Judith Sargent Murray Society
JSM's dates: 1751-1820
The Repository. No. XIV.
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This essay appeared in the November 1793 edition of the Massachusetts Magazine under the name "Constantia." It examines the rights of living creatures to be free from harm by humankind.

The Repository. No. XIV.
THE first appearance that struck my eye, as I took my seat at the window this morning, was the tree, on which was built the bird's nest that hath caused me so much anxiety, stript of its ornamental branches, and left a naked trunk. The boisterous winds, escaped from their caverns, have this night been abroad. It hath seemed as if their business was, to spread destruction!

Where now is my little family, what is become of the pretty songsters, who have so often captivated my listening ear -- Alas! Where can they be dispersed -- was it for this that they were nourished with such maternal tenderness? -- They had but just broke their enclosures, and how pleasing was it to behold, with what sedulous care, the matron bird would fly abroad in search of food, to supply the wants of her beloved offspring. Was it for this, that I have so often solicited the truant school boy in their behalf -- how have I plead the little warbler's cause? It is barbarous (I have said) to disturb this little innocent dwelling -- it is the abode of peace and love. Many serene hours have I past in observing the harmony, the engaging economy of its inoffensive inhabitants. -- For five successive years have this feathered party found amid this verdant foliage, a secure asylum; here they have erected their tenement; here they have deposited their embryo young; and here they have brought forth, and reared their tuneful prodigy. This family hath a right, in common with you, to existence -- and trust me, my little fellows, no real advantages can accrue to you, from its destruction. Oh then spare them to my solicitations, nor, when I am not by to sue for them, presume with murderous intention, to ascend the hallowed tree.

Such hath been the matter of my supplications, and they have ever been successful, even upon the most obdurate boy. But alas! the elements, more pitiless then they, have destroyed the inhabitants, razed the mansion, and borne away, even its foundation! Is there who can behold such a scene of desolation unmoved -- Is there who would ridicule my feelings upon this occasion? To such I would only say -- Remember who it is that feeds the fowls of the air -- who hath regard even to the life of a sparrow; and then let them join issue with the poet, when he philosophically expresses himself.

"Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish -- or a sparrow fall."



2007 © Bonnie Hurd Smith

Independent scholar and author Bonnie Hurd Smith is the president and CEO of History Smiths, a marketing company that works with businesses to incorporate history -- their own and their community's -- into their branding, marketing, and community outreach to attract customers, boost customer loyalty, and secure a high status reputation in the communities they serve.