoy, Joseph; sends poetry to TJ search
  • McCoy, Joseph; “The Expedient,” search
  • poetry; sent to TJ search
  • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro); J. McCoy alludes to search
  • “The Expedient” (McCoy) search