AMERICA IN THE MIDST OF WAR
LOW LIFE IN NEW YORK
[By the Special Commissioner of the Daily Telegraph.-]
The whole of our party were thoroughly pipe hardened and smoke proof, else I am sure we must have been suffocated ere we got clear of the first lager beer saloon in the Bowery. The Germans in America, and indeed the Americans in general, are not in the habit of smoking very strong tobacco. They are so incessantly occupied in making chimneys of their mouths, that, did they not commonly prefer the milder form of the weed, three-fourths of the population must inevitably "give out" from disease of the heart. As it is, much of the nervous irritability of the Yankees may be traced to the abuse of tobacco. The Teutons seem to enjoy an immunity from the ills which ordinarily beset those who indulge to excess in this seductive but mischievous nar- cotic. A German has no nerves. If he had, he would very soon twist them into fiddle-strings, stretch them across a bridge, and play sonatas in F upon them.
I noticed that, notwithstanding the enormous amount of pipe-smoking going on, ruddy checks were by no means rare among the German devotees of lager beer. Sometimes, you met the heavy, impassible, flabby, pasty faces, telling of a dietary composed mainly of fresh boiled beef, suet pudding, and kraut; but mingled with these were many firm fleshed, well-muscled, fresh-toned countenances -the cheeks of that murrey-brown just streaked with crimson which belonged to the old Ribstone Pippin. I say the " old Ribstone," for that king of apples seems to have been elbowed out of the market by the American Newtown and Newburyport, and threatens dis- appearance from the pomicultural scene alto- gether. That any Germans in an American city should have fresh complexions I at- tributed, first, to the probability that some of them were recent arrivals, and had had their blood purified by a long sea voyage, and next, to the fact that the Germans domiciled in the United States very seldom fall into the odious and deleterious habit of chewing tobacco. Indeed, with the excep- tion of the Yankees and a few old sailors, I have never heard of any human beings who gave themselves up heart and soul to this disgusting practice; but when we went into the places patronised by Anglo-Americans, we found chewing to be the rule, with its inevitable habit of reckless and revolting expectoration. The subject is a very unpleasant one ; but every European traveller in the States has adverted to it, and for truth's sake it is necessary to mention that a custom which was denounced fifty years since has lost nothing of its nastiness in the present day. The Americans themselves do their utmost to persuade foreigners that they do not chew so much as formerly. I am willing to grant that in fashionable and refined society the dirty vice has declined, and has become almost extinct. The New York dandy spits a good deal, but he docs not chew. He has been to Europe, and he
knows that European feeling is unanimous against tobacco-mastication. The fashionables who have not crossed the Atlantic copy the manners of those who have. To chew in the
" extension parlour" of a brown stone house is mauvais ton. Shoddy would faint at the bare idea of a quid. Petroleum would bubble up with rage if you began to whittle a neat " chaw" of negrohead in its presence. But the good example of the upper classes, headed by the chief magistrate, who neither smokes, chews, nor drinks, has failed as yet to spread among the mass of the community. I will be bound to say that ninety-nine omnibus and car and hack drivers out of a hundred chew. The state of the pavement and the carpets in the
hotel vestibules and lounging rooms afford un- mistakable and horrifying evidence that the de- filements these present are due not to smoking but to chewing. In the saloons of the ferry boats which cross to Brooklyn and Jersey City, notices are posted up in conspicuous places en- treating passengers not to void their tobacco juice towards the ladies' side of the boat. In most country bar-rooms you will see a humorous reminder-sometimes pictorial-that " old sol- diers"-that is, plugs chewed to exhaustion should be deposited in the " receiver," and not flung on the floor. On the cigar and tobacco stall in the Hall at Willard's, at Washington, is a jar full of cut tobacco, pro bono publico, with the printed invite, " Big Lick. Take a Lick;" meaning that, although you would be expected to pay were you to fill your pouch, you are free to cram the left cavity of your jaw for nothing. In the cars the vast majority of the male passengers chew .-munching apples or "walnut meat," or suck- ing fig and gum drops meanwhile. That they are
chewing is clear from the bulging protuber- ances in their maxillaries, and from the appalling condition of the floor. I never, how- ever, saw such a scene at a table d'hote as Mr. Dickens has described in connection with a knife and some butter. And, finally, if the greater number of the Senators and the mem- bers of the Lower House of the American Congress are not inveterate chewers, all I can say is that I am a Dutchman. The marble steps and staircases of the ' beautiful Capitol steps and staircases veined by tobacco-juice into infinite and sinuous honor-are there to witness
if I lie.
There is one beastly practice which may be considered worse than chewing. Say fifty times worse. Say five hundred thousand times worse. That practice is '. snuff-dipping." From this inconceivably filthy vice the North is free. It obtains among the poorer classes of the South, and, I have been assured on very credible autho- rity, is practised by women as well as men. Do you know what " snuff-dipping" is ? A quantity of snuff or fine-shred tobacco is moistened in a jar. The amateur of dipping thrusts a slender spicula of wood into the mass, and artistically twists it round till a sufficient quantity of damp snuff is accumulated on the top of the dipper, and then the teeth, gums, and the hollows of the cheeks, are rubbed with the titillating mix- ture. I don't know whether, in an ecstasy of enthusiasm, they ever swallow the snuff; but is there anything hideous and repulsive that human nature, under favourable conditions of training, won't eat? Rats, horse, caviare, wood- cock's trail upon toast, snails, frogs, tripe, birds- nest soup, coal, slate-pencil, chalk, pig's fry, plo ver s eggs, and-each other; these are the things which some people who call themselves civilised, and others whom we declare not to be civilised, will devour. There is not much to choose between the savage and the Sybarite. There is not such a very wide gulf between the cuisine of a Fran catelli and that of the Feejees.
Ruddy as are some of these German faces, the children may not hope to preserve the healthy glow of their sires. They are all, all doomed to become sallow. This country absorbs, ethnologically, all races save the English and the French, and reduces them to the same dead level of parchment visage and gaunt form. To some extent this power of absorption may be said fuse European flesh into the ancient Indian mould ; for the aquiline noses, high cheek-bones, and straight hair of many Anglo, Teutónico, and
Hibernico Americans are decidely Indian. You rarely see a curly-headed Yankee. The colour, however, is lost. The conquerors are "pale faces." The American complexion is original ; and what a complexion ! Its unhealthy atra- bilious hue has been ascribed to the habit of over-eating, and the consequent prevalence of diseases of the digestive organs-to smoking, to chewing, to the abuse of gas and iced water, and to the climate. But the Frenchman or the American, who intends some day or other to go home, although he may inhabit the country for years, and live entirely in consonance with American customs, becomes neither gaunt nor sallow. " The climate will take it out of you,"
your Yankee friends tell you, cheerfully, when you first land in the States, full in flesh and ruddy in tint. But I have known Englishmen and Frenchmen who had spent the better part of their lives in New York, and yet, as to face and complexion, looked as though they had only left London or Paris a fortnight before. Be- come, however, an American citizen, marry an American woman, vote, take office, brag about the flag and abuse the country of your birth, and your children will surely fade" into the sere and yellow leaf of sallowness. They will be- come Yankees, and they will acquire that won- derful nasal twang and that curious mode of expression-dealing mostly in superlatives peculiar to the Yankee race. Herr Tonderten dronck's son and Mr. O'Shaughnessy's daughter will, twenty years hence, be as genuine Ameri- cans as the progeny of those who have been
settled here ever since the revolution.
One could not but be reminded of this pros- pect when, having looked into three or four German beer-houses-all on the model of the first one visited, but on a somewhat smaller scale-we entered a huge concert-hall frequented by those who professed to be "full-blooded Yankees," and to entertain the most unmitigated contempt for Irishmen and Dutchmen. The Anglo-Ameri- cans, faithful to the traditions of Manhattan, call all foreigners of the Teutonic race " Dutch,"
and make no difference between those who come from Holland and those who hail from Germany proper. With odd inconsistency, the descend- ants of the real Dutch settlers who colonised New Amsterdam are termed Knickerbockers. Thus you would never speak of a Stuyvesant, a Van Rensslaer, a Ten Brock, a Brevoort, or a Van Buren as belonging to a " Dutch," but to a " Knickerbocker " family. A few Knicker- bocker houses and a few county families in Massachusetts and Connecticut are old and noble enough to give " fits " to half the snobs who have wriggled apocryphal accounts of their genealogy into our books of baronetage, knightage, and landed gentry. The first " full-blooded " establishment we entered was many degrees noisier than the lager beer saloons. There was an atmosphere of rough- ness and rowdyism not to be mistaken. The same respectable and blue spectacled Germans were sawing away at the double bass or blowing lustily into brazen instruments in the orchestra ; but little attention was paid to the music. There was much beer about, but it was not all lager. Philadelphia and Albany ale, and an especially nasty compound retailed in ginger beer bottles, and libellously called " Edinburgh ale,' were plentiful ; nor was a dreadful com- bination . of turpentine and white rye whisky, falsely called "London Dock gin," wanting. This colourless poison is brewed from I know not what, unless from the most inferior rye, but it forms the basis of much hell-broth, sold indif- ferently as gin and whisky. It tastes like camphine which has been racked through
a cask full of Seven Dials " all sorts." It is not unlike the Russian vodka; but it must be less pure, and consequently more unwhole- some. In Canada it goes by the name of " fixed bayonets," and is much affected by the military stationed there-in fact, overdoses of " fixed bayonets " have brought many a gallant, foolish
British soldier to the halberts.
Taverns called " porter-houses," where more or less successful imitations of English brown stout were sold, were formerly very common in New York. They are still to be found to some extent about Wall-street, William-street, and Maiden-lane, where there ate eating-houses as well as taverns, and a " porter-house steak " is the name still traditionally preserved for a very thick and tender flap of beef. But porter-houses flourished most when New York was an English city and before a taproom was called a saloon, and a slap-bang shop a restaurant. Now it is a foreign city. It has not, from the Bat- tery, to High Bridge, a single house or shop that looks thoroughly and wholly British. The New Yorkers are, perhaps, proud of this, dis-
tinguishing them as it does so much from the
Bostonians. In Boston, if you could only forget the existence of the horse-railway cars, you might fancy yourself a hundred times a
day in a large English provincial town. In two
more generations, perhaps, the New Yorkers will cease to speak English, and talk a hybrid lingo, compounded of Erse, German, and such Americanisms as Mr. Bartlett has enshrined in his dictionary, comprising many bastard Spanish words. Already a house of vile resort is a " ranch," from the Spanish rancho ; a paddock or enclosure a "corral"-whence has been forged the verb "to corrall," meaning to en- circle or embrace a person. The slang term " vamose " is only the Spanish' " vamonos," " let us go ; " and an associate in business is frequently termed a " compadre," likewise a word of Iberian parentage. The in- terrogation " How ?" you so often hear when you ask a question, is but the German " Wie " Anglicised ; while in the equally common. " That's so " the New Yorkers have not even taken the trouble to translate the German, "Zo," but have appropriated it literally. A halcyon day may come when the Czar of Russia may in spirit and in truth carry out the spite- ful idea of Nicholas, his papa, and establish in the University of St. Petersburg a chair for the study of the " American language." Then may young Muscovy learn the strange intricacies of the knoblic tongue ; learn to distinguish between Buckeyes, Hoosiers, and Pukes; learn what was, a Locofoco," and what is a Pooquaco; learn what it is to be " on the fence," and to " pull wool over eyes ;" and comprehend the mystery of shagkacks, split-tickets, spoopsies, porgies, gospel-lots, cotbetties, mossbunkers, concageers, parmatuero, plank-shads, skeezicks, Taunton turkeys, and Wapatoos. I am not coining words. They are all in common use among a people who have the impudence to declare that they, and they alone, speak the English tongne with correctness and purity.
Here is a roaring cavern full of rowdies and bhoys, where the music goes for nothing and noise and drunkenness for everything. The Yankees are unlovely in their cups. They are uproarious enough, but not cheerful. They are sufficiently bibulous, but lack in what we hold to be true conviviality. They are conventionally gregarious in riot; but no man seems to be jolly on his own hook. Leave him alone, and he falls to picking his teeth in a stale and ac- customed manner, or to hoisting his feet up on the nearest elevation, or to reading his eternal newspaper. No Yankee,, unless he be a profes-
sional, will sing a comic song as a solo : but he
will join five hundred strong in a chorus, and thunder out his " Glory Hallelujars " to " John ' Brown " or his " Old Folks at Home " with a kind of dreary desperation. He always wants a
fugleman ; he always wants a class-leader, a chairman, a president to call the meeting to order and move resolutions, and then he will join in the chorus. *' That's so," and " Bully for you," are the " Glory Hallelujahs " of public meeting.
This is the cavern, not of Harmony, but of Dissonance ; and here, for the first time, I see on an extended scale that which, looking for in- dividually, you have great difficulty in finding in New York-I mean the costume of low life. The Americans are the best-dressed people, in the world ; from the very top to the bottom of the tree, all are comfortably and decently clad. The first thing that struck me when I landed in Cuba, after three months' stay in the States, was that I had arrived in a country where the poor go in rags. The first thing that struck me when I landed at Liverpool, after twelve months absence from my own country, was the astonish- ing and indecent raggedness of the lower orders of the population. In vain do you look for tat- terdemalions in America. The soldiers have a
ragged look ; but their woful appearance is due, not to destitution, but to slovenliness. The negroes are most forlorn and abject in attire. Indeed, if by chance you do fall across a tat- tered man in New York, it is ten chances to one that he is a nigger ; but African shabbi- ness is mainly caused by the propensity of the interesting children of Ham to sell their clothes for rum, or gamble them away at the policy-shops. I have seen a whole steam- boat load of vagrants, beggars, and confirmed drunkards " toted " on show at Blackwells Island in the East River, for incarceration in the Penitentiary, the Workhouse, or the House of Refuge. They comprised men, women, and children. They were the very scum and off- scourings of the great city-the flotsam and jet- sam of a huge ocean of humanity. The munici- pality of New York was about to take care of them, as they could not take care of themselves quite indifferent as to where they had been born or where was their legal settlement. They would be fed-and taught, tended if sick, most mercifully harboured and cared for if infirm, set to work if able-bodied, smartly punished if idle and vicious. The section of the City Fathers, to whom the management of the "institutions" on Blackwell's Island is confided are aptly termed " Commissioners of Charity and Correction." They hold out a loaf with one hand, but they brandish a rattan with the other; but they use equity in the distribution of one and the other boon. In England we have got into a muddle as to what is charity and what is correction. We have made our almshouses gaols and our gaols alms- houses ; we even often thrash the poor creature who wants to be fed, and gorge with food the scoundrel who ought to be flogged. Well, I saw the unsavoury freight of destitutes un- loaded at Blackwell's Island. Dirty, noisome, squalid, wretched enough, many of them looked ; but I sought in vain for that looped and windowed raggedness, for that compli- cated network of shreds and patches, which would have distinguished a similar assem- blage in the old country-say a mob of tramps vainly seeking for admission after sun-
down to the casual ward of St. Martin's Work-
house. Their linen was foul, but they had linen ; their boots were burst at the seams, but they had boots ; their clothes were encrusted with mud, but they were whole, though muddy. Their state was crass, but it was the fange and the bourbe of vice and Indolence and intempe- rance-not, as with us, of utter, complete, and hopeless destitution.
Oh, philosophers, philosophers, if you would but think a little of what is going on under your very noses ! Oh, philanthropists and pietists, if you would only reflect a little upon cause and effect, instead of imagining that all the ills of society are to be met by subscribing a million of money to build new churches, when the old ones stand by scores, Sunday after Sunday, gaping for congregations that never come! Oh, men and women of every degree, if you would only give ear to the eternal lessons of Fact, you might very soon discover how it is that raggedness swarms in London, multitudinous as the mites in a cheese, and is as sparse as the plums in a school dumpling in New York. The cause is obvious. The cause is as plain as the sun at noonday. The unfortunates of London were born ragged and destitute. They were never anything else but ragged and destitute. Their
fathers and mothers were ragged and destitute before them ; and, unless the matter be looked into with far different eyes from those with
which we have been accustomed to regard them,
rags and destitution will be the portion of their children to the third and fourth generation. And why ? Because they have nothing to look forward to-because they are not permitted to look forward to anything. " A man," says Stonewall Jackson in his autobiography, uncon- sciously paraphrasing that which more than one wise man has said before bim, " may be any- thing he makes up his mind to be ;" but the London unfortunate has no mind to make up. He has the germ, the latent seed for one; but you won't permit it to be developed-you won't educate it upwards, that the pauper may work himself upwards, perchance to fame and fortune. There is many a little untutored, pickpocket and street-prowler who in cutting purses and rifling tills displays qualities of inge- nuity, combination, and resource which, were he properly educated, might fit him to be an artist, a journalist, an engineer, a merchant, or an advocate. Well, in your kind-heartedness, you catch him up and send him to a reformatory or an industrial school. What do you with him when you get him there? You fit him to be an agricultural labourer, a tailor, or a shoe- maker. You seldom contemplate the expe diency, if he shows shrewdness and capacity, of fitting him for something better than tilling fields or making clothes and shoes. Certainly there must be agricultural labourers, tailors, and shoemakers ; but let those excellent and useful pursuits be followed for life by such as do not show superior shrewdness and capacity. If every workhouse, every refuge, every reformatory, were made, as it properly should be, a Polytechnic School, where, in progressive gradation, and as the pupils mani- fested fitness for them, every craft and every art from the highest to the lowest, were taught, not by the boors and the simpletons whom parish guardians starve on thirty pounds a year, but by masters appointed by the State, there would be a loud outcry against " over-educat- ing " the masses, and unfitting them for that " state of life into which it has pleased God to call them." I think that one complacent com- monplace from the catechism has done more mis- chief than the Bull Unigenitus or the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. What state of life? and how do we know that God called us into it? Baron Rothschild's grand- father came out of the Judegasse at Frankfort ? Was that the state of life into which it had pleased God to call him? and was he in duty bound to remain in it? The great-grandfather
of Sir Robert Peel was a labourer; this Chan-
cellor's father was a barber, that lord's a butcher; this M.P. came of a highly respect- able cobbler's family ; that favourite singer's earliest ditties were sung in the paternal coal and potato shed. I say educate everybody - educate them well - over educate them if need be, as the Americans do. You will have your percentage of failures ; you will have your drunkarks and vagabonds and loafers, for whom no amount of teaching or training will do any good. Send such as these to. Blackwells Island; make them earn their bread by hard labour, and cudgel them if they shirk their work. You will have your percent- age of dullards and dunces ; let them dig and delve, and stitch and cobble, and wait at table. It is the doom of stupidity. Knowledge is power. The Working Thinker is King. But give every- body a chance. Throw open, free gratis and for nothing, the glorious garden where the Tree of Knowledge spreads its branches, not to be a curse, but a blessing to humanity. Teach all, not alone to do their duty in " that state of life into which it shall please God to call them," but to aspire to a much higher state, to which God may permit them, by means of industry and
capacity, to rise. I know that all this must be very shocking to a vast number of respect- able persons. If you could see into the minds of the ordinary run of kind-hearted ladies and gentlemen, you would find there a comfortable impression that a well-constituted society should consist of happy and comfortable dukes and duchesses, happy and comfortable gentle- folks, happy and comfortable trades- people, happy and comfortable servants and peasants and paupers. Everybody should be well off, and well clothed-in duly graduated liveries ; and everybody should go to church for gentles the family pew, for simples the free seats. This is not the way in which our " state of life " is regarded in the Union. Education -unstinted education-is provided for all gra- tuitously ; and if a boy or a girl have anything in them, it is sure to come out. There are, I repeat, the failures, and the European importations who have been born to ignorant destitution in the Old World, and continue ignorant and destitute in the New one. For them Blackwell's Island, oakum-picking, stone-breaking, or mat-weaving. But do you know what is the average number of failures domiciled in the alms-houses and peni- tentiaries of Blackwell's Island ? They do not amount to a thousand; they are often under that figure. Think of this-a thousand paupers and vagrants to a million souls ! and five hun- dred of these at least are not only destitute but
This roaring cavern of which I told you is about the lowest place to be found in the out- skirts of the Bowery-for we are now in a street branching off it-but it would constrast very favourably with our London "Thieves' Kitch- ens " and " Rats' Castles." After the exorbi- tant stories with which English readers have been fed by romance-writers as to the carousals of thieves and highwaymen, of their feastings and junketings, of Jack Sheppard in a laced coat, a plumed hat, and a silver-hilted sword, toying with Poll Maggot and Edgworth Bess, while Blueskin trolls the diverting carol of " Jolly Nose " over a well-filled punch-bowl, there is a startling disillusion in taking a walk about Thieves' London with a sharp detective, or, better still, a sharp city missionary, and seeing the miserable holes and corners where our cri- minals lurk when at large-the dirty dens, the reeking beershops, the woebegone back kitchens, where they are to be found when " wanted " by the police- the poor scraps of semi-offal they are glad to feed upon. It may be safely said that out of every five pounds' worth of plunder he acquires the London thief does not get a sove- reign in actual cash. The remainder goes to the receiver, and the landlord of the public-house where, after a successful coup, he has a brief and wholesale debauch. In nine cases out of ten the professional thief is in a chronic state of " hard-uppishness ; " and when he is absolutely famished he begins to think about business, and goes out to commit a fresh crime. The thieves who really thrive, who really make money, are gentlemen who go into society, who do not fre- quent beershops, who receive their own stolen goods and are their own " fences," and who for years and years together contrive to elude justice.
"Who are these people?" I asked of the Police Escort. " Well," he answered,
"they're a good deal mixed, and that's a
fact. Yes, a good many of 'em have been in States Prison. There's a Sing Sing bird. There's another - he's a patent safe operator; nothing but bank robberies for him. There's another;best burglar out; ten years' solitary at Philadelphia. He's an English- man. The high-class burglars are usually Bri- tishers. Our folks arn't got enough patience for it. That's a prizefighter ; " the man he pointed out had a bushy beard, and looked much more like an artist's model than a pugilist ; " that's a horse jockey (the jockey was likewise bearded); yonder's a whole school of gamblers, bad eggs every one of them, and there ain't a worse egg than a regular gambler out. He'll do a'most anything. He'll keep a bad house, he'll rob, he'll cheat, he'll shoot ; and yet, somehow or other, he seldom gets further than the Tombs for a spree when he's tight, and we seldom have the -satisfaction of getting him safe off on a four
years tour to Sing Sing."
Fit-Catching Plant.-"We have one plant in our gardens, a native of North America, than which¡none can be more cruelly destructive of insect life, the dogsbanc, which is generally conducive to the death of cyery fly that settles upon it. Allured by the honey on the nectary of the expanded blossom, the instant the ^runk is protruded to feed on it, the filaments close, and, catching the fly by th'e extremity of its proboscis, detain the poor prisoner vmthinc in pro- tracted struggles till released by death, a death appa- rently occasioned by exhaustion alone ; the filaments then relax, and the body falls to the ground. The plant will at times be dusky from the numbers of im- prisoned wretches.-Knapp's Journal of a Natmalist.
MjJMncEKCB of Ladies.-Lady W-has for- warded £600 to the National Lifeboat Institution, for the purpose of completely renovating the Holy Island (Northumberland) Lifeboat Station. Mrs. S. Bobert son, of Lowndes-square, has also sent to the institu- tion ¿300, to place a new lifeboat at Shoreham, on the Sussex coast ; and Mrs. AnBtree, of Tynemouth, Northumberland, has forwarded the institution ¿400, for the purpose of replacing the lifeboat and trans- porting carriage at North ¡sunderland. The Rev. J.
Malcoimson, of Ratcliff, has also transmitted to the' society 5s. in farthings, boing the saving of a sailor's widow, in aid of the lifeboat cause.
Ocean Cubbents.-A number of empty bottles have been thrown into the sea on the west coast of Africa, and have been picked up on the Irish coast; One from near the Canaries w as found at Nova Scotia. and three or four have floated from Davis* Straits to the (north-west coast of Ireland ; and one from the South Atlantic to Jersey. One has been found after sixteen j ears, another after fourteen, and a third after ten j ears. One was thrown into the Caribbean Sea, and after five days was picked up 210 miles distant. A bottle was thrown in at Behring's Straits, and 200 days; afterwards was found on the Honduras coast, having travelled 3500 miles.
Ciis.-In an early M.S. the value of a cat is stated to be equal to that of a milch sheep with its lamb and its wool ; and in another, the property necessary to constitute a "proper hamlet" is said to comprise nincbuildingt!, one plough, one kiln, one churn, one bull,» one cock, -and one cat.-AU the Year Mound.