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Full text of "Topics of the time"

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OF ANN 



LIBRAE? HOUBS-Saturdays from 10 to 12 M. and 2 to 4 P. M. 



Each member may draw one Book and 
retain the same two weeks. 

Any member retaining a Book longer 
than two week, shall pay a fine of one 
dime per week. 

Any one defacing or injuring a Book, 
shall pay such damages as shall be assessed 
by the Board of Directors. 

Any person losing a Book, shall pay the 
cost of the same. 

No member shall be permitted to draw 
Books till such fines are paid. 

No one shall lend the Books of this 
Library. 



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TOPICS OF THE TIME 



BY 



JAMES PARTON. 





BOSTON: 

JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY, 

LATE TICKNOR & FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & Co. 

1871. 



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 187 1, 

BY JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO., 
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington. 



At 

Ps. 



UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & Co., 
CAMBRIDGE. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS . . 1 

THE YANKEES AT HOME 30 

CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES . . . . . .65 

INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT 95 

OUR EOMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN t 132 

How CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME *. . . . 199 

THE CLOTHES MANIA . 224 

LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON 254 

OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN . . . ... . 285 

CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE . . . 317 

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK . 350 







UNCLE SAI'S TBEATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 



TT^IRST, as to the wages he pays them. It is not neces- 
_Jj sary for him to give high salaries, because there are 
two precious commodities with which a government can re- 
ward its servants, over and above the money it pays them. 
One is honor ; the other is safety. These two things, 
honor and safety, are what the virtuous portion of man- 
kind, strive for ; and so precious are they, that when, after 
years of honest toil, a man has attained them, most of us 
join in the acclaim which pronounces his life successful. 
Now a government can bestow these upon every person 
whom it retains in its service. It can reasonably ask a 
man, in the full tide of a victorious career, to relinquish 
his vocation, and devote his life to the public service, for a 
comparatively small sum per annum, provided that sum 
per annum is made securely his until justly forfeited. It 
can do this, because a decent and secure maintenance, with 
the honor properly belonging to a government office, con- 
stitutes an entire material success. No man can get any 
more material good than that, for the simple reason that 
there is no more to get. Mr. Astor was right in saying 
that he derived from his estate only the few thousands a 
year which it cost him to live ; but those few thousands 
are so securely his that he can be deprived of them only 
by his own fault or folly. A government can place its 
higher servants in a position more desirable even than his, 
since to his safety it can add honor. There is no honor in 
owning a thousand houses, but it is highly honorable, under 
a properly constituted government, to be the trusted and 
faithful servant of the public. 

Hence, on these terms, a government can usually have 
the choice of all the most suitable persons for any post. 

1 A 



2 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

If it happens to want a judge, it can usually have the best 
lawyer of the most distinguished court. If it wants a man 
of business, it can select the best executive talent known 
to exist. Why should it not 1 It can offer better wages 
than a man gets in a private Station, more honor, and 
equal safety. We have recently seen that one of the ablest 
business men in the country, already in the possession of 
a secure fortune, was willing to give up three millions 
per annum for the honor and satisfaction of serving the 
public. 

I fear we must admit that Uncle Sam, with all his gen- 
erosity and good intentions, pays to his upper servants the 
smallest wages a government ever paid, wages so mean 
that it is wonderful he gets any faithful, efficient service 
at all. He does get a good deal ; but he has little right 
to expect it. When he confers security he gives along 
with it a pinching, lowering, corrupting salary; and in 
the majority of cases, his servants enjoy neither safety nor 
abundance. 

I will mention a few facts with regard to the Supreme 
Court, the judges of which receive six thousand paper dol- 
lars a year, and the chief justice six thousand five hundred.* 
When I was in Washington last winter, the daughters of 
the late chief justice were earning a scanty, precarious 
livelihood by copying documents in one of the public offices, 
at eight cents per hundred words. The father of those 
ladies, twenty-seven years before his death, lured by an 
honorable, long-cherished ambition, gave up a practice at 
the Maryland bar which in a few years would have en- 
riched him, in order to accept the post of chief justice. 
Whatever his errors may have been, I know he accepted 
the seat from a proper human motive, that of winning 
the esteem of his countrymen by interpreting justice to 
them ; and he devoted himself wholly to the performance 
of its duties. I well remember hearing him, one evening, 
some years before his death, give a sketch of his daily and 
yearly round of work and travel. It was wonderful that a 
man of fourscore could get through an amount of labor 
only equalled by that of the active editor of a great daily 

* The salaries of the judges of the Supreme Court have since been 
raised to $10,000 and $ 10,500. PUBLISHERS. 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 3 

paper. Except that he smoked like a steam-engine, his 
habits were regular and abstemious ; but he died so poor 
that his family were destitute almost immediately after his 
last year's salary was spent. 

Other facts: A justice of the same high court the 
highest, considering all its duties, in the world was pay- 
ing exactly his whole salary, last winter, for the board and 
lodging of himself and his wife. They had one parlor and 
one bedroom. The judge, of course, gave up the parlor to 
his wife and her guests, and used the bedroom for an office 
and consultation-room. There was a great clearing away 
of papers at bedtime ; for, the room being very small, the 
bed had to serve as an office-table. Another justice, who 
relinquished a practice of forty thousand dollars a year, 
being a Californian, had to sell his paper dollars during the 
war at from one third to one half their nominal value ; and 
he spent a quarter of the year in laborious travelling. 
One eminent member of this court was compelled to resign 
his seat, not because he could not live upon his salary, 
for no justice of the Supreme Court can do that, but 
because he had not private income enough to eke it out. 
There is not a justice now sitting upon that bench who 
lives or can live upon his salary ; although, fortunately, it 
is not etiquette for a justice of the Supreme Court to 
entertain. 

Now, reader, it is no hardship for a man to spread his 
papers over his bed ; nor is it much more painful for the 
daughters of a chief justice to do copying at eight cents a 
page than it is for the daughters of a chief cook. I never 
had six thousand dollars a year, and have managed to rub 
on pretty well without it, and expect to continue so to do. 
To me, to nine tenths of all my readers, and to nearly all 
the people in the world, six thousand dollars a year would 
be wealth. / cannot, therefore, consider it a hardship for 
men in general to be limited to such a revenue. But it is 
hard for a patriotic President to be limited in his choice 
for the office of Supreme judge to the very few lawyers 
who happen to possess an independent estate. It is a 
hardship to a great lawyer, formed by nature and circum- 
stances for that sublime place, to be compelled to leave 
it to inferior men because he cannot live upon the salary. 



4 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

It is a hardship to the generous people of the United 
States to see men of such exalted rank in their service 

men intrusted with such difficult and important duties 
cramped and pinched and anxious for a little money, 
unable to keep a secretary, and too poor to afford a ride 
on horseback before going into court. 

To this, some will be disposed to reply that any sum per 
annum is too much for a court from which the Dred Scott 
decision emanated. But on that principle you must cut off 
supplies from the White House, starve Congress, and sus- 
pend nine tenths of all official and all private salaries. We 
were all misled or corrupted by slavery, except the few 
original, thorough-going Abolitionists, who alone of all the 
inhabitants of America have a " record" on that subject of 
which they need never be ashamed. Because Judge Taney 
was perverted and corrupted by slavery is no reason for de- 
grading forever the Court over which he presided. It is 
worth mentioning, too, that if the Supreme Court had been 
decently compensated the Dred Scott decision would never 
have been written. Judge Taney was past eighty when he 
wrote it, and he would have retired some years before if he 
could have retained his ridiculous but indispensable little 
salary. 

It is not necessary, I repeat, for the judges of this Court 
to be paid high salaries ; because the appointment is for 
life, and the honor is immense. It is only necessaiy that 
.they be paid such a sum per annum as will enable lawyers 
who have little property to accept seats on that bench with- 
out injustice to those dependent upon them. Judges of the 
same rank in England, if there were any, would receive 
a salary not far from equivalent to a hundred thousand of 
our dollars per annum. We can, and properly may, get the 
best lawyers at a lower rate ; for the same principle should 
fix the compensation of a Supreme judge as regulates the 
wages of day laborers. The average of unskilled laborers 
being two dollars a day, if you want men of average quality 
you pay two dollars a day. If you want only the refuse of 
the streets, you pay a dollar and a half. If you want the 
pick of the whole town, you pay two dollars and a half. 
The question is, What grade of lawyer do we desire for 
a justice of the Supreme Court ? If we desire the highest, 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 5 

and no other, we must give him an equivalent for what he 
is to surrender. A lawyer of the first rank, at the present 
time, earns an income ranging from thirty to sixty thousand 
dollars a year. Hence I presume that if the salary were 
fixed at twenty thousand dollars a year, with a proper retir- 
ing-pension, the government could look over the bar of the 
whole country, and get the best living man for every 
vacancy. Perhaps fifteen thousand would almost answer, 
which is about the sum it costs to keep house decently in 
Washington at present. 

On almost any morning during the winter, if you take 
your stand at the front (which is the back) of the Capitol, 
you may see lawyers who practise in the Supreme Court 
driven up to the entrance in well-appointed carriages, while 
the justices before whom they are to argue get out of street- 
cars or trudge up the steep hill on foot. It is pleasant to 
see the judges in the cars, and to observe that the respect 
due to their place is manifested by all who ride in their 
company. Nevertheless, if any people about the Supreme 
Court are to have carnages, surely the justices ought to bo 
among them. Uncle Sam can certainly afford to pay his 
highest servants as liberally as clients pay their lawyers ; 
and it concerns both his dignity and his interest to do so. 
Of course, people can always be found to take any place at 
any salary ; but the more able a man is, the more he can 
choose what he will do, and the harder he is to get. If it is 
desired to have truly competent persons in the public ser- 
vice, the public service must be made truly desirable. 

What a wise thing Congress did, in 1855, in establishing 
the Court of Claims ! The founding of that court was 
a step forward in the art of government. The late Sir 
Frederick Bruce, British Minister in Washington, who was 
an intelligent observer of men and things in America, used 
often to say that there was nothing in Washington which 
seemed to him more admirable or more original than that 
Court. " It is," he once said, " a grand and noble thought 
that any citizen can go before a legal tribunal, and main- 
tain his rights against thirty millions. Nothing American 
in America has so deeply impressed me." When he met 
one of the judges of the Court, he was never weary of listen- 
ing to explanations of its procedure and narratives of its 



6 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

cases. His appreciation of the value of this Court would 
have been still greater if he had lived in Washington be- 
fore it was established, and had witnessed the bad lobbying 
and weary waste of time and resources which it has in some 
measure prevented. Before the Court of Claims existed, 
an honest claimant might well doubt whether any amount 
of money could compensate him for the intrigue, solicitation, 
and anxiety involved in the prosecution of a claim before 
Congress ; and, at the same time, a dishonest claimant 
might doubt whether a claim could be so ill-founded that 
indomitable lobbying might not weary Congress into con- 
ceding it. A citizen can now go before this Court, present 
his claim, establish it by evidence and argument; and, 
if the court allows it, he has but to exhibit proof of the fact 
at the treasury, and draw the money. Very large claims 
and war claims are alone exempted from its jurisdiction ; 
but probably the time is not distant when all disputed 
claims of whatever kind or amount will be submitted to it 
for adjudication. Not only does this Court decide upon 
claims, but it establishes principles. Its decisions are now 
a rule in the Departments for the guidance of heads of 
bureaus. The volumes containing reports of cases tried be- 
fore it, prepared by Judge Nott and Mr. Samuel H. Hunt- 
ington, show, even to the unprofessional mind, that this 
court contributes its share to the maintenance and elucida- 
tion of justice in this land. 

The reader will observe that in constituting this Court 
Congress has nobly parted with a portion of its sovereignt}^ 
When it was first established, a claimant had to procure a 
decision in his favor from the Court, and then go to Con- 
gress and enter upon a course of lobbying to get the money 
appropriated. This was heart-breaking work to many a 
wretch ; nor was the time of Congress always saved by de- 
cisions which had no effect until Congress ratified them. 
The Court was in fact no more than an adjunct to the Com- 
mittee on Claims. At length, Congress wisely gave to the 
decisions of the Court a practical validity by empowering 
the Secretary of the Treasury to pay the sums awarded, 
securing to the disappointed claimant a right of appeal to 
the Supreme Court. 

Every reflecting person, I think, will feel that judges in- 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 7 

trusted with powers so peculiar and so great, judges sin- 
gularly liable both to temptation and suspicion, ought to 
be lawyers of very high rank and men of the highest char- 
acter. In other words, they ought to be men who in pri- 
vate life can earn a liberal income. In 1855, when a dollar 
was a dollar, Congress fixed the salary of the judges of this 
Court at four thousand dollars a year. It was not enough 
then ; but the salary has never been changed, except by 
the depreciation of the currency. Consequently, it now 
possesses about one half of its original value, and a judge 
who has no private income is in sorry case. Wealthy and 
powerful claimants come before him, some of whom are 
foreigners whose only care is to get their claim allowed. 
Thriving lawyers plead at the bar, gain large fees, go to 
luxurious homes, and enjoy every facility for the doing of 
their work ; while the judges, if they have no estates and are 
blessed with families, will be in doubt sometimes whether 
they can really afford to ride in the street-cars. 

Now, human nature being always human nature, ability 
and force will as a rule take the path in life that leads 
to a good front-door, \yith a nice saddle-horse tied to the 
post before it. Therefore, if a judge on the bench gets four 
thousand dollars a year, and the leading lawyers at the bar 
get twenty thousand, you will observe, at last, that the first- 
rate men remain at the bar, and the third-rate men are on 
the bench. Not at first, because the permanence of the 
appointment counts for much, and the honor for more. 
But in the course of time, if you persist in condemning 
judges to a lifetime of respectable pinch, the valuable men 
will resign and decline, until the peculiar honor once at- 
tached to the title of judge is gone. I say nothing of the 
temptation to which a poor judge in suck a Court may be 
exposed, because we have not yet sunk to the point when 
an American judge permanently appointed can be thought 
of as subject to temptation. But keep judges' salaries as 
they are for a few years more, and there will be no justice 
obtainable in the United States, except by purchase. If a 
seat on this bench should become vacant to-morrow, the 
President might be driven half mad by the multitude of 
applicants; but if he were to offer it to each of the hundred 
most eminent lawyers in the country, it is probable that it 



8 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

would be declined by them all. Most of these would prob- 
ably reply : "Mr. President, you do me great honor, but I 
really cannot afford it ; the luxury is beyond my means." 

Every senator, I believe, without exception, and nearly 
every member of the House, will own, in conversation, that 
the salaries paid to judges, heads of departments, some 
heads of bureaus, and other officials, are insufficient ; but 
many senators hang back from increasing salaries, for fear 
of an imaginary fool of a farmer, who is supposed to be- 
grudge the servants of the public a just compensation. 
Whenever I have been in the country lately, I have looked 
about in search of that narrow-minded agriculturist, but I 
have not been able to find him. The farmers understand 
this matter as well as senators ; they know perfectly well 
that if the government wants a diamond or a man, it must 
go into the market and pay what the article will fetch from 
other purchasers. The only question is, what grade of 
diamond or man does it want 1 

Sir Frederick Bruce might well be interested in the 
Court of Claims ; but there is something in Washington a 
thousand times more wonderful and more original than 
that. Like other wonders, however, it escapes observation 
because we are so familiar with it. Walk over the Treasury 
building ; mark the thousands of persons employed therein ; 
consider the nature of their employment ; contemplate the 
magnitude and difficulty of the task imposed upon the 
head of that department ; think of the wide-spread ruin 
that could result from an error on his part, and the lasting 
good that might come of one superior method. Consider 
the trust reposed in him, the ease with which that trust 
could be violated, and the absolute certainty we have that 
it never is, never has been, and never will be violated. 
Think of all this, and then reflect upon the fact that out 
of those inconceivable millions that pass under his control, 
we permit him to retain for his own use not enough to keep 
house upon. " How much rent do you pay here in Wash- 
ington 1 " asked some one of Mr. Evarts last winter. " My 
salary," was the reply. This is the great wonder, not of 
Washington only, but of the woiid. The pyramids of 
Egypt are commonplace compared with it. The man that 
supplies the Treasury building with any one of the leading 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 9 

articles used in it would turn up his nose at eight thousand 
dollars a year. Fortunes were made in the mere erection 
of the edifice. Yet Secretaries of the Treasury, as they 
have gone down those granite steps in the afternoon, have 
doubtless often fallen into a deep meditation upon the ways 
and means of getting over the next rent-day. They have 
generally been men of small fortunes. Hamilton was 
obliged to resign and go home to earn money for his large 
family, and Gallatin was never in very liberal circum- 
stances. Gallatin had an opportunity, once, of gaining a 
large fortune in Paris without dishonor. " No," said he to 
the representative of the great house which he had obliged, 

" no ; a man who has been intrusted with the finances 
of his country must not die rich." In this lofty spirit the 
office has generally been held. 

The time has come, I think, for putting the members of 
the Cabinet a little more at their ease. The people do not 
want to be under an obligation to them of a pecuniary- 
nature. They did not want Mr. Stanton to work during 
the war as no galley-slave ever worked, and yet live in 
part upon his private fortune ; nor is it wise to subject 
human nature to such a staggering temptation. The man 
whose signature confers place and w r ealth ought not to be 
left to grapple with the embarrassments of an insufficient 
income. Uncle Sam has a large although not unencum- 
bered estate, and he can well afford to maintain those who 
serve him in a style suited to the importance and dignity 
of their duties. To keep house in Washington on the scale 
adopted by Mr. Sewarji, who lived plainly enough and gave 
perhaps twenty moderate dinners a year, costs about fifteen 
thousand dollars per annum which is about the present 
value of the salary which Hamilton found inadequate dur- 
ing the presidency of General Washington. Hamilton, 
however, had married a rich man's daughter, who had 
probably a rich man's daughter's ideas as to what are the 
necessaries of life. His vices also were expensive, or, to 
speak more exactly, his vice. The virtuous public men of 
the present day could probably retain the. post of Cabinet 
Minister or Vice-President for a few years upon fifteen 
thousand dollars a year without seriously encroaching 
upon their private fortunes ; and a salary of that amount 
1* 



10 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

would give the President a much wider range of choice. 
" Perhaps," said Mr. Wade last spring, " I should have 
taken office, if it had been offered me ; but the pay is in- 
adequate. I could not have held the position and kept 
house in Washington as Cabinet Ministers are expected to, 
for the salary. It would have taken five thousand dollars 
a year more from my private means, unless I 'd steal, and 
I 'm too old to begin to steal." 

The grade of officials just below that of Cabinet Minister, 
the class represented during the war by Mr. G. V. Fox, 
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, are persons of great im- 
portance in Washington. The supposed necessities of 
party sometimes induce a President to fill a place in the 
Cabinet with any old figure-head that happens to be lying 
about. In any case, the person next in rank to the chief 
exercises great authority, and will generally be to his de- 
partment what a first lieutenant is to his ship. It is 
admitted on all hands that the sudden expansion of the 
navy of the United States during*the first years of the war, 
resulting in a real blockade of an immense line of coast, 
and in the immortal victories of Farragut and his comrades, 
was the ne plus ultra of administrative achievement. It is 
also admitted that this was chiefly the work of Mr. G. V. 
Fox. Now, it was no hardship to Mr. Fox, in those glori- 
ous years, to serve his country for less money than would 
pay for the board and lodging of a small family in a third- 
rate hotel. On the contrary, it was a sweet, a high, a 
priceless privilege. The meanness of the salary enhanced 
the glory and fascination of the post. It must have been 
delicious, sometimes, when he had signed contracts that 
would enrich half a dozen men, to contemplate the leanness 
of his -own exchequer. It must have been a gratification 
bordering on the sublime, just after he had asked a creditor 
to wait till next quarter-day for his money, to read in a 
Democratic newspaper of the enormous sums he was mak- 
ing from his interests in navy contracts. But human 
nature cannot be kept at that pitch of exaltation in which 
we lived from 1861 to 1865 ; nor is there any need that it 
should be. In the long run, bread-and-butter, as Ex-alder- 
man Johnson styled it, rules the world ; and, when the war 
was over, Mr. Fox was more than justified in resigning his 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 11 

place in Washington, at thirty-five hundred dollars a year, 
to accept the superintendency of a manufactory at Lowell, 
at seven thousand. Seven thousand dollars a year at 
Lowell is about equal to eleven thousand dollars a year 
at Washington. 

The simple question for us to consider is : Are men of 
great capacity wanted in government offices, or are they 
not 1 If they are, we must pay them what others find it 
worth while to pay them. Mr. Fox represents a class of 
able men, nearly all of whom were compelled to retire from 
the public service after the close of the war because the 
salaries attached to their posts were inadequate, I men- 
tion him by name, because he is well known to the public, 
and also because I have never seen him, and do not even 
know whether his was the creative mind of the Navy De- 
partment. Some mind was ; and the principle is the same, 
whether it goes by the name of Fox or another. To this 
class of officials, assistant secretaries, heads of important 
bureaus, and others, Uncle Sam, it is to be noted, pays 
nothing but money. Their names become known to the 
public only by accident ; for it is part of the etiquette of 
their place to see to it that the honor of what they accom- 
plish shall be awarded to their nominal chief ; nor is their 
appointment permanent. A man with sense enough to 
know wherein consists human happiness can accommodate 
himself to a narrow income, provided it is safely his own. 
But to an income of any magnitude whatever, subject to 
be taken away without notice and without cause, a man of 
sense and ability was never yet reconciled. To accept such 
a place, in ordinary times, is a confession of incompetency. 

This brings us to the rotation-in-office question, to which 
attention has been powerfully recalled of late by the able 
and patriotic labors of Mr. Jenckes of Rhode Island. Still 
more powerfully has attention been called to it by the re- 
cent rebellions in the State Prison at Sing-Sing which were 
said to be caused by the sudden dismissal of Republican 
officers to make room for a number of Democratic politi- 
cians who had to be provided with places. That event, 
doubtless, aggravated the state of things existing in the 
prison ; and probably the stanchest Jackson-Democratic 
father and housekeeper in that part of Westchester County 



12 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

has had doubts this year whether the system of rotation is 
quite applicable to the officials of an establishment contain- 
ing "thirteen hundred criminals. As that father made his 
rounds at night, locking up house, barn, and stable, and 
reflecting upon what might happen if that mass of ruffians 
were let loose upon an unprotected village, I fear he did not 
feel all that veneration for his departed chief which it is 
the pride of Jackson Democrats to exhibit. It perhaps oc- 
curred to him that to govern with firmness, humanity, and 
wisdom so peculiar a community demanded other qualifica- 
tions than the single one of being able to "carry" a ward 
or a county, and that those other qualifications ought at 
least to be thought of in making prison appointments. " I 
don't see what is the use of having such men as John 
Clark here," said a high official in the Philadelphia custom- 
house, of one of its clerks. " Why not 1 " asked a by- 
stander. The reply was : " He has been here six or seven 
years, and he has never carried his precinct." 

We have now tried the Jackson rotation system forty 
years and six months. How has it worked ? 

I admit that there is something plausible to be said in 
its favor. I am writing this article on Cape Ann, part of 
the "stern and rock-bound coast" of Massachusetts, which 
is now getting sliced up into wonderfully long pieces of fine 
granite, and carried off in schooners to varjpus Atlantic 
ports for building and paving. Fish and granite are the 
products of this rugged, romantic region. All day long, 
under the hot summer sun and in the cutting winter winds, 
the quarrymen swing the great hammer, or hold the peril- 
ous boring-tool, or manage the ponderous machinery that 
lifts and loads the huge masses, or yell like tragedians at 
the writhing oxen. The men of Cape Ann who do not 
work in the quarries go for codfish in schooners to the 
coast of Labrador, to the banks of Newfoundland, and else- 
where, not shrinking from the cruel tempests of February 
and March ; or they cruise up and down the coast in search 
of the uncertain mackerel, coming in sometimes, after 
weeks of dangerous voyaging, without a fish ; or else they 
court destruction in a little flat-bottomed boat called a 
dory, and gather the harvest of the sea within a few miles of 
the shore, supplying lobsters at four cents each for canning, 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 13 

and sending fresh fish to the Boston markets. Life on 
Cape Ann wears a serious aspect, and is maintained by 
fierce grappling with hostile forces. 

But here and there on the Cape there is a man who walks 
serene, listening to the musical ring of the hammer which 
he never lifts, and viewing the boundless peril which he 
never shares. The whole fleet of mackerel-men and cod- 
meii may come in empty ; but it is naught to him, his salt 
pork and biscuit are secure. Nobody may want granite, 
and the music of the quarries may cease ; but he surveys 
the scene with a tranquil mind, and draws his pay as before. 
As long as the President of the United States is a Kepub- 
lican, and the member of Congress who got him his place 
continues to be re-elected, and does not want the office for 
some one else, so long he remains a gentleman of leisure, 
in the midst of a most laborious people. Such are the 
lighthouse-keepers, the inspectors of customs, the postmas- 
ters, and a few others. How natural that the men of the 
Cape should think it right to take a turn, now and then, 
at these easy employments and this certain pay ! Why, 
they ask, should Neighbor Jones always walk up and down, 
looking out for smugglers, catching one every year or two, 
and the rest of us always split the granite and hunt the mack- 
erel 1 Turn about is fair play, they think ; and there will 
never be wanting politicians to sympathize with them in 
this view of the subject. 

Such is the light in which rotation appears upon the 
granite coast of New England. But none of these stal- 
wart men would begrudge a lighthouse to a one-legged 
soldier or the widow of a drowned fisherman; and when 
the government is put once more upon a basis of common 
sense, lighthouses will invariably be reserved for persons 
whose circumstances and past services mark them out from 
all mankind for just such posts. Nor do the men of this 
Cape envy the lot of a certain postmaster, the slenderness 
of whose emolument exactly balances the more desirable 
circumstances of his place, and keeps him equal to the rest 
of the village. Still less would they be disturbed, if the 
incumbent of such an easy post were a woman. They do 
envy the case of some of the customs-officials ; and well 
they may. Several of those gentlemen have very little to 



14 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

do, and that little is not arduous ; while the pay is more 
liberal than it would have to be, if the appointment were 
permanent. Nor would the present salaries be deemed ex- 
cessive, nor excite envy in the breasts of honest men, if 
they were the late reward of faithful service in lower posts, 
for which every man's son might compete. These hardy 
fishermen do not feel it a grievance that some of their 
neighbors own a sh^re in a schooner, which gives them a 
double portion of the profit of voyages to the toil of which 
all hands equally contribute. But when Uncle Sam comes 
along and bestows sudden, unearned ease and honor upon 
one of their number, they feel that, the next time he looks 
in upon Cape Ann, he ought to put that man back into the 
quarry or the schooner and give some one else a respite 
from toil and trouble. But our respected Uncle ought not 
to bestow sudden, unearned ease and honor upon any man. 
This is one of the many wrongs of rotation ; and, hence, 
I must reckon Cape Ann an argument for permanence. 

This remote and stony Cape is representative on this 
subject. Having been for many years interested in the 
question, I have sought opportunities of learning how it 
appears to average voters, the owners of the United States, 
who will have finally to decide it. At present, the average 
voter is under the impression that we ought to take turns 
at enjoying what few good things Uncle Sam has to bestow. 
This feeling is the difficulty to be overcome. 

Cape Ann, on the other hand, has afforded a pleasing 
illustration of the solid, enduring happiness which can result 
from a very small income, when it is not precarious. Yon- 
der lighthouse, built in the year 1800, was occupied for 
forty-nine years by the same keeper. The salary was three 
hundred dollars a year ; but a garden furnished the family 
with vegetables, and the ocean with fish. They were noted 
the country round for innocent cheerfulness and bountiful 
hospitality, and the old man, when at length the lamp of 
his own life went out, left an estate worth seven thousand 
dollars. Quiet, stable welfare like this can exist wherever 
there is a secure livelihood suitably bestowed. Lamb had 
it from his place in the India House. Hawthorne might 
have had it in the Salem custom-house. There are people 
in this world who possess high, rare, and exquisite qualities ; 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 15 

people who can render the most perfect service in posts the 
duties of which are fixed for them ; and yet they are want- 
ing in a certain audacity and energy that fit men to make 
a successful career of their own. How excellent a thing 
for a bank, a company, or a government to give permanent 
welfare to such in return for admirable service ! It is idle 
to urge men to be moderate in their pursuit of fortune, so 
long as the possession of property is the only means of 
securing independence and dignity. In the United States 
a man is a fool who does not sacrifice to the acquisition of 
wealth everything except health and honor ; since wealth 
alone gives a platform upon which a happiness can be es- 
tablished. Faraday might well decline to make a fortune 
of a hundred and fifty thousand pounds by doing chemis- 
try for men of business ; he had a secure eighty pounds a 
year, three rooms, fuel, and candles ; and, having these, he 
could afford the ineffable luxury of spending his life in the 
discovery of truth. 

I turn from Cape Ann to a scene which I witnessed in 
the White House a few days after the last Inauguration. 
If the Jackson rotation system appears endurable upon the 
sea-coast, it is entirely hideous at Washington. 

About nine o'clock one morning, on going by the Presi- 
dent's house, I observed a great number of men standing 
about the front-door, and many others walking towards it, 
as though' something was going on and the public had 
been invited to attend. I joined the throng and entered 
the hall. The President's family had not yet taken pos- 
session, and several upholsterers were making wild efforts 
to take up the carpets ; while parties were waiting for 
some one who had gone to find some one else who had the 
key of the East Room, which they were desirous of seeing. 
Meanwhile, they strolled about in the smaller show apart- 
ments, stumbling over rolls of carpet, inhaling dust, and 
viewing works of art. But most of those who entered this 
private residence of a respectable family went up stairs, 
where the President was, supposed to be. Following the 
stream, I found myself in one of the suite of rooms of the 
east wing, adjacent to the apartment in which the Presi- 
dent usually receives people who call on business. These 
large rooms were filled with men, standing in groups talk- 



16 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ing eagerly together, or sitting silent and anxious on the 
seats that lined the wall. The roar of conversation was 
like that of the Chicago Exchange when wheat is coming 
in freely, and the air was as pestiferous as at an evening 
party the giver of which keeps four stout colored men 
opening champagne, but forgets to let in a little inexpen- 
sive atmosphere. The men here assembled had a suf- 
ficient, capable aspect ; many of them were persons of 
note in politics ; many had distinguished themselves in the 
war. Strolling about among them, and passing from room 
to room, I came at last to the DOOR, the door of doors, 
which all of those present desired to enter. Some of them 
had crossed a continent to enter it ; and there it was, tight 
shut, guarded by two ushers, and two hundred people were 
waiting to go in. It was not necessary for any one to be 
told that this door led to the President's office. There was 
a lane of men, terminating at the door, and extending back 
into the middle of the room, each man of which looked at 
the door as though it were beef and he had tasted nothing 
for three days and three nights. I saw then what the 
poet meant who first spoke of people devouring objects 
with their eyes. These men had a hungry look. With 
their eyes they were eating up that dingy-white door. So 
intent were they upon it that they were unconscious of 
themselves, of their attitude and expression ; and, when at 
last the door opened, it was awful to see how they scanned 
the face of the messenger, and watched his movements. 
And so they waited, hour after hour. Failing to get in 
one day, they would try again the next. Some of those 
then present had been trying for four days for admission, 
and had still no expectation of getting in very soon. 
Many had given up the attempt to see the President, and 
were waiting there in hopes of speaking with their senator 
or member, who would convey their wishes to him. 

A scene similar to this, but on a smaller scale, was 
going on wherever there was a person in Washington who 
had easy access to the President. < A member of Congress 
who was supposed to have any particular influence with 
him would have a hundred applications a day for the exer- 
tion of that influence. One member, who was not on the 
best terms with the President, would have twenty callers 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 17 

in one evening, asking his aid in procuring a favorable 
presentation of their "claims." Washington swarmed 
with office-seekers. At the Capitol, when a messenger ar- 
rived from the White House with a packet of nominations, 
the rush of men toward the* Senate wing of the building 
was like the thundering tramp of buffaloes across a 
prairie.* 

I might dwell upon the waste, the anguish, the inde- 
cency, the degradation, of this scramble. I might speak 
of men coming to Washington with high hopes and full 
pockets, who begin by living at Willard's and treating with 
champagne, then remove to a less expensive hotel, after- 
wards to a cheap boarding-house, and finally, after subsist- 
ing awhile at " free lunches," borrow money to go home, 
where they arrive haggard and savage. I might speak of 
the impossibility of making good appointments in such cir- 
cumstances ; of the much better chance that brazen im- 
portunity has at such a time than merit ; of the greater 
likelihood that a noisy eleventh-hour convert will get an 
office than a man who has borne the burden and heat of 
the day, but has omitted to come to Washington ; or 
of the infernal cruelty of working a President to within an 
inch of his life in the first six weeks of his term. But all 
things cannot be said in one short article. The great evil 
of the system, as it is seen at Washington, is, that it com- 
pels the chief persons of the government to expend most 
of their time and strength upon a matter that properly be- 
longs to subordinates. When President Grant came into 
office, there were several matters of great importance which 

* A Washington letter of April 2, 1869, has the following: " To-day the 
hundreds of office-seekers now here flocked to the Capitol. At about two 
o'clock General Porter made his appearance, and after depositing with the 
Senate his sealed packages of appointments he repaired to the Secretary's 
office, and there placed a list of the same for the public. In an instant a 
grand rush was made for this office, and soon there was scarcely standing- 
room therein. The reporters of the afternoon papers tried 'in vain to 
secure copies of the names on the list, but the hungry, anxious, and eager 
crowds rushed in pell-mell. It was amusing to see the expressions of the 
faces of these people after the list had been read. Of course none of the 
successful candidates were present, and all were disappointed. The score 
or more persons seeking the same office sought their Congressmen, and 
each demanded explanations of the why and wherefore. Profanity raged 

among all The 8.40 train for New York was packed with the most 

dejected, pitiful, profane, and demoralized crowd of men that ever left 
this city." 



18 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

demanded his attention and that of his Cabinet ; such as 
Cuba, the Alabama claims, reconstruction, and the adop- 
tion of a financial policy. The consideration of such sub- 
jects is the high duty which the Constitution assigns to the 
heads of the government, aifd in order to get that duty 
done the people gave General Grant their votes. But dur- 
ing the first week of his term he was worn out, day after 
day, by listening to the claims and settling the differences 
of people whose existence would naturally be known to a 
President or a Cabinet Minister only through the Blue 
Book. 

And this, let me add, is the chief labor of a President 
all through his term. " What is it to be President 1 " I 
once asked of a gentleman who had filled the office ; 
" what is the principal thing a President does 1 " The reply 
was, "To make appointments." A mere lounger about 
Washington can see that this is true ; and it is manifest to 
all who look over such documents as that containing the 
testimony taken by the Covode Committee in 1860. The 
reader of that choice volume perceives that Mr. Buchanan 
wrote long letters and spent laborious hours in forcing 
upon the Philadelphia Navy-Yard an incompetent head- 
carpenter. The authorities of the yard sent back word 
that the man could not pass his examination. No matter ; 
the President of the United States would have him ap- 
pointed, and he was appointed ; for he had rendered ser- 
vices in the Presidential election which a Buchanan could 
not overlook. The following is a portion of the man's 
sworn testimony : 

" Question. Do you mean to say that you gave [naturali- 
zation] papers to parties who subsequently used them in 
elections without ever going before a court to make the 
necessary proof [of five years' residence] 1 

" Answer. I have given a few. 

" Ques. Well, how many did you distribute yourself? 

" Ans. Two or three thousand." * 

This was the man Patrick Lafferty was his name 
whom the President of the United States put over the 
heads of American mechanics. I do not adduce the fact to 
illustrate the corrupting tendency of rotation, but to show 

* Covode Investigation, p. 396. 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 19 

the petty nature of the employments to which it reduces 
the head of the government. I am not sure that Mr. 
Buchanan was aware of the kind of service which his Irish 
friend had rendered him ; but the assiduous Lafferty swore 
that when he failed to pass his examination he went to 
Washington and conversed with the President upon the 
subject for an hour and a half. We also find the Presi- 
dent, upon the pages of this huge volume, meddling in the 
pettiest details of the pettiest ward elections, and superin- 
tending the division of the vulgarest portion of the spoils. 
He arranged the division and subdivision of the profits 
made on the public printing, and he parcelled out among 
three of his Pennsylvania neighbors the percentage allowed 
on the price of the coal purchased for the government. 
Do we elect a President for such work as this 1 Mr. Lin- 
coln, too, was immersed in the most trivial details of ad- 
ministration. I think he must have spent more than half 
his time, and a full third of his strength, in arranging 
affairs of which, in a properly constituted public service, 
he would never have heard ; and this, w r ith a million men 
in the field, and the existence of the nation at stake. 
That the same system prevails to-day I have a hundred 
proofs before me ; but they are needless, for every one 
knows it to be the case. We have even read lately a 
printed notice, signed by the commandant of a navy-yard, 
in which it is stated that " no person hostile to the present 
administration will be employed in the yard," and that 
" the Secretary of the Navy particularly desires " the en- 
forcement of this rule. 

Now, human nature being what it is, we may be sure 
that nine Presidents out of ten will make nine appoint- 
ments out of ten with an eye to their own re-election, or 
the election of their candidate. They will generally make 
haste to have the fifty thousand office-holders active agents 
in their behalf; and since "power over a man's support 
has always been held and admitted to be power over his 
will," an ambitious and able President can easily convert 
all that large army of men from servants of the public 
into personal retainers. John Tyler, of precious memory, 
for example, employed his postmasters in circulating copies 
of a campaign Life of himself. They were called upon by 



20 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

a circular letter, franked, to subscribe for and spread 
abroad " fifty or sixty copies," which would be furnished 
" at the low price of fifty dollars a hundred." This cir- 
cular letter was accompanied by a note penned in the 
President's own office by his son and secretary. The fol- 
lowing is a copy of the note : 
" (Private.) PRESIDENT'S HOUSE, 1st Dec., 1843. 

" Sm : As it is considered of importance, in justice to 
the President, to circulate among the people the work 
spoken of in Mr. Abell's letter accompanying this, you will 
confer a favor on the undersigned by taking such measures 
for that end as Mr. A. suggests. 

" Prompt attention and a liberal subscription will render 
your services still more useful. 

" I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

* "JOHN TYLER, "JR." 

This letter, I believe, correctly represents a system 
which time has not materially changed. As a rule, we 
shall not have in the Presidential chair .such blundering 
people as Tyler and Johnson, who let their clumsy hands 
be seen from behind the curtain of the show ; but no 
President who could be nominated by the present style of 
politicians can be reasonably expected to refrain from 
using his power to perpetuate his power. Eotation be-' 
littles, personalizes, and disgraces the government in its 
every department and grade. From peculiar circum- 
stances, I am thoroughly familiar with the working of the 
system, and I am convinced that Mr. John Stuart Mill's 
recent utterance on this subject is the truth. He well 
says that rotation is the evil of our government,*' and that 

* " I have long thought," wrote Mr. Mill, a few months ago, to a friend 
in New York, apropos of Mr. Jenckes's bill, " that the appointments to 
office without regard to qualifications are the worst side of American in- 
stitutions, the main cause of what is justly complained of in their practi- 
cal operation, and the principal hindrance to the correction of what is 
amiss, as well as a cause of ill-repute to democratic institutions all over 
the world. If appointments were given, not by political influence, but by 
open competition, the practice of turning out the holders of office, at 
every change in politics, in order to reward partisans, would necessarily 
cease, and with it nearly all the corruption and larger half of the virulence 
of mere party conflict. I have been delighted to see that Mr. Jenckes's 
measure meets with increasing support from disinterested opinion, though 
it will have to encounter the utmost hostility from the professional poli- 
ticians, who are the great perverters of free government." 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 21 

professional politicians are the great perverters of free 
government. Rotation has created professional politicians, 
and by rotation alone they are kept in being. The order 
did not exist before Jackson debauched the government : it 
will cease to exist when Mr. Jenckes has reformed it. 

At the penitentiary upon Blackwell's Island, near New 
York, the superintendent once pointed out to me a young 
man (not more than twenty-eight) who had been in the 
prison fifty-seven times. Other young men there had been 
" sent up " thirty times, twenty times, eighteen times, ten 
times ; and, I think, comparatively few were serving their 
first term. This led to the disclosure of the fact that 
most of the crime in the large cities of the world is com- 
mitted by a small number of professional villains, who 
pass their short lives between the prison and the streets ; 
not unfrequently getting themselves arrested and convicted 
when times are hard. Thus the Tombs in New York has, 
like the Astor House, its regular customers; and Black- 
well's Island is, like Newport, a place of resort ; and the 
virtuous portion of the people pay three or four millions 
per annum, for the support, arrest, and entertainment of a 
few thousand individuals who have adopted stealing as a 
vocation. We support them out of prison and we support 
them in prison. Rotation in office has called into exist- 
ence an order of politicians as distinct as the order of 
thieves and the inhabitants of New York do not need to 
be informed that between these two orders there is an 
affinity, such as that which ,we suspected between Bu- 
chanan and Lafferty. If anything is certain, it is. this : 
the rotation system is developing this affinity into an alli- 
ance. In the city of New York, we all see this ; but the 
country at large is so sound, and there are still so many 
respectable men in office and so much of the public busi- 
ness is tolerably done, that the tendency is less apparent 
to those who live out of the large seaports. But the ten- 
dency exists. Honorable men, who are still occasionally 
sought for office, instinctively perceive it, and shrink from 
contact with a class who seem to have something in com- 
mon with men of prey which easily develops into an under- 
standing, into a partnership. 

That coal agency, already referred to, may serve as an 



22 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

example of the way in which political transactions shade 
off into criminal ones. Half a dozen applicants for the 
agency were in Washington, all of whom had spent money 
and wind in the preceding election, and all neighbors or 
friends of the President. Some of the applicants and their 
adherents met and talked the matter over, and they agreed 
at length that one of their number should be appointed 
agent, and that the emoluments of the office should be 
equally divided between him and two others. It is hardly 
necessary to add that neither of the three knew anything 
particular about coal, or even took .pains to inquire ; one 
of them being a physician, another an editor, and the 
third an omnibus proprietor. The business was " turned 
over to Stone, Tyler, & Co.," who "became at once the 
purchasers for, and the sellers to, the government." I am 
happy to be able to add, that when Mr. Getz, editor of the 
Reading Gazette, came to understand the arrangement, he 
declined to take any share of its profits ; so that the doctor 
and the omnibus man had the whole fourteen thousand 
dollars a year to divide between them. I do not say that 
this was as bad as picking pockets, but only that it was 
akin to it. 

It is ludicrous to observe sometimes how entirely the 
public service is lost sight of under this insensate system, 
and what absolute puppets the lower officials are in the 
games of the higher. If a member of Congress, for example, 
bolts on an administration measure, the President turns 
out of office the postmasters, lighthouse-keepers, custom- 
house clerks, and navy-yard laborers who owed their ap- 
pointments to him. There is Something about this so 
exquisitely absurd, that it is provocative of laughter rather 
than horror, as when we read of those usages of barbarous 
tribes which have the peculiarity of being both deadly and 
silly. We are so constituted that murder itself becomes 
laughable if a Chinaman is hung up by his pigtail; and 
suicide excites mirth when we read of a Japanese nobleman 
going aside and quietly ripping himself up. So, when we 
read of Buchanan turning a mechanic out of his shop 
because a New York member voted against Lecompton, we 
can hardly resist the comic incongruity of the transaction. 
I cannot read seriously such a passage as the following 



* 

UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 23 

from the Covode Report, although I know that precisely 
the same system prevails to-day, and that it is as mon- 
strous as it is ridiculous : 

" The division of patronage among members was well 
known in the Brooklyn navy-yard. Each master workman 
understood to whom he and each of his fellows owed their 
places. Thus the constructive engineer, the master plumber, 
and the master block-maker represented Mr. Sickles ; the 
master painter represented Mr. Learing; the master spar- 
maker, master blacksmith, and timber-inspector represent- 
ed Mr. Maclay Lawrence Cohane was appointed 

master carpenter upon the nomination of Mr. Haskin, 
in the general division of patronage. He was removed on 
account of Mr. Haskiris course upon the Lecompton Constitu- 
tion:' 

Each of these representative master mechanics selects 
and discharges the men of his shop, and he is expected to 
do this with the most implicit deference to the will and 
political interest of the member who caused his appoint- 
ment. But to this, it seems, other members sometimes 
object. Thus, Mr. Haskin procured the appointment of 
Master Carpenter Cohane ; but we find the Hon. John 
Cochrane addressing the unfortunate Cohane thus : " I will 
have my proportion of men under you ; if you do not give 

them, I will lodge charges against you I will make 

application that you be turned out. The bearer will bring 
me an answer." The master painter, about the same time, 
took the very great liberty of discharging a man for habit- 
ual drunkenness. The man's member of Congress made 
the following remark to the master painter in consequence : 
" You may set it down as a fact that I will have you re- 
moved if I can, if you don't put that man back again." 
The drunkard was not put back again, and the master 
painter was removed. Another member writes to the 
master of one of the shops : " As a general thing, Hugh Mc- 
Laughlin, master laborer, knows who my friends are, and 
he will confer with you at all times." 

In these absurd contentions the Secretary of the Navy 
himself did not disdain to mingle, and of course we find 
him siding with the aggrieved member and adding the 
weight of his positive order to effect the member's purpose. 



24 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Equally, of course, it was the refuse of the mechanics of 
New York and Brooklyn who usually came to the yard 
backed with a member's demand for their employment; 
and thus the Brooklyn navy-yard, once the pride of ship- 
builders, to be employed in which was formerly a coveted 
honor, was "reduced to a mere political machine where 
idleness, theft, insubordination, fraud, and gross neglect of 
duty prevailed to an alarming degree." Of course ! An 
employer who treats his workmen thus deserves to be 
served so, and always will be. The wonder is, that any 
ship built in the yard kept afloat long enough to reach 
Sandy Hook. 

A noteworthy circumstance is, that members of Congress 
of any intelligence, who employ this system, are as keenly 
alive to its absurdities and its ill consequences as we are 
who pay the cost and suffer the shame of it. That very 
John Cochrane who would have his share of the navy-yard 
carpenters has solemnly declared that the system is an un- 
mitigated evil, injurious to the purity of elections, injurious 
to the mechanic and his work, and a frightful nuisance 
to members, who are beset at every turn by applicants. 
Another member has testified : " My house was run down. 
I was addressed upon the subject in the street ; when in 
the lower part of the city on business I would be pursued ; 
and I really could find no rest by reason of the great num- 
ber of such applications This whole system tends, 

in the first place, to the demoralization of the laboring class 
to their serious detriment, and, in my judgment, to the 
degradation, personal and political, of members of Con- 
gress." As men and citizens they all comprehend this ; 
while as politicians they insist on having their share of its 
supposed advantages. 

" We shall be broken up," said Senator Trumbull of Illi- 
nois, in April last, "unless some administration will set 
the example, or some legislation will compel it, of making 
the price of office good behavior only. The scenes and the 
scramble of the last month have been disgraceful, as you 
know. But you do not probably know the effect of this 
periodical rotation upon Congress. For example, I want 
the Secretary of the Treasury to give my man an office. I 
go up to the department and wait there for an audience, 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 25 

long or short, as the case may be. The Secretary speaks 
encouragingly. Next day I go up again, and he is not 
quite so sanguine. It is by this steady persistence that 
offices are obtained here. Not merit, nor recommendation, 
nor impulse, but dingdonging, obtains the offices. Well, 
the Secretary has a financial policy, perhaps. How can I, 
as a senator, speak independently of his policy, while my 
man is in a state of suspense 1 Thus the executive part of 
the government paralyzes in a great degree the legislator's 
independence." 

A striking case in point, which clearly illustrates the 
working of the system, was furnished by a late collector of 
the New York custom-house, who desired to represent the 
United States at the court of St. Petersburg. The Senate 
frustrated his ambition, and he took his revenge by turning 
out of the custom-house thirty clerks and porters whom a 
New York senator had recommended for appointment. A 
gentleman who was present when the thirty new men were 
sworn in asked the collector whether the vacancies had 
been created in order to retaliate upon the senator for his 
adverse vote. He did not deny the soft impeachment, 
though he pretended that the thirty dismissed were " in- 
competent." He concluded his answer to the question in 
these words : " Blood is thicker than water. If a "man 
cheats me I arn going to pay him off for it. I did not 
want the mission to Russia particularly. It would have 
cost me ten thousand dollars a year to go there. But then, 
when a man makes up his mind to do a thing he don't like 
to be cheated out of it. There have not been more than 
thirty new appointments made." Thirty men suddenly 
deprived of their means of living, and thirty more lured 
perhaps from stable employments, in order to gratify the 
spite of a person whom it had been an affront to Russia to 
send thither as a representative of the United States ! How 
foolish it is for us to complain of the alleged peculations or 
custom-house officials ! Has it ever been possible, in any 
age or country, to get decent and capable men to serve on 
these terms ; to be the puppets and instruments of such a 
person for a hundred and fifty dollars a month 1 You can 
get thieves on such terms. You can get fools on such 
terms. You can get necessitous honest men for a short 
2 



26 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

time on such terms. But Uncle Sam will never be well 
served so long as he can stand by with his hands in his 
pockets while his servants are thus treated. 

" You don't do work enough to earn your salary," said a 
chief of bureau, in this same custom-house, to one of the 
clerks. " Work ! " exclaimed the young man, " I worked 
to get here; you surely don't expect me to work any 
longer." 

This anecdote, which sums up the system in a sentence, 
is one of the hundreds of good things collected by the inde- 
fatigable industry of Mr. Jeuckes. He relates another story, 
to show the marvellous carelessness with which men are 
selected even for situations requiring special or professional 
knowledge. The chief clerk of the Office of Construction 
in the Treasury Department being requested to give the 
" full particulars " of 'his examination, thus replied : " Major 
Barker commenced the ' examination ' by saying : ' You are 
from New York, I believe, Mr. Clark ? r I replied that 
I was. He then commenced a detailed narrative of his first 
visit to New York, and gave me an interesting and graphic 
account of the disturbance created in his mind by the 'noise 
and confusion ' of the great city. The delivery of this nar- 
rative occupied, as nearly as I remember, about half an 
hour.' I" listened to it attentively, endeavoring to discover 
some point in his discourse which had reference to my 
(then present) 'examination.' I failed to discover any 
relevancy, and therefore made no reply. At the close of 
his narrative, without any further question, he said to his 
associate examiners : ' Well, gentlemen, I presume there is 
no doubt but that Mr. Clark is qualified.' Whereupon 
they all signed the certificate, and my 'examination' 
closed." 

Is it not one of the wonders of the world that the Treas- 
ury building stood long enough to get the roof upon it 1 
But the erection of an edifice ever so huge is an easy task 
compared with other tasks less conspicuous. A building is 
open to the inspection of all the world; few men would 
apply for employment upon it who were wholly incompe- 
tent ; and it was easier to build it tolerably right than 
obviously wrong. But you cannot collect a whiskey-tax on 
rotation principles. I have quoted Thomas Benton's maxim 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 27 

that power over a man's livelihood is power over his will. 
Now, who has power over a tax-collector's livelihood ] Mr. 
E. A. Rollins, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, answers 
this question for us in one of his reports. The whiskey-tax, 
he assures us, can never be collected until " the combined 
and active hostility of all those against whom the law is 
enforced shall be insufficient for the removal of any officer 
opposed to their plunder ings" He says further : " The 
evil is inherent in the manner of appointments, and lies 
deeper than the present supremacy of any political party. 
.... Their tenure of office when secured is uncertain and 
feeble, seeming to be strengthened rather by concessions to 
wrong than by exacting the rights of the government" That 
tells the whole story. They naturally obey the power 
which gave and can take away their places. Uncle Sam, to 
use the language of the ring, "goes back" on those who 
carry his commission ; does not stand by his servants when 
they do their duty. He treats his servants vilely; and, 
as a natural consequence, many of them are exceedingly 
remiss, or worse, in their duty. This error costs him, it is 
computed, in the collection of the revenue alone, a round 
hundred millions per annum in mere money, without reck- 
oning the injury to the morals of the people, and the bad 
example set to other employers. "I can't get a man 
of talent," said one of the architects employed by the gov- 
ernment, "to help me here; because, first of all, the salary 
is too low ; secondly, no degree of merit in a man can get 
him an appointment; and lastly, no degree of merit can 
keep a good man in a place if he should happen to get 
one." 

Let no one hug the delusion that the system is changed 
under President Grant. He cannot change it. I have no 
doubt he is as fully alive to its absurdities and its impolicy 
as any man living ; but, like Mr. Lincoln, he feels that he 
must run the machine as he finds it. He is, indeed, a vic- 
tim of the system, which may yet cost him his life, as it 
cost the lives of two of his predecessors. His appointments 
show that he practically accepts the doctrine that to the 
victors belong the spoils, and that he is even exceptionally 
insensible to the peculiar claims which politicians occa- 
sionally respect. In fact, he is worried out of his life with 



28 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the endless succession of importunate applicants. I used 
to wonder in Washington that he did not give it up, and fly 
to parts unknown, leaving us without any Uncle Sam. ' In 
all probability, too, he desires re-election. Every President 
desires it It is human nature. The politicians would 
drop him in an instant, and set " party organs" at work 
creating odium against him, if he were to pause and make 
appointments on any other principle than the one which 
politicians recognize ; and when the nominating convention 
met, in 1872, his name would not be mentioned among the 
candidates. 

Nothing will ever touch this evil short of restoring to the 
public service that element of permanence which it once 
had, and which all successful private establishments pos- 
sess. In the lower grades of the persons employed in our 
great houses of business, there are frequent changes. 
Young men come and go, as they ought, trying themselves 
and the places they fill. Sometimes the person resigns the 
place and sometimes the place rejects the person ; and it is 
seldom indeed that a man goes on for life as he begins. 
But in the higher grades there is, there should be, there 
must be, a degree of permanence. Twice a year, for fifteen 
years, I have gone to a certain bank to receive a dividend 
for a person who cannpt conveniently go herself. Invaria- 
bly I find the same paying-teller, well-appointed, self-pos- 
sessed, counting out the money with that careful rapidity 
that never permits a mistake ; the same excellent cashier, 
who learned his Latin Reader at my side at school no end 
of years ago ; the same serene and agreeable dividend-clerk, 
and the same nice young man helping him. All goes like 
clock-work; all is efficient, vigorous, and successful. The 
young men, as is just, work hard, get little, and are not yet 
certain of keeping their places ; but they know that if they 
finally choose to trust their future to that bank, there are 
places in it for the deserving which will give them a decent 
livelihood and all the security needful for peace and dignity. 
So it could be at the custom-house round the corner, if only 
two men in it were fixed in their places during good be- 
havior ; namely, the collector and the appraiser. Give just 
those two men a fair compensation, say thirty thousand 
dollars a year and no fees ; put it out of the power of poli- 



UNCLE SAM'S TREATMENT OF HIS SERVANTS. 29 

ticians to remove them ; give them the right to select their 
assistants ; and hold them responsible for the faithful col- 
lection of the duties, and we should soon have a custom- 
house that would afford as pleasing a scene of tranquil and 
efficient industry as the bank. The principle of perma- 
nence should be carried much farther ; but even this little 
would lay the axe at the root of the evil, and give Uncle 
Sam better work and more revenue at two thirds of the 
present expense. 

After a trial of forty years, rotation stands condemned as 
a wholly unmitigated evil, hurting everybody and blessing 
nobody, helping nothing that is good, and aggravating every 
evil. Uncle Sam will never be better served than he is 
until he learns to treat his servants with a liberality and 
consideration that seem at present far from his thoughts. 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 



rpHOSE horrible Yanks ! I have seen them in their 
I native haunts. The most dreadful creatures become 
interesting when, regarding them only as objects of natural 
history, we creep up near their den, and watch them as 
they devour their prey, caress their cubs, and gambol in 
the sun. Perhaps a busy universe, which has heard al- 
ready a good deal about the mean, low, cheating, infidel, 
and entirely odious Yankee, may yet be willing to lean 
back in its arm-chair for a short time, and learn how he 
looks to a stranger's eyes, and how he comports himself 
amid his own hills and rocks, in that unique organization 
of his, a New England town. 

There was published, a year or two since, an article 
upon Chicago, which chanced to attract the notice of 
a young gentleman then residing among us, a citizen 
of the Argentine Republic, which is the United States 
of South America. He was so much struck with the 
exploits of the people of Chicago, that he translated the 
article into Spanish, and caused 'it to be published as a 
pamphlet in his native land, with a Preface calling upon 
his countrymen to imitate the spirit, energy, forethought, 
and patriotism displayed by the men of the prairie me- 
tropolis. It was well done of him ; for, indeed, the creators 
of Chicago have performed, and are performing, the task 
assigned them in a manner unexampled in the history of 
the world ; and the record of what they have done and are 
doing will for ages be a chapter in our history honorable to 
this nation and instructive to others. But perhaps one of 
those quiet towns sleeping among the umbrageous hills of 
New England is a triumph of man over circumstances and 
over himself not less remarkable than the more striking 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 31 

and splendid achievements of the Chicagonese. And what 
is Chicago but a New England town in extremely novel 
circumstances, that was forced to undertake enormous en- 
terprises, and compelled to expand, in thirty years, into a 
high-pressure Boston 1 If I could only succeed in revealing 
to mankind the town of New England, its defects as 
well as its merits, I should have produced something 
worth translating into every tongue. 

It is evident that the Yankee system, with modifications, 
is destined to prevail over the fairest parts of this con- 
tinent, if not finally over the best portions of the other. 
It prevails already in the West as far as San Francisco, the 
famous Vigilance Committee of which was a veritable town 
meeting. Wherever the Yankee soldier has tramped the 
Yankee schoolmarm will teach. Noble and chivalric gentle- 
men may throw stones at her windows, burn her school- 
house, drive her from their neighborhood ; but she re- 
appears, she or her cousin, and the work of Yankee- 
fication proceeds. First Julius Caesar, then Roman civiliza- 
tion, then Christianity. The soldier must always go first, 
and open the country. In this fortunate instance, the 
gentle and knowing schoolmarm quickly follows the man 
of war, and she is preparing the way for the gradual re- 
organization of the South upon the general plan of New 
England towns. It is hard for the noble and chivalric 
gentlemen to bear, but it seems inevitable. The Carolinas 
may object, and Georgia expel; Texas may slay, and 
Louisiana massacre, it will not avail ; this is the fate in 
reserve for them. The Yankee schoolmarm is extremely 
addicted to writing long letters home, which go the round 
of the village, are carried into the next county, and are 
sent at last to circulate by mail over all the land. Most 
graphic and powerful some of her letters are, and New 
England knows her new conquest "in this way. The school- 
marm's lover has thoughts of settling there, when the land 
itself is " settled." Her uncle the capitalist has long had 
an eye on those rich lands, those unused watercourses, 
those mines and quarries. She is merely one of the first 
to .tread the path worn by the army shoe stamped U. S. A. 

A New England town, the distant reader will please take 
note, is not a town, though it may have a town in it, and 



32 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

two or three villages besides. It is a subdivision of a 
county, or, to use the language of the law-books, it is " an 
organized portion of the inhabitants of a State, within 
defined limits of territory, within the same county." It 
may consist of only three or four hundred people, or of 
several thousands. Perhaps two thousand may be an 
average number, which gives about three hundred voters ; 
and the average circumference of the territory may be 
about ten miles. Every five years the selectmen are re- 
quired to " perambulate " the boundaries, to see that the 
boundary-stones and guide-boards are right ; and this work, 
I believe, is generally done in one day. The inhabitants 
of this area are an association for the performance of 
certain duties imposed upon them by the State. They are, 
says the law, a " corporate body," which is intrusted with 
powers defined and limited. It can fine you a dollar for 
driving over a bridge faster than a walk, or twenty dollars 
for declining a town office. It can itself be fined fifty 
dollars for not having a cattle-pound, five hundred dollars 
for not electing town officers, a thousand dollars if a person 
falls through a rotten bridge and loses his life, and three 
thousand dollars for sending to the legislature more 
members than it is entitled to. It is responsible as 
much so as a railroad company for any accidents happen- 
ing through its fault, and can claim damages for an injury 
done to itself. It can sue and be sued as though it were 
one man. It can hold, hire, buy, sell, let, lease, or give 
away real estate. It can tax and be taxed, both, how- 
ever, for purposes named in the law, and for no others. 
For example, it can raise money by taxation to pay for 
schools, public libraries, the support of the poor, guide- 
boards, burial-grounds, bridges, roads, markets, pounds, 
hay-scales, standard weights and measures, public clocks, 
houses destroyed to stop a conflagration, the prosecution 
and defence of suits. Such of these things as concern other 
towns, or the county, the State, the United States, or the 
universe, each town is compelled to provide, bridges, 
pounds, roads, and schools, for example. But the towns 
may or may not vote money for hay-scales or a public 
library. The schools are a necessity ; the library is merely 
desirable in a high degree. The cattle-pound protects neigh- 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 33 

boring towns from devastation ; but it is a question for 
each town to decide, whether or not it will have a public 
clock or a soldiers' monument. 

The governing power of a New England town is the whole 
body of voters in town meeting assembled. Speaking gen- 
erally (for all the States of New England have not yet quite 
come up to the standard of the most advanced), we may 
say that every man, white or black, is a voter, who can 
read the constitution of his State in the English language 
understandingly, and who is not an alien, a lunatic, a pau- 
per, or a convict. 

The exclusion of paupers is of small consequence, because 
in most of the towns there are no paupers able to go to the 
polls, and in many there are no paupers at all. At the 
time of the first cable celebration, Mr. Cyrus Field, desirous 
that all the world should rejoice, sent orders to his native 
village in New England that a banquet should be provided 
at his expense for the paupers of the whole town. The 
selectmen sent back word that there were no paupers; and 
there are none there now. Your mean Yankee is a stickler 
for justice ; and it would offend his sense of justice, that a 
man who had contributed nothing to the fund raised by 
taxation should have a voice in directing its expenditure. 
He is beginning to think, too, that it is hardly fair to tax 
a widow or an independent spinster and refuse her a vote 
in town meeting. Here and there there is a bold Yankee 
who goes further than this, and pronounces it unwise to 
exclude such women as Miss Sedgwick, Mrs. Stowe, Miss 
Catharine Beecher, and Mrs. Horace Mann, while admitting 
to the franchise every male citizen who can be trusted 
alone out of doors, and who can boggle through a para- 
graph of the Constitution. In some towns, where a few 
crusty old farmers can always be depended on to defeat a 
liberal scheme, the votes of the ladies, it is thought, would 
give a lift to the library and a blow to the grog-shop, and 
help all the civilizing measures. The necessity of women's 
assistance becomes more apparent as the towns advance in 
wealth and refinement ; and the Yankee would long ago 
have seen this, and sought the aid of the decorative sex, 
but for a few words in an ancient epistle. 

The exclusion from the polls of men who cannot read 
2* c 



34 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

works nothing but good.* It is a measure absolutely ne- 
cessary in the peculiar circumstances of the United States ; 
and I will venture to predict that every State will in time 
adopt it, or, like the city of New York, become a prey to 
the spoiler. This law, however, excludes very few natives 
of the soil. If, in a New England town, there chances to 
be a native who cannot read and write, he is regarded as a 
curiosity, and is pointed out to strangers as one of the ob- 
jects of interest in the place. There is one such man near 
Stockbridge, in Massachusetts, who was pointed out to me 
last summer as the only native of New England in all that 
region who could neither read nor write. The people ap- 
peared to be rather proud of him than otherwise, as though 
he had given no slight proof of an ingenious mind in hav- 
ing escaped so many boy-traps and man-traps, baited with 
spelling-books, as they have in New England. The reading 
law merely keeps away from the polls the grossly ignorant 
among the foreign population, who, being unable to read, 
are dependent upon other men's eyes and minds for their 
political information, and who can be driven in herds to the 
polls by the party having the least scruples. 

Major De Forest, in one of his valuable and entertaining 
articles on the " Man and Brother," has intimated an opin- 
ion that the black man will never associate in this country 
on equal terms with the white man. Never is a long time, 
and we cannot even see into the next century ; but I should 
say that the condition of the colored people in New Eng- 
land supports the gallant Major's conjecture. There are 
not more than twelve or fifteen thousand negroes in Massa- 
chusetts ; but they are so unequally distributed that you 
may occasionally find a considerable number of them in 
one town. .They stand before the law equal to the white 
man ; their children sit in the public schools side by side 
with his ; they are treated with consideration and respect ; 

* " No person shall have the right to vote, or be eligible to office under 
the Constitution of this Commonwealth, who shall not be able to read the 
Constitution in the English language, and write his name; provided, how- 
ever, that the provisions of this amendment shall not apply to any person 
prevented by a physical disability from complying with its requisitions, nor 
to any person who now has the fight to vote, nor to any persons who shall 
be sixty years of age or upwards at the time this amendment sh,all take 
effect." Constitution of Massachusetts. 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. - 35 

they have the same opportunities to acquire property as the 
white man ; they go with him to the ballot-box and vote on 
the same terms and conditions, nevertheless, their social 
position is precisely the same in New England as it is in 
North Carolina. They usually live in a cluster of cottages 
in the outskirts of the village ; the men are laborers or wait- 
ers, and the women take in .washing or go out to service. 
They live in peace and abundance, but they are no nearer 
social equality with the whites now than they were thirty 
years ago. They seldom get on so far as to own a farm, 
seldom learn a trade, and never run a factory or keep a 
store. In the free high schools one of which nearly 
every town in New England supports, or helps support 
a colored youth is rarely found. In and near Stockbridge, 
for example, there is a colored population of two hundred, 
and they have been settled there for many years ; but no 
colored boy or girl has ever applied for admission to the 
high school, though it is free to all. 

But the negro is an indispensable and delicious ingre- 
dient in the too serious and austere population of New 
England. They appear to be the only people there who 
ever abandon themselves to innocent merriment. What a 
joyous scene is one of the negro balls so frequently given 
in some of the New England villages ! In the morning, the 
stranger notices upon the lordly, wide-spreading elm that 
shades the post-office a neatly written paper, notifying the 
public that an " entertainment " is to be given that evening 
for the " benefit " of some afflicted person, perhaps a 
woman whose husband a ruthless constable has taken off to 
jail. " All who wish to enjoy a good time are respectfully 
invited to attend^ admission, twenty-five cents," for which 
a substantial supper of pork and beans and .new cider is 
furnished. Soon after eight in the evening the village re- 
sounds with the voice of a colored Stentor, who calls out 
the figures of the quadrille, and all the world is thus noti- 
fied that the " entertainment " has begun. The scene* with- 
in the ball-room might make some persons hesitate to decide 
which destiny were the more desirable in New England, 
to be born white or black. The participants seem so un- 
consciously and entirely happy ! An ancient uncle, white- 
haired and very lame, stands near the entrance, seizes the 



36 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

new-comers with both hands, and gives them a roaring 
and joyous welcome ; and there is a one-legged man with a 
crutch, and four mothers with infants in their arms, who go 
through a quadrille with the best of them. The mothers, 
however, when they grow warm with the dance, hand the 
blessed baby to a passing friend to hold. The band, which 
consists of two male fiddlers and a woman who plays the 
accordion, is seated upon a platform at one end of the long 
room, and plays with eyes upcast, ecstatic, and keeps a 
heel apiece going heavily upon the boards. The room itself 
seems to be quivering. There is no walking through a 
quadrille here ; but each performer, besides doing his pre- 
scribed steps, cuts as many supplementary capers as he can 
execute in the intervals. A dance begins, it is true, with 
some slight show of moderation ; but as it proceeds the 
dancers throw themselves into it with a vigor and anima- 
tion that increase every moment, until the quadrille ends 
in a glorious riot and delirium of dance and fun. No Mussul- 
man would ask these people why they did not require their 
servants to do their dancing for them. On the contrary, 
that famous pacha, catching their most contagious merri- 
ment, would have sprung upon the floor, and dashed his 
three tails wildly about among those shining countenances. 
Nevertheless, there was not the smallest violation of deco- 
rum ; all was as innocent as it was enjoyable. As the room 
was lined with white spectators, perhaps we shall some day 
learn the trick of cheap, innocent, and hearty enjoyment. 
One thing was very noticeable, and would certainly be 
noticed by any one familiar with the South, the purity 
of blood exhibited in the faces of the company. Among 
the one hundred and fifty dancers, there were perhaps ten 
who were not quite black ; and this was an ancient settle- 
ment of colored people, dating back beyond the recollection 
of the present inhabitants. The only fault with which their 
white neighbors charge them is, that one or two in a hun- 
dred 'has not yet got the old plantation steal out of their 
blood. A person interested in the health question would 
observe the roundness and all but universal vigorous health 
of these children of the tropics, which is another proof that 
human nature in America does not dwindle necessarily. 
" In town meeting assembled." Once a year, and oftener 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 37 

if necessary, the voters of this small and convenient republic 
meet to elect town officers, consider proposed improvements, 
and vote taxes. The town meeting is a parliament, of 
which every voter is an equal member, and the authority 
of which is final so long as its acts are legal. It is a public 
meeting clothed with power. 

I will here respectfully invite the attention of the Argen- 
tine Republic, France, Italy, Austria, Russia, and all coun- 
tries supposed to be groaning under the yoke of the oppres- 
sor, and hoping one day to throw off that yoke, to the 
following truth, now for the first time given to the world : 

THAT PEOPLE is FIT FOR FREEDOM WHICH CAN HOLD A 
PROPER PUBLIC MEETING. 

To us how easy ! to a great part of the rest of mankind 
how impossible ! Before a community reaches the stage of 
development which admits of the public meeting, there 
must exist in it considerable ability and knowledge, and 
there must be a certain prevalence of what may be styled 
the virtues of maturity, self-conquest and self-control. 
Men must respect themselves, but respect one another also, 
and, along with a proper confidence in their own opinions, 
have a genuine tolerance for those of their neighbors. With 
an ability to convince others, there must be in the people 
the possibility of being convinced, as well as of frankly sub- 
mitting to a decision the most adverse to that for which 
they had striven. A strong, keen, and constant sense of 
justice must be tempered by a spirit of accommodation, an 
aversion to standing upon trifles, and a disposition to wel- 
come a reasonable compromise. There must be in many of 
the people a true public spirit, and in some a very great 
and deep love of the public welfare, and a capacity for tak- 
ing a prodigious amount of trouble for a public object. The 
desire to shine, so natural to immature persons and races, 
must have been by many outgrown, or, at least, exalted into 
a noble ambition to be of service, and thus to win the ap- 
proval of the community. An insatiate vanity in only two 
or three individuals might render profitable debate impos- 
sible ; nor less harmful is that other manifestation of morbid 
self-love which we call bashfulness. 

The horrible Yanks, with all their faults, do actually pos- 
sess the qualities requisite for holding a public meeting in 



38 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

a higher degree than any other people. They have governed 
themselves by public meeting for two hundred years or 
more. It seems now instinctive in them, when a thing is 
to be done or considered by a body of men, to put it to the 
vote and be governed by the decision of the majority. The 
most curious illustration of this fact that has been recorded 
is the one related by Mrs. John Adams in one of her letters 
of 1774 to her husband. The men of Braintree and neigh- 
boring towns, alarmed lest the British general should seize 
their store of powder, assembled on a certain Sunday even- 
ing to the number of two hundred, marched to the powder- 
house, took out the powder, conveyed it to a place of safety, 
and secreted it. On their way they captured an odious 
Tory, and found upon him some still more odious documents 
aimed at the liberty of the Commonwealth. - This man they 
took with them, and, when the powder was disposed of, they 
turned their attention to him and his documents. Readers 
familiar with the period do not need to be reminded that 
these men, marching so silently and seriously on that Sun- 
day evening, were profoundly moved and excited. All New 
England, indeed, was thrilling and palpitating with mingled 
resolve and apprehension. Nevertheless, instinct, or ancient 
habit, was stronger than passion, even at such a crisis, in 
these two hundred Yankee men, and therefore they resolved 
themselves into a public meeting. Upon the hostile war- 
rants being produced and exhibited, it was put to the vote 
whether they should be burnt or preserved. The majority 
voting for burning them, the two hundred gathered in a 
circle round the lantern, and looked on in silence while the 
offensive papers were consumed. That done, and 110 
doubt there were blazing eyes in that grim circle of Puri- 
tans as well as blazing papers, " they called a vote whether 
they should huzza ; but, it being Sunday evening, it passed in 
the negative" 

The reader who comprehends the entire significance of 
that evening's performance knows New England. If I were 
a painter, I would try. and paint the scene at the moment 
the blazing papers flashed light into the blazing eyes. If I 
were a king, I should think several times before going to 
war with people of that kind. 

After a practice of two centuries the Yankees would be 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 39 

able to hold a very good town meeting without assistance, 
and yet everything relating to it is prescribed and regulated 
by statute. The people must be notified in just such a way ; 
the business to be done must be expressed in the summons ; 
and nothing can be voted upon or discussed unless it has 
been thus expressed. In case the selectmen of a town 
should unreasonably refuse to call a town meeting, any ten 
voters can apply to a justice of the peace, and require him 
to issue a call. Every possible, and almost every conceiv- 
able, abuse or unfairness has been anticipated and guarded 
against by the legislature, and yet the town meeting is ab- 
solutely unfettered in doing right. It may also do wrong if 
it chooses, provided it does wrong in the right way, and the 
wrong is of such a nature as to harm nobody but itself. 
And I will here observe, that, if any one would know how 
deeply rooted in the heart of man is the love of justice, and 
would inspect the most complete system of fair play man- 
kind possesses, let him buy, keep, and habitually read the 
volume containing the Constitution and Revised Statutes of 
Massachusetts. Most of the standard law books are inter- 
esting and edifying, but this one is the most instructive and 
affecting of them all. It shows, in a striking manner, how 
much better the heart of man is, than his head; for the 
community which wrought out this beautiful system of 
justice and humanity believed, while it was doing it, in the 
doctrine of total depravity ! Delightful inconsistency ! 
Would that all the head's mistakes could be so gloriously 
refuted by the other organ ! 

The principal town meeting of the year generally occurs 
in the spring, when the town officers are elected by ballot. 
The town officers are : Three, five, seven, or nine selectmen, 
who are the chief officers, and take care of things in general ; 
a town clerk ; three or more truant officers ; three or more 
assessors ; three or more overseers of the poor ; a town 
treasurer ; one or more surveyors of highways ; a constable ; 
one or more collectors of taxes; a pound-keeper; two or 
more fence-viewers ; one or more surveyors of lumber ; one 
ormjnore measurers of wood and bark ; a sealer of weights 
and measures ; a ganger of liquid measures ; a superinten- 
dent of hay-scales. Here is a chance for office-seekers ! 
But, unfortunately, the emoluments attached to these 



40 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

offices are as small as the duties are light ; and it has been 
found necessary to compel men to serve in them, if elected, 
under penalty of a fine of twenty dollars, a sum much 
larger than the usual amount of the fees. But then no 
man can be made to serve two years in succession. These 
officers being elected, the town parliament proceeds to con- 
sider proposed improvements and appropriations ; and you 
may frequently hear in the town hall excellent debating, 
very much in the quiet and rather homely manner of the 
British House of Commons, when country members get on 
their legs to discuss country matters. There is usually a 
total abstinence from all flights of oratory, for every man 
who speaks or votes has a personal and pecuniary interest 
in the question under debate. He who advocates a stone 
bridge in place of the rickety old wooden one knows that 
he will have to pay his share of the expense ; and he who 
opposes it knows that he will have to cross the rickety 
structure, and will have to pay his part of a thousand-dollar 
fine when it lets a pedler through to destruction. 

In the list of town magnates just given the reader may 
have noticed " truant officers." They must be explained. 

There is one thing upon which these mean Yankees are 
entirely and unanimously resolved, and it is this : That no 
child, of whatever race, color, or capacity, shall grow up 
among them in ignorance. In the oldest of their records 
we find the existence of the school-house taken for granted. 
When there was no church in a town, no court-house, no 
town-hall, there was always a school-house, which served 
for all public purposes ; and ever since that early day the 
school system has been extending and improving. Very- 
pleasant it is of a summer day to ride past the little lone 
school-houses, and peep in at the open door, and see the 
schoolmarm surrounded with her little flock of little chil- 
dren, whose elder brothers are in the fields ; nor less pleasant 
is it to mark in every village the free high school, where 
the pupils who have outgrown the common school continue 
their studies, if they desire it, to the point of being pre- 
pared for college, and snatch a daily hour for base-ball 
besides. Indeed, it is an excellent thing to be a child in 
this land of the Yankees. If you are a good boy or girl 
you have these common and high schools for your instruc- 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 41 

tion ; if you are a bad boy, they send you off to a reforma- 
tory school to be made better, or to a ship school to be 
changed into a good sailor ; and if you are a bad girl, there 
is a girls' industrial school for you, where you will be taught 
good morals and the sewing-machine. And they do not 
leave the bad boys and girls to go on in their evil ways 
until they are developed into criminals. The towns in 
Massachusetts are now authorized to appoint the truant 
officers before mentioned, whose duty it is to take care that 
every child between the ages of six and sixteen shall avail 
itself either of public or private means of education. No 
miserly parent, no hard master, no careless guardian, can 
now defraud a child of his right to so much instruction as 
will make it easy for him to go on instructing himself all 
his life. 

By way of showing how much in earnest the Yankees are 
in this matter, I will insert upon this page certain " by-laws 
concerning truants and absentees," which I had the pleasure 
of reading last summer on a handbill displayed in the post- 
office of a small village in New England. It seoms to me 
that these by-laws may convey a valuable hint to the 
Argentine and other republics. The following selection 
may be sufficient for our purpose : 

"2. Any child between the ages of six and sixteen, who, 
while a member of any school, shall absent himself or her- 
self from school without the consent of his or her teacher, 
parent, or guardiaji, shall be deemed a truant." (Penalty, 
a fine of twenty dollars, or a term not exceeding two years 
in a reform school.) 

" 3. Any child between the ages of six and fifteen, who 
shall not attend some public school or suitable institution 
of instruction at least twelve weeks in a year, six of which 
shall be consecutive in the summer term, and six of which 
shall be consecutive in the winter term, shall be deemed an 
absentee. 

" 4. ABSENTEES OF THE SECOND CLASS. Children be- 
tween the ages of seven and sixteen years of age, wandering 
in the streets or loitering in stores, shops, or public places, 
having no lawful occupation or business, and growing up in 
ignorance, are hereby placed under supervision of the truant 
officers, so far as the law provides. The first offence shall 



42 - TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

be reported to parent, guardian, or master of said child by 
a truant officer, and, in case of the failure to secure said 
child the requisite amount of schooling or instruction else- 
where, he shall be fined twenty dollars ; for the second 
offence of the same person, the child shall be sent to the 
almshouse or to the State Reform School, or the nautical 
branch of the same, or State Industrial School for girls, for 
a period agreeable to the statutes, as the justice of the 
court having jurisdiction of the same shall decide." 

" 6. It shall be the duty of ever} 7 truant officer to inquire 
diligently concerning all persons, between the ages afore- 
said, who seem to be idle or vagrant, or who, whether em- 
ployed or unemployed, appear to be growing up in igno- 
rance, and to enter a complaint against any one found 
unlawfully absent from school, or violating any of these 
by-laws. 

"7. It shall be the duty of every truant officer, prior to 
making any complaint before a justice, to notify the truant 
or absentee child and its parents or guardian of the penalty 
for the offence. If he can obtain satisfactory pledges of 
reformation, which pledges shall subsequently be kept, he 
shall forbear to prosecute." 

In one of those country towns of New England, a person 
likely to be elected a truant officer would have some knowl- 
edge of all the inhabitants. Hence it is now almost im- 
possible for the most perverse or neglected child to avoid 
getting a little schooling. Each town, I should add, pays 
for the maintenance of children sent from it to a reforma- 
tory school, provided the parents or guardians cannot. 
The female teachers employed in the common schools re- 
ceive now from five to eight dollars a week, and the master 
of a country high school from eight hundred to two thou- 
sand dollars a year. Twelve hundred dollars is very fre- 
quently the salary. Now, in a New England village, an 
active man who has a saving wife and an ordinary-sized 
garden, can live decently upon the salary last named, send 
a son to college, and give his daughters lessons on the 
piano. 

I suppose that in New England there is a less unequal 
division of property than in any other region of a civilized 
country. I chanced to be in a country bank there last 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 43 

July, about the time when the coupons due on the first of 
that month had been mostly paid, and the money for each 
individual had been done up in a neatly folded small pack- 
age. The village was small, and remote from any impor- 
tant centre ; and these packages of greenbacks belonged to 
the farmers, mechanics, and manufacturers of the neighbor- 
hood. I think there must have been half a peck of them, 
perhaps a hundred packages. There are country towns 
in New England where nearly every respectable house has 
some United States bonds in it, and the Savings Bank will 
wield a capital of half a million dollars besides. Reason : 
diversified industry. These. Yankees, finding themselves 
planted upon a soil not too productive, were compelled at a 
very early period to become good political economists ; and 
while the fathers scratched the hard surface of the soil for 
a few bushels of corn, the sons rigged small schooners, and 
fished off the coast for cod. By and by they got on so far 
as to build ships, in which they sailed to the coast of 
Guinea, brought thence a load of slaves and a few quills of 
gold-dust, sold the slaves to the West-Indians for molasses, 
brought the molasses home, distilled it into rum, took the 
rum to Guinea for more slaves, sent most of the gold-dust 
to England for manufactured goods, and made the rest into 
watch-chains and gold beads. Thus Newport was enriched ; 
thus was founded in Rhode Island the manufacture of jew- 
elry and silver-ware which has attained such marvellous 
proportions. This infernal commerce is now regarded by 
the people of New England as wise and honest Catholics 
regard the Inquisition and the Massacre of St. Bartholomew ; 
that is, they wonder how their forefathers could have been 
guilty of it, and attribute it chiefly to the general barbarism 
of the age. 

But the diversified industry remains, and it has enriched 
New England. Those streams which wind about the wood- 
ed hills and mountains of this region, useless as they are 
for navigation, shallow, winding, rocky, and rapid, frequent- 
ly have such a descent that there can be a factory village 
every mile or two of their course for many successive 
miles. Travellers by such railroads as the Housatonic 
know this to their sorrow ; for these villages are so frequent 
along the banks of the Housatonic River, that there is a 



44 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

stopping-place, at some parts of the line, every mile and a 
half. Among the glorious, wood-crowned hills of Berk- 
shire I have passed in an afternoon ride the following man- 
ufactories : an iron-smelting furnace ; two very extensive 
manufactories of the finest writing-paper, the linen rags 
for which are brought from the shores of the Mediterranean ; 
a large woollen mill ; a small factory of folding-chairs and 
camp-stools ; a manufactory of something in cotton ; a mill 
for grinding poplar wood into material for paper ; and some 
others, at a little distance from the road, the nature of 
which could not be discerned. All these may be seen in a 
ride of ten miles along the Housatonic, and all are kept in 
motion by that little bustling stream. 

So much of this diversified industry as is legitimate (i. e. 
unforced by a stimulating tariff) is beneficial ; the rest is 
excessive and hurtful. It is excellent for the farmer to have 
a market near his barn, but it is bad for him to have to 
pay such a price for labor as neutralizes that advantage. 
These numberless factories absorb female labor to such a 
degree that I have known a family try for four months to 
get a servant-girl in vain ; and the few girls in a village 
that will go out to service are often the refuse of creation, 
and rule their unhappy mistresses with a rod of iron. The 
factories, too, are attracting to some parts of New England 
Irish and German emigrants much faster than they can be 
assimilated. I read in a religious Report : " The mountain 
regions [of Massachusetts] are continually drained of a 
large part of their most enterprising population ; the fur- 
naces buy up the farms for the sake of their wood, and, 
having ' skinned them,' in the expressive language of the 
region, sell them out at low prices to foreigners, who are 
thus, in a number of places, coming into possession of hun- 
dreds of these mountain acres. This transfer of population, 
while apparently beneficial both to those who go and those 
who come, throws new burdens on the churches, and adds 
new embarrassments to the already difficult problem of a 
general popular Christianization. Considerable numbers of 
the Canadian French are now coming into Berkshire, turn- 
ing its forests into fuel for the mills and founderies." 

This is partly owing to the tariff stimulation of the fac- 
tories, and tends to show that stimulation is no better for 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 45 

the body politic than for the corporeal system of man. 
The truth remains, however, that diversified industry is one 
of the chief secrets of a country's prosperity and progress. 
The most desperate and deplorable poverty now to be seen 
on earth so I am assured by an intelligent and universal 
traveller is in some of the sugar and coffee districts of 
Cuba, where Nature has lavished upon the land her richest 
gifts. There is room there for the planter, the slave, and 
the importer of manufactures; all others cringe to the 
plantation lord, as toadies, beggars, or white trash. 

It is curious to see how the emigrants, who arrive in the 
country at the rate of a thousand a day, distribute them- 
selves over the land, and settle just where they are wanted. 
These obscure factory villages of New England swarm with 
Irish people and Germans ; but no Yankee sends for them. 
They come. If they do well, they induce their relations 
and friends to join them ; if work is scarce, if the factory 
closes, they either scatter among the farmers to subsist, and 
wait for the reopening, or a band of them moves off to 
Iowa, Wisconsin, or Minnesota, In the back country, em- 
ployers will make considerable sacrifices to avoid closing 
their works during the long, snow-bound winter, partly 
from benevolent feeling, partly from their unwillingness to 
create a destitution which it will fall to them to relieve. 
Here, as elsewhere, it is only about one third of the work- 
men who save their money and improve their position in 
the world ; another third about hold their own, or can get 
credit in dull seasons sufficient to carry them over to the 
next period of superabundance ; another third live in such 
a way that, if work ceases this week, they must go hungry 
the next, unless more provident people help them. Some 
of the factories in odd, out-of-the-way nooks of New Eng- 
land are of such antiquity that men who went into them as 
boys are now gray-headed foremen or partners. Upon the 
whole, I must confess that some of the factory villages, 
with their rows of shabby cottages close together, their tall 
factory buildings humming with machinery, and all the 
refuse of manufacture lying about", do not leave an agree- 
able impression upon the mind of the visitor. But what- 
ever in them is merely unpleasing to the eye admits of easy 
and inexpensive remedy. 



46 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

The time was when very few men would be farmers in 
New England who could help it, and farming there is still 
far from being an attractive or 'popular occupation. The 
dearness of labor compels most of the proprietors of the 
soil to work with their hands from the rising of the sun 
to the going down of the same ; and, so long as this is the 
case, the more capable of our idle species will extol the 
noble occupation of the farmer, and avoid it. But the busi- 
ness is rising in dignity. It is beginning to detain the 
superior sons of farmers from the city, and now and then 
lures from the city a volunteer who brings to the soil a 
highly trained and sure intelligence. The railroads go 
everywhere, and enable the farmers of the most northern 
town of Vermont to send to New York (three hundred and 
fifty miles distant) commodities as bulky as hay and as 
perishable as blackberries. Along the lines of those quiet 
country railroads to points two hundred miles distant from 
New York or Boston a milk-train nightly passes, gathering 
up from every station its quota of cans of milk for the next 
morning's supply of those cities. They have a way now of 
" curing " milk, which, without injuring it, causes it to keep 
longer, and prevents the cream from rising. A farmer 
among the hills of Berkshire, who cures his milk by this 
process, has sent to New York (one hundred and fifty miles 
off), every night for the last eighteen months, two hundred 
cans of milk, and has only lost one can by the milk spoiling. 
For the information of milk consumers, I will here com- 
municate the fact, that the milk which costs us in New 
York the " war price " of ten cents a quart yields the Yan- 
kee farmer only four cents. The strangest thing of all is, 
that it cannot be brought to our doors for much less than 
ten cents. Another thing incredible (but true) is, that the 
Yankee farmer does not water the milk, nor even put into 
each can the " lump of ice to keep it," of which we hear in 
convivial hours. 

Special farming appears to be more remunerative than 
general agriculture, and is one of the causes of the growing 
attractiveness of the business. The factories, wherein the 
milk of a hundred farms is made into cheese or butter, are 
an unspeakable relief to farmers' wives. Labor-saving ma- 
chinery is doing wonders for the farming interest, and will 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 47 

do more. The high prices of produce during the last seven 
years have cleared many thousand farms in New England 
from encumbrance, and put away in their owners' money- 
boxes a few United States bonds. In a word, although few 
honest men will ever find it an easy thing to live, and every 
one of the legitimate occupations makes large demands of 
those who exercise them successfully, it may now be said of 
farming in New England, that it invites, and will sufficiently 
reward, intelligent labor. The difficulty is the first five 
years. After that, if you manage well, you may have as 
much money as is necessary, and work no harder than is 
becoming. Probably there is now no business in which a 
little sound sense and extra judicious expenditure yield 
results so certain, so lasting, so desirable as this of farming. 
It seems strange that the mean Yankees should have 
taken so much trouble as they have to make their homes 
and villages pleasant to the eye. If the New-Yorker wishes 
to find a delightful village in which to spend the summer, 
he has only to go up in a balloon some fine afternoon in 
June, when the wind is blowing toward the east, and, when 
the balloon is over New England, let himself gently descend 
into a field, and make for the nearest collection of houses. 
He will be almost certain to have reached a pleasant place ; 
but if not, there will be sure to be one a very few miles dis- 
tant. I have been in New England towns of four or five 
thousand inhabitants, in which I could not discover by dil- 
igent search one squalid house, one untidy fence, one de- 
cidedly disagreeable object. They make their very wood- 
sheds ornamental, and pile the wood in them so evenly that 
the sawed ends of the sticks make a wall smooth, clean, and 
compact, pleasing to behold. A frequenter of New England 
could tell when he had reached that strange land by the 
wood-piles. Almost everything you see or handle there is a 
mechanical curiosity, for the Yankees take infinite trouble 
to invent trouble-saving implements and apparatus. They 
have most curious and novel hinges, locks, latches, padlocks, 
keys, curry-combs, pig-troughs, and horse-shoes ; and noth- 
ing pleases them better than to be the first to have a new 
and startling invention, such as a front-door key that 
weighs half an ounce (a pretty little thing of polished steel, 
fit for the vest pocket, and yet capable of turning a huge 



48 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

lock), or a stove that puts on its own coal, or a gate that 
opens as the horseman approaches and closes when he has 
passed through, or a flat-iron that keeps itself hot, or a gas- 
burner so contrived that the gas lights by being merely 
" turned on." A genuine Yankee delights to expound such 
things to the stray New-Yorker, and, in his eagerness, does 
not mark the impenetrable blank of his guest's countenance 
as he strives to look as though he understood them. A 
Yankee establishment, including house, fences, gates, barn, 
stable, wood-shed, chicken-yard, pig-sty, and tool-box, is a 
museum of ingenuities, all of which will "work," and all of 
which were made with a purposed symmetry and elegance. 
Some of the older villages have grown exceedingly lovely. 
A long, wide street, not straight, no, not straight, 
nor violently crooked either, but gently curving as a coun- 
try road usually does, which sets off to the best advantage 
the grand old elms lining the .street on both sides, and af- 
fords many a glimpse of the pretty houses nestling under 
them, such is the usual village of New England. Few 
white fences, few white houses, but almost all that man 
has made is of a hue to harmonize with the prevailing col- 
ors of nature. The pillared edifices of fifty years ago, 
and the elaborate picket fences, have nearly disappeared, 
and all is becoming villa-like, neat, subdued, elegant. The 
width of the street gives room for two wide strips of grass, 
which beautifully relieve the heavy, dark masses of foliage 
on each side \ and these masses are further relieved by the 
lawns, the flowers, and the flowering shrubs that surround 
every house. Sometimes of a morning, when the sun slants 
across the street, and lights up the grass so that it looks 
like sheets of emerald, and touches with glory every object, 
and brings into clear view the distant, pleasing bend of the 
road, transmuting its very dust into gold, sometimes, I 
say, about 7 A. M., in one of these older villages of New 
England, when the jaded citizen steps out upon the path, 
and looks up and down the street, the view is such as to 
melt his heart and haunt him in his softer moments ever 
after. The scene is at once so peaceful and so brilliant, 
and its beauty has not been too dearly purchased. It 
is not one man's ostentation or one class's privilege which 
has created this enchanting scene ; it is not a gorgeous cas- 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 49 

tie, and an exclusive park, with a squalid village near by. 
This loveliness is the result of a sense of the becoming 
which pervades the community, and which the whole com- 
munity has indulged. The cost in money is trifling indeed. 
Looking over the records of a town in Vermont, I happened 
to fall upon an entry which showed that the town had paid 
for planting those mighty elms in its public square twenty- 
five cents each. There are many men in the United States 
who would count it a rare piece of good luck to be able to 
buy one of them for twenty thousand dollars, cash on 
delivery in good condition. 

Of late years there has been a revival of interest in the 
matter of village decoration in New England. This move- 
ment originated in the mind of a public-spirited lady of 
Stockbridge, Mrs. J. Z. Goodrich, who, in 1853, was chiefly 
instrumental in forming the famous Laurel Hill Association 
of that place, since imitated in other towns. The objects 
of these associations, as expressed in their constitutions, are 
" to improve and ornament the streets and public grounds 
by planting and cultivating trees, cleaning, trimming, and 
repairing the sidewalks, and doing such other acts as shall 
tend to beautify and improve such streets and grounds." 
Every person over fourteen who agrees to pay one dollar a 
year for three years, or who plants and protects one tree 
under the direction of the executive committee, is a mem- 
ber of the association. Any one may become a life-member 
by paying ten dollars a year for three years, or twenty-five 
dollars at one time. To interest the children in the mat- 
ter, who might otherwise injure the young trees, or tread 
carelessly on the edges of the paths, all persons under four- 
teen are admitted members by paying twenty-five cents a 
year for three years, or " by doing an equivalent amount of 
work annually for three years, under the direction of the 
executive committee." This executive committee, who, of 
course, do all the work of the association, consists of the 
president, the four vice-presidents, the treasurer, the secre- 
tary, and fifteen others, "part of whom shall be ladies." 
The committee meets once a month, determines what shall 
be done, at what expense, and under whose supervision. 
The result is, that the village is properly shaded, the grass 
on each side of the road is cut at proper times, the paths 



50 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

are trimmed and kept free from weeds, the public ground 
is improved and beautified, 'the cemetery is duly cared for, 
the happiness of every civilized being in the place is in- 
creased,- and the value of all the village property is en- 
hanced. Once a year the association meets to elect officers, 
to hear what has been done, how much spent, and what 
else is needed and desired. Sometimes this annual meet- 
ing is held in midsummer out of doors in the public park, 
and the ladies seize the opportunity to make it a kind of 
village festival. 

Speaking of these associations reminds me of another of 
the many ways in which the Yankees in their native towns 
display their meanness. Ever since New England was 
settled, the inhabitants have had dinned in their ears, two 
or three times a week, such sentiments as that it is more 
blessed to give than to receive, that strength is bestowed 
upon the strong that they may help the weak, and wisdom 
upon the wise that they may guide the foolish. In fact, 
the very Constitution of Massachusetts contains an Article 
upon the encouragement of literature, which, it says, ought 
to be encouraged for the following reasons : " To counte- 
nance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general 
benevolence, public and private charity, industry and fru- 
gality, honesty and punctuality in dealings, sincerity, good- 
humor, and all social affections and generous sentiments 
among the people." Hence we can hardly find a town in 
New England, of any considerable age or wealth, which has 
not been the recipient of a gift or gifts from one or more of 
its inhabitants. There is little Stockbridge, among the 
hills of Berkshire, where the lynx and the otter are still 
caught, and from which the bear has not been long gone. 
The village contains but fifty or sixty houses, and the whole 
town has only a population of about nineteen hundred and 
fifty; but the following is an imperfect catalogue of the 
gifts which it has received. First, its remarkably beautiful 
public ground, containing ten or twelve acres, was a gift to 
the town from the family known to the whole country by 
the talents of one of its members, the late Miss Catherine 
Sedgwick. Upon this fine park the public high school has 
been built, behind which the ground rises into a rocky and 
almost precipitous hill, densely covered with wood, afford- 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 51 

ing a capital playground to the boys, and a most agreeable 
retreat to all the people. Near by is a solid stone structure, 
the public library building, given to the town by Mr. J. Z. 
Goodrich. Another native of Stockbridge, Mr. Jackson, 
had previously had the meanness to start a public library 
by the gift of two thousand dollars' worth of books, to 
which other residents had added many valuable volumes ; 
whereupon Mr. Goodrich builds this solid and spacious edi- 
fice to contain the books, and to afford a pleasant reading- 
room for the people in the afternoons, when many of them 
can spend an hour or two over the papers and magazines. 
That done, the town took fire, in town meeting assem- 
bled, and voted four hundred dollars a year for the 
increase of the library, and the compensation of the young 
lady who serves as librarian (from 2 to 5 p. M., five days a 
week). Then President Hopkins, of Williams College, 
hearing what was going on in his native place, gave to the 
library an unusually interesting collection of minerals. 
Other contributions of pictures and books have followed 
fast ; until really the library of little Stockbridge is only 
inferior to such ancient establishments as that of Newport, 
which also has grown to its present importance chiefly by 
gifts and bequests. In Stockbridge, too, there is a very 
elegant fountain, the marble figures of which, executed in 
Milan, were presented by a well-known New-Yorker, John 
H. Gourlie, who has a cottage near it. The town, however, 
excavated and built the fountain, the water of which comes 
from mountain springs some miles away. Incredible as it 
may seem, this ridiculous little village has had the inso- 
lence to tap a mountain, and bring excellent spring water 
into every house that chooses to have it ! Another gift is 
a carved marble drinking-fountain, temporarily placed at 
the side of the library building. Finally, there is a hand- 
some monument of brown stone, erected, at a cost of two 
thousand dollars, to the immortal and dear memory of the 
men of Stockbridge who fell in the war. This was built by 
general subscription. 

The propensity to make presents to the public is so 
general and so strong in New England, that it requires 
checking and warning rather than stimulating. In the 
course of time, when the progress of civilization shall have 



52 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

still further loosened the general clutch upon money, and 
the man who has the mania for needless accumulation will 
be generally recognized as a madman, it will probably be- 
come necessary to further regulate this matter of public 
gifts and bequests by law. No man has a right to saddle 
posterity with a hurtful burden. There is not a man in a 
million wise and far-seeing enough to give away a million 
dollars without doing more harm than good. By and by 
we shall see men competing for the honor and privilege of 
giving something to the public, and town meetings will be 
called to consider whether a proffered sum of money will 
be, upon the whole, and in the long run, a benefit or an 
injury. There are colleges in New England the efficiency 
of which would be doubled if the trustees could disregard 
those conditions of gifts and bequests which frustrate the 
giver's benevolent intentions. 

To a New-Yorker who finds himself for the first time in 
New England, it is a great disappointment that he can find 
no Yankees about. In the ridiculous comedy of The Ameri- 
can Cousin, the audience is given to understand that Asa 
Trenchard, the Yankee hero of the play, is a native of 
Brattleboro', Vermont. A visitor to that delightful town 
is as likely to find an Asa Trenchard there as he would be 
to meet a Tony Lumpkin at a dinner-party in Windsor 
Castle. Brattleboro', forsooth ! it would be difficult to dis- 
cover on earth a village less capable of producing such a 
preposterous ass. They have a club there for taking the 
periodicals of Continental Europe, such as the Revue des 
Deux Mondes, the numbers of which circulate from house 
to house. They have a Shakespeare Club, which assem- 
bles on winter evenings to read and converse upon the 
plays of that poet, each member of the club taking a part. 
They form other winter clubs to study a language in com- 
mon under the same teacher. They have an endowed 
library, for which, no doubt, some liberal soul or souls will 
provide a building erelong. They have also some vigorous 
ball clubs and an engine company ; but I defy Tom Taylor 
to discover among them any creature ever so remotely re- 
sembling Mr. Trenchard, Salem Scudder, or any of the 
other stage Yankees. The stage Yankee is gone from the 
earth. There are no " Yankees " in New England outside 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 53 

of the theatre. Indeed, we may say of the whole of the 
Northern States, that rusticity in all its forms is disappear- 
ing, and everything, as well as everybody, is getting covered 
with a metropolitan varnish. Go where you will, you can- 
not get far beyond the meerschaum pipe, white kids, lessons 
on the piano, and the Atlantic Monthly. 

A melancholy feature of village life in New England is 
the great number of intelligent, refined, and gifted ladies 
who have no career nor rational expectation of one. A 
large proportion of the young men leave their native towns 
at an age when marriage cannot be thought of; they repair 
to a city, or plunge into the all-absorbing West, and are 
seen no more, until, perhaps, at fifty-five, their fortunes 
made, their families grown up, they come back to spend 
the evening of their days near their childhood's home. 
Consider, for example, the case of the well-known Field 
family, and you will see why there are so many old maids 
in New England. There were six vigorous, ambitious boys 
of them, sons of a Puritan clergyman, whose doctrine and 
whose salary were both of the old school. When this fine 
old bulwark of the faith had given his boys a college edu- 
cation, and assisted them into a profession, what more 
could he or Berkshire do for them 1 ? They must needs 
adopt Napoleon's tactics, and " scatter to subsist." One, 
indeed, stayed at home, where he was long a leading law- 
yer of Western Massachusetts, and represented it in the 
State senate. Another became a New York merchant, and 
forced a reluctant world to re-lay the Atlantic cable. An- 
other tried for fame and fortune at the New York bar, and 
won a superfluity of both. Another distinguished himself 
as a naval officer. Another emerged to the public view as 
editor of a leading religious newspaper. Another made his 
way to a seat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the 
United States. These able men have had a career in the 
world, as thousands of other New England lads have had, 
and are having. But what of the " girls they leave behind 
them " 1 Some, it is true, go forth, and make a career ; but 
many seem compelled to remain at home, where they amuse 
themselves as best they can with German lessons, garden- 
ing, fairs, ecclesiastical needle-work, and going out to tea ; 
willing to do any suitable work, but unwilling to deprive 



54 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

of it work-women who must have it. It is easy enough to 
find villages in New England where there are twenty ad- 
mirable girls under thirty years of age, and not one mar- 
riageable young man. 

A precious relief it is to these when the long June days 
bring at length, after the slow winter and tardy, tedious 
spring, the first summer visitors, with their huge trunks 
piled high on the village coach. Not for the new fashions' 
sake, dear, no ! There is not a device nor passing 
whim of fashion which these Yankee girls do not know as 
soon as it is known in the Fifth Avenue. No city damsel 
need expect to astonish them with her novelties from Paris. 
Such of the Yankee girls as have been so unfortunate as 
to catch the clothes mania, now raging in most Christian 
countries, are walking Harper's Bazars of fashionable knowl- 
edge. Very many of them make their own dresses, and 
trim their own bonnets, but they do it in the most recent 
and killing manner. The gay summer birds that come to 
these sweet nooks of New England are welcome for many 
reasons ; they fill the churches, patronize the fairs, enliven 
the street, and join the tea-parties ; but they cannot tell 
the Yankee girls anything they do not know already, un- 
less it is what Tostee really does, my dear, in La Grande 
Duchesse. 

A curious thing about New England is the variety of 
eccentric characters to be found there. In almost every 
town there is a farmer or mechanic who has addicted him- 
self to some kind of knowledge very remote from his occu- 
pation. Here you will find a shoemaker, in a little shop 
(which he locks when he goes to dinner or to the post-office, 
much to the inconvenience of customers), who has attained 
celebrity as a botanist. In another village there may be a 
wheelwright who would sell his best coat for a rare shell ; 
and, not far off, a farmer, who is a pretty good geologist, 
and is forever pecking away at his innocent rocks. Again, 
you will find a machinist who is enamored of " large-paper" 
copies of standard works, and rejoices in the possession of 
rarities in literature which he cannot read. I know an ex- 
cellent steel-plate engraver, who, besides being a universal 
critic, is particularly convinced that the entire railroad 
system of the world is wrong, ties, rails, driving-wheels, 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 55 

axles, oil-boxes, everything, and employs his leisure in 
inventing better devices. Then there are people who have 
odd schemes of benevolence, such as that of the Massachu- 
setts farmer who went to Palestine to teach the Orientals 
the true system of agriculture, and was two years in find- 
ing out that they would n't learn it. There are morose 
men and families who neither visit nor are visited ; and 
there is, occasionally, a downright miser, of the ancient 
type, such as we read of in old magazines and anecdote 
books. There are men, too, of an extreme eccentricity of 
opinion. I think there are in Boston about a dozen as 
complete, immovable, if not malignant Tories, as can be 
found this side of Constantinople, men who plume them- 
selves upon hating everything that makes the glory of their 
age and country. And, speaking of Boston, solid, sensi- 
ble Boston, what other city ever accomplished a feat so 
eccentric as the production of those twin incongruities, 
George Francis Train and the Count Johannes ] 

In matters more serious there is an occasional eccentri- 
city still more marked. So, at least, it is said by those who 
look deeper than the smiling summer surface of New Eng- 
land. In the religious Report * quoted above I read a 
startling passage to this effect : " Our purely American 
communities, that have had a natural growth, are (with 
an exception soon to be named) religious and church-going 
communities." That exception, says the Report further on, 
is where " some form of religious error " i. e. a creed dif- 
ferent from ours " has prevailed. In some such places 
there is an obstinate indifference to worship and to religious 
truth, and even to religious questions in general. In others, 
a mental indisposition of peculiarly mischievous character 
substitutes for this indifference an acrid hostility. This 
epidemic which in some localities has become endemic 
is characterized by a general habit of opposition, a 
habit, not of eclecticism or of criticism, but of attack and 
denunciation ; not of broad survey and genial correction, 
but of perverse misconception and invective." In several 
communities, continues the Report, "the results begin to 

* First Report of the [Massachusetts] State Committee on Home Evan- 
gelization. Presented to the General Conference [of Congregational Cler- 
gymen], September 13, 1866. 



56 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

appear in a retrogression towards the paganism of the later 
empire, a virulent hatred of Christianity, an assertion of 
the sufficiency of philosophy and the uselessness of religion, 
a contempt for worship and the Lord's Day, and a doubt 
of immortality." 

This is eccentric indeed. It is such eccentricity as the 
summer visitor seldom has an opportunity of observing; 
for in the villages which he frequents the entire population 
on Sunday morning seems to come forth in its excellent 
Sunday clothes, and gently wind its way to the churches, 
much to the discomfort of a city pagan, whom this ap- 
parent unanimity leaves to a silent, reproachful solitude. I 
think the most "acrid" of the pagans of "the later em- 
pire," who should witness, from a convenient point, the 
long lines of well-dressed people strolling churchward on 
Sunday in a green New England village, all gardens and 
loveliness, would be compelled to confess (to himself) that 
this weekly grooming of the whole people, this peaceful 
assembling, this silent, decorous sitting together for an hour 
or two, these friendly greetings at the church doors, and 
the chatty stroll home with neighbors, is rather a good 
thing than otherwise, and certainly very much better than 
staying at home in the same old clothes, doing the same 
old work, and being " acrid." If the pagans of the later 
empire are numerous enough, they should hasten to estab- 
lish a Sunday gathering, and so get rid of their acridity ; 
for there are but two evils in the world, and one of them is 
ill-humor. 

But how changed is New England religion from the 
time when Jonathan Edwards made mad the guilty and 
appalled the free in Northampton and Stockbridge a hun- 
dred and twenty years ago ! Strange being ! Wonderful 
creed ! There was a certain Sunday morning in North- 
ampton, in 1737, when the gallery of the church gave way 
in consequence of the heaving of the ground in spring. The 
account which Edwards gives of this event is a most curi- 
ous study of character, of history, and of mania. He gives, 
first of all, a careful, exact explanation of what he would 
have called the " natural causes " of the catastrophe, 
showing how the ends of the supporting timbers were drawn 
out of their sockets by the bulging of the wall. Then he 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 57 

describes the event : " The gallery, in falling, seemed to 
break and sink first in the middle, so that those who were 
upon it were thrown together in heaps before the front 
door. But the whole was so sudden, that many of those 
who fell knew nothing what it was, at the time, that had 
befallen them. Others in the congregation thought it had 
been an amazing clap of thunder. The falling gallery 
seemed to be broken all to pieces before it got down ; so 
that some who fell with it, as well as those who were under, 
were buried in the ruins, and were found pressed under 
heavy loads of timber, and could do nothing to help them- 
selves." But no one was killed, and only one seriously 
hurt. Why was this 1 Mr. Edwards answers : "It seems 
unreasonable to ascribe it to anything else but the care of 
Providence in disposing the motions of every piece of tim- 
ber, and the precise place of safety where every one should 
sit and fall, when none were in any capacity to care for 
their own preservation." Hence, he continues : " We 
thought ourselves called on to set apart a day to be spent in 
the solemn worship of God, to humble ourselves under such 
a rebuke of God upon us, in time of public service in his 
house, by so dangerous and surprising an accident ; and to 
praise his name for so wonderful, and as it were miraculous, 
a preservation." 

The stranger who now visits the church belonging to 
the society of which Jonathan Edwards was the minister 
finds himself introduced into a spacious and elegant edi- 
fice, with all the modern improvements in upholstery and 
cabinet work. The scene is bright and cheerful. A fine 
organ, well played, soothes and exalts the mind, and a 
highly trained quartette discourses beautiful music*? If 
the gallery should break down some Sunday morning, the 
occupants would not have far to fall, and the church would 
bring an action against the builder. The sermon, of course, 
is not such as the acrid pagans of the later empire approve ; 
but it .is better than a man can be reasonably expected to 
produce who has to preach twice a week, and the first ne- 
cessity of whose position is, not to offend the people that 
pay him. 

In these transition times it is hard to be a clergyman in 
New England : for whether the clergyman advances faster 
3* 



58 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

than the people, or the people get ahead of the clergyman, 
the result is equally distressing to the weaker party. Per- 
haps there is not a more agonizing situation on earth than 
that of the clergyman of a modern fastidious church, who, 
having a sickly wife, six children, and no head for business, 
has incurred the hideous calamity of knowing too much. 
If ever we have in America a great fictitious literature, 
much of the agony of the same will be of that internal 
and spiritual nature here referred to. 

The time was when there was an intimate connection 
between these town governments and the church, the 
established church of New England, and when all other 
beliefs and rites were forbidden. Once a man could be law- 
fully taxed against his will for the support of the Congre- 
gational minister, and it was death to say mass. But New 
England, from its first settlement to the present hour, has 
always given that sole certain evidence of spiritual life 
which is afforded by "growth in grace." The essential 
difference between a wise and a foolish person, between a 
superior and an inferior community, is, that one learns and 
the other does not. The Mathers and Edwardses of a 
former generation are succeeded by the Channings, Beech- 
ers, Parkers, Motleys, and Emersons of this ; and these, 
in their turn, will be followed by men equal to the task of 
carrying on and organizing the regeneration which has 
been so worthily begun. The old restraints and privileges 
have long ago been abolished, and perfect religious and 
irreligious freedom prevails. A family can now take a ride 
on Sunday afternoon, or receive visitors on Sunday even- 
ing, without exciting consternation or calling out the con- 
stable. In almost every village all the principal sects are 
represented, and there is usually the utmost possible friend- 
liness between them. At the Congregational church you 
will generally find the solid aristocracy of the place, the 
president of the railroad, the president of the bank, the 
master of the high school, the employing manufacturers, 
the old doctor, the rich farmers, the large store-keeper, and 
the colored man who thinks he waited on General Wash- 
ington in the Revolutionary War. But, in some towns, the 
Unitarians have a share of these great men, as well as a 
good number of the polite people who are sometimes de- 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 59 

scribed in New England as " literary." In most villages 
there may now be found a pretty little box of an Episcopal 
church, half hidden in foliage, which in summer, during 
the reign of the summer visitors, is filled to overflowing 
with the gayest costumes ; though in winter, they say, the 
attendance dwindles to a company which is as small in 
number as it is fervent in zeal. There is, also, usually a 
Methodist church, and frequently a Baptist, which have 
their proportion of adherents. Each of these denomina- 
tions maintains a vigorous Sunday school, and the friendly 
rivalry between the schools gives the poorer children many 
a picture-book, doll, cake, and picnic which they would not 
otherwise have. 

Perfect freedom, I have just said, prevails in religious 
matters in New England ; but this has not long been the 
case. Some of the elderly people in the elderly towns 
found it hard to tolerate the building of Catholic churches 
in their midst, and consequently Catholics occasionally 
found it difficult to buy ground for the purpose. No one had 
any lots to sell, or a preposterous price was asked ; the true 
reason being, that the wink had been passed among the 
land-owners, and an understanding come to that the priest 
was not to have any land. I am acquainted with a large 
town in Vermont where these tactics were successful for 
some years, in spite of the disorderly Sundays in the Irish 
quarter, which were a weekly argument in favor of the 
priest's coming. At length, by stratagem, the requisite 
lots were obtained ; and then the Catholics, being put upon 
'their mettle by this inconsiderate opposition, took their 
revenge by building a twenty-thousand-dollar church of 
brick instead of a three-thousand-dollar one of wood, as 
first proposed. Not content with this fell vengeance, they 
carried their animosity so far as to behave ever after with 
the strictest propriety on Sundays. 

The stranger is surprised to find in small sequestered 
villages, renowned perhaps in the annals of Puritanism, 
Catholic churches of good size, with thick walls of hand- 
some and well-cut stone, nearly as white as marble, and 
surrounded by lawns and shrubbery, not very ill kept. 
The explanation of the mystery sometimes is, that in these 
remote villages among the mountains there are human 



60 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

minds all alive to the stir and impulse of the time, to 
whom the men, the books, the ideas, the aspirations, the 
dismay, and the despair of the age are more real and fa- 
miliar than to us who live in distracting cities ; and some 
of these yearning, imaginative souls have listened in their 
seclusion to the rending cry of Lacordaire in Notre Dame, 
to Hyacinthe, to Newman, and have been seduced to aban- 
don the hereditary fold, and fly, shivering, to the ancient 
ark. Hence the Catholic churches are sometimes more 
costly than they naturally would be, and we find in them 
a crowded congregation of Irish laborers and their families, 
and one solitary native of ancient name and wealth, who 
contributed a large part of the building fund. Along the 
northern border, where many of the laboring class are 
French, there are a few rather ancient Catholic churches ; 
in some of which the sermon is in French one Sunday and 
in English the next, and French confessions alternate with 
English on Saturdays. It were much to be desired that 
some religion had power enough on the frontier to put an 
end to the petty smuggling that goes on there continually, 
corrupting the poor man who perpetrates the offence, and 
the summer visitor who instigates or rewards it. 

I think the Catholic bishops must reserve a few wild 
priests for the remoter country congregations, where there 
is little chance for proselyting. I witnessed a Catholic ser- 
vice, a summer or two since, in the very heart of New Eng- 
land, which was a chapter of Charles O'Malley come to life, 
a bit of old Ireland transferred bodily to the New 
World. Toward nine o'clock on Sunday morning, the hour 
appointed for the semi-monthly mass, the people gathered 
about the gate under the trees, while the ruddy and robust 
priest stood at the church door, accosting those who entered 
with a loud heartiness that made every word he uttered 
audible to the people standing without and to the people 
kneeling within. He was a jovial and sympathetic soul, 
who could (and did) laugh with the merry and grieve with 
the sad ; but it was evident that laughter came far more 
natural to him than crying. When he had concluded, at 
9.15, a boisterous and most jovial conversation with Mrs. 
O'Flynn at the door, every word of which was heard by 
every member of the waiting congregation, he entered the 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 61 

church, and proceeded to the altar, before which he knelt, 
holding his straw hat in his hand. His prayer ended, he 
went into a small curtained alcove at the side, where his 
priestly robes were hanging. Without taking the trouble 
to let the curtains fall, he took off his coat, in view of the 
whole assembly, and put on part of his ecclesiastical gar- 
ments, unassisted by his only acolyte, a little boy in the 
usual costume, who stood by. He then went again to the 
altar, and arranged the various objects for the coming cere- 
monial; after which he stepped aside and completed the 
robing, not even going into the alcove, but standing out- 
side, and reaching in for the different articles. He might 
have spared the congregation the pain of seeing his strug- 
gles to tie his strings behind him ; but no ; lie chose to per- 
form the whole without help and without disguise. When 
all was ready, he said the mass with perfect propriety, and 
with unusual manifestations of feeling. But the sermon, if 
sermon it could be called, was absolutely comic, and much 
of it was intended to be so. There had been a fair recently 
for the re-decoration of the altar ; and in the first part of 
his discourse the gratified pastor read a list of the contrib- 
utors, with comments, in something like the style follow- 
ing : 

" Mrs. McDowd, $ 13.50; and very well done, too, con- 
sidering they had nothing but cake upon their table, no, 
not so much as an apple. John Haggerty, $ 2.70 ; and in- 
dade he 's only a boy, a mere lad, and a good boy he is. 
Mrs. O'Sullivan, $37.98; yes, and $27.42 before. Ah! 
but that was doing well, that was wonderful, considering 
what she had to contend with. Mrs. O'Donahue, $ 7.90 ; 
and every cent of it got by selling a ten-cent picture. Very 
well done of you, Mrs. O'Donahue ! Peter O'Brien, $ 12.00 ; 
good for you, Peter, and I thank you in my own name and 

in the name of the congregation Total, $ 489.57. 

Nearly five hundred dollars ! It 's really astonishing ! and 
how much of it, my children " (this he said with a wink and 
a grin that excited general laughter), " and how much 
of it do you think your priest will kape for himself? Not 
much, I 'm thinking. No indeed. Why should I kape it ? 
What do I want with it ? I have enough to eat, drink, and 
wear, and what more does a priest want 1 I have no am- 



62 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

bition for money, not I ; and you know it well. You 
know that the whole of this money will be spent upon the 
altar of God ; and we shall spend it with the greatest econ- 
omy. Not Brussels carpet, of course. That would cost 
four or five dollars a yard. Good ingrain will do well 
enough for us at present, and last long enough too ; for 
can't it be turned 1 You know it can. Twenty years from 
now, when we are all dead and gone, they '11 be turning and 
turning and turning it, and holding it up to the light, and 
saying, ' I wonder who laid down this ould carpet ! ' In all 
my life, I never saw such an altar as this in a church of 
this size " (turning to the altar, and surveying it with an 
indescribably funny attempt to look contemptuous), " so 
mane, so very mane ! I tell you, if I had been here when 
this altar was made, I 'd have wheeled the man out of church 
pretty quick." (These last words were accompanied with 
the appropriate gesture, expressive of taking the delinquent 
carpenter by the back of the neck, and propelling him 
thereby down the aisle.) " But what shall I say of those 
who have given nothing to this fair ? Ah ! I tell you, when 
the decorations are all done, and you come here to mass on 
Sunday mornings, and see God's house and the sanctuary 
where he dwells all adorned as it should be with the gifts 
of the faithful, and when you think that you gave not one 
cent towards it, I tell you you '11 blush if there 's a blush 
in you." 

After proceeding in this tone for twenty minutes, during 
which he laughed heartily himself, and made the people 
laugh outright, he changed to another topic, which he 
handled in a style well adapted to accomplish the object in- 
tended. He said he had heard that some of the " hotel 
girls " had been swearing and quarrelling a good deal that 
summer. " Ah," he continued, " I was sorry to hear it ! 
The idea of ladies swearing ! How wrong, how mean, how 
contemptible, how nasty, how unchristian ! Don't you 
suppose that the ladies and gentlemen at the hotel have 
heard how many Protestants are coming into the bosom of 
the Catholic Church 1 Don't you suppose they watch you 1 
They know you 're Catholics, and don't you suppose they '11 
be judging of Catholics by you ? And, besides, who would 
marry a swearing lady 1 Tell me that ! The most aban- 



THE YANKEES AT HOME. 63 

doned blackguard that walks the streets would n't marry a 
girl that he had heard swear, for he knows very well that 
she 'd be a bad mother. If I were a young man, and 
heard my true love swear, do you think I 'd marry her 1 
Hey ? do you think I would 1 By no manes ! And I wish 
to God I had spoken about this before ; for now the season 
is almost over, and many of the Protestant people have 
gone home, and very likely are talking about it now in New 
York and Boston. You know what they '11 say. They '11 
say, ' If that 's the way Catholic ladies behave, you don't 
catch me turning Catholic.' " 

At the conclusion of his discourse he took up the collec- 
tion himself, saying, as he left each pew, " Thank you," in 
a strong, hearty tone of voice ; and if any one took a little 
extra trouble to reach over, or put into the box something 
more than the usual copper coin, he bowed, and said, "I 
thank you veiy much, madam, very much indeed." He 
was a strange mixture of the father and the ecclesiastic, of 
the good fellow and the gentleman. In Tipperary, in the 
Colleen Bawn, in Charles Lever, we are not surprised to 
find him ; but who would have expected to make his ac- 
quaintance in a secluded valley of New England, and to 
discover that he has the largest congregation in the neigh- 
borhood 1 And how much better is such a priest than 
one of the howling-dervish description ! 

So much for life in a New England town ; for I have left 
myself no room to speak of the unequalled efficiency of the 
Yankee town system in time of war. No despot has ever 
invented a mode of bringing out "the last man and the 
last dollar " half so simple, cheap, prompt, and certain as 
this. As soon as a call for troops is flashed over the wires, 
the officers of each town can ascertain exactly how many 
men they have to produce ; and they know where the men 
are, and what the men are, who are most open to an offer. 
They know what the families of the soldiers require, and 
those soldiers have an assurance that their families will not 
suffer in their absence. It was this town system that saved 
the country in the late war. 

Universal liberty may be a dream. Henry Clay's pleas- 
ing fancy of a continent of closely allied Republics settling 
all differences and difficulties by an occasional Congress on 



64 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the Isthmus of Darien, wherein the honorable giant from 
Patagonia would join in harmonious debate with the honor- 
able dwarf from Greenland, may never be realized. But if 
universal liberty is not a dream, if the -whole habitable 
earth is ever to be occupied by educated, dignified, and vir- 
tuous beings, it is probable that those beings will arrange 
themselves in self-governing communities, similar in mag- 
nitude, similar in institutions and laws, to a New England 
town. It is strange that such people as Yankees are said 
to be, struggling for life in the wilderness against savage 
man and savage nature, should have hit upon methods 
which seem scarcely capable of essential improvement. 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 



STROLLERS about the Capitol at Washington fre- 
quently pause to admire the ingenuity and the studious 
habits of a certain respectable colored man who serves as 
door-keeper to an august national court. It is an estab- 
lished principle at Washington that an American citizen 
visiting the capital of his beloved country shall never be 
allowed to open a door for himself; and, consequently, 
wherever there is a door, there must needs be a door- 
keeper. A being more superfluous than a door-keeper to 
the room in which this high court is held it would be diffi- 
cult to imagine. The door has been provided by a grateful 
nation with a convenient loop or handle of brass, adapted 
to the meanest capacity, and with a spring which causes 
it gently to close without the interposition of human hands. 
It closes, too, upon something soft, so that there is no dan- 
ger of the deliberations of the court being disturbed by a 
bang. Most of the persons who enter the room are familiar 
with all its arrangements ; and if their hands should chance 
to be full of papers, they could easily thrust out one little 
finger, and, inserting it in the handle, pull the light and 
unlatched door wide open. Nor does the door-keeper show 
to a seat the awe-struck visitors who are occasionally at- 
tracted to the apartment by curiosity. Within the room 
other officers, white in color or higher in rank, stand ready 
to prevent ladies from rushing forward to the bench of the 
judges or losing themselves among the lawyers within the 
bar. The sole business of that respectable colored man 
from 11 A. M. to 3 p. M. is to open a light door which shuts 
itself. Being a man of resources, he has provided himself 
with a chair and tied a string to the handle of his door. 
He goes to his place every morning provided with reading- 



66 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

matter, and there he sits, holding his newspaper or book in 
one hand, and the end of his string with the other. When 
any one approaches, he knows it by instinct, and gives the 
string a mechanical pull, without looking up or being men- 
tally aware that he has performed an official duty. 

Behold the typical man in him ! He represents a class 
in Washington. He is one of the small sins which Con- 
gress permits and commits. 

The sins of this kind which Congress commits are worse 
than those which it permits. After satisfying the curiosity 
of the ladies with a view of the Supreme Court, a work 
of three minutes, you naturally ascend to the gallery of 
the Senate. This is the paradise of door-keepers. I think 
I counted fourteen doors to this gallery. There are doors 
which admit only ambassadors, door-keepers' friends, and 
other privileged persons. There are doors which exclude 
the public from the Reporters' Gallery, writing-room, 
and telegraph office. There are many doors which admit 
ladies, and many more that open into the portions of the 
gallery used chiefly as a warming-place by unemployed 
negroes. Each of these doors consists of two leaves that 
swing together, and are kept shut by the attraction of 
gravitation. What a field for door-keeping is here ! At 
nearly every leaf of these numerous doors sits or stands a 
door-keeper, his hand inserted in his brass loop, one man 
outside to let in the coming, and another inside to let out 
the parting guests. From their keeping such a tight clutch 
upon their handles, I think there must be more door-keep- 
ers than there are doors. Every man seems afraid that if 
he should let go his handle another might get hold of it, 
and thus rob him of his slight pretext for being on the pay- 
roll. Half a dozen locks and a hundred latch-keys would 
deprive of all semblance of pretext the gentlemen who ex- 
clude the miscellaneous public from the Ambassadors' Gal- 
lery and the Reporters' apartments : and the rest of the 
door-keeping could be well done by two men. But that 
would never do in Washington. The pretext for being on 
the pay-roll is the very thing wanted. 

If the visitor is rash enough to hint that two men to 
each door is rather a lavish expenditure of human force, 
considering the scarcity of labor on this continent, he is 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 67 

silenced by the question, How could two or three or half a 
dozen men " clear the galleries " ? They could not. Nor 
could forty, if the auditors were determined to sit fast. 
But the Speaker's simple order, addressed to people habitu- 
ated and wholly disposed to obey properly constituted au- 
thority, clears them with all requisite despatch. If not, 
there are thirty-three bored, yawning, inexpressibly idle 
men about the Capitol, in blue uniform and steeple-crowned 
hats, who are styled the Capitol police. They have a cap- 
tain and two lieutenants, to head any onset upon a stubborn 
public which the Speaker might order, and it would relieve 
the monotony of their existence to be ordered upon any 
duty whatever. 

Congress has, indeed, furnished itself most liberally with 
servants. The Senate, which consists of seventy-four mem- 
bers, is served by at least one hundred officers of all grades, 
from secretary to page. The House, which numbers two 
hundred and fifty-three members when the States are fully 
represented, has not less than a hundred and fifty officers, 
although the investigator does not find so many in the 
published list. We observe a considerable number of per- 
sons employed about the Capitol whose names elude the 
search of those who pore over the Blue Book of Mr. Dis- 
turnell, or the useful and excellent Congressional Directory 
of Major Ben Perley Poore. If we add to the officers 
employed about the two chambers the printers and binders 
who do the work of Congress in the public printing-office, 
we shall find that Congress has many more servants than 
members. It may be that most of these are necessary. 
The Secretary of the Senate may require the assistance of 
twenty-one clerks. The heating-apparatus of the Capitol 
may be of such a complicated and tremendous nature that 
it is as much as fourteen men can do to manage it. Mem- 
bers may read and consult such a prodigious number of 
books and documents as to need the assistance of more 
librarians than are employed in the Mercantile Library of 
New York, which has ten or twelve thousand subscribers, 
as well as an immense reading-room. Including the libra- 
rians of the library proper and those of the sub-libraries 
and document-rooms of the two houses, there are twenty- 
four persons in the Capitol supposed to be chiefly employed 



68 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

in ministering to the intellectual wants of members of Con- 
gress. All these persons may be indispensable, but they 
do not seem so to the casual observer. The casual ob- 
server receives the impression that the servants of Congress, 
like those of the government generally, would be improved 
if two very simple and easy things were done, the sal- 
ary of the chiefs doubled, and the number of their assist- 
ants reduced one half. 

I can show the reader, by relating a little incident which 
I witnessed in Washington last winter, how it comes to 
pass that so many more officers get appointed than seem 
to be necessary. While resting in the office of the public 
printer, after going over the most admirably complete and 
efficient printing-office in the country, a well-dressed, polite 
young man came in, and presented a letter of introduction 
to the superintendent. Clouds gathered over the face of 
that functionary as he read it ; and he invited the bearer 
to be seated in a tone which implied that he wished he was 
in Jericho. I was afterward favored with an explanation 
of the scene ; and that explanation applies to a large num- 
ber of the names in the Blue Book. 9 A few days before, 
the superintendent had discharged thirty compositors be- 
cause he had no work for them. This nice young man, 
who was one of them, went to one of the senators from his 
State, stated his case, and asked the senator to procure his 
reappointment. That senator, not considering the gross 
impropriety of his interference, but complying with the 
established custom, wrote a letter to the superintendent, 
of some length and much urgency, asking him to put his 
constituent back to the place from which he had been re- 
moved. I am afraid that this most improper request was 
complied with ; for the officer to whom it was addressed 
was a servant of Congress, who might one day want that 
senator's vote. It is of no consequence whether he com- 
plied or not. Every reader acquainted with governments 
or with human nature knows that nine men out of ten, in 
that superintendent's place, would have found work, or a 
pretence of work, for that man. Nor can we so much won- 
der at the conduct of the senator. He also looks to re-elec- 
tion. He also desires to make friends. This pleasing young 
man may have an uncle who controls a newspaper or an iron- 



CONGKESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 69 

foundry in the senator's State, and it is convenient, at a 
critical time, to have the hearty support of a few uncles of 
that description. The difficulty is, that at Washington there 
is no rock of security anywhere in the system, against which 
applications like this can strike and be repulsed. If that 
superintendent were properly secure in his place, he would 
have shown the young man to the door, just as any other 
printer would have done, with the simple remark that he 
had no work for him. 

Some time will probably elapse before the people gain 
such a triumph over the politicians as to secure perma- 
nency of appointment to government officials. Meanwhile 
members of Congress should disdain to listen to applica- 
tions like this; especially members whose position has 
some basis of security. 

A stranger to politics and to Washington is astonished 
to observe how general the feeling is, that a public man is 
justified in gratifying an impulse of benevolence, or in dis- 
charging a private obligation, at the cost of the public. 
Some time ago, General Grant chanced to be looking out 
of a window while a salute was firing in his honor, and he 
saw a man lose one of his legs by the bursting of a cannon. 
When the man had recovered his health, General Grant 
was President of the United States. What more natural 
than that the President should ask Mr. Boutwell to give 
the unfortunate man, if convenient, a watchman's place in 
the treasury 1 He pitied the man, and he had the power 
to give him effectual relief at the public expense. Most 
men would have yielded to this impulse of benevolence, as 
General Grant did, and most men perhaps approved the act. 
Nevertheless, it is just in this way that the Capitol, the 
departments, the post-offices, and the custom-houses get 
clogged with superfluous persons. It is thus that one- 
legged incompetence pushes from its place two-legged abil- 
ity. Some one, who cannot be refused, asks the appointment, 
and then one of two things must happen, either a man 
must be summarily and unhandsomely, if not inhumanly, 
thrust from his post, or two men must be set to doing one 
man's work. Generally, both these* things are done. The 
two men go on for a while, until some- new broom sweeps 
one or both away, to make room for the favorites of another 
irresistible personage. 



70 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

An entertaining writer, some weeks ago, favored the 
public with reminiscences of former administrations, in 
order to show that the people cordially sustain a President 
who indulges his personal feelings at the people's cost. He 
told a story of General Jackson, which might have been 
true, the incident being entirely characteristic. "Gen- 
eral," asked an old friend of the ex-President, at his Ten- 
nessee Hermitage, " tell me why you kept yourself and all 
your friends in trouble, through your first Presidential 
term, by keeping Mr. Gwinn Marshal of Mississippi *? " To 
this General Jackson replied : " When my mother fled with 
me and my brother from' the oppression of the British, who 
held possession of North Carolina, we were very, very poor. 
My brother had a long sickness (occasioned by a wound 
received from a British officer because he refused to do 
some menial service), and finally died. In the midst of our 
distress and poverty, an old Baptist minister called at our 
log-cabin, and spoke the first kind words my mother heard 
in her new home ; and this good man continued to call, 
and he finally made our house his lodging-place, and con- 
tinued to prefer it, when better ones in the neighborhood 
were at his service. Years rolled on, and this good man 
died. Well, sir, when the news was brought me that I 
was elected President, I put up my hands and exclaimed, 
' Thank God for that, for it will enable me to give the best 
office under the government to the son of the old minister 
who was the friend of my mother, and of me in my youth ' ; 
and I kept my promise, and, if it had been necessary, I 
would have sacrificed my office before he should have been 
removed." 

The feeling was natural and noble. The only question 
is, whether a man should requite at the expense of his 
country services done to his mother. The relater of the 
anecdote appends to it this commentary : " General Jack- 
son was triumphantly re-elected to a second term." It is 
true ; but it was in spite of such errors as this, not in con- 
sequence of them. Members of Congress who can remem- 
ber that mad period of our political history will not justify 
personal government by the example of General Jackson. 

Few of us, perhaps, have an adequate sense of the supe- 
rior sacredness of public property to private, of public 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 71 

trusts to private. Little things betray our sluggish public 
conscience. No man, excepf a thief, would think of taking 
a sheet of postage-stamps from the desk of a banker or 
merchant ; but, in Washington, it seems to be only men 
exceptionally honorable who scruple to use, or even to 
take, franked envelopes, which appear to be lying about 
everywhere. Still fewer have a proper sense of how much 
worse it is to steal from all their fellow-citizens than it is 
to steal from one of them. In everything relating to the 
government, a citizen of the United States should feel that 
he is upon his most sacred honor. We are here in double 
trust. Our difficult and still doubtful experiment is for 
mankind as well as ourselves. I would not magnify a 
small sin into a great one ; still less would I assume to be 
more virtuous than others ; and yet it seems to me that a 
citizen of the United States should shrink from accepting 
a proffered frank, as he would avoid touching only enough 
pitch to defile the tips of his fingers. I would not blame, 
but forgive, a Frenchman for cheating his government, 
which is itself a cheat ; but the citizens of free countries 
defraud and despoil themselves when they do or permit an 
action which implies that public property is less sacred 
than private. 

A special calamity of the small sins of Congress is, that 
their results are exceedingly conspicuous, and bring upon 
Congress an amount of odium or ridicule that ought to be 
excited only by great transgressions. I have mentioned 
the superfluous door-keepers and the swarms of officers 
everywhere to be seen about the two chambers. The 
amount of money wasted upon these gentlemen is not 
great ; but the waste is obvious and striking. The dullest 
visitor comprehends that a small party of ladies can gain 
admittance to a gallery by a light and easy door without 
the assistance of two able-bodied men. Some of the small 
sins of Congress entail effects still more glaring, and fix a 
permanent, unconcealable stain upon the nation itself. Not 
a stain upon its honor ; but such a stain as a lady incurs 
when her dress comes in contact with a freshly painted 
railing. We do not want fair Columbia to be thus dis- 
figured. We wish her to be spotless and glorious even in 
the garments that she wears and in the ornaments that 



72 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

adorn her. We desire her to be tasteful in her splen- 
dors. 

The reader has probably often asked himself, while wan- 
dering about the Capitol, what could possess Congress to 
throw away the public money upon some of those pictures 
that disgrace the western continent, and human nature 
generally, in the Rotunda. He has, perhaps, also, after 
giving up that conundrum, essayed to conjecture why no 
member has risen superior to the clamor of economists, and 
proposed an appropriation of two dollars to whitewash them 
from the view of mankind. It was bad enough to put them 
there ; but to keep them visible, year after year, and give 
new commissions to the painters who produced them, are 
acts almost too abominable to be reckoned among the small 
sins of the national legislature. 

Congress no doubt interpreted correctly the wishes of the 
people in making the Capitol stately and ornate; and it 
was an exquisite thought to go on decorating and complet- 
ing it while the hosts of the Rebellion were intrenched with- 
in sight of its rising dome. Every building that belongs to 
the nation, every object that bears upon its surface the 
letters " U. S.," should have something in its style and 
appearance that will convey to the mind of the beholder a 
feeling of the imperial grandeur of the country's mission 
and destiny. Those nasty and cheap sub-post-offices in the 
city of New York, and those conspicuously shabby, rusty, 
cast-iron lamp-post letter-boxes, are an abomination in my 
eyes ; not merely because they are stupidly inconvenient, 
but because they are mean in appearance ; because I desire 
that whenever American eyes rest upon an object bearing 
the stamp of the nation, they should rest upon something 
which they can contemplate with satisfaction and pride. 
Hence, it is always a pleasure to get round to the front of 
the Capitol, and turn away from the shanties, the shops, 
the sand-heaps, the general dilapidation and shabbiness of 
the region, and gaze for a while upon the magnificence of 
that vast range of architecture, with its avalanches of snowy 
steps, that glorious dome floating lightly over the centre, 
and the small, brilliant flag above each wing, denoting that 
Congress is in session. In this brave attempt to express in 
marble the grandeur and glory of the United States, we see 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 73 

the prophecy of those chaster splendors, that simpler mag- 
nificence, which will enchant and exalt our grandchildren 
when they visit the future and final capital of the country. 
It was an excellent thing, perhaps, after all, to try our 
'prentice hand on Washington, and exhaust all the possi- 
bilities of error there. 

The interior of the Capitol is chaos, of course. That is 
unavoidable when a large building is erected over a smaller 
one. The visitor forgives and is amused at the labyrinthine 
intricacies in which he is continually lost; and when at 
last he stands beneath that beautiful dome, which hovers 
over him like an open balloon of silk illuminated by the 
sun, he experiences a renewal of the joy which the exterior 
afforded him. Doubtless, we are running too much to 
domes ; we are putting a dome over every building of much 
magnitude, it is such a fruitful source of contracts. But 
this one justifies itself, and startles the coldest spectator 
into admiration. It was also a fine conception to place 
under it in that perfect light a series of large historical 
paintings. Nor was it necessary that they should be of 
the highest rank as mere works of art ; because it is not 
certain that there are now living upon earth artists capable 
of executing paintings of that magnitude in a truly excel- 
lent manner. No artist in these times can get the many 
years of large practice which is necessary for the attainment 
of the large manner ; and, I suppose, the best we can hope 
for, at present, in pictures of great size, is correct, refined, 
excellent scene-painting. But some of the paintings in the 
Rotunda, besides being singularly hideous as pictures, are 
historical falsehoods, which any school-boy might be able 
to detect at a glance. That one, for example, which is 
supposed to have been suggested by De Soto and his men 
discovering the Mississippi River, what a curiously ridic- 
ulous lie it is, with its display of superb costumes, its well- 
conditioned horses, and its plump cavaliers as fresh and 
gay, in their silk and velvet, as if they were careering in 
the streets of Madrid on a day of festival ! What is better 
known than that these Spaniards reached the banks of the 
Great ' River in woful plight after a wearisome march of 
many months through the wilderness ! It is also particu- 
larly recorded that De Soto was sparing in expenditure for 



74 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

gay apparel, and that every rag of clothes, except what his 
followers wore, was burnt after one of their bloody encoun- 
ters with the Indians. An hour's research in the library 
of Congress, under the intelligent guidance of the librarian, 
would have put the painter in possession of all the picturesque 
details of the real scenes, and given him subjects for several 
pictures of peculiar interest. A picture could have been 
composed for that panel which would have such fascinating 
power as a mere exhibition of truth, that few would have 
cared to criticise it as a work of art. 

But the question recurs, Why are such artists employed 1 
The shameful answer is, Because they lobby for a commis- 
sion and know how to lobby with effect. It is not an 
honest ignorance of art and history which has thus dis- 
figured the Capitol ; for these paintings are the constant 
theme of ridicule among members as they are among pri- 
vate citizens. One artist won his commission, it is said, by 
assiduous flattery of the wives and daughters of members 
of Congress. While artists of merit were toiling after 
excellence in distant studios, this wiser man in his genera- 
tion was enjoying elegant leisure in the drawing-rooms of 
Washington, where he made sketches in the albums of 
ladies who could influence votes, or painted their portraits 
in some Italian or Spanish costume from his portfolio. He 
is thought to have secured votes by pretending that the 
excellent but not beautiful wife of a member of Congress 
reminded him constantly of an exquisite model he once had 
in Rome, one of the loveliest creatures in the world. He 
had, moreover, some little talent' in small album-sketches 
and little fancy portraits in costume. This, doubtless, de- 
ceived some members, who did not reflect upon the infinite 
difference between a grand historical painting and an imita- 
tion of the velvet in a cavalier's doublet. If that man's 
claim to the highest honor which the nation can bestow 
upon an artist had been openly discussed in committee, his 
name would never have reached the House at all. It was 
private lobbying that brought this dishonor upon art, upon 
Congress, and upon the national taste. 

It has been proposed to introduce the rule that no man 
shall be appointed to office who seeks office. Congress 
may rely with certainty the most complete upon this, that 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 75 

no artist capable of worthily filling one of the panels of the 
Eotunda will ever lobby for the commission in the drawing- 
rooms of Washington. If that artist should ever be wanted, 
he will have to be looked for and solicited. 

The reader has perhaps wondered also why Congress 
should have selected for the execution of the national statue 
of Abraham Lincoln a person of no standing or expe- 
rience as an artist. Miss Vinnie Ream is a young lady of 
perfect respectability, and, no doubt, highly estimable in 
her private relations. No one can blame her for her good 
fortune. She has done little more than open her mouth 
and let the plum fall into it. But what has Congress done ? 
Here was a piece of work to be given out, the statue of 
a man as little statuesque as any we can imagine, which 
required in the artist a combination of artistic skill and 
judgment, love of the man, and love of truth. The work 
was to be seen by hundreds who had been familiar with 
the subject, and by tens of thousands who would take a 
kind of affectionate interest in the artist's management of 
its difficulties. The Abraham Lincoln of future gener- 
ations was to be created. In the selection of the artist 
a national fame was either to be conferred or enhanced. 
Congress assigned this work to a girl who had the rudi- 
ments of her art still to learn, and who had given no proof 
of her capacity to acquire those rudiments. She exhibited 
a model. It was about to be overlooked. She burst into 
tears. The results to her were, a ten-thousand-dollar com- 
mission, a universal celebrity, and two years in Europe, 
three immense boons, either of which had been a fit re- 
quital for long-tried excellence. And, as if this were not 
enough, a room was given her in the Capitol itself in which 
to execute and exhibit her work. Congress bestowed upon 
this unknown and untried child honors which it has per- 
sistently withheld from artists who have conferred upon 
the country whatever name it has in the world of art, but 
who hardly know what the word " lobbying " means. Rec- 
ognition one tenth as distinct and emphatic as this, how it 
would have cheered the early years of the excellent sculptors 
of whom the country is proud ! Such caprice does not harm 
them ; for when Congress confers distinction thus, it parts 
'with its power to confer honor, and sensibly lessens its own. 



76 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Five minutes' conversation with Miss Vinnie Beam ex- 
plains this ridiculous behavior of Congress. She is one of 
those graceful, animated, bright-eyed, picturesque, undaunt- 
ed, twinkling little women, who can make men say Yes to 
anything they ask. She also wore a pretty blue, turban- 
like covering for her hair, which was killing at five paces ; 
and there is that in her manner which puts men in the 
humor of uttering badinage, and at the same time gives 
them the idea* that she is a helpless little body who would 
cry if she could not have her own way. The visitor to her 
room in the Capitol had but to stand apart and see the 
modest audacity of her demeanor, and observe the assured, 
lively manner in which she held a circle of men in conver- 
sation, in order to comprehend why Congress, in its easy, 
thoughtless good-nature, should have granted to her the 
most signal honors it ever bestowed upon an artist. 

Men are naturally susceptible to the picturesque in wo- 
man. It is natural also to feel like caressing and protect- 
ing whatever reminds us of tender, graceful childhood. 
Members had done well to give a private commission to 
this agreeable young lady by way of encouraging her to 
attempt acquiring some skill in modelling. But they were 
false to their trust when they gave her an important public 
work to execute. Men who are charged by their fellow- 
citizens with the adornment of national edifices and the 
bestowal of national honors are much to blame in allowing 
a blue turban, a pair of speaking eyes, a trim waist, and a 
fluent tongue to carry off prizes due only to tried merit. 
Members can form little idea of the dishonor, nay, the con- 
tempt, which they bring upon Congress by indulging a 
whim of this kind. Millions witness the result ; only a few 
individuals see the bright excuse ; and of those few only 
one sex admits that it is any excuse at all. 

There is an impression in Washington that a great deal 
of legislation is influenced by female lobbyists ; and the 
easy success of this young lady gives countenance to the 
idea. A woman of attractive presence and of a certain au- 
dacity "of manner, who should be able to live and entertain 
in handsome style, could no doubt win favor and votes for 
some measures. Many members come from homely homes, 
the ladies of which have expended their vivacity and beauty 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 77 

in that American phase of "the struggle for life" which 
Fanny Fern styles " grappling with Erin." Such members, 
when they find themselves in a drawing-room next to a lady 
who expends her vivacity in entertaining them, and arrays 
her beauty in all the charms of novel costume and bewitch- 
ing decoration, are only too apt to surrender to the fasci- 
nating influence. But such women cannot be hired to go 
lobbying. It occasionally happens that a circle interested 
in a scheme contains one such who will render the service 
required. Generally speaking, however, the female lobby 
is small and insignificant. A lady informed me last winter 
that she had defeated international copyright j and, indeed, 
she was the Washington agent of the weak opposing influ- 
ence. But a pebble can stop a six-horse coach when it is 
going up a steep hill, and the horses are tired, the driver 
indifferent, and the passengers asleep. 

Of all the smaller sins of Congress, there are none, per- 
haps, which excite so much odium as that multitude of 
petty transgressions covered by the words " Contingent 
Expenses." The mere running expenses of Congress, in- 
cluding its share of the public printing, amount to about 
twice the revenue of the government under President Wash- 
ington. I have tried in vain to get at the total cost of a 
session of Congress. The mere list of the Contingent Ex- 
penses of the House fills a volume of two hundred and 
twenty pages, and there is no hint anywhere of the sum 
total. It is certain, however, that a session of Congress 
costs the country as much as four millions of dollars, in- 
cluding pay, postage, printing, and contingent expenses. 
"Will the honorable member from Ohio allow me five 
minutes to make an explanation 1 " asks an honorable mem- 
ber from Somewhere Else. If that request is granted it 
costs the people of the United States a little over six hun- 
dred dollars. The chaplain's prayer, which usually lasts 
one minute, consumes one hundred and thirty-eight dollars' 
worth of time every morning. Calling the Yeas and Nays, 
an operation of half an hour, comes to over four thousand 
dollars. Allowing six months for an average session, and 
twenty days a month as the average number of meetings, 
Congress costs us something more than thirty-three thou- 
sand dollars a day. Who would begrudge his share of this 



78 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

great expense, if it were necessary ? It is not necessary. 
A vigorous man of business, who should have the contract 
for tunning Congress, could save enough in the three items 
of printing, postage, and contingencies to double the 
salaries of members, give a decent compensation to the 
justices of the Supreme Court, the judges of the Court of 
Claims, and heads of departments, and have a handsome 
surplus for himself. Nothing is so extravagant and undem- 
ocratic as to pay such salaries to the judges, cabinet minis- 
ters, and members of Congress as to exclude from those 
high and honorable posts the great body of able men who 
are neither rich nor reckless. A fraction of the mere waste 
of Washington would support them all respectably, and 
render it possible for men of talent who have little property 
to serve the government. 

This book of the Contingent Expenses of the House of 
Representatives is amusing literature indeed. There is an 
air of candor about it that edifies the mind. It looks so 
very honest, the publication of such items as " 2 mice-traps, 
50 cts." "Repairing 3 chairs, $1.50." "Easing drawer, 
25 cts." " 1 paper of needles, 10 cts." "One long poker, 
$ 3.00 " ; and " 2 pounds of putty, 25 cts." It is such a 
satisfaction to know that the poker which cost so much was 
long ! It is also interesting to note, that to clean and pol- 
ish that extremely absurd relic of barbarism, the " mace," 
cost three dollars ; and that, during one session of Congress, 
the people paid for " hauling" more than ten thousand cart- 
loads of documents ! There are many items, however, 
which excite interest of another kind. When we find two 
hundred " porte-monnaies " charged at prices ranging from 
$1.20 to $ 4.25 each, we cannot help feeling that each and 
every one of those articles is a petty fraud. The United 
States has not undertaken and is not bound to supply any 
portion of its servants with porte-monnaies. What a scan- 
dal, too, is that annual penknife business ! One thousand 
and ninety-eight penknives, at prices averaging about three 
dollars each, I find after a few minutes' search charged 
among the " Contingent Expenses " of the second session of 
the Fortieth Congress ! I could probably make up the 
amount to two thousand by going through the book, in 
which the items are apparently published, but are really 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 79 

interred and covered up. There are charges also of " Half 
dozen Martinique snuff, $25.00," "50 Ibs. of tobacco, 
$ 25.00," " 2 doz. pocket-scissors, $ 28.00," " 2 doz. hair- 
brushes, $48,00," " 12 cotton stay-laces, $ 6.00," "5 extra 
morocco desks, $ 67.00," and endless charges for inkstands, 
newspapers, and periodicals ; stationery by the mountain, 
of course. I spend my whole time, from January to Decem- 
ber, in one unending, unchanging task of spoiling white 
paper ; but I cannot get through more than three reams 
per annum, which costs about twelve dollars. Knowing 
how far a little stationery will go, I read of the inconceiv- 
able quantities consumed about the Capitol with amaze- 
ment. 

It is to be hoped that none but men in sound health will 
be sent to Congress, for it costs a great deal to get a mem- 
ber home if he should happen to die in Washington. The 
following is the bill paid to the Sergeant-at-arms of the 
House for transporting the body of a deceased member from 
Washington to Easton in Pennsylvania : 

Hack hire, assistance in care of remains, and arranging for 

the funeral in the House of Representatives . . . $50.00 

18 white silk sashes for officers of House and Senate . 254.00 

8 black silk sashes for committee of arrangements . . 96.00 

20^ dozen kid gloves 615.00 

2 dozen kid gloves .54.00 

2 dozen kid gloves m . 60.00 

1 dozen kid gloves . . . . . . . .33.00 

200 black crape scarfs 300.00 

Travel of messenger to New York and return . . . 47.00 

Hacks to carry escort and friends to depot . . . 16.00 
Fare and expenses of escort and remains from Washington, 

Dr C., to Easton, Pa 245.00 

Hotel bills and hacks at Easton . . . . . 42.65 

Fare and expenses on return to "Washington . . . 194.00 
Travel of assistant sergeant-at-arms and 2 messengers, 

Washington to Easton and return, 460 miles each . 138.00 

$2,144.65 

The fee system, it appears, is still employed to compen- 
sate some of the officers of Congress. If there is a " call 
of the House," i. e. a general hunting up of absent members, 
the Sergeant-at-arms is permitted to charge five dollars and 
twenty cents for " arresting, bringing before the House, and 



80 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

discharging" each absentee. If a hundred members are 
absent, which is not unfrequently the case, a call of the 
House costs the country five hundred and twenty dollars. 
If witnesses are summoned to testify before a committee, 
the Sergeant-at-arms charges a fee and mileage for each. 
Thus every person summoned from New Orleans to testify 
with regard to the negro massacre cost us three hundred 
and seventeen dollars, and the cost of merely summoning 
the witnesses in that affair was $ 2,392. It cost three hun- 
dred and seventeen dollars to summon " General Hamlin " 
to testify before a committee. The object of the committee 
could no doubt have been accomplished for three cents and 
a half, half a cent for stationery and three cents for post- 
age. 

Now, if money is to be thrown away in this reckless 
manner, if the Capitol is to remain the scene of waste and 
profusion we find it now, then I say the people have a choice 
with regard to the persons who shall be benefited by it. 
They do not see any justice or any propriety in Henry Wil- 
son's being compelled to pinch on five thousand dollars a 
year, while servants of the body to which he belongs retire 
rich after four years' service. It brings a blush to the cheek 
of every properly constituted person to think that a justice 
of the Supreme Court should be compelled to expend his 
whole salary for two rooms and the board of his family, 
while a man who gets stationery contracts sets up his car- 
riage and buys pictures. If the government is to be plun- 
dered at every point by every hand, it is time the spoils 
were more fairly divided. 

There is only one remedy for this profusion at the Capi- 
tol. Congress has honestly attempted to cut off the oppor- 
tunities for petty larceny. It has attempted it many times, 
but never with much success. The mileage system, the 
franking-privilege, the wild and wondrous waste of station- 
ery, the pocketing of French inkstands and costly pen- 
holders, the lugging home of half-reams of paper, and all 
the small stealings of committee-rooms, have been, by 
turns, the theme of ridicule and the object of legislation. 
Some leaks have been stopped ; but others have been im- 
mediately opened, and the same thieves who pilfered under 
the old law have plundered under the new. We ought to 



CONGKESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 81 

know by this time that a privilege is a thing which is al- 
ways and everywhere abused. We ought to know that a per- 
quisite is always and everywhere a means of corruption. We 
ought to know that nearly every one in the world who is com- 
pensated by fees gets much too much or much too little, or 
riots in abundance now, to be starved to-morrow. Let Con- 
gressmen simply abolish fees, perquisites, and privileges, 
and accept in lieu thereof a proper increase to their sala- 
ries, say, double what they now receive. Let members 
pay their own postage, charge no mileage, subscribe for 
their own newspapers, buy their own envelopes and writing- 
paper, and compensate all their officers by salaries. 

Nothing short of this will ever answer the purpose. If 
Congress should permit only so much as a bottle of ink to 
be furnished to each committee-room, once a week, and 
charged to Contingent Expenses, a widening crevice would 
be established through which a torrent of colored fluids 
would continually pour. Add pens to the ink, and you 
would see exquisite pen-holders, fitted with the most costly 
diamond-pointed gold pens, and huge cases of the finest 
products of Gillott, heaped high in the store-rooms of the 
Capitol. Complete the list with paper, and you have ' a 
thick volume of wonderful items, and run up a stationery 
bill the mere clippings and extras of which build houses 
and found estates. The sole remedy is to pay each mem- 
ber a decent compensation, not less than ten thousand 
dollars a year, and allow neither to members nor to com- 
mittees so much as a sheet of foolscap or a penny pen- 
holder. 

The completion of the Pacific Railroad antiquates the 
system of mileage, by destroying the necessity for it. In- 
deed, ever since railroads brought two thirds of Congress 
within forty-eight hours' ride of Washington, a system of 
mileage which gives to one member eight dollars for his 
travelling expenses, to another several hundred dollars, and 
to another several thousands, has been growing ridiculous. 
But now that a member from Oregon can get to the capital 
in eleven days, it is too absurd to pay him fifteen times as 
much mileage as Henry Clay used to get for his six weeks' 
horseback ride from Kentucky. Away with Congressional 
mileage ! The honorable member from Oregon will, of 

4* F 



82 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

course, have to incur a little more expense in getting to 
Washington than the honorable member from Baltimore ; 
but he will not find this an insupportable burden. He will 
be pretty sure to have free tickets to most places presented 
him a few hours after his election, and I am afraid he will 
be weak enough to accept them, until Congress makes it 
unlawful for him to do so. More than that, a palace-car 
will be assigned to his exclusive use, as long as the Pacific 
Eailroads have favors to ask, or retribution to fear, from 
the body of which he is a member. 

The surrender of the franking-privilege, besides being 
the most popular act which Congress could do, would be 
also one of the most beneficial to itself. It would operate 
as a tonic. The flow of Buncombe speech would be 
checked, millions of infinitesimal frauds would be pre- 
vented, and a source of demoralization would be annihi- 
lated. 

Abolish perquisites, abolish fees, abolish privileges, and 
double salaries. There would be a little Buncombe opposi- 
tion from members and editors who set up as champions of 
economy, but their Buncombe could be triumphantly refuted 
if 'Congress saved the million and a half additional pay out 
of the running expenses of the Capitol, the post-office, and 
the public printing-house. 

I believe I express the opinion of all the gentlemen who 
have held the office of public printer, when I say that half 
a million dollars per annum is worse than wasted at the 
public printing-office. Having examined the office, the 
reports of the superintendent, and several of the more 
expensive volumes issued, I see clearly enough that if 
there were such an officer as National Editor, with the 
usual editorial power to select, cut down, and exclude, he 
could save the country much more than half a million a 
year by merely drawing his pencil through useless matter. 
What havoc he would have made, for example, in the gorgeous 
quarto (962 pages) in which are preserved the letters, reso- 
lutions, and addresses of condolence called forth by Mr. Lin- 
coln's assassination ! In that huge and splendid work, which 
cost us eighteen thousand dollars, there may be ten pages 
worth saving \ and those the National Editor would have 
forwarded per boy to Newspaper Row, opposite Willard's, at 



CONGKESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 83 

a cost of two car tickets. The saving on that one item would 
have made the Supreme Bench comfortable for a whole 
year. In the Agricultural Report for 1867, which fills five 
hundred and twenty-two " large octavo pages " handsomely 
illustrated, of which two hundred and twenty-four thousand 
five hundred copies were given away, at a total expense of 
a hundred and twenty thousand dollars, what gashes an 
intelligent National Editor would have made ! or rather, 
would he not have selected the valuable portions and sent 
copies to each of the agricultural newspapers and periodi- 
cals 1 They would give to matter- really valuable all the 
publicity that could be desired. The Patent-Office Report 
has annually swollen, until it now makes over two thousand 
pages, four large octavos, of which one half the space is 
occupied by engravings. Of this most expensive work sixty 
thousand copies are given away. The Reports of the Com- 
missioners to the Paris Exposition of 1867 will fill several 
profusely illustrated volumes, which will of course be given 
away profusely. When we read the names of some of the 
Commissioners, we know very well what a gifted National 
Editor would do with their contributions. 

In the last report of Mr. John Defrees, Congressional 
printer, a gentleman who knew the precise value of the 
mountains of books which Congress ordered him to manu- 
facture, we find this interesting paragraph : 

" The Army Register of Volunteers has also been com- 
pleted in eight volumes. Fifty thousand copies were or- 
dered to be printed, for sale at cost, by the joint resolution 
of June 30, 1864. An edition of five thousand copies of 
the first four volumes was printed, but finding very little 
demand for the work, the edition of the residue of the vol- 
umes was reduced to one thousand." 

For sale at cost ! That is the true method, if Congress 
must manufacture books. Observe how the enormous error 
of this publication was rebuked and corrected by bringing 
it to the test of sale at cost. If the people want a book, 
they will buy it at cost ; if they will not buy it at cost, it 
is proof positive that they do not want it enough to justify 
aft* appropriation of their money. It was an amiable idea 
to preserve the name of every man who fought for his 
country during the war ; but to preserve such a catalogue 



84 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

did not necessitate its publication in eight volumes. Such 
extravagance keeps alive in the general mind the false, per- 
nicious idea, that the government may properly expend 
money on principles which would be absurd and ruinous 
in an individual. 

Do members of Congress sell West Point and Annapolis 
cadetships 1 I am afraid I must confess that it has been 
done. Not often; for members are abundantly blessed 
with nephews, and friends who have nephews, and they are 
generally besought for those appointments as soon as it is 
rumored that they intend to run for Congress. Not often ; 
for members generally want all their small change of that 
nature during the canvass. Not often ; for few men of an 
infinitesimal calibre have yet found their way to Congress. 
And still I fear that the member who gave a cadetship to 
the son of a person who presented his wife with a grand 
piano was in some degree influenced by the circumstance. 
There are lobbyists who profess to be able to procure cadet- 
ships for money, but most of them are strikers. Some 
members find their election expenses a heavy burden, and 
I believe that, occasionally, a distinct arrangement has been 
entered into between a member of the lobby and an anxious 
father, to this effect : the anxious father agrees to send a 
check for two thousand dollars to the chairman of the 
member's committee, as a contribution to the expenses of 
the election, and the man of the lobby agrees to induce the 
member to give the anxious father's son a cadetship in one 
of the national academies. In a very few instances such 
an arrangement may have been fulfilled. Some members, 
I fear, regard the duty of making these important appoint- 
ments in the light of a perquisite, and, as just remarked, 
the word " perquisite " is generally synonymous with cor- 
ruption. Congress will perform an act as wise as it will be 
noble when it relinquishes a privilege that has always been 
abused, and always must be, by men who have sons, neph- 
ews, and election committees. 

Before leaving this small branch of a large subject, I 
must not fail to remark that many of us seem to be unduly 
alarmed at the corruptions and abuses of the government. 
The American people are so accustomed to honesty in their 
dealings with one another, and to a certain frugality of 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 85 

ordinary expenditure, that they start back affrighted from 
the scene of profusion, and worse than profusion, of govern- 
ment offices. Let us see then how it is with other govern- 
ments. Let us see if government by the people for the 
people is less or more profuse, less or more corrupt, than 
the vaunted governments by a class for a class. 

That is a pretty piece of scandal which advocate Mathieu 
Marais relates in his Memoires, of the dissolute Regent of 
France and the Abbe" de Broglie. The Abb having warmly 
commended a certain wine, the Regent said he would like 
to have some of it, and the Abbe sent him three hundred 
bottles. The prince insisted on paying for them, and 
accordingly the priest handed him a bill in proper form, 
like this : 

His Koyal Highness, the Prince Regent Dr. 

To the Abbe de Broglie. 

60 gallons of wine . 400 francs. 

300 bottles 60 " 

300 corks 15 " 

Twine 4 " 

Sealing-wax, Spanish . . . . . 9 " 

Baskets 25 " 

Carriage . 7 " . 

Total : The Abbey of Mount St. Michael. 

The prince paid the bill. The governorship of an abbey, 
and a handsome income for life of other people's money, 
was the reward which this man, intrusted with the rev- 
enues of church and state, felt to be due to a profligate 
young ecclesiastic who had given him a moment's amuse- 
ment. This was in 1721. Fifty years later the young 
Abbe de Talleyrand won his first preferment, which con- 
sisted of two abbeys, by saying a good thing to Madame 
Dubarry, the king's mistress. He, the most licentious 
young man in Paris, had sat silent while others amused 
the mistress with tales of intrigue and gallantry. She 
asked him at length why he did not favor the company 
with one of his numberless amorous adventures. " Be- 
cause," said he, assuming a melancholy tone, " in Paris, at 
present, it is so much easier to win the favor of ladies than 
to get preferment in the Church." This small joke made 
the king laugh, when it was told to him, and it was worth 



86 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

to the youth who uttered it the two abbeys just referred 
to. 

On similar principles the church benefices of every 
established church on earth have been usually bestowed. 
That is to say, the appointing power does not usually so 
much as think of appointing the fittest attainable man, but 
gives or sells benefices, abbeys, bishoprics, archbishoprics, 
solely for its own pleasure and purposes.* If the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury should die to-day, Mr. Gladstone 
would bestow the vacancy upon that man in England who, 
in that place, could do most to help him retain and increase 
his majority in the House of Commons ; unless, perchance, 
the services have already been rendered which give to some 
person, family, club, or clique, a claim to the appointment. 
No one could blame him* The system requires it of him. 
He could not be Prime-Minister, and act on any other prin- 
ciple. 

A French gentleman resident in New York related to me 
the other evening the particulars of a case which he thought 
showed advantageously for the government of the present 
usurper. A custom-house officer at a French seaport, after 
many years of faithful service, was dismissed from his place 
for accepting two gifts from an importer, of the value of 
one dollar and thirty cents. Respectable merchaifks peti- 
tioned for his restoration, but the minister replied that he 
had not the power to restore him ; there was no provision 
in the system of the government for the pardon of such an 
offence. It simply could not be done. This was supposed 

* Since writing this passage, I read the following in an English paper: 
" The account of the biddings for the next presentation to the rectory and 
vicarage of Westborough and Dry Donnington, in the county of Lincoln, 
which was put up to auction at the Mart on Tuesday, certainly offers food 
for reflection to thoughtful minds. It appears that the living is worth 
seven hundred and eight pounds per annum. There are two churches to 
serve, a mile and a half apart, service being held alternately at each 
place, viz. in the morning at one, and in the evening at the other, and vice 
versa. There was, the auctioneer stated, good society; he thought he 
might add, good hunting, and, allowing one hundred pounds a year to a 
curate to do the dirty, disagreeable work, such as attending to the"sick and 
dying, there would remain a net profit of about six hundred pounds a year 
for the i-ector. The outside sum offered for the privilege of attending to 
the eternal salvation of the inhabitants of the two parishes in question was 
four thousand eight hundred pounds. This did not reach the reserve 
price, and accordingly the living was withdrawn, doubtless to the great 
disappointment of young divines with 'a call,' but no ready money." 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 87 

to be extremely virtuous. But, surely, we cannot call that 
system pure in which the great thieves want so much that 
they will not and cannot permit the little people to steal at 
all, which loads with plunder the men who help steal all 
the revenues of France, and covers with diamonds the wo- 
men who assist to dazzle and delude the people. At the 
very time when this poor old man was thrust out into hope- 
less destitution for a momentary weakness or inadvertence, 
the woman of one of the head plunderers was selling off 
some hundreds of thousands of francs' worth of diamonds 
merely because she had so many jewels that she did not 
know what to do with them. 

In England, too, they are rigid in dealing with petty cor- 
ruption, as they ought to be. An instance occurred re- 
cently. A navy clerk caused to be conveyed to a timber 
merchant an intimation that for thirty pounds he would 
get for him a certain contract to supply timber to one of 
the navy-yards. Both the clerk and his messenger were 
tried for conspiracy to obtain money by false pretences, and 
on being convicted were sentenced to eighteen months' im- 
prisonment at hard labor. This was j ust. But, on the other 
hand, there is in this same England an amount and variety 
of political immorality, particularly among great lords, cap- 
italists, and corporations, which leaves the United States 
stainlessly pure in comparison. We all know what English 
elections are. The reason why we all know is, because the 
corruption at those elections has become an established jest, 
which the national humorists, such as Hogarth, Dickens, 
Thackeray, and Bulwer, have found available for their art. 
Through the works of these great authors we have become 
perfectly familiar with that corruption, and with the nation- 
al average of moral feeling which joyfully accepts the brib- 
ing and debauching of free citizens as a legitimate source 
of fun. Englishmen urge foreigners to stay over another 
steamer on purpose to witness " the humors of an English 
election," as Spaniards detain their guests for the Sunday 
bull-fight. 

We may also pass lightly over that long period in the 
history of England when every minister bought an essen- 
tial portion of his majority by bank-notes put into the 
hands of members in the House of Commons. " The sums 



88 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

varied," as we learn from Wraxall, " from five hundred to 
eight hundred pounds a year," which sums were " conveyed " 
to gentlemen of the House of Commons " in a squeeze of 
the hand " as they passed the ministerial agent. It was 
the business of that agent in Lord Chatham's time " to dis- 
tribute with art and policy, amongst the members who had 
no ostensible place, sums of money for their support dur- 
ing the session, besides contracts, lottery-tickets, and other 
douceurs. It is no uncommon circumstance at the end of a 
session for a gentleman to receive five hundred or a thou- 
sand pounds for his service" * There has been published a 
letter from an English minister to Cardinal Henry, who 
was minister of Louis XV. of France at the beginning of 
his reign. Here is an edifying extract : "I pension half 
the Parliament to keep it quiet ; but as the king's money 
is not sufficient, they to whom I give none clamor loudly 
for a war. It would be expedient for your Eminence to re- 
mit me three millions of French livres in order to silence 
the barkers. Gold is a metal which here corrects all ill 
qualities in the blood. A pension of two thousand pounds 
a year will make the most impetuous warrior in Parliament 
as tame as a lamb."f There is also a letter extant, in 
which Louis XIV. authorizes his minister to offer the Duke 
of Marlborough four millions of francs for a peace on cer- 
tain conditions. With regard to the peace of 1763, against 
which Lord Chatham so eloquently protested, it is known 
to have been accomplished by the most lavish expenditure 
of money and promotion. " The Royal household had been 
increased beyond all former example. The lords and 
grooms of the bedchamber were doubled. Pensions were 
thrown about indiscriminately. Five-and-twenty thousand 
pounds were issued in one day, in bank-notes of one hun- 
dred pounds each. The only stipulation was, Give us your 
vote / . . . . The city of London refused to address (in 
favor of peace), although the sum of fourteen thousand 

pounds was offered to complete the bridge The 

Lord-Lieutenants had begging-letters sent to them to use 
their influence ; and five hundred pounds, secret service, 
were added to each letter. The sum of five hundred pounds 

* Anecdotes and Speeches of Lord Chatham, Dublin, 1792, Vol. 1. 137. 
t Memoirs of Pompadour, Vol. I. 57. 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 89 

was the notorious price of an address. Some addresses 
cost a much larger sum. The sum was regulated according 
to the importance and magnitude of the place from which 
the address was obtained." * We also read, in the memoirs 
of that time, of men holding offices of which they only 
drew half the salary, "being rode for the other half" ; and 
these individuals, both the riders and the ridden, were not 
city-clerks and contractors, but men of rank and influence. 
But these things occurred a long time ago, one hun- 
dred and six years, when all the world, except Prussia, 
was corrupt ; and Prussia is an empire to-day because she 
was not corrupt then. Since that time England has nobly 
grappled with many a hoary abuse, has made important ad- 
vances toward free trade and purity of government, and is 
still pressing onward. And yet we read astounding things 
of the venality of the present generation of her ruling class. 
The history of railroads in Great Britain appears to be lit- 
tle more than a history of giant frauds, from the day of 
honest George Stevenson to that of collapsed Morton Peto. 
The English biographer of the Stevensons tells us of a great 
duke who caused the defeat of a railroad bill in Parliament, 
because the engineer had laid out the line too near one of 
his Grace's fox covers ; of a " party " in a committee of 
lords offering to withdraw opposition to a projected road 
for ten thousand pounds ; of opposition " got up mainly for 
the purpose of being bought off " ; of railway directors 
boasting of the number of votes they could "command" 
in the House of Commons ; of parliamentary log-rolling in 
the " Yankee " style of " You help me roll my log, and I '11 
help you roll yours " ; of a railway bill which it cost the 
directors eighty-two thousand pounds to get passed ; of an- 
other, the total cost of passing which was four hundred and 
thirty-six thousand, two hundred and twenty-three pounds, 
about three million dollars of our present currency ; of 
needy members " conciliated " by being paid five thousand 
pounds for a strip of land worth five hundred ; of members 
who " systematically sold their parliamentary interest for 
money considerations " ; of an " impoverished nobleman " 
receiving thirty thousand pounds for a narrow strip of his 
estate, the whole of which was not worth more than that 

* Anecdotes and Speeches of Lord Chatham, Vol. I. 268, 282. 



90 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

sum, and then selling another corner to another company 
for a second thirty thousand pounds, thus getting sixty 
thousand pounds " damages " for what greatly increased the 
value of his property. " Of course," remarks Mr. J. C. 
Jeafferson, " it was well understood that the two sums of 
thirty thousand pounds did not represent the price of the 
land, but the price of the peer's parliamentary interest." 

It seems, too, that many of the petty infamies incident 
to the infancy of popular government infamies which 
we are about to abolish are in full activity in England. 
English politicians have not yet discovered the puerility of 
bribing obscure and utterly uninfluential newspapers by 
lavish advertising. Advertisements for navy rum were 
inserted by the last Tory administration in a little weekly 
paper, circulating a few hundred copies among clergymen 
of conservative politics. Comic papers of the same politics 
were subscribed for in considerable numbers for distribution 
in government asylums. Advertisements were paid for at 
rates three or four times higher than the regular price. At 
the time of the last general election, as we learn from the 
Pall Mall Gazette, " an advertising-agent was instructed by 
a government department to send advertisements to a cer- 
tain provincial journal. This journal was so excellent a 
medium for the purpose that the agent, whose business it 
is to know these things, was quite unaware of its existence. 
He had to make inquiries as to whether there was such a 
newspaper or not. His investigations were successful. It 
turned out that the influential and widely circulated print 
had been started a few weeks previously to serve the inter- 
est of the Tory candidate for the borough in which it was 
published. Accordingly, the government advertisements 
were sent for" the support of the paper ; and there we have 
seen them, column after column, week after week." 

The same journal informs mankind that this extremely 
primitive, provincial, and generally useless form of bribery 
is " rampant " in England, as well as that of giving exclusive 
news for fulsome laudation. "In short," adds this able 
newspaper, "it comes to this: it is the custom of ministers 
in England, as well as in foreign parts, to subsidize the 
press for their own benefit." But how stupidly they do it !' 
During the recent general election in England, there was a 



CONGKESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 91 

certain " industrious literary compiler," named Townsend, 
who wrote on the D' Israeli side with great diligence and 
small effect. He was promised by Mr. D'Israeli, not a 
petty office in the custom-house for four years, but a post 
in the mint for life, worth a thousand pounds a year ; or, 
if that should not fall vacant, he was to have the still more 
lucrative place in the inland revenue held by a brother of 
the Premier, whose death was daily, expected. But before 
the vacancy occurred, Mr. D'Israeli had lost the power to 
confer such munificent rewards for services so trifling, and 
the new ministry, upon the death of Mr. James D'Israeli, 
had the virtue to abolish the sinecure he had held so long. 
The disappointment was too much for the unhappy writer, 
who stabbed himself to the heart ; an occurrence which led 
to the disclosure of the facts. All this is very much in 
what Englishmen natter themselves is the American style : 
only, more so.* 

Indeed, they have in England most of the small sins of 
popular government as well as all of the great ones. I 
read in the London papers, at the close of a session, that 
the House of Commons, like the House of Representatives, 
is idle during the first half of a session ; which obliges it to 
hurry bills through with such velocity at last, that mem- 
bers can hardly catch their titles, but merely ascertain 
whether an act is favored or opposed by the ministry, and 
vote accordingly. It appears, also, that ministers cram 
the public offices with superfluous clerks, and that absurd 
and fraudulent charges are covered by that convenient 
word, " contingencies." Dr. Russell was in the Crimea 
lately, and wrote home to the Times, that " the French and 
Russian dead have been reverently gathered together, but 
the English cemetery on Cathcart's Hill is in a shameful 

* Here is another anecdote of the last general election in England: 
" Some time ago a well-educated young Welshman came into possession 
of a farm left him byJiis father, and, being a Liberal in politics, he voted 
at the last election mr the Liberal candidate. He was in the habit of 
churning his butter by water-power, which he obtained from a brook 
which ran through the land of his neighbor, a powerful conservative landed 
proprietor, and member of Parliament. To punish the young farmer's 
audacity in voting according to his principles, the Tory magnate ordered 
ihe course of the water to be diverted, so that it might not be used any 
longer to churn the Radical farmer's butter. This was actually done. 
The farmer found one day the water turned from his house, and now he 
has to churn his butter by hand." 



92 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

state, notwithstanding the thirteen thousand pounds paid 
by the government for its proper maintenance. The Rus- 
sian government has done more than could be expected of 
it, but all the monuments in the cemetery are being chipped 
to pieces, and no attempt has been made to gather the re- 
mains of our fallen soldiers in one spot." There is, also, in 
England, a "pardon lobby," which can sometimes get a 
man of rank released from prison before his term has ex- 
pired ; as in the United States a forger of wealthy family 
can occasionally (though very rarely) procure a similar 
favor. 

Mr. Froude's recent utterance with regard to the prev- 
alence of fraud in England would surely be an exaggera- 
tion if applied to the United States. It could not be truly 
said of the business of America that it is " saturated with 
fraud." " So deep has it gone," added the historian, " that 
a strictly honest tradesman can hardly hold his ground 
against competition. You can no longer trust that any 
article that you buy is the thing which it pretends to be. 
We have false weights, false measures, cheating, and shoddy 
everywhere. Yet the clergy have seen all this grow up in 
absolute indifference ; and the great question which at this 
moment is agitating the Church of England is the color of 
the ecclesiastical petticoats." This is not true of the Unit- 
ed States, where, as a rule, men of business comprehend 
well, and act upon their belief, that the sole possible basis 
of a business permanently great is to give a good dollar's 
worth for a dollar. Probably Mr. Froude, like Mr. Carlyle, 
lives very much among his books, and does not possess per- 
sonal knowledge of anything which cannot be learned in a 
library. As to the clergy, their existence as a privileged 
order is in peril ; they are engaged in Mr. Darwin's " strug- 
gle for life." Clergymen of ability, who have several strings 
to their bow, do not meddle with the petticoat question. 

There is a poem by Mrs. Browning, written before we 
had emancipated ourselves from slavery, in which she told 
us that the penalty we paid for consenting to remain under 
that shameful yoke was that we forfeited the right to glow 
with indignation, and hurl the sharp rebuke, at atrocious 
deeds done anywhere on earth. In the presence of our 
own giant iniquity, we must remain silent when we heard 



CONGRESSIONAL PECCADILLOES. 93 

of distant outrage. But the principle to which she gave 
expression in this fine poem is, perhaps, of universal appli- 
cation. No nation is so pure that it can with propriety 
point the finger of reproach at another; because, if the 
sins of one are different from those of the" other, it does 
not follow that they are less. I do firmly believe that the 
people of the United States are the most honest people in 
the world ; but I do not know that we should be such if it 
were as hard to live in the United States as it is in the dense- 
ly peopled and entirely appropriated countries of the Old 
World. There was no stealing in the California mining- 
region when every man was making his pile. Considering 
how much our virtues and our vices are produced by cir- 
cumstances, it is as ridiculous to boast as it is vulgar to 
taunt. 

Why then parade those examples of the weakness and 
corruption of other governments 1 For several reasons. 
It is comforting to have companions in misfortune, and it is 
reassuring to know that governments^ that were once wholly 
corrupt are now but partially so. The court of Louis XIV. 
and their servants numbered three thousand persons, and 
the king carried on his war by the sale of places. There 
were lieutenant-colonels then in the French army ten years 
of age, and archbishops under twenty-one. It is not so 
bad as that in France now ; and in England several entire 
species of corrupt practice have been extirpated. The 
tendency of governments to become corrupt is powerful 
and constant, and they can be kept endurably honest only 
by eternal vigilance. Besides, a year or two since, when 
the North American Review exposed the government of 
New York, the English Tories seized the articles with avid- 
ity, and caused them to be republished in England, and 
circulated as " campaign documents." All the Tory organs 
commented upon them, and drew inferences unfavorable to 
government by the people for the people ; omitting to men- 
tion that the corrupt governments of our three largest sea- 
ports are sustained by voters whom the Tory system of 
Europe had kept in brutal ignorance. If New York alder- 
men steal, it is because Great Britain has been governed 
by a class. Send us intelligent, educated emigrants, ye 
supercilious Tories ! Send us men trained in the duties of 



94 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

citizenship, and we will soon expel the thieves from city-hall 
and lobby. We shall do it, as it is ; but not as soon as we 
should like. 

After all, we are but serving an apprenticeship in the art 
of government by the whole people. We have done very 
well hitherto. Evils have arisen, but they have been grap- 
pled with and suppressed. Evils exist, but there is no 
reason to think that the recuperative energy of the system 
is near exhaustion. It is only people who do not know 
much about the period of Washington and John Adams, 
who think the government was better then than it is now. 
It is better now, upon the whole, than it was then ; and much 
better, considering how difficult a task governments now 
have. In its worst estate, it was better than the best 
despotism. Congress, I am sure, will repent of its small 
sins ; and by and by it will so reorganize the public service 
that the temptation to commit many of them will be 
removed. 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 



riHHERE is an American lady living at Hartford, in Con- 
i necticut, whom the United States has permitted to be 
robbed by foreigners of $ 200,000. Her name is Harriet 
Beecher Stowe. By no disloyal act has she or her family 
forfeited their right to the protection of the government of 
the United States. She pays her taxes, keeps the peace, 
and earns her livelihood by honest industry ; she has reared 
children for the service of the Commonwealth ; she was 
warm and active for her country when many around her 
were cold or hostile ; in a word, she is a good citizen. 

More than that : she is an illustrious citizen. The 
United States stands higher to-day in the regard of every 
civilized being in Christendom because she lives in the 
United States. She is the only woman yet produced on 
the continent of America to whom the world assigns equal 
rank in literature with the great authoresses of Europe. 
If, in addition to the admirable talents with which she is 
endowed, she had chanced to possess one more, namely, 
the excellent gift of plodding, she had been a consummate 
artist, and had produced immortal works. All else she 
has, the seeing eye, the discriminating intelligence, the 
sympathetic mind, the fluent word, the sure and happy 
touch ; and these gifts enabled her to render her country 
the precise service which it needed most. Others talked 
about slavery : she made us see it. She showed it to us in 
its fairest and in its foulest aspect ; she revealed its aver- 
age and ordinary working. There never was a fairer nor 
a kinder book than " Uncle Tom's Cabin " ; for the entire 
odium of the revelation fell upon the Thing, not upon the 
unhappy mortals who were born and reared under its 
shadow. The reader felt that Legree was not less, but far 



96 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

more, the victim of slavery than Uncle Tom, and the effect 
of the book was to concentrate wrath upon the system 
which tortured the slave's body and damned the master's 
soul. Wonderful magic of genius ! The hovels and cotton- 
fields which this authoress scarcely saw she made all the 
world see, and see more vividly and more truly than the 
busy world can ever see remote objects with its own unas- 
sisted eyes. We are very dull and stupid in what does not 
immediately concern us, until we are roused and enlight- 
ened by such as she. Those whom we call " the intelligent," 
or " the educated," are merely the one in ten of the human 
family who by some chance learned to read, and thus came 
under the influence of the class whom Mrs. Stowe represents. 

It is not possible to state the amount of good which this 
book has done, is doing, and is to do. Mr. Eugene Schuy- 
ler, in the preface to the Russian novel which he has 
recently done the public the service to translate, informs 
us that the publication of a little book in Russia contrib- 
uted powerfully to the emancipation of the Russian serfs. 
The book was merely a collection of sketches, entitled " The 
Memoirs of a Sportsman " ; but it revealed serfdom to the 
men who. had lived in the midst of it all their lives without 
ever seeing it. Nothing is ever seen in this world, till the 
searching eye of a sympathetic genius falls upon it. This 
Russian nobleman, Turgenef, noble in every sense, saw 
serfdom, and showed it to his countrymen. His volume 
was read by the present Emperor, and he saw serfdom ; and 
he has since declared that the reading of that little book 
was " one of the first incitements to the decree which gave 
freedom to thirty millions of serfs." All the reading public 
of Russia read it, and they saw serfdom ; and thus a public 
opinion was created, without the support of which not even 
the absolute Czar of all the Russias would have dared to 
issue a decree so sweeping and radical. 

We cannot say as much for " Uncle Tom's Cabin," be- 
cause the public opinion of the United States which per- 
mitted the emancipation of the slaves was of longer growth, 
and was the result of a thousand influences. But when we 
consider that the United States only just escaped dismem- 
berment and dissolution in the late war, and that two great 
powers of Europe were only prevented from active interfer- 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 97 

ence on behalf of the "Rebellion by that public opinion 
which "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had recently revived and 
intensified, we may at least believe, that, if the whole 
influence of that work could have been annihilated, the 
final triumph of the United States might have been 
deferred, and come only after a series of wars. That book, 
we may almost say, went into every household^ in the civ- 
ilized world which contained one person capable of reading 
it. And it was not an essay ; it was a vivid exhibition ; 
it was not read from a sense of duty, nor from a desire to 
get knowledge ; it was read with passion ; it was devoured ; 
people sat up all night reading it ; those who could read 
read it to those who could not ; and hundreds of thousands 
who would never have read it saw it played upon the stage. 
Who shall presume to say how many soldiers that book 
added to the Union army 1 Who shall estimate its influ- 
ence in hastening emancipation in Brazil, and in preparing 
the amiable Cubans for a similar measure It Both in Cuba 
and Brazil the work has been read with the most passionate 
interest. 

If it is impossible to measure the political effect of 
this work, we may at least assert that it gave a thrilling 
pleasure to ten millions of human beings, an innocent 
pleasure, too, and one of many hours' duration. We 
may also say, that, while enjoying that long delight, each 
of those ten millions was made to see, with more or less 
clearness, the great truth that man is not fit to be trusted 
with arbitrary power over his fellow. The person who 
afforded this great pleasure, and who brought home this 
fundamental truth to so many minds, was Harriet Beecher 
Stowe, of Hartford, in the State of Connecticut, where she 
keeps house, educates her children, has a book at the gro- 
cery, and invites her friends to tea. To that American 
woman every person on earth who read "Uncle Tom's 
Cabin " incurred a personal obligation. Every individual, 
who became possessed of a copy of the book, and every one 
who saw the story played in a theatre, was bound, in natural 
justice, to pay money to her for service rendered, unless 
she expressly and formally relinquished her right, which 
she has never done. What can be clearer than this 1 Mrs. 
Stowe, in the exercise of her vocation, the vocation by 

5 O 



98 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

which she lives, performs a professional service to ten mil- 
lions of people. The service is great and lasting. The 
work done is satisfactory to the customer. What can annul 
the obligation resting upon each to render his portion of an 
equivalent, except the consent of the authoress "first had 
and obtained " 1 If Mrs. Stowe, instead of creating for our 
delight and instruction a glorious work of fiction, had con- 
tracted her fine powers to the point of inventing a nut- 
cracker or a match-safe, a rolling-pin or a needle-threader, 
every individual purchaser could have been compelled to 
pay money for the use of her ingenuity, and everybody 
would have thought it the most natural and proper thing 
in the world so to do. There are fifty American inventions 
now in use in Europe from which the inventors derive 
revenue. Revenue ! not a sum of money which, once 
spent, is gone forever, but that most solid and respectable 
of material blessings, a sum per annum ! Thus we reward 
those who light our matches. It is otherwise that we 
compensate those who kindle our souls. 

" Uncle Tom's Cabin," like every other novelty in litera- 
ture, was the late-maturing fruit of generations. Two 
centuries of wrong had to pass, before the Subject was 
complete for the Artist's hand, and the Artist herself was 
a flower of an ancient and gifted family. The Autobi- 
ography of Lyman Beecher has made known this remark- 
able family to the public. We can all see for ourselves 
how slowly and painfully this beautiful genius was nour- 
ished, what a narrow escape it had from being crushed 
and extinguished amid the horrors of theology and the 
poverty of a Connecticut parsonage, how it was saved, 
and even nurtured, by that extraordinary old father, that 
most strange and interesting character of New England, 
who could come home, after preaching a sermon that ap-> 
palled the galleries, and play the fiddle and riot with his 
children till bedtime. A piano found its way into the 
house, and the old man, whose geniality was of such 
abounding force that forty years of theology could not 
lessen it, let his children read Ivanhoe and the other novels 
of Sir Walter Scott. Partly by chance, partly by stealth, 
chiefly by the force of her own cravings, this daughter of 
the Puritans obtained the scanty nutriment which kept her 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 99 

genius from starving. By and by, on the banks of the 
Ohio, within sight of a slave State, the Subject and the 
Artist met, and there, from the lips of sore and panting 
fugitives, she gained, in the course of years, the knowledge 
which she revealed to mankind in " Uncle Tom's Cabin." 

When she had done the work, the United States stood 
by and saw her deprived of three fourths of her just and 
legitimate wages, without stirring a finger for her protec- 
tion. The book sold to the extent of two millions of 
copies, and the story was played in most of the theatres in 
which the English language is spoken, and in many French 
and German theatres. In one theatre in New York it was 
played eight times a week for twelve months. Considerable 
fortunes have been gained by its performance, and it is still 
a source of revenue to actors and managers. We believe 
that there are at least three persons in the United States, 
connected with theatres, who have gained more money 
from " Uncle Tom's Cabin " than Mrs. Stowe. Of all the 
immense sums which the exhibition of this story upon the 
stage has produced, the authoress has received nothing. 
When Dumas or Victor Hugo publishes a novel, the sale 
of the right to perform it as a play yields him from 
eighty thousand to one hundred and twenty thousand 
francs. These authors receive a share of the receipts of 
the theatre, the only fair arrangement, and this share, 
we believe, is usually one tenth ; which is also the usual 
percentage paid to authors upon the sale of their books. 
If a French author had written " Uncle Tom's Cabin," he 
would have enjoyed, 1. A part of the price of every copy 
sold in France ; 2. A share of the receipts of every theatre 
in France in which he permitted it to be played ; 3. A sum 
of money for the right of translation into English ; 4. A 
sum of money for the right of translation into German. 
We believe we are far within the truth when we say, that 
a literary success achieved by a French author equal to 
that of " Uncle Tom's Cabin " would have yielded that 
author half a million dollars in gold ; and that, too, in spite 
of the lamentable fact, that America would have stolen the 
product of his genius, instead of buying it. 

Mrs. Stowe received for " Uncle Tom's Cabin " the usual 
percentage upon the sale of the American edition ; which 



100 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

may have consisted of three hundred thousand copies. This 
percentage, with some other trifling sums, may have amount- 
ed to forty thousand dollars. From the theatre she has 
received nothing ; from foreign countries nothing, or next 
to nothing. This poor forty thousand dollars about 
enough to build a comfortable house in the country, and 
lay out an acre or two of grounds was the product of the 
supreme literary success of all times ! A corresponding suc- 
cess in sugar, in stocks, in tobacco, in cotton, in invention, 
in real estate, would have yielded millions upon millions to 
the lucky operator. To say that Mrs. Stowe, through our 
cruel and shameful indifference with regard to the rights 
of authors, native and foreign, has been kept out of two 
hundred thousand dollars, honestly hers, is a most moder- 
ate and safe statement. This money was due to her as 
entirely as the sum named upon a bill of exchange is due 
to the rightful owner of the same. It was for " value re- 
ceived." A permanently attractive book, moreover, would 
naturally be more than a sum of money ; it would be an 
estate/; it would be an income. This wrong, therefore, 
continues to the present moment, and will go on longer 
than the life of the authoress. While we are writing this 
sentence, probably, some German, French, Spanish, Italian, 
Russian, or English bookseller is dropping into his " till " 
the price of a copy of " Uncle Tom's Cabin," the whole of 
which he will keep, instead of sending ten per cent of it to 
Hartford on the 1st of January next. 

We have had another literary success in these years, 

Mr. Motley's Histories of the Dutch Republic and of the 
United Netherlands. As there are fifteen persons in the 
world who can enjoy fiction to one that will read much of 
any other kind of literary production, the writers of fiction 
usually receive some compensation for their labors. Not a 
fair nor an adequate compensation, but some. This com- 
pensation will never be fair nor adequate until every man 
or woman in the whole world who buys a copy of a novel, 
or sees it played, shall, in so doing, contribute a certain 
stipulated sum to the author. Nevertheless, the writers 
of fiction do get a little money, and a few of them are able 
to live almost as well as a retired grocer. Now and then 
we hear of an author who gets almost as much money for a 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 101 

novel that enthralls and enchants two or three nations for 
many months, as a beardless operator in stocks sometimes 
wins between one and two P. M. It is not so with the 
heroes of research, like Motley, Buckle, Bancroft, and Car- 
lyle. Upon this point we are ready to make a sweeping 
assertion, and it is this. No well-executed work, involving 
original research, can pay expenses, unless the author is 
protected in his right to the market of the world. This is 
one of the points to which we particularly wish to call 
attention. Give us international copyright, and it imme- 
diately becomes possible in the United States for a man 
who is not rich to devote his existence to the production of 
works of permanent and universal value. Continue to with- 
hold international copyright, and this privilege remains the 
almost exclusive portion of men of wealth. For, in the 
United States, there is scarcely any such thing as honest 
leisure in connection with business or a salaried office. 

Now, with regard to Mr. Motley, whose five massive vol- 
umes of Dutch History are addressed to the educated class 
of ah 1 nations, before that author could Write the first 
sentence of his work he must have been familiar with six 
languages, English, Latin, Dutch, French, German, and 
Spanish, besides possessing that general knowledge of his- 
tory, literature, and science which constitutes what is called 
culture. He must also have spent five laborious years in 
gaining an intimate knowledge of his subject, in the course 
of which he must have travelled in more than one country, 
and expended large sums in the purchase of books and 
documents, and for copies of manuscripts. Living in the 
cheap capitals of Continental Europe, and managing his 
affairs with economy, he may have accomplished his pre- 
paratory studies at an expenditure of ten thousand dollars, 
two thousand dollars a year. The volumes contain in all 
about three thousand five hundred large pages. At two 
pages a day, which would be very rapid work, and probably 
twice as fast as he did work, he could have executed the 
five volumes, and got them through the press (a year's hard 
labor in itself), in seven years. Here are twelve years' 
labor, and twenty-four thousand dollars' necessary expendi- 
ture. Mr. Motley probably expended more than twelve 
years, and twice twentyTfour thousand dollars; but we 



102 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

choose to estimate the work at its necessary cost. Two 
other items must be also considered : 1. The talents of 
the author, which, employed in another profession, would 
have brought large returns in money and honor ; 2. The 
intense and exhausting nature of the labor. The produc- 
tion of a work which demands strict fidelity to truth, as 
well as excellence in composition, which obliges the 
author, first, to know all, and, after that, to impart the 
essence of his knowledge in an agreeable and striking man- 
ner, is the hardest continuous work ever done by man. 
It is at times a fierce and passionate joy ; it is at times a 
harrowing anxiety ; it is at times a vast despair ; but it is 
always very hard labor. The search after a fact is some- 
times as arduous as the chase after a deer, and it may last 
six weeks, and, after all, there may be no such fact, or it 
may be valueless. And when all is done, when the 
mountain of manuscript lies before the author ready for 
the press, he cannot for the life of him tell whether his 
work is trash or treasure. As poor Charlotte Bronte said, 
when she had finished Jane Eyre, " I only know that the 
story has interested me" Finally comes the anguish of 
having the work judged by persons whose only knowledge 
of the subject is derived from the work itself. 

No matter for all that : we are speaking of money. This 
work, we repeat, cost the author twenty-four thousand dol- 
lars to produce. Messrs. Harper sell it at fifteen dollars a 
copy. The usual allowance to the author is ten per cent 
of the retail price, and, as a rule, it ought not to be more. 
Upon works of that magnitude, however, it often is more. 
Suppose, then, that Mr. Motley receives two dollars for 
every copy of his work sold by his American publishers. A 
meritorious work of general interest, i. e. a book not ad- 
dressed to any class, sect, or profession, that costs fifteen 
dollars, is considered successful in the United States if it 
sells three thousand copies. Five thousand is decided suc- 
cess. Seven thousand is brilliant success. Ten thousand 
copies, sold in the lifetime of the author, is all the success 
that can be hoped for. Ten thousand copies would yield 
to the author twenty thousand dollars, which is four thou- 
sand dollars less than it cost him. 

But Mr. Motley's work is of universal interest. It does 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 103 

not concern the people of the United States any more than 
it does the people of England, France, and Germany, nor 
as much as it does the people of Spain and Holland. 
Wherever, in the whole world, there is an intelligent, edu- 
cated human being, there is a person who would like to 
read and possess Motley's Histories, which relate events of 
undying interest to all the few in every land who are capa- 
ble of comprehending their significance. Give this author 
the market of the world, and he is compensated for his 
labor. Deny him this right, and it is impossible he should 
be. England buys a greater number of fifteen-dollar books 
than the United States, because, in England, rich men are 
generally educated men, and in the United States the class 
who most want such books cannot buy them. Our clergy 
are poor ; our students are generally poor ; our lawyers and 
doctors are not rich, as a class ; our professors and school- 
masters are generally very poor ; our men of business, as a 
class, read little but the daily paper ; and our men 6*f leisure 
are too few to be of any account. Nor have we yet that 
universal system of town and village self-sustaining libra- 
ries, which will, by and by, abundantly atone for the igno- 
rance and indifference of the rich, and make the best mar- 
ket for books the world has ever seen. England would 
readily " take " ten thousand copies of a three-guinea book 
of first-rate merit and universal interest. A French trans- 
lation of the same would sell five thousand in France, and, 
probably three thousand more in other Continental coun- 
tries. A German translation would place it within the 
reach of nations of readers, and a few hundreds in each of 
those nations would become possessors of the work. Or, in 
other words, an International Copyright would multiply the 
gains of an author like Mr. Motley by three, possibly by 
four. 20,000 X 3 = 60,000. 

We are far from thinking that sixty thousand dollars 
would be a compensation for such work as Mr. Motley has 
done. We merely say, that the reasonable prospect of even 
such a partial recompense as that would make it possible 
for persons not rich to produce in the United States works 
of universal and permanent value. The question is, Are 
we prepared to say that such works shall be attempted here 
only by rich men, or by men like Noah Webster, who lived 



104 TOPICS OF THE TIME, 

upon a Spelling-Book while he wrote his Dictionary 1 Gen- 
erally, the acquisition of an independent income is the work 
of a lifetime, and it ought to be. But the production of a 
masterpiece, involving original research, is also the work of 
a lifetime. Not one man in a thousand millions can do 
both. Give us International Copyright, and there are al- 
ready five publishers in the United States who are able and 
willing to give an author the equivalent of Gibbon's sixteen 
hundred pounds a year, or of 'Noah Webster's Spelling- 
Book, or Prescott's thousand dollars a month ; i. e. main- 
tenance while he is doing that part of his work which re- 
quires exclusive devotion to it. Besides, a man intent upon 
the execution of a great work can contrive, in many ways, 
to exist just exist for ten years, provided he has a 
reasonable prospect of moderate reward when his task is 
done. There are fifty men in New England alone who 
would deem it an honor and a privilege " to invest " in such 
an enterprise. 

Mr. Bancroft's is another case in point. Mr. Buckle re- 
marks, that there is no knowledge until there is a class who 
have conquered leisure, and that, although most of this 
class will always employ their leisure in the pursuit of 
pleasure, yet a few will devote it to the acquisition of knowl- 
edge. These few are the flower of their species, its or- 
naments and benefactors, for the flower issues in most 
precious fruit, which finally nourishes and exalts the whole. 
We are such idle and pleasure-loving creatures, and civili- 
zation places so many alluring delights within the reach of 
a rich man, that it must ever be accounted a merit in one 
of this class if he devotes himself to generous toil for the 
public good. George Bancroft has spent thirty years in 
such toil. His History of the United States has stood to 
him in the place of a profession. His house is filled with 
the most costly material, the spoils of foreign archives and 
of domestic chests, the pick of auction sales, the hidden 
treasure of ancient bookstores, and the chance discoveries 
of dusty garrets. His work has been eminently " success- 
ful," and he has received for it about as much as his mate- 
rial cost, and perhaps half a dollar a day for his labor. 
When the third volume of the work was about to appear, 
a London publisher offered three hundred pounds for the 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 105 

advance sheets, which were furnished, and the money was 
paid. The same sum was offered and paid for the advance 
sheets of the fourth volume. Then the London publisher 
discovered that " the courtesy of the trade " would suffice 
for his purpose, and he forbore to pay for that which he 
could get for nothing. Six hundred pounds, therefore, is 
all that this American author has received from foreign 
countries for thirty years' labor. His work has been trans- 
lated into two or three foreign languages, and it is found in 
all European libraries of any completeness, whether public 
or private ; but this little sum is all that has come back to 
him. Surely, there cannot be one reader of this volume 
so insensible to moral distinctions as not to feel that this is 
wrong. The happy accident of Mr. Bancroft's not needing 
the money has nothing to do with the right and wrong of 
the matter. No man is so rich that he does not like to 
receive money which he has honestly earned ; for money 
honestly earned is honor as well as reward, and it is not for 
us, the benefited party, to withhold his right from a man 
because he has been generous to us. And the question 
again occurs, Shall we sit down content with an arrange- 
ment which obliges us to wait for works of permanent and 
universal interest until the accident occurs of a rich man 
willing and able to execute them ? 'It is not an accident, 
but a most rare conjunction of accidents. First, the man 
must be competent ; secondly, he must be willing ; thirdly, 
he must be rich. This fortunate combination is so little 
likely to occur in a new country, that it must be accounted 
honorable to the United States that in the same generation 
we have had three such men, Bancroft, Motley, and Pres- 
cott. Is it such persons that should be singled out from 
the mass of their fellow-citizens to be deprived of their 
honest gains ? Besides, riches take to themselves wings. 
A case has occurred among us of a rich man devoting the 
flower of his days to the production of excellent works, and 
then losing his property. 

It will be of no avail to adduce the instance of Dr. J. W. 
Draper. We have had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Draper 
relate the history of his average day. Up at six. Break- 
fast at seven. An hour's ride to the city. Busy at the 
Xew York University from nine to one. Home in cars to 
5* 



106 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

dinner at three. At four P. M. begins his day's literary 
work, and keeps steadily on till eleven. Then, bed. Not 
one man in many millions could endure such a life, and no 
man, perhaps, ought to endure it. Dr. Draper happens to 
possess a most sound and easy-working constitution of body 
and mind, and he has acquired a knowledge of the laws 
which relate to its well-being. But, even in his case, it is 
questionable whether it is well, or even right, to devote so 
large a part of his existence to labor. It is probable, too, 
that an International Copyright would, ere this, have re- 
leased him from the necessity of it, or the temptation to it. 

Few of us are aware of the extent to which American 
works are now reprinted in England. We noticed, the 
other day, in an English publication, a page of advertise- 
ments containing the titles of thirteen volumes announced 
to be sold at " Is." or " Is. 6d." Twelve of the thirteen 
were American. Among them, we remember, were Mrs. 
Stowe's " Little Foxes," Dr. Holmes's " Humorous Poems," 
and Mr. Lowell's " Biglow Papers." The cheap publication 
stores of Great Britain are heaped with such reprints, the 
sale of which yields nothing to the authors. We have even 
seen in England a series of school writing-books, the inven- 
tion of a Philadelphia writing-master, the English copies of 
which betrayed no trace of their origin. Nor have we been 
able, after much inquiry, to hear of one instance in which 
an English publisher has paid an American author, resident 
in America, for anything except advance sheets. Mr. Long- 
fellow, whose works are as popular in England as in Amer- 
ica, and as salable, has derived, we believe, considerable 
sums for advance sheets of his works ; but, unless we are 
grossly misinformed, even he receives no percentage upon 
the annual sale of his works in Great Britain. 

And the aggravating circumstance of all this spoliation 
of the men and women who are the country's ornament and 
boast is, that it is wholly our fault. We force the Euro- 
pean publishers to steal. England is more than willing, 
France is more than willing, Germany is quite willing, 
Sweden, Denmark, and Russia are willing, to come at once 
into an international arrangement which shall render liter- 
ary property as sacred and as safe in all civilized lands as 
tobacco and whiskey. All the countries we have named 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 107 

are now obliged to steal it, and do steal it. Who would 
have expected to find the Essays of Mr. Emerson a topic in 
the interior of Russia 1 We find them, however, familiarly 
alluded to in the Russian novel " Fathers and Sons," recently 
translated. If authors had their rights, a rill of Russian sil- 
ver would come trickling into Concord, while a broad and 
brimming river of it would inundate a certain cottage in 
Hartford. How many modest and straitened American 
homes would have new parlor carpets this year, if henceforth, 
on the first days of January and July, drafts to their address 
were to be dropped in the mail in every capital of the world 
which the work done in those homes instructs or cheers ! 
Nor would new carpets be all. Many authors would be 
instantly delivered from the fatal necessity of over-produc- 
tion, the vice that threatens literature with annihila- 
tion. 

There is another aggravating circumstance, most ag- 
gravating. The want of an International Copyright chiefly 
robs our best and brightest ! A dull book protects itself ; 
no foreigner wants it. An honest drudge, who compiles 
timely works of utility, or works which appease a transient 
curiosity, and which thousands of " agents " put under the 
nose of the whole population, can make a fortune by one 
or two lucky hits. There are respectable gentlemen not 
far off, who, with pen and scissors, in four months, manu- 
factured pieces of merchandise, labelled " Life of Abraham 
Lincoln," of which a hundred thousand copies each were 
sold in half a year, and which yielded the manufacturer 
fifteen thousand dollars. This sum is probably more than 
the sum total of Mr. Emerson's receipts from his published 
works, the fruit of forty years of study and meditation. 
It is chiefly our dear Immortals and our best Ephemerals 
who need this protection from their country's justice. It 
is our Emersons, our Hawthornes, our Longfellows, our 
Lowells, our Holmeses, our Bryants, our Curtises, our 
Beechers, our Mrs. Stowes, our Motleys, our Bancrofts, our 
Prescotts, whom we permit all the world to plunder. We 
harmless drudges and book-makers are protected by our 
own dulness. We are panoplied in our insignificance. The 
stupidest set of school-books we ever looked into has yielded, 
for many years, an annual profit of one hundred thousand 



108 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

dollars, and is now enriching its third set of proprietors. 
No one, therefore, need feel any concern for us. But, 
honorable members, spare the few who redeem and exalt 
the country's name, and who keep alive the all but extin- 
guished celestial fire ! If American property abroad must 
be robbed, let cotton and tobacco take a turn, and see how 
they like it. Invite Manchester to come to the Liverpool 
Docks and help itself. Let there be free smoking in 
Europe. Summon the merchants of London to a scramble 
for American bills of exchange. Select for spoliation any- 
thing but the country's literature. 

The worst remains to be told. It is bad to have your 
pocket picked ; but there is something infinitely worse, 
it is to pick a pocket. Who would not rather be stolen 
from, than steal 1 Who would not rather be murdered, 
than be a murderer 1 ? Nevertheless, in depriving foreign 
authors of their rights, it is still ourselves whom we injure 
most. The great damage to America, and to American 
literature, from the want of an international copyright law, 
is not the thousands of dollars per annum which authors 
lose. This is, in fact, the smallest item that enters into 
the huge sum total of our loss. 

It maims or kills seven tenths of the contemporary liter- 
ature that must be translated before it is available for 
publication here. Charles Reade, in that gallant and bril- 
liant little book of his, "The Eighth Commandment," 
quotes from a letter written in Cologne, in 1851, the fol- 
lowing passage : 

" About thirty years ago the first translations from 
English were brought to the German market. The Waver- 
ley Novels were extensively circulated, and read with 
avidity by all classes. Next carne Bulwer, and after him 
Dickens and other writers. Rival editions of the same 
works sprang up by the half-dozen ; the profits decreased, 
and the publishers were obliged to cut down the pay of the 
translators. I know that a translation-monger at Grimm 
pays about 6 for a three-volume novel. 

" These works, got up in a hurry, and printed with bad 
type on wretched paper, are completely flooding the market ; 
and, as they are much cheaper than original works, they 
are a serious obstacle to our national literature. Thus 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 109 

much for our share in the miseries of free trade * in trans- 
lations. 

" Now for yours. There are able men in Germany, who, 
were it made worth their while, could and would put the 
master works of your novelists and historians into a decent 
German garb. But under the present system these men 
are elbowed out of the field." 

Change a few names in this passage, and it describes, 
with considerable exactness, the state of the translation 
market in the United States. Works, which in France 
charm the boudoir and amuse the whole of the educated 
class, sink, under the handling of hasty translators and 
enterprising publishers, into what we call " Yellow-Covered 
Literature," which is to be found chiefly upon the wharves. 
Respectable publishers have a well-founded terror of French 
and German translations ; since, after incurring the expense 
of translation, they have no protection against the publica- 
tion of another version except " the courtesy of the trade," 
a code of laws which has not much force in the regions 
from which the literature of the Yellow Cover emanates. 
We are not getting half the good we ought from the con- 
temporary literature of France, Germany, Sweden, Russia, 
Holland, Italy, and we never shall, until American pub- 
lishers can acquire property in it by fair purchase, which 
the law will protect. The business of furnishing the Ameri- 
can public with good translations from the French would 
of itself maintain two or three great publishing houses. 
There is a mine of wealth there waiting for the removal of 
the squatters and the recognition of the rightful title-deeds. 
What would California have been worth to us, or to itself, 
or to anybody, if its treasures had been left to the hurried 
scratchings over the surface of uncapitalled prospecters 1 
Capital and skill wait until the title is clear. Then they 
go in, with their ponderous engines, and pound the rocks 
till the gold glitters all over the heap. 

Messrs. Appleton, of New York, have recently ventured 
to publish good translations and good editions of Madame 
Miihlbach's historical novels. The name of this lady being 



* Upon this expression Mr. Reade justly remarks : " This is a foolish 
and inapplicable phrase. Free trade is free buying and selling, not free 



110 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

new to America, the enterprise was a risk, a risk of 
many thousand dollars, a risk which only a wealthy 
house would be justified in assuming. The great expense 
of such an undertaking is incurred in making the new 
name known, in advertising it, in shouting it into the 
ears of a public deafened with a thousand outcries. An 
enormous sum of money may easily be spent in this way, 
when advertising costs from twenty cents to two dollars a 
line. Suppose the efforts of the publishers are successful, 
see how beautifully the present system works ! The more 
successful they are, the more perilous their property be- 
comes ! It is safe only as long as it is worthless. Just as 
soon as they have, by the expenditure of unknown thou- 
sands, created for the works of this German lady a steady 
demand, which promises to recompense them, they are 
open to the inroads of the Knights of the Yellow Cover ! 
See, too, the effects upon the Berlin authoress. Playing 
such a dangerous and costly game as this, the American 
publisher dare not, cannot treat with her in the only proper 
and honorable way, open a fair bargain, so much for so 
much. Messrs. Appleton did themselves the honor, the 
other day, to send her a thousand dollars, gold, which was 
an act as wise as it was right. We enjoyed an exquisite 
pleasure in looking upon the lovely document, duly stamped 
and authenticated, which has ere this given her a claim 
upon a Berlin banker ; and we have also a prodigious hap- 
piness in committing the impropriety of making the fact 
public. Nevertheless, it is not thus that authors should 
be paid for their own. All we can say of it is, that it is 
better than nothing to her, and the best a publisher can do 
under the circumstances. 

This business of publishing books is the most difficult one 
carried on in the world. It demands qualities so seldom 
found in the same individual, that there has scarcely ever 
been an eminent and stable publishing house which did not 
consist of several active and able men. Failure is the rule, 
success the rare exception. The shores of the business 
world are strewn thick with the wrecks of ventures in 
this line that gave every promise of bringing back a large 
return. It has been proved a task beyond the wisdom of 
mortals, to decide with any positive degree of certainty 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. Ill 

whether a heap of blotted manuscript is the most precious 
or the most worthless of all the productions of human 
industry. Young publishers think they can tell ; old pub- 
lishers know they cannot. This is so true, that for a 
publisher to have a knowledge of the commodity in which 
he deals is generally a point against his success as a pub- 
lisher; and it will certainly ruin him, unless he has a 
remarkably sound judgment, or a good, solid, unlearned 
partner, whose intuitive sense of what the public wants is 
unbiased by tastes of his own. 

It is this terrible uncertainty as to the value of the 
commodity purchased, which renders publishing a business 
so difficult, precarious, and unprofitable; and the higher 
the character of the literature, the greater the difficulty 
becomes. Publishers who confine themselves chiefly to 
works of utility and necessity, or to works professional and 
sectarian, have an easy task to perform compared with that 
of a publisher who aims to supply the public with pure 
science and high literature. If any business can claim 
favorable consideration from those who have in charge the 
distribution of the public burdens, surely it is this. If in 
any way its perils can be justly diminished by law, surely 
that protection ought not to be withheld. We believe it 
could be shown that the business of publishing what the 
trade calls "miscellaneous books," i. e. books which depend 
solely upon their intrinsic interest or merit, yields a smaller 
return for the capital and talent invested in it than any 
other. The Harpers have a grand establishment, one 
of the wonders of America. Any one going over that 
assemblage of enormous edifices, and observing the multi- 
tude of men and women employed in them, the vast and 
far-reaching enterprises going forward, some of which 
involve a large expenditure for years before any return is 
possible, the great numbers of men of ability, learning, 
and experience who are superintending the various depart- 
ments, and the amazing quantities of merchandise pro- 
duced, the mere catalogue of which is a large volume, 
any one, we say, observing these things, would naturally 
conclude, that the proprietors must be in the receipt of Van- 
derbiltian incomes. The same amount of capital, force, 
experience, and talent employed in any other branch of 



112 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

business could not fail to put the incomes of the proprietors 
high up among those which require six figures for their 
expression. Compare the returns of these monarchs of the 
"trade" with those of our dry-goods magnates, and our 
mighty men in cotton, tobacco, and railroads. A dealer in 
dry-goods in the city of New York has returned as the 
income of a single year a sum half as large as the whole 
capital invested in the establishment of the Harpers. If 
the signal successes of publishing successes which are the 
result of the rarest conjunctions of talent, capital, experi- 
ence, and opportunity are represented by incomes of 
twenty and thirty thousand paper dollars a year, what 
must be the general condition of the trade 1 But it is the 
difficulty of conducting the business at all, not the slender- 
ness of its profits, upon which we now desire the reader to 
reflect. That difficulty, we repeat, arises from the fact 
that a publisher buys his pig in a poke. He generally 
knows not, and cannot know, whether what he buys is 
worth much, little, or nothing. 

But there is one branch of his business which does not 
present this difficulty, the reprinting of works previously 
published in a foreign country. He has the advantage of 
holding in his hand the precise article which he proposes 
to reproduce, a printed volume, which he can read with 
ease and rapidity ; and this is nearly as great an advantage 
as a manager has who sees a play performed before buying 
it. He has the still greater advantage of a public verdict 
upon the book. It has been tried upon a public ; and it is 
a rule almost without exception, that a book which sells 
largely in one country will not fail in another. Dickens, 
Thackeray, Reade, Miss Mulock, Anthony Trollope, George 
Eliot, Dumas, Hugo, George Sand, have in all foreign coun- 
tries a popularity which bears a certain proportion to that 
which they enjoy in their own ; and even the Chinese novel 
published some years ago in England was a safe specula- 
tion, because it was universally popular in China. The 
Russian novel before alluded to was a prudent enterprise, 
because Russia had previously tasted and enjoyed it. Lit- 
erature of high character is always pervaded with the 
essence of the nationality which produced it, but it is, for 
that very reason, the more interesting to other nations. 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 113 

Don Quixote has more Spain in it than all the histories of 
Spain ; but in the library of the German collector of Cer- 
vantes, whose death has been recently announced, there 
were more than twice as many foreign editions as Span- 
ish. According to the Pall Mall Gazette, there were 
400 editions in Spanish, 168 in French, 200 in English, 87 
in Portuguese, 96 in Italian, 70 in German, 4 in Russian, 4 
in Greek, 8 in Polish, 6 in Danish, 13 in Swedish, and 5 in 
Latin. Poor Cervantes ! How eloquently this list pleads 
for International Copyright ! 

It is, then, in the republication of foreign works that our 
publishers ought to find an element of certainty, which 
cannot appertain to the publication of original and untried 
productions. But it is precisely here that chaos reigns. In 
the issue of native works, there is but a single uncertainty ; 
in the republication of foreign, there are many. No man 
knows what his rights are ; nor whether he has any rights ; 
nor whether there are any" rights; nor, if he has rights, 
whether they will be respected. This chaos has taken to 
itself the pleasant and delusive name of " Courtesy of the 
Trade." Before the " reign of law " is established in any 
province of human affairs, we generally see men feeling 
their way t* it, trying to find something else that will 
answer the purpose, endeavoring to reduce the chaos of 
conflicting claims to some kind of rule. The publishers of 
the United States have been doing this for many years, and 
the result is the unwritten code called the Courtesy of the 
Trade, a code defective in itself, with neither judge to 
expound it, jury to decide upon it, nor sheriif to execute 
it. This code consisted at first of one rule, if a publisher 
issues a foreign work, no other American publisher shall 
issue it. But it often happened that two or three publish- 
ers begfm or desired to begin tKe printing of the same 
book. To meet this and other cases, other laws were 
added, until at present the code, as laid down by the rigor- 
ists, consists of the following rules : 

1. If a publisher issues an edition of a foreign work, he 
has acquired an exclusive right to it for a period undefined. 

2. If a publisher is the first to announce his intention to 
publish a foreign work, that announcement gives him an 
exclusive right to publish it. 



114 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

3. If a publisher has already issued a work of a foreign 
author, he has acquired thereby an exclusive right to the 
republication of all subsequent works by the same author. 

4. The purchase of advance sheets for publication in a 
periodical gives a publisher the exclusive right to publish 
the same in any other form. 

5. All and several of these rights may be bought and 
sold, like any other kind of property. 

There is a kind of justice in all these rules. If we could 
concede that a foreign author has no ownership of the coin- 
age of his brain, if anything but that author's free gift 
or purchased consent could convey that property to another, 
if foreign literature is the legitimate spoil of America, 
then some such code as this would be the only method of 
preventing the business from degenerating into a game of 
unmitigated grab. In its present ill-defined and most im- 
perfect state, this system of " courtesy " scarcely mitigates 
the game at all ; and, accordingly, in " the trade," instead 
of the friendly feeling that would naturally exist among 
honorable men in the highest branch of business, we find 
feuds, heart-burnings, and a grievous sense of wrongs un- 
redressed and unredressable. Some houses " announce " 
everything that is announced on the other ^ide of the 
Atlantic, so as to have the first choice. Smaller firms, see- 
ing these announcements, dare not undertake any foreign 
work, even though the great house never, decides to publish 
the book upon which the smaller had fixed its attention. 
It is only under the reign of law that the rights of the weak 
have any security. In the most exquisitely organized sys- 
tem of piracy, no man can rely upon the enjoyment of a 
right which he is not strong enough personally to defend. 
It is not every house that can crush a rival edition by sell- 
ing thousands of expensive books at half their cost. Be- 
tween the giant houses that tower above him, and the 
yellow-covered gentry that prowl about his feet, an Ameri- 
can publisher of only ordinary resources has a game to play 
which is really too difficult for the limited capacities of man. 
"Who can wonder that most of them lose it 1 

One effect of this courtesy system is, that many excellent 
works, which it would be a public benefit to have reprinted 
here, are not reprinted. Another is, that corrected or im- 



INTEENATIONAL COPYKIGHT. 115 

proved editions cannot be given to the American reader 
without bringing down upon the publisher the enmity or 
the vengeance of a rival. It is not common in Europe for 
the first editions of important works to be stereotyped ; but 
in America they always are. The European author fre- 
quently makes extensive additions and valuable emenda- 
tions in each successive edition; until, in the course of 
years, his work is essentially different from, and far superior 
to, the first essay. We cannot have the advantage of the 
improved version. There is a set of old and worn stereo- 
type plates in the way, the proprietor of which will not 
sacrifice them, nor permit another publisher to produce the 
corrected edition, which would as completely destroy their 
value as though they were melted into type metal. Who 
can blame him 1 No one likes to have a valuable property 
suddenly rendered valueless. " It is not human nature." 
Mr. Lewes is not justified in so bitterly reproaching Messrs. 
Appleton for their cold entertainment of his offer to them 
of the enlarged version of his " History of Philosophy." 

"I felt," says Mr. Lewes, "that Messrs. Appleton, of 
New York, had, in courtesy, a prior claim, on the ground 
of their having reprinted the previous edition in 1857. 
Accordingly I wrote to them, through their London agent, 
stating that I considered they had a claim to the first offer, 
and stating, further, that the new edition was substantially 
a new book. [As -this is an important element in the pres- 
ent case, allow me to add, that the edition of 1857 was in 
one volume 8vo, published at sixteen shillings, whereas the 
new edition is in two volumes 8vo, published at thirty 
shillings ; and the work is so considerably altered and en- 
larged that a new title has been affixed to it, for the pur- 
pose of marking it off from its predecessors.] Questions of 
courtesy are, however, but ill understood by some people, 
and by Messrs. Appleton so ill understood that they did 
not even answer my letter. After waiting more than three 
months for an answer, I asked a friend to see their London 
agent on the subject, and thus I learned that Messrs. Ap- 
pleton risum teneatis, amid? 'considered they had a 
right to publish all future editions of my work without 
payment,' because ten years ago they had given the mag- 
nificent sum of twenty-five pounds to secure themselves 
against rivals for the second edition." 



116 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

The omission to answer the author's letter, we may 
assume, was accidental. It is not correct to say that the 
publishers founded their claim to issue the new edition 
upon their payment of twenty-five pounds. The real diffi- 
culty was, that Messrs. Appleton possessed the plates of the 
first edition, and could not issue the enlarged edition with- 
out, first, destroying a property already existing, and, sec- 
ondly, creating a new property at an expenditure about four 
times as great as the sum originally invested. The accept- 
ance of Mr. Lewes's offer would have involved an expendi- 
ture of several thousand dollars, at a time when, for a 
variety of reasons, works of that character could hardly be 
expected to return the outlay upon them. The exclusive 
and certain ownership of the work might well justify its 
republication, even now, when it costs exactly three times 
as much to manufacture a book in the United States as it 
did seven years ago. But nothing short of this would war- 
rant a publisher in undertaking it. The real sinners, against 
whom Mr. Lewes should have launched his sarcasm, are the 
people of the United States, who permit their instructors, 
both native and foreign, to be robbed of their property with 
impunity. Thus we see that a few hundred pounds of 
metal are likely to bar the entrance among us of a work 
which demonstrates, in the clearest and most attractive 
manner, the inutility of all that has hitherto gone by the 
name of "metaphysics," and which also indicates the method 
of investigation from which good results are to be rationally 
hoped for. 

It is the grossest injustice to hold American publishers 
responsible for the system of ill-regulated plunder which 
they have inherited, and which injures them more imme- 
diately and palpably than any other class, excepting alone 
the class producing the commodity in which they deal. 
There are no business men more honorable or more gener- 
ous than the publishers of the United States, and especially 
honorable and considerate are they toward authors. The 
relation usually existing between author and publisher in 
the United States is that of a warm and lasting friendship, 
such as that which subsisted for so many years between Irv- 
ing and Putnam, and which now animates and dignifies the 
intercourse between the literary men of New England and 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 117 

Messrs. Ticknor and Fields, and which gathers in the well- 
known room of the Harpers a host of writers who are at- 
tached friends of the " House." The relation, too, is one 
of a singular mutual trustfulness. The author receives his 
semiannual account from the publisher with as absolute a 
faith in its correctness as though he had himself counted 
the volumes sold ; and the publisher consigns the manu- 
script of the established author to the printer almost with- 
out opening it, confident that, whether it succeeds or fails, 
the author has done his best. We have heard of instances 
in which a publisher had serious cause of complaint against 
an author, but never have we known an author to be inten- 
tionally wronged by a publisher. We . have known a pub- 
lisher, in the midst of the ruin of his house, to make it one 
of the first objects of his care to save authors from loss, or 
make their inevitable losses less. How common, too, it is 
in the trade for a publisher to go beyond the letter of his 
bond, and, after publishing five books without profit, to give 
the author of the successful sixth more than the stipulated 
price ! Let every one speak of the market as he finds 
it. For our part, after fifteen years of almost daily inter- 
course with publishers, we have no recollections of them 
that are not agreeable, and can call to mind no transaction 
in which they did not show themselves to be men of honor 
as much as men of business. We have not the least doubt 
that Mr. Peterson honestly thought he had acquired a right, 
by fair purchase, to sell the property of Charles Dickens in 
the United States as long as he should continue in business, 
and then to dispose of that right to his successor. We are 
equally confident that Messrs. Harper felt themselves com- 
pletely justified in endeavoring to crush the Diamond Edi- 
tion of Thackeray. All this chaos and uncertainty, all these 
feuds and enmities, have one and the same cause, the 
existence in the world of a kind of property which is at 
once the most precious, the easiest stolen, and the worst 
protected. 

Almost to a man, our publishers are in favor of an Inter- 
national Copyright. We have been able to hear of but one 
exception, and this is the publisher of but one book, 
Webster's Dictionary, the work of all others now in exist- 
ence that would profit most from just protection in foreign 



118 TOPICS OF THE TIME/ 

countries. There is an impression in many circles that the 
Harpers are opposed to it. We are enabled to state, upon 
the authority of a member of that great house, that this is 
not now, and never has been, the case. Messrs. Harper 
comprehend, as well as we do, that they would gain more 
from the measure than any other house in the world ; 
because it is the natural effect of law, while it protects 
the weak, to legitimate and establish the dominion of the 
strong. International Copyright would benefit every crea- 
ture connected with publishing, but it would benefit most 
of all the great and wealthy houses. The Harpers have 
spent tens of thousands in enforcing the observance of the 
courtesy of the trade, but they cannot enforce it. It is a 
work never done and always beginning. It cost them four 
hundred of our ridiculous dollars for the advance sheets of 
each number of Mr. Dickens's last novel ; and within forty- 
eight hours of the publication of the Magazine containing 
it, two other editions were for sale under their noses. The 
matter for " Harper's Magazine " often costs three or four 
thousand dollars a number ; can any one suppose that the 
proprietors like to see Blackwood and half a dozen other 
British magazines sold all over the country at a little more 
than the cost of paper and printing ? They like it as little 
as the proprietors of Blackwood like it. This is a wrong 
which injures two nations and benefits one printer ; and 
that printer would himself do better if he could obtain ex- 
clusive rights by fair purchase. No ; Messrs. Harper, we 
are happy to state, are decidedly in favor of an International 
Copyright, and so is every other general publishing house 
in the country of which we have any knowledge. 

Consider the case of our venerable and beloved instructor, 
"The North American Review," conducted with so much 
diligence, energy, and tact by the present editors. Not a 
number of it has appeared under their management which 
has not been a national benefit ; and no country more needs 
such a periodical than the United States, now standing on 
the threshold of a new career. The time has passed when 
a review could consist chiefly of the skilfully condensed con- 
tents of interesting books, which men could execute in the 
intervals of professional duty, and think themselves happy 
in receiving one dollar for a printed page, extracts deducted. 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 119 

At the present time, a review must initiate as well as criti- 
cise, and do something itself as well as comment upon the 
performances of others. We believe that no number of the 
North American Review now appears, the matter of which 
costs as little as a thousand dollars. But it has to compete, 
not only with the four British Reviews sold here at the price 
of paper and printing, but with several periodicals made up 
of selections from the reviews and magazines of Europe. 
Nor is this all. A public accustomed to buy books and 
periodicals at a price into which nothing enters but manual 
labor and visible material is apt to pause and recoil when 
it is solicited to pay the just value of those commodities. 
A man who buys a number of the Westminster Review for 
half a dollar is likely to regard a dollar and a half as an 
enormous price for a number of the North American, though 
he gets for his money what cost a thousand dollars before 
the printer saw it. For forty years or more we have all 
been buying our books and reviews at thieves' prices, 
prices in which everybody was considered except the crea- 
tors of the value; and the consequence is, that we turn 
away when a proper price is demanded for a book, and re- 
gard ourselves as injured beings. How monstrous for a 
volume of Emerson to be sold for a dollar! In England 
and France, when the price is to be fixed upon works of 
that nature, the mere cost of paper and printing is hardly 
considered at all. Such trifles are felt, and rightly felt, to 
have little to do with the question of price. The publisher 
knows very well that he has to dispose of one of those rare 
and beautiful products which only a very few thousands of 
his countrymen will care to possess, or could enjoy if it 
were thrust upon th^m. He fixes the price with reference 
to the facts of the case, the important facts as well as 
the trivial, the rights of the author as well as the little bill 
of the printer, and that price is half a guinea. The want 
of an International Copyright, besides lowering and de- 
grading all literature, has demoralized the public by getting 
it into the habit of paying for books the price of stolen 
goods. And hence the North American Review, which 
would naturally be a most valuable property, has never 
yielded a profit corresponding to its real value. People 
stand aghast at the invitation to pay six dollars a year for 



120 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

an article, the mere unmanufactured ingredients of which 
cost a thousand times six dollars. 

Good contemporary books cannot be very cheap, unless 
there is stealing sometvhere, for a good book is one of the 
most costly products of nature. Fortunately, they need 
not be cheap, for it is not necessary to own many of them. 
As soon as an International Copyright has given tone to 
the business of writing and publishing books, and has 
restored the prices of them to the just standard, we shall 
see a great increase of those facilities for purchasing the 
opportunity to read a book without buying it, which have 
placed the whole literature of the world at the command 
of an English farmer who can spare a guinea or two per 
annum. It is not necessary, we repeat, to possess many 
new books ; it is only necessary to read them, get the good 
of them, and give a hearty support to the library from 
which we take them. The purchase of a book should be a 
serious and well-considered act, not the hasty cramming of 
a thin, double-columned pamphlet into a coat-pocket, to be 
read and cast aside at the bottom of a book-case. It is an 
abominable extravagance to buy a great and good novel in 
a perishable form for a few cents ; it is good economy to 
pay a few dollars for one substantially bound, that will 
amuse and inform generations. A good novel, play, or 
poem can be reread every five years during a long life. 
When a book is to be selected out of the mass, to become 
thenceforth part and parcel of a home, let it be well printed 
and well bound, and, above all, let it be of an edition to 
which the author has set the seal of his consent and appro- 
bation. No one need fear that the addition of the author's 
ten per cent to the price of foreign books will make them 
less accessible to the masses of the people. It will make 
them more accessible, and it will tend to make them better 
worth keeping. 

When we consider the difficulties which now beset the 
publication of books in the United States, we cannot but 
wonder at the liberality of American publishers toward 
foreign authors, a liberality which has met no return 
from publishers in Europe. The first money that Herbert 
Spencer ever received in his life from his books was sent to 
him in 1861 by the Appletons as his share of the proceeds 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 121 

of his " Essays upon Education " ; and every year since he 
has received upon all his works republished here the per- 
centage usually paid to native authors. This is so inter- 
esting a case, and so forcibly illustrates many aspects of 
our subject, that we will dwell upon it for a moment. 

It will occasionally happen that an author is produced 
in a country who is charged with a special message for 
another country. There will be something in the cast of 
his mind, or in the nature of his subject, which renders his 
writings more immediately or more generally suitable to 
the people of a land other than his own. We might cite 
as an example Washington Irving, who, though a sound 
American patriot, was essentially an English author, and 
whose earlier works are so English that many English peo- 
ple read them to this day, we are told, who do not suspect 
that the author was not their countryman. Washington 
Irving owed his literary career to this fact ! His seventeen 
years' residence abroad enabled him to enjoy part of the 
advantage which all great authors would derive from an 
International Copyright, that is to say, he derived revenue 
from both countries. During the first half of his literary 
career, he drew the chief part of his income from England ; 
during the second half, when his Sketch-Book veinwas 
exhausted, and he was again an American resident, he 
derived his main support from America. If he had never 
resided abroad, we never should have had a Washington 
Irving ; if he had not returned home, he would have been 
sadly pinched in his old age. Alone among the American 
authors of his day or of any day, he had the market of the 
world for his works ; and he only, of excellent American 
authors, has received anything like a compensation for his 
labor. The entire proceeds of his works during his life- 
time were $ 205,383, of which about one third came to him 
from England. His average income, during the fifty years 
of his authorship, was about four thousand dollars a year. 
Less than any other of our famous authors he injured his 
powers by over-production, and it was only the unsteadiness 
of his income, the occasional failure of his resources, or the 
dread of a failure, that ever induced him to take up his 
pen when exhausted nature cried, Forbear ! Cooper, on 
the contrary, who was read and robbed in every country, 



122 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

wrote himself all out, and still wrote on, until his powers 
were destroyed and his name was a by-word. 

A case similar in principle to that of Irving was Audu- 
bon, the indefatigable and amiable Audubon. The exceed- 
ing costliness of his "Birds of America" protected that 
work as completely as an International Copyright could ; 
and, but for this, we never could have had it. Audubon 
enjoyed the market of the world ! The price of his won- 
derful work was a thousand dollars, and, at that period, 
neither Europe nor America could furnish purchasers 
enough to warrant him in giving it to the press. But 
Europe and America could ! Europe and America did, 
each continent taking about eighty copies. The excellent 
Audubon, therefore, was not ruined by his brave endeavor 
to honor his country and instruct mankind. He ended his 
days in peace in that well-known villa on the banks of the 
Hudson, continuing his useful and beautiful labors to the 
last, and leaving to his sons the means of perfecting what 
he left incomplete. 

But to return to Herbert Spencer, the author of " Social 
Statics " ; or, as we call it, Jeffersonian Democracy, illus- 
trated and applied. Unconnected with the governing 
classes of his own country, escaping the universities, bred 
to none of the professions, and inheriting but & slender 
patrimony, he earned a modest and precarious livelihood 
by contributing to the periodicals, and wrung from his 
small leisure the books that England needed, but would 
not buy. An American citizen, Professor Youmans, felt all 
their merit, and perceived how adapted they were to the 
tastes and habits of the American mind, and how skilfully 
the ideas upon which America is founded were developed 
in them. He also felt, as we have heard him say, that, 
next to the production of excellent works, the most useful 
thing a man can do in his generation is to aid in giving 
them currency. Aided by other lovers of his favorite 
author, he was soon in a position to bear part of the heavy 
expense of stereotyping Mr. Spencer's works ; and thus 
Messrs. Appleton were enabled, not only to publish them, 
but to afford the author as large a share of the proceeds as 
though he had been a resident of the United States. Thus 
Herbert Spencer, by a happy accident, enjoys part of the 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 123 

advantage which would accrue to all his brethren from an 
International Copyright ; and we have the great satisfac- 
tion of knowing, when we buy one of his volumes, that we 
are not defrauding our benefactor. 

Charles Scribner habitually pays English authors a part 
of the profit derived from their republished works. Max 
Miiller, Mr. Trench, and others who figure upon his list, 
derive revenue from the sale of their works in America. 
Mr. Scribner considers it both his duty and his interest to 
acquire all the right to republish which a foreign author 
can bestow ; and he desires to see the day when the law 
will recognize and secure the most obvious and unquestion- 
able of all rights, the right of an author to the product of 
his mind. 

We trust Messrs. Ticknor and Fields will not regard it 
as an affront to their delicacy if we allude here to facts 
which events have already disclosed to the public. This 
house, on principle, and as an essential part of their sys- 
tem, send to foreign authors a share of the proceeds of 
their works, and this they have habitually done for twenty- 
five years. The first American edition of the Poems of 
Mr. Tennyson, published by them in 1842, consisted of one 
thousand copies, and it was three years in selling; but 
upon this edition a fair acknowledgment in money was sent 
to the poet. Since that time, Mr. Tennyson has received 
from them a certain equitable portion of the proceeds of all 
the numerous editions of his works which they have issued. 
Mr. Fields, with great labor and some expense, collected 
from periodicals and libraries a complete set of the works 
of Mr. De Quincey, which the house published in twenty- 
two volumes, the sale of which was barely remunerative ; 
but the author received, from time to time, a sum propor- 
tioned to the number of volumes sold. M*. Fields has 
been gathering the " Early and Late Papers " of Mr. Thack- 
eray, one volume of which has been published, to the great 
satisfaction of the public. Miss Thackeray has already 
received a considerable sum for the sale of the first edi- 
tion. Mr. Browning, Mr. Hughes, Mr. Reade, the Country 
Parson, Mr. Kingsley, Mr. Matthew Arnold, Dr. John Brown, 
Mr. Mayne Reid, Mr. Dickens, have been dealt with in a 
similar manner; some of them receiving copyright, and 



124 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

others a sum of money proportioned to the sale or expected 
sale of their works. Nor has the appearance of rival edi- 
tions been allowed to diminish the author's share of the 
profits realized upon the editions published with their con- 
sent. Mr. Tennyson counts upon the American part of 
his income with the same certainty as upon that which he 
derives from the sale of his works in England, although he 
cannot secure his Boston publishers the exclusive market 
of the United States. Comment is needless. Every man 
who has either a conscience or a talent for business will rec- 
ognize either the propriety or the wisdom of their conduct. 
Upon this rock of fair-dealing the eminent and long-sus- 
tained prosperity of this house is founded. 

Complaints, then, are made of American publishers ! 
We say again, that, after diligent inquiry, we cannot hear 
of one instance of an English publisher sending money to 
an American author for anything but advance sheets. Mr. 
Longfellow is as popular a poet in England as Mr. Tenny- 
son is in America, and he has, consequently, as before re- 
marked, received considerable sums for early sheets, but 
nothing, we believe, upon the annual sale of his works, 
nothing from the voluntary and spontaneous justice of his 
English publishers. We have no right, perhaps, to censure 
men for not going beyond the requirements of law ; but 
still less can we withhold the tribute of our homage to 
those who are more just than the law compels, and this 
tribute is due to several publishers on this side of the At- 
lantic. But then there remains the great fact against us, 
that England is willing to-day, and we are not, to throw 
the protection of international law around this most sacred 
interest of civilization. 

Would that it were in our power to give adequate expres- 
sion to the mighty debt we owe, as a people, to the living 
and recent authors of Europe ! But who can weigh or es- 
timate the invisible and widely diffused influence of a book 1 
There are sentences in the earlier works of Carlyle which 
have regenerated American souls. There are chapters in 
Mill which are reforming the policy of American nations. 
There are passages in Buckle which give the key to the 
mysteries of American history. There are lines in Tenny- 
son which have become incorporated into the fabric of our 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 125 

minds, and flash light and beauty upon our daily conversa- 
tion. There are characters in Dickens which are extinguish- 
ing the foibles which they embody, and gages of Thackeray 
which kill the affectations they depict." What a colossal 
good to us is Mr. Grote's " History of Greece " ! Miss Mu- 
lock, George Eliot, Charles Reade, Charlotte Bronte, King- 
lake, Matthew Arnold, Charles Kingsley, Ruskin, Macaulay, 
how could we spare the least of them 1 Take from our 
lives the happiness and the benefit which we have derived 
from the recent authors of Europe ; take from the future 
the silent, ceaseless working of their spirits, so antidotal 
to all that remains in us of colonial, provincial, and super- 
stitious, and what language could state, ever so inade- 
quately, the loss we and posterity should experience 1 And 
let us not lay the mean unction to our souls that money 
cannot repay such services as these. It can ! It can repay 
it as truly and as fully as sixpence pays for a loaf of bread 
that saves a shipwrecked hero's life. The baker gets his 
own; he is satisfied, and holy justice is satisfied. This 
common phrase, " making money," is a poor, mean way of 
expressing an august and sacred thing ; for the money which 
fairly comes to us, in the way of our vocation, is, or ought 
to be, the measure of our worth to the community we serve. 
It is honor, safety, education, leisure, children's bread, wife's 
dignity and adornment, pleasant home, society, an indepen- 
dent old age, comfort in dying, and solace to those we leave 
behind us. Money is the representative of all the substan- 
tial good that man can bestow on man. And money justly 
earned is never withheld without damage to the withholder 
and to the interest he represents. 

We often think of the case of Dion Boucicault, one of 
the few men now writing the English language who have 
shown a very great natural aptitude for telling a story in 
the dramatic form. For thirty years we have been witness- 
ing his plays in the United States. A fair share of the 
nightly receipts of the theatres in which they were played 
would have enriched him in the prime of his talent, or, in 
other words, have delivered him from that temptation to 
over-production which has wellnigh destroyed his powers. 
He never received any revenue from us until he came here 
and turned actor. He gets a little money now by associat- 



126 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ing with himself an American friend, who writes a few 
sentences of a play, then brings it to New York and dis- 
poses of it to managers as their joint production. But what 
an exquisite shame it is for us to compel an artist to whom 
we owe so many delightful hours to resort to an artifice in 
order to be able to sell the product of his talent ! Our in- 
justice, too, damages ourselves even more than it despoils 
him ; for if we had paid him fairly for " London Assurance " 
and " Old Heads and Young Hearts," if he had found a 
career in the production of plays, he might not have been 
lured from his vocation, and might have written twenty 
good plays, instead of a hundred good, bad, indifferent, and 
atrocious. We cheat him of our part of the just results of 
his lifetime's labor, and he flings back at us his anathema in 
the form of a " Flying Scud." Think of Sheridan Knowles, 
too, deriving nothing from our theatres, in which his dramas 
have been worn threadbare by incessant playing ! To say 
that they are trash is not an infinitesimal fraction of an ex- 
cuse ; for it is just as wrong to steal paste as it is to steal 
diamonds. We liked the trash well enough to appropriate 
it. Besides, he really had the knack of constructing a tell- 
ing play, which, it seems, is one of the rarest gifts bestowed 
upon man, and the one which affords the most intense 
pleasure to the greatest number of people. 

Why, we may ask in passing, did the English stage lan- 
guish for so many years 1 It was because the money that 
should have compensated dramatists enriched actors ; be- 
cause the dramatist that wrote "Black-eyed Susan" was 
paid five pounds a week, and the actor that played William 
received four thousand pounds during the first run of the 
play. In France, where the drama flourishes, it is the actor 
who gets five pounds a week, and the dramatist who gets 
the thousands of pounds for the first run ; and this just 
distribution of profits is infinitely the best, in the long run, 
for actors. 

There is still an impression prevalent in the world, that 
there is no connection between good work and good wages 
in this kind of industry. There was never a greater mis- 
take. A few great men, exceptional in character as in 
circumstances, blind like Milton, exiled like Dante, prison- 
ers like Bunyan and Cervantes, may have written for solace, 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 127 

or for fame, or from benevolence ; but, as a rule, nothing 
gets the immortal work from first-rate men but money. We 
need only mention Shakespeare, for every one knows that 
he wrote plays simply and solely as a matter of business, 
to draw money into the treasury of his theatre. He was 
author and publisher, actor as well, and thus derived a 
threefold benefit from his labors. Moliere, too, the great- 
est name in the literature of France, and the second in the 
dramatic literature of the world, was author, actor, and 
manager. Play-writing was the career of these great men. 
It was their business and vocation ; and it is only in the 
way of his business and vocation that we can, as a rule, 
get from an artist the best and the utmost there is in him. 
Common honesty demands that a man shall do his best 
when he works for his own price. His honor and his safety 
are alike involved. All our courage and all our cowardice, 
all our pride and all our humility, all our generosity and all 
our selfishness, all that can incite and all that can scare us to 
exertion, may enter into the complex motive that is urging us 
on when we are doing the work by which we earn our right 
to exist. Nothing is of great and lasting account, not re- 
ligion, nor benevolence, nor law, nor science, until it is so 
organized that honest and able men can live by it. Then 
it lures talent, character, ambition, wealth, and force to its 
support and illustration. The whole history of literature, 
so far as it is known, shows that literature flourishes when it 
is fairly rewarded, and declines when it is robbed of its just 
compensation. Mr. Reade has admirably demonstrated this 
in his " Eighth Commandment," a little book as full of wit, 
fact, argument, eloquence, and delicious audacity as any 
that has lately appeared. 

There has been but one country in which literature has 
ever succeeded in raising itself to the power and dignity of 
a profession, and it is the only country which has ever en- 
joyed a considerable part of the market of the world for 
its literary wares. This is France, which has a kind of 
International Copyright in its language. Educated Russia 
reads few books that are not French, and in every country 
of Christendom it is taken for granted that an educated 
person reads this language. Wherever in Europe or Amer- 
ica or India or Australia many books are sold, some French 



128 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

books are sold. Here in New York, for example, we have 
had for many years an elegant and well-appointed French 
bookstore, in which the standard works of French literature 
are temptingly displayed, and the new works are for sale 
within three weeks after their publication in Paris. Many 
of our readers, too, must have noticed the huge masses of 
French books exhibited in some of the second-hand book- 
stores of Nassau Street. French books, in fact, form a 
very considerable part of the daily business of the book- 
stores in every capital of the world. Nearly one hundred 
subscribers were obtained in the Unyted States for the 
Nouvelle Biographic, in forty-six volumes, the total cost of 
which, bound, was more than two hundred dollars. Besides 
this large and steady sale of their works in every city on 
earth, French authors enjoy a protection to their rights at 
home which is most complete, and they address a public 
accustomed to pay for new books a price, in determining 
which the author was considered. Mr. Reade informs us 
that a first-rate dramatic success in Paris is worth to the 
author six thousand pounds sterling, and that this six thou- 
sand pounds is very frequently drawn from the theatre 
after a larger sum has been obtained for the same work in 
the form of a novel. 

What is the effect 1 ? Literature in France, as we have 
said, is one of the liberal professions. Literary men are 
an important and honorable order in the state. The press 
teems with works of real value and great cost. The three 
hundred French dramatists supply the theatres of Christen- 
dom with plays so excellent, that not even the cheat of 
" adaptation " can wholly conceal their merit. Great novels, 
great histories, great essays and treatises, important contri- 
butions to science, illustrated works of the highest excel- 
lence, compilations of the first utility, marvellous diction- 
aries and statistical works, appear with a frequency which 
nothing but a universal market could sustain. In whatever 
direction public curiosity is aroused, prompt and intelligent 
efforts are made to gratify it. Nothing more surprises an 
American inquirer than the excellent manner in which 
this mere task-work, these "booksellers' jobs," as we term 
them, are executed in Paris. That Nouvelle Bioyraplde of 
which we have spoken is so faithfully done, and is so free 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 129 

from any perverseness or narrowness of nationality, that it 
would be a good enterprise in any of the reading- countries 
to publish a translation of it just as it stands. French 
literature follows the general law, that, as the volume of 
business increases, the quality of the work done improves. 
The last French work which the pursuit of our vocation led 
us to read was one upon the Mistresses of Louis XV., by 
Edmond and Jules de Goncourt. We need not say how 
such a subject as this would be treated by the cheated hire- 
lings of the Yellow Cover. This work, on the contrary, is 
an intelligent historical study of a period when mistresses 
governed France, and the passages in the work which touch 
upon the adulterous tie which gave fair France over to 
these vampires are managed with a delicacy the most per- 
fect. The present hope of France is in her literature. Her 
literary men are fast educating that interesting and virtu- 
ous people to the point when they will be able to regain 
their freedom and keep it safe from nocturnal conspirators. 
They would have done it ere now, but for the woful fact 
that only half of their countrymen can read, and' are thus 
the helpless victims of a perjured Dutchman and his priests. 
What the general knowledge of the French language has 
done for French literature, all of that, and more than that, 
an International Copyright law would do for the literature 
of Great Britain and the United States. Here are four great 
and growing empires, Great Britain, the United States, the 
Dominion of Canada, and the states of Australia, in which 
the same language is spoken and -similar tastes prevail. In 
all these nations there is a spirit abroad which will never 
rest content until the whole population are readers, and 
those readers will be counted by hundreds of millions. 
Already they are so numerous, that one first-rate literary 
success, one book excellent eaiough to be of universal inter- 
est, would give the author leisure for life, if his rights were 
completely protected by international law. What a field 
for honorable exertion is this ! *And how can these empires 
fail to grow into unity when the cultivated intelligence of 
them all shall be nourished from the same sources, and bow 
in homage to the same commanding minds *? Wanting this 
protection, the literature of both countries languishes. The 
blight of over-production falls upon immature genius, mas- 
6* i 



130 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

terpieces are followed by labored and spiritless repetitions, 
and men that have it in them to inform and move mankind 
grind out task-work for daily bread. One man, one master- 
piece, that is the general law. Not one eminent literary 
artist of either country can be named who has not injured 
his powers and jeoparded his fame by over-production. We 
do not address a polite note to Elias Howe, and ask him 
how much he would charge for a " series " of inventions 
equal in importance to the sewing-machine. We merely 
enable him to demand a dollar every time that one concep- 
tion is used. Imagine Job applied to for a " series " of 
Books of Job. Not less absurd is it to compel an author 
to try and write two Sketch-Books, two David Copperfields, 
two Uncle Toms, two Jane Eyres, or two books like " The 
Newcomcs," When once a great writer has given such 
complete expression of his experience as was given in each 
of those works, a long time must elapse before his mind 
fills again to a natural overflow. But, alas ! only a very 
short time elapses before his purse empties. 

It was the intention of the founders of this -Republic to 
give complete protection to intellectual property, and this 
intention is clearly expressed in the Constitution. Justified 
by the authority given in that instrument, Congress has 
passed patent laws which have called into exercise an 
amount of triumphant ingenuity that is one of the great 
wonders of the modern world ; but under the copyright 
laws, enacted with the same good intentions, our infant lit- 
erature pines and dwindles. The reason is plain. For a 
labor-saving invention, the United States, which abounds 
in everything but labor, is field enough, and the inventor is 
rewarded ; while a great book cannot be remunerative un- 
less it enjoys the market of the whole civilized world. The 
readers of excellent books are few in every country on earth. 
The readers of any one excelle'nt book are usually very few 
indeed ; and the purchasers are still fewer. In a world 
that is supposed to contain a thousand millions of people, 
it is spoken of as a marvel that two millions of them bought 
the most popular book ever published, one purchaser to 
every five hundred inhabitants. 

We say, then, to those members of Congress who go to 
Washington to do something besides make Presidents, that 



INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT. 131 

time has developed a new necessity, not indeed contem- 
plated by the framers of the Constitution, yet covered by 
the Constitution ; and it now devolves upon them to carry 
out the evident intention of their just and wise predeces- 
sors, which was, to secure to genius, learning, and talent 
the certain ownership of their productions. We want an 
international system which shall protect a kind of property 
which cannot be brought to market without exposing it to 
plunder, property in a book being simply the right to 
multiply copies of it. We want this property secured, for 
a sufficient period, to the creator of the value, so that no 
property in a book can be acquired anywhere on earth un- 
less by the gift or consent of the author thereof. There 
are men in Congress who feel all the magnitude and sacred- 
ness of the debt which they owe, and which their country 
owes, to the authors and artists of the time. We believe 
such members are more numerous now than they ever were 
before, much more numerous. It is they who must take 
the leading part in bringing about this great measure of 
justice and good policy; and, as usual in such cases, some 
one man must adopt it as his special vocation, and never 
rest till he has conferred on mankind this immeasurable 
boon. 



OUR EOMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 



ONE thing can be said of our Roman Catholic brethren, 
and especially of our Roman Catholic sisters, without 
exciting controversy, they begin early in the morning. 
St. Stephen's, the largest Catholic church in New York, 
which will hold five thousand persons and seat four thou- 
sand, was filled to overflowing every morning of last No- 
vember at five o'clock. That, however, was an extraordi- 
nary occasion. The first mass, as housekeepers are well 
aware, usually takes place at six o'clock, summer and win- 
ter ; and it was this that I attended on Sunday morning, 
December 8, 1867, one of the coldest mornings of that re- 
markably cold month. 

It is not so easy a matter to wake at a certain hour 
before the dawn of day. One half, perhaps, of all the in- 
habitants of the earth, and two thirds of the grown people 
of the United States, get up in the winter months before 
daylight ; and yet a person unaccustomed to the feat will 
be utterly at a loss how to set about it. At five o'clock of 
a December morning it is as dark as it ever is. The most 
reckless milkman has not then begun his matutinal whoop, 
and the noise of the bakers' carts is not heard in the streets. 
And if there should be a family in the middle of the block 
who keep chickens, there is no dependence to be placed 
upon the crowing of the cocks \ for they crow at all odd, 
irrational times both of night and day. Neither in the 
heavens above nor in the yards beneath, neither in the 
house nor in the street, is there any sign or sound by which 
a wakeful expectant can distinguish five o'clock from four, 
or three, or one. It is true, madam, as you remark, that 
there is such a thing as an alarm-clock. But who ever has 
one when it is wanted 1 People who get up at five every 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 133 

morning can do without ; and those who get up at five once 
in five years, even if by any chance they should possess an 
alarm-clock, forget in the five years of disuse how the little 
fury is set so as to hold in all night and burst forth in frenzy 
at the moment required. This was my case. The alarm 
went off admirably an hour too late, and woke up the wrong 
person. It was only a most vociferous crowing of the cocks 
just now reviled as unreliable that caused me to suspect 
that possibly it might be time for me to strike a light and 
see how the alarm-clock was getting on. Our Roman Cath- 
olic brethren, in some way or ways unknown, habitually 
overcome this difficulty ; for fifty thousand of them, in New 
York alone, are frequently at church and on their knees 
before there are any audible or visible indications of the 
coming day. 

It was a very cold and brilliant morning, stars glitter- 
ing, moon resplendent, pavement icy, roofs snowy, wind 
north-northwest, and, of course, cutting right into the faces 
of people bound up the Third Avenue. An empty car went 
rattling over the frozen-in rails with an astonishing noise, 
the conductor trotting alongside, and the miserable driver 
beating his breast with one hand and pounding the floor 
with one foot. The highly ornamental policeman on the 
first corner was singing to keep himself warm ; but, seeing 
a solitary wayfarer in a cloak scudding along on the ice, he 
conceived a suspicion of that untimely seeker after knowl- 
edge ; he paused in his song ; he stooped and eyed him 
closely, evidently unable to settle upon a rational explana- 
tion of his presence ; and only resumed his song when the 
suspected person was five houses off. There was scarcely 
any one astir to keep an adventurer in countenance, and I 
began to think it was all a delusion about the six-o'clock 
mass. At ten minutes to six, when I stood. in front of the 
spacious St. Stephen's Church in Twenty-Eighth Street, 
there seemed to be no one going in ; and, the vestibule 
being unlighted, I was confirmed in the impression that 
early mass (^jd not take place on such cold mornings. To 
be quite sure of the fact, however, I did just go up the steps 
and push at the door. It yielded to pressure, and its open- 
ing disclosed a vast interior, dimly lighted at the altar end, 
where knelt or sat, scattered about one or two in a pew, 



134 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

about a hundred women and ten men, all well muffled up in 
hoods, shawls, and overcoats, and breathing visibly. There 
was just light enough to see the new blue ceiling and its sil- 
ver stars ; but the sexton was busy lighting the gas, and got 
on with his work about as fast as the churcn filled. That 
church extends through the block, and has two fronts. As 
six o'clock approached, female figures in increasing numbers 
crept silently in by several doors, all making the usual 
courtesy, and all kneeling as soon as they reached a pew. 
At last the lower part of the church was pretty well filled, 
and there were some people in the galleries ; in all, about 
one thousand women and about one hundred men. Nearly 
all the women were servant-girls, and all of them were 
dressed properly and abundantly for such a morning. There 
was not a squalid or miserable-looking person present. 
Most of the men appeared to be grooms and coachmen. 
Among these occupants of the kitchen, the nursery, and 
the stable there were a few persons from the parlor, evi- 
dently of the class whom Voltaire speaks of with so much 
wrath and contempt as devots et devotes. There were two or 
three men near me who might or might not have been 
ecclesiastics or theological students ; upon the pale and 
luminous face of each was most legibly written, This man 
prays continually, and enjoys it. 

There is a difference between Catholics and Protestants 
in this matter of praying.* When a Protestant prays in 
public, he is apt to hide his face, and bend low in an awk- 
ward, uncomfortable attitude ; and, when he would pray in 
private, he retires into some secret place, where, if any one 
should catch him at it, he would blush like a guilty thing. 
It is not so with our Roman Catholic brethren. They 
kneel, it is true, but the body above the knees is bolt up- 
right, and the face is never hidden ; and, as if this were 
not enough, they make certain movements of the hand 
which distinctly announce their purpose to every beholder. 
The same freedom and boldness are observable in Catholic 
children when they say their nightly prayers. Your little 
Protestant buries its face in the bed, and whispers its 
prayer to the counterpane ; but our small Catholic breth- 
ren and sisters kneel upright, make the sign of the cross, 
and are not in the least ashamed or disturbed if any one 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 135 

sees them. Another thing strikes a Protestant spectator 
of Catholic worship, the whole congregation, without 
exception, observe the etiquette of the occasion. When 
kneeling is in order, all kneel ; when it is the etiquette to 
stand, all stand ; when the prayer-book says bow, every 
head is low. These two peculiarities are cause and effect. 
A Protestant child often has some reason to doubt whether 
saying its prayers is, after all, "the thing," since it is 
aware that some of its most valued friends and relations do 
not say theirs. But among Catholics there is not the dis- 
tinction (so familiar to us) between those who "belong to 
the church " and those who do not ; still less the distinc- 
tion (nearly as familiar in some communities) between be- 
lievers and unbelievers. From the hour of baptism every 
Catholic is a member of the church, and he is expected to 
behave as such. This is evidently one reason for that open, 
matter-of-course manner in which all the requirements of 
their religion are fulfilled. No one is ashamed of doing 
what is done by every one in the world whom he respects, 
and what he has himself been in the habit of doing from 
the time of his earliest recollection. A Catholic appears 
to be no more ashamed of saying his prayers than he is of 
eating his dinner, and he appears to think one quite as 
natural an action as the other. 

On this cold morning the priest was not as punctual as 
the people. The congregation continued to increase till 
ten minutes past six ; after which no sound was heard but 
the coughing of the chilled worshippers. It was not till 
seventeen minutes past six that the priest entered, accom- 
panied by two slender, graceful boys, clad in long red robes, 
and walked to his place, and knelt before the altar. All 
present, except one poor heathen in the middle aisle, shuf- 
fled to their knees with a pleasant noise, and remained 
kneeling for some time. The silence was complete, and I 
waited to hear it broken by the sound of the priest's voice. 
But not a sound came from his lips. He rose, he knelt, he 
ascended the steps of the altar, he came down again, he 
turned his back to the people, he turned his face to them, 
he changed from one side of the altar to the other, he 
made various gestures with his hands, but he uttered 
not an audible word. The two graceful lads in crimson 



136 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

garb moved about him, and performed the usual services, 
and the people sat, stood, knelt, bowed, and crossed them- 
selves in accordance with the ritual. But still not a word 
was spoken. At the usual time the collection was taken, 
to which few gave more than a cent, but to which every one 
gave a cent. A little later, the priest uttered the only 
words that were audible during the whole service. Stand- 
ing on the left side of the altar, he said, in an agreeable, 
educated voice : " The Society of the Holy Rosary will 
meet this afternoon after vespers. Prayers are requested 
for the repose of the souls of "; then followed the names 
of three persons. The service was continued, and the 
silence was only broken again by the gong-like bell, which 
announced by a single stroke the most solemn acts of the 
mass, and which, toward the close of the service, summoned 
those to the altar who wished to commune. During -the 
intense stillness which usually followed the sound of the 
bell, a low, eager whisper of prayer could occasionally be 
heard, and the whole assembly was lost in devotion. About 
twenty women and five men knelt round the altar to re- 
ceive the communion. Soon after this had been adminis- 
tered some of the women began to hurry away, as if fearing 
the family at home might be ready for breakfast before 
breakfast would be ready for them. At ten minutes to 
seven the priest put on his black cap, and withdrew ; and 
soon the congregation was in full retreat. But by this time 
another congregation was assembling for the seven-o'clock 
mass ; the people were pouring in at every door, and 
hurrying along all the adjacent streets towards the church. 
Seven o'clock being a much more convenient time than six, 
the church is usually filled at that hour ; as it is, also, at 
the nine-o'clock, mass. At half past ten the grand mass of 
the day occurs, and no one who is in the habit of passing a 
Catholic church on Sunday mornings at that hour needs to 
be informed that the kneeling suppliants who cannot get 
in would make a tolerable congregation of themselves. 

What an economy is this ! The parish of St. Stephen's 
contains a Catholic population of twenty-five thousand, of 
whom twenty thousand, -perhaps, are old enough and well 
enough to go to church. As the church will seat four 
thousand persons, all this multitude can hear mass every 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 137 

Sunday morning. As many as usually desire it can attend 
the vespers in the afternoon. The church, too, in the 
intervals of service, and during the week, stands hospitably 
open, and is usually fulfilling in some way the end of its 
erection. How different with our churches ! There is St. 
George's, for example, the twin steeples of which are visible 
to the home-returning son of Gotham as soon as the Sound 
steamer has brought him past Blackwell's Island. In that 
stately edifice half a million dollars have been invested, 
and it is in use only four hours a week. No more ; for the 
smaller occasional meetings are held in another building, 
a chapel in the rear. Half a million dollars is a large 
sum of money, even in Wall Street, where it figures merely 
as part of the working capital of the country ; but think 
what a sum it is when viewed as a portion of the small, 
sacred treasure set apart for the higher purposes of human 
nature ! And yet the building which has cost so much 
money stands there a dead and empty thing, except for 
four hours on Sunday ! Our Roman Catholic brethren 
manage these things better. When they have invested 
half a million in a building, they put that building to a 
use which justifies and returns the expenditure. Even 
their grand cathedrals are good investments ; since, besides 
being always open, always in use, always cheering and com- 
forting their people, they are splendid illustrations of their 
religion to every passer-by, to every reader of books, and to 
every collector of engravings. Such edifices as St. Peter's, 
the cathedrals of Milan and of Cologne, do actually cheer 
and exalt the solitary priest toiling on the outskirts of 
civilization. Lonely as he is, insignificant, perhaps despised 
and shunned, he feels that he has a property in those gran- 
deurs, and that an indissoluble tie connects him with the 
system which created them, and which will one day erect a 
gorgeous temple upon the site of the shanty in which now 
he celebrates the rites of his church in the presence of a 
few railroad laborers. 

While these successive multitudes have been gathering 
and dispersing, something has been going on in the base- 
ment of St. Stephen's, a long, low room, extending from 
street to street, and fitted up for a children's chapel and 
Sunday-school room. The Protestant reader, it is safe to 



138 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

say, has never attended a Catholic Sunday school, but he 
shall now have the pleasure of doing so. It ought to be a 
pleasure only to see two or three thousand children gath- 
ered together ; but there is a particular reason why a Prot- 
estant should be pleased at a Catholic Sunday school. 
Imitation is the sincerest homage. The notion of the 
Sunday school is one of several which our Roman Catholic 
brethren have borrowed from us. This church, hoary and 
wrinkled with age, does not disdain to learn from the 
young and bustling churches to which it has given all 
they have. The Catholic Church, however, claims a share 
in the invention, since for many ages it has employed boys 
in the celebration of its worship, and has given those boys 
a certain training to enable them to fulfil their vocation. 
Still, the Sunday school, as now constituted, is essentially 
of Protestant origin. Indeed, the energetic and truly 
catholic superintendent of St. Stephen's school, Mr. Thomas 
E. S. Dwyer, informed me, that, before beginning this 
school, he visited all the noted Sunday schools in New York, 
Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, and endeavored to get 
from each whatever he found in it suitable to his purpose. 

The basement of St. Stephen's, being three hundred feet 
long, fifty or sixty feet wide, and only about ten feet high, 
looks more like a section of an underground railroad than 
a room. It is so very low that, although abundantly pro- 
vided with windows on both sides, it is necessary always to 
light many jets of gas. In the ceiling is fixed part of the 
heating apparatus of the church, a circumstance that 
does not tend to the purification of the atmosphere. At 
one end of this exceedingly long room is a small, plain 
altar, with the usual candles and other appurtenances ; 
and on one side of the room, about midway, is a large cab- 
inet organ, with an enclosure about it for the choir of chil- 
dren who chant the responses and psalms of the mass. On 
the walls between each window are the showy pictures 
usually found in Catholic institutions. At nine o'clock, 
when I took my seat in one of the pews of this long, low 
apartment, children with the reddest cheeks and the warm- 
est comforters were thundering in, and diffusing themselves 
over the floor, the girls taking one side of the room and 
the boys the other. When Mr. Dwyer began this school a 






OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 139 

few years ago, only two hundred children attended, a 
mere handful in a Catholic parish, but every teacher 
bound himself to visit each of his pupils once a month, 
and so endeavor to interest the people in the school. The 
effect was magical. Children came pouring in, until now 
the average attendance is two thousand, and there have 
been in the school at one session three thousand three 
hundred and forty. 

The noise continued to increase till ten minutes past 
nine, when nearly every pew was filled, and the side exten- 
sions following the cruciform plan of the church were also 
crowded with the younger children seated upon benches, 
each bench having a teacher at one end. Meanwhile, the 
candles of the altar had been lighted, the choir had assem- 
bled, and the organ had been opened. A bell tinkles. A 
priest is at the altar, attended by two boys, who had come 
in unobserved amid the confusion. The bell rings again. 
Every child gets upon its knees, and every adult also, except 
the lonely heathen before mentioned. It was a truly affect- 
ing spectacle, the rows of little boys, with a tall teacher 
at the head of each row, all kneeling in the candid, upright 
manner in which our Roman Catholic brethren always do 
kneel. There was still, however, a great noise of boys 
coming in and kneeling, and it was some minutes before 
there was any general approach to silence. 

This mass, like the early one in the church, was performed 
without the priest's uttering one audible word. The re- 
sponses and the psalm-like portions of the mass were sung 
by the choir, which consisted of one man, one woman, and 
about twenty children, who sang very well, and very appro- 
priate music. But in that low, crowded, noisy room the 
music had as much effect as if performed in a tunnel, or at 
the bottom of a large, deep well. Thus, as the priest said 
nothing, and the choir could not be understood, the children 
were thrown, as it were, upon their own resources ; and 
those resources, it must be owned, were insufficient. Many 
of the"boys followed the service in their little prayer-books, 
and most of them refrained from conversation. There were 
always some, however, who kept up a sly whispering in the 
ears of their neighbors, and the countenances of a very 
large number were expressive of nothing. 



140 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

But what strains are these? Old Hundred introduced 
into the mass ! Slightly altered, it is true, but unmistak- 
ably Old Hundred. And again : the children of the choir 
break into one of our most joyful tunes, which is sung in 
every Protestant church, on an average, once every Sunday 
the year round. Later in the mass the choir sang one of 
the regular Sunday-school airs, such as Mr. Root of Chicago 
composes, similar in character to " If at first you don't 
succeed, try, try again." To think of Catholic children 
presuming to express their joyful emotions by the aid of 
Protestant music ! Congress, perhaps, will be petitioned 
next winter for an Inter-Denominational Copyright Law. 

The supreme moment of the mass, announced by the 
ringing of the bell, is at the elevation of the host. Now, 
for the first time during the service, there was silence in 
the room ; and every head was bowed, while the priest said 
in audibly, in Latin : " Accept, Holy Father, almighty, 
eternal God, this immaculate Host, which I, thy unworthy 
servant, offer unto thee, my living and true God, for my 
innumerable sins, offences, and negligences, and for all here 
present ; as also for all faithful Christians, both living and 
dead, that it may be profitable for my own and for their 
salvation unto life eternal. Amen." Soon after this solem- 
nity, ten or fifteen children, from nine to eleven years of 
age, went to the altar and communed. All this army of 
children, except a very few under seven years of age, have 
been confirmed, and consequently are communicants. Many 
hundreds of them had been recently confirmed, clad in 
white garments, adorned with flowers, accompanied by 
parents and friends, and surrounded by whatever is most 
expressive of joy and hope. In this easy and pleasant way 
our Roman Catholic brethren "join the church." As we 
have already observed, there is not, among Catholics, any- 
thing of that distinction between those who " belong to the 
church " and those who do not, which is so painful, and, as 
some of us think, so deeply demoralizing, a circumstance 
of American life. There are good Catholics and bad Cath- 
olics, devout Catholics and neglectful Catholics ; but all are 
Catholics ; all are members of the church ; all can at any 
moment resume neglected obligations without taking the 
public into their confidence. The attitude and condition 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 141 

of each soul is a secret known only to itself and to one 
other. Hence there is no such thing as a roll of members 
hi a Catholic parish, and there are no formalities attending 
the transfer of a member to another parish. The poor emi- 
grant is at home in the first church he comes to, and every 
priest is his father. This is one of the most important dif- 
ferences between our Roman Catholic brethren and our- 
selves ; and it is one which gives them a most telling ad- 
vantage in this country among educated persons who love 
virtue and loathe the profession of it. 

This Sunday-school mass lasted thirty-five minutes, at the 
end of which the priest put on his black cap and retired. 
A curtain was then drawn across the altar, which exempted 
all from the obligation of bending the knee on passing it. 
A furious uproar arose when the mass ended, caused by the 
gathering of the classes around the teachers and getting 
ready for the next exercise, which was catechism. For 
about half an hour the whole body of children were en- 
gaged in saying their lesson, and in hearing the comments 
of the teachers upon it ; and as there were two thousand of 
them the noise was great. Nevertheless, there was very 
little intentional disorder, although the air was so agoniz- 
ingly impure as to enhance tenfold the difficulty of keep- 
ing order, and of keeping in order. Windows were opened, 
but it was of no use ; the air never can be even tolerable in 
that basement when there are five hundred persons in it. 
After the catechism the superintendent mounted a platform 
in the midst of his flock, and reduced them to silence by 
the sound of his bell. Then he crossed himself, and said, 
" In the name t>f the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 
Amen," while all the children rose to their feet. He then 
said, "The Gospel for the day is," and read it to the 
children, all standing. He next said, " Kneel " ; and all 
knelt on both knees, with the body upright. He said a 
very short prayer (five or six short sentences), which the 
children repeated after him. The school was then dis- 
missed. 

Usually, however, they spend the last fifteen minutes in 
singing a few simple songs, set to easy, lively music. Dr. 
Cummings, who was the late pastor of this church, and was 
venerated in it, composed a Sunday-school hymn-book in 



142 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the last years of his life. The reader, perhaps, maybe 
curious to know what kind of hymns our Roman Catholic 
brethren teach their children to sing. Well, cut out of this 
book one tenth of its contents, in which the saints are in- 
voked and a few Catholic peculiarities are referred to, and 
it would be found suitable to any Protestant Sunday school. 
There is, for example, a " Song of the Union," which might 
very properly be sung in Faneuil Hall on the Fourth of 
July: 

" Ere Peace and Freedom, hand in hand, 

Went forth to bless this happy land, 
And make it their abode, 

It was the footstool of a throne ; 

But now no sceptre here is known, 
No King is feared but God. 

" Americans uprose in might, 
And triumphed in th' unequal fight, 

For Union made them strong: 
Union ! the magic battle-cry, 
That hurled the tyrant from on high, 

And crushed his hireling throng I 

" That word since then hath shone on high 
In starry letters to the sky, 

It is our country's name ! 
What impious hand shall rashly dare 
Down from its lofty peak to tear 
The banner of her fame? " 

The same strain of patriotism is continued in the three 
other stanzas. There are many hymns such as the follow- 
ing, called " A Child's Hymn to his Guardian Angel," which 
hovers over the line that divides poetry and superstition : 

" How kind it is of you to come, 
Bright angel, from' your starry home, 
And watch by night and watch by day 
Beside a sinful child of clay ! 
How good and pure I ought to be, 
Who always live so near to thee. 
Beneath thine eyes the whole day round, 
Where'er I tread is holy ground. 

" And if I had my wish I would, 
Dear angel mine! be always good; 
This minute I would rather die 
Than say bad words or tell a lie. 
I always feel disposed this way, 
Whene'er I kneel me down to pray; 
But I forget when church is o'er, 
And am as naughty as before. 






OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 143 

" But I would love to fear the Lord, 
And shun each sinful deed and word, 
Not do the sin, then feel the force 
Of bitter shame and keen remorse. 
I wish to think of God and thee 
Whenever pretty things I see, 
Till every flower that gems the sod 
Shall make me think of thee and God." 

Interspersed among such simple and innocent songs as this 
there are a few which Protestants disapprove : 

"0 Mary! Mother Mary! 

We place our trust in thee; 
Our faith shall never vary, 

Though weak the flesh may be. 
Too oft, with steps unwary, 

From duty we have bent: 
OMary! Mother Mary! 

Thou teach us to repent." 

But, on the other hand, there are no appeals to base ter- 
ror, no horrid pictures of future hopeless torment. The 
only thing in the book that even calls to mind the fearful 
threats of eternal vengeance with which all children used 
to be terrified, degraded, and corrupted is a hopeful and 
sympathetic little hymn entitled " Purgatory " : 

" When gentle showers 

Cool the parched beds, 
Languishing flowers 

Lift up their heads. 
Christ's precious merits, 

Like gentle rain, 
Soothe the good spirits 

In their great pain. 

" To the dim region, 

Where dear ones mourn, 
Love and religion 

Bid us oft turn. 
Prayer hath the power 

To give them peace, 
Speeding the hour 

Of their release." 

Such are the exercises of a Catholic Sunday school : mass, 
thirty-five minutes ; catechism, about the same time ; sing- 
ing, fifteen minutes ; the Gospel of the day read \ a prayer 
of five lines ; to which is occasionally added a short address 
by the pastor. The following summary of the Annual Re- 
port of this school for 1867 will interest some readers. The 



144 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

word "Mission," which occurs in it, signifies "revival," or 
" protracted meeting," concerning which something further 
may be said : 

Number of children on Register 2,346 

Average attendance of children 1,607 

Average number of children late 97 

Number of teachers on Register 230 

Average attendance of teachers 176 

Average number of teachers late . . . . . . 9 

Number of classes in Sunday school .... 210 

Increase in the number of children on Register over 1866 . 762 

Increase in the average attendance of children over 1866 . 427 

Increase in the number of teachers on Register over 1866 . 62 

Increase in the average attendance of teachers over 1866 . 31 

Increase in the number of classes over 1866 .... 54 

Number of children at Festival, Jan. 13, 1867 . . '. 3,000 

Number of children at Festival, Oct. 27, 1867 . . . 3,434 

Number of children to confession during Mission . . 2,900 

Number of children who received communion during Mission 1,660 

Number of children confirmed during Mission . . . 1,530 

Total number of visits to children during the year . . 4,973 

Increase in the number of -visits to children over 1866 . . 436 

THOS. E. S. DWYER, Sup't. 



JOHN J. WELDON> ) c . . 
FBANCISA. REILLY, ( Ssewten *' 



It is a beautiful thought to gather the children of a com- 
munity, for a short time, an hour and a half, no more, 
on Sunday morning, in some very inviting and perfectly 
salubrious place, .where they shall enjoy themselves in sing- 
ing songs and hymns, and hear something cheering and 
beneficial, and to join in any other exercises which the af- 
fectionate ingenuity of their elders may be able to devise. 
It is a lovely idea, and one which civilization, having once 
possessed, can never again let go. So far, the idea has 
been carried out imperfectly ; and it will perhaps never be 
made the most of until the churches all give up the attempt 
to expound the universe, and settle down to their final 
grand vocation, that of inculcating virtue, instructing 
ignorance, and cheering human life. This Sunday school 
of our Roman Catholic brethren will doubtless improve 
when its zealous and amiable teachers have better facilities 
and a better school-room. It has already an excellent 
feature : this one session of an hour and a half is, at once, 
church and Sunday school ; and nothing more is required 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 145 

of the children during all the rest of the day. There is 
110 afternoon school, and the children are not expected nor 
advised to hear a second mass. Our Roman Catholic 
brethren never compel young children, over-schooled during 
the week, to attend Sunday school from nine to half past 
ten ; to remain in church, understanding nothing of what 
is said and done there, until past twelve ; and then, after 
dinner, to endure both school and church again, happy if 
they escape them in the evening. Of all the contrivances 
for making children sicken at the thought of everything 
high and serious this is the masterpiece. Fortunately, it 
is now scarcely known, except in a few very remote and 
benighted places. The time is near at hand, when the 
great joy of the week to the children of the United States 
will be the hour and a half of the Sunday school. Often, 
when hearing Mr. Dickens read, the thought occurred to 
us : What a splendid exercise some such reading as this for 
a Sunday school ! Among a dozen teachers, surely there 
would always be one with a little natural aptitude for read- 
ing and personating, who would consent to go into train- 
ing for a year or two, and then give all the children, every 
Sunday, half an hour of rapture, and an endless benefit, 
by reading something suitable. 

Protestants who visit Catholic institutions for the first 
time, and converse with those wha have charge of them, 
are surprised to find how little good Catholics differ from 
other good people. These teachers of the St. Stephen's 
Sunday school, for example, their tone, manner, feeling, 
cast of countenance, remind you continually of Protestant 
persons engaged in the same calling. They are as candid 
and open as the day. They are as truly and entirely con- 
vinced of the truth of their religion as any Protestant ever 
was of his, and their habitual feeling towards Protestants is 
compassion. They think their religion is altogether 
sweet and engaging, full of comfort and hope ; and they 
yearn to see all the world partaking of its joys and con- 
solations. Just as we in our ignorance pity them, so do 
they in their ignorance pity us. The habitual feeling of 
good Catholics, with regard to their church and the rest of 
the world, was well and truly expressed by the late pastor 
of St. Stephen's, Dr. Cummings : 

7 j 



146 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

" World of Grace! mysterious Temple! 

Holy, Apostolic, One ! 
Never changing, ever blessing 

Every age and every zone ; 
Church, sweet Mother ! may all nations 

Know thee, love thee as of yore : 
May thy children learn to prize thee, 

Daily, hourly, more and more." 

Ignorant Catholics, of course, like ignorant Protestants, 
sometimes despise or hate those who differ from them on 
subjects which are far beyond all human comprehension. 
But the general feeling of our Roman Catholic brethren 
towards us is a tender and warm desire that we should im- 
mediately abandon our gloomy and abortive religion, and 
come back to the true fold, where all is cheerfulness, cer- 
tainty, and love, especially, certainty ! There is nothing 
they pity us so much for as the doubt and uncertainty in 
which they suppose many of us are living" concerning fun- 
damental articles of faith. A Catholic cannot doubt ; for 
the instant he doubts he ceases to be a Catholic. His 
church is "infallible"; hence his doctrine must be right. 
His priest is the director of his soul ; he has but to obey 
his direction. Thus a good Catholic has intellectual satis- 
faction and peace of conscience both within his reach ; and 
he truly pities those who grope in mental darkness, and 
carry the burden of their sins, without the possibility of 
ever being quite sure they are forgiven. The priest says : 
" I absolve thee " ; but it is on certain conditions named, 
with which a person can comply, and with which he can 
know he has complied. 

There is an impression among Protestants that the Cath- 
olic priests are not believers in their own creed ; but that, 
being convinced of the necessity wfcich exists in unformed 
minds of believing something absurd and fictitious, they 
recognize that necessity, and have organized superstition 
without sharing it. We sometimes hear Protestants par- 
odying the ancient remark concerning the Roman augurs, 
and wondering whether two priests can ever look one another 
in the face without laughing. That there are Catholic 
statesmen and monarchs who take this view of the religion 
they profess is probable enough. Voltaire himself admitted, 
when his house had been robbed, that hell was an excellent 
thing to frighten thieves with, and he consigned to it the 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 147 

particular thieves in question most heartily. His friend, 
Frederick of Prussia, who was as thoroughgoing an unbe- 
liever as himself, was in the habit of laughing at Voltaire's 
zeal against the faith of Christendom ; and used to tell 
him, that, even if he could succeed in destroying that faith, 
which he could not, every ignorant mind would immediately 
attach itself to falsehoods still more extravagant and per- 
nicious. At that day, too, there were not wanting in France 
abbes and bishops who passed their lives in deriding the 
church from which they derived their subsistence. But 
even then and there the vast majority of the working clergy 
were perfectly sincere and very laborious pastors, and gave 
the hungry peasant the greater part of the little comfort he 
enjoyed. 

No candid person can associate much with the Catholic 
priests of the United States without becoming aware of the 
entireness and strength of their faith in the doctrines they 
teach, without being convinced of their fidelity to the 
vows they have taken. Why remain priests if they have 
ceased to believe 1 ? It is not the life a false man would 
choose in this country. What with the early masses, the 
great number of services, the daily and nightly calls to the 
bedside of the dying, the labor and anxiety of hearing con- 
fessions, the deprivation of domestic enjoyments, the poverty 
(the Archbishop of New York has but four thousand dol- 
lars a year and his house), and what with the social stigma 
which in some communities the very name of Catholic car- 
ries with it, there are few vocations in which a fervent 
believer would find more joy, and in which a hypocrite 
would suffer so much weariness and disgust. In one sickly 
time, two years ago, an assistant priest of a populous New 
York parish was summoned sixty-five times in eight days to 
administer the communion to dying persons, and forty-five 
of those times were between sunset and sunrise. The salary 
of an assistant priest, in these dear times, is four hundred 
dollars a year, a room, and a portion of the fees he receives 
for marriages, baptisms, and masses for the dead, the 
whole being a bare subsistence, averaging about eight hun- 
dred dollars a year. The pastor of a church receives six 
hundred dollars a year, a house, and a portion of the fees 
just mentioned. In a few very extensive city parishes the 



148 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

priest may get a little more money than he really needs ; 
but the great majority receive just enough for the three 
necessities, food, clothes, and charity. 

The manner in which our Roman Catholic brethren select 
and train their priests insures at least sincerity. It is a 
training which, in favorable cases, develops every noble 
trait of human nature except one, the sceptical, ques- 
tion-asking faculty, to which all improvement, all progress, 
is due. Some of the sweetest, purest, and loveliest human 
beings on this earth are Roman Catholic priests. I have 
had the pleasure, once in my life, of conversing with an 
absolute gentleman : one in whom all the little vanities, all 
the little greedinesses, 'all the paltry fuss, worry, affectation, 
haste, and anxiety springing from imperfectly disciplined 
self-love, all had been consumed ; and the whole man 
was kind, serene, urbane, and utterly sincere. This per- 
fect gentleman was a Roman Catholic bishop, who had 
spent thirty years of his life in the woods near Lake Supe- 
rior, trying (and failing, as he frankly owned) to convert 
rascally Chippeways into tolerable human beings. " I 
make pretty good Christians of some of them," said he ; 
" but men ? No : it is impossible." But while I so highly 
rate this exquisite human being, I must remember that his 
task in life had been far easier than ours. The two grand 
difficulties of human life he never encountered, the 
difficulty of earning his subsistence, and the difficulty of 
rearing a family. " Thirteen year of temper in a pal- 
ace," says Doctor Marigold, "would try the worst of 
you ; but thirteen year of temper in a cart would try the 
best of you." The Catholic priest ought to be far gentler 
and sweeter than other men, since he has neither a cart to 
drive nor a temper to live with. It is also much easier to 
live in a grand, lofty, contemplative way, in the forest, than 
in New York or Chicago. A Catholic priest, indeed, would 
be much to blame if he failed to attain a high degree of 
serenity, moral refinement, and paternal dignity. 

The training of priests is severe and long. They come 
to the altar to be ordained, with faces pallid and wasted by 
long fasting and late watching. Years before, when they 
were little boys in the Sunday school, they were noted for 
their docility, and their interest in all that related to the 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 149 

Church. The pastor marked them, observed them. As 
soon as they were old enough, they aspired to serve the 
priest at the altar ; and this ambition was at length, after 
due trial and preparation, gratified, to the great delight and 
pride of parents and relations. A Protestant can hardly 
imagine the joy of Catholic parents at seeing their son min- 
istering to the priest at the altar. Besides being a conspic- 
uous reward for his good behavior, and a kind of guaranty 
of his future good conduct, it is also something done toward 
his eternal salvation. Our Roman Catholic brethren, abound- 
ing in faith as they .are, scoff at the idea of being "justified 
by faith alone," and feel themselves bound " to work out 
their salvation." The zealous lad, impelled partly by this 
motive, but chiefly by natural love of the self-denying and 
devoted, soon belongs to the select band of altar boys, who 
glory in assisting at the earliest mass, and in masses per- 
formed at midnight. The pastor converses with the parents, 
and if they consent, but cannot afford the expense of edu- 
cating the boy for the priesthood, ways are found of aiding 
him through the preliminary studies. Those studies, 
what are they 1 Latin, Greek, theology, and whatever else 
cultivates the imagination and assists faith, without giving 
play to that best something in the best human minds which 
will not take things for granted, which inquires, doubts, 
denies, reasons, and presses on to better ways of thinking. 
That most powerful instinct, too, which urges the young 
man, like the spring bird, to seek his mate, has to be extin- 
guished or controlled; and to this end fasting, watching, 
and other painful mortifications are enjoined, increasing in 
intensity as the time draws near for the final and irrevoca- 
ble act of renunciation. With pinched cheeks and sunken 
eyes, and souls on fire, the young men kneel to receive 
ordination, while all good Catholics who look upon the 
scene are filled with a feeling that would be compassion 
if it were not triumphant joy. " We believe," says a con- 
vert, who witnessed the ceremony lately, " there were few 
dry eyes in that basement chapel when the long ceremony 
came to its close, when the last words of benediction had 
been given to the newly consecrated priests by the uplifted 
hands of the bishop ; and cold and selfish must have been 
the heart which did not linger to send up a fervent petition 



150 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

that God would give perseverance to those youthful and 
self-devoted laborers in his vineyard. But never shall we 
forget the zeal and eagerness with which the first mass of 
each new priest was attended, or how the crowd, men, wo- 
men, children, pressed forward at its close to receive the 
benediction from those innocent and now sanctified palms. 
So precious is this first blessing from a newly ordained priest, 
that old priests and even bishops come eagerly forward, and 
bow their heads under the freshly anointed hands." 

Sincere ! The sincerest believers in the world are our 
Roman Catholic brethren. Faith, lika every other faculty 
or habit, grows strong by exercise. Every time a Catholic 
attends mass, he is required to -perform the most tremen- 
dous act of faith ever attempted by the human mind since 
its creation. Whatever may be weak or wanting in Catho- 
lics, they abound in faith. 

Our Roman Catholic brethren are acquiring so great an 
estate in the United States, and acquiring it so rapidly, 
that it becomes a matter of public concern how they get it, 
what they do with it, and, especially, what they will do 
with it by and by, when it shall have become the largest 
property held in the country by or for an organization. 
Other organizations usually live from hand to mouth ; but, 
somehow, the Catholics always contrive to have a little 
' money ahead, to invest for the future. The Catholic Church, 
seven tenths of whose members are exempt from the income 
tax because their income is under a thousand dollars a year, 
is a capitalist, and has the advantage over other organiza- 
tions which a man has over his fellows who, besides earning 
his livelihood, has a thousand dollars to operate with. 
There are spots in the Western country, over which the 
prairie winds now sweep without obstruction, that will one 
day be the sites of great cities. Our Roman Catholic 
brethren mark those spots, and construct maps upon which, 
not existing towns alone are indicated, but probable towns 
also. A professor of one of our Western colleges saw, two 
years ago at Rome, a better map of the country west of the 
Mississippi than he ever saw at home ; upon which the line 
of the Pacific Railroad was traced, and every spot was dot- 
ted where a settlement would naturally gather, and a con- 
jecture recorded as to its probable importance. Five 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 151 

hundred dollars judiciously invested in certain localities now 
will buy land* which, in fifty years, or in twenty, may be 
worth one hundred millions. Thirty-seven years ago the 
best thousand* acres of the site of Chicago could have 
been bought for a dollar and a quarter an acre ; and there 
is one man now in Chicago who owns a lot worth twenty 
thousand dollars which he bought of the government for 
fifteen cents and five eighths. Now, there are in the Ro- 
man Catholic Church men whose business it is to turn such 
facts to the advantage of the church, and there is also a 
systematic provision of money for them to expend for the 
purpose. 

Look at our island of . Manhattan ! Sixty-seven years 
ago there were but one or two small Catholic churches 
upon it. It was not until 1808 that there was such a per- 
sonage as a Roman Catholic bishop of New York. Run 
over the diocese now, and what do we find 1 Churches, 88 ; 
chapels attached to institutions, 29 j colleges and theological 
seminaries, 4 ; academies and select schools, 23 ; parochial 
schools, one to nearly every church; charitable asylums 
and hospitals, 1 1 ; religious communities of men, 6 ; of 
women, 10. But this enumeration, as every New-Yorker 
knows, conveys no idea of the facts. Everything which 
our Roman Catholic brethren buy or build is bought or 
built with two objects in view, duration and growth. 
Hence massive structures, and plenty of land ! Wherever 
on this island, or on the lovely waters near it, you observe 
a spot upon which nature and circumstances have assem- 
bled every charm and every advantage, there the foresight 
and enterprise of this wonderful organization have placed, 
or are placing, something enormous and solid with a cross 
over it. The marble cathedral which is to contain ten 
thousand persons is going up on the precise spot on the 
Fifth Avenue which will be the very best for the purpose 
as long as the city stands. Yet, when that site was select- 
ed, several years ago, in the rocky wilds beyond the cattle- 
market, no one would have felt its value except a John 
Jacob Astor or a Roman Catholic Archbishop. This mar- 
vellous church so possesses itself of its members, that 
Catholic priests are as wise and acute and pushing for the 
church as the consummate man of business is for his own 



152 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

estate. Our excellent and zealous friends, the Paulist 
Fathers, when they planted themselves on the Ninth Ave- 
nue opposite Weehawken, bought a whole block and thus, 
for less money than one house-lot will be worth in five 
years, secured room enough for the expansion of their com- 
munity and its operations for ten centuries ! And there is 
the Convent of the Sacred Heart, in the upper part of the 
island, the old Lorillard country-seat ; and the great 
establishments of the Sisters of Charity on the Hudson, 
where Edwin Forrest built his toy-castle, were ever sites 
better chosen] Mark, too, the extent of the grounds, the 
solidity of the buildings, and the forethought and good 
sense which have presided over all the arrangements. 

All these things cost money, though bought and built 
with most admirable economy. Fifty million dollars' worth 
of land and buildings the church probably owns in .the 
diocese of New York ; one half of which, perhaps, it ac- 
quired by buying land when land was cheap, and keeping 
it till it has become dear. Protestants will not fail to note 
the wisdom of this, and to reflect upon the weakness and 
distracted inefficiency of our mode of doing business. But 
the question remains : How was the other half of this great 
estate accumulated in half a century by an organization 
drawing its revenues chiefly from mechanics, small store- 
keepers, laborers, and servant-girls 1 Why, in the simplest 
way possible, and without laying a heavy burden on any 
one. The glory of the Catholic Church, as we all know, is, 
that it is the church of the poor ; and in this fact consists 
its strength, as well as its glory. 

The unit of the Catholic Church is the parish. A certain 
number of parishes constitute the diocese, and a certain 
number of dioceses form an arch-diocese ; but the beginning 
of everything is the parish. Just as a company of troops 
is at once a whole and a part, small in itself, but imaging 
in its organization the whole army, independent and yet 
subordinate, such is a parish to the Church Universal. It 
so happened that a new parish was organizing in the city 
of New York, while this article was forming out of chaos ; 
and I read from the front windows, stuck upon a lamp-post 
(in violation of an ordinance), a handbill which explains 
how it is done : 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 153 



t 



"NOTICE TO CATHOLICS. 

"A NEW PARISH. 

" The Most Reverend Archbishop McCloskey has ap- 
pointed the undersigned to take charge of a new parish, 
which will extend from the east side of Fourth Avenue to 
the East River, and from the north side of Eighteenth 
Street to the south side of Twenty-Fourth Street. 

DEMILT HALL, 

Northwest corner of Second Avenue and Twenty-Ninth 
Street, will be opened on and after Sunday, Jan. 5th, 1868, 
for divine service. 

" On Sundays, at Eight o'clock. 

" High Mass, Nine o'clock. 

"On Holy Days of Obligation, Mass at Seven and at 
Nine. 

" On other days, Mass at Seven. 

" Sunday school will meet at the Hall on Sundays at 
Eight o'clock, A. M., and will continue one hour after Mass. 

"At the Eight-o'clock Mass on Sundays, and at the 
Nine-o'clock Mass on Holy Days, a portion of the Hall will 
be reserved for children. ' 

" Confessions will be heard every Saturday, commencing 
at Four o'clock, p. M. 

" R. L. BUKTSELL, D. D., Pastor. 
" CHRISTMAS DAY, 1867." 

Observe now the simplicity and efficiency of the system. 
St. Stephen's parish, containing twenty-five thousand Catho- 
lic souls, had become too populous to be adequately served 
by one church ; and therefore this slice (a mile long and a 
quarter of a mile wide, containing, perhaps, ten thousand 
Catholics) is cut off from it to form a new parish. The 
archbishop looks about among his clergy for a priest fitted 
by nature and circumstances to organize a parish and pro- 



154 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

vide for it suitable buildings. The priest selected feels 
himself honored by the appointment ; it is promotion to 
him ; it is reward and stimulus. He comes to his new 
field unshackled, except by the general laws and usages of 
the Church. The same Church which tries and tests with 
such unrelenting severity the candidates for the priesthood 
trusts her priests with great freedom, great power, great 
responsibility, while supplying them with the most power- 
ful motives to exertion. She supplies both kinds of motives, 
the noble and the commonplace. This priest has a church 
to build, schools to form, a parish to create. He has no 
wife : the Church is his spouse. He has no child : the 
Church is his HEIR ! Professional j>ride, esprit du corps, 
human ambition, and all the other ordinary motives to 
exertion, conspire in this man with benevolence and religion : 
since he firmly and entirely believes that the Roman Catho- 
lic Church is the sweetest, holiest, sublimest thing known 
to man, his best consolation here, and his surest passport 
to happiness yonder. 

In union there is strength ; and yet when a thing is to 
be done, one man must do it. Our Roman Catholic breth- 
ren contrive to work at once, with the power of a union of 
two hundred millions of members, and with the efficient 
force which only an individual can wield. This priest of 
the unformed parish is as independent as the captain of a 
frigate on his own quarter-deck, who must ever keep an eye 
on the signals of the admiral's ship, but who when the sig- 
nal says Go in, lays his ship alongside, and carries on the 
action in his own way, subject only to the rules of the ser- 
vice. This priest, too, is not required to waste his force 
and the best of his time in writing brilliant sermons for the 
entertainment of a cloyed, fastidious congregation. His is 
healthier, manlier work. He has to do, at times, with con- 
tractors, masons, carpenters, architects. He is out of doors 
a good deal, watching the progress of buildings, upon the 
erection of which his heart is set, and the completion of 
which will gratify his pride as well as his benevolence, be- 
sides entitling him to consideration elsewhere. Seeing 
what a healthy and full life these Catholic priests lead, I 
no longer wonder to find them so round, contented, cheer- 
ful, and merry. 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 155 

Our priest, as we see in the handbill, hires a hall, and 
begins. The enterprise is self-sustaining from the first day. 
His three masses on Sunday, his daily mass, his vesper ser- 
vices, his pew-rents, his fees, bring in money enough for all 
expenses, and a surplus for the church which is to be 
erected. At every mass there is a collection. A building 
committee is formed ; subscription-books are opened ; fairs 
are held. In three years, come to this new parish, and you 
shall see : 1. A large and handsome church ; 2. A good 
parsonage, next door to it ; 3. A five or six story building 
adjoining for a parochial school, with two thousand children 
in it under the instruction of the Sisters of Charity and the 
Christian Brothers. This is no exaggeration; for I am 
only stating here what has actually occurred in the next 
parish, that of the Immaculate Conception, in East 
Fourteenth Street. Seven years ago, when Dr. Morrogh 
was appointed pastor of this parish, there was neither 
church, parsonage, nor school. He now has an excellent 
church, which he is about to enlarge, a sufficient parsonage, 
and an exceedingly spacious and handsome school-house, 
wherein, by the time these lines are read, he will have 
twenty-five hundred children. It is true that Dr. Morrogh 
possesses unusual executive ability ; but, on the other hand, 
his church is in the heart of one of the tenement-house 
regions, and he probably has not a hundred men in his 
parish who ever have a hundred dollars all at once. Prob- 
ably he can boast and a proud boast it is for a Christian 
minister that nine tenths of his flock are laboring men 
and domestic servants. And it is these poor people who 
have solaced themselves by paying for these buildings, 
which cannot have cost less than two hundred thousand 
dollars. Nor has it been a heavy burden to any one but 
the pastor. " Many a night I have lain awake," said he, 
" wondering where the money was to come from to go on 
w T ith." But for the people of the parish it was easy enough. 
Are there not fifteen thousand of them ? If each contrib- 
utes ten cents a week, does it not come to seventy-eight 
thousand dollars a year ? 

The regular revenues of a Catholic church in a city are 
numerous and large. Here is the Church of St. Stephen's, 
for example ; let us endeavor to estimate its income : 



156 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Six-o'clock mass on Sunday morning . . . $10.00 
Seven-o'clock mass " " . . .25.00 

Nine-o'clock " " " 25.00 

Sunday-school collection 10.00 

High mass at half past ten 40.00 

Vespers 20.00 

Six week-day masses, in all 25.00 

Total weekly income : .... $155.00 

This is equal to $ 8,060 for a year. Add to this the rent 
of 600 pews, at an average of $ 75 each, and we have an 
annual revenue of $ 53,060. The pew-rent, I believe, av- 
erages more than this; although the pews stand open to 
every comer, except at high mass and vespers. 

Such is the income. The expenses are not great : 

Pastor's salary $ 600 

Three assistant priests, in all 1,200 

Sexton, not more than 1,000 

Organist, probably 1,000 

Choir, about 4,000 

Fire and gas, possibly 1,000 



Total expenses $ 8,800 

This leaves an excess of income over expenditure of 
$42,260. This excess, except a small annual tax for the 
archbishop and the general interests of the diocese, is all 
expended in the parish. Upon most of these new city 
churches there is a debt which has to be provided for. If 
the parish is old enough to be out of debt, you may be sure 
it needs a new or an enlarged church, for which a fund is 
forming. If its church is sufficient, and the parsonage 
adequate, then you may expect to see the pastor directing 
the construction of a parochial school-house, large enough to 
draw off from the over-crowded public schools of the neigh- 
borhood the two thousand too many children on their rolls. 
Or, perhaps, there is connected with the church a religious 
community whose operations are expensive. Thus, by the 
nnstimulated, quiet operation of the system, all our cities 
will be covered with costly Catholic structures, which will 
constantly increase in splendor and number. In some New 
England villages, and in several New England towns, the 
Catholic Church is already much the most solid, spacious, 
and ornate ecclesiastical edifice in the place. It must be 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 157 

so ; for the poor, besides being more generous than the 
rich, are hundreds of times more numerous, and their pen- 
nies flow in a continuous stream. Nor do they confine 
thek gifts to copper coin. " An Irish housemaid," says a 
paragraph just afloat, " has given a stained-glass window to 
the Catholic Church at Concord, New Hampshire." Noth- 
ing more credible. Two servant-girls, in this very house 
where I am now writing, educated their brother for the 
priesthood, keeping on year after year, spending nothing 
for their personal gratification, literally nothing, but sus- 
taining him respectably, until one ecstatic day they went 
off in their Sunday clothes, their two faces radiant with 
joy, to see him ordained. Having accomplished this work, 
they next saved the sum requisite ($250 each) for their 
honorable admission into a laborious religious order, in 
which they now are. And yet the self-indulgent Parlor 
has the insolence to think itself morally superior to the 
self-denying Kitchen. The Recording Angel, if there is 
such a book-keeper, has something to enter to the credit of 
the Kitchen much oftener, probably, than he has to that 
of the apartments above it. 

But we are talking of the financial system of the church. 
The archbishop, as before observed, draws a small sum an- 
nually from each parish ; he also derives something from 
the revenues of the cathedral ; and he controls the large 
fund arising from the sale of lots in the Catholic ceme- 
teries, all of which are the property of the diocese. Our 
Roman Catholic brethren decidedly prefer to be buried in 
cemeteries of their own. No strict Catholic will bury a 
member of his family in Greenwood or Mount Auburn, for 
he does not feel that God Almighty's ground is quite good 
enough for his bones to moulder in until a bishop has said 
a few words over it. We must pardon him this harmless 
foible, in consideration of our own similar weaknesses. The 
fact remains, however, that the income of the cemeteries 
adds something considerable to the central fund of the dio- 
cese, which is applied to objects of diocesan importance. 
We may illustrate the working of* this part of the system 
by showing how the new cathedral in the city of New York 
was started, how it has been continued, and how it is to be 
carried on to completion. This edifice will probably cost 



158 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

two millions of dollars. It would cost ten millions if it 
were to be built by the city government. 

When Archbishop Hughes made up his mind, about ten 
years ago, that the time had come for beginning a cathedral 
that would be worthy of the chief city of the Union, the 
debt upon the old cathedral had not been extinguished, the 
cemetery fund was almost consumed in enlarging and im- 
proving the cemeteries themselves, and the archbishop was 
(dependent for his mere maintenance upon the product of 
the tax upon the parishes. No matter ; the time had come 
for beginning ; and every New-Yorker now sees how per- 
fectly the commencement of the enterprise was timed. But 
there was no money. If it had been a Protestant enter- 
prise, this fact would have presented a slight impediment. 
It is only our ftoman Catholic brethren who can undertake 
two-million-dollar cathedrals without having any money. 
The archbishop caused a circular letter to be written, an- 
nouncing his design, and requesting the person addressed 
to contribute toward it one thousand dollars. A copy of 
this letter, signed by the archbishop, was sent to every 
Catholic in the diocese known to be rich enough to afford 
himself the luxury of giving away a thousand dollars. A 
similar letter, also signed by the archbishop, was addressed 
to every Catholic who could be supposed capable of giving 
five hundred dollars ; and another letter to many who could 
be rationally expected to give two hundred and fifty dol- 
lars ; each of whom was invited to confer upon himself the 
pleasure and advantage of giving the sum mentioned in the 
epistle addressed to him. Such requests are never made 
without due consideration, and they are seldom refused. 
Nor is the church too particular as to whose money it shall 
accept. I have before me a Catholic subscription paper, on 
which may be read : 

Charles O'Conor $250.00 

John Morrissey . . . . . . 500.00 

All is fish that comes to the church's net. By this expe- 
dient the archbishop raised three hundred thousand dollars, 
enough to buy the land, lay the foundation, and carry 
up the walls a few feet. About the time the war broke 
out the money was gone, and it was highly convenient to 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 159 

stop. The orphans and the widows of the war were a heavy 
charge upon all the city parishes. The ordinary collections 
at Christmas and Easter (sacred to the orphan in all Cath- 
olic churches) were utterly insufficient, and the people were 
called upon for further aid, which of course they gave most 
liberally. It was obviously not a time to be building mar- 
ble cathedrals for posterity, and so the walls were carefully 
boarded over. The war being ended, the new archbishop 
issued a requisition, calling upon each pastor of a parish 
for a contribution to the cathedral fund, and allowing him 
a certain time in which to collect it. Work upon the build- 
ing has been resumed, and will probably go on until it is 
completed ; for the old cathedral is out of debt, and the 
cemetery fund is now productive. 

The archbishop, be it observed, is the almost absolute 
ruler of the priests of his province. He places them, re- 
moves them, suspends them, according to his own good 
will and pleasure, subject to the laws and usages of the 
church. There is no appeal against his decisions, except to 
Eome ; and this resource is seldom within the compass of 
a priest. Rome is far away, and a priest appealing against 
the judgment of his superior must have a very good case or 
a very good friend, in order to obtain a favorable judgment. 
But, on the other hand, a dignitary of the church is severely 
and long tested before promotion, and he is practically 
elected by the very men whom he is afterwards to govern. 
Soon after the death of an archbishop, the higher clergy of 
the province assemble to express their preferences with re- 
gard to his successor. They send three names to Rome. 
Opposite the first name is written, Dignus, worthy. Opposite 
the second, Dignior, worthier. Opposite the third name 
is written, Dignissimus, most worthy. The office is almost 
invariably assigned to the person whom his brethren thus 
indicate as their choice. The instances are rare in which an 
American prelate has abused his power over the clergy, and 
I believe no priest has yet applied to Rome for the redress 
of a grievance. 

Among our Roman Catholic brethren the instinct of or- 
ganizing and co-operating is wonderfully developed. I have 
before me a list, not complete, of the Catholic orders, which 
contains the names of two hundred and fifty-one varieties, 



160 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

each of which is an expression and a permanent gratifica- 
tion of the desire of some benevolent soul. One example : 
Two hundred and fifty years ago, a French priest, named 
Vincent de Paul, was requested by a lady of his flock to 
call the attention of the congregation to the case of a desti- 
tute family lying sick a mile from the town. He did so, 
and with such effect that the poor people were supplied 
with food in profusion, so that much of it was spoiled be- 
fore they could consume it. This priest, being one of those 
men whom every event instructs, was led to reflect upon 
the need there was in every large town of having the be- 
nign impulses regulated, and the gifts of the benevolent 
husbanded, so that none of them should be wasted, and the 
supply should never be exhausted. The result of his med- 
itations we behold in the order of the Sisters of Charity, 
which all the world approves, and will ever approve. But 
this was not all the good arising from Father Vincent's re- 
flections. To-day nearly every Catholic parish in large 
towns, in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia, has 
within it a society called a " Conference of St. Vincent de 
Paul," the object of which is the systematic and judicious 
relief of the poor of the parish. These societies form one 
vast system of charity ; each conference reporting to a 
diocesan centre, each diocese reporting to a national centre, 
and each nation to the Head Centre of the organization, 
a cardinal residing at Paris. From him again, as the blood 
pulses back from the heart to the extremities, a quarterly 
report is sent to every corner of Christendom, which reaches 
every individual member of each conference. Any reader 
curious to know the practical working of the system can 
gratify his desire by expending ten cents at any Catholic 
bookstore, where he can buy the " Rules of the Society of 
St. Vincent de Paul." 

Then there is the " Propaganda," or, as we should term 
it, the missionary system. This, too, is an organization 
which embraces the whole world, and to the funds of which 
tens of millions of Catholics contribute. Each member of 
the organization gives one cent a week toward the extension 
of the domain of the Church. In every ten members there 
is one person who is authorized to receive the weekly cop- 
pers, and pay the dime over to an individual who is the 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 161 

centre of ten tens. By the time the money reaches his 
hands it has become a dollar, and he hands the dollar to one 
who receives for ten of these ten tens. We have now rolled 
up the sum to ten dollars, which is paid to the head of ten 
of the hundred tens ; and so it goes on swelling until it 
reaches the chief of the propaganda, another cardinal, who 
lives at Lyons. He, in turn, sends to the societies a report 
of the grand result, which, by a system of handing from 
one ten to another, is made to reach every giver of a weekly 
cent. Thus is the money raised which sustains the Church 
beyond the bounds of Christendom, and buys the sites of 
churches where as yet there is no human habitation. 

There is no end to the charities of our Roman Catholic 
brethren and sisters, and all that they do in this way is 
done with the efficiency and power of a disciplined organiza- 
tion. An admirable case in point is that of a community 
in Paris, which consists of an equal number of blind and 
seeing sisters. In each cell there is one of each ; and it is 
part of the occupation of the sister who can see to aid, wait 
upon, and read to the sister who is blind. It does the 
heart good merely to know that such a sweet device as this 
has ever been conceived. There is a little book published 
in Paris (and we ought to have such in our cities) which 
contains a catalogue and brief account of all the charitable 
organizations there, Manuel des CEuvres et Institutions de 
Charite. Public par Ordre de M**- I' Archeveque, &c. It 
contains a description of one hundred and ninety-two be- 
nevolent societies and systems. Any one would be puzzled 
to think of a malady, misfortune, deprivation, or peril for 
which there does not exist in Catholic Paris some organized 
remedy, mitigation, or prevention. The mere enumeration 
would exhaust all my remaining space, and I can only men- 
tion a few. There are societies for aiding mothers before, 
during, and after confinement ; some of which give in-door, 
others out-door aid ; some bearing the whole charge, others 
part ; some aiding mothers themselves to form a fund 
against the time, and others insuring the required aid, 
whenever needed, in return for the payment of a small sum 
periodically. There are societies for the preservation and 
assistance of every conceivable description of needy chil- 
dren, lost children, abandoned children, neglected chil- 



162 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

dren, destitute children, bad children, blind, deaf and dumb, 
and crippled children ; children subject to 'fits, convalescent 
children, children whose mothers have to go out to work, 
children who want to be apprenticed and cannot pay the 
required premium, children who have no one to teach them 
their catechism ; orphan children in asylums, orphan chil- 
dren living with relatives, orphan children in places, orphan 
children adopted, Polish orphans, Jewish orphans. Besides 
special hospitals for almost every kind of curable and in- 
curable maladies, there are asylums for every description 
of disabled persons, the blind, the deaf and dumb, the 
crippled, the aged, the imbecile, the incompetent of all 
kinds and degrees. And this vast system of charity is car- 
ried on by our Roman Catholic brethren and sisters, and 
most of the work is done by persons dedicated for life to 
the service of the afflicted, and trained to discharge their 
vocation in the best manner. 

It is interesting to observe how each part of the Catholic 
system, besides promoting the general object, works in spe- 
cial harmony with special aims. Example : it is the wish, 
it is the fixed intention, of our Roman Catholic brethren to 
have a free school in every parish in the United States suf- 
ficient for the accommodation of all the Catholic children 
resident in the parish. In the diocese of New York there 
are sixty-one of these parochial schools, in which about 
twenty-five thousand pupils are taught, greatly to the 
relief of the cruelly crowded public schools. The relig- 
ious instruction given in these schools consists of a. lesson in 
the catechism, the saying of a few short Catholic prayers, 
the reading of the Gospel for the day, and an occasional 
exhortation; the whole occupying, on an average, twenty 
minutes a day. But it is not for the sake of the direct 
religious instruction that the pastors are so desirous of 
having parochial schools. There are several orders in the 
church which are devoted to the work of instruction, 
the Christian Brothers, some of the Sisters of Charity, the 
Ladies of the Sacred Heart, and many more. It is from 
these orders that the teachers of the parochial schools are 
drawn ; and it is the Catholicizing effect upon the minds of 
the children, of these still, self-contained, cheerful per- 
sons that the pastors chiefly value. There is a marvellous 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 163 

economy, too, in the system ; for these pious sisters and 
devoted brothers only require the necessaries of life. Dr. 
Morrogh pays into the treasury of the Sisters of Charity 
two hundred dollars per annum for each sister employed in 
his school ! The sisters live at the house of their order in 
Fifteenth Street, and go forth every morning to the schools 
to spend a laborious day in instructing ignorance, returning 
at noon and at night to their religious home. It will cost 
Dr. Morrogh about eight thousand dollars to sustain his 
school, possibly ten thousand. It would cost the city of 
New York eighteen thousand dollars. It happened to be a 
snowy day on which I visited this school, and no one went 
home to dinner. But when dinner-time came, an apparatus 
containing a hot dinner for the sisters was brought round 
to them from their home near by, and they all sat down 
together in a nice little room to enjoy it, with the musical 
accompaniment of twelve hundred romping girls. 

Surely there is something admirable and imitable in all 
this. 

Of course there is shadow to be put into the picture. 
This amazing organization, or system of organizations, is 
the accumulated practical wisdom of many thousand years ; 
but it is the work of imperfect human beings, and partakes 
of their imperfection. " There is a provision in nature," 
says Goethe, " to prevent trees from growing up into the 
sky." Else, Commodore Vanderbilt would own all the 
railroads, and we should all turn Catholics immediately. 
Every Protestant knows, or thinks he knows, precisely 
what the defect is which prevents this interesting tree 
from growing up into the sky, and spreading its branches 
over the whole earth. I think I know. I think it is be- 
cause there is not a sufficient provision in it for adapting 
its doctrine to the advancing mind of the race. 

Our Roman Catholic brethren, for example, firmly believe 
that miracles are daily wrought among them. They in- 
form me, that the most noted miracle yet performed in the 
United States occurred in the city of Washington on the 
10th of March, 1824. Bishop England, of Charleston, who 
ranked very high in the estimation of his brethren, inves- 
tigated this miracle, published an account of it, and ap- 
pended to his narrative the affidavits of thirty-seven persons, 



164 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

all of whom testified to the miraculous nature of the event. 
Mrs. Ann Mattingly, widow, aged thirty-four, residing with 
her brother, the Mayor of Washington, had been afflicted 
for six years with a hard and painful^ tumor in the lower 
part of the left breast, which four of the leading physicians 
of the city pronounced incurable, and for which they pre- 
scribed only palliative applications and medicines. She 
suffered all that a woman could suffer and live, vomitings 
of blood, intense chills, pain almost insupportable, a most 
distressing cough, until she was reduced to a skeleton, and 
lay at death's door. From long lying in bed, her shoulders 
and back were ulcerated to such a degree that it was tor- 
ture to her to have her linen changed or to move in bed. 
In the fifth year of her illness the tidings began to be 
spread abroad in America of the wonderful cures wrought 
in Europe through the prayers of a certain Prince Hohen- 
lohe, a venerated priest of the Catholic Church ; and some 
of the friends of the afflicted lady besought her to make 
known her sufferings to this holy man, and beg his inter- 
cession in her behalf. The pastor of her church, with the 
consent of the Archbishop of Baltimore, wrote to the prince- 
ly priest, as many others did in all parts of the world, 
asking his prayers for this lady's recovery. The priest as- 
certained, however, that the Prince Hohenlohe had already 
made known his intentions with regard to all sick persons 
out of Europe who desired his prayers. He would pray for 
such on the tenth day of every month at nine o'clock in 
the morning, and he called upon all who wished to enjoy 
the benefit of his intercession to fulfil certain conditions. 
They must have faith in the efficacy of prayers; they must 
repent anew and deeply of their sins ; they must form an 
immovable purpose to lead an exemplary life; they must 
perform a Novena, or nine days' devotion, in honor of the 
Holy Name of Jesus ; they must confess, do penance, and 
receive the sacrament ; and, finally, on the appointed day, 
the tenth of any month, at nine A. M., they must unite in 
prayers with the prince, far away on the other side of 
the ocean. 

With all these conditions Mrs. Ann Mattingly complied. 
The priest of her church, two hundred of her friends and 
fellow-Catholics, as well as some other sick persons, shared 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 165 

in the Novena, and the archbishop of the province " gra- 
ciously promised to join in prayer with them on the appointed 
day, 10th of March instant." The Novena was begun on 
the first day of March, 1824, so that it might end on the 
tenth. As there is a difference of six hours between the 
time at Washington and at the place in Germany where 
the prince lived, the priest appointed the hour of three in 
the morning for the last solemn act of supplication, and so 
notified all the families and persons concerned. At nine in 
the evening before, Mrs. Mattingly, who apparently had 
not many hours to live, confessed, and received absolution. 
At two in the morning, the priest who was in special charge 
of the Novena said mass in the church, and carried thence 
the sacrament to the afflicted lady's room, where he arrived 
about half past two. She was then so low and so inces- 
santly tormented by a cough, that the priest was appre- 
hensive she would die before she had communed. The 
sacrament, however, was administered, and it cost the lady 
a painful effort of six minutes to swallow it. The solemn 
ceremony being ended, the priest wrapped up the sacred 
vessels and implements, gave the usual blessing to the 
kneeling family (five in number, all of whom swear to these 
and the following statements), and was making his last 
adoration of the Host before leaving, when he heard a deep 
sigh issuing from the direction of the bed. He turned, and 
behold, a miracle ! Mrs. Mattingly sat up, stretched 
her arms forward, clasped her hands, and said, in a clear 
though weak voice, " Lord Jesus, what have I done to de- 
serve so great a favor 1 " Sobs and shrieks burst from the 
persons present. The priest rose from his knees, and has- 
tened to the bedside. She raised his hand. "Ghostly 
father," she cried, " what can I do to acknowledge such a 
blessing] " " Glory be to God ! " he exclaimed ; " we may 
say so. O, what a day for us ! " On being asked to tell 
what she felt, she said, " Not the least pain left." 

She went on to say, that, being overcome by her suffer- 
ings, and in expectation of immediate death, she had said 
to herself, " Lord Jesus, thy will be done ! " and at that 
instant she was completely relieved from all her pains. " I 
wish to get up," she cried, joyfully, " and give thanks to 
God on my knees " ; and so she did, and remained kneeling 



166 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

for fifteen minutes without fatigue. She walked; she 
dressed herself ; she came down to breakfast ; she ate 
heartily, and remained up all day, receiving the visits of 
friends and strangers, who came in crowds to see her. 
Every trace of the tumor was gone ! The ulcers upon her 
back had vanished, and left no scar; and, what was strangest 
of all, the matter which those ulcers had discharged had 
all disappeared, both from the bed-clothes and from her 
own night-dress ! ! Upon this last point Bishop England 
is emphatic. " I am perfectly convinced," he says, " that, 
were I disposed to collect the testimony relating thereto, it 
would appear to the satisfaction of every unbiassed, impar- 
tial, and judicious reader, unquestionable, that as miracu- 
lous a change took place in the state of the clothing of the 
bed and of the body as there did in the state of the body 
itself." 

This assertion of the Bishop is safe, because upon such 
subjects no reader is unbiassed, no reader is impartial. 

This narrative illustrates a very important difference be- 
tween our Roman Catholic brethren and ourselves. A good 
Catholic, no matter what his rank or culture, believes in 
such things without an effort. It was not necessary for the 
faith of Catholics that Bishop England should gather such 
a mass of testimony. Three good witnesses would have 
sufficed quite as well as three dozen. But no amount or 
quality of testimony could convince a Protestant mind that 
Mrs. Mattingly's tumor was cured miraculously, and her 
linen miraculously cleansed. For my part, if the President 
and Vice-President, if the whole Cabinet, both houses of 
Congress, and the judges of the Supreme Court, had all 
sworn that they saw this thing done, and I myself had 
seen it, nay, if the tumor had been on my own body, and 
had seemed to myself to be suddenly healed, still I 
should think it more probable that all those witnesses, in- 
cluding myself, were mistaken, than that such a miracle had 
been performed. Such is the incredulity of a modernized 
mind, especially if that modernized mind has occasionally 
served on a jury, and so learned the value of human testi- 
mony. 

How different with Catholics! "Why!" says Father 
Hecker, " we do not worship a dead God ! Where is the 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 167 

improbability 1 ? No one doubts God's ability to heal his 
faithful servants ; why should we find it so hard to believe 
that he does so 1 Protestants usually admit that miracles 
were once performed, and they still use language in their 
prayers which implies an expectation of miraculous aid. 
We Catholics have a living practical faith in Providence, 
which you Protestants think you have, and have not. And 
where is your authority for saying that, during a certain 
period of the world's history, miracles were wrought, but 
that there came a moment when they ceased to be wrought 1 
Why is it rational to believe in a miracle which occurred 
Anno Domini 32, but wholly irrational to believe in one 
wrought Anno Domini 1868 1 " 

These are not the precise words of the Superior of the 
Paulists, but such are some of his ideas. I did not, do not, 
cannot answer his questions. My office is merely that of 
reporter. I have yet to relate the special measures now on 
foot for the conversion of us all, and the grounds upon 
which our Roman Catholic brethren rest their confident ex- 
pectation of being in another generation or two the domi- 
nant church of the United States. 

Are we all going to be Roman Catholics, then, about the 
year 1945? 

So we are assured by some of our more sanguine Roman 
Catholic brethren. And, really, the ancient church, not in 
this young country only, but in Europe too, and especially 
in France, Germany, and England, appears to be renewing 
its youth, and pressing forward most vigorously to occupy 
and reoccupy. It is regaining its audacity. It is begin- 
ning again to take the initiative. It hits back once more. 
It even succeeds in turning the laugh against us sometimes, 
which is a great point gained. It has taken the church 
eighty years to recover from the mockery of one man, and 
it is now using his terrible weapon against its own enemies. 
Few better burlesques have ever been written than the 
one recently published in England, and republished in New 
York, entitled " The Comedy of Convocation in the English 
Church," in which the one great excellence of that church 
is ridiculed in the most delicious manner. The point of 
superiority of the Church of England over some others is, 
or was, that it allowed a wide latitude of opinion, and did 



168 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

not set up to be an infallible teacher. This is the point 
ridiculed ; but the novelty of the burlesque is, that it is so 
exquisitely and good-naturedly done. The new blood is be- 
ginning to tell. There is one extractible passage of this 
masterpiece of fun, which may serve to illustrate the new 
spirit of which 1 speak. " Archdeacon Jolly," one of the 
speakers at the imaginary convocation, explains the opera- 
tion of a new society, which, he said, was called " The So- 
ciety for considering the best Means of keeping alive the 
Corruptions of Popery in the Interests of Gospel Truth." 

"It was, of course," the jolly Archdeacon continued, "a 
strictly secret organization ; but he had been favored, he 
knew not why, with a copy of the prospectus, and as he had 
no intention of becoming a member, he would communicate 
it to the house. It appeared from this document, and 
could be confirmed from other sources, that a deputation 
was sent last year to Home to obtain a private interview 
with the Pope, in order to entreat his Holiness not to reform 
a single Popish corruption. A handsome present was in- 
trusted to the deputation, and a liberal contribution to the 
Peter's Pence Fund. The motives set forth in the pream- 
ble of the address presented to his Holiness were, in sub- 
stance, of the following nature : They urged that a very 
large body of most respectable clergymen, who had no per- 
sonal ill-will toward the present occupant of the Holy See, 
had maintained themselves and their families in comfort 
for many years exclusively by the abuse of popery ; and, 
if popery were taken away, they could not but contemplate 
the probable results with uneasiness and alarm. Moreover, 
many eminent members of the profession had gained a 
reputation for evangelical wit, learning, and piety, as well 
as high dignities in the Church of England, by setting forth 
in their sermons, and at public meetings, with all their har- 
rowing details, the astounding abominations of the Church 
of Pvome. The petitioners implored his Holiness not to be 
indifferent to the position of these gentlemen. Many of 
their number had privately requested the deputation to 
plead their cause with the amiable and benevolent Pius IX. 
Thus the great and good Dr. M 'Nickel represented respect- 
fully that he had filled his church, and let all his pews, 
during three - and - twenty years, by elegantly slandering 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 169 

priests and nuns, and powerfully illustrating Romish super- 
stitions. A clergyman of noble birth had attained to the 
honors of the episcopate by handling alternately the same 
subjects, and a particularly pleasing doctrine of the Millen- 
nium, and had thus been enabled to confer a valuable living 
on his daughter's husband, who otherwise could not have 
hoped to obtain one. An eminent canon of an old Roman 
Catholic abbey owed his distinguished position, which he 
hoped to be allowed to retain, to the fact of his having 
proved so clearly that the Pope was Antichrist ; and ear- 
nestly entreated his Holiness to do nothing to forfeit that 
character. A well-known doctor of Anglican divinity was 
on the point of quitting the country in despair of gaining 
a livelihood, when the idea of preaching against popery 
was suggested to him, and he had now reason to rejoice 
that he had abandoned the foolish scheme of emigration. 
.... Finally, a young clergyman, who had not hitherto 
much distinguished himself, having often but vainly solic- 
ited a member of his congregation to favor his evangelical 
attachment, at length hit upon a new expedient, and 
preached so ravishing a discourse on the matrimonial pro- 
hibitions of the Romish Church, and drew so appalling a 
picture of the domestic infelicities of the Romish priest- 
hood, that on the following Monday morning the young 
lady made him an offer of her hand and fortune." 

Nothing could be better for its purpose than this, and 
the whole pamphlet of one hundred and thirty-eight pages 
is executed quite as well. The surprising feature of the 
performance is, that the author never lapses for a single 
instant into ill-temper, such is the strength of his talent, 
and the entireness of his faith. In conversing with Catholic 
priests, I have been repeatedly struck with the same imper- 
turbable good-humor, the same absolute confidence in the 
impregnability of their position. 

Another fruit of the church's recovered audacity lies 
before me, in the Abbe" Maynard's new "Life of Voltaire," 
called forth, apparently, by the great stir in France result- 
ing from the proposal to erect a national monument to 
Voltaire in Paris. " You are a humbug," said Voltaire to 
the Church, in ninety-seven volumes duodecimo. " You 're 
another," replies Abbe" Maynard, in two volumes octavo. 
8 



170 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

This indefatigable Abbe has gone over the thousand vol- 
umes or so which contain the yet unwritten story of Vol- 
taire's life, and has gathered from them every incident and 
every sentence the cold relation or quotation of which would 
make against his subject. The result is, that his work is, 
at once, the truest and the falsest upon Voltaire ever writ- 
ten ; most of the facts which he chooses to give are stated 
with a certain exactness, but most of that in Voltaire's 
career which made it worth while to relate those facts at 
all is not mentioned. It is evident, nevertheless, that the 
Abbe is as honest as he is patient ; he merely cannot see 
anything in Voltaire except his poor, human foibles. His 
work is chiefly interesting as another evidence that our 
Roman Catholic brethren are becoming militant again, and 
do not mean to be hit without striking out from the shoul- 
der at their assailant. 

By a curious chance, it happened that the same steamer 
which brought these two thick volumes from France brought 
also Le Vrai Voltaire, of M. Pompery, also published in 
1867, in which two things are asserted of the great master 
of mockery: 1. That he was the most extraordinary of 
men ; and, 2. That he was the consummate Christian of all 
times ! Both of these works came to me in the same brown- 
paper parcel. Both were published in the same Paris, in 
the same year; both were written by Frenchmen for French- 
men. Such a creature is man when he shuts up in party 
that mind of his which was meant to range free over the 
whole ! Of these two works, that of the Abb6 is by far the 
most able and thorough ; and he does not fail to urge home 
to the Paris of this moment that the virtuous people of 
France are still those who go to mass and confess their 
sins. Ah ! that is the difficult argument to answer ! As 
the authoritative expounder of the universe, the mission 
of the church may, indeed, be nearly accomplished ; but as 
an organization for the inculcation of virtue, the best part 
of its career is only just now beginning. 

Persons who are so unfortunate as to be obliged to travel 
much in the public vehicles and vessels of the city of New 
York frequently have religious tracts offered them by a 
fellow-sufferer, who draws a bundle of them from his pocket, 
and hands them around. It has, perhaps, occurred to others 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 171 

besides myself, what a powerful means of doing good this 
might be if the tracts were written in just the right way, 
on just the right subjects, by truly enlightened and sympa- 
thetic men; and perhaps others have wondered, besides 
myself, that such an obvious and easy way of spreading 
abroad good knowledge, good principles, anji good feeling 
should be so long neglected by persons capable of using it 
with effect. I hope yet to see our omnibuses littered with 
tracts written by such persons as Mr. Emerson, Dr. Holmes, 
Mr. Lowell, Mr. Norton, Mr. Curtis, Dr. Bellows, Horace 
Greeley, Dr. Chapin, Mr. Mayo, Mr. Higginson, Mrs. Stowe, 
Gail Hamilton, Mr. Beecher, Goldwin Smith, Charles Dick- 
ens, and all the other good fellows of either sex who love 
their species, and have a wise or friendly word to say to 
them. It will only be necessary for them to write a great 
deal better than they ever did before. 

Our Roman Catholic brethren have at length awoke to 
the power of the four-paged tract, and they are using it with 
increasing frequency and skill. This movement mitigates 
the horrors of city travel ; for the Catholic tracts, besides 
containing much information little known to us Protestants, 
are written in a lively strain, often in the form of dialogue. 
It is not a bad thing, about half-way down town, to have 
politely put into your hands a sprightly little piece, upon 
" What my Uncle said about the Pope." 

" One day, in the Central Park, we sat down on a nice 
shady seat, and Uncle George took out a newspaper to read. 
As his eye glanced down the columns he suddenly gave a 
grunt, and hit the ground very sharply with his cane. 

" * Got the gout, Uncle 1 ' said I. 

" ' No, my dear, it 's nothing but the old Pope again.' 

" ' Who is he, Uncle V I inquired. 

" c I am sorry to say he 's a bad man, my dear,' replied 
Uncle George, looking at me over his spectacles, ' and al- 
ways was.' 

" * Why don't the police take him up, then, and try him 1 ' 
I asked. 

" ' Because there are so many people who believe him to 
be a good man,' answered my uncle ; ' and as for trying 
him, Fred, there 's been plenty of that, if you only under- 
stood it ; but the oftener he is brought into court, the 



172 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

fewer witnesses you can get to appear against him, and he 
always manages to come off " not guilty." ' 

" 'How many people believe he is a good man, Uncle?' 
I inquired. ' A dozen now, I should n't wonder ] ' 

" * A dozen ! ' exclaimed the old gentleman ; ' see here ' ; 
and he commenced drawing figures on the gravelled walk 
with his cane/ 'There,' said he, pointing to the sum he 
had marked on the ground, * what do you make of that '1 ' 

" * There 's a 2,' said I, ' and a naught, and an 8, and six 
more naughts. Why, Uncle, that 's two hundred and eight 
millions ! ' 

" ' That 's about it, my dear.' " 

It is much more amusing to read such a sprightly per- 
formance as this than to sit opposite six pairs of eyes, 
occupied only in the embarrassing task of not " catching " 
any of them. Useful knowledge, too, is acquired. It is 
agreeable to know the exact figures about anything. There 
is a tract upon "Article II. of the Popular Creed," which 
is, " All men cannot believe alike." There is also one upon 
Article I. of the same creed : " It is a matter of no impor- 
tance what a man believes, if he be only sincere." There 
is another entitled "What shall I do to be saved ?" This 
is a dialogue, and the main question is thus answered : 

" Earnest Inquirer. Will you be kind enough to tell me 
what practical answer is given in the Catholic Church to 
Catholics themselves who ask the question, ' What shall I 
do to be saved 1 ' 

" Catholic. A Catholic is usually baptized in infancy, and 
is thereby invested with all the privileges of a Christian. 
As he grows older, he is taught the principles of his re- 
ligion. If he lives up to them, and obeys God's command- 
ments, he is always the friend of God, and does not need to 
ask the question at all, just as a native-born citizen who 
has never forfeited his citizenship needs not to inquire how 
he shall become a citizen. But if he turns away from God 
by sin, then .... the short practical answer to his question 
is, Prepare yourself, and come and make an humble and 
contrite confession of your sins." 

Most of the thirty tracts already issued are evidently 
designed to be read by Protestants, and aim to give correct 
statements of certain Catholic doctrines which Catholics 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 173 

claim are habitually misstated by Protestants. In the pub- 
lication of these and other cheap works a Catholic Publica- 
tion Society has been formed, precisely similar in design to 
the "Methodist Book Concern." In short, our Roman 
Catholic brethren are adopting, one after another, all our 
Protestant plans and expedients j they are turning our own 
artillery against us. As usual with them, it is one man 
who is working this new and most effective idea ; but, as 
usual with them also, this one man is working by, with, 
and through an organization which multiplies his force one 
hundred times, and constitutes him a person of national 
importance. Readers who take note of the really impor- 
tant things transpiring around them will know at once that 
the individual referred to is Father Hecker, Superior of the 
Community of the Paulists, in New York, editor of the 
" Catholic World," and director of the Catholic Publication 
Society. It is he who is putting American machinery into 
the ancient ark, and getting ready to run her by steam. 
Here, for once, is a happy man, happy in his faith and 
in his work, sure that in spreading abroad a knowledge 
of the true Catholic doctrine he is doing the best thing 
possible for his native land. A tall, healthy-looking, robust, 
handsome, cheerful gentleman of forty-five, endowed with a 
particular talent for winning confidence and regard, which 
talent has been improved by many years of active exercise. 
It is a particular pleasure to meet with any one, at such a 
time as this, whose work perfectly satisfies his conscience, his 
benevolence, and his pride, and who is doing that work in 
the most favorable circumstances, and with the best co- 
operation. Imagine a benevolent physician in a populous 
hospital, who has in his office the medicine which he is 
perfectly certain will cure or mitigate every case, provided 
only he can get it talcen, and who is surrounded with a 
corps of able and zealous assistants to aid him in persuading 
the patients to take it ! 

This excellent arid gifted man is a native of the city of 
New York, where his two brothers are well known as con- 
trolling the business of supplying the city with eveiy de- 
scription of flour and meal; their establishment being 
among the most extensive of the kind in the world. The 
father of these three boys was a Presbyterian, the mother 



174 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

a Methodist ; but neither of them was a severe or exacting 
sectarian, and the boys were allowed the usual free range 
among all the churches of the town. It was an affection- 
ate, entirely virtuous, and estimable family, of German ori- 
gin, with a decided bias among the younger members 
toward spiritual inquiries and subjects. The three boys, 
in particular, had the true German fondness for one another, 
and, in due time, went into business together, that very 
business which has since grown to such wonderful propor- 
tions. They began, however, as bakers and dealers in flour 
in a small way ; all three, I believe, working at the knead- 
ing-trough and at the oven's fiery mouth. Their business 
prospered ; it soon became evident that a great success was 
within their reach, to attain which they had nothing to do 
but go on in the way they were going. But this assurance 
of success having been reached, one of the brothers ceased 
to find the business interesting. He was young,- vigorous, 
athletic, full of life and cheerfulness, and he said to himself : 
" A man requires but a few cents a day (this was nearly 
thirty years ago) for his sustenance ; why take all this 
trouble to get those few cents 1 Is there nothing better or 
other for a man to do in his short life than earn his living 1 
Must I expend my whole revenue of strength in merely 
getting the very trifling supplies needed to keep the bodily 
machine going 1 must I really 1 " Revolving such thoughts 
in his anxious mind, he continued faithfully to knead the 
dough and draw the loaves. Always an eager reader, he 
now became a student. He used to be up at four in the 
morning studying Kant and the other metaphysicians ; and, 
as kneading does not engross the mind, he nailed his alge- 
bra to the wall before his trough, that he might use the 
unemployed portion of his intellect while at his work. But, 
whatever he studied, the questions lever present with him 
were, What is man 1 whence came he 3 why is he here 1 
whither is he going? what does it become him to do? 
questions which no creature worthy of the name of man 
ever escaped, or ceased to ask, until he had either found 
answers, or ascertained them to be unanswerable. 

In quest of light upon these problems, he went the round 
of the sects, attending the services, reading the books, and 
conversing with the leaders of each. What he longed for 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 175 



was a life of self-renunciation, a life wholly devoted to 
* worthy objects external to himself. He used to ask Prot- 
estants, how he, I. T. Hecker, baker, of the city of New 
York, could fulfil such injunctions as, "Sell all and follow 
me," and, " Forsake father and mother for my sake." They 
answered that these were figurative expressions, or, if not 
figurative, yet not applicable to the case of a young gentle- 
man of good business prospects, residing on the populous 
island of Manhattan in the nineteenth century. " It was 
going too far; it was mere youthful enthusiasm; it was 
not suited to the nineteenth century ; there was no occa- 
sion for anything of that kind in modern times." These 
remarks silenced him for a while, but did not satisfy him ; 
he was still seeking his religion, and with a deeper longing 
than before. He resolved to make it the business of his 
whole existence, if necessary, to find the solution of his 
difficulty. " It is a necessity," he said to himself, " to find 
a religion coinciding with the dictates of reason, and com- 
mensurate with the wants of our whole nature, or else to 
wait for its revelation. If I find no such religion, and God 
deigns not to reveal it, then on my tomb shall be written : 
1 Here lies one who asked with sincerity for truth, and it 
was not given. He knocked earnestly at the door of truth, 
and it was not opened. He sought faithfully after truth, 
and he found nothing.' " He now avoided female society, 
because he was determined, until the great question was 
settled, to keep his destiny in his own hands, and not com- 
plicate the difficulty by blending with his own the fate of 
another. He withdrew from business also ; gave up those 
brilliant prospects opening before the house of Hecker 
Brothers, and set out on a journey in search of wisdom. 
The world has but one way of judging a case of this na- 
ture : " Poor Hecker is crazy " ; and perhaps the world is 
not wholly in the wrong. 

Every reader has heard of Brook Farm in Massachusetts, 
where Hawthorne, Pvipley, C. A. Dana, G. W. Curtis, and 
many other young philosophers, took up their abode twenty- 
five or thirty years ago, and sought to realize in their daily 
life all that this young New-Yorker was meditating. They, 
too, had indulged the fond delusion of increasing the hap- 
piness by lessening the difficulties of life, and of arranging 



176 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

their lives upon a better system than the natural order. 
To Brook Farm the youthful seeker after wisdom directed , 
his steps, and cast in his lot with the noble band. It nat- 
urally fell to his share to make the bread for the household, 
which he did on the true Hecker principle. No one found 
at Brook Farm what he sought there. After nine months' 
residence Mr. Hecker left that unpeaceful abode no wiser 
than he came, and went off with Thoreau to one of that 
philosopher's extremely inexpensive places of residence. 
They experimented together upon the necessary cost of 
maintaining human life, and upon this point they actually 
arrived at a result. They discovered that they could live 
well enough upon nine cents a day each, an island of 
certainty in a sea of doubt, but not large enough for a 
dwelling-place for two souls. Thoreau found it sufficient 
for himself for a while, and wrote a highly entertaining 
book relating his residence thereon. 

Meanwhile, the brothers and friends of Mr. Hecker were 
pressing him to return and resume his place in the ever- 
expanding business. After much reflection, it occurred to 
him that a man having many other men in his employment 
might perhaps find a sphere for all his nobler aims in pro- 
moting their welfare. He may have been reading Carlyle's 
fantastical Toryism in Past and Present, where this par- 
ticular kind of impertinence is highly extolled. However 
that may be, he consented, about the time of his coming of 
age, to return to the ordinary life of men, and to take his 
proper place in the business, on two conditions : 1. That 
the three brothers should possess all things in common, 
have no separate purse ; and, 2. That he should have con- 
trol of all the men employed. His brothers gladry consent- 
ing, he returned. He now tried in all ways known to him 
to benefit the workmen. He fitted up a nice room, and 
stored it well with books, periodicals, and games, in which 
he invited them to pass their leisure hours. He endeavored 
to give them good advice, as well as to comfort and en- 
courage them. But it would not do. The attempt to 
teach others only brought home the more painfully to his 
mind how sorely he needed iristruction himself. He was 
trying to feed other men, while himself was starving. 
Groping in the dark, blind, blind, blind, he was presuming 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 177 

to guide the steps of his fellows. If he asserted something 
respecting their duty, and they questioned it, he knew of 
no infallible standard to which he could appeal. He could 
not tell them what man's duty really was, for he knew not 
why man was placed here, nor what placed him, nor whith- 
er he was bound, nor whether he was bound anywhither. 
He did not quite like to confess this to the men he was try- 
ing to help ; but if they pressed him close, he stammered 
and hesitated, and, if they pressed him closer, he was dumb. 
He persevered, however, for a year. Then he gave it up, 
and resumed his studies and wanderings. He was fully 
determined not to expend the whole of his energies, and 
most of his time, in earning that ridiculous sum of nine 
cents a day needed for keeping the bodily apparatus going. 
And as for guiding the men engaged in helping him get 
those nine cents, it would be time for him to teach them 
when he himself had found out something. 

Fourierism came up about this time. Mr. Brisbane, a 
young man of fortune, returned from Europe full of the 
dreams and theories of Fourier, which he proceeded to 
expound to the public in the young Tribune ; and highly 
creditable it was, both to the man and to the newspaper, to 
do and risk so much in the discussion of such a subject. 
To err in the service of man is nobler than to be wise for 
one's self. Mr. Hecker became acquainted with Mr. Bris- 
bane, discussed Fourierism with him, and, without being 
able yet to point out the fatal defect in the system, felt 
that it would not work. 

Up to this period about the twenty-second year of his 
age he had never so much as thought of looking into the 
Roman Catholic doctrine or practice. It had not crossed 
his mind that there could be anything worth considering in 
a creed only known to him as the one held by Irish laborers 
and servants, whom he had seen kneeling before the church 
doors on Sunday mornings. He was led to think of the 
Catholic Church through one of its fiercest enemies. About 
twenty-five years ago there was a preacher in New York 
named Brownlow or Brownlee, who conceived the brilliant 
and original scheme of gaining distinction in his profession 
by calling his Roman Catholic brethren hard names, and 
holding them up to the execration of mankind. New York 

8* L 



178 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

was a very provincial place then, and there was still a con- 
siderable number of persons living there who could be taken 
in by charlatanry of that nature. So Brownlow, D. D., 
flourished for a while. He denounced the Catholic Church 
most fluently in the old Chatham Street chapel, and by and 
by set up a weekly paper called " The Downfall of Baby- 
lon," in which he continued the work. In this amusing 
periodical he inserted a good many extracts from Catholic 
works, from the decisions of councils held in the Middle 
Ages, and, especially, from those of the more recent Coun- 
cil of Trent. I can myself remember an interesting list of 
" anathemas" in " The Downfall of Babylon," which led me 
to expend a small sum at a book-stall, in the days of my 
youth, in the purchase of the volume containing the com- 
plete catalogue of the same, as pronounced by the council 
just named. It is really remarkable how uniformly denun- 
ciation and persecution help their objects. Almost any 
Catholic priest you meet can name " converts " who were 
made such by people of the Brownlow species, and by such 
events as the Philadelphia riots of 1844, in which one or 
two Catholic churches were burned. Such things excite 
inquiry, and when once a person has reached the point of 
suspecting that Catholic priests are not the designing and 
insidious monsters which the Brownlows say they are, a re- 
action is apt to set in, which is often strong enough to 
carry him into the ancient fold. 

No one will be made a Catholic by reading such dis- 
courses as that which now has the honor to engage the 
reader's attention, although it is written in a spirit of sin- 
cere respect for the most venerable and the most indispen- 
sable of existing institutions. If you wish to make converts, 
you must adopt the Scarlet Woman style, and set on a mob 
to burn churches. 

Mr. Hecker was an occasional hearer of the infuriate 
Brownlow, and an occasional reader of his "Downfall." 
He read with particular interest, and with nascent approval, 
some of the decisions of the Council of Trent, especially the 
one that repudiates Luther's doctrine called "justification 
by faith alone," which had long appeared to him question- 
able, if not absurd and injurious. It seemed to him, or 
began to do so, that it was more congenial to human na- 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 179 

ture, and more reasonable, for man to work out his salvation, 
and to be able to merit something of his Creator. Even so 
recently as twenty-five years ago, many people still attached 
importance to these theological niceties, which now few 
unprofessional persons regard or know anything about. So 
long as all are agreed that good works are to be done, 
as many of them as possible, and bad works are to be 
left undone, the modernized mind cares little for the 
precise theological process by which these duties are estab- 
lished. It was also pleasing to this young Protestant to 
know, that the Catholic Church, as a church, had uniform- 
ly opposed the doctrines named after Calvin, who burned 
his brother at the stake because that brother indulged in 
some vagaries of opinion upon subjects about which no 
man's opinion has any value, since it cannot be founded 
upon knowledge. 

But it was not these things that made this young in- 
quirer after truth a Roman Catholic. The great conver- 
sions are not effected through the understanding. What 
he wanted was, to devote himself to something high and 
good ; and he soon discovered that the strength of the 
Catholic Church lies in the very fact that it furnishes op- 
portunities for every kind and every degree of self-sacrifice. 
Those dreams of " selling all that he had," of " forsaking 
father and mother, brother and sister," of dedicating his 
entire existence to noble labors, which his Protestant friends 
had pitied, derided, and disapproved, he found that the 
Catholic Church recognized, understood, welcomed, blessed, 
and employed. If a compassionate girl had- a genius for 
nursing the sick ; if a gifted woman felt herself impelled to 
instruct the ignorant ; if a man had within him an unde- 
veloped power to rouse the torpid consciences of vicious 
men ; if another thought he could serve his fellows best by 
a life of contemplation ; if another would go to the ends of 
the earth to civilize the savage ; if an heiress aspired to a 
nobler fate than such a marriage as an heiress usually in- 
curs ; if a man of fortune desired to employ himself and his 
wealth in noble uses ; yes, and if a poor, deceived woman, 
placed in relations to the world inextricably false, longed to 
atone for the error of an hour by a lifetime of devotion, 
and to consecrate her very contrition to the service of her 



180 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

kind, this ancient Church, he was assured, opened her 
bosom to all and each of these, and gave them the oppor- 
tunity they craved. It was this that won the heart of the 
anxious wanderer, tired by his six years of perplexity and 
unrest. He was living with Thoreau in Massachusetts, in 
their usual abstemious manner, when the grand decision 
was made, and to Thoreau it was first communicated. The 
convert was then twenty-three years of age ; and, now that 
he is forty-seven, he still looks back to that moment as the 
most fortunate of his life ; for he has found in the service 
of the Church the complete realization of his early dreams. 

He soon felt what our Roman Catholic brethren call a 
"vocation" to the priesthood, which was recognized as 
genuine, and he went to a convent in Germany to complete 
his preparation for the office. After his ordination he re- 
turned to his native land, and joined one of the numerous 
orders which play into and co-operate with the general 
work of the Church. 

I have alluded to the fact that last November the largest 
Catholic church in New York was filled to repletion every 
morning at five o'clock. There was a "mission" then go- 
ing on in that church. We Protestants should call it a 
" revival," or a " protracted meeting." Whatever our Ro- 
man Catholic brethren do, as I have before observed, they 
do by means of an organization ; and that organization is 
made, by discipline and subordination, to work with the 
singleness of aim and the efficient force of one man. These 
Catholic revivals, or " missions," are conducted by orders of 
priests, specially endowed, trained, and organized for the 
purpose. Men gifted with a particular talent for holding 
attentive large congregations, and for recalling attention to 
neglected obligations, find their place and work in such 
orders as these. At the appointed time, the priests of the 
church in which a mission is to be held are reinforced by a 
delegation from one of these orders, and the great work of 
reviving religious feeling begins. The first mass is cele- 
brated at five in the morning, for the convenience of the 
mighty host of laboring men and women ; and a moving 
sermon is preached to them before the kitchen fires are 
lighted, before the hodman's breakfast is ready. This first 
vast audience is dismissed about a quarter past six, and at 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 181 

seven another assembles ; at nine, another ; and, in some 
cases, yet another at half past ten. In the afternoon con- 
fessions are heard, and every confessional is occupied ; for 
there are relays of priests for every part of the work. In 
the afternoon, too, classes of Protestants sometimes meet 
for the purpose of receiving special instruction in the faith 
and practice of the Church from one of the priests who, 
being himself a convert, is better able than his brethren to 
anticipate and answer their inquiries. In the evening, still 
the work goes on until ten; vespers, confessions, exhorta- 
tions, fill up the evening hours, and fan the rising flame. 
The conscience-stricken Catholic is not tortured with doubts 
either as to what he ought to do or as to whether he has 
done it. The injunction of the Church is perfectly simple : 
If you are truly sorry for your sins, and mean to forsake 
them, confess to a priest, comply with his direction, joyfully 
accept absolution, and keep your resolve to lead a new life. 
As the " mission " continues, the feeling spreads and deep- 
ens, the confessionals are more and more beset, until all 
but the hopeless reprobates of the parish are partakers of 
the influence. The mission may last ten days, two weeks, 
or a month, according to the size and circumstances of the 
parish ; and when it is over the mission priests retire to 
their own abode, to refresh themselves by rest, study, and 
contemplation for another mission in a remote part of the 
diocese. Thus no one is fatigued, no one need lapse into 
formality and coldness. 

It was in one of these orders that Father Hecker first 
exercised his vocation in his native land, and he labored in 
it in various parts of the country. But this mission work 
brought m'm into contact chiefly with Catholics, and he felt 
a particular yearning to bring into the fold of the Ancient 
Church such persons as he had known at Brook Farm, and 
in the intellectual circles of Massachusetts and New York, 
who, he felt, could alone attain peace in the Catholic 
Church, and only there find a way of bringing their high 
moral feeling to bear upon masses of their countrymen. He 
remembered, also, how completely and how long he had 
misunderstood the Church, and that, but for the accident 
of his falling in with the absurd " Downfall of Babylon," he 
might have lived and died in ignorance of its true charac- 



182 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ter. He felt that there was need of a special organization 
for spreading abroad in the United States correct informa- 
tion respecting Catholic doctrine and practice. Convinced, 
too, that the day was near at hand when his Church was to 
be dominant in the United States, he desired to do some- 
thing toward aiding Catholics themselves to rise to the 
height of their " vocation," so that they might use in the 
noblest way the power which was about to fall into their 
hands. He had a conviction, and still has it, that there is 
something peculiarly congenial to Republican America in 
the stately decorums of his Church, its gentle doctrine, 
its severe exactions, its brotherly equalities, and in the 
grand assemblage of all the fine arts in the Supreme Act, 
in which man pays homage to the divinity by exhibiting his 
own. In church, he remembered, Protestants say, " Man is 
totally depraved." At the political meeting the same Prot- 
estants assert, " Man is capable of self-government" There 
is no such contradiction, he maintains, in the Catholic mind. 
What the Catholic believes as a Catholic he can also believe 
as a citizen. "It is only since I have been a Catholic," 
says Father Hecker, " that I have been a consistent and 
intelligent citizen of a republic." 

A new order then, he believed, was called for in the New 
World, and the scheme was approved by his ecclesiastical 
superiors. When our Roman Catholic brethren have re- 
solved upon a project of this nature, they proceed to exe- 
cute it in the most sensible and business-like manner. If 
the world is to be moved, the first requisite is to get a ful- 
crum for the lever ; for there is no use in having a lever 
unless there is a fulcrum on which to rest it. When a new 
order is to be founded, the first thing is to secure a small 
piece of the earth's surface, which it can possess in fee sim- 
ple, upon which its home and working-place can be perma- 
nently built. Now, observe how all the parts of this as- 
tonishing organization work together ! Father Hecker, pro- 
vided with the due authorization, goes forth to raise the 
money needed to make the first payment upon a piece of 
ground. His previous missionary labors had brought him 
into favorable relations with a great number of parishes, 
and those labors he continued while begging the money for 
the new enterprise. From Quebec to New Orleans he went, 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 183 

rousing Catholics to confess and forsake their sins, and ask- 
ing contributions to his scheme. 

It is surprising what a talent our Roman Catholic breth- 
ren have for raising money. The Superior of the Domini- 
can Community, which is now building a convent in New 
York, raised in the city alone, in two weeks, forty thousand 
dollars toward paying for the edifice. "One man's money 
is as good as another's," appears to be a familiar principle 
with our Roman Catholic brethren ; and, accordingly, some 
of our New York city office-holders are frequently called 
upon to disgorge a trifling portion of their booty, a check 
for five hundred dollars, or some small matter of that kind. 
It has been discovered, also, that candidates for city offices 
have a tenderness for the orphan, a pride in the new cathe- 
dral, an interest in the publication of Catholic works, and a 
desire for the conversion of heretics, which causes them to 
adorn many subscription-papers with their signatures. What 
an advantage over us our Roman Catholic brethren have in 
being able to tax sinners for the suppression of sin, and to use 
stolen money in inculcating honesty ! We poor Protestants 
never think of asking a gambler, a city politician, or a thief to 
subscribe money for the promulgation of principles which, if 
universally accepted, would ruin his trade. We place nearly 
the whole burden of sustaining virtue upon the virtuous ! 

Father Hecker raised the requisite sum, and reported 
himself and it to the Archbishop of New York. Immedi- 
ately his special enterprise was made to co-operate with the 
general work of the diocese in such a way that each should 
aid the other directly, powerfully, constantly, and forever. 
On the outskirts of the city, between the ground now occu- 
pied by the Central Park and the Hudson River, a region 
then dotted with shanties and enlivened by goats, the Arch- 
bishop laid out a new parish, and appointed Father Hecker 
pastor of it ; who forthwith bought the best block of 
ground in the neighborhood for the site of the church and 
for the home of the new community. All gathers round a 
church parochial school, parsonage, convent, college, 
seminary in the Catholic world ; this alliance, therefore, 
was nothing new, but in strict accordance with the system. 
Thus, a movement designed to convert Mr. Emerson and 
his friends, and the educated people of America, was made, 



184 . TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

first of all, to minister to the spiritual wants of the poorest 
and most ignorant people living in the Northern States. 

It is this exquisite feature of the system, this care for 
the very poorest and forlornest of human kind, this car- 
ing for them first, just as we help children first at the table 
because they are the hungriest and least patient, this 
sweet blending of the two extremes of human nature in 
the same project, it is this that melts the heart and gives 
pause to the mind. If it were possible for me to be a 
Catholic, which I think it is not, it is this that would 
bring me to it. If, in this city of New York, there is any 
such thing as realized, working Christianity, it may be seen 
in one of its poor, densely peopled Catholic parishes, where 
all is dreary, dismal desolation, excepting alone in the 
sacred enclosure around the church, where a bright interior 
cheers the leisure hours ; where pictures, music, and stately 
ceremonial exalt the poor above their lot; and where a 
friend and father can ever be found. And observe : these 
blessings are not doled out to them as charity ; these poor 
people have the privilege of paying for them and sustaining 
them. The church is their own ; .the spacious and elegant 
school-house is their own ; the priest is supported and the 
whole expense of every part of the parish system is borne 
by them. And nothing else in the parish works well or 
economically but the church. The landlord gives them bad 
lodgings for high rents ; the city officials leave mountains 
of filth before their doors ; the water will not flow in the 
upper stories ; the -grocery store is on so small a scale that 
its profits must be exorbitant. All in their lot, all in their 
surroundings, is mean, nasty, inefficient, forbidding, ex- 
cept their church. 

Ten years have passed. Upon the ground bought by 
Father Hecker we now see a large and handsome church, 
adorned with pictures much superior to those usually found 
in Catholic churches here. The fashionable quarter of the 
city has been drawing nearer to it, so that now the congre- 
gation is composed of those who live in brown-stone houses, 
as well as of those who assist in building them ; and the 
service is performed with an elegance and finish seldom seen 
in the United States. Adjoining the church is a spacious 
and commodious house for the Fathers and students belong- 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. . 185 

ing to the new community, who are called Paulists. The 
community now consists of six priests, twelve students, and 
four servants, all but one or two of whom are " converts," 
i. e. Catholics who were once Protestants. The special work 
of this community is, to bring the steam printing-press to 
bear upon the spread of the Catholic religion in the United 
States. The matter published by the Catholic Publication 
Society, the new tracts, the articles of the monthly maga- 
zine called " The Catholic World," and the smaller volumes 
designed for Sunday-school libraries, are chiefly written or 
edited by the Paulist Fathen. Every Catholic church has 
connected with it several voluntary societies ; such as the 
Altar Society, of ladies, who take care of the decoration 
and purification of the altar ; the Conference of St. Vincent 
de Paul, for the relief of the poor ; the Society of the Holy 
Rosary, for simultaneous devotion ; the Society of the Holy 
Infancy, for the promotion of missions in heathen lands; 
the Father Mathew Society, for mutual protection against 
the poor man's worst enemy; the Sunday-school Society, 
of teachers, all these Societies^are so many organizations, 
ready-made, for the distribution of the tracts and volumes 
prepared by the Paulist Fathers in their pleasant retreat 
near the Hudson River. 

This community, in one important particular, differs from 
other Catholic orders, it exacts no special vows of its 
members. Father Hecker is an American, a patriotic 
American, an American who believes in American princi- 
ples, in short, he is what we used to call a good Jefter- 
sonian Democrat. Being that in politics, he desires to be 
it also in religion ; for he is of opinion that a proposition 
which is true at the polls cannot be false before the altar. 
Jefferson says, All men are equals. True, says this Ameri- 
can priest, because they are all brothers. Jefferson says, 
Man is capable of self-government. Tme, adds Father 
Hecker, for man is made in the image of his Creator. This 
Paulist Community, therefore, is conducted on American 
principles : " the door opens both ways " ; no man remains 
a moment longer than he chooses ; and every inmate is as 
free in all his works and ways as a son is in the well-ordered 
house of a wise father. 

What a powerful engine is this ! Suppose the six ablest 



186 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

and highest Americans were living thus, freed from all 
worldly cares, in an agreeable, secluded abode, yet near the 
centre of things, with twelve zealous, gifted young men to 
help and cheer them, a thousand organizations in the coun- 
try to aid in distributing their writings, and in every town 
a spacious edifice and an eager audience to hang upon their 
lips. What could they not effect in a lifetime of well- 
directed work 1 ? Father Hecker lives so remote from the 
worldly anxieties, that he did not know the amount of his 
own salary until I told him. That is not in his department. 
He has nothing to think of but his work. 

Father Hecker and his colleagues propose to convert us 
by convincing our reason. There is nothing which they 
deny with so much emphasis and vehemence as the com- 
mon assertion, that the Roman Catholic Church demands 
of man the submission or abdication of his reason. Father 
Hecker, in his spirited and eloquent little book entitled 
" The Aspirations of Nature," is particularly strong upon 
this point. " Man has no right to surrender his judgment," 
he tells us. " Endowed with free-will, man has no right to 
yield up his liberty. Reason and free-will constitute man 
a responsible being, and he has no right to abdicate his in- 
dependence. Judgment, Liberty, Independence, these are 
divine and inalienable gifts ; and man cannot renounce 
them if he would." Again he says : " Religion is a ques- 
tion between God and the soul. No human authority, 
therefore, has any right to enter its sacred sphere. Every 
man ivas made by his Creator to do his own thinking" And 
again : " There is no degradation so abject as the submis- 
sion of the eternal interests of the soul to the private au- 
thority or dictation of any man, or body of men, whatever 
may be their titles." And again : " Reasonable religious 
belief does not supplant Reason, nor diminish its exercise, 
but presupposes its activity, extends its boundaries, elevates 
and ennobles it by applying its powers to the highest order 
of truth." And once more : " There are several primary, 
independent, and authoritative sources of truth. Among 
others, and the first, is Reason." These passages are in 
curious contrast to the wild denunciations of human Rea- 
son in which Luther indulges, and which Father Hecker 
quotes only to condemn : " Reason, you are a silly blind 



OUK ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 187 

fool " j " Reason is the Devil's bride, a pretty strumpet," 
etc. 

Our Paulist friends, too, are the furthest possible from 
being alarmed at the discoveries of science ; for they do 
not insist on the literal infallibility of the books composing 
the Bible. They would not feel that either the Church or 
the public morals was in danger if a bishop on the other 
side of the globe should catch Moses tripping in his arith- 
metic. With them, it is the CHURCH that is infallible, i. e. 
the collected, deliberately uttered moral sense of mankind, 
enlightened by the Author of it, and which is therefore for 
individuals the supreme, unerring conscience. Galileo would 
be in no danger nowadays if his discoveries should appear 
to cast a reflection upon the statement that Joshua com- 
manded the sun and moon to stand still, and they obeyed 
him. " The geologist," observes Father Hecker in one of 
his most eloquent passages, " may dig deep down into the 
bowels of the earth till he reaches the inteusest heats ; the 
naturalist may decompose matter, examine with the micro- 
scope what escapes our unaided observation, and unveil to 
our astonished gaze the secrets of nature ; the astronomer 
may multiply his lenses till his ken reaches the empyrean 
heights of heaven ; the historian may consult the annals of 
nations, and unriddle the hieroglyphics of the monuments 
of bygone ages ; the moralist may expose the most delicate 
folds of the human heart, and probe it to its very core ; 
the philosopher may, with his critical faculty, observe and 
define the laws which govern man's sovereign reason, 
and Catholicity is not alarmed ! Catholicity invokes, en- 
courages, solicits your boldest efforts ; for at the end of all 
your earnest researches you will find that the fruit of your 
labors confirms her teachings, and that your genuine discov- 
eries add new gems to the crown of truth which encircles 
her heaven-inspired brow." 

How interesting to observe the noble heart endowing 
with its own nobleness whatever it loves ! How resistless 
the influence of this large and free America, which trans- 
figures all things and persons into a likeness to itself ! 

The question now recurs : Will the Paulist Fathers suc- 
ceed in their darling object of bringing over a majority of 
the people of the United States to the ancient faith 1 ? I 



188 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

can state some of the grounds of their own unbounded con- 
fidence in the coming supremacy of their church. First, 
its past progress has been startlingly rapid. In the year 
1800 there were in the United States one Roman Catho- 
lic bishop, fifty-three priests, and about 90,000 members. 
There are now seven archbishops, forty bishops, three mi- 
tred abbots, about 3,100 priests, sixty-five Catholic colleges, 
fifty-six convents of men, one hundred and eighty-nine con- 
vents of women, and (according to Catholic calculation) 
4,800,000 Catholic population. In other words, in 1800 
the Catholics were something like one seventieth of the 
whole population of the United States ; they are now about 
one sixth ! They have also increased faster than the gen- 
eral population of the country. Thus between 1840 and 
1850 the general increase was thirty-six per cent ; the 
Catholic increase, one hundred and twenty-five per cent. 
Judging from the past, our Roman Catholic brethren con- 
clude that in the year 1900 they will form one third of 
the population of the country, and perhaps a majority in 
the controlling cities and States of it. The property of the 
Church increases at a rate still more rapid ; since, in addi- 
tion to the new purchases, the Church shares largely in the 
constant increase in the value of real estate. The only 
class of laborers in the country who always earn much more 
money than they need are domestic female servants ; and 
they spend most of their surplus either in direct contribu- 
tions to the Church, or in bringing across the ocean new mem- 
bers. As a rule, a female servant can appropriate one half 
of her wages to these objects if she chooses. How many of 
them choose to do so is known to housekeepers, and, still bet- 
ter, to bankers who sell small drafts on Ireland and Germany. 
Then, again (as Father Hecker fails not to notice in his 
recent contribution to the Revue Generate of Brussels, upon 
La Situation Religieuse des Etats Unis), our Roman Catho- 
lic brethren claim to be better propagators than we can 
boast of being. It is obvious, they say, that Catholic fam- 
ilies are more numerous than Protestant. This august and 
holy mystery of generation the ancient Church invests with 
sacramental dignity, and makes the marriage tie indissolu- 
ble. Father Hecker is wrong in attaching importance to 
the hateful thing called free-love, and to the kindred abom- 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 189 

ination that took to itself the name of Bohemianism. 
Nothing ever excited a deeper or a more general loath- 
ing among Protestants than these things did. They had 
but few adherents, and were of no account. Mormonism, 
also, which he mentions in this connection, is an exceptional 
and transient triumph of one vigorous Saxon who was re- 
solved to have a harem without taking the trouble of turn- 
ing Turk. But the great number of divorces, the very 
frequent revolt of parents against the sublime duties of 
their lot, the murder of unborn offspring, the dying out of 
the old New England families, their ancient farms occupied 
by healthier Europeans, mostly Catholics, these things, 
Father Hecker thinks, prove " the complete impotence of 
Protestantism to impose and make respected the rein which 
public morality demands," and announce the coming suprem- 
acy of a Church powerful enough to guard the issues of 
life. Now, the best man is he who can rear the best child ; 
the best woman is she who can rear the besfc child. The 
whole virtue of the race physical, moral, mental comes 
into play in this most sweet, most arduous, most pleasing, 
most difficult of all the work donS by mortals in this world. 
If, therefore, it is true that Catholics do this work so much 
better than Protestants, the case is closed ; we must all 
turn Catholics, or make up our minds to see the race con- 
tinue to dwindle. This is, of course, too vast and awful a 
subject to be treated here. I will venture merely to ex- 
press the conviction, that the first people to discover and 
successfully practise the art of rearing children in the new 
conditions of modern life will be persons who will seek for 
the requisite knowledge where alone it is to be found, in 
science. These will communicate it to others, and then, 
perhaps, the various churches will adopt, hallow, and im- 
part it. 

Our Roman Catholic brethren dwell much upon the 
enormous expense of the Protestant system, as well as 
upon its signal inefficiency. Upon this point we may prof- 
itably consider what they say. Take the case of any of 
our vigorous country towns in the Northern States, and 
what do we find there 1 Generally, six churches struggling 
to maintain themselves; six clergymen, all in the false 
position of having to instruct people upon whom their 



190 TOPICS OF THE TIME.. 

children's bread depends ; six clergymen's families, in the 
equally false position of being nominally at the head of so- 
ciety upon a thousand dollars a year and a donation-party ; 
six organizations attempting, with anxious feebleness, to do 
the work of one. And no Catholic can discern any great 
difference between them. He cannot see, for example, why 
the Methodists and the Episcopalians would not both gain 
enormously by re-uniting. One would gain the power and 
vitality of numbers, the other would gain in decorum and 
dignity. The Episcopal Church would no longer rest under 
the blighting stigma of being the rich people's church, and 
the Methodists would be restrained from the spiritual riot 
of the camp-meeting. Then there are the Unitarians and 
the Jews, why should not they come together with the 
same mutual advantage 1 The Jews would only have to 
give up one or two usages, the relics of a barbarous age ; 
the Unitarians would merely be required to make their 
sermons shorter and simpler, and adopt part of an ancient 
ritual. The Calvinistic sects, too, why should they keep 
apart 1 It looks to a reflective Catholic priest as though one 
grain of common sense would suffice to reduce the churches 
in all our villages one half in the next six months. 

Our Koman Catholic brethren count upon important 
accessions through their convent schools, conducted by 
Sisters of Charity and by other orders, male and female. 
These schools are numerous, important, and increasing ; 
and I think that one fourth, perhaps one third, of all the 
pupils in them are children of Protestant parents. Few 
persons are competent to judge of an institution who have 
never been inmates of it, because nothing is easier than to 
deceive completely all but the acutest visitors. Still, these 
Catholic schools have some advantages over most of ours, 
which catch the eye and captivate the imagination. We 
are apt to undervalue decorum, etiquette, manner, de- 
meanor, and all the minor details of discipline and subor- 
dination. We are apt to forget that children were not 
included in the first sentence of the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence. We trust them too much in some particulars, 
and too little in others. The teachers of Protestant private 
schools have seldom any vantage-ground of rank of a nature 
to aid them in securing respect and obedience. The prin- 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 191 

cipal is often an anxious and dependent man ; often he is 
grossly ignorant and vulgar ; while the subordinate teachers 
are poor and overworked, and without the means of gaining 
a proper ascendency over their pupils. Many of them, in 
these commercial cities, where nothing is sincerely honored 
except the bank account, come out of garrets every morn- 
ing, to teach boys and girls who live in mock-palaces, and 
who have no conception of anything higher or more desir- 
able than to live in a mock-palace. Have not I myself seen 
the insolent unlicked cubs of the Fifth Avenue and streets 
adjacent making the lives of gentlemen of learning and 
eminent worth bitter to them by their riotous contempt of 
authority and decency, and no teacher connected with the 
school in a position which justified his felling the young 
savages to the floor] Have I not seen the principal of a 
boarding-school running an annual "revival" as a good 
business operation, and forbidding the poor dyspeptics un- 
der his charge to receive the visits of their parents on 
Sunday afternoons '? 

Certainly, these convent schools, which are now so popu- 
lar, are free from some of the objections and difficulties 
that lessen the usefulness of many of our fashionable pri- 
vate academies. Among the " traditions " of the Catholic 
Church, there is one to the effect that children are children, 
and have a right to be kept from doing themselves irrepar- 
able harm, peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must. 
The teachers of the convent schools all the resident 
teachers are sufficiently independent of the good-will of 
the pupils, without being too much so for their own good. 
The convent possesses property, guards and maintains its 
inmates in their own home, and yet in a great degree it 
depends upon the income derived from the school. The 
garb of the nun, of the Christian Brother, of the Sister of 
Charity, as well as the serenity and dignity of their de- 
meanor, hold impudence in check, and teach the young 
victims of successful speculation that there are distinctions 
other than thcfce indicated by marble fronts and rosewood 
stairs. There is a certain civilizing influence, too, which 
comes of compelling the minute observance of the etiquette 
of each apartment and each situation. 

I was present once when the young ladies attending the 



192 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

principal convent school upon the island of Manhattan en- 
tered their chapel, on Sunday afternoon, to see four or five 
of their number, who had become " converts " at the con- 
vent, baptized. It was a truly exquisite scene. No man- 
ager of a theatre ever arranged anything more effective for 
the stage ; and yet it was well adapted at once to impress 
the minds and tame the bodies of the three hundred 
romping girls who took part in it. .Perhaps in no other 
way can I better show the reader what our Roman Catholic 
brethren and sisters are doing to attract the children of 
wealthy Protestants into their schools, than by briefly 
describing what I saw on that pleasant Sunday afternoon 
in May. 

On the summit of a gentle slope, surrounded by trees 
and shrubbery, in a part of the island where the ancient, 
renowned loveliness of Manhattan has not been obliterated, 
and commanding a view of the Hudson, the Harlem, and 
the Sound, the Palisades bounding the view on the 
west, the arches of the High Bridge visible in the north, 
the Sound stretching away to the northeast, and the city 
of New York spreading over all the southern half of the 
island, stands the group of solid, but not uninviting, 
structures which form the establishment, chief among them 
the chapel. On this warm spring day all the doors stood 
open ; and it was evident, as soon as we alighted under the 
covered entrance, that something joyful was going forward. 
The parlors were full of happy parents, conversing with 
happy daughters, and a joyous hum pervaded all the 
rooms. The chapel is spacious, elegant, and very lofty; 
and it is adorned with the usual large altar-piece, as well 
as with many smaller pictures. Nearly the whole space 
upon the floor is covered with plain black-walnut pews, 
without doors or cushions. These are for the young ladies ; 
visitors sit near- the entrance, in pews raised a little from 
the floor ; the nuns have raised seats along the sides of the 
chapel, each sister having a little pew to herself, and 
sitting with her face to the altar. At the appointed mo- 
ment the pupils began to enter in procession, by the middle 
aisle, two by two, walking almost as slowly as it is possible 
to walk, just moving, no more, and doing so in absolute 
stillness. Not an audible tread; not a whisper; not an 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 193 

eye upraised. All were dressed alike in pink summer 
dresses, with a white veil over their heads. They seemed 
to be softly floating in, and winding round into the black- 
walnut seats, like the tinted clouds of sunset. First came 
the little girls, who, upon reaching the middle aisle, bent 
one knee to the ground, and then glided slowly to the slow, 
soft music of the organ all down the aisle to the altar, 
where they divided, one line moving to the right, the 
other to the left, and so curled round into the first pews, 
which they entered at the end nearest the wall. Thus the 
pleasing pageant was prolonged. As the procession con- 
tinued, its interest both changed and increased, because 
the little girls were followed by larger, until we had th3 
pleasure of looking upon young ladies in the bright lustre 
of their maturing charms. In every particular, this pro- 
cession was arranged just as a Kemble or a Wallack would 
have arranged it. The same devices were employed, both 
to prolong and increase the pleasure of the spectator, which 
are employed upon a well-conducted stage. Especially 
were the most impressive objects of all reserved for the 
last. Finally came the young ladies who were about to be 
baptized, all clad in white dresses, and covered with 'a long 
white veil, each of them resting an arm upon the shoulder of 
a sister attired in black, the venerable Superior of the 
Convent being one. Nothing was ever seen more pictu- 
resque or more affecting, nor anything more legitimate and 
proper. When all the pupils were standing in their pews, 
and the candidates for baptism had placed themselves be- 
fore the altar, a sister who was in one of the side niches 
made a slight, scarcely audible click with a small instru- 
ment concealed in her hand. Instantly the whole pink 
cloud of girls softly knelt, and remained kneeling till an- 
other click was heard, when they nestled back to their 
seats. The black line of kneeling nuns along the sides of 
the chapel, the parterre of young loveliness on the floor, the 
altar blazing with lighted candles, made up a spectacle as 
pleasing as it was impressive. At the conclusion of the 
service the girls glided out in the same silence and slow- 
ness ; and the newly baptized closed the train, leaning, as 
before, upon the shoulders of the sisters. 
5 Ten minutes after, the whole three hundred pupils, ex- 
9 - M 



194 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

cept those who rejoined their parents in the parlors, were 
on the full romp in their large sitting-room, running, shout- 
ing, in unrestrained hilarity ! No Sunday gloom ! No 
goody, nauseous books ! No forced seriousness of demeanor ! 

The arrangements of the school seemed excellent. The 
best school-room I ever saw in a private school, the loftiest, 
airiest, most spacious and elegant, is the one belonging to 
this establishment. In one wing of the building are thirty 
music-rooms, so constructed that a girl may be practising 
in every one of them without disturbing or being disturbed. 
The sleeping-rooms are a happy compromise between the 
injurious privacy of a separate apartment and the injurious 
publicity of a common room ; and the means of ventilation 
appeared to be sufficient. Despite these excellent features 
and arrangements, the school may be a very bad one ; the 
minds of the pupils may neither be profitably exercised nor 
suitably fed ; yet every reader can see how such schools as 
this are calculated to captivate parents and allure children. 
Probably seven of their Protestant pupils out of ten be- 
come Catholics sooner or later. 

Conversions to the Catholic faith, it seems, have been 
more numerous since the war than before. During the 
"mission" recently held at St. Stephen's, in New York, the 
number of converts was eighty. This is nothing to boast 
of, considering the extent of the parish and the duration 
of the " mission " ; nor, indeed, have converts ever yet 
come in with any great rapidity. It is the quality of the 
converts, not their numbers, of which we hear so much ; the 
expected rush has not yet begun. I am informed that a 
few educated persons in most city parishes are inquiring, 
with more or less earnestness, into the Catholic faith, and I 
am further assured that these inquiries generally end in 
conversion. Among the most frequent causes assigned by 
inquirers for dissatisfaction with their hereditary belief are 
the following : The difficulty of believing in the literal in- 
fallibility of the whole Bible ; the gloom of the Sabbata- 
rian Sunday; the ban placed by many sectarians upon 
innocent pleasures, such as dancing and the drama, which 
tends to drive young people into guilty pleasures ; the fren- 
zies of the camp-meeting, more revolting, in some parts 
of the country, than the bowlings and whirlings of the 



OUK ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 195 

Dervishes of Turkey ; the painful uncertainty which many 
persons feel, all their lives,, whether their souls are "saved" 
or not ; the dulness and barrenness of the public service, 
in which a duty is assigned to every clergyman which only 
one in a thousand can discharge, namely, the production 
of two powerful and entertaining sermons every seven days. 
The effect of the war in multiplying conversions is explained 
thus : The Catholic Church alone escaped division ; since 
the Catholic Church alone kept itself always and entirely 
aloof from the political questions involved. The spectacle 
of this unity in the midst of such contention and severance 
has proved captivating, I am told, to several educated 
minds. I have been assured by a distinguished Protestant 
general, who served in important commands during the 
whole war, that the only chaplains who, as a class, were of 
much utility in the field were Roman Catholic chaplains ; 
which he attributes to the fact, that they alone were ac- 
countable to ecclesiastical superiors. It may be that the 
exploits of some of our Protestant chaplains in the way of 
" living on the country " contrasted with the strict observ- 
ance, by Catholic chaplains, both of military and ecclesias- 
tical rule, had some effect upon observant Protestant minds. 

Such are some of the reasons assigned for the unbounded 
confidence with which our Roman Catholic brethren count 
upon being the final and eternal Church of the United 
States. These reasons the reader is competent to estimate. 

For fifteen centuries the Christian Church has under- 
taken to perform for all the inhabitants of Christendom two 
offices having no necessary connection, and therefore capa- 
ble of being separated. One of these offices I have styled, 
in a previous page, expounding the universe ; or, in other 
words, assuming to declare with authority what people 
must think concerning the origin of things, the destiny of 
man, the nature of the Supreme Being, and the general 
government of the world. During the past three centuries 
or more a conviction has been gaining ground, that no man 
or body of men is competent to do this. On such subjects 
it is now agreed among the intelligent part of mankind, 
that one man's theory or conjecture, however interesting or 
consolatory it may be, cannot be binding on any other 
man. It is now agreed, among those whose thoughts finally 



196 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

become the thoughts of mankind, that on such subjects as 
these there can be no such thing, as a guilty opinion. This 
part, therefore, of the Church's service to Christendom is 
now nearly accomplished. It will be quite accomplished 
when the greater part of the inhabitants of Christian coun- 
tries are made partakers of modern knowledge. During 
former ages, the Church did a kind and needed service, per- 
haps, in concealing from man his own ignorance. He now 
knows his ignorance ; he also knows the only method which 
can ever exist of lessening it ; and he knows, consequently, 
that in this matter priests cannot aid him. 

But the other duty of the Church remains, that of 
inculcating virtue, assisting regeneration, guiding, cheering, 
ennobling human life. This remains. This will never be 
needless as long as man is weak, virtue difficult, and vice 
alluring. Human reason is not equal to the task of form- 
ing an adequate theory of the universe ; but it is equal to 
the task of discovering how men ought to feel, and how 
men ought to act. No body of men can ever have the 
right to say what we ought to think concerning the " Un- 
knowable " ; but any man, by a life of fidelity and charity, 
can acquire absolute certainty respecting the duties we owe 
to ourselves and one another. 

The churches will be slow to assent to these truths, 
familiar as they are to men of the world ; but the indiffer- 
ence of the public to everything " doctrinal," and its eager 
interest in everything " practical," will continue to have its 
effect. Do we not see the Pope, who began his reign by 
establishing a new doctrine, end it by regulating the dress 
of women ] Do we not see a grand council of bishops ris- 
ing superior to theological subtleties, to consider the perni- 
cious consequences of keeping up balls after midnight? 
Have we not seen the leading Calvinistic clergyman of 
New York soaring above all Calvin's gloomy crudities, and 
addressing himself to the nobler, higher, and more difficult 
work of throwing light upon the duties of employers to 
employed 1 Poor work he made of it ; but everything 
must be pardoned in a beginner. It is easy to make a 
passable sermon upon points of " doctrine " ; but the 
moment you tackle such subjects as that, you have arrived 
at the hill Difficulty, and must prepare for a tough climb. 



OUR ROMAN CATHOLIC BRETHREN. 197 

All history, all political economy, all morals, are involved 
in that servant-girl question. 

In every community are produced a few persons who are 
endowed with a special aptitude for discerning what is right 
and becoming. The problem is, By what means shall these 
be discovered, trained, and aiforded an opportunity to act 
upon the general conscience 1 For many centuries this was 
done by the Roman Catholic Church, and done, too, with a 
considerable degree of efficiency. It employed women in 
this vocation as well as men, children as well as the mature. 
It was, so to speak, a complete moral and religious appa- 
ratus. If the same office is still to be performed for man- 
kind, I think the organization that performs it will have 
to study deeply and long the Roman Catholic Church, and 
borrow from it nearly every leading device of its system, 
especially these three, celibacy, consecration for life, and 
special orders for special work. 

Celibacy was a most masterly device ; its inventor should 
be trebly canonized ; it is the great secret of the efficiency 
of the Roman Catholic Church. An idea of such power 
and value will never be lost. I do not doubt that, in the 
future as in the past, men and women who fall in love with 
their species will often find it best to remain unmarried, 
since the proper rearing of a family is itself a career, and 
demands most of a life. Political economy has taken up 
this subject. The remarks upon it of Mr. John Stuart 
Mill * should be attentively considered by humane persons. 
" Little improvement," he says, " can be expected in mo- 
rality until the producing of large families " (in densely 
peopled countries) "is regarded with the same feelings as 
drunkenness or any other physical excess. But while the 
aristocracy and clergy are foremost to set the example of 
this kind of incontinence, what can be expected from the 
poor 1 ?" In Mr. Mill's system, celibacy and married conti- 
nence play a part of the first importance. 

Destruction has gone far enough. The time is at hand 
when we can begin to think of reconstruction. 

" Faith," says Sain te-Be uve, " has disappeared. Science, 
let people say what they please, has destroyed it. It is 
absolutely impossible for vigorous, sensible minds, conver- 

* Principles of Political Economy, Vol. I. p. 458, American edition. 



198 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

sant with history, armed with criticism, studious of the 
natural sciences, any longer to believe in old stories and old 
Bibles. In this crisis there is only one thing to do in order 
to avoid languishing and stagnating in a decline, namely, 
to move rapidly and to march firmly on toward an order of 
reasonable, probable, corrected ideas, which beget convic- 
tion instead of belief, and which, while leaving to the ves- 
tiges of neighboring creeds all liberty and security, prepare 
in all new and robust minds a support for the future." 

This may apply to a few individuals in a few countries. 
If it were true of all men of all countries, not the less 
would it be difficult to live purely, honorably, and wisely ; 
not the less would it be necessary for each child to begin 
at the rudiments and acquire the art of living, almost as 
though it were the first creature whom temptation ever 
allured ; not the less would self-control be painful and long 
to learn. Who does not need help in this great matter of 
proper and happy living 1 

Suppose, then, that all the churches are about, silently 
and insensibly to abandon the attempt to regulate opinion. 
Suppose the word " orthodoxy " abolished. Instantly the 
long quarrel between the Heart and the Head of Christen- 
dom ceases ; Sainte-Beuve takes a Sunday-school class ; Mr. 
Emerson writes tracts. All that is efficient in the Catholic 
system will be preserved, and all that is good in the Prot- 
estant will be joined to it ; and no one will care to inquire 
in 1945, whether it is this all-conquering America which 
has become Catholicized, or the ancient Church which has 
become Americanized. Whatever there is of good and suit- 
able in this Church, whatever there is of good and suitable 
in the universe, America will assuredly appropriate. 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 



ONE of the oddities of human nature is its patient en- 
durance of obvious, easily remedied inconveniences. 
No man ever spoke, and no man ever listened to a speech, 
in the Representatives' Hall at Washington, without being 
painfully aware of its unsuitableness to the purpose for 
which it was intended. It was intended to afford accom- 
modation for three hundred gentlemen while they debated 
public questions and conversed on public business. Almost 
all debate in a modern parliamentary body naturally takes 
the tone of conversation, because nearly every topic that 
arises is some question of detail the principle of which is 
not disputed. It is only on rare occasions that the voice 
of a speaker endowed with reason would naturally rise 
above the conversational tone. The main business of Con- 
gress is to determine how much money shall be raised, how 
it shall be raised, and for wiiat objects it shall be spent. 
The stricter States-rights men of the early time used to say, 
that, when Congress had made the annual appropriations, 
only one duty remained, which was to adjourn and go home. 
This was an extreme statement. It is, I think, a most im- 
portant part of the duty of Congressmen to converse to- 
gether, in the presence of the whole people in reporters' 
gallery assembled, on subjects of national concern; but 
even on a field-day of general debate, when principles are 
up for discussion, it is still calm, enlightened, dignified 
conversation that is most desirable. Members are well 
aware of this. Flights of oratory generally excite derisive 
smiles upon the floor of the House, and no man is much 
regarded by his fellow-members who is addicted to that 
species of composition. 

But neither conversation nor calm debate is possible in 



200 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the Representatives' Chamber. It is large enough for a 
mass-meeting. The members are spread over a wide ex- 
panse of floor, each seated at a desk covered and filled with 
documents and papers, and they see themselves surrounded 
by vast galleries rising, row above row, to the ceiling. 
When a man begins to speak, though he may be the least 
oratorical of mortals, he is soon forced into an oratorical 
condition of mind by the physical- difficulty of making him- 
self heard. Compelled to exert his lungs violently, he en- 
deavors to assist and relieve the muscles of his chest and 
throat by gesticulation, and this brings the color to his 
cheeks and contributes to work up the whole man into the 
oratorical frenzy that puts a stop to all useful, elucidating 
operation of the brain. Often, very often, have I seen a 
member of the House, superior by nature, age, and educa- 
tion to the clap-trap of harangue, rise in his place, full- 
charged with weighty. matter on a subject utterly unsuited 
to oratory, and attempt to address the House in the tem- 
perate, serene manner which is alone proper when intelli- 
gent minds are sought to be convinced. At once he be- 
comes conscious that no one can hear him beyond the fifth 
desk. His voice is lost in space. He raises it ; but he can- 
not make the honorable member hear to whose argument 
he is replying. He calls upon the Speaker to come to his 
rescue, and Mr. Speaker uses his hammer with promptitude 
and vigor. The low roar of conversation, the rustle of 
paper, the loud clapping for the pages, subside for a mo- 
ment, and the member resumes. But even during that in- 
stant of comparative silence, he is scarcely heard, he is 
not heard unless he " orates," and, a moment after, his 
voice is drowned again in the multitudinous sea of noise. 
Still he will not give up the attempt, and he finishes with 
the wildest pump-handle oratory of the stump. It is not 
his fault. He is no fool. He would not naturally discuss 
army estimates in the style of Patrick Henry rousing his 
countrymen to arms. If he does so, it is because nature 
has so limited the reach and compass of the human voice, 
that he cannot make himself heard unless he roars ; and 
no man can keep on roaring long without other parts of the 
body joining his lungs in the tumult. 
, This is really a matter of first-rate importance j for, 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 201 

whatever else man is or has, we are sure he possesses an 
animal nature, and hence is subject to physical conditions 
that are inexorable. If we could assemble in that enor- 
mous room the sages, statesmen, and orators of all the 
ages, we should not get from them much profitable debate. 
The hall is good enough only it wants taking in. There 
is no need of such extensive accommodation for the chance 
visitors to the Capitol ; since the whole people, as just re- 
marked, as well as a respectable representation from for- 
eign countries, are present in the gallery of the reporters. 
Three or four hundred gallery seats would answer better 
than the present thousand. 

We ought not to be ashamed to learn something of the 
details of parliamentary management from a people who 
have had a Parliament for eight centuries. When the city 
of Washington was laid out, 1790 to 1800, the people 
of the United States had caught from the enthusiastic Re- 
publicans of France a certain infatuation for the ancient 
Romans ; and hence the building for the accommodation of 
Congress was styled the Capitol; and, in furnishing the 
chambers for the Senate and House, the seats were arranged 
in semicircles, after the manner of the Roman senate-house. 
There was such a relish then for everything Roman, that it 
is rather surprising honorable members were not required 
to appear in their places wearing Roman togas. Nothing 
seems to have been copied from the British Parliament, 
except that object which Oliver Cromwell saw before him 
when he dissolved Parliament, one April day in 1653, and 
bade a soldier near him take away that fool's bauble, the 
mace. But perhaps there are one or two other features of 
the British House of Commons that might have been con- 
sidered. Never would the House of Commons have formed 
a Fox, a Sheridan, a Canning, a Peel, a Palmerston, or a 
Gladstone, if those masters of parliamentary conversation 
had been obliged to speak in such an apartment as our pres- 
ent Representatives' Hall. I have been in the House of 
Commons when important debates occurred, and every 
leading speaker on both sides did his best, but no man put 
forth any great physical exertion. Sir Robert Peel rarely, 
Palmerston never, departed from the easy manner and un- 
forced tone of conversation. A great debate was only the 



202 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

more or less animated talk of able, experienced, well-in- 
formed gentlemen ; and it retained this tone chiefly because 
the auditors were so close around the speakers that conver- 
sation could be heard. No desks obstructed and filled up 
the floor, tempting members to write. No heaps of pam- 
phlets and newspapers rose before them, luring them to read. 
All reading and writing had been done before the House met, 
and nothing remained but to talk it over. Ministerial and 
opposition members sat on long benches, facing one another, 
with a mere alley between them ; and the strangers' gallery 
was a cockloft up near the ceiling, which would hold, when 
crammed, a hundred and twenty people. 

The reader has perhaps not forgotten the astonishment 
that seized him when first he caught sight of the tumult- 
uous scene afforded by the House of Representatives in 
session. I suppose we are all so used to it now, that we 
have ceased to see in it anything extraordinary. A delib- 
erative body, indeed ! From the gallery we look down 
upon semicircles of desks, at which members are writing, 
reading, and gossiping, apparently inattentive to what is 
going on. Outside of the outer semicircle is a crowd of 
men standing in groups talking together. The sofas that 
line the walls are usually occupied by men engaged in con- 
versation ; and in the lobbies beyond there is a dense crowd 
of talkers, who contribute their share to the volume of 
noise. Inside the inner row of desks, between the members 
and the Speaker's lofty throne of marble, the business of 
the House is brought to a focus. There, at a long row of 
marble desks, sit the shorthand reporters, who prepare for 
the " Globe " the official verbatim report of the proceedings. 
Above and behind them, at another row of marble desks, 
sit the clerks who keep an official record of whatever is 
done. Above and behind these, in his marble pulpit, with 
his mace at his right hand, his compass-like clock and ex- 
cellent ivory hammer before him, behold the Speaker, most 
attentive of members, and the only one among them all 
who is expected to know at every instant the business be- 
fore the House. On the marble steps connecting these 
three platforms are the pages, the circulating-medium of 
the House, who spring at the clapping of a member's hands 
to execute his will. From the midst of the great chaos of 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 203 

members, members' desks, boots, and litter of documents, a 
Voice is heard, the voice of one who is supposed to be 
addressing the House. Not a member listens, perhaps, nor 
pretends to listen ; not even the Speaker, who may be at 
the moment conversing with a stranger just presented to 
him, or may be signing documents. He knows that the 
Voice has seventeen minutes and three quarters longer to 
run, and his sole duty with regard to that Voice is, to bring 
down his well-made hammer with a good rap on the desk 
when its time is up. The only attentive persons are the 
shorthand reporters; but as they merely sit and write, 
without ever looking up, the absurd spectacle is often pre- 
sented, of a distinguished gentleman delivering a most ani- 
mated harangue to a great crowd of people, not one of 
whom appears to be regarding him. His right hand quivers 
in the air. He cries aloud. His body sways about like a 
tall pine in a torturing gale. " Yes, Mr. Speaker, I repeat 
the assertion " ; but Mr. Speaker is giving audience to 
three of his constituents, who stand, hat in hand, on the 
steps of his throne. " I appeal to gentlemen on the other 
side of the House " ; but no : neither the gentlemen on 
the other side of the House, nor his own intimate friends 
near by, pay him the poor compliment of laying down their 
newspapers or looking up from the letters they are writing. 

Why these desks 1 why this general absorption of mem- 
bers in writing, reading, and conferring 1 Why the frequent 
necessity of hunting up members in their committee-rooms 1 
It is because Congress meets four hours too soon ! It meets 
at 12 M. instead of 4 p. M. It meets long before the daily 
work of members is done, before the morning's news is stale, 
before the relish of the mind for excitement is sated, before 
the mood has come for interchange of ideas, for converse 
with other minds. 

Every one knows that the hard labor of Congress is done 
in committee-rooms and in the private offices of members ; 
but, I presume, few persons are aware of the great amount 
and variety of duty which now devolves upon members 
who are capable of industry and public spirit. There are 
idle members, of course ; for in Congress, as everywhere 
else, it is the willing and generous mind that bears the 
burden and pulls the load. It is with members of Con- 



204 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

gress as with editors, most of their labor consists in 
considering and quietly rejecting what the public never 
hears anything about. Beau Brurnmell wore but one neck- 
tie, but his servant carried down stairs half a dozen failures. 
A magazine contains twenty articles ; but, in order to get 
that twenty, the editor may have had to examine four hun- 
dred. During the session, Washington being the centre of 
interest to forty millions of people, it is the common recep- 
tacle of the infinite variety of schemes, dreams, ideas, vaga- 
ries, notions, publications, which the year generates. When 
a citizen of the United States conceives an idea or plans 
an enterprise, one of the things he is likely to do is to write 
a pamphlet about it, and either send a copy to each mem- 
ber of Congress, or hire a small boy to place a copy upon 
each member's desk just before twelve o'clock. The inter- 
national-copyrightists, I remember, took that enlightened 
course, fondly believing that no member who called himself 
a human being could read such moving arguments without 
being impatient to vote for the measure proposed. But 
when I began to look into Washington affairs, I discovered 
that hundreds of other people were continually employing 
the same too obvious tactics. Pamphlets come raining 
down upon members in a pitiless storm. On going into 
the office of a member one morning, when he had been 
absent twenty-four hours, I had the curiosity to glance at 
the mail which had accumulated in that short time. It con- 
sisted of one hundred and eight packages, about one third 
letters, and two thirds newspapers and pamphlets. I think 
a member whose name is familiar to the country will usually 
receive, in the course of a long session, a good cart-load of 
printed matter designed expressly to influence legislation. 

More vigorous schemers, or rather schemers with longer 
purses, soon discover that pamphlets are rather a drug in 
Washington, and send delegations or agents to "push" 
their projects by personal interviews. Nearly all these en- 
terprises are either in themselves absurd, or else they are 
beyond the range of legislation ; but members have to 
bestow attention enough upon them to ascertain their na- 
ture and claims. At least, many members do this, and by 
doing it effect a great deal of unrecorded good. Many a 
member of Congress does a fair day's work for his country 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 205 

outside of the chamber in which he sits and the committee- 
rooms in which he labors. Many members, too, have ex- 
tensive affairs of their own, factories or banks to direct, 
causes to plead in the national courts, articles to write for 
their newspapers. 

Let them get all this work and all committee work done 
before the Houses meet, and then come together at four 
o'clock in the afternoon, in snug convenient rooms without 
desks, and talk things over in the hearing of mankind. 
This would obviate the necessity for the two sessions which 
give the Sergeant-at-arms so much lucrative employment, 
and party-going members such annoyance. I think, too, it 
would discourage and finally abolish the pernicious custom 
of reading speeches, as well as that kindred falsehood of 
getting speeches printed in the " Globe " which have never 
been delivered at all. A distinguished senator remarked in 
conversation last winter, that when he came to Congress, 
fifteen years ago, not more than one speech in five was 
written out and read, but that now four in five are. I have 
known a member, who had an important speech prepared, 
seriously consider whether he should deliver it in the House 
of Representatives, or offer it as a contribution to the " At- 
lantic Monthly." He concluded, after deliberation, to deliver 
the speech to the House, because he could reach the coun- 
try quicker in that way ; and he accordingly roared it, in 
the usual manner, from printed slips, few members regard- 
ing him. The next morning, the speech was printed in 
every important daily newspaper within fifteen hundred 
miles of Washington. 

Among the great purposes of a national parliament are 
these two : first, to train men for practical statesmanship ; 
and, secondly, to exhibit them to the country, so that, when 
men of ability are wanted, they can be found without anx- 
ious search and perilous trial. The people of free countries 
can form little idea of the embarrassment which a patriotic 
despot suffers when he must have an able, commanding 
man for the public service, and there is no tried and tested 
body of public men from which to choose. The present 
Emperor of Russia, at more than one critical time, I have 
been assured, has experienced this difficulty : the whole 
vast empire with its teeming millions lies before him sub- 



206 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ject to his will; but it is dumb. Russia lias no voice. 
Her able men have no arena. No man is celebrated, except 
as heir to an ancient name, or commandant of an important 
post. No class of men have had the opportunity to stand 
up before their countrymen, year after year, and show what 
they are, what they know, what they can bear, what they 
can do, and what they can refrain from doing, in keen, 
honorable, courteous encounter with their peers. One 
lamentable consequence is, that when an emperor, rising 
superior to the traditions of his order, strikes into a new 
and a nobler path, arid looks about him for new men to 
carry out the new ideas, he has no knowledge to act upon. 
France has been muzzled for nearly twenty years. The 
time is at hand when the muzzle will fall, off ; but the con- 
trolling men who should have been formed and celebrated 
by twenty years of public life in a parliament are unformed 
and unknown. The people will want leaders ; but leaders 
that can be trusted are not extemporized. 

This congressional essay-writing threatens to reduce us 
to the same condition. The composition of an essay, in 
the quiet solitude of a library, is a useful and honor- 
able exertion of the human mind ; but it is a thing essen- 
tially different from taking part in public debate, and 
does not afford the kind of training which a public man 
needs. It does not give him nerve, self-command, and the 
habit of deference to the judgment of other minds. It does 
not give him practice in the art of convincing others. We 
cannot get in a library that intimate knowledge of human 
vanities, timidities, prejudices, ignorance, and habits, which 
shut the mind to unaccustomed truth, and turn the best- 
intentioned men into instruments of evil. The triumphant 
refutation of an opponent in a composition calmly written 
in the absence of that opponent, how easy it is, compared 
with meeting him face to face, and so refuting him in the 
hearing of an empire, that, if he be not convinced, tens of 
thousands of other men are ! Essay-writing does not knock 
the conceit out of a man like open debate ; nor yet does it 
fortify that just self-confidence which enables one to hold 
his own against eloquent error and witty invective, and sit 
unmoved amidst the applause and laughter that frequently 
follow them. It does really unfit a person for grappling 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 207 

with the homely, every-day difficulties of government. It 
'tends to lessen that unnamed something in human beings 
which gives ascendency over others, and it diminishes a 
man's power to decide promptly at a time when his decision 
is to take visible effect. Nor does a written essay give any 
trustworthy indication of its author's character or force. 
A false, barren, unfeeling soul has been an " absolute mon- 
arch of words," capable of giving most powerful expression 
to emotions which it never felt, and to thoughts imbibed 
from better and greater men. 

The substitution of written essays, read from printed 
slips, for extemporized debate, deprives the public, there- 
fore, of one of the means of knowing and weighing the men 
from whom the leading persons of the government would 
naturally be taken ; and it deprives members of Congress 
of part of the training which public men peculiarly need. 
It is to be hoped that when the House of Representatives 
moves into a smaller room, and Congress meets at four in 
the afternoon, the reading of speeches will be coughed down, 
and that Congress will resume its place as one of the na- 
tional parliaments of the world. 

If the reader has ever been so unfortunate as to be per- 
sonally interested in a measure before Congress, he has 
doubtless been exasperated by observing that, w 7 hile Con- 
gress has much more to do than it can do, it wastes much 
more than half its time. The waste of time, in the last 
days of a short session, with the appropriation bills still to 
be acted upon, and a crowd of expectants in the lobbies 
waiting for their bills to " come up," is sometimes excessive, 
absurd, and, to parties concerned, almost maddening. I 
shall long remember a certain day in the House of Repre- 
sentatives, when I chanced to sit next to a gentleman w r hose 
whole fortune and entire future career, as he thought, 
depended upon the action of the House concerning a bill 
which was expected to come up in the course of the after- 
noon. He was a stranger to me, but I gathered from his 
conversation with his friends, who clustered around him on 
the floor before the session began, that he had been a waiter 
upon Congress for two years. Now, he thought, the deci- 
sive hour had come : that day, he believed, would send him 
home made or marred for life. Sitting so near him as I 



208 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

did, I could not help regarding the proceedings of the 
House that day with his eyes and his feelings. 

Punctually at twelve, the rap of the Speaker's ivory 
hammer was heard above the din of conversation, the 
rustle of papers, and the noise of the ushers admon- 
ishing strangers to withdraw. A chaplain entered, who 
took his stand at the Clerk's desk, just below the Speaker, 
and began the usual prayer. I had the curiosity to ascer- 
tain the exact number of persons who appeared to attend 
to this exercise. The number was three : first, the Speaker, 
who stood in a graceful attitude, with clasped hands and 
bowed head, as though he felt the necessity of representing 
the House in a duty which it did not choose itself to per- 
form; second, one member, who also stood; third, one 
spectator in the gallery. Scarcely any members were yet 
in their seats, and the hall exhibited a scene of faded mo- 
rocco chair-backs, with a fringe of people in the distance 
walking, standing, conversing ; the prayer being an extem- 
pore one, the chaplain grew warm, became unconscious of 
the lapse of time, and prolonged his prayer unusually. 
Never was there a religious service that seemed more ill- 
timed or more ill-placed than that which opens the- daily 
sessions of the House of Representatives. There is a time 
for all things ; but members evidently think that the time 
to pray is not then nor there. The prayer can have no effect 
in calming members' minds, opening them to conviction, or 
preparing them for the duties of the occasion, because 
members' minds are absorbed, at the time, in hurrying the 
work of their committee-rooms to a conclusion. We might 
as well open the Gold-Room with prayer, or the daily ses- 
sions of the stock-brokers. Mr. Daniel Drew would probably 
assume an attitude of profound devotion, but other gentle- 
men would do what many members of Congress do, 
avoid going in until the prayer is finished. In fixing times 
and places for devotional acts, we are now advanced far 
enough, I trust, to use our sense of the becoming and the 
suitable, and to obey its dictates. Members should cer- 
tainly come in and " behave," or else abolish the chaplain. 

My Expectant did not fret under the prolongation of the 
prayer. He had made up his mind to that apparently. 
Nor was he moved when a member rose and asked to have 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 209 

a totally unimportant error corrected in yesterday's " Globe." 
After this was done began a scene that wasted an hour and 
a half, and disgraced, not this House alone, but the country 
and its institutions. Two witnesses, who had refused to 
answer the questions of an investigating-committee, and 
had afterwards thought better of it, and given the infor- 
mation sought, were to be discharged from the custody of the 
Sergeant-at-arms. The prisoners were of the lowest grade 
of New York politician. One of them, a good-humored, 
dissolute ruffian of twenty-three, was so precocious in de- 
pravity that he had already been an alderman, and had 
afterwards been concerned in the congenial business of 
distributing forged naturalization-papers. I became ac- 
quainted with this fellow-citizen during his detention in 
the lobby, and he informed- me, as 1 contemplated the 
diamond pin in his shirt, that he would have come on to 
Washington that winter, not as a prisoner, but as a mem- 
ber of Congress, if he had been old enough. This was a 
flight of the imagination. The d*espots of the Democratic 
party in the city of New York take excellent care that the 
really desirable things at their disposal fall to the men who 
can pay for them. They give the wretches whose votes they 
employ showers of Roman candles about election time, but 
they do not pave their streets, nor remove their heaps of 
garbage. They have no objections to a poor devil's picking 
up a diamond pin or so as alderman or councilman ; but 
when it comes to member of Congress dear, no ! they 
rarely take such things even for themselves. 

These prisoners being residents of New York, there was 
an opportunity for a few members to make a little home 
capital by publicly taking their part. One after another 
the city members, in the view of the whole House and the 
crowded galleries, went up to the ex-alderman, as he stood 
in front of the Speaker, shook hands with him, smiled upon 
him, and exchanged jocular observations avith him. A chair 
was brought for his convenience, and while his case was 
under consideration, he held a levee in the aisle, sitting ; 
while the Sergeant-at-arms, representing the authority of 
the House, stood behind him. Mr. James Brooks paid him 
his respects, nodding benignantly. Mr. Fernando Wood 
bowed with courtly grace, and uttered friendly words. Mr. 



210 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Robinson (ah ! Richelieu, you deserve better company !) 
was merry with him. A member moved that one of the 
prisoners be "discharged from custody." "Why not say 
honorably discharged 1 " asked a Democratic brother ; which, 
of course, led to the expected wrangle. But the main effort 
was to get the ex-alderman clear without his pa} T ing the 
costs of his arrest and transportation to Washington, 
seventy-five dollars. Now mark the purposed waste of 
time. It was moved that the prisoner be discharged on 
paying the costs of his arrest. A Democratic member 
moved to amend by striking out the words, " on paying the 
costs of arrest," alleging that the witness was a poor man, 
and could not procure so large a sum. The diamond pin 
glittered at this remark. I think, too, that the officer who 
had had charge of the prisoner the night before must have 
smiled ; for the young alderman had not been abstemious, 
and he had broken one of the commandments in an expen- 
sive manner. The question was put. A few scattered ayes 
responded ; and these were followed by such a simultaneous 
and emphatic roar of NOES as ought to have settled the 
question. A Democratic member demanded the yeas and 
nays ; and, as it was doubtful whether this demand would 
be sustained, he called for tellers on the question whether 
the j'eas and nays should be taken or not. Monstrous rob- 
bery of precious time ! First, two members take their stand 
in front of the Speaker, and the whole House, first the yeas 
and then the nays pass between them, a curious scene 
of huddle and confusion. The tellers reporting that the 
demand is sustained, the ayes and noes are ordered ; which, 
with the time already consumed, wastes three quarters of 
an hour. The amendment, as every one knew it would be, 
was voted down. 

Nothing had yet been done in the case. An amendment 
had been offered and rejected, no more. The main ques- 
tion now recurred : Shall the prisoner be discharged on 
paying the costs 1 The sense of the House was known to 
every creature ; but the few Democrats from New York, 
not regarding the convenience and dignity of the House, 
but thinking only of the Sixth Ward and the possible effect 
of their conduct there, must needs repeat this costly farce. 
Again they forced members to file between tellers ; again 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 211 

they condemned two thousand persons to endure the tedi- 
um of the roll-call ; again they compelled anxious expec- 
tants to chafe and fret for three quarters of an hour. It 
was past two o'clock before this trifling matter was disposed 
of. The House was then in no mood for private business, 
and this unhappy man was kept in suspense till another 
day. 

He received his quietus, however, before the session 
ended. I saw him, a few days after, come into a committee- 
room, followed by two or three members, who, I suppose, 
had been pleading his cause. His face was very red, and 
it betrayed in every lineament that the vote of the House 
had crushed his hopes. If any dramatist .would like to 
know how a man comports himself under such a stroke, I 
will state thai> this gentleman did not thrust either of his 
hands into his hair, nor throw himself into a chair and bury 
his face in his hands, nor do any other of those acts which 
gentlemen in such circumstances do upon the stage. He 
walked hastily to the faucet, filled a glass with water, and 
drank it very fast. Then he filled another glass, and drank 
that very fast. He then said to the members present, who 
expressed sympathy with his disappointment, " Gentlemen, 
you did the best you could for me." Next, he put on his 
overcoat, took up his hat, went out into the lobby, and so 
vanished from history. 

It was not this unfortunate suitor alone, nor the class 
whom he represented, that suffered keenly upon the occa- 
sion before mentioned. Committees were anxious to report ; 
members were watching for an opportunity to introduce 
matters of great pith and moment ; foreign agents were 
waiting for the House to act upon the affairs which they 
had in charge ; an important revision of the internal-revenue 
system, upon which a committee had expended months of 
labor, was pending, and was finally lost for want of the 
time thus wantonly wasted. Surely it is within the com- 
pass of human ingenuity to devise a method of preventing 
a handful of members from frustrating the wishes of a ma- 
jority 1 Three fourths of the House desired to go on with 
the business of the day ; and, of the remaining fourth, only 
half a dozen really cared to conciliate the class represented 
by the prisoner. Why not take the yeas and nays by a 



212 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

machine similar to the hotel indicator 1 From the remotest 
corner of the largest hotel, a traveller sends the number of 
his room to the office by a pull of the bell-rope. The in- 
ventor of that machine could doubtless arrange a system 
of wires and words by which the vote of the House could 
be taken, and even permanently recorded, by a click of a 
key on each member's desk. In an instant every name 
might be exhibited in bold characters, the ayes on the 
Speaker's right, and the noes on his left, legible to the 
whole House ; or the ayes and noes might be printed on 
prepared lists. Until such a contrivance is completed, the 
Speaker might be empowered to put a stop to such obvious 
filibustering as that just described. There has never yet, 
I believe, been a Speaker of the House of Representatives 
who might not have been safely intrusted with much addi- 
tion to his power. "All power is abused," says Niebuhr; 
" and yet some one must have it." Such Speakers as Henry 
Clay, General Banks, Mr. Colfax, and Mr. Elaine would not 
be likely to abuse power so abominably as the minority of 
the House do whenever they fancy they can please sweet 
Buncombe thereby. 

A good deal of precious time is consumed by Congress 
in misgoverning the District of Columbia, or in doing just 
enough to prevent the people of the District from govern- 
ing themselves. Who invented the District of Columbia ] 
Why a District of Columbia? It is a joke in Washington, 
that, for sixty-five years, Congress voted fifteen hundred 
dollars every session for the salary of " the keeper of the 
crypt," because no member had the moral courage to con- 
fess his ignorance of the meaning of the word. The jokers 
say that many members thought it was some mysterious 
object, like the mace, without which Congress would not be 
Congress. Certain it is that the money was voted without 
question every year, until in 1868 the item caught the eye 
of General Butler, and he asked members of the Committee 
on Appropriations what it meant. No one being able to 
tell him, he went down forthwith into the crypt of the 
Capitol in search of its "keeper." No such officer was 
known in those subterranean regions. After a prolonged 
inquiry, he discovered that soon after the death of General 
Washington, when it was expected that his remains would 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 213 

be deposited in the crypt under the dome, Congress created 
the office in question, for the better protection of the 
sacred vault. Mrs. Washington refusing her consent, the 
crypt remained vacant ; but the office was not abolished, 
and the appropriation passed unchallenged until General 
Butler made his inquiry, when it was stricken out. Is not 
our District of Columbia a similar case ? The District is 
instilled into the tender mind of infancy, and we have all 
taken it for granted. But what need is there of depriving 
a portion of the American people of part of their rights, or 
of compelling them to travel across a continent to vote ] 
Why use an apparatus so costly, complicated, and cumber- 
some as the Congress of the United States to get a little 
paving done in Pennsylvania Avenue, or some soup given 
out to a few hundred hungry negroes 1 Do California and 
Oregon send members across the continent to attend to the 
lamp-posts of a country town? Are honorable gentlemen 
to travel all the way from the extremity of Florida or the 
farthest confines of Texas to order some new boards to be 
nailed down on the Long Bridge ? 

Unable to answer such questions as these, or get them 
answered, I thought that possibly there might be some 
military advantage arising from the system, which would 
serve as an offset to its manifest inconveniences. But the 
jurisdiction of Congress did not prevent officers of a hostile 
army from walking into the White House one very warm 
day in the summer of 1814, and eating Mrs. Madison's 
excellent dinner, while the soldiers under their command 
were ravaging the town and burning the Capitol. Nor was 
it the authority of Congress that kept the Confederate 
Army on the other side of the Potomac after the battle of 
Bull Run. No harm appears to have come from giving 
back to Virginia the forty square miles which she contrib- 
uted to the original hundred ; and I cannot think of any 
evil or any inconvenience that would result if Congress 
were to restore to Maryland her sixty, and pay taxes 011 
the property of the United States, like any other guardian 
or trustee. 

This is a matter of much importance, because there 
seems to be some danger of the government's repeating the 
stupendous folly of creating a Federal City. No less dis- 



214 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

tiuguished a person than General Sherman appears to take 
it for granted that there "is some necessity for the govern- 
ment to be sovereign in a little principality around the 
public edifices. " In my opinion," he lately Avrote, " if the 
capital is changed from Washington to the West, a new 
place will be chosen on the Mississippi River, several hun- 
dred miles above St. Louis I have interests in St. 

Louis, and if allowed to vote on this question, I would vote 
against surrendering St. Louis city and county, with its 
vast commercial and manufacturing interests, to the exclu- 
sive jurisdiction of a Congress that would make these inter- 
ests subordinate to the mere political uses of a Federal 
capital. Nor would any National Congress make the cap- 
ital where it had not exclusive and absolute jurisdiction for 
its own protection and that of the employes of the govern- 
ment. Therefore, if the capital be moved at all, it must 
go to a place willing to surrender its former character and 
become a second Washington City." 

This is an appalling prospect for posterity, a second 
Washington City ! I could wish that General Sherman 
had given some reasons for his assumption ; for while the 
good resulting from the jurisdiction of Congress is not ap- 
parent, the evils are manifest. The arriving stranger, who 
usually has the pain of riding a mile or two in Pennsylvania 
Avenue, naturally asks why that celebrated street is so ill 
paved, so dusty, so ill lighted. It is one of the widest 
streets in the world ; and as it runs two miles without a 
bend and without a hill, the winds rushing along it from 
the distant gap in the mountains raise clouds of dust that 
are wonderful to behold and terrible to encounter. At 
other times the street is so muddy that people call a car- 
riage to take them across. In the evening the whole city 
is dim, dismal, and dangerous from the short supply of gas. 
Ladies who intend to give a party endeavor to select an 
evening when there will be no evening session; because 
when the Capitol is lighted the gas-works are so overtasked 
that every drawing-room in the city is dull. The dilapida- 
tion of the bridges, the neglected appearance of the public 
squares, the general shabbiness and sprawling incomplete- 
ness of the town, strike every one who comes from the trim 
and vigorous cities of the North. In things of more impor- 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 215 

tance there is equal inefficiency. Since the war closed, 
Washington has been a poverty-stricken place. The war 
gathered there several thousands of poor people, who be- 
came instantly helpless and miserable when the army was 
withdrawn, with its train of sutlers, storekeepers, embalm- 
ers, and miscellaneous hangers-on. In one of the last 
weeks of the last session, I remember the business of the 
nation was brought to a stand while a member coaxed and 
begged a small appropriation from Congress to keep several 
hundreds of colored people from starving. I myself saw 
the soup-houses surrounded by ragged, shivering wretches, 
with their pails and kettles, soon after ten in the morning, 
although the soup was not distributed until twelve. Wash- 
ington, being peopled chiefly by under-paid clerks and their 
worse paid chiefs, the charity of the city was even more 
overtasked than its gas-works ; and there seemed no way 
in which those poor people could be saved from starvation, 
except by a gift of public money, national money, the 
property of Maine, Oregon, Florida, California, and the 
other States. The absurdity of the act was undeniable ; 
but when human beings are seen to be in the. agonies 
of starvation, constitutional scruples generally give way. 
Congress might just as properly have voted thirty thousand 
dollars to relieve the suffering poor of San Francisco. The 
accidental proximity of those perishing people gave them 
no claim upon the national treasury which the poor of other 
cities did not possess. 

The stranger, I repeat, observing these and many other 
evidences of inefficient government, naturally asks an ex- 
planation. The explanation is, that the unhappy city has 
two governments, namely, Congress, and its own Mayor 
and Aldermen, one very rich and close, the other very 
poor and heavily burdened with expense. Between these 
two powers there is a chronic ill-feeling, similar to that 
which might exist between a rich uncle and a married nephew 
with a large family and many wants, both living in the 
same house. The old man is under the impression that he 
makes his nephew a munificent allowance,. to which he adds 
Christmas and other gifts on what lie considers a liberal 
scale. His numerous other heirs and dependants share this 
opinion. They even reproach him for his lavish benefac- 



216 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

tions. They go so far as to say that he ought not to have 
paid that last heavy plumbing bill for letting the water 
into the house. The young man, on the other hand, so 
far from being grateful for his uncle's generosity, is always 
grumbling at his parsimony ; and every time an unusual 
expense has to be incurred, there is a struggle and a 
wrangle between them as to which shall pay it. " Pay it 
out of your income," says Uncle Sam. " No, my dear sir : 
this is a permanent addition to your estate," replies the 
nephew. " You require me," he continues, " for your own 
convenience and advantage, to reside in this huge, rambling, 
expensive mansion, far away from towns and markets ; and 
I am thus compelled to live on a scale which is out of all 
proportion to my slender means. It is but fair that you 
should help me out." The old gentleman assents to the 
principle ; but he never can be brought to come down as 
handsomely as the young nephew feels he ought. Hence 
the feud between the two. 

This state of things is injurious to both ; but to the city 
government it is demoralization and paralysis. After many 
years of silent and of vocal strife, there has come about a 
kind of " understanding" that Congress is to "take care " 
of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the city government is to do 
all the rest. But the real object of strife appears to be 
which government shall most completely neglect the duty 
assigned it ; and each excuses its neglect by pointing to the 
inefficiency of the other. The remedy appears simple and 
feasible. Let Congress restore to Maryland her sixty square 
miles, and pay taxes on the national property. By this in- 
expensive expedient, Congress would get rid of the trouble- 
some task of misgoverning a small principality, and the 
city government would be put upon its good behavior, and 
supplied with adequate means and motive. 

The question of the removal of the capital is scarcely ripe 
even for serious consideration, since we cannot know for ten 
years or more what effects will be produced by the Pacific 
railroads, built and to be built ; nor whether the country 
is to extend northward, southward, in both directions, or in 
neither. If Canada is to " come in," then Mr. Seward may 
be right in his conjecture that the final capital of the United 
States will be somewhere near the city of St. Paul. If 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 217 

Cuba is to be ours, if the other large islands of the West 
Indies are to follow, if we are to dig the Darien Canal, and 
the United States is to compete with Great Britain for the 
commerce of the world, then the future capital may properly 
be an Atlantic seaport, New York perhaps. If we are to 
take upon ourselves the grievous burden of Mexico, and ex- 
tend our empire along the Pacific coast, then some central 
city yet to be created may be the predestined spot. If 
none of these things is to happen, the beautiful and com- 
modious city of St. Louis presents almost every advantage 
that can be desired. Many years must probably elapse 
before any of these ifs are out of the way. In the mean 
time no reason appears why Congress should not gladly 
permit the people residing in the District of Columbia to 
take care of their own municipal affairs. There would then 
be one committee the less, one lobby the less, one whole 
class of ill-defined and undefinable claims the less. It would 
not require ten years of lobbying, under that system, to 
get Pennsylvania Avenue paved ; nor would Congress have 
to spend precious time in providing soup for the poor. 

But the greatest time-consumer of all is the frequently 
settled but always reopening controversy respecting the 
right of Congress to appropriate money for " internal im- 
provements." We are at sea again on this subject. It will 
not remain settled. The stranger in the Capitol, who. looks 
over the heaps of pamphlets and documents lying about on 
members' desks and on committee-room tables, discovers 
that a large number of able and worthy people are under 
the impression that Congress may be reasonably asked to 
undertake anything, provided it is a desirable work, and will 
cost more money than parties interested find it convenient 
to raise, anything, from a Darien Canal to the draining 
of a silver mine, from the construction of a whole system 
of railroads to the making of an experimental balloon. 
There are those who want Congress to buy all the telegraphic 
lines, and others who think that all the railroads should be 
public property. The strict-constructionists are reduced to 
a feeble cohort, and yet Congress adheres to the tradition 
of their doctrines, and is fain to employ devices and subter- 
fuges to cover up its departures therefrom. But no one 
knows how far Congress will go, and this uncertainty lures 

10 



218 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

to the capital many an expensive lobby, who wear out their 
hearts in waiting, and who waste at Washington the money 
and the energy that might have started their enterprise. 

While waiting one day in the room of a Washington cor- 
respondent, I noticed upon the table a large, square, gilt- 
edged, handsomely bound volume, resembling in appearance 
the illustrated annuals which appear on the booksellers' 
counters during the month of December. Upon taking it 
up, I observed upon the cover a picture, in gold, of a miner 
gracefully swinging a pickaxe, with golden letters above 
and below him informing me that the work was upon the 
" Sutro Tunnel, Nevada." I opened the volume. Upon 
one of the fly-leaves I had the pleasure of reading a letter, 
in fac-simile, signed Adolf Sutro, which showed that Mr. 
Sutro was an elegant penman and wrote in the French 
manner, one sentence to a paragraph, thus : 

" We have a vast mining interest : we also have a large 
national debt. 

" The development of the former will secure the early 
payment of the latter. 

" The annexed book contains much information on the 
subject. 

" A few hours devoted to its perusal will prove useful, 
interesting, and instructive." 

Having read this neat epistle, I turned over a leaf or two, 
and discovered an engraving of " Virginia City, N. T.," and 
opposite to the same the title-page, of which the following 
is a copy : " The Mineral Resources of the United States, 
and the Importance and Necessity of Inaugurating a Ra- 
tional System of Mining, with Special Reference to the 
Comstock Lode and the Sutro Tunnel in Nevada. By 
Adolf Sutro. Baltimore : John Murphy & Co. 1868." 
The work consisted of two hundred and thirty-two large 
pages, of which both the paper and the printing were of 
the most expensive kind. The substance of Mr. Sutro's 
message can be given in a few sentences : 1. The Comstock 
Lode in Nevada, the most productive series of silver mines 
in the world, having yielded seventy-five million dollars' 
worth of silver in six years, has now been dug so deep that 
it costs nearly as much to pump out the water as the 
mines yield. 2. Mr. Sutro wants Congress to tap the 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 219 

mountain by means of a tunnel, the Sutro Tunnel, 
so that the water will all run out at the bottom, far below 
the silver, leaving the mines dry. 3. If that is not done, 
the mines cannot be worked much longer at a profit. 4. 
Capitalists will not undertake the tunnel, because they are 
not sure there is silver enough in the lode to pay for it. 5. 
Mr. Sutro is perfectly sure there is. 6. There are many 
similar lodes in Nevada. 7. Therefore it is " the duty and 
interest of the government to aid in the construction of one 
tunnel as an index work," to show that there is silver enough 
in such lodes to pay for such tunnels. 

This is the milk in that magnificent cocoanut. The idea 
is ingenious and plausible. I should like to see it tried. 
But who needs to be told that, under the Constitution of 
the United States, as formerly interpreted, Congress has no 
more right to advance money or, as the polite phrase now 
is, "lend the credit of the government " for such an ob- 
ject as this, than it has to build a new kind of steamboat 
for the Fulton Ferry Company, because the company is not 
certain it will answer 1 The inventor is certain. He gets 
a great album printed, and goes to Washington to lobby 
for the money. Now, to produce a thousand copies of such 
a work as this costs ten thousand dollars ; and it indicates 
a lobby that may have cost twenty thousand or fifty thou- 
sand more. What a waste is this ! And there are fifty 
lobbies every winter, in Washington, pushing for objects as 
obviously beyond the constitutional power of Congress as 
the Sutro Tunnel. These lobbies not only cost a great deal 
of money, but they demoralize, in some degree, almost 
every person who has anything to do with them. Nearly 
all of them fail, as a matter of course ; but not until they 
have tempted, warped, perverted, corrupted, men who, but 
for such projects, would leave Washington as innocent as 
they came to it. 

Take this scene for example. A Washington correspond- 
ent, sauntering towards the Capitol, is joined by the chief 
of one of these lobbies, to whom he has been casually intro- 
duced. There are about sixty correspondents usually re- 
siding in Washington during the winter, of whom fifty-five 
are honorable and industrious ; having no object but to 
serve faithfully the newspapers to which they are attached ; 



220 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

and generally no source of income but the salary which 
they draw from those newspapers, from thirty to a 
hundred dollars a week. The , other five are vulgar, un- 
scrupulous, and rich. They belong to insignificant papers, 
and sell their paragraphs to inexperienced men who come 
to Washington to get things " through," and desire the aid 
of the press. Lobbyists who understand their business 
seldom approach correspondents with illegitimate proposi- 
tions, because they know that the representatives of influ- 
ential newspapers cannot sell their columns, and would 
disdain to attempt doing so. The corrupt five, who prey 
generally upon the inexperienced, occasionally get lucrative 
jobs from men who ought to be ashamed to employ them. 
They make it a point to cultivate a certain kind of intimacy 
with members, a billiard-room intimacy, a champagne- 
supper intimacy. They like to be seen on the floor of the 
House of Representatives, and may go so far as to slap a 
senatorial carpet-bagger on the back. It is part of their 
game to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue arm-in-arm with 
a member of Congress, and to get the entree of as many 
members' apartments as possible. Some members who 
know and despise them," are yet in some degree afraid of 
them ; .for any man who can get access to a newspaper can 
do harm and give pain. To the publicity of the press 
there are as many avenues in the country as there are 
newspapers to exchange with; and any paper, even the 
most remote and least important, is competent to start a 
falsehood which the great thunderers of the press may copy, 
and which no denial can ever quite eradicate from the pub- 
lic mind. These jovial fellows, who treat green members 
to champagne, and ask them to vote for dubious measures, 
are also the chief calumniators of Congress. It is they who 
have caused so many timid and credulous people to think 
that the Congress of the United States is a corrupt body. 
They revenge themselves for their failure to carry improper 
measures by slandering the honest men whose votes defeat- 
ed them. They thrive on the preposterous schemes to which 
a loose interpretation of the Constitution has given birth. 

But my friend who was strolling toward the Capitol was 
not one of the scurvy five, but of the honorable fifty-five ; 
and, strange to relate, the lobby chief who escorted and 



HOW CONGEESS WASTES ITS TIME. 221 

took him aside was a master of his art. But the scheme 
which he represented was in imminent peril, and it was 
deemed essential that the leading papers of the West 
should, at least, not oppose it. It was thought better that 
the papers should even leave the subject unmentioned. It 
were needless to give in detail the interview. The substance 
of what our lobbyist had to propose to this young journal- 
ist was this : " Take this roll of greenbacks, and don't 
send a word over the wires about our measure." From the 
appearance of the roll, it was supposed to contain about as 
much money as the correspondent would cam in the whole 
of a short session of Congress. What a temptation to a 
young married man and father ! a quarter's salary for 
merely not writing a short paragraph, which, in any case, 
he need not have written, and might not have thought of 
writing. He was not tempted, however ; but only blushed, 
and turned away with the remark that he was sorry the 
tempter thought so meanly of him. It is illegitimate 
schemes, such as ought never to get as far as Washington, that 
are usually sought to be advanced by such tactics as these. 

Either by a new article of the Constitution, such as Pres- 
ident Jefferson proposed sixty-five years ago, or by a clearly 
defined interpretation of existing articles, the people should 
be notified anew that Congress is not authorized to expend 
the public money, or " lend the public credit," for any but 
strictly national objects, objects necessary to the defence 
and protection of the whole people, and such as the State 
governments and private individuals cannot do for them- 
selves. Any one who has been in Washington during the 
last few winters, and kept his eyes open, must have felt that 
this was a most pressing need of the time. It is sorrowful 
to see so much effort and so much money wasted in urging 
Congress to do what it cannot do without the grossest viola- 
tion of the great charter that created it. 

I feel all the difficulty of laying down a rule that will 
stand the test of strong temptation. The difficulty is 
shown by our failures hitherto ; for this question of the 
power of Congress to do desirable works has been an " issue " 
in Presidential contests, and the theme of a hundred de- 
bates in both Houses. President Washington, influenced 
perhaps by his English-minded Secretary of the Treasury, 



222 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Hamilton, evidently thought that Congress could do almost 
anything which the British Parliament could do ; and we 
see him urging Congress to realize Hamilton's dream of a 
great National University. John Adams shared this opin- 
ion. When Mr. Jefferson came into power, in 1801, on a 
strict-constructionist issue, Republicans thought the thing 
was settled. But no : there occurred an opportunity to 
buy Louisiana, and that opportunity seemed transient. 
Napoleon wanted money desperately, and had sense enough 
to understand the uselessness of Louisiana to France. Jef- 
ferson yielded. He bought Louisiana, and then asked Con- 
gress to frame an amendment to the Constitution that 
would cover the act. I never could see the necessity for 
an amendment for that case ; for it certainly belonged to 
" the common defence " for the United States to own its 
own back door. Then came that perplexing surplus of 
1805, when Mr. Jefferson asked Congress to take the whole 
subject of internal improvements into consideration, and 
frame an article of the Constitution which would be a clear 
guide for all future legislation. It was not done. The war 
of 1812 betrayed the weakness of the country in some 
essential particulars, and broke down the strict-construction 
theory, while confirming in power the party of strict-con- 
structionists. Madison revived the project of a National 
University, without asking for a new article ; and the old 
Federalist ideas gained such ground, that, when John 
Quincy Adams came into power, in 1825, Congress was 
asked to do more than Hamilton had so much as proposed 
in Cabinet-meeting. Jackson, impelled by his puerile 
hatred of Henry Clay, re-established the strict-construction 
principle ; but it would not remain re-established. In 1843, 
Congress gave Professor Morse twenty thousand dollars 
with which to try his immortal experiment with the tele- 
graph. Congress had no right to do this ; but the splendor 
of the result dazzled every mind and silenced all reproach. 
Then came Mr. Douglas's device by which a Democratic 
Congress was enabled to set up a railroad company with 
capital from the sale of the public lands, and leave to the 
railroad company all the profit upon the investment. Fi- 
nally was achieved the masterpiece of evasion called "lend- 
ing the public credit." 



HOW CONGRESS WASTES ITS TIME. 223 

I never could see the necessity of any device to justify 
Congress in constructing one Pacific Railroad outright ; be- 
cause it was a cheap and necessary measure of " common 
defence." That railroad defends the frontiers against the 
Indians better than mounted regiments, and defends the 
Pacific States better than costly fleets. But the most 
strained reading of the Constitution cannot make it author- 
ize the building of a railroad beginning and ending in the 
same State, nor justify the voting of public money to make 
scientific experiments. Probably there are now in Wash- 
ington at least fifty lobbies (or will be erelong) working 
for schemes suggested by those two violations of trust, to 
the sore tribulation of members of Congress, and to the 
grievous loss of persons interested. 

The time is favorable for an attempt to settle this ques- 
tion, because it does not now enter into the conflict of par- 
ties. Perhaps the Congress of an empire like this ought to 
have power to aid in such a work as the Darien Canal. Per- 
haps the mere magnitude of the undertaking makes it ex- 
ceptional, makes it necessarily national. It may properly 
belong to an imperial parliament to aid scientific experi- 
ments which are too costly for individuals to undertake. 
Perhaps a national Congress is incompletely endowed unless 
it can reward services that cannot otherwise be rewarded, - 
such a service, for example, as that rendered by the discov- 
erers of the pain-suspending power of ether. If so, let the 
power be frankly granted, but carefully defined. If not, let 
the fact be known. There should be an end of evasions, 
devices, and tricks for doing what the Constitution does not 
authorize. A tolerably well-informed citizen of the United 
States should be able to ascertain with certainty, before 
going to Washington and publishing a gorgeous album, 
whether his enterprise is one which Congress has or has not 
the constitutional right to assist. 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 



rriHAT Alpine hat which broke out upon us with so much 
i violence, and which, I am told, has not yet spent its 
force in the interior States, is a good illustration of the way 
in w^hich a fashion originates, "takes," spreads, rages, de- 
clines, dies away in the distance, and is lost to view, until 
it pleases our sovereign lords, the fashion-makers, to spring 
it upon mankind again. The son of a New York hatter, late 
in the year 1867, while making the tour of Europe, found 
himself at Naples, where he noticed a pretty green hat that 
was much in vogue, called the Alpine hat. It was steeple- 
crowned, with wide brim, and a broad black ribbon round 
the crown which was further decorated by a feather. It 
differed from the familiar Tyrolese hat, which we often see 
at the opera upon the heads of picturesque banditti, chiefly 
in having the brim turned up instead of down, and in hav- 
ing a deep, regular dent or cleft in the top of the crown, 
such as all soft hats have when they are first unpacked. 
The young hatter, though on pleasure bent, had a mind 
attentive to business, and he sent one of these hats home 
to his father, who placed it in his store for the amusement 
of his customers. It was as though he had said, " See 
what things those absurd foreigners wear ! Yes, sir, they 
actually wear that kind of thing in Naples j out of doors, 
and in broad daylight ! Just fancy a man wearing a green, 
hat, with a -feather in it, in the streets ! " 

For three months or more this hat, so pretty at Naples, 
so ridiculous in New York, was exhibited in the hat-store 
in Broadway without exciting in the breast of any man a 
desire to possess it. The realistic drama was then in fash- 
ion. Managers advertised their new effects as patented ; 
dramatists sought the twofold protection of the Patent 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 225 

Office and the copyright law, and would not permit the 
hero of another man's play to incur any but an original 
peril. The hats worn upon the stage being thus as real as 
the real water of the stage fountain and the real donkey 
of the stage cart, this romantic hat was not in request for 
the drama. Indeed, it remains unsold at the present mo- 
ment, and may still be inspected by the curious. But one 
day it occurred to the philosophic mind of the hatter who 
owned it, that, apart from its green color and its feather, 
the fundamental ideas of this hat were good, and were also 
dn harmony with the tastes of the American people. He 
thought he saw in it a taking compromise between the 
orthodox respectability of the stiff and glossy cylinder, and 
the too careless lowering loaferism of soft felt. He thought 
he could Americanize the Naples hat in such a way as to 
combine the safety of the stove-pipe with the grace that is 
latent in the slouch. Then he said, " Make me a dozen 
hats of that pattern, but black and without a feather." In 
due time, the hats were placed in the store for sale. The 
hit they made was immediate and most decided. Every 
one who saw them was delighted with them, and they were 
all sold in a few hours. It is a long time since hatters 
have offered the public so pleasing a union of the becom- 
ing, the comfortable, and the convenient. And about this 
time arrived in New York the gallant band of English 
cricketers, wearing hats somewhat similar ; and these gen- 
tlemen, performing daily in the presence of a great multi- 
tude, gave an impetus to the fashion. In a short time, the 
originator was selling a hundred Alpine hats a day, and all 
the other hatters were in full cry after them. In a few 
weeks, one half the better dressed men in New York were 
happy in the consciousness of having their heads more 
becomingly covered than they ever were before ; and the 
other half secretly craved the same happiness, but were 
prevented from indulging their desire by the noble dread 
of wearing a hat that " everybody " wore. 

In this little story of the Alpine hat 'is contained, as I 
have said, all the principles that control the rise, spread 
and extinction of fashions. But in order to present the 
subject properly, we must go back of the Alpine hat, and 

> by what steps we arrived at the state of mind and taste 



226 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

which caused so many of us to adopt it so eagerly. And 
this is a subject which goes down to the depths of human 
nature. As the topmost leaves of the tallest tree draw 
their nourishment from the far distant and unseen root, 
and take their form, color, and texture from the tree's 
constitution and circumstances; as there is a natural 
necessity that the leaves of the willow shall be long and 
the leaves of the holly shall shine ; so the feathers in ladies' 
bonnets and the shape of men's hats, and all the seeming 
caprices of fashion, are controlled by law, originate in the 
nature of things, and are influenced by the controlling 
events of history. I do not know why walking-sticks are 
seldom carried at present in our streets, where, three years 
ago, it was common to carry them ; but if any one had a 
month in which to find out, he could find out ; and very 
likely his investigation would carry him up among the great 
events and men of the age. He might have to write to 
Count Bismarck about it; the national debt may have 
something to do with it. The shade of care that comes 
over the countenancps of a community when times are 
hard, and which our faces have worn for the last three 
years, since our burden began to settle down heavily upon 
us (the flush-money of the war being all spent, and the 
fictitious prosperity of war having been succeeded by its 
proper reaction), may explain it ; for a walking-stick is the 
natural accompaniment of a mind at ease. It is when we 
go forth to stroll among the girls in the Fifth Avenue on a 
fine afternoon, that we take a cane with us ; not when we 
are going down town to collect or borrow money. But I 
leave this interesting branch of the subject to future inves- 
tigators, and return to my hats, merely reporting, for the 
information of those investigators, that, during the whole 
of the year 1868, the walking-stick trade was exceedingly 
dull, and that in 1864 and 1865 it was very brisk indeed. 

Among the pictures in the gallery of the New York His- 
torical Society, there is one representing the interior of the 
Park Theatre, on an evening in 1822, during the perform- 
ance of the elder Matthews. Every face in the audience is 
a portrait, the object of the artist being to assemble upon 
one canvas portraits of all the leading persons then moving 
in the society and business of New York. Often as I go 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 227 

into this interesting gallery, I never fail to take a look, in 
passing, at the round-faced, burly fathers of the present 
kings of commerce and finance. What a contrast, their 
amplitude of countenance and form, their good-humored 
torpidity of intellect, their consummate, solid respectability, 
with the sharper-featured,^more slender, slightly intellec- 
tualized " operators " of the present time ; connoisseurs in 
tandems, pictures, books, operas ! As the persons in that 
distinguished audience are in full dress, the picture serves 
as an historical fashion-plate. The greater number of those 
stout gentlemen wear the most voluminous white neck- 
cloths, which seem to have been wound round and round 
their necks, completely filling up the space between the 
coat and the countenance. Others have on those high stiff 
stocks which many of us remember, things of buckram 
covered with black silk, satin, or velvet, fastened behind 
with a buckle that was not always invisible. From out 
the depths of the stocks, stiff and sharp-cornered collars 
thrust themselves toward heaven. The coat-collars of these 
solid gentlemen are several inches high, and only less stiff 
than a pine board. A few of the spectators, who are stand- 
ing at the back of the pit, have their hats on, and those 
hats are immense ; they are structures, regularly built, 
bell-crowned, and covered with the beaver skins which Mr. 
Astor brought from the far-distant haunts of his trappers. 
Most of the ladies wear bonnets, which also are vast, wide- 
spreading, and lofty, apparently of construction scarcely less 
massive than the beavers of their husbands. 

Stiff and cumbrous as the clothes in this picture seem to 
us, they are light and easy compared with the cocked hats, 
the padded coats, stiffened with buckram, the wigs, the 
overflowing ruffles, the knee-breeches and great buckles, 
from which victorious, democracy, in Jefferson's early day, 
delivered the fathers of these fathers who sit so solemnly 
enjoying Charles Matthews the elder. Old men used to be 
about New York who remembered when the young dandies 
of the Democratic party, in 1801, the year of Mr. Jeffer- 
son's inauguration, first dared to show themselves in 
Broadway without wig or pigtail. It was thought to be an 
innovation scarcely decent for a young man to go about 
the streets exhibiting his own hair ; and many men sur- 



228 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

rendered the pigtail only with life. When Mr. Jefferson 
discarded his short breeches, silk stockings, and silver- 
buckled shoes, and concealed his well-formed legs in pan- 
taloons, the Federalists were prone to regard it as the trick 
of a demagogue to secure the favor of the mob. A gentle- 
man in trousers and short hair ! 4 But what better could be 
expected of a Democrat and an atheist 1 

After the revolutionary ferment, which in Europe ended 
in defeat under Napoleon, and here in peaceful victory 
under Jefferson, there was a reaction toward the opinions 
which are called conservative, and this reaction expressed 
itself in stiffness and uniformity of dress. People forty 
years of age can remember the high stock, the cruel shirt- 
collar, the ruthless coat-collar, the prodigious bonnet, and 
the general setness and severity of costume which prevailed 
among us, before Channing, Dickens, Carlyle, Emerson, 
Beecher, and the New York Tribune had begun the eman- 
cipation of the American understanding from the tight- 
fitting armor of opinions in which it was once confined. 
The primness and stiffness of the ladies who used to walk 
past the Astor House when it was the one grand hotel of 
the city, and when the fashionable walk was between the 
Battery and St. Paul's Church, can only be realized by 
those who remember their leg-of-mutton sleeves bulged out 
with buckram, and their lace handkerchiefs, carried in their 
hands before them in a ludicrously precise and uniform 
way. The dress of the men was only less formal, cumbrous, 
and unyielding. Over all hung heavily the large black 
beaver hat ; which maintained its supremacy so long be- 
cause it harmonized with the stiffness and angularity of 
the rest of the attire. 

It required three great historical events merely to cir- 
cumscribe the dominion of the stove-pipe hat. First, the 
Mexican War revealed to a large number of American 
citizens the unsuspected truth, that the head of man could 
be covered becomingly without resorting to the stiff beaver. 
A good many officers and soldiers brought home from 
Mexico the wide-brimmed, steeple-crowned, flexible hat 
worn by Spaniards and Spanish Creoles ; but the large and 
sweeping picturesqueness of that tropical production was 
felt to be incongruous with the square-shouldered, tight- 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 229 

fitting garments worn by the busy and punctual men of 
American cities. Few had the courage to face a staring 
population, and most of those spacious hats were hung on 
pegs as mementos of warlike adventure. Then occurred 
the discovery of gold in California, and the wonderful rush 
across the Plains, around Cape Horn, and over the Isthmus, 
which compelled thousands of people to discard from their 
attire everything that was not pliable. The Mexican x soft 
hat, modified to suit the American taste, became part of 
the uniform of the gold-seeking multitude, and was fre- 
quently seen in the streets of the Atlantic cities. But 
neither the war with Mexico, nor the discovery of California 
gold, nor both these important events together, sufficed to 
make the soft hat fashionable. Something more was needed. 
Europe had to be convulsed, and half a dozen ancient 
thrones shaken, before the scene became possible which 
gave a rival to the stiff cylinder. 

The Mexican War began in 1846. Captain Sutter's men 
discovered the glittering particles of gold in the California 
mill race, in 1848. On a certain day in December, 1851 
(the soft-hat manufacture being then in full activity), the 
most picturesque ^urnan figure which recent America has 
had the pleasure of beholding flashed upon two hundred 
thousand of us as we stood packed in Broadway, between 
the Battery and Union Square, two miles and two thirds 
of excited people, every creature of whom desired in his 
secret soul to be a pleasing object of contemplation to his 
friends and the public. We saw the hero of the hour but 
for half a minute each, as he passed, standing in his 
barouche, his pale and handsome face set off so strikingly 
by that graceful hat, with the large black feather wound 
about it. What a beautiful object he was ! The mere 
beauty of the man and his costume was such as to excite 
in every susceptible beholder a thrill of delight. I can see 
him now, the splendid Magyar, the magnificent, marvellous, 
histrionic Kossuth ! 

It was done ! The stove-pipe had a rival ; the feather, 
of course, was a thing to which we could not lift our souls. 
It has pleased Heaven so to constitute these northern 
climes, and the races inhabiting them, that a male of our 
species, who wears a feather in his hat of his own free will, 



230 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

must be either more or less than man. We could not attain 
to the feather; but the KOSSUTH HAT, adapted to the 
American taste, immediately appeared, and from that day 
to this the stiff cylinder has never been able to reign over 
us with its former absolute sway. 

An unpopular article of attire is the hat stigmatized as 
the stove-pipe. It is generally reviled as the acme of in- 
convenience and ugliness. It binds the head, and reddens 
the skin; it is heavy, large, inflexible, expensive, easily 
injured, difficult to restore, and very much in the way on 
a journey, in a crowd, or at a public meeting. No one 
pretends to admire or defend it. And yet there is some- 
thing in the breast of the respectable citizen which prompts 
him, upon the whole, to prefer it ; and, consequently, that 
hat, to this hour, is worn by about one half of the men in 
cities and large towns. There is, besides, a tendency in 
men, after indulging in soft infidelities for a while, to return 
to this unyielding head-covering. If between the sublime 
and the ridiculous there is a whole step, there is only a fin- 
ger's breadth between the becoming and the absurd ; and a 
staid citizen, when he ventures upon a soft hat, is not quite 
sure on which side of that dividing finger he is. But the 
stiff hat is a fixed quantity ; he feels safe in it ; and he is 
content not to be picturesque so long as he is sure not to 
be ridiculous. In itself, the hard hat is unpleasing and 
irrational, but it harmonizes with the angularity and stiff- 
ness which solid men still affect in the rest of their attire. 
Hence in Boston and Philadelphia, it is more frequently 
seen than in New York. The time has been in those two 
cities when the credit of a young man would have suffered 
if he had walked to his business in any other kind of hat 
than one of that polished and unyielding description which 
was once associated in the public mind with punctuality 
in meeting pecuniary obligations. If his hat was flexible, 
what guaranty had the public for the rigidity of his prin- 
ciples ? 

The Alpine hat took half our heads by storm, because it 
held out to us the alluring prospect of being safely pictu- 
resque. The dent in the crown was regular ; the brim was 
somewhat broad, but it was not allowed to flap about of its 
own free will ; and that wide black ribbon round the crown 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 231 

gave richness and dignity to the whole. In truth, the soft 
hat was arranged in its most becoming form, and then fixed 
in that form by block and stiffening. Such was its success 
in reconciling discordant conditions, that I saw the presi- 
dent of one bank and the cashier of another going down 
town wearing the Alpine hat, at a time when it was in high 
favor with the easy-going gentlemen of the press. Every 
one must feel that this savors of the millennium ; the Alpine 
hat, indeed, expresses clearly the spiritual condition of the 
age, that half-fledged freedom of the soul, that longing to 
be free, without quite daring to launch away from the na- 
tive twig, which is characteristic of so many at present. 

In most of our large libraries there are collections of cos- 
tume-books sufficient to show how immediately a change of 
opinion reveals itself in costume ; and many modern histo- 
rians have recorded the fact. Henri Martin, in his History 
of France, frequently pauses to note the connection between 
changes of spiritual condition and changes in the general 
style of dress. " In order to judge of a community," he 
says in one place (Martin, XII. 124), "it almost suffices to 
see its costume, that faithful interpreter of the bodily 
habits, which reflects always those of the spirit." Han- 
dling masses of illustrated works, and living near galleries 
of old pictures, he observed that both the morals and the 
minds of his countrymen have been faithfully reflected in 
the clothes they preferred. Under Francis I., French fash- 
ions were elegant and voluptuous ; at the immoral court of 
Henry III., they were extravagant and monstrous ; in the 
time of Henry IV., they had a military cast ; tinder glori- 
ous Richelieu, the costumes assumed " a nobleness, a severe 
and picturesque amplitude, a style at once graceful and dis- 
tinguished, never equalled in modern Europe." Fashions 
in that age, as in every age, originated in the country 
where there was most money and most leisure to spend 
upon dress, which then was Holland. Venice once gave k 
the law to fashionable Europe, then Sjpin, then Holland, 
then France. While Louis XIV. was a gay and gorgeous 
personage, the costumes of his court were gay and gorgeous, 
but when he had been scared into a kind of repentance, and 
settled down with Madame de Maintenon into the steady- 
going married man, and no one could hope for royal favor 



232 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

who did not attend mass once a day, costumes became 
heavy, ugly, awkward, a monstrous blending of the courtly 
and the puritanic. Then, when the Regent brought pleas- 
ure into fashion once more, instantly the cumbrous extrav- 
agances of the old court were abandoned, and dress became 
simpler, costlier, and more elegant. As the Revolution 
approached, democratic ideas were fashionable in chateaus 
and grand drawing-rooms. All costume and all decoration 
became simpler and less expensive. English modes were 
introduced, f the splendid carriages with panels painted by 
artists of repute, and heavy with elaborate decoration, all 
disappeared, and Paris was sombre with chariots, dark-col- 
ored and devoid of ornamentation, in the London style. 
Later, meanness and shabbiness of attire were the height 
of the mode in Paris, where republicans of ancient lineage 
and renown strove to express in this way their newly felt 
brotherhood to the less fortunate of mankind. Under 
Napoleon, all fashions for men had something in them of a 
military character, Napoleon reserving to himself the strik- 
ing simplicity of a field uniform. 

We have all observed, I suppose, what Mr. Herbert Spen- 
cer mentions in one of his essays, that the character of a 
political meeting can be inferred from the dress of those 
who attend it. "At a chartist demonstration," he tells us, 
" a lecture on socialism, or a soiree of the friends of Italy, 
there will be seen many among the audience, and a still 
larger ratio among the speakers, who get themselves up in 

a style more or less unusual Bare necks, shirt-collars 

a la Byron, wonderfully shaggy great-coats, numerous oddi- 
ties in form and color, destroy the monotony usual in 
crowds And when the gathering breaks up, the vari- 
eties of head-gear, the number of caps, and the abundance 
of felt hats, suffice to prove that were the world at large 
like-minded, the black cylinders which tyrannize over us 
jvould soon be deposed." These remarks apply as well to 
New York as to-^ondon. They perfectly describe the 
motley assemblies which used to crowd the old Tabernacle 
in Broadway, when Theodore Parker lectured to all that 
was most advanced and enlightened, as well as to much 
that was eccentric and affected, in the city. On the other 
hand, how uniform and precise the dress of the men who 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 

issue in dark clouds about 12.15 on Sundays, from churches 
where all endeavor to think alike, and engage an able man, 
at great expense, to assist them in so doing ! In those 
Theodore Parker days, members of the press sported va- 
rious peculiarities of costume; especially men connected 
with the journal supposed to be most at variance with 
public opinion. Since that time, extremes of opinion have 
drawn nearer together, and we now observe that the public- 
spirited and exemplary workingmen of the New York press, 
Bohemians of the new school, only discard so much of the 
conventional in costume and demeanor as is inconvenient 
and irrational. Compared with people of twenty years ago, 
we are all radicals, and our clothes show it. The eccen- 
trics of the old Tabernacle platform have generally chosen 
to conform to the fashions of a public with which they are 
no longer much at variance ; and the public, less tram- 
melled than formerly by orthodoxies in politics and theol- 
ogy, dress more easily, comfortably, and variously. 

Certainly, men do. If any one thinks ladies do not, I 
would like to show him a set of fashion-plates of 1820 to 
1830, now lying before me. Paniers, do you say 1 Paniers 
first came in, I believe, about six months after the marriage 
of Louis XV., which occurred in 1725. They have been in 
fashion several times since, but they have never been so 
light, so modest, so harmless, so little worn, and so gen- 
erally ridiculed as now. We can at least boast that they 
are not now regarded as an affair of state, disturbing the 
peace of courts, and calling for the interference of a prime 
minister. That gossiping Paris lawyer, Barbier, in his 
diary for 1728, has a curious passage relating to the paniers 
then worn at the French court, a passage which may con- 
sole some readers whom the sight of a panier causes to 
despair of the human race. 

"One would not believe," says Barbier, "that the Car- 
dinal [Fleury, prime minister] has been embarrassed with 
regard to the paniers which women wear under their petti- 
coats to render them large and spreading. They are of 
such a size, that when the ladies sit down, the whalebones 
are pushed out and make such an astonishing spread that 
they have been obliged to have arm-chairs made on purpose. 
Only three women can get into a box at the theatre without 



234 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

crowding. The fashion has gone to such an extravagance, 
as extreme fashions always do, that when the princesses are 
seated on each side of the queen, their petticoats, which 
rise as they seat themselves, hide the queen's petticoat. 
That seemed improper, but it was difficult to devise a 
remedy. By dint of pondering (d force de rever) the Car- 
dinal has decided that there shall always be an empty 
chair on each side of the queen, which will prevent the in- 
convenience ; and the pretext is, that those two chairs are 
reserved for Mesdames de France, her daughters " (twins, 
two years old). 

Thus the wise old priest, who governed France for so 
many years, arranged this great affair. It soon appeared, 
however, that the princesses did not like their petticoats 
concealed by the paniers of adjacent duchesses, and the 
Cardinal was obliged to grant them a vacant stool on each 
side. This offended the duchesses, who desired the same 
privilege. But Cardinal Fleury, like Dickens's immortal 
London barber, had to draw the line somewhere, and he 
drew it so as to exclude the duchesses, which led to a bit- 
ter war of pamphlets and epigrams, in the course of which 
one pamphlet was publicly burned by the executioner 
(Barbier, II. 37 and 41). Much as we may regret to see 
young loveliness disfiguring itself with these things in the 
Fifth Avenue, we can find comfort in the reflection that 
Mr. Seward has not been obliged to interfere, nor has the 
public hangman earned the smallest fee in consequence of 
the revived fashion. 

Fashion is a necessity of human nature ; because, while 
we all desire to be pleasingly attired, not. one in ten thou- 
sand of us is able to invent any article of dress or decora- 
tion that shall be truly becoming. Nothing is more uni- 
versal than the wish to be well-looking ; and the feeling is 
so strong that a person had almost better not be born at 
all than be born two feet too tall or too short, or with any 
other very marked personal peculiarity that cannot be 
concealed. Byron's morbidness with regard to his lame- 
ness was not an unusual case. Turn loose, in a large school 
of rough boys or girls, a child who has a squint eye, or a 
humpback, or a red patch on its face, or who is extremely 
fat or lean, or tall or short, or whose clothes are very dif- 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 235 

ferent from those worn by the rest, or who has some uncon- 
querable peculiarity of speech or manner, and that child 
will suffer an acute misery of which no one can form an 
idea who has never experienced it. Nor is this a peculiar- 
ity of childhood. -What would induce a respectable citizen 
of Boston to walk down Washington Street in top-boots, or 
wearing a hat of 1830 1 Where is the woman strong-minded 
enough to calmly endure the stony stare of an omnibus full 
of female critics who have spied out something awry or an- 
tique in her costume 2 It is a tremendous ordeal. We are 
so constituted that we like to be like one another ; and so 
general is this desire, that one of the signs of madness is an 
inclination to oddity in personal adornment. It is hard for 
us to believe in the soundness of a person's judgment who 
turns his collar down when every one else turns it up, or 
who lets his hair grow very long when the rest of mankind 
have theirs cropped. It is only in these advanced days 
and in these two or three most advanced nations, that there 
is any real liberty of choice whether we shall go bearded or 
shorn, and whether we shall take evening sustenance in 
a coat with a tail behind, or in one with a tail all around 
it. Indeed, there are circles even in metropolitan London, 
Paris, and New York, where a person, otherwise unexcep- 
tionable, would be grossly undervalued if he should presume 
to present- him self in any other than the regulation coat. 

Many suppose that it is only the circles dependent upon 
Paris for their personal decoration which are subject to 
these rigors. Not so. Nothing delivers from the tyranny 
of fashion but real elevation and independence of character ; 
and, accordingly, the most abject slaves of fashion are to be 
found among the barbarous races and classes. Mr. Oscan- 
yan tells us, that in the harems of the East, where Paris 
fashions are unknown, the changes in the shape of the 
ladies' dresses, and in the mode of adorning their persons, 
are as frequent as with us ; and, although those changes 
are often so trifling that a foreigner would not notice them, 
a lady who cannot follow the new mode is as miserable as a 
New York servant-girl would have been a year or two ago 
without a hoop-skirt. We read in Marco Polo that it was so 
with the ladies of the harem countries, six hundred years 
ago. " A peculiar fashion of dress," he records of one of 



236 TOPICS OP THE TIME. 

those countries, " prevails among the women of the superior 
class, who wear below their waists, in the manner of drawers, 
a kind of garment in the making of which they employ, 
according to their means, a hundred, eighty, or sixty ells 
of fine cotton cloth j which also they gather or plait, in 
order to increase the apparent size of their hips ; those be- 
ing accounted the most handsome who are most bulky in 
that part." Paniers again ! And when the captains who 
sailed under Prince Henry the Navigator, first landed upon 
the Western coast of Africa, years before Columbus com- 
manded a ship, they discovered that the unclad beauties of 
Guinea were devoured by the same passion to be in the 
mode. " That woman among them," writes an old trans- 
lator of the valiant and talkative Cadamosto, " who has the 
largest breasts, has the glory of being considered the most 
handsome. For this purpose, each female, ambitious of 
this prerogative, when they attain their seventeenth or 
eighteenth year submit themselves to the operation of hav- 
ing their breasts tied around with strings, and so closely 
drawn that they almost sever them from the body, and by 
means of daily efforts of stretching and dilation, give them 
at length such an extension as to hang down to the navel. 
No greater bliss can arrive to their sex than success in this 
attempt."* 

And a traveller of to-day tells us that he carried with 
him a bountiful supply of the prettiest and costliest colored 
beads into the interior of Africa, hoping thereby to concili- 
ate a powerful tribe and purchase their good offices ; but 
when he arrived among them, he found, to his dismay, that 
the fashion in beads had changed, and that his were not in 
vogue. Colored beads were out, white beads were in. Not 
a negro of them, nor a negress, would look at his beautiful 
assortment of brilliant-hued beads, the choicest product of 
Birmingham ; but the rage was for a certain kind of very 
cheap and common white beads, which the traders had in- 
troduced. Give me a week in the Astor Library, and I 
will furnish an octavo volume of facts like these, showing 
that the desire to be. in the mode is universal, and that this 
desire is strongest in the weakest of our species. 

The root of it all is, the deep and poignant shame which 

* Narrative of First Voyage of Cadamosto to Coast of Africa, 1455. 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 237 

we experience from physical defects, a feeling most neces- 
sary and salutary. Every man wishes to be of the proper 
number of inches round the chest, and every woman wishes 
to be beautiful in form and feature. There is not a fashion 
now prevalent in the world, and probably never has been 
one, which did not originate in the desire on the part of 
some one to display a physical excellence, or conceal a phys- 
ical defect. Nature abhors bodily insufficiency. For five 
years past, men have stood aghast at the fantastic tricks 
which ladies have played before high Heaven with their 
own and other people's hair, as well as with that of horses 
and other innocent creatures. This wondrous hair system, 
which has prevailed throughout Christendom, all originated 
in the fact that the hair of a certain conspicuous woman 
became, by incessant dressings, very thin. Those shoes, 
too, which have the heel near the middle of the foot, and 
destroy the harmony of every movement, owe their cur- 
rency to a foolish and groundless superstition, that a small 
foot is -a sign of superior lineage. - Some lady whose posi- 
tion required her to wear fine clothes in the gaze of many 
of her fellow-mortals had a large foot, which her obliging 
shoemaker strove to diminish by putting the heel an inch 
or two nearer the toe than it ought to have been. The 
trick seemed to answer the purpose, and from that time 
every lady in six nations, not exceptionally firm and sensi- 
ble, has gone rocking on a pivot. Constantly, for the last 
three hundred years, ladies have been preached at for wear- 
ing their dresses too low ; but such is the passion of human 
beings for displaying physical excellence, that just as often 
as the conspicuous lady of the age is well formed the &sh- 
ion returns, and women indulge their desire to appear as 
lovely as nature made them. 

In every community of which we have any knowledge, 
there is that one conspicuous person or class whom the rest 
admire, envy, and imitate. But this elect few, who alone 
have much time or means to expend upon the decoration 
of the body, are ever striving to be as distinguished in ap- 
pearance as they suppose themselves to be in reality ; and 
thus there is always going on a game of cross-purposes be- 
tween the few and the many. The young men of New 
York who give their whole mind, such as it is, to the adorn- 



238 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ment and display of their persons, were glad enough to 
wear Alpine hats while only their own circle had them ; but 
the moment those hats began to be generally worn, the 
dandies gave theirs away, and fell back upon styles which 
had some little peculiarity. The Astrakhan cap, high, and 
without a visor, gave solace to some, and caused the lobby 
of the French Opera to assume an Alaskian aspect, as 
though the Russians on their way home had stopped a few 
nights in New York to see the new piece. If the dandies 
succeed in adopting a kind of hat that pleases the public, 
more and more of the Alpines are laid aside, until they 
finally disappear beyond the Alleghanies, and spread them- 
selves over the Valley of the Mississippi. Thus it is with 
all fashions. They are invented by taste or suggested by 
accident ; they are adopted by the few who live but to 
dress ; they are taken up by the public who have only time 
to ask what is worn ; they are then abandoned by the orna- 
mental class, and successively by the classes who are uneasy 
if they do not resemble them ; and, at last, they are only 
seen on the persons of the multitude, who buy clothes with 
the intention of wearing them out, and who execute that 
intention. 

Several causes have conspired of late years to stimulate 
our natural and commendable love of personal decoration, 
until most of us expend too much money upon it, and many 
are possessed by a kind of mania for changing and multi- 
plying their garments, and for having them made of mate- 
rials needlessly expensive. 

Eighteen years ago, the President of the Republic of 
France betrayed the country which had trusted him, stole 
its liberties in the night, laid robber hands upon its treas- 
ury, dishonored its noblest citizens by carting them to jail 
in prison vans, murdered in cold blood several hundreds of 
innocent men and women in the streets of Paris, and trans- 
ported hundreds more to a hot unhealthy region of the 
tropics. This was the Andersonville of usurpation. It 
transcended all that had ever been done in that kind, 
joining to the extreme of dastardly meanness the extreme 
of audacious cruelty, and being totally devoid of palliation 
or excuse, except that invented by the head liar of the gang 
who perpetrated it. The man in whose name the deed was 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 239 

done appears to have furnished nothing but the lies ; the 
audacity, and what little courage was shown, being supplied 
by others. Mr. Kinglake's chapter upon this usurpation 
(Invasion of the Crimea, Vol. I. Ch. XIV.) strikingly con- 
firmed by some American narratives to which that author 
had not access, exhausts the subject, and avenges the hu- 
man race, which is deeply injured whenever man's faith in 
man is lessened by the deliberate betrayal of a solemnly 
accepted trust. Mr. Kinglake, I say, has avenged our out- 
raged race ; for which, I trust, we are all duly grateful to 
him. Nothing remains but for France to bring the perfid- 
ious wretch to trial for the special wrong done to her, and 
execute upon him the penalty to which he may be con- 
demned. 

As usual in such cases, a woman was found willing to 
share the bed and booty of the successful robber. She was 
young, beautiful, well formed, and of just such a mind as 
to submit joyfully to spend half the day in trying on arti- 
cles of wearing apparel, and the other half in displaying 
them to a concourse of people. It became, too, and remains 
an important part of her duty to amuse, dazzle, and debase 
the women of France, by wearing a rapid succession of the 
most gorgeous, novel, bewildering costumes, the mere de- 
scription of which has developed a branch of literature, 
employs many able writers, and mainly supports fifty peri- 
odicals. Here is a vain, beautiful woman, living in the 
gaze of nations, who has the plunder of a rich kingdom 
with which to buy her clothes, and the taste of a continent 
to devise them for her ; for to Paris the elite of all tailors, 
dress-makers, milliners, and hair-dressers go from every 
capital in Europe. Whatever there is in France of truly 
noble and patriotic and there are as many noble and 
patriotic persons in France as in any country avoids the 
vicinity of this woman ; while around her naturally gather 
the thoughtless and the interested. The women in this 
circle imitate her as closely as women can whose husbands 
have not stolen the treasures of a nation ; all except one, 
it is said, and she is the real queen of fashion. 

Both these leading women have certain physical defects 
which they wish to conceal, as well as certain unusual 
charms, of which they intend the most shall be made. One 



240 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

is beautiful and tall. The other is ugly and short, but 
graceful, vivacious, and interesting. The hair of one of 
them growing scanty behind, all women felt the necessity of 
carrying a pound of horsehair under their own, and swelled 
out in the region of the back hair to an extent that now 
seems incredible. If the parting of the hair widens, and 
begins to resemble baldness, then frizzing comes in, which 
covers up the deficiency. A few gray hairs bring powder into 
fashion. Other insufficiencies send paniers on their way 
round the world. For these women, and especially the one 
who figures in the centre of the group, occupy that con- 
spicuous place to which for two centuries past more female 
eyes have been admiringly directed than to any other ; and 
there reside near them a band of writers who live by chron- 
icling every new device of decoration that appears upon 
their persons. So able, liberal, and sensible a journal as 
the Pall Mall Gazette finds it necessary to station an indus- 
trious member of its staff within sight of these people, for 
the sole purpose of telling the best women in England what 
clothes the worst women in France wear. I should suppose, 
from looking over the periodicals which publish fashion 
news, that there must be in Paris as many as a hundred 
writers who derive the whole or part of their income from 
describing the dresses worn in the ancient palaces tempo- 
rarily occupied by the usurper and his dependants ; and 
many of these writers do their work so well, that their let- 
ters are a most potent stimulator of the passion for dress 
which is so easily kindled in the minds of the ignorant and 
immature. 

This poor woman, who is the immediate cause of the 
mischief, is, we are told, an anxious and unhappy being, as 
well she may be. She struggles to conciliate. A forced, 
fixed smile is ever upon her face, when that face is seen by 
others. In her growing anxiety, she naturally redoubles 
her efforts to dazzle and beguile the people in whose sight 
she dwells, and on whose money she dresses. When the 
Hour comes, I hope she will be mercifully judged, for she 
has already expiated the venial sin of yielding to a tempta- 
tion which only a very superior woman one really honest 
and thorough-bred could have resisted. It is probable 
that she now regards the wearing of those tremendous cos- 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 241 

tumes merely as her contribution towards housekeeping; 
as though she said to her husband, " You keep down the 
men by muzzling -the press and flattering the army, and 
I '11 fool the women by wearing the most stunning costumes 
that ever struck envy to the female heart." 

Then the marriage laws of France, and the universal cus- 
tom of demanding a dowry with a wife, have necessitated 
other arrangements than marriage between the sexes ; have 
called into existence a large class of women who are well 
named the demi-monde, a something between respectable 
married women and those who are wholly out of the pale 
of respectability. I presume this class is not more numer- 
ous in proportion to the rest of the population now than 
they were when the loyal Barbier, indignant at the epi- 
grams launched at Louis XV. when he established his first 
mistress at court, exclaimed: "Every one else keeps a 
mistress ; why should n't the king have one ? " The demi- 
monde may not be proportionally more numerous than in 
the year 1735, but they have, as a class, a hundred times 
more money to spend. Empty head, vacant time, full 
purse, these are the main constituents of the people sub- 
ject to the clothes mania. Since the discovery of gold in 
California in 1848, I suppose more people have undergone 
a complete change of circumstances than ever before in so 
short a space of time. From that heavily laden marquis 
in England, who toils at the management of an estate 
yielding an income of three thousand pounds sterling a 
day, to the rag-pickers of the streets, we all have more 
money to spend than we used to have ; and one of the 
things we are surest to do, when we have some superfluous, 
cash, is to go to Paris and buy pleasure with it, pleasure 
being a chief product of that capital. Of course, there 
must be a prodigious number of semi and wholly unfortu- 
nate women there who have heaps of gold, and nothing to 
do but to copy or burlesque the showy women of the 
Tuileries. 

Heavens ! What a carnival of folly they are holding, 
those women of the palace and of the demi-monde ! That 
is, if we may believe our assiduous friends, the reporters of 
fashions. The most curious and amusing feature of it is, 
the great number of things that are now regulated by 
11 p 



242 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

fashion. I read in one fashion-letter that American young 
ladies were greatly in vogue in Paris until last year ; but 
during the present season it has not been fashionable to 
have them at balls and parties, because it has been dis- 
covered that, under elegant and most costly costumes, 
some of them concealed an ignorance surpassing that of a 
servant-girl. I read in another of these epistles, that such 
is the rage for light hair, that ladies whose hair is not of 
the fashionable hue tie it up into the smallest possible 
space, and wholly cover it with light curls, frizzles, and 
powder. Another informs us that the costumes of the 
Conspicuous Woman of France, which are sometimes 
changed four times a day, and the most expensive of which 
are never worn more than twice, vary in sentiment with the 
occasion ; so that when she attends a council of ministers, 
so called, she wears a, dress of " a grave, reflecting tone, on 
which hues of steel-gray meet rays of studious brown, the 
ensemble being burnished armor." Two years ago, we are 
further assured, it was fashionable to be seen making caps 
and dresses for some poor woman's baby ; but babies are 
past, and now no lady of fashion does anything with needles 
less elegant than " Venetian guipure or netting," whatever 
that may be. Mourning dresses and mourning customs, it 
seems, also vary, and we are favored with minute descrip- 
tions of the styles worn at Pere-la-Chaise on the day when 
custom enjoins that graves shall be visited. Coffins, we 
are told, are again covered with black cloth " puffed like 
upholstery." 

Indeed, if the reader will take the trouble to look over 
a few of the fashion-letters from Paris, he will discover that 
fashion now prescribes not only every article of, dress and 
personal decoration, but that there is scarcely anything 
which it does not regulate. In the course of a week or 
two I have gathered paragraphs telling me what cards I 
must use for every occasion on which cards can be sup- 
posed to come into play ; how I must be buried, if I wish 
to have the thing done as it should be ; what styles of 
tombstone are now in fashion ; what color my horses would 
have to be, if I had any ; whether the wheels and the body 
of my carnage must contrast or match ; what medicines, 
and school of medicine, and practitioners of medicine, it is 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 243 

fashionable to employ, as well as what diseases are now iu 
vogue. I am notified, also, that in England, at present, 
the fashionable religion is Ritualism. Strangest of all, I am 
seriously assured by the Moniteur de la Mode itself, that it 
is now the height of fashion, not to follow the fashion, but 
to go to the studio of your artiste in clothes, and demand 
of her a creation, a costume wholly original. " There is 
no woman of fashion who does not ask des confections faites 
exclusivement pour die. As soon as a thing has been seen, 
she wishes it no longer." This calls to mind the advice 
which the author of Pelham. gave to the London dandy of 
thirty years ago, which was, that if he saw his most favorite, 
most costly, most stunning waistcoat copied by another 
man, he should instantly give his own away to his valet. 
No other course was open to a man of true ton. 

The solemnity with which these things are stated is 
sometimes extremely ludicrous. The force of the comic 
can no further go than in a paragraph printed last winter 
in a New York paper, which notified the public that a 
family was in affliction from a cause both novel and dis- 
tressing. An elegant bridal veil of " real point lace " had 
been ordered in Paris for a young lady who was to be 
married the next day. It had not arrived, and " the family 
of the bride were very much concerned, fearing that white 
tulle would have to be substituted." Carlyle should have 
had this for " Sartor Resartus." " Concerned " is good. 

The truth is, that the two conspicuous persons in France 
are in a position which is both false and precarious. Being 
essentially histrionic persons, they employ histrionic arts, 
one of which is, rapid and frequent changes of costume. 
One of these people plays emperor, and the other plays 
empress ; and they have set all the fools in Christendom 
dressing for parts. " A remarkable toilet," says a fashion- 
letter, " is a hunting-robe, to be worn by a belle, who looks 
on while the hunters mount in their saddles, but does not 
follow them." 

The cost of all this is beyond arithmetic to compute. 
Never before were the treasures of a frugal and laborious 
people, such as the French are, wasted so wantonly. No 
mistress of Louis XIV., no titled harlot of the Regency, not 
Pompadour, not Dubarry, ever squandered the money of 



244 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the French with such reckless profusion as the woman now 
occupying the apartments in which they dwelt. "The 
cream of novelty," says a letter from Paris, "is a gar- 
land so contrived that, as the heat of the dancing-room, 
becomes greater, the petals composing this garland open 
gradually, then fall into the hair, disclosing a diamond or a 
ruby in each." Another: "A new fashion is, to have but- 
tons and jewelry of the same shade as the ribbon sashes ; 
thus a maize taffeta is worn with amethyst, and coral jew- 
elry with coral-colored ribbons." Another : " The ladies at 
Compiegne dress four times a day, and vie with one another 
in magnificence." " The Empress's toilets are all ravishing. 
On Sunday, at mass, she wore a blue satin trained dress, 
trimmed with Russian sable, with a polonaise of the same, 
likewise trimmed with sable, and a bonnet of iris velvet 
with aigrette." This was a simple church dress. One of 
the evening costumes was " an apricot silk, puffed all round 
the bottom with apricot tulle ; flounces worked with silver, 
fuchsia pattern, and trimmed with Venetian fringe of white 
silk. Over this an immense train of white satin, softened 
by apricot tulle, worked with silver fuchsias and fringe 
round the borders." 

In this style do women of a certain mind dress when 
they have the plunder of a great kingdom at command. 
The Princess Metternich, when she came to spend a few 
days at Compiegne, felt it necessary to bring with her 
twenty-six trunks full of clothes ; and we read of a French 
bride who had sixty thousand francs' worth of handkerchiefs 
as one item of her outfit. In a word, the surplus money 
which ought to be educating France is at present chiefly 
wasted in disfiguring a few thousand Frenchwomen. 

The time was when the ladies who led society in France 
had other claims to the homage of men than the clothes 
they wore. The time was, do I say 1 The time is. The 
women who dress with this shameless disregard of morality 
and taste are, in no proper sense, leaders of the society of 
the country upon which they have fastened. They are not 
the successors of those amiable, intelligent ladies to .whom 
Martin refers, when he says : "The ancients created con- 
versation between men. Conversation between the two 
sexes, the true and complete conversation, was born in 



< THE CLOTHES MANIA. 245 

France ; and this is not one of the least of our titles to the 
esteem of mankind, little as we think of it now, when we 
have departed so far from our former elegance of manners " 
(Martin, XII. 424). Nor are these dull, ignorant people 
worthy to be ranked with the Frenchwomen of whom Syd-- 
ney Smith wrote : " There used to be in Paris, under the 
ancient regime, a few women of brilliant talents, who violated 
all the common duties of life, and gave very pleasant little, 
suppers." There can be no pleasant little suppers with 
persons dressed in the manner just described. No conver- 
sation is possible with a woman who has five hundred thou- 
sand francs' worth of satin, lace, and jewels on* her mind. 
These women are in fact purely histrionic persons, actresses, 
with whom a few words may be exchanged as they stand 
dressed to "go on"; 'but their minds are so preoccupied 
with their parts, their audience, and their trains, that con- 
versation is out of the question. Happily, the play will 
end erelong, and then they will slink out of the stage door . 
and go home, carrying their toggery with them. 

It is sometimes spoken of as a shame to the ladies of 
America, England, and Christendom generally, that they 
should have stooped to imitate the women temporarily con- 
spicuous in betrayed and plundered France. Perhaps, many 
centuries hence, mankind will have advanced so far in 
moral feeling and genuine civilization, that a wrong done to 
any portion of the race will be keenly felt by every other 
portion, and a face unjustly slapped jn Australia will make 
cheeks tingle in Greenland. At present, however, this is 
not the case, and most of us bear the sorrows of others 
with fortitude. Ladies do not generally read the newspa- 
pers ; do not as yet consciously share in the public life of 
the race ; do not even generally know how the person whose 
garments they copy got her insatiable little hand into the 
treasury of saving, industrious France ; do not see the trans- 
parent artifices by which the French are amused and flat- 
tered, while they are held down and plundered; do not 
recognize in the bewildering costumes of the Conspicuous 
Woman a means of corrupting one sex and enslaving the 
other. 

Ladies do not think of politics when they go to Stewart's 
to buy a new dress, and are much less concerned to know 



246 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

what is fashionable in France than what is " going to be 
worn " by the influential ladies of their own circle. Each 
country has its professional fashion-makers, who adapt 
French patterns to that country's climate, circumstances, 
and taste, and it is with these that ladies have to do. Not 
one lady in a million, who has ceased to part her hair, or 
who hides the symmetry of her form in a panier, sees any 
connection between those acts and the politics of Europe. 
Let us not presume to, censure the fairer part of creation. A 
woman with a full purse and an empty head must dress, 
or do worse ; and, being totally unable to devise costumes 
herself, she must follow the fashions invented by people who 
have less money and more brains than herself. 

These fashion-makers have become in some capitals, es- 
pecially in New York, a numerous and very capable class ; 
and they, too, have been powerful stimulators of the clothes 
mania. I may say, indeed, that a sort of conspiracy exists 
between the makers and the originators of clothes, the 
grand object of which is to compel people to buy new gar- 
ments before their old ones are worn out. I say compel, 
not merely tempt them to do so by the invention of new 
and pleasing styles (though that, too, is done), but force 
young and susceptible people to cast aside garments not 
half worn out, by making them prematurely old-fashioned. 

I can best explain how this is done by recurring to an 
article already mentioned, the stove-pipe hat, which, being 
still worn by about one .half the men in the United States, 
is what is styled " a leading article." The great question 
which the chief hatters of this nation revolve in their inge- 
nious minds is this : How can we make men dissatisfied with 
the hats they have, and fly to others which they see the 
dandies wear 1 As many changes can be made in a hat as 
can be rung on those abominable " nine bells " of the arith- 
metics. A hat has a crown and a brim. That crown can 
be high, low, straight, steeple, or bell-shaped; and that 
brim can be narrow, wide, curling, straight, turned down 
or turned up. The whole structure can be large or it can be 
small. Of all the shapes which this kind of hat can assume, 
the one most popular, the one hardest to change, is the 
very one which happens to be most in vogue at this writ- 
ing (February, 1869), namely, a moderate-sized bell, with a 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 247 

rather wide, curling brim. No shape is becoming to so 
many persons as this; and hence, though the straight 
crowns and steeple crowns seldom run more than two 
years, the bell, once well established, can seldom be made 
to seem absurd in less than seven years. Now, the trick 
of the hatters, as of all other fashion-makers, male and 
female, is this : first, to push or develop the reigning fash- 
ion, as rapidly as possible, to an extreme which savors of 
the ridiculous ; and then, as rapidly as possible, to recede 
from that extreme to an opposite one. At present the ten- 
dency is to make hats larger, more bell-like, and with a 
brim of more pronounced curl. But the impulse in that 
direction is nearly exhausted, and the newest hats begin to 
look absurdly large, too bellish, and curling. The moment 
is at hand when a movement, more or less violent, will take 
place in the opposite direction. If the hatters dared, they 
would dart at once to a minute and natty steeple crown ; 
but the public, in that case, would shy, and keep on wear- 
ing the bells. The next extreme, whatever it may be, will 
not be reached under two years, and it will be approached 
by such numerous and gradual changes, that most of our 
hats will be considerably worn before we begin to be ashamed 
of them. Our tyrants will beware of going too fast with 
us ; for, after all, we can be masters if we will. We have 
to be deluded with the name and forms of freedom, while 
many of us are in reality the unresisting slaves of five men 
who keep Broadway hat-stores. 

The recent tight trousers illustrate the same device. 
They grew tighter, and tighter, and tighter, until it was 
perilous to go abroad, and many of our young fellows looked 
like Master Shallow in his young days, when, as Falstaff 
informs us, he resembled " a forked radish, with a head 
fantastically carved upon it with a knife." The moment a 
ridiculous extreme of tightness had been well established, 
our lords, the tailors, kindly shook out a reef, and relieved 
us. But the tight trousers, which they had compelled us 
to'buy, hang on their pegs unworn, or adorn the store fronts 
of Chatham Street. Among the ladies, the present rage is 
to load every article of visible attire with ornament. " We 
know," says the editress of our chief fashion-paper, "of a 
costume lately made, on which eighteen women spent two 



248 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

days in making the trimming." If the modistes are true 
to their principles, they will push this fashion of excessive 
ornamentation until it becomes utterly monstrous j and 
then, when every wardrobe is bursting with absurdity, they 
will turn as short a corner as they dare, and rush to an 
opposite extreme of simplicity. The object of all these 
tailors and dress-makers is, to make us loathe our clothes 
while they are still as good as new. But they could not 
work their will upon us without the co-operation of the 
small class in all our cities who live only to dress, and 
whose one cry is, " Give us something new to*wear." These 
start a fashion and give it a chance to " take." And as 
fortune is ever apt to favor the brave, it sometimes happens 
that accident aids the bold innovator who suddenly cuts 
off our coat tails, or takes in our trousers until we cannot 
pick up a lady's handkerchief. All garments look well 
upon a fine form ; and there are legs which are more 
admirable the more distinctly they are revealed. Let but 
a perfectly formed man of some note wear tights and a bob- 
tail a few times in the view of the public, and every dandy 
is impatient until he has converted himself into a forked 
radish. 

And yet our fashion-makers, though they have stimulated 
the clothes mania, are probably the very persons who will 
do most to cure it. Such, at least, was my impression the 
other day, after going over the largest fashion-making 
establishment in the world. America, which is destined to 
try all the experiments and solve all the problems, seems 
to have it in charge also to teach the Northern races how 
to dress. When an American takes hold of a thing, he is 
pretty sure to give it plenty of air. He is the great Ad- 
vertiser. He instinctively aims at the million, knowing 
well that there is little else in America but million, and 
knowing also that he who draws permanent tribute from 
the million must devise something truly serviceable. We 
have in New York four establishments whose sole or chief 
business is to invent fashions, sell fashion-plates, papfer 
patterns, and printed directions for cutting garments. The 
one which I visited employs sixty persons, and is about to 
occupy the whole of a large building, of which the rent is 
fifteen thousand dollars a year. The stranger is shown 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 249 

into one "studio," where a "corps of artists," men, sit 
assiduous, drawing upon stone the fashion prints for men's 
clothes, to which the chief tailors of the city have con- 
tributed each one suit. There I saw the coats, waistcoats, 
trousers, hats, neckties, and boots which were to be in 
fashion five months later ; for, as the fashion-plate is sent 
to subscribers in February, it has to be drawn some weeks 
before ; and the ingenious authors of it have to project 
their minds into the future, and infer what men can be 
made to buy in June, from what they fancy in December. 
Sometimes they hit it, sometimes they miss; the public 
may jump at a new device, or let it alone ; for, after all, 
the public can be led only by being led in the way in which , 
it is inclined to go. He is the great fashion-maker who 
knows best how to interpret the unconscious tendency of 
the public taste. 

In another room of this building is another " corps of 
artists," women, who contrive new fashions for the ladies, 
sold in the form of paper patterns, with directions for cut- 
ting attached. Now the great hits achieved in this 
" studio," the patterns which sell most and longest, are 
such as combine with elegance the greatest number of utili- 
ties. The staple patterns are those which can be made 
easily, look well in cheap material, and harmonize with 
many other garments. I was expected to be surprised at 
the information (but I was not), that the person in New 
York who has shown the greatest fertility in inventing 
these universal and lasting patterns is " a girl from the 
woods of Maine," who never saw fashionable costume till 
she was a grown woman, and now earns sixteen hundred 
dollars a year by the inventive talent which she was acci- 
dently discovered to possess. This establishment publishes 
an illustrated catalogue, which contains pictures and de- 
scriptions of more than a thousand garments of ladies and 
children's wear, patterns of any of which, with full direc- 
tions for cutting, are sold for a few cents. There appears 
to be a great economy of brains and labor here, three 
men and four women inventing the clothes for a great part 
of a populous country. These " artists " are becoming in- 
dependent of Paris. They take all the Paris fashion- 
periodicals, read the fashion-letters from that city, adopt 
11* 



250 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

any device that seems to them suitable to America ; but 
they never think of introducing a fashion merely because it 
has found favor with the temporary occupants of French 
palaces, or the demi-wives of the transient millionnaires of 
the Paris Bourse. 

It is a curious thing, too, that the magazines and weekly 
papers published by or for the fashion-makers are as a class 
remarkable for good sense and healthy feeling. If they fill 
the souls of some ladies with visions of costume impossible 
to a slender purse, they have excellent editorials showing 
how wrong it is to sacrifice the substantial interests of a 
family to the false decoration of one or two members of it. 
.They give alluring pictures of babies' lace dresses, $ 150 
to $ 400 at Stewart's, but they tell mothers that it is 
highly ridiculous to provide such costly bibs for the absorp- 
tion of sour milk. One of these papers and it is a 
paper of most excellent tone, full of capital advice and just 
satire has a circulation of sixty thousand copies, and it 
is, therefore, compelled to give its chief attention to the 
promulgation of really useful patterns. It follows the law 
which is converting the fashion-manufactories from stimula- 
tors into correctors of mania. The universal and prompt 
dissemination of every new device makes it impossible for 
any woman to gain distinction by novel changes of attire ; 
and we already see, at grand parties, that a few ladies of 
entirely assured position avoid in their dress everything 
that savors of the startling, and usually forbear the use of 
those very costly fabrics which they alone can wear without 
starving or stinting more important interests. Such ladies, 
of course, never exhibit anything conspicuous or costly in 
the street, and some of them even go to an extreme in the 
disregard of appearances out of doors. Of late, a few have 
gone further, and denied themselves the pleasure to 
them alone an innocent pleasure of wearing satin, velvet, 
and much lace. 

Goethe says that folly can seldom be cured by denying 
to it all indulgence, and recommends that, in some cases, 
it should be nauseated by "intoxicating draughts." In 
this way, also, the fashion-papers may be of service, aided 
as they are by the fearful excesses in which some of the 
clothes maniacs indulge. There were " receptions " given 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 251 

last winter in New York, which were, in the most literal 
meaning of the word, nothing but exhibitions of wearing- 
apparel. No lady had any other object than to display her 
own costume, and to scrutinize that of others ; nor when 
she afterwards discoursed of the entertainment, had she 
anything to communicate except descriptions of dresses 
such as we read in letters from Paris. Indeed, the mere 
magnitude of the dresses was such in January and Febru- 
ary, that every lady had as much on her mind in making 
her way about, .as the pilot of one of those magnificent 
Bristol steamboats has on his, when, at 5.15 p. M., the 
stately craft moves majestically among tho numberless 
ferry-boats and sailing vessels of the East River. A mo- 
ment's inattention, and smash ! the cabin is stove in. One 
glance at a friend who may be two or three dresses off, and 
rip ! away go the gathers. In time, let us hope, such expe- 
riences as these may prove to be the nauseating draughts 
which Goethe recommends. 

Men's dress is now nearly perfect. It is cheap, durable, 
convenient, various ; and it may be elegant and becoming 
in a high degree. By devoting to the subject thirty min- 
utes per annum, fifteen in May and fifteen in September, 
a man may provide himself with all the clothes which 
can contribute either to the comfort or the adornment of 
his person. A dress suit will last through ten seasons of 
pretty frequent parties, and still be presentable ; nor does 
it need any great firmness or good sense to enable a man 
to smile at the devices of tailors and fashion-makers, and 
stick to his clothes till they are worn out. As a rule, men 
in the United States do not dress well enough. A million 
of us ought to dress every evening for dinner, who do not, 
merely because we are not civilized enough. Our dirty 
streets and crammed public vehicles discourage dressing, 
and we indulge the delusion that we have not time or 
strength to dress after the labor of the day is done, though 
many mechanics do it who work ten hours a day, and travel 
an hour and a half besides. 

With ladies, it is otherwise. Many of them have entirely 
run to clothes, as cucumbers run to seed. Men begin to 
maintain the Mahometan doctrine, that women have no 
souls. In former times, it was only the few thousand ladies 



252 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

connected with courts and aristocracies, who were subject 
to this kind of mania. But, at present, few women wholly 
escape it. In remote villages you will see foolish virgins 
in three or four different costumes on the same Sunday, and 
in cities you will find the. wives of plain, laborious men 
squandering more money on a child's dress than would 
maintain three sons in college. 

We have all become so used to witnessing this entire 
devotion' to dress, that when, by chance, we observe indi- 
cations of intellectual or unimpaired physical life in a lady 
who has grown up under present influences, we are startled. 

Twice in my life I have fallen in love at first sight. The 
first time was in a bookstore in Boston, in the street named 
after the Father of his country. I was fresh from New 
York, where my afternoon walk is usually up the Fifth 
Avenue, a street in which the Mahometan doctrine just 
mentioned does not always seem so very irrational. This 
first love of mine was a girl of about seventeen, with a 
lovely bloom on her cheeks, and she wore a dress of blue 
something ("not silk) with white spots in it. It was when 
I found out what that sweet girl had come to the store to 
buy that I gave way to the weakness alluded to above. She 
was lovely in herself, but, great heavens ! she was there 
buying a GAZETTEER ! Here was a young lady, aged seven- 
teen, who took interest enough in the world she inhabited 
to desire a catalogue of its contents ! Amazing ! Long she 
hesitated, anxious to choose the best. Shall it be Lippin- 
cott 1 Shall it be Harper I She made up her mind at last, 
paid for the book, and completed her conquest by carrying 
it home herself. I never saw her more ; I know not her 
name; but I love her still, and often have a distracting 
vision of her when I see "those others" in the Avenue. 

The other time was on the long piazza of a seaside hotel, 
also in New England. She was a married lady, a mother, 
and a writer of verse and prose. It had been her singular 
good fortune to be reared on that rockbound coast in such 
a way that her growth was never checked by excessive 
school, nor her freedom of movement hampered by irra- 
tional dress, or by false ideas of propriety. Her father 
being a landlord, a fisherman, a lighthouse keeper, and a 
man of sense and information, she had plenty of boats, 



THE CLOTHES MANIA. 253 

rocks, fishing-tackle, and suggestive conversation; and so 
grew up absolutely free from every one of the pernicious 
restraints of a defective civilization. At the same time her 
mind was duly nourished with honest knowledge, and kept 
totally free from all the contracting superstitions. I never 
spoke to her. I should not know her face to-day, if I saw 
it. But what instantaneously captivated my affections was 
the wondrous beauty of her step ! Just to watch the glo- 
rious harmony, the perfect concert, of her movements, 
was rapture. It is this darling of my memory in her coarse 
blue Dio Lewis boat-dress, that I think of when I see those 
gorgeous ladies carrying down the steps of a fashionable 
house an immense armful of clothes whicE. they have been 
exhibiting at a reception. 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 



rplHERE is a tradition in Washington that the lobby 
I arose while General Jackson was waging war against 
the last United States Bank, from 1830 to 1836. But 
lobbying is as ancient as governing. It is also as legiti- 
mate and necessary, since the governing power is in need 
of the special knowledge which it is the proper office of a 
lobby to supply. It is only when the governing power is 
weak or corrupt or too transient, that there is danger of 
the lobby laying aside its modest office of supplying infor- 
mation, and assuming the mastery. As weak kings are 
governed by favorites and mistresses, so ill-constituted par- 
liaments are governed by lobbies. 

And, speaking of weak kings and their lobby of favorites, 
it was interesting to observe in Washington, during the 
administration of Andrew Johnson, how the vices of the old 
courts reappeared with the circumstances that produced 
them. A recent writer gives a short description, of the 
rapacious lobby that surrounded the Scotchman called 
James I., king of England, every word of which applies 
with exactness to the state of things in Washington during 
the two years ending March 4, 1869 : " In addition to the 
officials whose pay was nearly nominal, the king was sur- 
rounded by a crowd of hungry courtiers whose pay was 
nothing at all. To them nocked day by day all who had 
any favor to beg, and who hoped that a little money judi- 
ciously expended would smooth the way before them. Some 
of the applicants, no doubt, were honest men, who. merely 
wanted to get a chance of doing honest work. But there 
were not a few whose only object was to enrich themselves 
in some discreditable way, and who were ready to share the 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 255 

booty with those who would lend them a helping hand in 
their roguery." * 

Every well-informed resident of Washington will recog- 
nize the literal truth of the description. Like king, like 
lobby. Johnson was probably not a corrupt man, in 
the lowest sense of the word. His refusal of the carriage 
and horses offered to him by his admirers may not have 
been the mere buncombe it was supposed to be ; and he 
probably went home to Tennessee carrying with him only 
the savings of his salary, and the contempt of the universe. 
And yet he could hardly have been ignorant that prosti- 
tutes of one sex sold his pardons, and prostitutes of another 
sex sold his offices. James I. of England, who also had his 
pardon lobby and his "appointment lobby," was aware, 
probably, that his favorites sold him every day, and was 
perhaps not unwilling to enrich them in so economical a 
manner. There are people whose self-love is such that 
they can associate happily only with their worshippers, 
having always to be on their good behavior with equals, 
which is irksome. These flatterers of Johnson were a relief 
to him after consorting with gentlemen, and he freely paid 
them for their gossip and adulation with the goods in- 
trusted to his administration. Around such men as James 
I. and Andrew Johnson infirm of purpose and yet pig- 
headedly obstinate, ignorant but unteachable, bashful and 
vain, transplanted from a lower to a higher civilization 
a corrupt and vulgar lobby naturally gathers; for there 
will always be an affinity, if not a resemblance, between the 
lobby and the power which it influences. When Cromwell 
was Protector, great Milton wrote the foreign despatches, 
the alliance being natural between real power and spe- 
cial knowledge. Character raised the unlettered Washing- 
ton to a genuine equality with the men around him, 
who knew so much more than he. Fancy him chatting 
familiarly on a sofa of the Presidential mansion with a 
woman of the street, or giving valuable appointments at 
the solicitation of a purchased renegade ! 

The- founder of our Congressional lobby was Alexander 
Hamilton ; and his great achievement as a log-roller was a 
perfect specimen of the art, both in its modes and its results. 

* Gardiner's Prince Charles and the Spanish Marriage. 



256 TOPICS OF THE TIME. . 

There was, it is true, a resolute and acrimonious lobby at 
the time of " the Congress," the body that governed the 
thirteen States during the Revolutionary War; the Lee 
lobby, for example, thnt nearly succeeded in getting Frank- 
lin recalled from France, and would have done it but for 
the superior lobbying of the French minister. But, under 
the present Constitution, Hamilton was the great original 
lobbyist ; and, as they still employ some of his methods of 
administration in the Treasury Department, so the Wash- 
ington lobby still uses his tactics in carrying bills through 
Congress. 

There were two distracting bills before Congress in the 
spring of 1790 ; one proposing that the general government, 
should assume the debts (twenty-one millions of dollars in 
all) incurred by the several States during the Revolutionary 
War ; the other a bill for removing the capital from New 
York to Philadelphia, where it should remain ten years, and 
then be transferred to the shores of the Potomac. Neither 
of these bills could command a majority of both Houses. 
The creation of a city in the wilderness, far from every 
source of the supplies needful for a government, when com- 
modious cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, 
abounding in every requisite, already existed, seemed to the 
disinterested portion of Congress just as absurd as it does 
to us ; and the measure, on its merits, never could have 
been passed. The opposition to it, however, though de- 
cided enough, was mild and trifling compared with the 
abhorrence and disgust excited by the Assumption Bill. It 
is not easy for a student of the present day to account for 
the singular violence of this opposition to a measure which 
seems to us reasonable, natural, and just. 

Except the Missouri Compromise struggle, this contest 
was, as Mr. Jefferson remarks, the " most bitter and angry 
ever known in Congress before or since the union of the 
States." Why ? It was not the magnitude of the sum in- 
volved, although twenty-one millions in 1790 was as great 
an addition to the public burden as two hundred millions 
would be now. Nor were the debts of the two sections far 
from being equal. If Massachusetts owed four millions, so 
did South Carolina. New Hampshire and Georgia each 
owed three hundred thousand. Rhode Island and Dela- 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 257 

ware, New Jersey and Maryland, had each the same debt. 
Nothing was proposed but the cancellation of the State 
bonds and the issue of United States bonds in their sj;ead ; 
and this, because the debts had been incurred for the com- 
mon cause. 

The rancor of the Southern opposition arose partly from 
their State pride and their dread of centralization, but 
chiefly, as it seems, from their rustic, provincial detestation 
of what they called stock-jobbing". To the country gentle- 
men it seemed undeniable, that a man who bought a 
soldier's claim in 1789 at its market value, and sold it in 
1790 at its market value, and thus gained two hundred 
dollars, had cheated a scarred veteran of the Revolution 
out of a portion of his nobly earned " pittance "by " insidi- 
ous arts." There were wild stories afloat of the fortunes 
made by New York speculators who had contrived to get 
early information of Hamilton's funding policy. It was 
said that, as soon as the passage of the Funding Bill be- 
came pretty certain, three swift pilot-boats had slipped out 
of harbor, winged for distant ports, to buy up the depre- 
ciated claims. " Couriers and relay-horses by land," says 
Jefferson, " and swift-sailing pilot-boats by sea, were flying 
in all directions." Members fully believed this, and doubt- 
less the lobby was not inattentive to its interest on this 
occasion, and did turn its knowledge to account. Cruel 
wrong, no doubt, was done to war-worn patriots and lonely , 
widows, ignorant of what was passing in New York ; and 
country members did themselves honor by their eloquent 
disgust at such heartless spoliation. It was this feeling 
that caused the loss, by a small majority, of the Assump- 
tion Bill, which the Southern members regarded only as a 
device to supply the Wall Street of that day with twenty- 
one millions of additional material upon which to exercise 
its " insidious arts." 

But, in tfre course of the long and most keenly contested 
debate on the bill, the commercial members, too, had be- 
come heated ; so that, when the bill was rejected, the feel- 
ing of the House was such that it was impossible to go on 
with the public business. The House abruptly adjourned. 
It met the next day, and again adjourned without attempt- 
ing to transact business. Congress met every morning for 

Q 



258 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

several days, Mr. Jefferson records, only to adjourn im- 
mediately, "the parties being "too much out of temper to 
do business together," and some of the members threaten- 
ing a " secession and dissolution." 

Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, upon whose report 
the defeated bill had been founded, and of whose system 
the assumption was an important part, was distressed and 
alarmed. But the resource of the lobby remained. In 
the nick of time he met in the street Mr. Jefferson, recently 
returned from France, and then Secretary of State. To 
him the anxious financier depicted the terms of the situa- 
tion, " walking him backwards and forwards before the 
President's door for half an hour," and calling upon him 
as his colleague and the friend of General Washington to 
rally to the support of the administration, and save at 
once it, the measure, and the Union. As the bill had been 
lost by a very small majority, General Hamilton thought it 
probable that "an appeal" from so influential a Virginian 
"to the judgment and discretion of some of his friends 
might effect a change in the vote," and set the machine of 
government going again. " Come and dine with me to- 
morrow," said Mr. Jefferson, " and I will ask a friend or 
two to meet you, and we will talk it over." 

Fatal dinner ! How often, amid the dust and desolate 
vastness of Washington, its hopeless shabbiness, dulness, 
and dearness, have I wished that the soup that day had 
disagreed with these gentlemen, and they had been obliged 
to go home before the removal of the cloth had introduced 
the business of the occasion ! But it did not. The dinner 
put the guests into a compliant humor. The city of Wash- 
ington was destined to exist, first, as the capital of the 
country, and, after that, as a marble quarry for posterity, 
having the peculiarity of furnishing the marble ready cut. 
The discussion took place, and the company soon agreed 
that, whatever might be thought of assumption, disunion 
was worse, and that, therefore, the defeated bill must be 
reconsidered. But to effect this, some members must 
change their votes, must vote for a measure which they 
hated. This was a difficulty. The log was hard to roll, 
"pill," Mr. Jefferson styles it. "It was observed," he 
says, "that this pill would be peculiarly bitter to the 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. , 

Southern States, and that some concomitant measure 
should be adopted to sweeten it a little to them. There 
had before been propositions to fix the seat of government 
either at Philadelphia or at Georgetown on the Potomac ; 
and it was thought that by giving it to Philadelphia for 
ten years, and to Georgetown permanently afterwards, this 
might,- as an anodyne, calm in some degree the ferment 
which might be excited by the other measure alone ; so two 
pf the Potomac members (White and Lee, but the former 
with a revulsion of stomach almost convulsive) agreed to 
change their votes j and Hamilton undertook to carry the 
other point." 

Thus log-rolling began ; or, as Mr. Jefferson would have 
named it, pill-swallowing. Thus originated the art of mak- 
ing honest and patriotic men vote for measures of which 
they violently disapproved. It is surprising that the art 
should have been carried so far toward perfection in the 
first specimen, which, the lobby will observe, contained 
many of the important elements : two measures, neither of 
which could pass, each favored and each opposed by the 
same interests ; a compromise effected by social influence ; 
the precise terms arranged at a dinner ; and, finally, mis- 
chief the result, lasting, far-reaching, and irreparable. The 
evils resulting from assumption refuse to become apparent 
to a modern inquirer, although the democrats of the early 
day held the measure in execration, and continued to de- 
nounce it as long as they lived. But the evils which have 
flowed from " the concomitant measure " are evident enough, 
without reckoning the expense of providing a marble quarry 
of that singular character for posterity. 

It is not surprising that a system begun by party leaders 
so distinguished should have been continued in a body 
every member of which comes to Washington in the double 
capacity of national representative and local claim-agent. 
Every member has charge of some local or private interest, 
on which he alone is fully informed, and which cannot be- 
come the subject of a general debate. One wants a light- 
house on a rock which may wreck a fishing-smack in the 
course of ages. Another wishes his local harbor improved. 
Another desires increased protection on the fabric which 
his constituents manufacture. Very many are anxious for 



260 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

subsidies for branch railroads. Some are charged with the 
business of getting one more superfluous arsenal or navy- 
yard established. Most members feel a particular interest 
in some eminently reasonable claims upon the justice of 
Congress, which they are desirous to carry both for selfish 
and unselfish reasons. In many instances the private in- 
terest which a member has in charge is vital to him ; for it 
sent him to Congress, keeps him there. Every member, 
therefore, has votes to exchange for votes; and it some- 
times seems as if all legislation at Washington had degener- 
ated into log-rolling. On almost any day in the latter half 
of a session a spectator may see specimens of all the three 
varieties of log-rolling, which are these : 1. Help me to 
roll my log, and I '11 help you to roll yours. 2. If you 
don't help me to roll my log, I won't help you to roll 
yours. 3. If you hinder the rolling of my log, yours shall 
never budge. 

It may be that one of the logs ought to roll, and the 
other ought not. In that case, a member of Congress is 
subjected to the kind of temptation to which men not ex- 
ceptionally strong in character or position may be expected 
to yield. And it is in this way that the astounding votes 
of respectable members may usually be explained, their 
votes for public as well as for private objects. It needs lit- 
tle reflection to understand what an advantage, under the 
log-rolling system, an unscrupulous, pushing member has 
over one of really superior powers who is troubled with 
modesty and conscience, and who has to legislate in a hall 
where calm debate is useless because inaudible. It is also 
easy to see how an unscrupulous administration can go into 
the lobby, and get votes for national measures by compel- 
ling its adherents to vote for private or local ones. 

As a rule, the more objectionable a measure the more 
numerous its lobby. Gentlemen of the press- in Washing- 
ton, who contemplate life from the reporters' gallery, say 
that the moral quality of a measure can usually be inferred 
from the buzz and stir that are to be observed about the 
Capitol when it is expected to come up. A revision of the 
tariff, for example, crowds the hotels and committee-rooms. ; 
but there is no lobby for international copyright. One man 
in Philadelphia, and one woman in Washington, sufficed to 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. . 

kill international copyright the winter before last; but 
President, Cabinet, Commissioner Wells, the Democrats, 
the Free-Trade League, the Evening Post, Charles Sumner, 
and the universe generally, proved unequal to the task of 
defeating the bill increasing the duty upon copper. Copper 
had a lobby. 

For nearly thirty years after the invention of log-rolling 
over Mr. Jefferson's wine (he was a connoisseur in wine, 
and had imported some kinds from France that were new 
to his guests on this occasion), the log-rolling lobby gener- 
ally exerted their powers upon objects which possessed a 
public character. The lobby, such as we see it now, came 
in with the protective system in 1816. The book of the 
tariff, that curiosity of literature, with all its pleasing con- 
tents from absinthe to zinc, is a monument to the zeal, skill, 
audacity, and perseverance of the log-rolling lobby. It used 
to be said, when the tariff was undergoing its quadrennial 
revision, that Congress consisted of three houses, Senate, 
House, and Tariff Lobby. Even if the principle of protec- 
tion were sound, our tariff is open to the fatal objection 
that the greater number of its provisions were arranged to 
suit private interests, not to promote the public good. Cal- 
ico has had its lobby ; and so have copper, iron, salt, wool, 
and every fabric made by man. It is the public that is 
not represented in the lobby when the tariff is undergoing 
manipulation. The public has been represented only by 
that small number of members of Congress who are not 
identified with a private interest, and who have made a 
particular study of the laws of trade. In no legislature on 
earth have such members ever been a majority ; and we 
must consequently look to the very lobby that created our 
tariff system for the influence that will gradually destroy 
it. Before many years have passed, we shall see the man- 
ufacturers of the United States clamoring for free trade ; 
and then the lobby will change sides. American manufac- 
turers will not always be content with a system that excludes 
them from the markets of the world, and which is a confes- 
sion and proclamation of inferiority. It is possible, too, 
that, before the end of the present century, the art of self- 
government may have made such progress as to admit of 
the public being represented in Congress by a powerful and 
brilliant minority. 



262 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Meanwhile, some of the exploits of the tariff lobby are 
highly amusing ; that is, they are amusing to the boys who 
throw the stones, and to the spectators that line the shore, 
but the pelted frogs do not find them laughable. A young 
firm, which has invested its all in a manufactory, is not 
.amused to discover that the alteration of a line in the tariff 
list has killed enterprise and made property valueless. In 
the disinterested spectator, however, some of the incidents 
related in Mr. Commissioner Wells's report may excite a 
smile ; particularly since the Protectionists in the House 
proclaimed that report unanswerable by attempting to rob 
its author of his pittance of a salary. The report being thus 
admitted to be correct by its opponents, its anecdotes have 
an additional value. " In carrying out the idea of protec- 
tion," remarks Mr. Wells, " Congress has assumed that 
whatever is for the advantage of a private interest must be 
for the advantage of the public interest also." " The result 
has been," he continues, " a tariff based upon small issues, 
rather than upon any great national principle " ; and this 
tariff, while it acts as a bad' stimulant to some enterprises, 
is torpidity and death to others. 

Amusing case in point. In 1864 American spool-thread 
makers discovered that some of their English rivals were 
evading the duty by sending over fine thread in skeins and 
hanks instead of winding it on spools as usual. A spool- 
thread lobby appeared in Washington, the result of which 
was that the tariff was amended with an eye single to the 
interests of American spool-thread manufacturers. A duty 
was placed upon unwound fine thread, that was equivalent 
to prohibition. All was joyous in the circles interested, 
until, on enforcing the new rates of duty, two disagreeable 
facts came to light. One was, that very fine unwound 
thread is an essential article in some branches of manufac- 
ture ; the other was, that the article could not be procured 
on the continent of America. Here was a coil. Another 
lobby went to Washington, on behalf of the manufacturers 
of suspenders, gaiters, lastings, coburgs, and other similar 
products, many of whom absolutely could not continue 
business if the new duties were collected. One establish- 
ment did actually close ; others were suspended ; others 
ran at a loss for a while ; and much unwound thread, 



LOG-R<5LLING AT WASHINGTON. 263 

ordered before the spool-thread lobby had performed its 
work, was sent back . to Europe. When the new lobby 
arrived in Washington, Congress had adjourned, and noth- 
ing could save the embarrassed industries but an interpreta- 
tion of the tariff that would admit unwound thread at lower 
rates for the purposes to which it is essential. The Secre- 
tary of the Treasury took the responsibility of sanctioning 
a violation of the law. He decided that fine thread de- 
signed for sewing must pay the new rate, but fine thread 
to be used in certain manufactures should come in on the 
old. " By this decision only," says Mr. Wells, " several 
branches of American industry, involving probably more 
of capital and labor than was represented by the article 
which it was originally intended to protect, were saved 
from absolute destruction." This was extremely comic, ex- 
cept to the few hundred families whose means of living were 
suddenly threatened or suspended, without warning, and 
without act of their own. 

The performances of the salt lobby are equally striking. 
One of them would make a subject for a poem. " In the 
Gulf of California," Mr. Wells informs us, " there is an 
island Carmen where salt of remarkable purity is 
deposited by natural agencies in inexhaustible quantities. 
The situation and condition of this island are such that it 
would seem as if it were intended to be the natural and 
cheap source of supply of salt for the whole Pacific coast 
of our country ; and yet, by the agency of men, and in the 
name of protection, this free gift of God and this great 
source of national wealth has been rendered practically of 
no account, inasmuch as the royalty exacted by the Mexi- 
can government, the United States tariff added, and the 
expenses of collecting and transportation, in the aggregate 
amount so nearly to the price of salt obtained from other 
sources in San Francisco, as almost completely to eat up 
all profits, and thus close in a great degree the only market 
to which it can be taken. The result of all this is, that 
capital and labor, in a section of country where capital and 
labor are of all things most in demand, are withdrawn from 
other employments and diverted to doing that which Na- 
ture herself has already done much more perfectly, namely, 
making salt from sea-water in the bay of San Francisco, at 



264 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

a cost of from seven to ten dollars per ton." Mr. Bungay, 
who sang with so much spirit the completion of the Pacific 
Railroad, could surely do well with this glorious triumph 
of the salt lobby. 

To these two anecdotes borrowed from Mr. Wells I will 
add one of my own, which is so variously representative, 
that the relation of it gives the whole history of American 
manufactures and their lobby, past, present, and future. 

Bunting, the material of the star-spangled banner, is the 
subject of the tale. Until within these few years no bunt- 
ing was made in the United States. The " flaunting lie " 
of the years preceding the war, the " rag " of secession, and 
the innumerable flags that streamed over ship, fort, and 
army, on the part of the United States, were made in Eng- 
land, as were also the flags of our previous wars. But five 
years ago, some knowing Yankees in Lowell (induced by an 
act of Congress that promised a contract for a year's supply 
of army and navy to whosoever should first produce an article 
of bunting equal to the best English) mastered the peculiar 
difficulties attending this branch of manufacture, and won the 
prize. Before the year ended the war had closed. The 
demand for bunting was diminished by three fourths, and the 
English bunting could still be sold in New York cheaper 
than the American could be produced at Lowell. Need I 
say that, in these circumstances, a bunting lobby asked an 
increase of duty upon the foreign fabric 1 The duty was 
promptly fixed at the modest rate of twenty cents per 
square yard, plus thirty-five per cent of the value ; which 
was in strict accordance with the system as by lobby estab- 
lished. The result has been that a hundred and twenty 
persons have been drawn from other occupations in a State 
where enterprise languishes and life is imbittered by the 
scarcity of labor, and set at work making bunting. But 
among these hundred and twenty persons there are several 
of great ingenuity, who contemplate nothing which they do 
not desire to improve. Hence, two capital and several 
minor improvements in the article produced, as well as 
better and cheaper modes of producing it. These Lowell 
Yankees print the stars and stripes, instead of sewing 
them on, and give you a flag without a stitch in it, 
lighter, more elegant, and more durable than those formerly 
in use. 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 265 

Now, with a universal, international system of patent- 
right and copyright, and a tolerable approximation to free- 
dom of trade, i. e. with decent " protection " to the NAT- 
URAL RIGHTS OF MAN, these Yankees could give the whole 
world the immediate benefit of their inventions, while reap- 
ing a munificent reward for themselves. But under the 
system of protection to whatever private interest can 
command a lobby, their operations are limited to the narrow 
field of one country. The very protection which stimulated 
the business limits it by making the product too dear to 
compete with the foreign article in other countries. Give 
the Lowell men a fair chance, and they will supply half 
the world with flags ; just as the Stein ways, Chickerings, 
Webers, Knabes, and others would sell American pianos in 
every capital in Europe, if there were not from two to six 
duties or taxes on every leading article that enters into the 
composition of a musical instrument. But the tariff lobby, 
which got us into this scrape, must get us out of it. The 
Natural Rights of Man will never send an expensive lobby 
to Washington, though they may come at last to be power- 
fully represented within the bar. But the time is probably 
not very distant when bunting, calico, ships,* wool, cloth, 
silver, pianos, iron, steel, copper, and coal will roll their 
several lobbies into one grand overwhelmning lobby, and 
demand that those great interests be allowed as fair a 
chance in the markets of the world as the same interests in 
other countries. The system of confining protection to 
whatever branches of business can afford a lobby or a 
member, is perhaps nearer its downfall than many suppose. 

But this very system indicates the incorruptibleness of 
Congress, and the impotence of money to carry measures 
against the current. Mr. Greeley informs us that there is 
a British lobby in Washington,! and I learned last winter 

* Mr. D. McKay, the noted shipbuilder of Boston, estimates the duties 
upon the articles 'required for a ship of one thousand tons at $8,665.33 in 
gold. Messrs. Steinway reckon the duties and taxes upon a grand piano 
at $ 180 in currency. 

t " Many, whose duties or pleasure called them to Washington at inter- 
vals from fifteen to twenty-five years ago, will recollect a small, bright, 
active, witty person known as George Dwight, who was quartered in that 
city throughout each session of Congress. Of his private life I know noth- 
ing; but his large and fine parlor at one of the great hotels was open to a 
wide circle, and he there dispensed a generous though by no means indis- 
12 



266 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

that there was a French lobby also ; and if the Senate goes 
on rejecting and neglecting treaties according to its pleas- 
ure, we shall doubtless have soon a lobby of all nations, 
since it is with the Senate that foreign powers must hence- 
forth negotiate. When we consider the immense capital 
represented by the French and English lobbies, and tjie 
enormous advantage which slight changes in the tariff list 
would give foreign manufactures, and when we also bear in 
mind that American enterprises are usually in their infancy 
at the time when they seek protection, we may safely infer 
that it is not mere length of purse that enables a lobby to 
carry its point. In truth, there is a general impression in 
Congress and in the country, that compliance with the 
American manufacturers' lobby is " protection to American 
industry." The railroad subsidy system would also have 
been impossible, if Congress and the country had not been 
impatient for the construction of the great roads to which it 
has been applied. 

Probably there has never been such a persistent exertion 
of log-rolling energy as when President Buchanan was try- 
ing to force slavery upon Kansas by means of the Lecomp- 
ton Bill, and a powerful india-rubber interest was lobbying 
for the extension of the Chaifee patent. These were the 
two logs. The Lecompton lobby was directed by Cornelius 
Wendell, who had been clearing a hundred thousand dollars 
a year from the public printing, whose bank account ran up 
to "nine hundred and twenty-nine thousand dollars in two 
years," and who had behind him the entire administration, 
with all its resources of men, money, and influence. The head 
of the Chaffee-patent lobby was that most indomitable of 
all the india-rubber men, Horace H. Day, owner of the 
Chaffce patent, a man capable of spending seventy thou- 
sand dollars upon an election. Both of these lobbies spent 

criminate hospitality. Observing that he was evidently neither very rich 
nor a man likely to 'waste his substance in reckless prodigality, I at length, 
asked a mutual acquaintance, 'How does Dwight support ail this? ' and 
was answered: ' Very easily; he is the agent here of the British woollen 
interest [manufacturers and exporters], well salaried to watch the legisla- 
tion of Congress and look after the welfare of his employers.' Several 
others subsequently confirmed this statement, and told me that he furnished 
statistics, estimates, etc., for the Secretary of the Treasury (R. J. Walker), 
and had thus exercised a powerful influence in shaping the tariff of 1846." 
HORACE GREELEY, N. Y. Tribune, 1869. 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 4 267 

money, both before and after the junction, as freely as it is 
ever spent for such purposes. Wendell had his check-book 
always ready, and Day kept a band of lobbyists in pay for 
two sessions. Newspapers were bought, subsidized, and 
established, for the purpose of denouncing members of Con- 
gress who would not come in to the support of Lecompton ; 
and the friends of such members were systematically turned 
out of custom-houses, post-offices, and navy-yards. Contin- 
gent interests in Chaffee were given to correspondents, 
one to the correspondent of the leading religious newspaper 
of the time ; and Mr. Day even took the precaution of 
assigning a contingent interest to a female " medium," in 
exchange for the advice which "she got from the other 
world to aid the Chaffee patent." He had a list of Chaffeo 
members in his pocket, which he would show to Wendell when 
they met ; and Wendell, a much more experienced lobbyist 
than himself, would warn him that, in Washington, prom- 
ising support to a measure was a very different thing from 
voting for it. Among other expedients, the President at- 
tempted to bribe the editor of a Philadelphia newspaper, 
offering him the Liverpool consulship and ten thousand 
dollars in money.* Bat all would not suffice. When the 
bills came to the test of a vote in the House, both failed, a 
large number of Chaffee members not voting at all, and 
Lecompton failing in strict accordance with the known 
political circumstances. Kansas was free, and all the india- 
rubber men were at liberty to macerate their crude mate- 
rial with the aid of Mr. Chaffee's masterly invention. 

The testimony on this subject fills many hundred pages, 
but not a word was elicited showing corruption in a mem- 
ber of Congress. Several lobbyists swore that they knew 
of no member whom they would dare approach with money ; 
and the general tone of the evidence leads the reader to 
the same conclusion. 

A lobby occasionally attempts to carry a point by sur- 

* From the testimony taken before the Covode Committee, June 12, 
I860: 

Wendell. " I carried $ 10,000 for the purpose of giving it to Colonel 
Forney, in the event of his accepting the place abroad for some three 
weeks*." 

Chairman. " By whose authority or instructions ? " 

Wendell. ' Weil, sir, it might be said to be by the President's." 



268 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

prise. I witnessed a scene of the kind last winter in the 
House of Representatives, which shows how extremely 
cautious members should be not to act upon the informa- 
tion given by an interested lobby before they have heard 
the lobby of the other side. The most honest man in the 
world will go wrong if he neglects this precaution. Indeed, 
it may be necessary by and by for Congress to adopt the 
rule contemplated by the legislature of Massachusetts, 
compelling lobbyists to present their cases before the 
proper committee, and making it unlawful for a member 
to converse privately with an interested person on legisla- 
tive business. 

But to my scene. One afternoon in February last, while 
the House in Committee of the Whole was working its slow 
and toilsome way down, item after item, through the Army 
Appropriation Bill, under the leadership of the alert and 
vigorous Mr. Blaine, now the Speaker of the House, a clause 
of the bill was about to pass without debate, when Mr. 
Fernando Wood, of New York, rose and offered the follow- 
ing curious amendment : " But no part of the sum [appro- 
priated] shall be paid to Alexander Dunbar for his alleged 
discovery of the mode of treatment of horses' feet." There 
had been no mention of the said Dunbar in the clause, nor 
of his mode of treating horses' feet, nor of any other system 
of treatment ; and the very name of the man was evidently 
unknown to the House. Mr. Wood proceeded to explain 
that the Secretary of War, General Schofield, had made a 
contract (authorized by act of Congress) with Alexander 
Dunbar, by which the latter was to receive twenty-five 
thousand dollars for imparting his system of horseshoeing 
and hoof-treatment to the veterinary surgeons and cavalry 
blacksmiths of the army. "And I am advised," continued 
the member from New York, " by those who are judges of 
that subject, that the man is totally ignorant, that he 
knows nothing about the diseases of horses' feet, and that 
he rather perpetrates injury upon the poor animals than 
produces any benefit to them." 

Fernando Wood, in his air and demeanor, is one of the 
most dignified and impressive members of the House, He 
attends carefully to his dress ; and, as to his " deportment," 
Mr. Turveydrop would contemplate him with approval. 



LOG-KOLLING AT WASHINGTON. 269 

For such a personage to rise in his place, and, in a meas- 
ured, serene manner, discourse thus upon a subject of which 
no man on the floor knew anything whatever, could not fail 
to produce some effect. Mr. Elaine could only say, that he 
had never heard the name of Alexander Dunbar before; 
but that he thought the amendment cast a severe reflec- 
tion upon the Secretary of War. Mr. Wood insisting, the 
amendment was finally amended so as to make the exclu- 
sion apply to the whole Appropriation Bill, and thus cut 
off the unknown Dunbar entirely ; and in this form, I 
believe, it passed the Committee of the Whole, and was 
prepared for submission to the House ; at least, Mr. Wood 
agreed to withdraw his amendment in order to amend it in 
the way described. 

It did so happen that there was a person sitting in a 
commodious corner of the reporters' gallery, who, though a 
stranger to Mr. Dunbar, and singularly ignorant of horses, 
yet knew all about the Dunbar system and its discoverer. 
That person, strange to relate, was myself; and, if it had 
not been a little out of order, I should have shouted a few 
words of explanation over the vast expanse below. Rising 
superior to this temptation, and thus avoiding the atten- 
tion of the Sergeant-at-arrns, I constituted myself a Dunbar 
lobby, and imparted to as many members as possible some 
of the facts which I am now about to communicate to the 
reader. Some years since, the mysterious Alexander Dun- 
bar, an honest, observant farmer and contractor, of Canada, 
was driving a lame horse on a hilly road. He noticed that 
the horse was lamest when going down hill, but not lame at 
all going up hill. Having observed this peculiarity for 
several miles, he began to speculate upon the cause ; and, 
by carefully examining the action of the horse's feet, he 
discovered it. The blacksmith had pared the hoof on the 
wrong principle, cutting it close where it ought to have 
been left thick, and leaving it unpared where nature con- 
stantly produces a redundancy. He tried his hand at 
remedying the mistake. He. cut boldly at the parts that 
were in excess, and the lameness was cured ! A few judi- 
cious cuts with a sharp knife, and a shoe adapted to the 
natural growth of the hoof, this is all there is of the 
Punbar system, which was elaborated by the mystical 



270 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Alexander after some years of observation and experiment, 
suggested by this incident. He found that many cases of 
lameness of years' standing could be cured radically and 
almost instantly by simply paring the hoof aright and alter- 
ing the shoe. 

We have in New York an enthusiast on the structure of 
the horse, Mr. Robert Bonner, whose stable contains six 
of the fastest trotting-horses in the world. He was led to 
study the anatomy of the horse by endeavoring to get at 
the reason why some horses can trot in 2 : 20 farther than 
an ordinary nag can in five minutes. He was curious to 
know just where the trotting talent lies ; and this led to 
other inquiries. Hearing by chance of Mr. Dunbar's dis- 
covery, he investigated it most thoroughly, and came to 
the conclusion that the Dunbar system was founded in the 
eternal nature of things. I suppose that, during the last 
three years, Mr. Bonner has, with his own hands, pared 
the hoofs of fifty horses on the Dunbar plan, and thereby 
cured a dozen cases of lameness supposed to be incurable. 
In his great desire to test the discovery, he has travelled a 
hundred miles sometimes for the sole purpose of having a 
lame horse shod in the Dunbar style, very frequently par- 
ing the hoofs himself. Recently the discoverer has been 
among us, and his system, after having been adopted in 
several of the largest stables in the United States, was in- 
troduced into the army. But, as usual, his success was 
damage to other men ; particularly to the proprietors of a 
patent horseshoe, which Mr. Dunbar was compelled to say 
was not made in accordance with the eternal nature of 
things. Hence, a patent-horseshoe lobby ! Hence, Mr. 
Fernando Wood's strange amendment ! Mr. Dunbar's 
friends, however, rallied in time to enlighten the House, 
and no harm was done ; but the occurrence shows how a 
member of Congress may be misled, unless he makes it a 
principle and a point of honor never to act upon an ex 
parte statement. 

On this point the late investigating committee of the 

Massachusetts legislature offers some excellent remarks. 

It seems that the strikers of the Boston lobby have made 

such an outcry with regard to the alleged corruption of the 

legislature during the last year or two, that a committee 



. LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 271 

was appointed to find out how much fire there was beneath 
all this smoke. They report, as might have been expected, 
that there is 110 fire at all, not a smouldering ember, not 
a spark.. After my investigations at Washington, I am 
fully prepared to believe this, and I do entirely believe it. 
They add, that a lobby has no legitimate place except in a 
committee-room, where both sides can be heard and testi- 
mony recorded.* It were much to be desired, that the 
lobby at Washington were as insignificant and impotent as 
the lobby at Boston. The hired lobby is. The fellows 
who lay themselves alongside of green new-comers, and 
pretend to have " a twist " on this member, and an un- 
bounded influence over that, and give out that they corre- 
spond with seven papers, all daily, are about as influential 
in one place as they are in the other. This is not the kind 
of lobby from which danger is to be feared. The lobby 
that carries its measures has exceedingly little to do with 
such. 

The lobby which is to be feared is that which sends 
members to Congress, which has millions of acres and dol- 
lars at command, and is engaged in schemes dear to the 
pride and important to the interests of the nation. It is 
to be regretted that Mr. Jefferson's advice was not acted 
upon, to amend the Constitution so as to empower Congress 
to do everything for the country, in the way of internal im- 

* The following is an extract from this interesting report, mnch of 
which is as true of Washington as it is of Boston: "The committee are 
satisfied that the influence of the lobby (so called) is greatly overestimated. 
A certain number of persons, known as lobby members, receive very con- 
siderable sums of money from corporations and other parties having 
business before the legislature. In the opinion of the committee, this 
influence is not legitimate in matters of legislation. Committees are pro- 
vided by the legislature, to whom all matters are referred and before 
whom all matters are legitimately heard. Whoever desires to present 
testimony or statements can do so before these committees, and this testi- 
mony legitimately reaches both branches of the legislature through these 
several committees. The parties referred to as lobby-men are not lawyers, 
and have no legitimate professional calling at the Capitol, but. are supposed 
to have more or less influence in private talks and conversations by partial 
presentation of matters to individual members. The committee' believe 
money expended in the employment of these men is wasted by the parties 
who expend it, and that the influence of such expenditure has a tendency 
to demoralize legislation and create suspicions of integrity of members 
where suspicion should never rest. The committee, in all their examina- 
tions, have had no reason to suppose that any member either of this or 
any previous legislature has been influenced by any improper or dishonor- 
able motives." 



272 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

provements, which no State or combination of States, or 
company of individuals, could be reasonably expected to 
accomplish. The idea of the system established in 1787 
was, that the general government should do whatever the 
interests or the honor of the whole country required to be 
done, and which the separate States could not do for them- 
selves. The time is not distant, perhaps, when we shall 
deplore that Congress did not regard a railroad across the 
continent as a " post-road," or as a measure essential to the 
" common defence " of sections so widely separated, and 
build the road outright with the public money. We might 
thus have saved a tract of land nearly as large as France, 
and kept out of the Capitol a lobby that may in time be- 
come formidable indeed. The directors of the Pacific Rail- 
road can already, if they choose, enrich a member of Con- 
gress, or a hundred members, by merely investing a trifling 
sum of money for them in the sites of future Chicagos. It 
is no joke to have half a dozen men in the lobby, wielding 
such an engine and directing such an estate. 

The subsidy system originated in the acute mind of the 
late Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, and the first railroad 
aided by a grant of land was the Illinois Central, in 1850. 
Mr. Douglas, Senator though he was, was the chief of the 
Illinois Central lobby, and his management of the bill was 
the most ingenious, audacious, complicated piece of log- 
rolling that has ever been placed on record. It was his 
boast, too, that this " pioneer bill," as he styled it, "went 
through without a dollar, pure, uncorrupt." Without a 
dollar, yes ; pure and uncorrupt, no. 

His first exploit was to get rid of Mr. Holbrooke, who, as 
far back as 1835, had conceived the project of connecting 
Chicago and Cairo by a railroad, and to whom had been 
granted a charter for its construction by the Illinois legis- 
lature. On the strength of this charter, and in the fullest 
confidence that the road would one day be built, Holbrooke 
had invested his whole fortune in Cairo lots, lands, and 
projects. Here was Holbrooke's weakness and Douglas's 
opportunity ; for these two able and not over-scrupulous 
men had become antagonists on this railroad scheme, and 
it was a question which of the two should confer the 'boon 
on the State. Holbrooke wanted the millions, and Douglas 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 273 

the glory, that would result from success. After years of 
manoeuvring at home, where Holbrooke had the advantage, 
the scene of strife was transferred to Washington, where 
Douglas was then all-powerful. Douglas had already ap- 
plied for a grant of land in aid of the road ; but Holbrooke 
had procured the passage of an act through the legislature 
(or, as Douglas charged, had a clause fraudulently inserted 
in an act), conveying to his company whatever lands Con- 
gress might grant. Upon this, the Little Giant introduced 
a new bill, terminating the road at a different point on the 
Ohio, and thus reducing Cairo to its original condition of 
utter worthlessness. 

This brought the redoubtable Holbrooke to his knees. 
" Spare my Cairo ! " was his imploring cry. " With pleas- 
ure," replied the Senator, " provided you surrender your 
charters and leave Illinois Central to me." Holbrooke sur- 
rendered the charters, and Douglas brought in his bill 
granting alternate sections of land along the line of the 
projected road. 

Such was his preliminary performance. His next step 
was less difficult, but more striking. The Senators and 
Members from Alabama and Georgia were opposed to the 
bill, on the old ground that grants of land for such a pur- 
pose internal improvement of a single State were 
unconstitutional. As a Democrat, Mr. Douglas should 
have respected, should have shared, this scruple. Perhaps 
he did, but he overcame it ; and he addressed himself to 
the task of overcoming theirs in a manner that was busi- 
ness-like at least. While visiting his children's plantation 
in Mississippi, he found it convenient to go to Mobile, where 
he at once inquired the way to the office of the Mobile 
Railroad, recently suspended for want of money. He was 
lucky enough to catch the president and directors at the 
office, just as they had concluded the business which had 
called them together. The champion of Jeffersonian and 
Jacksonian Democracy did not stop to argue the constitu- 
tional question with these gentlemen, but proposed to them 
a game of log-rolling. He offered to tack to his bill a 
clause giving their suspended road a grant of lands, pro- 
vided the Senators and Representatives of Alabama and 
Mississippi would vote for the bill. The president and 



274 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

directors, rejoicing in this unlooked-for prospect of relief, 
instantly gave their assent, disposing of the votes of their 
absent Senators and Members as though they owned them. 
But, no, said the cool-headed Senator from Illinois; your 
Senators and Members have already voted against my bill, 
and it is necessary for your legislatures to instruct them 
to vote for it. This presented no difficulty to that knot of 
railroad directors, and the compact was concluded on the 
spot ; one director saying, that if Senator Foote did not 
vote for the grant he should never be re-elected to the 
Senate. Cautioning them all to keep secret his connection 
with the affair, Douglas took his leave, and went straight 
to Washington, " being afraid to be seen in those parts." 

In due time the legislative instructions reached Washing- 
ton, as per agreement. Mr. Douglas then had occasion to 
exert his histrionic talents. Senator King of Alabama, and 
Davis of Mississippi, who had been most decided in their 
opposition to the bill, " cursed their legislatures," and could 
scarcely believe their eyes. In their perplexity, they con- 
sulted Douglas, and asied his aid in drawing the clause 
which was to include the Mobile Road in the grant. With 
all the dignity of a man who felt Himself aggrieved, Mr. 
Douglas declined their offered support, saying that he felt 
sure of being able to carry his bill without their aid ; but 
feigned to be softened at length, and agreed, as a favor to 
them, to admit the clause which they desired. The solemn 
farce was maintained to the end. The Southern Senators, 
as Douglas anticipated, were in no haste to comply with 
disagreeable instructions, and, consequently, when he sent 
them word one day that he was about to call up his Illinois 
Central Bill, they came hurrying to the chamber, with no 
amendment ready, and begged him to draw one for them. 
He had had an amendment carefully drawn by one of the 
best lawyers in Congress, which he handed to Mr. King of 
Alabama, and immediately moved to proceed with the bill. 
Mr. King then rose, in his usual dignified manner, and asked 
the Senator from Illinois to accept an amendment. The 
Senator from Illinois was obliging enough to do so. The 
Senators from Alabama and Mississippi all voted for the 
bill, and it passed the- Senate witli the additional clause. 

This was an essential point gained ; but the decisive bat- 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 275 

tie was to be fought in the House of Representatives. And 
here Mr. Douglas performed feats of log-rolling which, I 
think, have never been equalled in any legislative body. 
The log-rolling art, begun in 1790 by Hamilton and Jeffer- 
son, made marvellous progress in the short space of sixty 
years. 

When the bill stood at the head of the Speaker's list, 
and Douglas could count in the House a majority of fifteen 
" pledged " to support it, Mr.' Harris of Illinois moved to 
proceed with the business on the Speaker's table. This 
called up the bill, and roused the dormant opposition. By 
the adroit management of that opposition, a test motion 
was precipitated upon the House, which left the bill in a 
minority of one ; and this, notwithstanding weeks of previ- 
ous log-rolling, and. the fifteen pledged majority. "We had 
gained votes" says Mr. Douglas, " by lending our support to 
many local measures" But, at the important moment, you 
see, some of the "pledged" votes were not forthcoming, 
which is often the case in Washington. Let Mr. Douglas 
relate what followed : 

" I was standing in the lobby, paying eager attention, 
and would have given the world to be at Harris's side, but 
was too far off to get there in time ; and it was all in an 
instant, and the next moment a motion would have been 
made, which would have brought on a decided vote, and 
have defeated the bill. Harris, quick as thought, pale and 
white as a sheet, jumped to his feet, and moved that the 
House go into Committee of the Whole on the slavery 
question. There were fifty members ready with speeches 
on this subject, and the motion was carried.. Harris came 
to me in the lobby, and asked me if he had made the right 
motion. I said, ' Yes,' and asked him if he knew what was 
the effect of his motion. He replied it placed the bill at 
the foot of the calendar. I asked him how long it would 
be before it came up again. He said, ' It would riot come 
up this session ; it was impossible ; there were ninety-seven 
bills ahead of it.' " * 

But the Little Giant would not give it up. For many 
days and " nights " he racked his brain for an expedient. 

* A Brief Treatise on Constitutional and Party Questions, by J. Mad- 
ison Cutts, p. 196. . 



276 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

It occurred to his mathematical mind, at last, that the 
same tactics applied to the ninety-seven bills would place 
them also, one after the other, at the bottom of the calen- 
dar, and his own bill, finally, at the top. The plan was 
adopted. Ninety-seven times Mr. Harris, or else some 
member not supposed to have any particular interest in 
the Illinois Bill, moved to clear the Speaker's table ; ninety- 
seven times a certain other member moved to go into Com- 
mittee of the Whole on the slavery question ; ninety-seven 
times this always welcome motion was carried. Sometimes 
these tactics would be employed twice in the same day, and 
send two bills tumbling to the bottom of the ladder. And 
the Illinois Bill constantly gained friends by the process ; 
for was not Harris, who had it in charge, continually mov- 
ing to call up bills in alliance with it 1 The odium all fell 
upon the member who continually frustrated Harris's benev- 
olent intentions. " All praised us" says Mr. Douglas ; " said 
we were acting nobly in supporting them. We replied, 
'Yes, having defeated our bill, we thought we would be 

generous, and assist you.' All cursed Mr. . Some 

asked me if I had not influence enough to prevent his mo- 
tion. I replied he was an ardent antagonist, and that I had 
nothing to do with him, to the truth of which they assented." 
That member was, indeed, a political opponent of Mr. Doug- 
las, but he was a personal friend, and was acting in this 
matter in pursuance of an express agreement with the Sen- 
ator from Illinois. The Illinois Bill gradually worked its 
way to the top of the list once more, when it was passed 
by a majority of three. It cost Douglas two years of hard 
work, in and out of Congress, to accomplish this result. 

I have dwelt upon this masterpiece, because it includes 
almost every known device and trick of the log-rolling art. 
The ease with which the, legislatures of Illinois, Alabama, 
and Mississippi were handled by a few railroad chiefs ; the 
manner in which a lobbyist with a mathematical head con- 
verted the just rules of the House of Representatives into 
an engine of injustice; the unblushing audacity with which 
an honorable Senator, and candidate for the Presidency, 
could first lie, and then boast that he had lied ; these 
are among the points that should excite reflection. But 
neither those three legislatures nor Congress could have 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 277 

been wielded in this manner by one man, if there had not 
been in those bodies, and in many of the people whom they 
represented, an impatient desire to have the works executed 
in aid of which a principality was granted. The three in- 
terested States were, of course, *well pleased to have railroads 
completed which for fifteen years they had in vain been 
trying to execute for themselves ; and the rest of the coun- 
try was absorbed in the great public questions of the time. 
This feat was performed in the very heat and tempest of 
the slavery debates of 1850. 

Presidents and directors are the lords of the world at 
present. There have always been rich men ; but in former 
times great capital was dead or torpid, invested in vast 
landed estates, and the revenue spent in luxury and 
ostentation. But the steam-engine has generated a new 
kind of capitalists, men of brain, ambition, and industry, 
wielding millions of active capital, and controlling thousands 
of human beings, men capable of everything except the 
tranquil enjoyment of life, and who rest only when they lie 
down to rest forever. These are the children of the steam- 
engine, which compels everything to be done on the great 
scale, manufacturing, travelling, and finally agriculture, 
and has called into being a class of men capable of di- 
recting immense enterprises and of wielding enormous sums. 
In England these men generally get into the. small circle 
of the ruling class, marry into ruling families, get them- 
selves elected to Parliament, govern the British empire, as 
we may say, legitimately; and hence, their power is not 
absolute, but limited. In the United States they have 
usually found it more convenient to govern in the lobby, 
and their power threatens to become unlimited, through 
their easy control of law-making bodies. If, just now, they 
are turning their thoughts toward getting within the bar, 
and some have found their way thither, it is that they may 
operate the more effectually as log-rolling lobbyists. 

It is startling to hear these people talk of legislatures, 
and their complete subserviency. My eye was caught the 
other day by this passage in an affidavit of Mr. Daniel Drew 
of New York : " We " (directors of the Erie Railroad) " went 
over to New Jersey ; we stayed over there some weeks ; we 
got a law passed by the New Jwsey Legislature to enable us 



278 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

to transact the business of the company over there, so that 
we might not be plagued by the courts of New York," alias 
Fisk, Jr. The off-hand, matter-of-course manner in which 
the fact is mentioned would be remarkable, if we were not 
so familiar with the state of things at Trenton. Probably 
it cost Mr. Drew little more than the writing of a letter, to 
get the law passed. Usually, however, legislatures are 
managed by log-rolling, or, as Mr. Washburne of Illinois 
styles it, ring legislation, " combinations of different and 
distinct interests for the purpose of forcing legislation upon 
subjects grouped together, when not one of them could 
stand separately," a system, he observes, which is "becom- 
ing the curse of the country." * 

Mr. Washburne declined to state whether anything of 
this kind is done in Congress, because it would not have 
been "in order." But there is another gentleman in the 
House of Representatives, of similar name, General C. C. 
Washburn of Wisconsin, who, in the most nonchalant way, 
in the course of the same debate, let the cat out of the bag. 
" Every intelligent member of Congress knows," said he, 
" that any company representing a capital of one hundred 
millions of dollars can defeat any legislation that ever may 
be sought here in the interest of the public." Many years 
had passed since a sentence had so impressed and puzzled 
me as this ; and, after brooding over it for eleven months, 
I went to Washington purposely to see what it meant. 
There is something in the phraseology of it which causes it 
to lay violent hold of the mind. " Every intelligent mem- 
ber!" Greenhorns may think that Congress is the supreme 
power in this land ; but intelligent members know that the 
lobby can defeat any legislation that can ever be sought in 
Washington in the interest of the public. It is a truly 
tremendous statement, and, for one, I think it is much too 

* " I say it with shame," added Mr. Washburne, " it has prevailed in 
my own State, Illinois. It was by this ' ring legislation ' that our last legis- 
lature got through that series of acts, the new State House, the Agricul- 
tural College, the Southern Penitentiary, and perhaps some others, which, 
if not promptly repealed, will entail millions and millions of public debt on 
our people, already groaning under a load of taxation almost too grievous to 
be borne. It is this 'ring legislation' that threatens particularly to fasten 
upon the people of our State the new State House, one of the most mon- 
strous schemes ever thrust through a legislative body, and which has met 
with almost universal execration from all parties." /Speech on the Pacific 
Railroad, March 10, 1868. 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 279 

sweeping. It may, at length, become true ; but up to this 
time, potent as the lobby is, and skilled as it is in log-rolling, 
it has won signal triumphs in Washington only when it has 
been supported by a strong and wide-spread feeling out of 
doors. The Pacific Railroad, for example, was ever a 
public work so vehemently desired as that 1 Congress made 
a hard bargain for the country in subsidizing the road so 
lavishly ; but, at the time the bargain was made, it did not 
seem so unreasonable, and the public was in a mood to 
submit to any conditions, provided the road were hurried 
forward. 

The millionnaires in the lobby, however, are most power- 
ful in Washington, and their power seems likely to increase 
with their rapidly augmenting wealth. 

Think of the mere amount of money which a man, or a 
small number of men, can now control. " I can check 
for fifteen millions," is the boast of a person who but yes- 
terday drove a pedler's wagon. Two or three men, styled 
The Erie Railway Company, receive fifteen millions of dol- 
lars a year from that road, employ twelve thousand men, 
lease hundreds of miles of other and connecting railroads, 
own twenty steamboats on the Great Lakes, control lines 
of steamboats on Long Island Sound, expend twenty-five 
millions a year, run a New York court, keep a judge, and 
can have what they wish at Albany, even to being endowed 
with absolute power over all this property for five years. 
One gentleman, past the time of life when our forefathers 
used to retire from business, deliberately selected as the 
amusement of his old age (he really regards it in that light) 
the getting control of all the railroads connecting New 
York with the Western country. He began the pastime by 
buying one road a hundred and sixty miles long outright, 
with his own money ; for this gentleman can check for much 
more than fifteen millions. Old as he is, he may live long 
enough to accomplish his purpose ; and he certainly would, 
if he were fifty years of age instead of seventy-five. An- 
other able, untiring man has a dry-goods store in New York 
which contains precisely the space of two hundred dry-goods 
stores of average size, and does about the amount of 
business that two hundred average stores would do, and 
does it at less than half the average expense. Two great 



280 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

houses, the Capulets and Montagues of Rhode Island, are 
said (falsely, no doubt, but with some show of truth) to 
divide that pleasant, busy, thriving little State between 
them; and New Jersey does really appear to have abdi- 
cated her political being in favor of Camden and Amboy. 

We must bear in mind also that this massing tendency 
is a law of nature, which the steam-engine has only stimu- 
lated and aggravated. In every pond the strong-coarse 
devour the weak-fine. The savage pickerel grows great by 
gobbling up myriads of gentle perch and tender trout. In 
every age the same problem presents itself in a changed 
form, How the weak-fine are to keep the strong-coarse a 
little within bounds. In one age the pickerel is the feudal 
system; again, it is a priestly hierarchy; or it is both 
these in alliance. At another time it is Philip II., or Louis 
XIV., or Napoleon Bonaparte. In England, at present, it 
is what that intelligent English newspaper, the Pall Mall 
Gazette, calls the " Inevitable Landlord." This paper, a few 
weeks ago, had a noticeable article upon the all-devouring 
British pickerel, in the course of which it said : " Almost 
every economical improvement which can be -suggested, 
every saving in cost of production, every relief from incon- 
venient encumbrances, every measure designed for the im- 
provement of the condition of the toiling classes of society, 
ends by putting more money into the pockets of that order 
which certainly does not suffer from the lack of it. Let 
science apply her novel resources to the cultivation of the 
land, and up goes the rent. Let sanitary improvements in 
towns be carried out at great cost to the public in general, 
the final benefit (in a pecuniary sense) is reaped by the 
house-owner. Let railways and telegraphs bring the most 
distant parts of the productive area of our soil into imme- 
diate competition with those previously more available, and 
the territorial proprietors of the regions thus rendered more 
accessible, after a short time, make their bargains with the 
tenant according to the raised value of the land." 

This is merely the present English form of the universal 
difficulty, which form we have not yet reached, and may 
. never reach. We have to contemplate the time, not dis- 
tant, when all our towns will be Lowells, all industry a mill, 
all land model farms ploughed by steam, and all the re- 



LOG-KOLLING AT WASHINGTON. 281 

sources of the country wielded by presidents and boards. 
With us it is the inevitable DIRECTOR who looms up, for- 
midable and menacing. 

It is to be observed, also, of these check-drawing mag- 
nates, that they have learned, of late years, how much bet- 
ter it pays to unite, and prey upon the public, than it does 
to fight, and prey upon one another. They will fight long 
enough to ascertain whether one can devour another ; but 
when they have discovered that this cannot be conveniently 
done, then they are apt to unite, and rush hungry upon 
mankind. I have quoted a few words, above, from an affi- 
davit of Mr. Daniel Drew, founder of a theological semi- 
nary. The same affidavit concludes with the following 
passage : " Gould and Fisk have recently been engaged in 
locking up money ; they told me so ; they wanted me to 
join them in locking up money, and I did to the extent of 
one million dollars, and refused to lock up any more ; I had 
originally agreed to lock up four million dollars, but when 
money became very tight I deemed it prudent to decline to go 
any farther, and unlocked my million. The object of lock- 
ing up is to make money scarce. They had money enough 
of the Erie Railway Company to lock up to make money 
scarce and affect the stock market, to make stocks fall, 
because people could n't get the money to carry them; 
they sent, I have understood, three millions to Canada, to 
a bank there." 

The reader will never know what he lost by skipping 
those columns upon columns of affidavits in small type, 
which darkened the New York newspapers in the early 
part of 1869, affidavits shot at one another by direc- 
tors contending for the control of the Erie Railway. The 
publishers of the newspapers were right in refusing to in- 
sert the affidavits, except as advertisements at so much a 
line, because no one could rationally be expected to read 
them. But those who did read them were amused and 
edified. An attentive reader could see both games played, 
that of combining to plunder, and that of fighting to devour. 
The victors succeeded, at length, in getting the unhappy 
Founder of a Theological Seminary in a position that would 
have excited pity in any but a director's breast. He came 
to one of them on a Sunday morning, and simply begged 



282 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

for mercy, but begged in vain. He would not be denied. 
He pleaded till one o'clock on Monday morning, without 
producing any effect upon his fellow pickerel, who had him 
in that terrible Erie corner. Since the world was created, 
never before did a founder of a theological seminary pass 
such a Sunday. 

Many recent instances in which corporations have first 
contended for each other's destruction, and then united for 
the purpose of having the public at their mercy, are famil- 
iar to us all, and need not be. mentioned. Corporations 
omnipotent within their range result from these unions ; 
corporations which pay their legal advisers much more 
money per annum for an occasional hour a day than the 
public pays its highest servants for exhausting toil the }^ear 
round. These corporations, huge and powerful as they 
now are, are capable of uniting again in the lobby at Wash- 
ington for purposes common to several of them ; and we 
have the opinion of a veteran member of Congress, that 
they will never exert themselves in that lobby without 
accomplishing their object. 

When this- state of things is contemplated, people some- 
times reassure themselves by saying that the press is left, 
to represent, and contend for, the public. But is it 1 Who 
is the controlling man of most of our great newspapers, 
the editor or the stockholder 1 If any one is in doubt on 
this point, he has only to ask the co-operation of some of 
the leading newspapers in urging a reform which will in- 
volve the risk of pecuniary loss. In many cases, he will 
find that it is the stockholding mind which decides questions 
of that nature. The editor would attack a flagrant abom- 
ination ; but the man controlling a majority of the stock 
calls his attention to the fact that the flagrant abomination 
advertises two or three columns a day, and the flagrant 
abomination is either not attacked at all, or it is flattered 
by the kind of attack that advertises it most effectively. 
The editor is generally man enough to look to the future, 
and comprehend the policy of forming journalists to fill the 
places by and by of the present leaders of the press. He 
would stimulate and reward young ambition, exulting to 
compensate able and valiant service liberally ; but the 
stockholder thinks naturally of his next dividend, and puts 



LOG-ROLLING AT WASHINGTON. 283 

the office upon an allowance. Flourishing as the press is, 
as a mere business, it is for the moment in a condition of 
arrested development. The young journalist climbs to a 
certain height ; but when he has done his apprenticeship, 
and has fitted himself for something of command, he finds 
that he has attained all that the press now has to be- 
stow upon mere talent and skill. It is only money that' 
can advance him another step. The stockholder blocks 
the way. The editor is dethroned. The stockholder 
reigns. 

This is no one's fault. It is, after all, only a stage in the 
march of the press, where, for a brief period it halts, to 
perfect new arrangements. Like every other institution 
and interest of civilized man, the press has to adjust itself 
to the steam-engine, which first enabled, and now compels, 
it to be immense, and thus necessitates the stockholder. 
When the mere presses, that a daily newspaper in a large 
city must have, cost a hundred thousand dollars, and the 
telegrams average five hundred dollars a day, there must be 
more money invested in a daily paper than an intellectu- 
alized man ever possesses except by an accident. The 
irruption of the moneyed stockholder into the press pre- 
sents peculiar inconveniences only because newspapers are, 
in some degree, an intellectual product, not a mere com- 
modity or manufacture, like screws or flour. An editor is 
naturally the servant of the public, not the servant of a 
few men who have raised money enough to buy shares in a 
newspaper. 

The stockholder cannot be expected at once to perceive 
these truths, and it is his vocation and duty to look to the 
dividends. He seems, at present, rather disposed to regard 
the writers for the press very much as managers of theatres 
used to regard dramatists, such managers as the one 
who gave Douglas Jerrold five pounds a week, and made 
twenty thousand pounds by one of his plays. These men 
arrested the development of the English stage for sixty 
years, as the stockholder now arrests the development of 
the daily press. But, doubtless, a way will be devised by 
which journalists, pure and simple, without submitting to 
the nuisance of making money, will be restored to a just 
share of the power, honor, and safety now enjoyed and 



284 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

abused by the stockholder. Either this will be, or the 
press will decline and degenerate. 

Congress and journalism, then, are in the same boat. 
Directors and stockholders threaten the independence of 
both. In the lobby they employ their talents in log-rolling; 
and when they want important service from the press, they 
can buy shares. Any newspaper in the country, except 
perhaps two, could be bought outright for two millions of 
dollars; and what are two millions to men who control 
fifteen hundred miles of railroad and a " greenback mill," 
and have it in their power to shoot into Wall Street new 
stock by the wagon-load ? Congress is not corrupt ; the 
press is not corrupt. Both are threatened with paralysis ; 
but neither will be paralyzed. Every age has its difficulty. 
This is ours, and we shall overcome it. 



OUR ISRAEL1TISH BRETHREN. 



DID the reader ever try to compute what it has cost our 
Israelitish brethren to keep two Sundays a week, and 
four sets of holidays a year 1 Besides their own religious 
and national festivals, they have been compelled, generally 
under ruinous penalties, to abstain from business on those 
of the countries in which they have dwelt. Thus in Cath- 
olic countries, for several centuries, they were obliged to 
be idle : 1. Fifty-two Sundays ; 2. Thirty holidays of obli- 
gation ; 3. Fifty-two Saturdays or Sabbaths ; 4. An average 
of twelve other holidays of their own : total, one hundred 
and forty-six days per annum, or about two days in every 
five ! In Protestant countries, the usual number of idle 
days, including their fifty-two Saturdays and twelve festi- 
vals and fasts, has been one hundred and ten, or about two 
days in every six. In other words, the Jews in Catholic 
countries have been obliged, by law and conscience, to ab- 
stain from business nearly three days a week, and in Prot- 
estant countries a little more than two. Of late years, 
since Catholics have become much less strict in the observ- 
ance of Sundays and holidays, the Jews suffer more incon- 
venience in Protestant than in Catholic lands. The rigor 
of the Scotch and the Puritan Sunday is especially grievous 
to them, even to the present hour ; while in Paris, Hamburg, 
and Vienna Sunday is, in some branches of business, the 
best day of the week. 

This fact of the double set of holidays would alone have 
sufficed to exclude them from agriculture. A ripe harvest 
will not wait from Friday till Monday for any of our scru- 
ples ; and two good planting days lost in a late, wet spring 
would often make the difference between a crop and no 
crop. Fancy a market-gardener in strawberry time, or a 



286 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

florist in May, obliged to cease work half an hour before 
sunset Friday afternoon, and unable to offer anything for 
sale till Monday morning ! Even the thirty Catholic holi- 
days of obligation placed the farmers of Catholic countries 
under a disadvantage that was obvious to all who lived near 
the line dividing a Catholic from a Protestant country. Vol- 
taire, who lived for thirty years close to the frontier of 
France, within two miles of Protestant Geneva, dwells upon 
this in many a passage of exquisite satire. Headers remem- 
ber the scene in which the priest rushes from the tap-room, 
" red with wrath and wine," to rebuke the yeoman who had 
" the insolence and impiety " to plough his field on a Saint's 
day, " instead of going to the tavern and drinking like the 
rest of the parish. The poor gentleman was ruined : he 
left the country with his family and servants, went to a 
foreign land, turned Lutheran, and his lands remained un- 
cultivated for many years." If thirty extra holidays were 
a serious injury to French farmers, it will not be questioned 
that ninety-four made agriculture an impossible pursuit to **" 
Israelites. 

Except where Jews lived together in large numbers, as in 
Poland and some parts of Germany, the same fatality of 
their lot sufficed to exclude them from most workshops, 
counting-rooms, and stores. Who could take an apprentice 
with the understanding that he wap to be always absent on 
Saturdays 1 Who, a clerk, on the condition of not having 
him on the busiest day of the week 1 Even here, in these 
free cities of America, where Jewish merchants and bankers 
are often obliged to employ Christian clerks, they labor un- 
der the disadvantage of having to pay salaries for three 
hundred and nine days' work per annum, while only getting 
two hundred and fifty-seven days' attendance. In short, 
if the reader will take the trouble to trace all the conse- 
quences of the conscientious adherence of our Israelitish 
brethren to their holy days, he will discover that during 
many centuries of their dispersion among Christian nations, 
that adherence would have been enough of itself to confine 
their able men to the trade in money and jewels, and their 
ordinary men to petty traffic and hard bargaining. Money 
at interest keeps no holy day. Like the trees of the Scotch 
laird in the novel, it grows while the owner sleeps. It earns 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 287 

revenue both while the lender prays in the synagogue and 
while the borrower worships in the cathedral. On Good Fri- 
day as on the Day of Atonement, through merry Christmas 
and joyous Purim, on the days of Passover, the fourth of July, 
the fifth of November, still it yields its increase. Hence 
strong Israelites usually deal in money ; and as to the rank 
and file, we must allow, if we would be just, that the trader 
who has to keep his shutters closed two or three days a 
week must, as a general thing, carry on business at small 
expense, and make the most of every transaction. 

But if, a thousand years ago, the Jews had reached that 
point of development which would have enabled them with 
a good conscience to give up their seventh-day Sabbath, and 
rest only on ours, it would not have availed to give them a 
choice of occupations. In the night of superstition, no Jew 
could own or hold land on endurable conditions in any 
country of Christendom. Nor could he belong to any guild 
of mechanics ; and hence he could not be himself a me- 
chanic, nor apprentice his son to a mechanic. He could not 
lawfully hire a Christian servant in some countries. He 
could not enter a university or a preparatory school in any 
country and so the liberal professions were closed to him. 
He could not be an artist, even if any Christian prince 
would have bought pictures of him, because, in the black 
ages, there were only two kinds of pictures that yielded 
much revenue or renown, New Testament scenes, and 
indecent pictures from the Greek and Roman poets. The 
former a Jew could not paint ; the latter he would not, for 
the Jews have preserved, through all vicissitudes, a certain 
chastity of mind and taste, which makes such subjects 
abhorrent to them. A good Jew knows better than most 
men the unutterable preciousness of an unprurient soul and 
an uncontaminated body ; for there is nothing which his 
religion inculcates so sedulously and in so many ways. At 
the present hour they are probably the chastest seven mil- 
lions of people under the sun. 

The tory Carlyle, with the baser instinct of his party, 

which is, to grovel before the strong and trample on 

the weak, makes this exclusion of the Jews from all the 

more honorable and expanding pursuits the occasion of a 

most bitter taunt. The celestial powers, he says, when a 



288 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

people have become hopelessly debased, sometimes toss 
them in utter contempt a great bag of money, as if to say, 
" Take that ! Be that your portion ! " How cruelly un- 
just is this ! The Encyclopaedia Britannica, an invaluable 
work, but uniformly narrow and reactionary on religious 
subjects, while admitting that, in the dark ages, Jews had 
no choice but to be money-lenders, while allowing that they 
had no means either of revenge or self-defence, except in 
extorting usurious interest from their plundering oppressors, 
stamps with reprobation their " meanness and injustice " in 
so doing. But the same writer on the same page (Vol. 
XII. p. 778) has no word of encomium for those heroic Jews, 
who he says presented their breasts to the sword rather 
than violate their conscience; nor for those high-minded 
Jewish maidens and wives, who fastened stones to their 
bodies and sought refuge in the river from the polluting 
touch of Christian soldiers. In one of our best periodicals, 
while I am writing these paragraphs, I read an impatient 
paragraph, complaining of the " obstinacy " of the Russian 
Jews in avoiding agriculture and sticking to petty traffic. 
As if, in all the empire of Russia, until very recently, an 
Israelite could own an acre of land, or till a farm to advan- 
tage, while forced to observe the numerous festivals of the 
Greek Church ! 

The Jews are, in truth, singularly adapted by natural 
disposition to agriculture, their skill in which once made 
Palestine a garden. At the present moment the attention 
of benevolent and public-spirited Jews is directed to the 
return of their people to agricultural pursuits, and the 
scene of the first experiment is Palestine itself. There are 
now thirteen thousand Israelites in that country, nine 
thousand of whom live in or near Jerusalem ; and there is 
no reason in the laws or customs of the land why they 
should not cultivate the soil. But hardly a Jew in the 
world knows how to plough and reap, and the Jews in 
Palestine pilgrims and descendants of pilgrims have 
been steadily demoralized by the alms sent to them from 
orthodox synagogues in every part of the world. M. 
Netter, the agent of the Israelitish Alliance, who was sent 
to Palestine to inquire into the condition of the Israelites 
there, reports that this unwise, sentimental almsgiving 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 289 

paralyzes the arms and corrupts the hearts of his people. 
"As the elders," he remarks, "get a double portion of the 
alms, and as they themselves distribute whatever little 
may be left of it, the indigent and lowly get but a very 
small portion of it. We therefore see parents allowing 
their children to marry early, in order that the offspring of 
these marriages may share in these charities and increase 
the resources of the family. Children are also made to 
study the Talmud, a knowledge of which brings in an addi- 
tional income. The weak and powerless are held in abject 
subjection by their superiors, and frequently seek relief 
from the English missionaries, who are always ready in 
such cases." 

Here is another example of the pernicious consequences 
of ill-directed benevolence, from which the future is to 
suffer so much. The remedy M. Netter suggests is agri- 
culture ; although at present not a Jew in Palestine culti- 
vates the soil. A few of them have tried gardening, and 
failed, as Christian amateurs generally fail, from ignorance. 
An agricultural school and experimental farm, in aid of 
which money has been subscribed in New York and other 
capitals, is about to be started in Palestine. All things 
must have a beginning, and the disuse of eighteen centuries 
cannot be overcome in a year or two, but there is reason to 
believe that the people who once made their land a proverb 
for its abundant harvests are about to recover their skill 
in the cultivation of the soil. In reading Jewish periodi- 
cals and in conversing with enlightened Jews, I perceive an 
impulse in this direction which will produce results where 
Sunday laws do not hinder. 

Who can estimate the reparation which Christendom 
owes this interesting and unoffending people 1 How abun- 
dant, how untiring, should be our charity in judging the 
faults of character which our own superstition has created 
or developed ! 

Of the giant wrongs to which they have been subjected 
for the last ten centuries, the huge Anderson vijle out- 
rages, few readers need to be reminded. In the slaugh- 
ter of the Jews of Seville, in 1391, thirty-five hundred 
families were murdered. In 1492, under Ferdinand and 
Isabella, three hundred thousand heroic Israelites preferred 
13 s 



290 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

exile to apostasy. Many of them found a resting-place 
only in the grave or in the depths of the sea ; for neither 
Portugal nor Italy nor Mohammedan Morocco would toler- 
ate the presence of a people who would not comply with 
their superstitions, and who, by their frugality, continence, 
temperance, and industry, absorbed the wealth of every 
country in which they lived. Those who remained in the 
Peninsula suffered baptism, and were obliged to conform 
to the outward observances of the reigning church. Far 
more enviable was the lot of those who had accepted banish- 
ment. The favorite office of the Spanish Inquisition for two 
centuries was to " question " the sincerity of those two 
hundred thousand Jewish converts ; and the national 
amusement was to witness the burning of Jewish llabbis 
and Jewish maidens. Similar atrocities were committed, 
as we all know, in England, Germany, and France. 

Nor can we claim that Protestants have been guiltless 
toward them. Since I have been interested in this subject, 
I have found nothing more savage against the Jews than a 
passage from Martin Luther in which he offers for the 
consideration of the Christian public seven propositions : 
1. "That we should set fire to their synagogues and 
schools, and what cannot be burnt should be covered over 
with earth, that no man may ever discover a stone or brick 
of it ; we are to do this for the glory of our Lord and 
Christianity." 2. Burn all their houses, and lodge them 
in stables like gypsies, " in order that they may know they 
are not lords in this land, but in captivity and misery." 
3. Burn all their prayer-books and Talmuds. 4. Forbid 
the llabbis, under pain of death, to give instruction. 5. 
Deny Jews the right of protection on the highways ; " for 
they have no business with the land." 6. " Being neither 
lords, farmers, nor merchants, nor anything of the kind, 
they are to remain at home." " You lords shall not, and 
cannot, protect them, unless you would take part in their 
abominations." 7. Put a flail, axe, mattock, or spindle 
into the hands of every " young and strong Jew and Jew- 
ess," and compel them to manual labor. This was Luther's 
idea of the treatment due to the only body of religious 
people in Europe who could be in sympathy with him in 
his struggle with superstition. But Luther himself was 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 291 

only half emancipated : for he clung to that fatal, fatal root 
of bitterness, the belief that human souls can be eternally 
lost by erroneous opinions. 

But we have done worse to these people than murder 
and torture them. Wrongs like these are occasional ; the 
rack palls at last ; and the most infuriate mob of Christians 
that ever hunted down an innocent people grows weary of 
massacre at last, and a long period of peace usually suc- 
ceeds. In our own day I have seen Protestants in Phila- 
delphia pursuing in blind fury harmless Catholics, burning 
their Churches, and insulting their priests ; and I have seen, 
in Ne'w York, Catholics rioting in the massacre of the most 
inoffensive laboring people in the world. In three days 
the fit passes ; reason returns ; and the very men who in- 
flicted the wounds are ready to assist in healing them. 
But there is a wrong which all Christians, for many hun- 
dreds of years, have done to all Jews, all the time, we 
have despised them. Having excluded them from the oc- 
cupations most favorable to the development of human 
nature's better side, we have added to this giant wrong the 
crueller sting of despising them for not having their better 
side developed. Having kept them styed in Ghettos and 
in Jews' streets age after age, we loathe them because they 
are not all clean. 

Human beings are so constituted and related, that among 
the most precious possessions any of us can have is the 
respect and good-will of our community. Happily, few are 
aware of this truth, because, like good digestion, the value 
of such a possession is not known until it is lost. Those 
quadroon and octoroon gentlemen of New Orleans knew it, 
who said to General Butler with so much passion : " We 
care not on which side we fight ; we will fight as long as 
we can, and spend all we have, if only our boys may stand 
in the street equal to white boys when the war is over ! " 
If the reader has ever happened to have his eye upon the 
face of a well-dressed person at the moment a policeman 
touched his arm, and he felt that he was arrested, no longer 
one of the passing throng, no longer a member of the com- 
munity, no longer a man among men, but a detected thief, 
whom any boy might make faces at, a thing abhorred and 
despised, upon whom no countenance could cast a benignant 



292 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

nor even an indifferent look, if the reader has ever noted 
the awful shadow that falls upon a human countenance at 
such a moment, he can perhaps form some idea of what it 
must be to feel always the contempt of men. Or, still 
better, if the reader can look back to his school-days and 
call to mind moments or hours when, for some peculiarity 
of dress, person, or conduct, he was the object of general 
derision, either in schoolroom or play-ground, and can feel 
still the scorch of the old blush in his cheeks, he cannot be 
quite ignorant of the value of that unexpressed good-will 
which usually invests us like the air we unconsciously 
breathe. 

And the Jews were never, allowed to forget that they 
were a despised people. Contempt of the Israelite was 
embedded in law and exhibited in daily custom. In Prot- 
estant Holland, down nearly to the days of Louis Bona- 
parte, Jewish paupers were compelled to say their prayers 
bareheaded, and to work all day Saturday, although they 
begged the privilege of doing in five days their whole week's 
work. It was not till 1790 that this poor boon was granted 
them. Some of the watering-places in Germany could show, 
among their chartered privileges, the right to exclude Jews. 
At Strasburg, within the recollection of living persons, a 
Jew had to pay three francs a day merely for the privilege 
of staying in the town. In Switzerland, as late as 1851, 
the contemptuous law was re-enacted, imposing a fine of 
three hundred francs upon every Christian who gave a Jew 
employment. In Russia, at the present hour, the govern- 
ment presumes to prescribe what shall be the garb of a 
Jew. In New York, London, Paris, and other cities there 
is an alliance, or society for the sole object of promoting 
the emancipation of the Jews from the remaining disa- 
bilities which the aversion of Christendom has imposed. 
Without troubling the reader with a catalogue of similar 
facts, I can convey some idea of the scorn in which Jews 
were once held in a more convenient manner by showing 
how they are now treated in the city of Rome, Rome be- 
ing a fragment of the Past preserved, like an Elgin marble, 
for the inspection of the moderns. In 1860, when there 
was talk of a congress of European powers for the settle- 
ment of international questions, the Jews of Rome prepared 



OUR ISEAELITISH BRETHREN. 293 

a petition for presentation to it, in which some of their 
grievances were stated. From this paper we learn that no 
Jew in Rome can be an artist, nor be a pupil in a school of 
art, nor frequent a public gallery for practice in art. No 
college, medical school, law school, or scientific institution 
can receive a Jewish student. No Jew can exercise a 
mechanical trade, except cobbling shoes; Cruellest and 
absurdest of all, no Jew, fond as he is of music, and gifted 
as his race is in music, can sing in public or play on an 
instrument. "Woe to the Hebrew," says the petition, 
" who dares sing or play in public ; for the police and the 
Holy Office immediately pounce upon him and punish the 
offence with severe penalties." This is the more abomina- 
ble, because nature has signalized this people, not so much 
by superiority of understanding, as by talent. The gifted 
among them are formed to sing, to play, to compose, to 
carve, to paint, to personate, to excel in all those arts by 
which human nature is enchanted and exalted by being 
exhibited to itself. 

Edmond About's report of the condition of the Jews in 
Rome is fresh in the recollection of many. He glances 
backward at the time, not remote, when every evening at 
the hour Christians go to the theatre the gates of the Jews' 
quarter were locked for the night ; when on days of holy 
festival Jews were made to run races for the amusement of 
Christians ; when every year a city official gave them a 
representative kick, an honor for which they had to pay 
four thousand francs ; when they were compelled to present 
publicly to every new Pope a Bible ; when they were obliged 
to pay the salary of a Christian priest employed to preach 
a sermon to them every Saturday, and they could only 
avoid attending this service by paying a fine ; when their 
Ghetto bred such deadly pestilence, that some of them 
almost lost the semblance of humanity, and " they might 
have been mistaken for beasts, if one had not known them 
to be intelligent beings, apt for business, resigned to their 
lot, simple in their requirements, kind-hearted, devoted to 
their families, and irreproachable in their conduct." Such 
ivas their condition in Rome. M. About tells us what it is. 
The present Pope, he reminds us, has indeed taken away 
the gates of the Ghetto, so that Jews can go about the city 



294 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

after dark ; he has dispensed them from the annual kick 
and its annual price, and he has closed the church to which 
they were required to go on Saturdays to be converted. 

But the author adds : " I secretly questioned two well- 
known inhabitants of the Ghetto. When they understood 
why I concerned myself with their affairs, the poor men 
exclaimed : ' For Heaven's sake, do not publish that we are 
wretched ; that the Pope actively regrets his concessions of 
1847 ; that doors invisible, but impassable, close the Ghetto, 
and that our condition is worse than ever. All that you 
might say in our behalf would be visited upon us, and in- 
stead of benefiting you would injure us.' " The inquirer 
visited the Ghetto, in the low ground near the Tiber, and 
found it " the most horrible and neglected quarter of the 
town," in which not the humblest of the thousand prelates 
about Rome would set his foot, any more than an Indian 
Brahmin would cross the threshold of a Pariah's hovel. " I 
learned," says this author, " that the most humble employ- 
ment in the most humble office would as soon be given to 
a beast as to a Jew ; that for a child of Israel to ask in 
Rome to be employed as a commissary, would be more 
absurd than for the giraffe of the Jardin des Plantes to ask 
for an under-prefectship in Paris." No Jew can own a foot 
of land in the papal dominions, nor cultivate one, unless in 
the name of a Christian; and if a Jew, using this artifice, 
ventures to cultivate a garden or a farm, his harvest is safe 
from pillage only so long as the legal device remains a 
secret. Let but the Christians around learn that the har- 
vest is the property of an Israelite, and " a rage for plunder " 
seizes them, which leaves the hapless proprietor with deso- 
lated fields. 

This is the testimony of a witness who is prejudiced, as 
all modernized minds are prejudiced, against government 
by priests. Let me summon another witness, a Christian 
who writes to L 'Ami d'lsrael an account of his visit to 
the Roman Ghetto : " It is situated on the borders of the 
Tiber, in a place subject to inundations ; the population is 
confined in narrow, dirty streets ; and although the Jews 
are much too numerous for this small quarter, they are not 
allowed to take up their abode beyond the limits of the 
Ghetto. The closing of the gates is discontinued, but the 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 295 

prohibition as to residence remains the same. I was struck 
with the activity and industry of the Jews ; for while one 
sees a great many idlers and crowds of beggars in Rome it- 
self, in the Ghetto every one is at work, and there is not a 
beggar visible." The struggle for life, this writer remarks, 
is so severe, that out of a population of more than four 
thousand, two thousand five hundred are extremely poor, 
and in part dependent upon the charity of their neigh- 
bors. 

As Israelites are now looked upon and treated in Rome, 
so were they once regarded and treated in every capital of 
Europe ; and their partial emancipation is a thing too re- 
cent to have more than begun to obliterate the effects of 
fifteen centuries of outrage and contempt. For the faults 
which we see in them, and which clearly result ft-oni the 
contracted Ghetto and the exclusion from the broadening 
employments, we should blame ourselves, not them ; and 
when a Jew plays upon us a scurvy trick, let us go out 
straightway and kick a Christian for it. 

In conversing upon this subject with the enlightened and 
accomplished Israelites now to be found in all our cities, I 
am amazed at the absence of everything like rancor and fury 
from their hearts when they dwell upon the wrongs of their 
race. A decent Christian boils with anger as he reads of 
the indignities they have suffered ; but they, the victims of 
our insensate aversion, speak of these indignities with such 
calmness and good temper, that I have been ready to ex- 
claim : The Jews are the only Christians ! And certainly, 
if the peculiar virtue of Christianity is the patient endur- 
ance of outrage, then we must admit that they have excelled 
all known people in practising the religion which Christians 
have preached. But of course the patient endurance of 
outrage is not the great Christian virtue, nor is it a virtue 
at all, unless the outrage is irredressible. But that has 
been precisely their case. Usually a small number in the 
midst of a hostile population, they have been obliged to 
endure, or perish ; they have had such a training in some 
portions of the Sermon on the Mount as no other race has 
ever had. 

If a Christian would know these people aright, that is, if 
he would know their best, he must observe their home life ; 



296 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

for the great secret of Jewish persistence is the strength 
of that mingled affection and pride which binds families to- 
gether. The family, the Sabbath, in those two words 
are hidden the secret of Jewish history since their disper- 
sion. Let us accompany 'a good orthodox Jewish family 
through their calm and cheerful Sabbath, and see how they 
keep it and enjoy it. I select an orthodox family, instead 
of a "Reformed," merely because the orthodox Jew is an 
historical person ; as he keeps his Sabbath, his fathers have 
kept it for many centuries. 

The Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening half an 
hour before sunset, and ends on Saturday evening half an 
hour after sunset, or when a star is visible in the sky. On 
Friday, the day of preparation, the women and girls of the 
family are busy in providing for the morrow the best food 
of the week ; for whatever is eaten or drank during the 
joyous sacred hours must be the very best the family can 
afford. Poor Jews will pinch all the week in 4 order that 
their wives and children may have something delicious to 
eat on the Sabbath. But that savory food must be cooked 
or prepared for cooking before the Sabbath begins ; for our 
Israelitish brethren observe with just strictness the law 
which gives rest on the Day of Rest to their servants. 
They shame us in this particular. . They will not use even 
their horses on their Sabbath. On a Sunday, about twelve, 
M., you may see in front of Dr. Adams's fashionable Presby- 
terian church in Madison Square, New York, or around Dr. 
Tyng's fashionable Episcopal church in St. George's Square 
of the same city, from twenty to forty well-appointed equi- 
pages waiting for the last hymn to be finished ; but you 
will never see a vehicle before the superb Temple Immanuel, 
a Jewish synagogue in the Fifth Avenue, although there are 
many families within who could ride home, if they would, 
in their own carriages. I do not say that the Christians 
are wrong or the Jews right in this. It is no one's business 
but their own. But if we borrow the Hebrew's word " Sab- 
bath," and adopt, verbally, their Sabbatical law, our prac- 
tice perhaps ought to conform in some degree to our pro- 
fession. It probably does not severely tax those coachmen 
and footmen to show off their gay turn-outs and brilliant 
liveries on a fine Sunday morning in the Fifth Avenue. 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 297 

But for the heavy-laden drudges of the boarding-house 
kitchen, and the maid-of-all-work in average families, I 
could wish we were all Jews from Saturday night till Mon- 
day morning. It is a dastardly shame to compel or permit 
women, who have faithfully toiled for us from Monday's 
tub to Saturday's scrub, to work hard all through the best 
hours of Sunday merely that we may gorge ourselves with 
dainty food. The Jews avoid this barbarous meanness. 
Their servants rest on their Sabbath. 

As early as possible on Friday afternoon the father 
comes home. As sunset draws near the family put on 
their best clothes, and father and sons go to the synagogue 
for the short Sabbath-eve service. His wife and daughters 
usually remain at home, where pleasing duties still detain 
them, though their arduous work is done. 

The Jewish religion is a monotone ; it is a religion of 
one idea, and that idea is GOD. Do you wish the most en- 
lightening of all commentaries on the Bible 1 do you wish 
to know the original meaning of hackneyed Christian 
phrases'? would you taste the savor and inhale the fra- 
grance of celebrated texts 1 do you desire to see living 
descendants of the characters sketched in the New Testa- 
ment ? Then frequent orthodox synagogues, and observe 
the ways of those who attend them. The Jew " walks with 
God " ; the Jew, " in everything, gives thanks " ; the Jew 
" makes melody in his heart to the Lord " ; the Jew " prays 
without ceasing." 

A pious Jew of the old school utters in the course of 
every twenty-four hours as many as a hundred benedictions, 
ascriptions, and prayers. On waking in the morning he 
says : " I thank thee, ever-living, ever-enduring King, that 
thou hast restored me unto life, through thy great mercy 
and truth." Whenever he enjoys, whenever he suffers, 
whenever he gains, whenever he loses, he has a form of 
Hebrew words ready in his memory in which to call upon 
his God. If he eats a fine peach he says : " Blessed art 
thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast 
caused us to be preserved, and permitted us to enjoy this 
season." But if he were about to eat strawberries, the* as- 
cription would slightly vary ; as it would also for bread, 
cakes, melons, vegetables, wine, water, oil. If he enjoys 

13* 



298 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the fragrance of flowers, he will say : " Blessed art thou, 
Lord God, King of the Universe, who Greatest aromatic 
herbs " ; and he has also a form for sweet-scented woods, 
fruit, gums, spice. On passing a synagogue in ruins, or 
one flourishing and handsome ; on meeting Hebrew sages, 
.and on meeting Gentile sages ; when he hears thunder, 
music, rain, or wind, or sees a rainbow, a fine tree, a moun- 
tain, a river, the ocean, a handsome creature ; on hearing 
good news or bad news ; at the birth or at the death of a 
child ; upon leaving and returning home ; he utters his 
short thanksgiving in Hebrew. It is so, Mr. Hepwortli 
Dixon assures us, with the Oriental religions generally ; 
which at the present hour, as three thousand years ago, 
have a strong family likeness. " An Oriental is a man of 
prayer," says Mr. Dixon. " If he rises from his couch, a 
prayer is on his lips ; if he sits down to rest, a blessing is 
in his heart. When he buys and when he sells, when he 
eats and when he drinks, he remembers that the Holy One 
is nigh. If poor in purse, he may be rich in grace j his 
cabin a sanctuary, his craft a service, his daily life an act 
of prayer." These words describe the pious Jews of our 
modern capitals. They " walk with God." " God is in all 
their thought." 

The father and his boys enter the synagogue, sometimes 
pausing in the vestibule, if they have touched uncleanness 
on the way, to wash their hands, conveniences for which are 
placed there. As they enter, they are required to bow to 
the ark containing the scrolls of the Law, and to say : " In 
the greatness of thy benevolence will I enter thy house : 
in reverence of thee will I bow down toward the temple of 
thy holiness." The " ark " is a closet at the eastern end of 
the synagogue, usually made of costly woods, closed with 
sliding doors, and approached by stairs. Within are scrolls 
of parchment, each of which contains one book of the Pen- 
tateuch, written with perfect correctness in Hebrew, by men 
whose profession it is to write them. One error, no matter 
how insignificant, condemns a scroll ; for the examiners sub- 
ject it to tests from which no error can escape. The letters 
of every line, division, and book are counted. In the exact 
middle of the synagogue is a somewhat spacious platform, 
raised four or five feet from the floor, and provided with a 



OUR ISEAELITISII BRETHREN. 299 

broad desk and a sofa. Most of the pews face this platform, 
but there are a few " chief seats of the synagogue," for the 
trustees and other officers. On the ground floor are men 
and boys only, all with their hats on ; the women and girls 
being in the gallery. Israelites say that this exclusion of 
women from the floor of the synagogue that is, from the 
synagogue proper is an homage to their delicacy. Their 
law requires that, at various periods, women should not 
enter the sanctuary at all ; and the subterfuge of the gal- 
lery was invented to avoid the necessity of asking disagree- 
able questions. In some countries women, for the same 
reason, assemble in an adjoining apartment, with a door 
opening into the synagogue, through which the voices of the 
reader and preacher can be heard. 

The Friday-evening service, which lasts an hour and a 
quarter, consists of the chanting of prayers and psalms in 
the Hebrew tongue. Sometimes the Rabbi, seated on his 
sofa, with his hat on, clad in a black silk gown and a white 
silk tunic over it, intones a portion solo, the people respond- 
ing with an occasional amen. Then the whole congregation 
will repeat a psalm ; sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, 
bowing now and then and occasionally bowing very low. 
At intervals a highly trained choir of men and boys, from 
a gallery where they cannot be seen, burst into a song or 
breathe out a most melodious soft chant. No organ smoth- 
ers the voices ; for the orthodox Jew feels that the harp of 
his people still hangs upon the willow, and must not be 
heard again till the Temple is rebuilt. But this choir (Nine- 
teenth Street, New York) needs no organ ; it is itself one 
beautifully attuned instrument. As the service approaches 
a conclusion there is more responding and more simulta- 
neous recitation, which sometimes swells into a loud chorus. 
In less polite congregations than this it is said some of the 
members become almost vociferous. * 

When the service is ended, while the men are shaking 
hands and cheerfully conversing, all the boys crowd upon 
the platform and gather round the Rabbi, who places his 
hand upon each little cap, and pronounces a word or two of 
benediction. To those who have had the profound misfor- 
tune of being reared in one of those creeds which repel the 
young soul, and make it loathe what its elders revere, this 



300 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

sweet spectacle reveals much of the Jewish mystery. They 
have known how to associate religion with the pleasing 
recollections of childhood. 

Upon returning home, after the service, the father and 
his sons find their abode decked in its brightest attire, the 
table set in its goodliest array, the ladies in handsome 
Sabbath costume, and on the mantel-piece of the principal 
room the two wax-candles lighted, to symbolize the light 
and warmth shed on Israel by the Sabbath. In some fam- 
ilies the old-fashioned " Sabbath lamp," with seven burners, 
is retained, and lighted only on this joyous evening. The 
family being now all assembled, the father places his hand 
upon the heads of each of his children, and invokes upon 
them the blessing of Jacob. Then they kiss one another, 
and each wishes the others " Good Sabbath," as we say 
" Merry Christmas." All join in a Sabbath hymn ; after 
which the father pays honor to his wife by chanting the fine 
description in Proverbs of a Virtuous Woman, whose price 
is above rubies, in whom the heart of her husband doth 
safely trust, who looketh well to the ways of her household 
and doth not eat the bread of idleness. Next he takes a 
small silver cup, kept for the purpose, and pours into it 
some pure home-made wine, of grapes or raisins, and pro- 
nounces a blessing on the wine ; after which he breaks a 
piece of bread, and, utters the prescribed blessing upon the 
bread. A formal and longer grace is said for the meal, and 
then the family take their places at the table. 

All this ceremonial, which seems long when it is related, 
occupies but a few minutes, for the Hebrew is a compact 
language, and our Israelitish brethren have little concep- 
tion of what we understand by the word solemnity. There 
is something off-hand in the usual religious acts of the or- 
thodox Jews. When the meal is ended, the family rise and 
remain standing about the table while a thanksgiving is 
pronounced and a hymn sung. In many families the father 
relates to his children on Friday evening some legend of 
their race, of which the stock is inexhaustible ; for there 
are fifteen centuries of persecution to draw from, without 
counting the ages during which Israel had a national exist- 
ence and a recorded history. Hence the collection of Jewish 
stories, recently republished in New York from the columns 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 301 

of the Jewish Messenger, was happily entitled " Friday 
Evening." During the Sabbath no musical instrument is 
heard in the house of an orthodox Jew, nor does he enter- 
tain any company beyond the circle of his relations and 
nearest friends. But this seclusion of families has nothing 
in common with Sabbatarian gloom and isolation. It is 
more like a Christmas reunion, when families are happy 
enough without other friends, than a Sabbatarian with- 
drawal from cheerful society. 

On Saturday morning the service at the orthodox syna- 
gogue begins at eight and lasts till twelve. It differs little 
in character from the service of the evening before, except 
that toward the close the minister, accompanied by two of 
the congregation, descends from the platform and walks 
slowly to the chanting of the choir to the closet where the 
scrolls of the Law are kept, the doors of which have been 
previously opened by two of the members. The scroll con- 
taining the portion of the Law to be read that day is taken 
from its place and carried slowly to the platform, where its 
gay covering is removed and the scroll laid out flat upon 
the broad desk. After the portion has been read, one of 
the gentlemen who has assisted in its conveyance from the 
" ark " lifts it by the ends of its two rollers, and holds it 
up, open, as high as he can reach, and turns it in various 
directions, so that all the congregation can see the Hebrew 
characters written upon it. It was perhaps this holding 
aloft of the Sacred Object which suggested the elevation of 
the Host in the celebration of the Mass. Indeed, there is 
many a rite, ceremony, and usage, of both Protestant and 
Catholic worship, the idea of which was furnished by the 
people whom Protestants and Catholics have agreed to re- 
vile and torment. Little boys, for example, assist in unroll- 
ing and rolling up again the scroll of the Law ; and one 
boy stands upon the platform, in the course of the morning 
service, and pipes with his shrill tenor a few Hebrew sen- 
tences. Doubtless it was this usage of the Israelites, this 
habit of associating their boys with them in every religious 
act and ceremonial, that suggested the employment of boys 
in the altars of Christian churches. 

The sermon is not regarded by orthodox Jews as a very 
important part of the Sabbath service. In some synagogues 



302 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

no sermon is preached ; in others a short one is delivered 
in the German language ; but it is rare indeed that a ser- 
mon in English is heard ; for, to the present hour, no Rabbi 
lives in the United States who was not born and educated 
on the Continent of Europe. 

Four hours seem to us impatient mortals a long time to 
spend in a religious service ; but only a small part of the 
congregation attends during the first hour ; the synagogue 
does not fill up before ten o'clock ; and some leave soon 
after the service has reached its climax in the elevation of 
the scroll. A few sturdy old gentlemen are punctually in 
their places at eight, and go through the whole, rising 
and sitting down, responding and reciting, bowing and 
standing erect, never faltering or shrinking, to the last 
amen. The secret of this persistence is, that the congre- 
gation take an active part in the worship. They do not 
sit passive more than four or five minutes at a time. 
At the conclusion of the services the assembly breaks 
into groups of cheerful talkers, and so drifts down stairs 
through the vestibule into the street, where there is abun- 
dant hand-shaking and friendly merriment. There is a 
short afternoon service, which is not more numerously 
attended than that of Christian churches; for after the 
bountiful Sabbath dinner, our Israelitish brethren are apt 
to abandon themselves, as we do, to the noble work of 
digestion. 

The Sabbath to the Jews is wholly joyous ! In all the 
tales, essays, treatises, catechisms, of this interesting peo- 
ple, which lie heaped up before me at this moment, I can 
find no hint of that strange institution which the Puritans 
called Sabbath. To the good Jew the Sabbath means rest, 
mental improvement, domestic happiness, cheerful conver- 
sation, triumphal worship. From a tract recently issued, 
entitled " The Sabbath, an Appeal to the Israelites of New 
York," I copy a short passage, to show how pious Jews re- 
gard their sacred day, and why they urge its observance. 

" The family," says this writer, " in which the Sabbath 
is a stranger, as it is, alas ! the case with such a large 
number of our co-religionists, is bereft of those beautiful 
ties which make the Jeiuish home a paradise to the poorest 
of its professors, is a desert with no oasis, an ocean of ever- 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 303 

contending waves, with no haven of shelter. ye who yet 
remember the Sabbath eve in the old European home, 
and there are many of you, conjure up before your vision 
the little chamber with the seven-armed candelabra lit in 
honor of the Sabbath bride ; the table spread, the spotless 
linen, your father coming home from the synagogue, his 
eyes beaming with satisfaction, his countenance expressing 
happiness and contentment, not a ruffle on his forehead 
which would indicate that care had ever dwelt in that soul, 
placing his hand on your head, blessing you, and then sing- 
ing songs of welcome to the regular returning guest, the 
bride beloved so well ! Did ever happiness enter your soul 
so unmeasured since you gave up all for a heap of gold 1 
Will your children ever feel as happy as you did on that 
Sabbath eve, will your wife ever know the beatitude your 
mother felt, when she saw her husband joyous and happy]" 

Here we have all that was good in the old Puritan Sun- 
day, without its gloom, restraint, and terror. There is no 
terror in the religion of the Hebrews, no eternal perdition. 
They are all Universalists. The Puritanism of two hundred 
years ago, as we find it in the works of the Mathers, was 
Judaism plus the doctrine of eternal perdition. 

That was a happy touch of Mr. Henry Ward Beecher's 
in his newspaper, The Christian Union, where, after having 
given the news of the various Christian denominations, he 
concluded by a few paragraphs, headed thus : 

" OTHER RELIGIONS." 

Whether we regard this as a mere stroke of journalism, 
or as a recognition of the claims of other religions to the 
regard and respect of Christians, it was worthy of the intel- 
ligence of the editor. Nothing is more startling to a stu- 
*dent of religions than their likeness to one another, and the 
similarity of their effects upon the various minds. Men 
who have lived in the Eastern world, in Japan, Siam, India, 
China, and in the great islands of the Archipelago, have 
often remarked that the religions of those lands, however 
they may differ in name, usages, rites, costumes, traditions, 
have much more in common than they have of difference ; 
and under them all can be found the same varieties of reli- 
gious and irreligious character : the sincere and lowly wor- 



304 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

shipper ; the man who expects to be heard for his much 
speaking ; he who affects devotion, and he who affects 
indifference ; the rogue who uses religion as a cloak, and 
the politician who employs it as capital ; the dealer in reli- 
gious merchandise, who believes in religion as the servants 
of the Cataract House believe in the sublimity of Niagara ; 
all these characters, we are assured, can be found under 
all the religions of the Oriental world. 

And, what is more interesting, it seems as if the religions 
of the world were in the same state of transition, and at 
about the same stage of progress. They are all anxious, all 
excited, all in movement. Orthodox, heterodox, ritualists, 
infidels, we find them at Calcutta, in Japan, in China, in 
Barbary, as we do at London, Berlin, Paris, New York, and 
Boston. English residents in India tell us that in the 
higher society of Calcutta there are native young men who 
take precisely the same tone with regard to the Brahmins 
and the Hindoo sacred books as many of our young pagans 
do at Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, London, Boston, when the 
Christian religion is the subject of discourse, a tone not 
of contempt, by any means ; they are beyond and above 
that. They speak of the religion of their fathers as the son 
of an ancient house might descant upon the old family 
coach, which was excellent in its day, but is now done with, 
and kept as an interesting relic. Nor are there wanting, 
in those remoter capitals of the world, young men who sur- 
prise their companions, as some of our young ritualists do, 
by a sedulous imitation or revival of ancient methods and 
forgotten rites. 

Mr. Beecher may well tell us, then, of "Other Relig- 
ions " ; for they are all in a similar critical condition. To 
the careless looker-on it seems as if they were all dissolv- 
ing ; but, in reality, they are only shedding their non- 
essentials, which is a painful and demoralizing process. 
When in the Arctic seas the sun gains power to soften the 
ice and melt the snows, the first effects upon the ice-bound 
fleets of fishermen and navigators are disagreeable, if not 
injurious. Everything is soft, damp, unstable ; the snug 
snow-packing, which had protected and warmed the impris- 
oned mariners so long, becomes a source of discomfort ; and 
the ice-roads which had borne them stiffly up are safe no 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 305 

longer. But the thaw is about to set them FREE, and send 
them careering over the boundless deep. 

Our Israelitish brethren, besides sharing in the influences 
which are mitigating all creeds and liberalizing all minds, 
are now subjected to a trial peculiar to themselves. From 
being persecuted everywhere, they are beginning to be hon- 
ored and sought. The grand example of the youngest of 
the nations in protecting all religions equally, while recog- 
nizing none, has had its effect in improving the condition 
of the Jews throughout the greater part of Christendom 
and beyond Christendom. Within the recollection of men 
still young, Jews have been admitted to the British Parlia- 
ment, where, I am informed by a distinguished Rabbi, who 
gloried in the fact, no Jew has ever sided with the party of 
reaction, except one, and he a renegade. The Jews to-day 
in the House of Commons vote on important measures with 
John Bright. The professor of Hebrew in the London 
University is a Hebrew ; and among the Jewish students 
last year at Oxford and Cambridge, one was a senior wran- 
gler and another the crack oarsman of his college. In Lon- 
don one of the noted clubs is Jewish, and there are so 
many Jews in the city government that they may almost 
be said to have the controlling influence. Happily, the 
Jews are not proselyters, and can be aldermen without 
using their office to get a sly advantage for their synagogue. 
Among the seventy-five thousand Jews in London, there are 
many business men who, despite the double Sunday, hold 
their own against Christian competitors, to say nothing of 
the much greater number who have no Sunday at all. 
There is one Jewish clothing-house in London that has 
thirteen stores and employs eleven thousand people. 

In France the Jews are fortunate in the free Sunday 
permitted both by law and custom ; and as a consequence 
there is less poverty among them than elsewhere. The 
Rabbis are paid from the public treasury, as the ministers 
of the various Christian denominations are, and the govern- 
ment courts their good-will. The Jewish newspaper in 
Paris describes in glowing words the manner in which " the 
Emperor's fete " was celebrated at the principal synagogue. 
A detachment of chasseurs, commanded by an officer, was 
stationed in the temple opposite the choir, and while the 



306 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

" Halel " was chanted the edifice resounded with the blast 
of trumpets from a military band. At the moment when 
the scroll of the Law was taken out of its sacred enclosure 
the troops presented arms, the trumpets sounded, and the 
organ pealed its melodious thunder. Thus the host is sa- 
luted on festive days at Notre Dame. In Paris, among a 
large number of other charitable organizations of Israelites, 
I find two designed to aid parents who desire to apprentice 
their children to trades. These are societies for paying the 
premiums required in Europe when apprentices are taken. 

Throughout Germany Jews at length stand upon an 
equality before the law with Christians, even in Austria, 
so long the citadel of conservatism. Austria has abolished 
all Sunday laws that would prevent Jews from cultivating 
land, and the Emperor has sought to compliment his Israel- 
it! sh subjects by appointing two young Hebrew gentlemen 
to positions on his personal staff. This in Austria, where 
until 1860 a Jew could not exercise many of the most usual 
avocations, could not be a farmer, miller, apothecary, 
brewer ; and in some wide regions and populous places of 
the empire could not reside at all ! In Frankfort, where 
the Rothschilds originated, the Jews are masters of every- 
thing. Those great bankers, as all the world knows, live 
in luxury more than regal ; but all the world does not 
know that several members of this family are persons of 
genuine liberality of mind as well as bountifully liberal in 
charitable gifts. It is a pity the head of so conspicuous a 
house should not set a better example to Christians, by 
living more simply.* But all things in their time. When 
the time comes for general reaction against the burdensome 
and immoral splendors of modern life, such as are de- 
scribed in Lothair, the Jews will not be the last to adopt 
a style of elegant and rational simplicity. 

* " Not far from Ferney one of the Rothschilds has his magnificent pal- 
ace, in sight of the lake and Mont Blanc. This chateau, and that of the 
king of Prussia at Babelsberg, are the finest that I have yet seen in Europe : 
yet the banker's is more costly and imperial than the king's, without, how- 
ever, the least dash of vulgar extravagance in its splendor. I was assured 
that the interior is in keeping with the charming grounds ; and a lady who 
was a frequent guest there told me that crowned heads were sometimes at 
the table, and the banquet was as stately as the company, so much so that 
the different courses were served by different bands of servants, each band 
with its own dress. 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 307 

Spain, wonderful to relate, joins the nations in restoring 
to the Jews the rights of man, of which she despoiled them 
four centuries ago. The Israelites of the world are now 
joining in a dollar subscription to build in Madrid a tem- 
ple, worthy by its magnitude and splendor to commemorate 
the abrogation of the edict of 1492, which silenced Hebrew 
worship throughout Spain, and dismantled every synagogue. 
Within these few weeks Sweden has swept from her law 
books every remaining statute which made a distinction 
between Jews and Christians ; and now, except in Russia 
and the Papal States, there is, I believe, no part of Europe 
where an Israelite has not the essential rights of a citizen, 
so far as they are enjoyed by the rest of the people. 

If any one desires to revive his detestation of caste, the 
oppression of class by class, of color by color, of race by 
race, let him mark in the history of this people how uni- 
formly they rise and expand and ennoble when the stigma 
is removed and the repressive laws are abolished. Always 
complying with the fundamental conditions of prosperous 
existence, that is, being always as a people chaste, temper- 
ate, industrious, and frugal, they have only needed a fair 
chance to develop more shining qualities. Americans need 
not recur to history to learn this. We need only to walk 
down Broadway as far as Castle Garden (where all the his- 
tories of all the nations come to a focus and show their net 
results), and compare Israelites fresh from the countries 
where they have been oppressed and despised for many 
centuries with Israelites who have lived in the United 
States for one or two generations. America can boast no 
better citizens, nor more refined circles, than the good 
Jewish" families of New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Phila- 
delphia. 

Not that the repression of ages can be overcome in a few 

" I got a different impression of another branch of the Rothschild family 
from travelling awhile with some of them in Switzerland, and having con- 
siderable conversation with the ladies. They were accomplished, elegant, 
and unpretending, with no outward mark of station but attendant servants ; 
and I was not a little surprised and instructed to find that the courtly 
mother was at once so zealous a daughter of Israel as to change her plans 
of journeying in order to keep some of the great days of the svnagogue, 
and at the same time so much of a liberal as to delight greatly in the 
writings of Theodore Parker." Rev. Samuel Osgood, in New York Evening 



308 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

years. We must expect that many Jews will long continue 
to exhibit unpleasing traits peculiar to themselves; and in 
some instances we shall observe that those traits, subdued 
in a parent, will reappear in his children. We have a highly 
interesting example in the author of Lothair. The elder 
Disraeli, though descended from a line of moneyed men, 
was curiously devoid of the commercial spirit, caring for 
nothing but his books and his collections of literary curios- 
ities, a guileless, unaspiring student. His gifted son 
revels in the ex'ternal. After fifty years of familiarity with 
the sumptuous life of very rich people, he writes of jewels 
in the manner of a dealer, and of nobles in the spirit of a 
footman. 

One of the happy effects of light and liberty upon a reli- 
gious body is to divide it. It is only people who do not 
think at all that value themselves upon thinking alike. 
Black night is uniform : daylight shows a thousand hues. 
Ignorance is a unit : knowledge is manifold. As long as 
the Jews were persecuted, they clung to ancient usage and 
doctrine with thoughtless tenacity ; their whole strength 
being employed in the mere clutch. But when the repres- 
sive and restrictive laws were relaxed, the mind of the Jews 
resumed its office ; divisions arose among them ; and the 
world began to hear of the Orthodox and the Reformed. 
Women, for example, are profoundly honored by the men 
of Israel, as they are by all the chaste races (and by no 
others) ; yet they retained in their morning service that 
insulting thanksgiving : " Blessed art thou, Lord our 
God, King of the Universe, who hast not made me a 
heathen ; who hast not made me a slave ; who hast not 
made me a WOMAN ! " While the men were uttering these 
offensive words, the women were required to accept their 
hard destiny by thanking God for having " made them ac- 
cording to his will," and imploring him to deliver them from 
" impudent faces," " a bad man," " an evil eye," " an op- 
pressive lawsuit," " an implacable opponent," and other 
evils. All this had become unsuitable, but it was retained. 
Then, in ancient times when almanacs were not, the festi- 
vals (all regulated by the moon) were required to be kept 
for two days, instead of one, lest the time of the new moon 
should not have been exactly ascertained. This inconven- 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 309 

lent custom was maintained in rigor, although the moment 
of the birth of the new moon was known to every family. 
In Palestine the eating of shell-fish and pork was forbidden, 
because in that country those articles were thought to 
induce leprosy ; and so in New York and London not a Jew 
would eat an oyster or a sausage. For similar reasons, 
minute directions were given by the ancient lawgivers re- 
specting the mode of killing animals, all of which were, 
doubtless, necessary or humane at the time ; and down to 
a recent period every Jewish community had its butcher, 
and 110 man would kill a chicken except in the authorized 
way. The service of four hours on the Sabbath was much 
too long ; but on high days the pious Israelites were engaged 
in public worship for eight hours without a pause. Verita- 
ble rams' horns were blown in the temple ; and every Jew 
who built a house left some visible part of it unfinished, to 
denote that the Temple was still in ruins. All life was 
overlaid with minute observances, and religion was to many 
families almost as much a burden as a solace. 

In one of the stories published in "Friday Evening," 
there is a scene which illustrates the ruthless tyranny of 
ancient custom when it has acquired the sanction of re- 
ligion. A poor family of Jews had just seated themselves 
at the table to enjoy the Sabbath dinner, for which the 
father, in the midst of cruel misfortunes, had ventured to 
provide a fine, fat goose. The eagerly expected moment . 
arrives ; the children gaze breathless as the majestic bird 
is placed npon the table; and the happy father, with 
beaming countenance, begins to use the carving-knife. 

" The goose was at length completely carved, and still 
rested in delicious morsels on the plate before him, when, 
suddenly, little Schimmele cried out : ' Look, look, there is 
a nail driven in the goose ! ' 

" ' Where ] where 1 ' demanded at the same time both 
father and mother. The child pointed to the place, and 
there, indeed, the nail was revealed. 

" The knife dropped quickly from our Anschel's hand, 
who stood transfixed, his face paler than the cloth before 
him on the table. Esther at once removed the bird, and 
ordered Schimmele to hasten to the Rabbi's house, and in- 
quire of him if it were unclean or not. The boy seized the 



310 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

dish, covered it with a napkin, and staggered away under 
his tempting load as fast as legs could bear him. 

"Meanwhile, gloomy and melancholy silence reigned 
throughout the house. The children gazed on, with an 
expression of disappointment and dismay. Anschel lowered 
his eyes, whilst Esther sat immovably in her seat without 
uttering a word. 

"A few minutes afterwards Schimmele returned, but 
his countenance foreboded no good; tears were in his 



Well 1 ' demanded Esther, as he stood irresolutely on 
the threshold. 

" ' The goose the goose is unclean,' replied the boy, 
after a desperate effort, sobbing." 

It was all over with the Sabbath banquet ! No one 
thought of eating a morsel of the goose. 

I have before me a curious narrative of a young Jewish 
lady in Southern Russia, venturing to carry a parasol in 
the streets on the Sabbath. Her mother, reproached by 
the stricter Israelites for allowing her daughter thus to 
transgress traditional law, forbade the young lady ever 
again on the sacred day to interpose a human invention 
between her fair countenance and the sun's rays. The 
daughter, offended, refused to go out at all on the Sabbath, 
and after four months the mother relented, saying : "I am 
not so strict as iny mother is, and you will not be so strict 
as I am. You may, therefore, just as well begin now to 
practise your laxer principles ; it is of no use trying to 
make you what I am myself." The grandmother, in fact, 
was a pilgrim in the Holy Land, whither she had gone to 
end her days ; the mother was merely a good orthodox 
Jewess ; the daughter was willing to carry a parasol on 
Saturday ! 

The recent movement among our Israelitish brethren to- 
ward Reform is merely the revolt of emancipated intelli- 
gence against the rites, usages, and doctrines which had 
become unsuitable and obstructive. It is a reassertion of 
the supreme authority of human reason. The reformers, 
while clinging with the tenacity of their race to the two 
essentials, God and the Sabbath, demand and concede 
in all minor matters perfect liberty ! Nor do they adhere 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 311 

to the weekly day of rest so much because it is commanded, 
as because it is best. The most advanced statement of the 
reformed ideas is a little work published a few weeks ago, 
" What is Judaism ? " by Rev. Rafael D. C. Lewin of New 
York. Mr. Lewin, in discoursing upon the laws and rites 
ordained by Moses, asserts that they are obligatory only so 
long as they answer the end intended. " As soon," he re- 
marks, " as reason has decided that the time for their ob- 
servance has passed, that they no longer effect their purpose, 
that according to the age in which we live the religious 
Idea, if requiring an outer covering at all, needs one of 
different materials, then the observance of them has forever 
passed, and a continuance of them is but a violation of 
those grand eternal principles which constitute pure Juda- 
ism." 

Sacrifices, according to this bold writer, were permitted 
only in condescension to the barbarism of primitive tribes, 
and he ventures upon the tremendous audacity of saying, 
that even the venerated rite of circumcision must give way 
before advancing intelligence ! He evidently regards it as 
the merest relic of barbarism, and speaks of the coming 
abrogation of all such usages as " a glorious event." Again 
and again he holds language like this : " Judaism is re- 
ligion, and religion is life, spirit \ it is neither letter nor 
law. The Bible is the word of God only when it is con- 
strued from its spiritual signification. There is nothing 
supernatural about the Bible. It is not a revelation of 
God's will imparted to any certain man under mysterious 
circumstances, nor is it a direct communication from God 
to man. It is a book, and only a book ; a book written by 
mortal hands, a book containing ideas, sentiments, and 
doctrines emanating from the brain of man." But, he 
adds, although the Bible is man's work, wherever in it the 
true spirit of religion is expressed, there, but only there, is 
it "the true inspired word of God." 

Few of our Israelitish brethren are yet prepared to receive 
such advanced heresy as this. Perhaps one third of all the 
Jews in the United States are still orthodox ; another third 
neglect religion except on the greatest days of the religious 
year, and are indifferent on the disputed questions ; another 
third are in various stages of Reform, a few even going be- 



312 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

yond Mr. Lewin. A very small number, both in Germany 
and America, are prepared, for reasons of convenience, to 
adopt the first day of the week instead of their Sabbath. 
They say truly that the essential thing is to rescue a day 
from business for the higher interests of man ; and, that 
great boon being secured, the only other point of importance 
is, that we should all have the same day. This idea, how- 
ever, is held in aversion by a vast majority of the Jewish 
people, and it will be many years in making its way to 
general acceptance. Meanwhile they employ our Sunday 
in holding their religious schools and in transacting the 
business of synagogue and charity. 

The difference of opinion between the Orthodox and the 
Reformed does not create visible division among them, be- 
cause the Jews are congregationalists. Each synagogue is 
independent in all respects. There is no ecclesiastical body 
nor Chief Rabbi in the United States, to interfere in the 
concerns, to criticise the ritual, or censure the belief of any 
congregation. If a congregation is in need of a minister, a 
preacher, a reader, a sexton, it simply advertises for one, 
stating the salary to be given, and usually whether the 
congregation is Orthodox or Reformed. In almost any of 
our Jewish papers we can find a long string of advertise- 
ments like the following : 

WANTED. The Cong. Anshe Chesed, of this city, desire to engage a 
minister for the term of five years from August next, at the yearly 
salary of three thousand dollars, tie is expected to deliver sermons in 
German, and to superintend the congregational school. 
Applications and testimonials to be handed in before the 8th of April next. 

THE Congregation Anshe Chesed, of Vicksburg, Miss., desire to engage a 
gentleman to take charge of their new temple. It is requisite that 
he be able to lecture in the English as well as in the German language, 
and perform the functions of Chazan, leader and instructor of a choir. 
A salary of $ 3,000 per annum will be paid. 

Competent men are invited to correspond with the undersigned on the 
subject, and enclose references and testimonials. 

TO CONGREGATIONS. A gentleman, who has for a number of years 
filled the position of Chazan, Baal Korah, and teacher of Hebrew and 
German in a rather large congregation, but on account of religious princi- 
ples has given up his situation, is anxious to meet with a similar position 
in an Orthodox congregation, in either city or country. He is a well- 
qualified Shochet and practical Mohel,* and, though not a professional 
preacher, able to lecture in both German and English languages. 
The best of references can be given. 

* Circiimciser. 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 313 

WANTED. A CHAZAN and SHOCHET (Orthodox) by Congregation 
K. Kenesech Israel, of Richmond, Va., within sixty days from date. 
Salary, $ 1,000. Applicants must have the best of recommendations, and 
must'be able to deliver a discourse. No travelling expenses allowed. 

117 ANTED. A SHOCHET and CHAZAN (Orthodox) by the Con- 
VV gregation Beth Ee, of Buffalo, N. Y. Election to take place Sunday 
in Chalamood Pesach ( April). Applicants must have the best of recom- 
mendations. No travelling expenses allowed. 

In every congregation there is, of course, a party inclined 
to reform, and a party of sticklers for " the good old ways 
of our fathers." The occasional election of a minister fur- 
nishes an opportunity for measuring the strength of the 
two ; and each member has always the resource of joining 
another congregation more in accord with his own disposi- 
tion. Nor can there be very bitter contentions in a reli- 
gious body that never thinks of winning proselytes, and has 
only a faint and vague belief in retribution beyond the 
grave. Among the thirty-two congregations in New York, 
the two most conspicuous represent the extremes of Ortho- 
doxy and Reform, but there appears to be good-will between 
them, and they unite in the support of charitable institu- 
tions. 

The most costly and picturesque edifice in the Fifth 
Avenue, New York, if we except the unfinished Roman 
Catholic cathedral, is the new Temple Immanuel, belonging 
to a reformed congregation. The interior, which is bright 
with gilding and many-hued fresco, is arranged so much 
like one of our churches that no one would suspect its 
Oriental character. Men and women sit together; the 
men are uncovered and wear no scarf ; there is an organ ; 
the Saturday morning service lasts but two hours ; some 
of the prayers are read in English, others in German, others 
in Hebrew ; the scroll of the Law is solemnly taken from 
the ark, laid upon the desk and a portion read, but it is 
not elevated ; and there is always a sermon, one week by 
the minister, Dr. Adler, in German, and the next, by the 
English preacher, Dr. Gutheim, in English. The service, 
in general, is extremely like that of the Episcopal church 
when the prayers are intoned and the psalms and responses 
are chanted. A stranger coming in by chance, and seeing 
the reader, the minister, and the English preacher dressed 
in ample gowns of black silk and wearing university caps, 
14 



314 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

might suppose he had strayed into an Episcopal church 
where three professors from Oxford were conducting the 
service in a style recently introduced in England, but not 
yet known in America. 

The Sunday school of this spacious and magnificent 
temple exhibits two novelties worthy of consideration : 
1. Every class has its own room ; 2. The teachers are paid 
at the rate of five dollars for each Sunday. Instead, there- 
fore, of the Sunday school presenting a scene of chaos with 
Babel accompaniment, it is as quiet, efficient, and orderly 
as a well-arranged week-day school. At ten, the pupils 
assemble in a large room in the basement of the temple. 
The stroke of a bell calls them to order ; one of the pupils 
perhaps a little girl is called to the platform, and the 
school rises and remains .standing, while she says a very 
short prayer ; all responding with a loud AMEN ! When 
the school is seated again, another child is invited to the 
piano, and, as she plays a lively march, the classes, each in 
its turn, march to their rooms, where they remain two 
hours under instruction ; at noon they march back to the 
music of the piano, into the large apartment, where another 
little prayer is said by one of the children, a hymn is sung, 
and the school is dismissed. 

To an outside barbarian it is sorrowful to see such bright 
young intelligences fed upon lists of ancient kings, Hebrew 
roots, and innutritions catechism ; but we have to steel 
ourselves against emotions of that kind whenever we look 
upon such a gathering. The world is full of minds whose 
growth was early arrested by mere lack of nutrition. 

In all New York there is no ecclesiastical establishment 
more vigorously alive than this Temple Immanuel. Free 
from debt, and even possessing a handsome surplus in the 
form of unsold pews, it expends annually about forty thou- 
sand dollars in salaries, repairs, and insurance, and gives 
away an average of thirty thousand dollars in charity. On 
one occasion recently it raised sixteen thousand dollars for 
a hospital, to which patients of all religions or of none are 
equally welcome. In this congregation, as in all others, 
there are societies for ministering to the sick, burying the 
dead, assisting the poor, and aiding oppressed Israelites in 
other lands. The ancient festivals are not neglected ; but 



OUR ISRAELITISH BRETHREN. 315 

t 

if you converse much with the fathers and mothers, you 
will suspect that the day of the year which really interests 
and kindles the people most is the one on which, in the 
presence of the greatest congregation^ of the year, the 
children are confirmed. 

The Jews are happy in the United States. There are 
now two hundred congregations of them here, half of whom 
have arrived within the last twelve years. They are good 
citizens, firmly attached to those liberal principles to which 
they owe their deliverance from degrading and oppressive 
laws, and are rising in the esteem of the people among 
whom they dwell. Their attachment to the system of 
universal education is hereditary ; it dates back three 
thousand years; and though their religious feelings are 
wounded by the opening exercises of many public schools, 
they would not for that reason destroy them. They prefer 
rather to rally warmly to their support, trusting to the 
magnanimity and growing good sense of their fellow-citizens 
to spare their children, at length, the pain of taking part 
in exercises which they regard as idolatrous. For this they 
are willing to wait. They hope, also, to see the day when 
the thanksgiving proclamations of governors and presidents 
will be so worded that they, too, can comply with them ; 
though of late they have viewed with needless alarm the 
attempts, on the part of a few well-intentioned persons, to 
break the silence of the Constitution respecting religion. 

Our Israelitish brethren object, and with reason, to a 
thoughtless habit of some reporters in speaking of a person 
arrested for an infamous crime as "a Jew." They say that, 
before the law, Jews are citizens merely ; the word Jeio 
being now descriptive, not of their nationality, but of their 
religion. Why not, they ask, report that Patrick O'Mul- 
ligan, a Roman Catholic, was arrested for drunkenness, or 
John Smith, a Presbyterian, was tried for forgery 1 

But nothing irritates this good-tempered people so much 
as the societies maintained for the purpose of converting 
them to the faith which for so many centuries made their 
lives shameful and bitter. Amiable as they are, they really 
resent this effort with some warmth. They point with 
derision to the fact that the society in London expends 
fifty thousand pounds sterling per annum in converting a 



316 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

dozen or two poverty-stricken wretches, and sending abroad, 
on highly interesting tours, a few plausible renegades. The 
very organ of this society confesses that 'poor Jews in Lon- 
don are morally superior to poor Christians. "As to their 
moral qualities," says the editor of Jewish Intelligence, in 
the number for November, 1862, " the evidence seems to 
show that the lower class of Jews are decidedly superior to 
the same class among ourselves. They are far less given 
to drinking ; their religious customs enforce a certain 
amount of cleanliness, both personal and in their dwellings ; 
and two families are never found inhabiting the same 
apartment ! " We can hardly be surprised at the Jews for 
regarding the maintenance of such societies as a standing 
menace and insult, Fifty thousand pounds a year, drawn 
from the limited benevolence fund of Christendom, is too 
much to waste upon such missionaries as write the reports 
in the magazine of the London Society for converting the 
Jews. 

Our Israelitish brethren in the United States have their 
own battle to fight. It is substantially the same as ours. 
They, too, have to deal with overwhelming masses of igno- 
rance and poverty, just able to get across the ocean, and 
arriving helpless at Castle Garden. They, too, have to 
save morality, decency, civilization, while the old bondage 
of doctrine and habit is gradually loosened. In this strug- 
gle Jews and Christians should be allies ; and allies are 
equals. 



THE CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON 
BONAPARTE.* 



MR. BENJAMIN DISRAELI won many friends, and 
softened the animosity of some enemies, by a sen- 
tence in the Preface to his edition of his father's writings : 
" My father was wont to say, that the best monument to an 
author was a good edition of his works; it is my purpose 
that he should possess this memorial." The pious inten- 
tion was worthily executed, and the edition will remain, as 
long as men care for curious odds and ends of knowledge, 
a monument both to father and son. 

The Bonapartes owed such a tribute to the memory of 
the head of their family ; for, however the account may 
finally stand between Napoleon Bonaparte and mankind, no 
one can deny that to him his relations owe the whole of 
their importance in the world. He was ever mindful of 
what is due to kindred ; he was fatally generous to his 
family ; and it was not for them to regard his fame merely 
as part of their inheritance, to be expended or husbanded 
according to their convenience or caprice. Moreover, a 
good and complete edition of the writings of Napoleon 
Bonaparte who was at least the consummate specimen 
of his kind of man, and as such worthy of attentive study 
would have been a boon so precious and interesting, that 
it would have atoned for much which his present repre- 
sentatives have done amiss. The work would have been 
dearly purchased, but it would have remained a solid addi- 
tion to our means of knowing one another. 

In the issue of costly works there is usually, in these 
times, a publisher and an editor ; and few literary workmen 

* Correspondance de Napoldon ler } publi^e par Ordre de 1'Empereur 
Napoldon III. Paris. 1858-1869. 



318 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

have been so blessed in their career as not to know what it 
is to have, in the back office, veiled from the general view, 
a timid or an embarrassed publisher, who shrinks from lib- 
eral expenditure and trembles when one subscriber writes a 
fault-finding letter. The 'editor of this collection is Prince 
Jerome, who was aided by a corps of assistants. These 
gentlemen appear to have done their work with fidelity, 
giving the text with exactness, and avoiding all elucidation 
except such as they alone possessed the means of affording. 
The copy before us, which was sent for in the ordinary way, 
contains a large number of minute corrections with the pen, 
and there are many other indications, too trifling for men- 
tion, tending to show that the editors have done their duty 
as well as they were permitted to do it. 

But they had a publisher, that "half-scared literary 
man," who is called Napoleon III. He appears to have 
bothered the zealous but irresponsible editors extremely. 
They had no throne to lose, no necks in danger of the 
guillotine. The issue of the letters, which was begun in 
1858, came to an abrupt conclusion in 1869, with the pub- 
lication of volume twenty-eighth, which is only half as thick 
as the others. The twenty-seventh volume fell short a 
hundred and twenty pages, but the twenty-eighth is so thin 
as to destroy the uniformity of the set, and gives a rather 
ridiculous dwindling appearance to it, not without signifi- 
cance to the minds of the Irreconcilables. The last utter- 
ance of Napoleon given in this collection is the famous 
Protest, dated August 4, 1815, written on board the Bel- 
lerophon, against his detention as a captive by the British 
government. But we learn from a "Report to the Em- 
peror," prefixed to volume twentieth, that as late as 1867 
Prince Jerome expected and intended to include the letters 
and documents dictated at St. Helena. He had calculated 
that the productions of the Emperor in exile "would form 
only three or four volumes," which would be given to the 
world by the end of the year 1869. But they did not 
appear. After a pause of some months, a New Series is 
announced, to consist only of the letters written in exile, 
and these volumes are now issuing.* We shall not wait for 
them, however ; for, besides the fact that we do not need 
more material for our purpose, there is no knowing what 
* June, 1870. 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 319 

other change of plan may occur in the councils of a family 
now more than " half-scared." 

The publisher has unmercifully scrimped the editors in 
point of expenditure ; for not only is the paper cheap and 
fluffy, but the publication has been continually retarded by 
want of money. " If," explains Prince Jerome, " our task 
has not proceeded more rapidly, it is because we believed 
it our duty to institute researches in the archives of Ger- 
many, England, Spain, Italy, Portugal. These researches, 
little*as they have cost, have so lessened the fund at our 
disposal, that we have found it out of our power to bear 
the expense of printing a greater number of volumes with- 
out going beyond our allowance. .... The time afforded 
us by the slenderness of our resources we have turned to 
account in examining documents beyond the period reached 
in the volumes given to the printer, thus diminishing our 
general expenditures." One toilet the less in a week for 
Eugenie would have relieved the editor's embarrassment. 

In all these volumes, though they average more than six 
hundred pages each, and contain twenty-two thousand and 
sixty-seven letters and documents, there is revealed no fact 
so remarkable as the one intimated in the passage just 
quoted, namely, that the letters of Napoleon Bonaparte, 
published by his family half a century after his death, in 
twenty-eight volumes, sold at seven francs a volume, did 
not pay expenses ! Little as our grandfathers, who saw him 
at the summit of his power, the terror of the world and 
the delirium of France, may have believed in the duration 
of his throne, few among them would have hazarded the 
prediction that the mere curiosity of the world with regard 
to him would have so nearly died out in fifty years. These 
volumes, whatever their defects and omissions may be, do 
really admit the reader behind the scenes of the most start- 
ling, rapid, and tremendous melodrama ever played with 
real fire and real cannon, real kings and real emperors' 
daughters ; and yet they do not sell, and we find the cus- 
todians of some of our most important libraries hesitating 
whether it is worth while to add them to their store. This 
is the more strange from the evident intention of the per- 
sons interested to publish the work on strict business prin- 
ciples. It is cheaply edited ; it is sold at a fair booksellers' 



320 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

price ; and the public are twice notified in each volume that 
the rights of translation and of republication are reserved, 
or that every one infringing will be prosecuted. Carlyle 
has lived to see his prediction of forty years ago fulfilled in 
good part : " The time may come when Napoleon himself 
will be better known for his laws than for his battles, and 
the victory of Waterloo prove less momentous than the 
opening of the first Mechanics' Institute." This was a bold 
remark to utter in 1829, under the very nose of Wellington. 
How commonplace it seems in 1870 ! The prophecy would 
have been already fulfilled to the letter, if it had read 
thus : " The time may come when Napoleon himself will be 
more esteemed for his laws than for his battles, and the 
victory of Waterloo prove less momentous than the found- 
ing of the first Workingmen's Protective Union." 

There is, very naturally, a distrust of this publication in 
France. Frenchmen know very well who the publisher in 
the back office is ; what he is ; what his motive was in issu- 
ing the work ; and whether he would be likely to give the 
world a sight of a document calculated to weaken the spell 
of Napoleon's name in France. People of our race, we 
think, need not share this distrust : for the family con- 
cerned in publishing the correspondence of Napoleon, much 
as they might wish and intend to make his fame subservi- 
ent to their interests, would not know how to present him 
in the most favorajble light to the outside world. They 
would be as likely to suppress passages honorable to him as 
passages dishonorable. They would be likely to glory in 
some letters that would offend an American, English, or 
German reader. When a whole family have been eating 
garlic, they may gather after dinner about the head of the 
house, and the children may climb into his lap, and hug 
him close around the neck, and none of them will be able 
to discover anything wrong in his breath. To us these 
volumes exhibit the man, Napoleon Bonaparte. We may 
believe Prince Jerome when he says : " Let your Majesty 
be pleased to remark to what a proof we submit the mem- 
ory of Napoleon I. We place in the clearest light all* the 
acts of his government ; -we reveal the secret of his inmost 

thoughts We have faith in the public reason.'* 

Doubtless the editor felt himself justified in commending 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 321 

the work to "the judgment of enlightened men" as a 
" loyal publication." 

Certainly there is enough of detail and minutise to satisfy 
the most ravenous collector. Letter No. 8089, addressed 
to Berthier, is to this effect : "My cousin, the words of my 
writing which you cannot make out are bataitton cK elite 
suisse" No. 20093, to the Empress Marie Louise, is : 
"Madame and dear Friend, I have received the letter in 
which you say that you received the Archchancellor in bed. 
It is my desire that, in no circumstances and under no pre- 
text, you receive any one in bed, whosoever he may be. It 
is not permitted to a woman under thirty." No. 21591, 
written at Elba, to an officer of the household : " I think it 
will be necessary for all the books asked for Leghorn to be 
rebound. Order that, if possible, an N shall be put upon 
each." There are hundreds of notes as brief and trivial as 
these, as well as a vast number of the answers scrawled upon 
the notes of ministers submitting minor questions of admin- 
istration to the master. Napoleon Bonaparte is within the 
covers of these volumes, and he can be extracted from them 
by those who will take the trouble. 

Upon turning over the first volume, which begins with 
the siege of Toulon and includes the conquest of Italy, - 
we are struck at once with the maturity of mind and char- 
acter exhibited by the artillery officer of twenty-four. He 
seems to have been completely formed before he had held 
a command. He never equalled, as Emperor, the exploits 
of the young general. We see in his earliest letters every 
trait that distinguished him afterwards, and we see him 
also employing the methods and devices which marked his 
policy when he gave laws to a continent. These first let- 
ters give the impression that at twenty-four he could have 
fought Austerlitz as well as he did at thirty-five, and Wa- 
terloo better than at forty-six. The young man is betrayed, 
here and there, by a tendency to moralize, and a habit of 
uttering neat generalities, such as : " It is artillery that 
takes places, -- infantry can only help"; or, " Three 
fourths of men. occupy themselves with necessary things 
only when they feel the need of tnem" ; or, " In artillery, 
the most difficult operation is the formation of a siege- 
train." But, generally speaking, the mature Napoleon is 
14* u 



322 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

exhibited, and the whole of his career is foreshadowed in 
the few letters relating to his capture of Toulon in 1793. 
We see in them, what we see in all his military achieve- 
ments, first, that the sure way of doing the thing was 
revealed to him at a glance ; that that sure way was so 
simple that, when pointed out, every man not an absolute 
fool saw it as plainly as he did, and wondered why no one 
had thought of it before ; that then he executed his plan 
with the precision of mathematics ; and, finally, that he 
knew how to relate what he had done so as to intoxicate 
Frenchmen, and concentrate their admiration on himself. 
He had no sooner surveyed the situation at Toulon, than 
he perceived a point from which a few pieces of cannon 
could force the English fleet from the roads. But there 
were no cannon at command. Then he writes clear, mas- 
terly letters to the government, begging cannon. After 
two months of letter-writing and intense effort in camp, the 
cannon are placed in position, and all falls out exactly as 
the young officer had predicted. 

From that time, by the mere natural ascendency of ge- 
nius over ordinary mortals, Napoleon Bonaparte was the 
ruling mind of the French Republic. Sitting quietly at 
his desk in a government office in Paris, he evidently pro- 
vided the Committee of Public Safety with whatever they 
had of continental policy and administrative skill. He 
suggested their plans ; he wrote their important letters ; 
he gave away some of their good places. Already he had 
acquired the habit of surveying the whole scene of Euro- 
pean politics, and of seeking vulnerable points in the ene- 
mies' line at a great distance from the actual seat of war. 
Just as the Emperor fought England in Spain and Russia, 
so now the officer of artillery proposed to make a diversion 
in favor of beleaguered France by going to Constantinople 
and rousing Turkey to arms against allied Russia and Aus- 
tria. Before he had suppressed the riots in Paris in 1795, 
before he had held an independent command of any kind, 
before his name was generally known in France, he could 
write to his brother Joseph : " I am attached at this mo- 
ment to the Topographical Bureau of the Committee of 

Public Safety If I ask it, I shall be despatched to 

Turkey as General of Artillery, sent by the government to 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 323 

organize the artillery of the Grand Seigneur, with a hand- 
some allowance and a very flattering title of envoy. I shall 
name you consul, and Villeneuve engineer, to go with me." 
And in the same note, he tells his brother that he is 
charged by the committee with the direction of the armies 
and the formation of plans of campaign. Who governs a 
country in time of war, if not he who suggests its foreign 
policy and devises its plans of campaign 1 

These letters, written before his fame existed, show him 
to us in a light wholly amiable and admirable. He is in 
love with Josephine, and tells Joseph that it is not impossi- 
ble " the folly may seize iiim to marry," and asks his broth- 
er's advice. The following passage, written to Joseph in 
September, 1795, a month before the " whiff of grapeshot " 
from General Bonaparte's field guns terminated the Revolu- 
tion, is a pleasing specimen of his family epfstles of the 
time. He is looking out for a good post for Joseph : " I 
shall remain in Paris .specially for your affair. You ought 
not, whatever happens, to fear for me. I have for friends 
all the people of worth, of whatever party or opinion they 
may be. Mariette " (conservative member of the Com- 
mittee of Safety) " is extremely zealous for me ; you know 
his opinion. Doulcet " (member of the convention of mod- 
erate politics) "I am closely allied with. You know my 

other friends of opposite views I am content with 

(brother) Louis. He fulfils my hope, and the expectation 
I had formed of him. He is a good fellow ; but, at the 
same time, one after my own heart ; warmth, intelligence, 
health, talent, straightforwardness, good-nature, all are 
united in him. You know, my dear brother, that I live 
only by the pleasure I give my relations. If my hopes are 
seconded by that good fortune which never abandons me in 
my enterprises, I shall be able to make you happy, and fulfil 

your desires To-morrow I shall have three horses, 

which will permit me to ride a little in a cab, and enable 
me to attend to all my affairs. Adieu, my dear fellow; 
amuse yourself ; all goes well ; be gay.^ Think of my affair, 
for I long to have a house of my own." 

All his letters to Joseph at this happy, hopeful time are 
in the same tone. He appears in them the virtuous young 
man, distinguished in his profession, honestly in love, and 



324 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

looking forward to the possession of a home, devoted to his 
brothers and sisters, and striving to benefit them, writing 
to Joseph his oldest brother every day, the life, stay, and 
boast of his family. He was a good Republican, too, 
although of the more conservative wing. "The govern- 
ment," he writes to Joseph, September 12, 1795, "is to be 
organized at once ; a tranquil day dawns upon the destinies 
of France. There is a primary assembly ivhich has asked for 
a Icing. That has provoked laughter" Doubtless he joined 
in the laughter ; for, so far as we can judge from his letters, 
he heartily accepted the Revolution, and valued himself 
upon his political orthodoxy. " Passions are inflamed," he 
wrote a few days after ; " the moment appears critical ; but 
the genius of liberty never abandons its defenders. All our 
armies triumph." 

When neat he wrote to the head of the family, it was to 
announce to him the event which put him directly upon 
the road to his great fortune, the dispersion of the mob 
at the Tuileries, October 6, 1795. "At length," he began, 
" all is finished ; my fir^ thought is to give you the news." 
The brief note ends : " We have disarmed the sections, and 
all is calm. As usual, I have not a scratch." Five months 
after, we find him on the same day announcing his marriage 
to the Directory, and setting off to take command of the 
French army in the native land of his ancestors, Italy. 

Persons who remain during long periods of time the idols 
of a multitude usually possess, along with other gifts, a 
keen eye for effect, a histrionic talent which enables them, 
in a pleasing and striking manner, to exhibit and exaggerate 
their own good qualities. This wonderful being was not a 
hypocrite : nor, at this part of his career, was he, in any 
vulgar sense, an actor ; but he possessed naturally an acute 
sense of the decorous and the becoming ; and now, on his 
way to Italy, he gave a proof of it. The earliest letter of 
his which we have seen in print is one written to his 
mother, when he was a boy of sixteen ; and it is signed, 
" Napoleone di Buonaparte." Just before leaving Paris for 
Italy he signed his marriage contract with Josephine, in the 
presence of a notary, thus : " Napolione Buonaparte " ; and 
his previous letters in this collection are all signed in the 
Italian form, "Buonaparte." But now, being at Toulon 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE 325 

within a few miles of the beautiful land of his fathers, 
which he was about to overrun and pillage, he appears to 
have awakened to the impropriety of spoiling Italy while 
bearing an Italian name. At Toulon, for the first time in 
his public career, he spells his name " Bonaparte " ; a form 
from which he never after departed. It is significant, that 
the very page which shows this new spelling contains the 
proclamation offering fair Italy to the hunger and rapacity 
of French troops : " Soldiers : You are naked, ill-fed. The 
government owes you much, it can give you nothing. The 
patience, the courage you have shown in the midst of these 
rocks are admirable ; but they procure you no glory : no 
lustre from them is reflected upon you. I desire to lead 
you into the most fertile plains of the world. Wealthy 
provinces, great cities, will be in your power. You will find 
in them honor, glory, riches. Soldiers of Italy, will you be 
wanting in courage or in constancy 1 " Certainly we must 
approve the taste of a man of Italian lineage in Frenchify- 
ing his name a little before issuing such a proclamation. 

With regard to those Italian campaigns, to which the 
first three volumes of this work are chiefly devoted, the 
correspondence of the commanding general confirms what 
military men have often remarked, that they were Napo- 
leon's greatest. The dash, the brilliancy, the rapidity of 
his operations are less apparent when the mind is detained 
by fifteen hundred pages of orders, letters, and documents ; 
but we see more clearly than ever what a master of his art 
he was. In fifteen days after setting foot upon Italian soil 
he had given the wofld assurance of a general. There was 
then in Europe no general but himself, and nothing re- 
mained but for him to continue his method until the con- 
tinent was his own. A great artist is not apt to talk much 
about the processes by which he produces his great effects, 
and, accordingly, there are not many passages in these let- 
ters upon the art of winning victories. The reader can 
see Napoleon winning them ; but it is only at long intervals 
that we meet a sentence that betrays the master's method. 
One such as this : " The enemy, in the Austrian manner, 
will make three attacks ; by the Levante, by Novi, and by 
Montonotte : refuse two of those attacks, and direct all 
your forces upon the third." This is another : " In military 



326 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

operations, hours decide success and campaigns." This is 
another : " One bad general is better than two good ones. 
War, like government, is an affair of tact." And this 
another: "If the English attack you, and you experience 
vicissitudes, always bear in mind these three things : reunion 
of forces, activity, and firm resolution to perish with 
glory. These are the three great principles of the military 
art which have rendered fortune favorable to me in all my 
operations. Death is nothing ; but to live vanquished and 
without glory is to die every day." In the spirit of this 
last passage his Italian campaigns were conducted ; espe- 
cially when, after a long series of triumphs, his lines were 
broken and his hold upon Italy endangered. The celerity 
with which his scattered forces were reunited and hurled 
upon the enemy, and the personal daring of the young 
general, restored his fortunes before the news of his disaster 
had crossed the Alps. For the benefit of young soldiers, 
however, who may think that victories can be won by fol- 
lowing maxims, we must add one of Napoleon's own com- 
ments upon the general opposed to him in Italy : " He has 
the audacity of fury, not that of genius." 

It was in Italy that General* Bonaparte exhibited his tal- 
ents and revealed his moral defects. We have seen that he 
roused his ragged and hungry soldiers by appealing to their 
vanity, appetite, and avarice. They took him at his word. 
No sooner had he given them victory in the wealthy prov- 
inces of Italy, and possession of some of its rich towns, than 
they proceeded to do precisely what he had invited them to 
do. " The soldier without oread," he* writes, a few days 
after entering Italy, " yields to such excesses of fury as 

make me blush to be a man I am going to make 

some terrible examples. I shall restore or,der, or I shall 

cease to command these brigands To-morrow we shoot 

some soldiers and a corporal who stole vases from a church." 
When next he addressed his soldiers, he began by recount- 
ing to them, that in fifteen days they had won six victories, 
taken twenty-one flags and fifty-five cannons, conquered the 
best part of Piedmont, captured fifteen thousand prisoners, 
and killed or wounded ten thousand men ; but he ended by 
saying : " I shall not permit brigands to soil our laurels. 
.... Pillagers shall be shot without mercy ; several have 



COREESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 327 

been already." And he assured the people of Italy, in the 
same proclamation, that the French army had come only to 
break their chains ; that the French were friends of every 
people ; and that their property, t'heir religion, and their 
usages should be respected. " We make war as generous 
enemies ; hostile only to the tyrants who abase you." 

All of which signified that General Bonaparte meant to 
have an army, instead of a horde of robbers, and that he 
reserved to himself the right to plunder. 

Probably no revelation of these volumes will more sur- 
prise the general reader than the prodigious extent of his 
spoliation of the " property " of his countrymen in Italy ; 
especially that portion of their property which the world 
regards as sacred, and which really was and is most proper 
to tnat beautiful land, pictures, statuary, and other 
treasures of art. That the kingdoms, states, and cities of 
conquered Italy should be laid under contribution and 
compelled to disgorge, each its proportion of millions, was 
to have been expected ; at least, might have been forgiven. 
But the reader of the correspondence feels that in that 
wholesale picture-stealing Bonaparte fell far below the nat- 
ural level of his character. It might have been pardoned 
in a Massena, but it was infinitely beneath Napoleon Bona- 
parte, the man of intellect and breeding, whose ancestors 
had contributed something to what constitutes the sole 
glory of modern Italy, its art and literature. He knew 
better ; for at Milan the young conqueror had written to an 
astronomer of the university : " The sciences which honor 
the human mind, the arts that embellish life and transmit 
great deeds to posterity, ought to be especially honored by 
free governments. All men of genius, all those who have 
obtained an eminent rank in the republic of letters, are 
Frenchmen, in whatever country they may have been born." 
When these brave words were penned he had already sent 
to Paris for a corps of artists to come and select the works 
of art best worth stealing. 

From the mass of letters relating to the systematic plun- 
der of Italy we select a few sentences showing how General 
Bonaparte squeezed .the Pope. We copy from the Armistice 
of June 6, 1796, only premising that the Pope fared no 
worse than his neighbors : " Art. 8. The Pope will deliver 



328 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

to the French Republic one hundred pictures, vases, or 
statues, to be chosen by the commissioners who will be sent 
to Rome ; among which will be comprised, for certain, the 
bronze bust of Junius Brutus and the one in marble of Mar- 
cus Brutus, both from the Capitol j and five hundred man- 
uscripts, at the choice of the commissioners. Art. 9. The 
Pope will pay to the French Republic twenty-one millions 
of francs, .... independent of the contributions which will 
be raised in Bologna, Ferrara, and Faenza." This large sum 
was to be all paid in three months. Nor did the conqueror 
remain content with the hundred works of art demanded 
in the Armistice. We find at the end of volume third of 
the correspondence a catalogue, drawn up in form and 
signed by the French commissioners, of the works of art 
selected by them at Rome, and sent to Paris " in the year 
VI. of the French Republic one and indivisible," which we 
style 1 797. The list comprises about eight hundred objects \ 
among which are six colossal statues and six groups of stat- 
uary. The rest are statues, busts, fragments, bronzes, 
medallions, and vases. The readers of this interesting 
catalogue may be excused for not comprehending what 
such spoliation of Roman churches and galleries had in 
common with delivering Italy from its tyrants. The ty- 
rants were squeezed and left ; it was the works of art from 
which Italy was delivered. 

At a later period of the negotiations we observe that the 
insatiable conqueror demanded more of the precious manu- 
scripts of the Vatican than the number named in the Arti- 
cle. In recounting to the Directory the treasures extracted 
from the Papal dominions he remarks : " The Papal com- 
missioners yielded with a good grace everything except the 
manuscripts, which they were unwilling to give up ; and we 
have had to reduce our demand from two or three thousand 
to five hundred." His letter to the Directory (No. 685, 
Vol. I. p. 431), in which he exults over the plunder of the 
Pope, is more bandit-like than any other in the collection. 
We learn from it that, besides the works of art already 
mentioned, and besides retaining some of the Pope's best 
provinces, he obtained from him in all thirty-four million 
seven hundred thousand francs. He also informs the Di- 
rectory that he would have wrung from him a few millions 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPAETE. 329 

more, if he had not been interfered with by their commis- 
sioners. " I am consoled" he adds, " by the fact that what 
we have got surpasses the terms of your instructions." 

Was there ever such a godsend to an unpopular govern- 
ment as this young general was to the Directory of 1796 1 ? 
Victory alone would have sufficed, but here was a general, 
who, besides sending home the most thrilling bulletins, kept 
consigning to a drained treasury whole wagon-trains of 
wealth. " Twenty-four wagon-loads," he wrote from Bologna 
in July, 1796, " of hemp and silk set but to-day for Nice. 
.... I am getting together at Tortona all the silver plate 
and jewels, which I shall send to Paris by Chambery. I 
hope that convoy alone will be worth five or six millions. 
I shall add as much in money." But what should he do 
with the plunder of Rome'? " The statues can only be 
transported by sea, and it would be imprudent to trust 
them that way. We must box them up, then, and leave 
them at Rome." 

The Pope, we repeat, fared no worse than the other 
princes of Italy. From Milan an amazing booty was sent 
to Paris ; the first instalment being, as the General re- 
marked, " twenty superb pictures, chief of which is the 
celebrated St. Jerome of Correggio, which has been sold, 
they tell me, for two hundred thousand francs." Another 
item again to translate from the General's joyous de- 
spatch was " two millions in jewelry and ingots, the pro- 
ceeds of different contributions." Other letters announce 
to the Directory the coming of rare plants from the public 
gardens of Italy, of a fine collection of serpents from a mu- 
seum, and other natural curiosities. He is so considerate 
as to send them " a hundred of the finest carriage horses 
of Lombardy," to replace "the ordinary horses that draw 
your carriages." But enough of larceny, grand and petit. 
Let us come to the volumes which show how kingdoms were 
stolen, and how poor France was kept reeling drunk while 
her life-blood was drained. 

At St. Helena, in conversation with the companions of 
his exile, Napoleon designated the moment when he first 
felt the stirrings of lawless ambition. " It was not till after 
Lodi," he said, " that I was struck with the possibility of 
my becoming a decided actor on the scene of political eventa* 



330 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Then was enkindled the first spark of a lofty ambition." 
Having a lively recollection of this sentence, which we read 
long ago in Mr. Abbott's entertaining volume upon Napo- 
leon at St. Helena, we had the curiosity to turn to the 
letters written by General Bonaparte at the time, to see if 
there was anything in them to confirm his statement. Yes : 
just after Lodi, for the first time he begins to protest and 
swear that his only ambition is to serve France in any ca- 
pacity which the Directory may be pleased to assign him. 
Five days after his troops had given him, at the bridge of 
Lodi, that surprising proof of devotion, he writes to his 
patron, Carnot : " Whether I make war here or elsewhere 
is indifferent to me. To serve my country, to deserve from 
posterity one leaf of our history, to give the government 
proofs of my attachment and devotion, this is all my 
ambition." It is a touch worthy of Shakespeare. Thus 
might the great dramatist have indicated the birth of an 
ambition. 

It was after Lodi, too, that he showed his eager prompti- 
tude to reward those who served him, and his tact in adapt- 
ing the reward to the nature of the case. The battle of 
Lodi was won by the column that rushed across the bridge 
in the face of thirty pieces of cannon and the fire of in- 
fantry. The General caused a printed list of the names of 
the men composing the column to be posted in every dis- 
trict of France where any one of them resided ! Could 
any reward have been more thrilling to the men or more 
promotive of the next conscription 1 At a later day it 
became a custom with him to have such lists posted upon 
the parish churches of the soldiers whom he desired to 
honor. But when once a priest presumed to read the list 
to his parishioners in the church, the master wrote from 
Vienna to the minister of police to forbid the repetition of 
the act j because, said he, in substance, if priests may an- 
nounce victories, they may comment upon them, and if bad 
news should arrive, they may comment upon that. " Priests 
must be used with civility, but not made too much of." 

From Italy the young conqueror, after a short interval 
of busy preparation at Paris, betakes himself to Egypt, in 
pursuance of his policy of striking England through her 
dependencies and allies. No one,, with this correspondence 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 331 

before him, can say that he was sent to Egypt by the Direc- 
tory, in order to get him out of the way. It was his own 
conception. He was master of France almost as much in 
1798 as he was in 1805 ; and the tone of his letters in 1798 
is as much the tone of the master as in 1805. The very 
order assigning him to the command of the army destined 
for Egypt was penned by himself; and in preparing the 
expedition, the Directory did nothing but sign what he 
dictated. His object was to dispossess the English of their 
Indian empire, using Egypt as a base of operations ; and 
he spoke of the enterprise, in a confidential letter, as "the 
greatest ever executed among men." Only it was not " ex- 
ecuted ! " Nelson destroyed the French fleet at the battle 
of the Nile, and blockaded Egypt with such sleepless vigi- 
lance that General Bonaparte and his army were, in effect, 
prisoners of war. The General himself informed the Direc- 
tory that, during the eighteen months of his residence in 
Egypt, he only heard from Paris once ; and then he received 
part of his despatches, snatched by the courier from his 
grounded boat a moment before his English pursuers 
clutched it. It was an error to land a French army in 
Egypt while the English were masters of the sea ; but it 
is evident from the correspondence that General Bona- 
parte really believed the French fleet a match for the Eng- 
lish. He was not aware that in Horatio Nelson the English 
possessed an admiral who trebled the force of every fleet 
that he commanded. 

The correspondence, reticent as it is concerning what- 
ever tends to exhibit Napoleon vulnerable, shows plainly 
enough that it was Nelson who destroyed him. Nelson 
hit him two blows, Nile and Trafalgar. By the bat- 
tle of the Nile he penned him in Egypt, killed his Indian 
projects, and reduced him to absolute paralysis for a 
year and a half. By Trafalgar he again destroyed the 
French naval power, made invasion of England impossible, 
and compelled Napoleon to continue his policy of fighting 
England upon the territories of her allies. In other words, 
he penned him in the continent of Europe. This led to 
that prodigious extension of his operations, until he had 
vast armies in Spain, Italy, Prussia, Russia, and France, 
and had so distended his " empire," that ten cold nights in 



TOPICS OF TEE TIME. 

Russia at the time when his power seemed greatest caused 
his ruin. This was Nelson's work, and well Napoleon knew 
it ; for there is not in all these volumes one allusion to the 
battle of Trafalgar. It is a telltale silence. Amid the 
bulletins of Austerlitz, few except the master knew what 
had happened upon the ocean ; and except himself perhaps 
no one comprehended its importance. 

But to glean a trait or two from the Egyptian letters. 
The mighty man of war, it seems, was subject to sea-sick- 
ness. " Have a good bed prepared for me," he writes to 
Admiral Brueys before leaving Paris, "as for a man who 
will be sick during the whole passage." In Egypt, where 
he was absolute master, he had an opportunity to rehearse 
the <irama of the French Empire, and he displayed all the 
devices of the emperor which the scene admitted. Despis- 
ing all religions, he showed that he could natter, use, and 
laugh at any religion that chanced to be available for his 
purpose. At Malta, on his way to Egypt, wishing to employ 
the bishop to conciliate the people of the island, he wrote 
to him : " I know of no character more respectable or more 
worthy of the veneration of men, than a priest who, full of 
the true spirit of the Gospel, is persuaded that it is his duty 
to obey the temporal power, and to maintain peace, tran- 
quillity, and union in the midst of his diocese." A few 
days after he issued to his troops the proclamation in which 
he enjoined them to pay respect to " the Egyptian Muftis 
and Imams, as you have to rabbis and bishops." He con- 
tinued thus : " Show the same tolerance for the ceremo- 
nies prescribed by the Koran as you have for convents, for 
synagogues, for the religion of Moses and of Jesus Christ. 
The Roman legions protected all religions." He went him- 
self far beyond the letter of this order ; for he celebrated 
the religious festivals of the Mohammedans with all the 
emphasis and splendor possible in the circumstances. From 
Cairo he wrote to one of his generals : " We celebrated here 
the feast of the Prophet with a pomp and fervor which 
have almost merited for me the title of Saint " ; and he 
ordered commanders of ports and garrisons to do the same. 

In Egypt, as in Italy, he would permit no one to plunder 
but himself ; and it was here that he put in practice the 
only device for preventing pillage which has ever answered 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 333 

its purpose. It consisted in holding each division of an 
army responsible for the misconduct of the individuals com- 
posing it. A theft or an act of violence having been com- 
mitted, the perpetrators, if discovered, were to make good 
the damage, or pay the forfeit with their lives. If they 
were not discovered, then their company was assessed to 
make up the amount. If the company could not be ascer- 
tained, then the regiment, brigade, or division. This was 
a masterly device, and it has become part of the military 
code of nations. But the plunder of Egypt, on system, by 
the orders of the General commanding, was great and con- 
tinuous ; for the French army, severed from the world with- 
out, had no resource but to subsist upon the fertile prov- 
ince upon which it had descended. It will not exalf the 
world's opinion of the Commanding General to discover, in 
his correspondence, such notes as the following : " Citi- 
zen Poussielgue, General Dumas" (father of the novelist) 
" knows the house of a bey where there is a buried treas- 
ure. Arrange with him for the digging necessary to find 
it." Another engaging epistle begins thus : " You did well, 
citizen general, in having the five villagers shot who re- 
volted. I desire much to learn that you have mounted 
your cavalry. The shortest way, I believe, will -be this: 
Order each village to furnish you two good horses. Do not 
accept any bad ones ; and make the villages which do not 
furnish theirs in five days pay a fine of one thousand talari. 
This is an infallible means of having the six hundred horses 

you require Demand bridles and saddles as well." 

He found leisure to establish an Institute in Egypt, on 
the model of that of France. At the first sitting the Com- 
manding General proposed the following questions : Are 
our army bread-ovens susceptible of improvement ? Is 
there any substitute in Egypt for the hop in making 
beer 1 How is the water of the Nile cleared and kept 000!] 
Which is best for us at Cairo, to construct water-mills 
or wind-mills ] Can gunpowder be made in Egypt ? What 
is the condition in Egypt of jurisprudence, the judiciary, 
and education, and what improvements in either are possi- 
ble, and desired by the people of the country ? He was 
making himself very much at home in Egypt, evidently 
meant to stay there, had sent to Paris for a troop of come- 



334 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

dians, and was meditating vast plans for the improvement 
of the country. 

But in August, 1799, a package of English newspapers, 
of which the most recent was nine weeks old, fell into the 
General's hands, and gave him information that made him 
willing to risk capture in order to get to France : Italy 
lost ! The French beaten in Germany in two pitched bat- 
tles, and compelled to recross the Rhine ! The Russians 
marching to join the coalition ! The English blockading 
every port, and lording it on every sea ! The Directory 
distrusted, inactive, imbecile ! France beleaguered on every 
side, and threatened with dissolution ! His mind was made 
tip on the instant. In eleven days he was ready to go. 
His paper of secret instructions to Kleber, whom he left in 
command, betrays his perfect satisfaction with what he had 
done in Egypt, his entire conviction of the right of the 
French to possess and hold the country. " Accustomed," 
he says, "to look for the reward of my pains and labors in 
the opinion of posterity, I abandon Egypt with the keenest 
regret." Another sentence is significant : " You will find 
subjoined a cipher for your correspondence with the gov- 
ernment, and another for your correspondence with me." 

In three months General Bonaparte and the "govern- 
ment " were one and the same. The very company of 
Comedians which he had written for as General Bonaparte 
he sent to Egypt as First Consul. He was absolute mas- 
ter of France, a fact which he announced to the people in 
the following neat and epigrammatic manner : " Citizens, 
the Revolution is fixed in the principles that began it. IT 
is FINISHED." Yes; it was finished, and it was General 
Bonaparte .who gave it the finishing blow. Whether he 
could have saved it can never be known, because he did not 
try ; and his talents were so prodigious that it is impossible 
to say what he might or might not have done, if he had had 
the "lofty ambition" to help the French govern themselves. 
There was so much that was large and generous in this 
man, that we cannot always resist the impression that he 
was capable of something much better than the tawdry role 
into which he lapsed. But human nature is so limited a 
thing, that there is not room in an individual for more than 
one decided talent ; and that talent, when it is eminent, is 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 335 

apt to bewilder, mislead, and dominate the possessor of it. 
The successes of this sublime adventurer, besides being rapid 
and immense, were of the very kind that most dazzle and 
mislead. He found France impoverished, misgoverned, an- 
archic, without an ally, defeated, discouraged, with powerful 
foes on every side, on land and sea. In two years what a 
change ! Internal tranquillity, universal joy and exultation, 
enemies signally beaten, territories enlarged, the treasury 
replenished, and peace restored ! In 1799 he might have 
risen to the height of the great citizen ; he might have 
fought in the service of France, and when he had delivered 
her from her enemies, he might have lent his great admin- 
istrative abilities to the restoration of internal peace and 
prosperity, without despoiling her of that hope of liberty 
cherished through so many years of suffering and blood. 
This was possible in 1799, but not in 1801. 

But how marvellously well he enacted the part of the 
ruler of a free people ! How adroitly this foreigner flattered 
the amiable and generous people whom he had subjugated ! 
In announcing the peace of 1801, he played upon their 
vanity arid their patriotism with singular skill, throwing 
upon them all the glory of his achievements in the field : 
" Frenchmen, you enjoy at length that entire peace which 
you have merited by efforts so long continued and so gen- 
erous. The world contains for you only friendly nations, 
and upon every sea hospitable ports are open to your 

ships Let us perfect, but, above all, let us teach 

the rising generation to cherish, our institutions and our 
laws. Let them grow up to promote civil equality, public 
liberty, national prosperity. Let us carry into the work- 
shop, the farm, the studio, that ardor, that constancy, that 
patience, which have astonished Europe in all our difficul- 
ties Let us be the support and example of the peo- 
ples who surround us. Let the foreigner, whom curiosity 
draws into our midst, linger among us attached by the 
charm of our manners, the spectacle of our union, the at- 
traction of our pleasures ; let him return to his country 
more friendly to us than he came, a wiser and a better 
man." Soon after appeared the first of his annual messages, 
his Expose de la Situation de la Republique, modelled 
closely (as to the form only) upon the messages of our 



336 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

Presidents, although longer than those of Washington, 
Adams, or Jefferson ; a message without a legislature 
which could act upon it ! " It is with sweet satisfaction 
that the government offers to the nation a view of public 
affairs during the year that has passed." The government 
was a general of the French army, and his message was in- 
genious, intoxicating flattery of the most susceptible people 
in the world. 

Was all this mere coarse, conscious hypocrisy on the part 
of General Bonaparte ] We think not. Great histrionic 
personages, like Napoleon- Bonaparte, appear sometimes to 
dazzle and deceive themselves. Men familiar with Brigham 
Young tell us that that stupendous American Turk is one 
tenth sincere ; and it is the fraction of sincerity which gives 
him his power over his followers. There are pages in these 
volumes that exhibit Napoleon to us in the threefold char- 
acter of hero, actor, and spectator ; as though David Gar- 
rick should play Richard III., be Richard III., and see 
Richard III., all on the same evening ; himself lost in the 
marvels of the scene, deceived by his own acting, and daz- 
zled by his own exploits. We cannot believe that this de- 
lirious Expose was a thing contrived to deceive and capti- 
vate the French people. He had seen such striking things 
done at the word of command, that he seems to have sup- 
posed all things possible to a great soldier. He appears to 
have thought that national institutions, industries, lyceums, 
colleges, universities, durable alliances, and national welfare 
could be summoned into being at the tap of the drum. 
" Thirty lyceums," said he, " wisely distributed over the 
territory of the Republic, will embrace all its extent by 
their influence, will shed upon every part of it the lustre 
of their acquisitions and their triumphs, will strike foreign- 
ers with admiration, and will be for them what some cel- 
ebrated schools of Germany and England once were for us, 
what some famous universities were which, seen from a dis- 
tance, commanded the admiration and respect of Europe." 
The whole message is in this taste. Poor man ! Poor 
France ! 

The great question of the reign of Napoleon is : Which 
was to blame for breaking the peace of Amiens, the Eng- 
lish government or the French 1 This correspondence con- 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 337 

firms the constant assertion of French historians, that the 
responsibility is to be laid at England's door. Bonaparte 
wanted peace : that is plain. Peace was his interest : that 
is undeniable. England had agreed to evacuate Malta, and 
when the time came refused to give it up : that also is cer- 
tain. England should have frankly accepted Napoleon as 
head of the French government, and forborne to give a pre- 
text for breaking the peace to a man so exquisitely skilled 
in the use of deadly weapons. On the other hand, what 
absurdity more complete than for France to go to war with 
Great Britain for a little distant island in which neither of 
them had any rights ? We cajmot dwell upon this point, 
although there is no volume of the correspondence in which 
Napoleon's talents are more brilliantly exhibited than in the 
one which contains his letters and instructions previous to 
the declaration of war in 1802. He had the advantage of 
being technically in the right ; and England labored under 
the disadvantage of putting forward a pretext, instead of 
the real grievance. Napoleon's matchless skill in the use 
of deadly weapons was the real grievance. The peace was 
broken, coalitions were formed and renewed, because four 
crowned persons in Europe felt that they were not safe 
while such a man controlled the resources and commanded 
the armies of France. 

Behold him now at the summit of his power. The vol- 
umes devoted to this part of his career are precious to the 
French people at the present moment, when they are pre- 
paring to expel the Bonaparte intruders from their territory. 
If, on the one hand, they show him a very great general, 
on the other, they reveal so clearly the essential littleness 
.of the man, and expose so fully the artifices by which he 
ruled, that the spell conjured up in France by his very 
bones twenty years ago can never be conjured up again. 
This publication kills Napoleonism past resurrection. It 
shows to an attentive reader that Napoleon's personal am- 
bition was not "lofty," as he termed it, but personal, i. e. 
low and small ; and that the means by which he gratified 
it were often base, often despicable, often ridiculous. The 
desire of this man's heart was to be admitted to the circle 
of European kings, and then to be the most powerful of 
them all. We could only make this clear to the reader by 
15 v 



338 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

going carefully over the whole of his dealings with the 
reigning families of Europe, which would more than ex- 
haust our space. The truth shines out in hundreds of 
passages, and it excludes him forever from the rank of the 
great, whose ambition is to become eminent by serving 
their kind. He was so little superior in moral discernment 
to the ordinary mortal, that he thought it grander to be 
the Frederick William of a country than its Bismarck ; to 
be a George III. than a Nelson or a Chatham. So little 
had he reflected upon men and governments, that he did 
not know the proper place of a man of great talent which 
is not at the head of a nation, but in a plaoe subordinate. 

The proper head of a nation is a sound average man, 
one whom the average citizen can recognize as a man and 
a brother; one who will keep the brilliant minister, the 
great general, always in mind of the homely material with 
which governments have to deal ; one who will embody 
and represent the vis inert-ice of things. Bismarck, firmly 
astride of Prussia, would ride that great kingdom to the 
Devil ; as Bonaparte did France ; as Hamilton might the 
United States, if average human nature had not stood in 
his way, represented in the august person of George Wash- 
ington. It is mankind whom the head of a government 
should represent. The exceptionally gifted individual who 
serves under him needs his restraining slowness and caution, 
as much as the chief needs the light and help of minds 
specially endowed. 

Of all this Napoleon knew nothing. His poor ambition 
was to reign. " For the Pope," said he, " I am Charle- 
magne, because I reunite the crown of France to that of 
the Lombards " ; and he told his brother Joseph, when he 
put him up as king of Naples, that he wished his "blood" 
to reign in Naples as long as in France, for " the kingdom 
of Naples was necessary to him." It is at once ludicrous 
and affecting to see such a man so infatuated with the part 
he was playing, to read in his letters to kings, emperors, 
and popes such expressions as, " my house," " the princes 
of my house," "my capital" (meaning Pans), "my good 
city of Lyons," " my armies," " my fleet," " my peoples," 
" my empire," " my kingdom of Italy " ; and to read elabo- 
rate papers rearranging states and nations in which every- 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 339 

thing was considered, except the will of the people inhabit- 
ing them. 

Nothing will astound the reader of these volumes more 
than the bulletins, dictated by Napoleon on the field, and 
published in the Moniteur by his command. It was those 
bulletins that kept France in a state of delirium, and drew 
to distant fields of carnage the flower of her youth and the 
annual harvest of her educated talent. He was accus- 
tomed to send every day or two from the seat of war, when 
anything, extraordinary had occurred, chatty, anecdotical 
bulletins, designed chiefly to keep up the martial frenzy of 
the French ; but he inserted also many paragraphs intended 
to sow dissension among his enemies ; knowing well that 
these documents would be closely scanned at every court, 
club, and head-quarters in Europe. Those anecdotes of 
the devotion of the troops to the Emperor, which figure in 
so many biographies and histories, here they are, where 
they originated, in the bulletins dictated by Napoleon's 
mouth, corrected by his hand, and published by his command 
in the official newspaper of his empire, and now given to 
the world as part of his correspondence by the head of his 
family ! The following are passages from the Austerlitz 
bulletins : 

" On the 10th" (the day before the battle), "the Em- 
peror, from the height of his bivouac, perceived, with joy 
unutterable, the Russians beginning, at two cannon fires' 
distance from his advanced posts, a flank movement to turn 
his right. Then was it that he saw to what a point pre- 
sumption and ignorance of the art of war had led astray 
the counsels of that brave army. Several times the Em- 
peror said : ' Before to-morrow night that army is mine.' " 

" In the evening he wished to visit on foot and incognito 
all the bivouacs ; but scarcely had he gone a few steps than 
he was recognized. It would be impossible to depict the 
enthusiasm of the soldiers when they saw him. In an in- 
stant bundles of straw were placed at the end of thousands 
of poles, and eighty thousand men presented themselves 
before the Emperor, saluting him with acclamations ; some 
complimenting him on the anniversary of his coronation ; 
others saying that the army would present its bouquet to 
the Emperor to-morrow." * 



340 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

To any one who ever saw an army of even ten thousand 
men in the field, the entire and absolute falsehood of all 
this will be apparent. The imperial reporter proceeds : 

" One of the oldest grenadiers approached him, and said : 
* You will have no need to expose yourself. I promise you, 
in the name of the grenadiers of the army, that you will 
have to fight only with your eyes, and that we will bring 
you to-morrow the flags and artillery of the Russian army 
by way of celebrating the anniversary of your coronation.' 
The Emperor said, upon entering his bivouac, which con- 
sisted of a sorry straw cabin without a roof, which his 
grenadiers had made for him : ' This is the most beautiful 
evening of my life ; but it saddens me to think that I shall 
lose a good number of those brave fellows. I become sensi- 
ble, from the grief which this reflection causes me, that they 
are truly my children ; and, indeed, I sometimes reproach 
myself for indulging this sentiment, fearing it will render 
me at last unskilful in making war.' 

"At the moment of sunrise the orders were given, and 
each marshal rejoined his command at full gallop. While 
passing along the front of several regiments, the Emperor 
said : ' Soldiers, we must end this campaign by a thunder- 
bolt which will confound the pride of our enemies ' ; and 
immediately, hats at the end of bayonets and cries of Vive 
FEmpereur ! were the veritable signal of battle ! " 

"This day will cost tears of blood at St. Petersburg. 
May it cause them to throw back with indignation the gold 
of England, and may that young prince, whom so many 
virtues call to be the father of his subjects, snatch himself 
from the influence of those thirty coxcombs whom England 
artfully seduces into her services, and whose impertinences 
obscure his good intentions, lose him the love of his soldiers, 
and throw him into operations the most erroneous. Nature, 
in endowing him Avith great qualities, called him to be the 

consoler of Europe Never was there a more horrible 

field of battle May so much bloodshed, may so many 

miseries, fall at length upon the perfidious islanders who 
are the cause of them ! May the base oligarchs of London 
bear the anguish of so many calamities ! " 

" The Emperor of Germany" (in his interview with the 
Emperor) "did not conceal the contempt which the con- 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 341 

duct of England had given both himself and the Emperor 
of Russia. ' They are shop-keepers,' he said more than 
once, * who set the Continent in flames in order to secure 
for themselves the commerce of the world.' .... Several 
times the Emperor of Germany repeated : ' There is no 
doubt that France is in the right in her quarrel with Eng- 
land.' .... They say that the Emperor said to the Em- 
peror of Germany, as he invited him to come nearer the fire 
of his bivouac : ' I receive you in the only palace I have 
inhabited these two months.' To this the Emperor of Ger- 
many replied, laughing : ' You turn habitations of this kind 
to such good account that they ought to please you.' At 
least, this is what those present thought they overheard. The 
numerous suite of the two princes was not so far off that they 
could not hear several things ! 

" The corpses have been counted. The totals are, eigh- 
teen thousand Russians killed, six hundred Austrians, and 
nine hundred French. Seven thousand wounded Russians 
are on our hands. All told, we have three thousand French 
wounded. General Roger Valhubert is dead of his wounds. 
An hour before he breathed his last he wrote to the Em- 
peror : ' I could have wished to do more for you. I die in 
an hour. The loss of my life I do not regret, since I have 
participated in a victory which assures you a happy reign. 
As often as you shall think of the brave men who were de- 
voted to you, remember me. It is sufficient for me merely 
to tell you that I have a family ; I need not recommend them 
to your care.' " 

From the whole of the bulletins we could gather, per- 
haps, two hundred anecdotes similar in character and pur- 
pose to those we have given ; and we do not believe that 
ten of -them are the exact statements of fact. They were 
fictions coined to make France willing to bleed. Inter- 
spersed with the bulletins are quiet, business-like notes to 
the Minister of War and others, the burden of which is : 
Conscripts, conscripts, conscripts ; send me conscripts ; armed 
or unarmed, in uniform or in peasants' rags, no matter ; send 
forward conscripts ! 

Appended to the bulletins are decrees giving pensions to 
the widows of every man who fell in the last battle, six 
thousand francs to a general's widow, and two hundred to 



342 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

a private's. After Austerlitz, a decree was published which 
was as captivating to delirious France as it was unjust to 
the army in general : " We adopt all the children of the 
generals, officers, and soldiers who fell at the battle of Aus- 
terlitz. They will be maintained and reared at our expense, 
the boys at our imperial palace of Rambouillet, and the 
girls at our imperial palace of Saint Germain. The boys 
will be placed in situations, and the girls dowered, by us. 
To their baptismal and family names they will have the 
right to add that of Napoleon." No man ever displayed 
such art in rousing a nation to frenzy, and silencing its 
reason. If space allowed, we could give a catalogue of at 
least one hundred different devices of his fertile mind to 
reward and signalize soldiers who served him with conspic- 
uous devotion. Many of these such as orders, medals, 
flattering mention, and inscribing the names of fallen sol- 
diers upon Pompey's pillar were of a costless and senti- 
mental nature. Others such as gifts of money, pensions, 
promotion were of a solid and practical character. Some- 
times he would order a picture painted of a feat of arms, 
and decree that the uniform, of the soldiers depicted should 
be that of the corps which performed the act. Nor was he 
lavish of rewards and honors ; but in this, as in all things 
relating to war, he acted upon system, and preserved per- 
fect coolness of judgment. 

And while by these various arts this Corsican kept aver- 
age France in delirium, the superior mind and judgment of 
France were denied all utterance. We have marked dozens 
of passages in the correspondence showing this. While he 
had writers in England in his pay for the purpose of em- 
barrassing the Ministry and making friends for himself by 
their articles in English newspapers, he would not permit 
so much as a woman to live in France whom he suspected 
of having escaped the prevailing madness. Three times he 
orders back Madame de Stael, " that bird of evil omen," 
as he styles her, when he heard she had approached or 
crossed the frontiers. "It is the intention of the govern- 
ment," he wrote in 1803, " that this intriguing foreigner 
shall not remain in France, where her family has done harm 
enough." Again, in 1807, he speaks of her with contempt- 
uous fury, as a " crow " whose approach foreboded mischief, 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 343 

and repeats his command that she be ke^t from the soil of 
France. Nor was she the only lady whom he feared and 
exiled, because he saw her sane in the midst of lunatics. 
As to the press, not a paragraph was allowed to appear cal- 
culated to recall Frenchmen to themselves ; and not a line 
escaped his vigilant distrust, if it provoked Frenchmen to 
ask why their countrymen should ibe slaughtered by thou- 
sands in Poland, in Spain, in Russia, in Austria, in Prussia, 
for a quarrel about Malta, an island of no interest to 
France, except as the source of Maltese cats. 

For military men we must find room for a curious order 
addressed to Marshal Berthier at Boulogne, in 1805, just 
as Napoleon was about to begin that swift, silent march 
across Europe which ended at Austerlitz. It shows how 
little magic there was in his proceedings, and by what 
homely, plodding labors the most brilliant results are pro- 
duced. " My cousin " (he called all his marshals cousin), 
" I desire you to have two portable boxes made, with com- 
partments -j one for me and the other for yourself. The 
compartments will be arranged, in such a way that, with 
the aid of written cards, we can know at a glance the move- 
ments of all the Austrian troops, regiment by regiment, 
battalion by battalion, even to detachments of any con- 
siderable magnitude. You will divide the compartments 
into as many divisions as there are Austrian armies, and 
you will reserve some pigeon-holes for the troops which the 
Emperor of Germany has in Hungary, in Bohemia, and in 
the interior of his states. Every fifteen days you will send 
me a statement of the changes that have taken place dur- 
ing the preceding fifteen days ; availing yourself for this 
purpose, not only of the German and Italian newspapers, 
but of all the information which my minister for foreign 
affairs may send you ; with whom you will correspond for 
this object. Employ the same individual to change the 
cards and to draw up the statement of the situation of the 
Austrian armies every fifteen days. P. S. You must in- 
trust this business to a man who will have nothing else to 
do, who knows German well, and who w r ill take all the 
German and Italian papers, and make the changes which 
they indicate." 

Before leaving the volumes, which exhibit him in the 



344 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

plenitude of his power and glory, we offer for the reader's 
amusement the most characteristic letter, perhaps, of the 
whole collection; one written in 1807, to that good Louis 
whom young General Bonaparte had so cordially praised a 
few years before as a lad after his own heart. Louis was 
now called King of Holland ; and trouble enough he had 
between his own anfiable dream of being a good to 
Holland and the determination o*f his brother to regard 
Holland only in the light of so much war material. Was 
ever a monarch so lectured, bullied, berated, and insulted 
as poor Louis was in this epistle 1 

" I have received your letter of the 24th of March. You 
say that you have twenty thousand men at the Grand 
Army. You do not believe it yourself ; there are not ten 
thousand ; and what men ! It is not marshals, chevaliers, 
and counts that we want ; we want soldiers. If you go on 
so, you will render me ridiculous in Holland. 

"You govern that nation too much like a capuchin. 
The goodness of a king ought always to be majestic, and 
not that of a monk. Nothing is worse than that great 
number of journeys which you make to the Hague, unless 
it be the contribution made by your order in your kingdom. 
A king commands, and asks nothing of any one ; he is deemed 
to be the source of all power, and to have no need to recur 
to the purse of others. These niceties, you feel them not. 

" Some notions occur to me concerning the re-establish- 
ment of your nobility, upon which I wait to be enlightened. 
Have you lost your senses to that point, and would you 
forget to such a degree what you owe me 1 ? You speak 
always in your letters of respect and obedience ; but it is 
deeds, not words, that I require. Respect and obedience 
consist in not precipitating measures so important ; for 
Europe cannot imagine you to be so wanting in a sense of 
duty as to do certain things without my consent. I shall 
be obliged to disavow you. I have asked for the document 
relating to the re-establishment of the nobility. Prepare 
yourself for a public mark of my excessive dissatisfaction. 

" Despatch no maritime expedition ; the season is passed. 
Raise national guards to defend your country. Pay my 
troops. Raise plenty of national conscripts. A prince 
who, the first year of his reign, is thought to be so good, 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 345 

is a prince who will be ridiculed in the second. The love 
which kings inspire ought to be a masculine love, mingled 
with a respectful fear and a great opinion of their merit. 
When people say of a king that he is a good man, his reign 
is a failure. How can a merely good man, or a good father, 
if you please, sustain the charges of the throne, suppress 
the malevolent, and conduct affairs so that the passions of 
men shall be hushed, or march in the direction he wishes 1 
The first thing you ought to have done, and I advised you 
to do it, was to establish the conscription. What can be 
done without an army 1 For, can one call a mass of desert- 
ers an army 1 How could you avoid feeling (the condition 
of your army being what it is) that the creation of mar- 
shals was a thing unsuitable and ridiculous 1 The king 
of Naples has none. I have none in my kingdom of Italy. 
Do you believe that if forty French vessels should be united 
to five or six Dutch barks, that Admiral Ver Huell, for 
example, in his quality of marshal, could command them 1 
There are no marshals in the minor kingdoms ; there are 
none in Bavaria, in Sweden. You overwhelm men with 
honors who have not merited them. You go too fast and 
without advice ; I have offered you mine ; you respond by 
fine compliments, and you continue to commit follies. 

"Your quarrels with the queen reach the public ear. 
Have at home that paternal and effeminate character which 
you exhibit in the government, and in public affairs prac- 
tise that rigor which you show in domestic matters. You 
treat a young wife as one would lead a regiment. Distrust 
the persons who surround you; you are only surrounded 
by nobles. The opinion of those people is always diamet- 
rically opposite to that of the public. Beware of them ; 
you begin to be no longer popular either at Rotterdam or 
Amsterdam. The Catholics begin to be afraid of you. 
Why do you employ none of them 1 Ought you not to pro- 
tect your religion 1 All that shows little force of character. 
You pay court too much to a part of your nation : you 
offend the rest. What have the chevaliers done to whom 
you have given decorations 1 Where are the wounds which 
they have received for their country, the distinguished 
talents which recommend them, I do not say of all, but of 
three fourths of them 1 Many of them have done service to 



346 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the English party, and are the cause of the misfortunes of 
their country. Was it necessary to ill treat them 1 No, 
but to conciliate all. I also have some emigres in office ; 
but I do not let them go too far, and when they think they 
are near carrying a point, they are further from it than 
when they were in a foreign country : because I govern by 
system, and not by weakness. 

" You have the best and the most virtuous of wives, and 
you render her unhappy. Let her dance as much as she 
wishes ; it belongs to her time of life. I have a wife forty 
years old ; from the battle-field I write to her to go to 
balls; and do you wish that a wife of twenty years, who 
sees her life passing, who has all of life's illusions, should 
live in a cloister 1 should be like a nurse, always washing 
her baby 1 You attend too much to your domestic affairs, 
and not enough to your administration. I should not say 
all this to you, but for the interest I take in your welfare. 
Make the mother of your children happy. You have only 
one means of doing so ; it is to show her much esteem and 
confidence Unfortunately, you have a too virtuous wife. 
If you had a coquette, she would lead you by the end of 
the nose. But you have a wife who respects herself, whom 
the mere idea that you could have a bad opinion of her 
revolts and afflicts. You should have had a wife like some 
I know of in Paris. She would have played you false, and 
kept you at her knees. It is not my fault, for I have often 
said as much to your wife. 

" For the rest, you can commit follies in your own king- 
dom ; very well ; but I shall see to it that you commit 
none in mine. You offer your decorations to everybody ; 
many persons have written to me who have no title to 
them. I am sorry that you did not feel that you were 
wanting in proper consideration towards me. I am resolved 
that no one shall wear those decorations near me, being 
determined not to wear them myself. If you ask me the 
reason, I shall reply, that you have as yet done nothing to 
merit that men should wear your portrait ; that, besides, 
you have instituted the order without my permission ; and 
that, finally, you give them away too lavishly. And what 
have all those people done who surround you to whom you 
give them ? " 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 347 

This it was to be one of Napoleon's kings ! He lectures 
Joseph, Jerome, Lucien, his sisters, and even his uncle, 
Cardinal Fesch ; not always with such severity, but always 
in the tone of the master. To Cardinal Fesch, his ambassa- 
dor of Rome, he once wrote : " I find all your reflections 
upon Cardinal Ruffo small and puerile. You are in Rome 
like a woman Don't meddle in affairs you don't under- 
stand." This it was to be a cardinal of Napoleon's making. 

The suddenness of the collapse of this showy mockery of 
an empire is exhibited in the correspondence in a manner 
truly affecting. It was the freezing to death of thirty 
thousand horses that destroyed the " Grand Army," and 
tumbled the empire into chaos. Burnt out of Moscow on 
the 14th of September, 1812, the Emperor was incon- 
venienced certainly, but felt still so much at ease, that he 
sent a note, sixteen days after, to his librarian at Paris, 
scolding him for not keeping him better supplied with the 
new publications ; and he continued for another month to 
direct even the police of Paris from the vicinity of the 
burnt capital. A bulletin written on the homeward march, 
October 23, is all glowing with victory, and recounts the 
burning of Moscow only as a disaster and shame to Russia ! 
It ends thus : " The people of Russia do not remember such 
weather as we have had here during the last twenty days. 
We enjoy the sun of the beautiful days of our excursions to 
Fontainebleau. The army is in a country extremely rich, 
which can compare with the best provinces of France and 
Germany." 

This was written on the 23d of October, and published 
in Paris November 16th. As late as November 3d, still 
the Emperor wrote to one of his ministers : " The weather 
continues to be very fine ; a circumstance extremely favor- 
able to us." Three days after, namely, November 6, 1812, 
the icy blast swept down from the North and chilled the 
army to the marrow. Ten nights of sudden, premature 
cold killed or disabled nearly all the horses ; which com- 
pelled the abandonment or destruction of all the provisions 
that the men could not carry. Clouds of Cossacks hovered 
about the track of the gaunt and weary troops. Napoleon 
was twenty days without hearing from Paris. The Grand 
Army perished, and the empire was no more ! 



348 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

He died game. He was himself to the last. As soon as 
he had reached a point from which a courier could be safely 
despatched to Paris, he sent an aide-de-camp and a bulletin 
to break the news to Europe. He would not trust any one 
to write the paragraph which he ordered the aid to have 
inserted in German journals on his way to Paris, but gave 
it to him written by his own hand. On the 2d of Decem- 
ber, from the midst of the wreck and ruin of his army, with 
ghastly pallor and rigid death on every side, this great his- 
trionic genius wrote the following orders to the aide-de- 
camp charged with his despatches : 

" He will announce everywhere the arrival of ten thou- 
sand Russian prisoners, and the victory won upon the 
Beresina in which we took six thousand Russian prisoners, 

eight flags, and twelve pieces of cannon He will 

cause to be inserted everywhere in the Gazettes : * M. de 
Montesquiou, aide-de-camp, etc., has passed through, bear- 
ing the news of the victory of Beresina won by the Emperor 
over the united armies of Admiral Tchitchakof and General 
Wittgenstein. He carries to Paris eight flags taken in that 
battle, at which also six thousand prisoners were captured 
and twelve pieces of cannon. When this officer left, the 
Emperor's health was excellent.' M. de Montesquiou will 
see to it that this paragraph is published in the Mayence 
journal. The Due de Bassano will cause it to be put into 
the Vilna papers and will write in the same strain to 
Vienna. M. de Montesquiou will travel with the utmost 
speed in order to contradict everywhere the false reports 
which may have been spread abroad. He will explain that 
those two (Russian) corps meant to cut our line in two, 
but that the army routed them utterly, and has arrived at 
Vilna, where it finds numerous depots, which will at once 
end the sufferings which it has experienced." 

This was for Prussia, Austria, England. But it would 
not do for France, which must instantly supply new armies. 
This same aide-de-camp carried a bulletin for the Moniteur, 
long, detailed, artful, which, with mitigations, ac- 
quainted the French people that " a frightful calamity " 
had befallen them. They rallied gallantly to the support 
of the man who had flattered them with such transcendent 
ability, and they fought for him with much of the old cour- 



CORRESPONDENCE OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. 349 

age and devotion. It did not suffice. Elba, the Hundred 
Days, Waterloo, the Bellerophon, complete the story. The 
last line of his published correspondence charges England 
with having extended to a fallen foe a hospitable hand, and 
then, when he had given himself up in good faith, "she 
immolated him," elle Vimmola ! But in 1806, when he 
dethroned the king of Naples, he wrote thus to his brother 
Joseph : " The king of Naples will never ascend his throne 
again. You will explain that this is necessary to the repose 
of the Continent ; since he has twice disturbed it." 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF 
NEW YORK.* 



ON certain conditions, a very large proportion of the 
whole human race will steal. The opportunity must 
be good, of course, and the chance of detection small ; the 
stealing must easily admit of being called by another name ; 
and, above all, the theft must be of such a nature that the 
thief does not witness the pain which the loss of the stolen 
property occasions. On these conditions, almost all chil- 
dren and other immature persons, as well as a great num- 
ber of average honest men and women, will steal. One 
proof of the civilizing power which the late Horace Mann 
exercised over the pupils of Antioch College in Ohio was, 
that no depredations were committed by those raw lads 
upon the orchards and gardens of the neighborhood. Mrs. 
Mann is justified in mentioning this fact as one that does 
honor to the memory of her husband ; for the boy who 
steals apples from an orchard usually has an excellent op- 
portunity and seldom has the slightest sense of doing an 
injury to the owner. He takes a handkerchief full from an 
unseen person, who has whole acres strewn with fruit and 
trees bending with the weight of it, and who will never 
know that particular loss. If the stolen property presented 
itself in its ultimate form, a piece of bread and butter 
going into the mouth of one of the farmer's little children, 
not one boy in ten thousand would steal a crumb of it ; 
but so long as it is mere apples lying in an orchard, all boys 
will steal it without compunction, unless they have been 
exceptionally well bred or taught. 

Well-informed persons, who have been officially obliged 
to consider the matter, assure us that a majority of car- 

* This article was written in 1866. 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 351 

conductors, omnibus-drivers, and all other takers of unre- 
corded and untraceable money, are habitual thieves in all 
countries. It is the constant study of able managers to 
arrange a system that shall remove a temptation which ex 
perience has shown to be generally irresistible. Our fair 
readers, if we are so happy as to have any for so repulsive 
a subject, are acquainted with a class of active little mortals, 
the cash-boys of our large dry-goods stores. Cash-boys 
had never appeared on earth if clerks had never stolen. 
But we need not multiply examples. The self-knowledge 
of the most honest men suffices. Who has not observed 
the unwillingness of persons of tried and punctilious integ- 
rity to put themselves in the way of temptation 1 It is 
because those know most of the moral weakness of men 
who have converted that weakness into strength. How 
often have we admired the exquisite modesty of Benjamin 
Franklin in that passage, written when he was an old man, 
in which he attributes the honesty of his early life to the 
fact that his trade brought him in such " plentiful supplies " 
of money that he had little temptation to do wrong. This 
was not a confession in the " high-toned " style, but that is 
the way honest men feel who know themselves. 

We have undertaken to write something about the gov- 
ernment of the city of New York, and yet we have fallen 
into a discourse upon stealing. The reason is, that, after 
having spent several weeks in investigating our subject, we 
find that we have been employed in nothing else but dis- 
covering in how many ways, and under what a variety of 
names and pretexts, immature and greedy men steal from 
that fruitful and ill-fenced orchard, the city treasury. 

That the government of the city of New York has had, 
for several years past, an exceedingly bad name in the 
world, is probably known to all our readers. It has fallen 
into complete contempt. It is a dishonor to belong to it. 
Persons of good repute do not willingly associate with the 
rulers of the city, unless they are known to be of the small 
number who hold their offices for the purpose of frustrating 
iniquitous schemes. When it was found, last winter, that 
the Aldermen and Councilmen of the city must necessarily 
attend the ball of the Seventh Regiment at the Academy 
of Music, many respectable persons who had bought tickets 



352 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

sold them again, rather than jostle those magnates. The 
Rev. Henry Ward Beecher recently said, in the pulpit, that 
perhaps the government of the city of New York did more 
moral harm to the people of New York than all the churches 
together did good. Nevertheless, since we are all disposed 
to exaggerate evils vaguely known, and. since the cry of cor- 
ruption is habitually raised by corrupt men for purposes of 
intimidation or revenge, we entered upon our task fully 
prepared to find the affairs of the city less corruptly ad- 
ministered than they are supposed to be. It is an old 
remark, that good people are not quite as good, nor bad 
people as bad, as popular rumor gives them out. 

It occurred to us that perhaps the best way of beginning 
an investigation of the city government would be to go 
down to the City Hall and look at it. It proved not to be 
there. To keep the whole city from falling a prey to the 
monster, it has been gradually cut to pieces, and scattered 
over the island ; but, like the reptiles whose severed frag- 
ments become each a perfect creature, with maw as spacious 
and appetite as keen as the original worm, so each portion 
of the divided system is now a self-operating and indepen- 
dent apparatus. In the City Hall, however, the legislature 
of the city still assembles. It consists of two honorable 
bodies, the Board of Aldermen, seventeen in number, 
elected for two years, and the Board of Councilmen, twenty- 
four in number, elected for one year, each member of 
both boards receiving a salary of two thousand dollars a 
year. Considering that they meet but twice a week, always 
in the afternoon, and that the session averages one hour's 
duration, these gentlemen cannot be said to be ill paid. 
They are compensated for their valuable services at twice 
the rate at which the labors of the Chief Justice of the 
Supreme Court of the United States are rewarded. But 
then it costs those city legislators something to be elected. 
The legitimate expenses of an election to either of the 
boards amount to about three hundred dollars ; but many 
a candidate expends a thousand dollars of his own money 
and several hundred dollars of other people's. 

It is to the Chamber of the Board of Councilmen that we 
beg first to invite the courteous reader. This apartment 
being in the second story of the building, we pass many 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 353 

open doors on our way to it, through which we see idle men 
with their feet upon tables, smoking cigars. There are few 
buildings in the world, probably, wherein the consumption 
of tobacco in all its forms goes on more vigorously during 
business hours than the City Hall of New York. Smoke 
comes in clouds from many rooms, and the vessel which Mr. 
Thackeray used to call the " expectoratoon " is everywhere 
seen. If we enter the Councilmen's Chamber a few minutes 
before the time of beginning the session, we observe many 
members smoking ; and as soon as there is a prospect of 
an adjournment, the same gentlemen begin to fondle their 
cigars, to hand them about, or even toss them to one an- 
other, so that when the adjournment does take place not a 
moment may be lost. Twice we have seen a member light 
his cigar before an adjournment was carried. The very 
clerks of this " honorable body " write out their notes of 
the proceedings smoking cigars of a flavor beyond that 
which the pursuit of literature allows. 

The Councilmen's Chamber, a lofty and spacious room, 
provided by the liberal forethought of honest and public- 
spirited men sixty years ago, is furnished with preposterous 
magnificence; not "regardless of expense," however, as some 
have inconsiderately alleged. On the contrary, expense was 
evidently the first object sought by the persons who had the 
work in charge ; and, accordingly, wherever a thousand- 
dollar thing could be put, there you behold it. The apart- 
ment is arranged on the plan of the Representatives' Cham- 
ber in the Capitol at Washington. The President sits aloft, 
in a richly canopied recess ; below him are four clerks in a 
row ; the members sit in two semicircles, in chairs of the 
most massive mahogany, at desks of solid elegance. The 
windows are shaded by curtains heavy with expense, and 
the carpet is thick with it. In case the session, which be- 
gins at 2 P. M., should chance to prolong itself to the even- 
ing, there is a chandelier of the most elaborate and ramified 
description, such as would rejoice the heart of any con- 
tractor to furnish. To remind members, who all have gold 
watches, of the passage of time, there is a clock of vast size, 
splendid with gilt and carving. Four staring, full-length por- 
traits of Fillmore, Clay, Young, and Hamilton Fish disfigure 
the walls, and the Father of his Country looks coldly down 



354 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

upon the scene in marble. He never had such furniture 
either at Mount Vernoii or at Philadelphia, nor did he ever 
see such at Independence Hall. The ceiling is frescoed, 
and a great gilt eagle spreads his wings over the President's 
canopy. Besides this gorgeous apartment, the Councilmen 
have a large and handsomely furnished room for their clerks 
and books, and a private room, densely carpeted, for them- 
selves, where there is a wardrobe for each member's over- 
coat and umbrella. These wardrobes are very properly 
provided with lock and key. 

To assist this "honorable body" in the, business of legis- 
lation, there is a " chief clerk," whose salary is $ 3,000 a 
year ; there is a " deputy clerk," at $ 2,000 a yecir ; there 
is a "first assistant clerk," at $1,500 a year; there is a 
" second assistant clerk," at the same ; there is a " general 
clerk," at $1,200 a year; there is an "engrossing clerk," 
at $ 1,250 a year; there is a " sergeant-at-arms," at $ 1,200 
a year ; there is a " reader," at the same ; there is a " door- 
keeper," at $ 750 a year ; there is a " messenger," at $ 1,200 
a year; and there is an " assistant messenger," at $ 1,100 
a year. In short, there is not a legislative body in the 
world more completely provided with all external aids and 
appliances for the work in hand than the Honorable the 
Board of Councilmen of the City of New York. To the sal- 
aries of these officers the Councilmen add, in the form of 
gifts for " extra services," six or seven thousand dollars 
more ; and they bestow upon the reporters of seventeen 
newspapers, for not reporting their proceedings, two hun- 
dred dollars a year each. Perhaps the clerks also are paid 
for not doing their duty, if any duty can be found for so 
many, for we were present in the chamber, last June, 
when a communication from the Mayor was read, in which 
he complained that bills came to him for approval so badly 
written that he could scarcely read them, and declaring that 
hereafter he would pay no attention to acts no't properly 
engrossed. 

The twenty-four Councilmen who have provided them- 
selves with such ample assistance and such costly accom- 
modation are mostly very 3 T oung men, the majority appear 
to be under thirty. Does the reader remember the pleasant 
description given by Mr. Hawthorne of the sprightly young 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 355 

bar-keeper who rainbows the glittering drink so dexterously 
from one tumbler to another 1 That sprightly young bar- 
keeper might stand as the type of the young men compos- 
ing this board. There are respectable men in the body. 
There are six who have never knowingly cast an improper 
vote. There is one respectable physician, three lawyers, ten 
mechanics, and only four who acknowledge to being dealers 
in liquors. But there is a certain air about most of these 
young Councilmen which, in the eyes of a New-Yorker, 
stamps them as belonging to what has been styled of late 
years " our ruling class," butcher-boys who have got into 
politics, bar-keepers who have taken a leading part in pri- 
mary ward meetings, and young fellows who hang about 
engine-houses and billiard-rooms. A stranger would natu- 
rally expect to find in such a board men who have shown 
ability and acquired distinction in private business. We 
say, again, that there are honest and estimable men in the 
body ; but we also assert that there is not an individual in 
it who has attained any considerable rank in the vocation 
which he professes. If we were to print the list here, not a 
name would be generally recognized. Honest Christopher 
Pullman, for example, who leads the honest minority of six 
that vainly oppose every scheme of plunder, is a young man 
of twenty-seven, just beginning business as a cabinet-maker. 
Honest William B. White, another of the six, is the man- 
ager of a printing-office. Honest Stephen Roberts is a 
sturdy smith, who has a shop near a wharf for repairing 
the iron-work of ships. Morris A. Tyng, another of the 
honest six, is a young lawyer getting into practice. We 
make no remark upon these facts, being only desirous to 
show the business standing of the men to whom the citizens 
of New York have confided the spending of sundry millions 
per annum. The majority of this board are about equal, in 
point of experience and ability, to the management of an 
oyster-stand in a market. Such expressions as " them laws," 
"sot the table," " 71st rigment," and "them arguments is 
played-out," maybe heard on almost any Monday or Thurs- 
day afternoon, between two and three o'clock, in this sump- 
tuous chamber. 

But what most strikes and puzzles the stranger is the 
crowd of spectators outside the railing. It is the rogues' 



356 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

gallery come to life, with here and there an honest-looking 
laborer wearing the garments of his calling. We attended 
six sessions of this " honorable body," and on every occasion 
there was the same kind of crowd looking on, who sat the 
session out. Frequently we observed looks and words of 
recognition pass between the members and this curious 
audience ; and, once, we saw a member gayly toss a paper 
of tobacco to one of them, who caught it with pleasing 
dexterity. We are unable to explain the regular presence 
of this great number of the unornamental portion of our 
fellow-beings, since we could never see any indications that 
any of the crowd had an interest in the proceedings. As 
the debates are never reported by any one of the seventeen 
reporters who are paid two hundred dollars a year for not 
doing it, and as the educated portion of the community 
never attend the sessions, this board sits, practically, with 
closed doors. Their schemes are both conceived and exe- 
cuted in secrecy, though the door is open to all who wish to 
enter. This is the more surprising, because almost every 
session of the board furnishes the material for a report, 
which an able and public-spirited journalist would gladly 
buy at the highest price paid for such work in any city. 

Debates is a ludicrous word to apply to the proceedings 
of the Councilmen. Most of the business done by them is 
pushed through without the slightest discussion, and is of 
such a nature that members cannot be prepared to discuss 
it. The most reckless haste marks every part of the per- 
formance. A member proposes that certain lots be pro- 
vided with curbstones ; another, that a free drinking-hydrant 
be placed on a certain corner five miles up town; and an- 
other, that certain blocks of a distant street be paved with 
Belgian pavement. Respecting the utility of these works, 
members generally know nothing and can say nothing ; 
nor are they proper objects of legislation. The resolutions 
are adopted, usually, without a word of explanation, and at 
a speed that must be seen to be appreciated. The first and 
last impression made upon a disinterested spectator is, that 
this most expensive body, even if every member were an 
honest man, would be absolutely useless. A competent 
street inspector, properly aided by the police, could do all 
the real work that is left to them to do ; for such has been 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 357 

the flagrant abuse of their power, that, by degrees, they 
have been deprived by the State Legislature of a great part 
of the authority they once possessed ; but the power to do 
mischief remains. This " honorable body " can still waste, 
give away, and steal the cioney of their constituents. 

The only way in which we can convey to the reader's 
mind a lively idea of the character of the city legislature 
is to relate, as simply as possible, a few of their acts of last 
summer, which we witnessed ourselves and recorded on the 
day of their perpetration. There is no " mystery of iniquity" 
in the business ; to understand the game which the major- 
ity of this body are playing, it is only necessary to -sit out 
two or three of their ordinary sessions. We own it is a 
trial to the patience. There will be moments when a per- 
son of a vivacious turn of mind will feel an almost irresisti- 
ble impulse to throw something at the head of those inso- 
lent young bar-keepers, who have contrived to get their 
hands into the public pocket, and are scattering wide the 
hard-earned money of good citizens and faithful fathers of 
families. 

At almost every session we "witnessed scenes like the fol- 
lowing. A member proposed to lease a certain building for 
a city court at two thousand dollars a year for ten years. 
Honest Christopher Pullman, a faithful and laborious pub- 
lic servant, objected on one or two grounds : first, rents 
being unnaturally high, owing to several well-known and 
temporary causes, it would be unjust to the city to fix the 
rent at present rates for so long a period ; secondly, he had 
been himself to see the building, had taken pains to inform 
himself as to its value, and was prepared to prove that twelve 
hundred dollars a year was a proper rent for it, even at the 
inflated rates. He made this statement with excellent 
brevity, moderation, and good temper, and concluded by 
moving that the term be two instead of ten years. A ro- 
bust young man with a bull-neck and of ungrammatical 
habits said, in a tone expressive of impatient disdain, that 
the landlord of the building had " refused " fifteen hundred 
dollars a year for it. " Question ! " " Question ! " shouted 
half a dozen angry voices. The question was instantly put, 
when a perfect roar of noes voted down Mr. Pullman's 
amendment. Another hearty chorus of ayes consummated 



358 TOPICS OF THE TIME 

the iniquity. In all such affairs, the visitor notices a kind 
of ungovernable propensity to vote for spending money, and 
a prompt disgust at any obstacle raised or objection made. 
The bull-necked Councilman of uncertain grammar evidently 
felt that Mr. Pullman's modest interference on behalf of 
the tax-payer was a most gross impertinence. He felt him- 
self an injured being, and his companions shared his indig- 
nation. 

We proceed to another and better specimen. A resolu- 
tion was introduced, appropriating four thousand dollars for 
the purpose of presenting stands of colors to five regiments 
of city militia, which were named, each stand to cost eight 
hundred dollars. Mr. Pullman, as usual, objected, and we 
beg the reader to mark his objections. He said that he 
was a member of the committee which had reported the 
resolution, but he had never heard of it till that moment ; 
the scheme had been " sprung " upon him. The chairman 
of the committee replied to this, that, since the other regi- 
ments had had colors given them by the city, he did not 
suppose that any one could object to these remaining five 
receiving the same compliment, and therefore he had not 
thought it worth while to summon the gentleman. "Be- 
sides," said he, " it is a small matter anyhow " ; by which 
he evidently meant to intimate that the objector was a very 
small person. To this last remark, a member replied, that 
he did not consider four thousand dollars so very small a 
matter. "Anyhow," he added, "we oughter save the city 
every dollar we kin." Mr. Pullman resumed. He stated 
that the Legislature of the State, several months before, 
had voted a stand of colors to* each infantry regiment in the 
State; that the distribution of these colors had already 
begim ; that the five regiments would soon receive them ; 
and that, consequently, there was no need of their having 
the colors which it was now proposed to give them. A 
member roughly replied, that the colors voted by the State 
Legislature were mere painted banners, " of no account." 
Mr. Pullman denied this. " I am," said he, " captain in 
one of our city regiments. Two weeks ago we received our 
colors. I have seen, felt, examined, and marched under 
them ; and I can testify that they are o/ great beauty, and 
excellent quality, made by Tiffany and Company, a firm of 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 359 

the first standing in the city." He proceeded to describe 
the colors as being made of the best silk, and decorated in 
the most elegant manner. He further objected to the price 
proposed to be given for the colors. He declared that, 
from his connection with the militia, he had become ac- 
quainted with the value of such articles, and he could pro- 
cure colors of the best kind ever used in the service for 
three hundred and seventy-five dollars. The price named 
in the resolution was, therefore, most excessive. Upon 
this, another member rose and said, in a peculiarly offensive 
manner, that it would be two years before Tiffany arid 
Company had made all the colors, and some of the regi- 
ments would have to wait all that time. " The other 
regiments," said he, " have had colors presented by the 
city, and I don't see why we should show partiality." 
Whereupon Mr. Pullman informed the board that the city 
regiments would all be supplied in a few weeks ; and, even 
if they did have to wait awhile, it was of no consequence, 
for they all had very good colors already. Honest Stephen 
Roberts then rose, and said that this was a subject with 
which he was not acquainted, but that if no one could refute 
what Mr. Pullman had said, he should be obliged to vote 
against the resolution. 

Then there was a pause. The cry of " Question ! " was 
heard. The ayes and noes were called. The resolution 
was carried by eighteen to five. The learned suppose that 
one half of this stolen four thousand dollars was expended 
upon the colors, and the other half divided among about 
forty persons. It is conjectured that each member of the 
Councilmen's Ring, whi-ch consists of thirteen, received 
about forty dollars for his vote on this occasion. This sum 
added to his pay, which is twenty dollars per session; made 
a tolerable afternoon's work. 

Any one witnessing this scene would certainly have sup- 
posed that now the militia regiments of the city of New 
York were provided with colors. What was our surprise 
to hear, a few days after, a member gravely propose to 
appropriate eight hundred dollars for the purpose of pre- 
senting the Ninth Regiment of New York Infantry with a 
stand of colors. Mr. Pullman repeated his objections, and 
recounted anew the generosity of the State Legislature. 



360 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

The eighteen, without a word of reply, voted for the grant 
as before. It so chanced that, on our way up Broadway, an 
hour after, we met that very regiment marching down with 
its colors flying ; and we observed that those colors were 
nearly new. Indeed, there is such a propensity in the 
public to present colors to popular regiments, that some of 
them have as many as five stands, of various degrees of 
splendor. There is nothing about which Councilmeii need 
feel so little anxiety as a deficiency in the supply of regi- 
mental colors. When, at last, these extravagant banners 
voted by the Corporation are presented to the regiments, a 
new scene of plunder is exhibited. The officers of the fa- 
vored regiment are invited to a room in the basement of the 
City Hall, where city officials assist them to consume three 
hundred dollars' worth of champagne, sandwiches, and cold 
chicken, paid for out of the city treasury, while the 
privates of the regiment await the return of their officers in 
the unshaded portion of the adjacent park. 

It is a favorite trick with these Councilmen, as of all 
politicians, to devise measures the passage of which will 
gratify large bodies of voters. This is one of the advan- 
tages proposed to be gained by the presentation of colors to 
regiments, and the same system is pursued with regard to 
churches and societies. At every one of the six sessions 
of the Councilmen which we attended, resolutions were 
introduced to give away the people's money to wealthy 
organizations. A church, for example, is assessed a thou- 
sand dollars for the construction of a sewer, which enhances 
the value of the church property by at least the amount 
of the assessment. Straightway a member from that 
neighborhood proposes to console the stricken church with 
a " donation " of a thousand dollars to enable it to pay the 
assessment ; and as this is a proposition to vote money, it 
is carried as a matter of course. We select from our notes 
only one of these donating scenes. A member proposed to 
give two thousand dollars to a certain industrial school, 
the favorite charity of the present time, to which all the 
benevolent most willingly subscribe. Vigilant Christopher 
Pullman reminded the board that it was now unlawful for 
the Corporation to vote money for any object not specified 
in the tax levy, as finally sanctioned by the Legislature. 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 361 

He read the section of the act which forbade it. He fur- 
ther showed, from a statement by the Comptroller, that 
there was no mone}^ left at their disposal for any miscel- 
laneous objects, since the appropriation for " City contin- 
gencies " was exhausted. The only reply to his remarks 
was the instant passage of the resolution by eighteen to 
five. By what artifice the law is likely to be evaded in 
such cases, we may show further on. In all probability, 
the industrial school, in the course of the year, will receive 
a fraction of this money, perhaps even so large a fraction 
as one half. It may be that, erenow, some obliging person 
about the City Hall has offered to buy the claim for a thou- 
sand dollars, and take the risk of the hocus-pocus necessary 
for getting it, which to him is no risk at all. 

It was proposed, on another occasion, to raise the fees of 
the inspectors of weights arid measures, who received fifty 
cents for inspecting a pair of platform scales, and smaller 
sums for scales and measures of less importance. Here was 
a subject upon which honest Stephen Roberts, whose shop 
is in a street where scales and measures abound, was entirely 
at home. He showed, in his sturdy and strenuous manner, 
that, at the rates then established, an active man could 
make two hundred dollars a day. " Why," said he, " a man 
can inspect, and does inspect, fifty platform scales in an 
hour." The cry of " Question ! " arose. The question was 
put, and the usual loud chorus of ayes followed. 

As it requires a three-fourths vote to grant money, i. e. 
eighteen members, it is sometimes impossible for the Ring 
to get that number together. There is a mode of prevent- 
ing the absence or the opposition of members from defeat- 
ing favorite schemes. It is by way of " reconsideration." 
The time was, when a measure distinctly voted down by a 
lawful majority was dead ; but by this expedient the voting 
down of a measure is only equivalent to its postponement to 
a more favorable occasion. The moment the chairman pro- 
nounces a resolution lost, the member who has it in charge 
moves a reconsideration; and, as a reconsideration only 
requires the vote of a majority, this is invariably carried. 
By a rule of the Board, a reconsideration carries a measure 
over to a future meeting, to any future meeting which 
may afford a prospect to its passage. The member who is 
16 



362 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ft 

engineering it watches his chance, labors with faltering 
members out of doors, and as often as he thinks he can 
carry it, calls it. up again until at last the requisite eighteen 
are obtained. It has frequently happened that a member 
has kept a measure in a state of reconsideration for months 
at a time, waiting for the happy moment to arrive. There 
was a robust young Councilman who had a benevolent pro- 
ject in charge, of paying nine hundred dollars for a hackney- 
coach and two horses which a drunken driver drove over 
the dock into the river one cold night last winter. There 
was some disagreement in the Ring on this measure, and the 
robust youth was compelled to move for many reconsidera- 
tions. So, also, it was long before the wires could be all 
arranged to admit of the appointment of a " messenger " to 
the City Librarian, who has perhaps less to do than any man 
in New York who is paid eighteen hundred dollars a year ; 
but perseverance meets its reward. We hear that this 
messenger is now smoking in the City Hall at a salary of 
fifteen hundred dollars. 

There is a manoeuvre also for preventing the attendance 
of obnoxious, obstructive members, like the honest six, which 
is ingenious and effective. A " special meeting " is called. 
The law declares that notice of a special meeting must be 
left at the residence or the place of business of every member. 
Mr. Roberts's residence and Mr. Roberts's place of business 
are eight miles apart, and he leaves his home for the day 
before nine in the morning. If Mr. Roberts's presence at 
a special meeting at 2 P. M. is desired, the notice is left at 
his shop in the morning. If it is not desired, the notice is 
sent to his house in Harlem, after he has left it. Mr. -Pull- 
man, cabinet-maker, leaves his shop at noon, goes home to 
dinner, and returns soon after one. If his presence at the 
special meeting at 2 p. M. is desired, the notice is left at his 
house the evening before, or at his shop in the morning. 
If his presence is not desired, the notice is left at his shop 
a few minutes after twelve, or at his house a few minutes 
past one. In either case, he receives the notice too late to 
reach the City Hall in time. We were present in the Coun- 
cilmen's Chamber when Mr. Pullman stated this inconven- 
ience, assuming that it was accidental, and offered an amend- 
ment to the rule, requiring notice to be left five hours before 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 363 

the time named for the meeting. Mr. Roberts also gave 
his experience in the matter of notices, and both gentlemen 
spoke with perfect moderation and good temper. We wish 
we could convey to our readers an idea of the brutal inso- 
lence with which Mr. Pullman, on this occasion, was snubbed 
and defrauded by a young bar-keeper who chanced to be in 
the chair. But this would be impossible without relating 
the scene at very great length. The amendment proposed 
was voted down with that peculiar roar of noes which is 
always heard in that chamber when some honest man at- 
tempts to put an obstacle in the way of the free plunder 
of his fellow-citizens. 

These half-fledged legislators are acquainted with the 
device known by the name of the "previous question." 
We witnessed a striking proof of this. One of the most 
audacious and insolent of the Ring introduced a resolution, 
vaguely worded, the object of which was to annul an old 
paving contract that would not pay at the present cost of 
labor and materials, and to authorize a new contract at 
higher rates. Before the clerk had finished reading the 
resolution, honest Stephen Roberts sprang to his feet, and, 
unrolling a remonstrance with several yards of signatures 
appended to it, stood, with his eye upon the chairman, 
ready to present it the moment the reading was concluded. 
This remonstrance, be it observed, was signed by a major- 
ity of the property-owners interested, the men who would 
be assessed to pay for one half of the proposed pavement. 
Fancy the impetuous Roberts with the document held aloft, 
the yards of signatures streaming down to his feet and flow- 
ing far under his desk, awaiting the time when it would be 
in order for him to cry out, " Mr. President." The reading- 
ceased. Two voices were heard, shouting, " Mr. President." 
It was not to Mr. Roberts that an impartial chairman could 
assign the floor. The member who introduced the resolu- 
tion was the one who " caught the speaker's eye," and that 
member, forewarned of Mr. Roberts' s intention, moved the 
previous question. It was in vain that Mr. Roberts shouted, 
"Mr. President." It was in vain that he fluttered and 
rattled his streaming ribbon of blotted paper. The Presi- 
dent could not hear a word of any kind until a vote had 
been taken upon the question whether the main question 



364 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

should be now put. That question was carried in the af- 
firmative by a chorus of ayes, so exactly timed that it was 
like the voice of one man. Then the main question was 
put, and it was carried by another emphatic and simultane- 
ous shout. 

We have spoken of the headlong precipitation with which 
all business is done in this board. Measures involving an 
expenditure of millions, and designed to bind the city for a 
great number of years, are hurried through both boards in 
less time than paterfamilias expends in buying his Sunday 
dinner in the market ; and, frequently such measures are 
so mysteriously worded that no one outside of the Ring can 
understand their real object. We happened to be present 
when a resolution was brought directly, from the Board of 
Aldermen (who had passed it without debate), directing the 
Street Commissioner to make a contract with the lowest 
bidder for lighting the whole island for twenty years with 
gas, the price to be fixed now, when coal and labor are 
twice their usual price. No such simple words, however, 
as twenty years were to be found in the resolution ; which 
merely said, that the contract should be for " the same 
number of years as the contract last made and executed 
with the Manhattan Gas Company." A member, bewildered 
by the furiously rapid reading of this long and vague reso- 
lution, timidly inquired how many years that was. No one 
seemed to know. After a pause, some one said that he 
believed it was ten years. Whereupon, Councilman White, 
a faithful and intelligent member of the honest minority, 
proposed that the term of the contract be two years, which 
Mr. Pullman supported. The amendment was instantly 
voted down, and the original resolution was carried by the 
usual eighteen votes. The Mayor promptly, vetoed the 
scheme. The Tribune thundered against it ; but the veto 
message had no sooner been read, than it was passed over 
the veto by the Aldermen ; then taken to the Councilmen's 
Chamber, where the requisite eighteen votes were immedi- 
ately cast for it. This resolution, as we were afterwards 
informen, was merely one of a long series of measures de- 
signed to tap the lamp-posts of the city, like so many sugar- 
maples, and make them run gold into the troughs of a few 
notorious politicians. 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 365 

We are lingering too long in the Councilmen' s Chamber, 
and must abruptly leave it. Nor can we remain more than 
a moment with the Aldermen. It is not necessary, for 
there is not a pin to choose between the two bodies. We 
observe in their chamber the same lavishness of furniture 
and decoration ; pictures as numerous and as bad as those 
which hang in the chamber opposite ; the same wild pro- 
fusion of clerks, assistant clerks, readers, engrossers, mes- 
sengers, and assistant messengers ; the same crowd of un- 
washed and ugly spectators outside the railing. Except 
that the Aldermen are a little older and somewhat better 
dressed than the Councilmen, we could discern no difference 
between them. Whatever dubious scheme is hurried 
through one body is rushed through the other. Sometimes 
the Councilmen point the game, and the Aldermen bring it 
down ; and sometimes it is the Aldermen that start up the 
covey, and the Councilmen that fire. As with the Council- 
men, so with the Aldermen, there is a sure three-fourths 
vote for every scheme which has the sanction of the interior 
circle who control the entire politics of the city. And, as 
among the Councilmen, so among the Aldermen there are 
a few honest and public-spirited men who vainly protest 
against iniquity, or silently cast their votes against it. If 
one such body is one too many, how shall we express the 
enormous superfluity of two 1 It is impossible. 

But there is a third legislative board sitting in the City 
Hall. The island upon which New York is built is a 
county, and that county has its board of twelve Supervisors, 
who have the spending of seventeen millions of dollars per 
annum. The city and the county cover the same territory. 
Each creature in the island of Manhattan lives both in the 
county and in the city of ^"ew York. The existence, there- 
fore, of a separate legislature for each is a complete absurd- 
ity; and, if both were honest, there would be constant 
danger of clashing between them. They do not often clash, 
because both have in view the same object, and pursue that 
object under the direction of a central gang, the masters 
of both. It is the Board of Supervisors who, being author- 
ized, eight years ago, to build a court-house at an expense 
-not to exceed two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, have 
expended upon it two millions and a half; and there it 



366 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

stands to-day just half done. It is computed, by archi- 
tects professionally employed, that for every dollar spent 
upon this unfinished edifice another dollar has gone else- 
where. 

Our principal object in this article is not to present the 
reader with a startling catalogue of iniquities, but to en- 
deavor to contribute our little towards discovering a mode 
of expelling the thieves, keeping them expelled, and getting 
a few honest men in the place of that great multitude of 
plunderers. Before entering upon that part of our subject, 
however, we must show to readers remote from the scene, 
that the corruption exists, that it taints nearly every branch 
of the public service, that it is an evil of gigantic and men- 
acing proportions, and that the numerous expedients devised 
for holding it in check have failed. Hitherto we have re- 
lated what we have ourselves seen and heard : we now 
proceed to glean a few of the more striking facts from 
our notes of what others have told us and from printed 
testimony. 

The volume entitled " The Manual of the Common Coun- 
cil " is itself a curious specimen of the artifices resorted to by 
these official plunderers of the public purse. In the year 
1841, a zealous assistant clerk to the Common Council con- 
ceived the idea of publishing a little volume, which should be 
a kind of city almanac ; containing, besides what an almanac 
usually presents, a list of all the persons connected with 
the city government, their places of business and residence, 
and a map of the city. A neat, small volume of 180 pages 
was the result of his labors. Even this was unnecessary, 
because the most useful part of the information which it 
gave respecting the members of the government had already 
appeared in the City Directory, and an almanac could be 
had of pill-venders for nothing. No good reason could 
be given why even so inexpensive a work as that should be 
paid for out of the public treasury. But see to what pro- 
portions this trifling imposition has since grown. The next 
year, our zealous assistant clerk- added to his catalogue of 
city officials a list of all previous members of the Corpora- 
tion, from the earliest period of the city's existence, and a 
picture of New York as it was two hundred years ago. 
This year the volume swelled from 180 to 253 pages. The 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 367 

picture was interesting, and caused the work to be much 
spoken of and sought after, which was only another proof 
how unnecessary it was that it should be published at the 
expense of the city. The next issue, besides the list of 
names and residences, contained extensive extracts from 
ancient city records, which increased the number of pages 
to 312. Every year the Manual increased in bulk, in the 
quantity of superfluous matter, in the number and costliness 
of the pictures, until it has now become a manual of folly, 
extravagance, and dishonesty. Let us glance at the Man- 
ual for 1865 j for, to add to the exquisiteness of the art 
employed in its preparation, the book is not published un- 
til the year is nearly expired, and a new set of officers are 
about to be chosen, so that the volume for 1866 had not 
appeared when these lines were written. The Manual for 
1865 is a most superb and lavishly illustrated duodecimo 
volume of 879 pages. It contains one hundred and forty- 
one pictures, of all degrees of expensiveness, steel-plate, 
woodcut, plain lithograph, and colored lithograph. The 
large colored map of the city, at the beginning, cost as 
much money as a map of that kind could any way be made 
to cost. Next comes a steel portrait of the person who, for 
twenty-five years, has hired people to compile the annual 
volume, and whose name has always appeared on the title- 
page as its editor, and who is supposed to be liberally re- 
munerated for his editorial labors. Next appears a very- 
elegant colored title-page, containing six finely executed 
pictures. 

Before proceeding with the list, we remind the reader 
that the ingenuity of the compilers of this work has been 
severely taxed for many years to devise and discover sub- 
jects for illustration. Subjects that could be called legiti- 
mate, or that approached the legitimate, having been long 
ago exhausted, the editor this year appears to have been 
in the direst straits to supply his lithographers and en- 
gravers with the regular quantity of work. 

Accordingly, the next illustration is a plan of the Alder- 
men's Chamber, designed to show where each member sat 
in 18G5 ; and the next is a four-paged, folding lithograph, 
containing precious gift to posterity ! afac-simile of 
each Alderman's signature. In the next two plates poster- 



368 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ity is blessed with the signatures of the Councilmen for 
1-865, and the means of ascertaining the precise arm-chair 
occupied by each. The following are the subjects of a few 
of the costly colored lithographs : the " fur store " estab- 
lished in 1820 by the father of the Mayor of the city in 
1865; the "old frame-house " in which the editor of the 
Manual " passed his youth " ; " Mr. Stewart's house in 
Fifty -Fourth Street " ; "a grocery and tea store " of the 
year 1826 ; the house in North Moore Street in which 
Speaker Colfax was born ; " twin frame-houses in Lexing- 
ton Avenue "3 Tammany Hall in 1830; a billiard saloon 
in the Fifth Avenue ; Harlem Lane, with fast horses travel- 
ling thereon ; the " Audubon Estate " on the Hudson ; the 
upper end of the Central Park drive. Besides these, there 
are pictures, not colored, of a prodigious number of public 
and private buildings, and portraits of undistinguished per- 
sons. The number of pages occupied by extracts from old 
records, newspapers, and memories is 423 ! 

Such is the book which the tax-payers of the city are 
called upon every year to pay for, in order to swell the in- 
come of sundry printers, lithographers, politicians, and the 
compiler. But this is not all. The number of copies an- 
nually ordered to be printed is ten thousand ! The num- 
ber paid for is ten thousand. The number actually printed, 
we are positively assured by men who are in a position to 
know, is about three thousand. Of this number, about 
fifteen hundred are distributed gratis about the City Hall, 
and the rest are sold by, and for the benefit of, the com- 
piler. A considerable number find their way into the 
second-hand bookstores which make Nassau Street so fas- 
cinating to poor students and rich collectors. We bought 
our copy there, and its price was three dollars. The book- 
seller informed us that he laid in his supply of the Manual 
for 1865 at two dollars per copy, which is three dollars 
and thirty-six cents less than a copy costs the city. Nor 
have we yet got to the bottom of this enormous "job." We 
have said that the city pays for ten thousand copies of the 
preposterous volume. It pays for nearly twice that num- 
ber. The items of the Manual account rendered for 1865 
were these : T 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 369 

Bill of engraving $4,353.10 

Bill of engraving and printing . . . 733.00 

Bill of drawing and printing . . . 5,150.00 

Bill of lithographing and printing . . . 3,185.00 

Bill of printing 10,000 copies . . . 27,951.20 

Bill of corrections and alterations . . . 300.00 

Bill of paper for title-pages . . . 600.00 

Bill of thirty reams tissue paper . . . 150.00 

Bill of papering 10,000 copies . . . 100.00 

Bill of ten reams wrapping paper . . . 150.00 

Bill of binding 5,000 copies in cloth . . 5,000.00 

Bill of binding 4,000 copies in muslin . . 4,000.00 

Bill of binding 1,000 copies in morocco . 2,000.00 

Total $53,672.30 

D. T. Valentine, for compiling . . 3.500.00 



Total $57,172.30 

This shameful account being brought to the notice of the 
present Mayor of the city, Mr. John T. Hoffman, he did 
himself the honor to veto the resolution authorizing a sim- 
ilar expenditure for 1866. He told the men who passed 
that resolution, that he had made inquiries of such pub- 
lishing houses as the Appletons and the Harpers, and had 
ascertained that ten thousand copies of the work could 
be manufactured for $30,000, instead of $53,672; al- 
though a new publisher would not have the benefit of the 
large amount of stereotyped matter which appears in the 
Manual from year to year, with little alteration. The truth 
is, that the book actually costs the compiler about $ 15,000 
per annum ; and the difference between that sum and the 
amount charged is taken from the pockets of the New 
York tax-payers by a process which we leave our readers 
to characterize with the proper term. 

The most usual manner of stealing is to receive money 
for awarding or procuring contracts, appointments, dona- 
tions, or increase of salaries, which money, of course, the 
favored person gets back, if he can, from the public treas- 
ury ; and he usually can. The President of the Board of 
Health, last spring, when New York was threatened with 
the cholera, had occasion to remonstrate with a person 
who held the contract for removing dead animals from the 
streets, and threatened him with the breaking of the con- 
tract if its conditions were not better complied with. 
16* x 



370 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

" That would be rather hard, Mr. Schultz," replied the 
man, "for that contract cost me $60,000." And well it 
might ; for the city pays $ 25,000 a year for getting rid of 
a commodity every pound of which ought to yield the city 
a revenue. A dead horse, worth twenty dollars, the city 
pays for having carted off to where it can be conveniently 
converted into twenty dollars. Another contractor receives 
$ 21,000 a year for removing night-soil, which could be sold 
for enough to pay the cost of its removal. By various ex- 
tra charges, the holders of this contract have continued to 
swell their gains incredibly. Mr. Jackson Schultz, the 
energetic and capable President of the Board of Health, 
has recently published his conviction, that the " total swin- 
dle under this contract is $ 111,000," and we have had the 
advantage of hearing him demonstrate the fact. The story, 
however, is too long for our very limited space. 

Does any one need evidence that the men who award 
such contracts, in the teeth of opposition and elucidation, 
receive a large share of the plunder ^ The fact is as cer- 
tain as though ten witnesses swore to having seen the money 
to them in hand paid. Three years ago a contract was 
awarded for sweeping the streets for ten years, at $ 495,000 
a year. Since the accession to power of the new Board of 
Health, responsible men have handed in a written offer to 
buy the remainder of the contract for a quarter of a million 
dollars, i. e. to clean the city for seven years at $ 495,000 
a year, and give the city a quarter of a million dollars for 
the privilege. There are those about the city offices who 
know, or think they know, how the plunder of this contract 
is divided. We believe we are not violating any confidence, 
expressed or implied, when we say, that it is the conviction 
of the Board of Health that $ 100,000 per annum of the 
proceeds of this contract are divided among certain politi- 
cians ; that a certain lawyer, who engineered the project, and 
stands ready to defend it, receives a salary of $ 25,000 per 
annum as " counsel to the contract " ; and that the men 
in whose name the contract is held are " dummies," who get 
$ 6,000 a year for the use of their names and for their labor 
in superintending the work. The contract is further bur- 
dened with the support of several hundred cripples, old men, 
and idle men, all of whom are voters, who are put in the 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 371 

street-cleaning force by Aldermen and Councilmen who want 
their votes and the votes of their relatives,, thus kindly re- 
lieved of maintaining aged grandfathers, lame uncles, and lazy 
good-for-nothings. These statements, we are aware, cannot 
be proved. Such compacts are not trusted to paper ; and 
a witness driven to bay can always balk his assailants by 
refusing to criminate himself. The reader, therefore, may 
decline to believe these details. One thing remains, and is 
certain, that the workingmen of New York are annually 
plundered of two hundred thousand dollars per annum by 
this single contract. 

How the work so munificently paid for is done is suf- 
ficiently well known. Into that foul subject we cannot 
enter, except to notice the blind devotion of the great mass 
of poor men who annually vote to keep in power the people 
who steal their earnings and poison their children. New 
York boasts a Democratic majority of more than thirty 
thousand votes, and the government of the city is alwaj's 
in the hands of the party so named. Is it, then, the rich 
men's streets that are unswept, and the poor men's crowded 
avenues and lanes that are clean ? Are the small parks and 
squares where thousands of poor children play better kept 
than those to which scores of rich men's children are car- 
ried 1 Is the Bowery cleaner than Broadway, and Tomkins 
Square more inviting than Union 1 In the spring, when 
the March thaw has unlocked the accumulated dirt of the 
winter, and the whole city is deep in mire, which are the 
streets that a Democratic contractor first throws himself 
upon 1 Does he first remove the festering mounds of pol- 
lution that block the poor man's path to his home, and 
make that home loathsome to him, and then betake himself 
to the coating of mud that soils the rich man's boots 1 Or 
does he leave reeking with abomination the crammed thor- 
oughfares where Democratic voters live, half a hundred in 
a house, until every shovelful of dirt has been removed 
from the places where rich men reside, seven voters to a 
block ? But why ask idle questions ? It is the law of this 
world that the strong shall rule it. In a commercial city, 
the strong men are rich. Label your government what you 
will, it is the strong men in a community who have their 
way ; and therefore, under all governments, the streets 
where rich men live are clean. 



372 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

The plunder of the persons who are so unfortunate as to 
serve the public, and of those who aspire to serve the pub- 
lic, is systematic, and nearly universal. Our inquiries into 
this branch of the subject lead us to conclude that there 
are very few salaries paid from the city or county treasury 
which do not yield an annual percentage to some one of the 
" head-centres " of corruption. The manner in which this 
kind of spoliation is sometimes effected may be gathered 
from a narrative which we received from the lips of one of 
the few learned and estimable men whom the system of 
electing judges by the people has left upon the bench in 
the city of New York. Four years ago, when the inflation 
of the currency had so enhanced the price of all commodi- 
ties that there was, of necessity, a general increase of sala- 
ries, public and private, there was talk of raising the salaries 
of the fourteen judges, who were most absurdly underpaid 
even when a dollar in paper and a dollar in gold were the 
same thing. Some of the judges were severely pinched in 
attempting to make six thousand half-dollars do the work 
which six thousand whole ones had accomplished with diffi- 
culty ; and none, perhaps, more severely than the excellent 
and hospitable judge whose experience we are about to re- 
late. A person known by him to be in the confidence of 
leading men about the City Hall called upon him one day, 
and informed him that it was in contemplation to raise the 
salaries of all the judges $ 2,000 per annum. The judge 
observed, that he was much relieved to hear it, for he had 
gone so deeply into the Sanitary Commission and other 
projects for promoting the war, and had made so many 
expensive journeys to Washington in furtherance of such 
projects, that he did not see how he could get through 
the year if the inflation continued. " Well, Judge," said the 
person, " if the judges are disposed to be -reasonable, the 
thing can be done." " What do you mean by reasonable ? " 
asked the judge. The reply was brief and to the point : 
" Twenty-five per cent of the increase for one year." The 
judge said no. If his salary could not be raised without 
that, he must rub on, as best he could, on his present in- 
come. The person w'as evidently much surprised, and said : 
" I am sorry you have such old-fashioned notions. Why, 
Judge, everybody does it here." Nothing more was heard 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 373 

of increasing the judges' salaries for a whole year, during 
which the inflation itself had become inflated, and every 
door-keeper and copyist had had his stipend increased. At 
length the spoilers deemed it best, for purposes of their 
own, to consent that the salaries of the judges should be 
increased $ 1,000 ; and, a year after that, the other $ 1,000 
was permitted to be added. 

It was recently proved, in the presence of the Governor 
of the State, that the appointment of the office of Corpora- 
tion Attorney was sold to one incumbent for the round sum 
of $ 10,000. This is bad enough, but worse remains to be 
told. Sworn testimony (from thirty-six witnesses), taken 
by a committee of investigation, establishes the appalling 
fact, that appointments to places in the public schools are 
systematically sold in some of the wards, the wards where 
the public schools are almost the sole civilizing power, and 
where it is of unspeakable importance that the schools 
should be in the hands of the best men and women. One 
young lady, who had just buried her father and had a help- 
less mother to support, applied for a situation as teacher, 
and was told, as usual, that she must pay for it. She re- 
plied that she could not raise the sum demanded, the funeral 
expenses having exhausted the family store. She was then 
informed that she could pay " the tax " in instalments. 
Another poor girl came on the witness-stand on crutches, 
and testified that she had paid $ 75 for a situation of $ 300 
a year. Another lady went to a member of the Ring, and 
told him, with tears, that she saw no way of procuring the 
sum required, nor even of saving it from the slender salary 
of the place. The man was moved by her anguish, took 
compassion upon her, and said he would remit his share of 
" the tax." It was shown, too, that the agent of all this 
foul iniquity was no other than the principal of one of the 
schools. It was he who received and paid over the money 
wrung from the terror and necessities of underpaid and 
overworked teachers. We learn from the report of the 
committee that the Ring in this ward was originally formed 
for the express purpose of giving the situations in a new 
and handsome school " to the highest bidder " ; and, as the 
opening of the new school involved the discharge of a small 
number jpf teachers employed in the old schools, the Ring 



374 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

had both the fear and the ambition of the teachers to work 
upon. " There was a perfect reign of terror in the ward," 
says the report of the investigating committee. " The 
agent performed his duty with alacrity and with a heart- 
lessness worthy of the employers. It appears that he not 
only summoned the teachers to come to him, but that he 
called on their parents and friends as to the amount they 
should pay for their appointments, the sums varying 
from $ 50 to $ 600, according to the position sought." 

And who were the Ring that perpetrated this infamy 1 
They were a majority of the Trustees elected by the people, 
and the School Commissioner elected by the people, six 
poor creatures, selected from the grog-shop and the wharf, 
and intrusted with the most sacred interest of a republic, 
the education of its children. It was known before that 
in some of the wards the school trustees were drunkards ; 
it was known before that little children were piled up, like 
flower-pots in a green-house, in small, ill-ventilated rooms ; 
but no one supposed, before this investigation in 1864, that 
men could be elected to office who were capable of such 
revolting meanness as this. 

When appointments are sold, appointments are likely to 
be numerous. Some of our readers, doubtless, have smiled 
at the ridiculous catalogue of offices created to relieve the 
pecuniary straits of Louis XIV., and given by Voltaire in 
his history of the reign of that expensive monarch. In 
Paris, in the year 1710, men holding the rank of counsel- 
lors of the king held such posts as hog-inspectors, inspectors 
of calves, of wigs, and of slaughter-houses, inventory-draw- 
ers, measurers of fire-wood, deputy measurers of fire-wood, 
pilers of fire-wood, unloaders of fire-wood, comptrollers of 
timber, markers of timber, charcoal-measurers, grain-sifters, 
comptrollers of poultry, barrel-gangers, barrel-rollers, but- 
ter-testers, beer-testers, brandy-testers, linen-measurers, un- 
loaders of hay, and removers of boarding. Not that coun- 
sellors to the king performed any of these labors. That 
was done by underlings ; the counsellors to the king merely 
pocketing the greater part of the fees. But how mild and 
trivial was this abuse of kingly power, compared with the 
hoards of superfluous officers that swarm in the public 
buildings of the city of New York ! In the office of the 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 375 

City Comptroller there are one hundred and thirty-one 
clerks. The Street Commissioner employs sixty. In the 
precious Manual described above, the reader, amazed at 
the interminable list of persons employed by the city, is 
every now and then puzzled by such items as these : twelve 
" manure-inspectors," at $ 3 a day each ; twenty-two " health- 
wardens," twenty-two " assistant health-wardens," twenty- 
two "street-inspectors," all at $3 a day each; seven "as- 
sistant inspectors of meat, at $ 900 per annum each ; seven 
"inspectors of encumbrances," at $1,250 each; twenty-two 
" distributors of corporation ordinances," at $ 2 each per 
day. V^e have not space to continue the catalogue. Who 
has ever seen any of these wardens and inspectors 1 A 
gentleman connected with the Citizens' Association, had the 
public spirit to sally forth, Manual in hand, in quest of the 
twenty-two health-wardens and twenty-two assistants ; for 
neither he nor the writer of these lines, nor any of their 
acquaintances, had ever so much as heard of the existence 
of such officers. Long and painful was the search. He 
found that those guardians of the public health were bar- 
keepers, low ward politicians, nameless hangers-on of sa- 
loons, who absolutely performed no official duty whatever 
except to draw the salary attached to their places. They 
were the merest creatures of the worthless man who ap- 
pointed them, the man who sold or gave away blank in- 
terment-permits, signed, to favored undertakers, "to save 
them the trouble of coming down town every time they had 
a funeral." * For the benefit of those gentlemen of leisure 
in New York, who excuse their want of public spirit by say- 
ing that the city government is so corrupt that it is of-" no 
use to try " to reform it, we will mention that, very much 
through the exertions of the warden-hunter referred to 
above, those three twenty-two's were abolished a few months 
ago, as well as the entire department to which they be- 
longed. To that single item of reform we owe it that the 
city was not desolated by the cholera during the past sum- 
mer. 

The reader has, perhaps, heard something respecting the 

* This was the reason given by the undertakers when they were ques- 
tioned on the subject by members of the new Board of Health. The pos- 
session of blank permit's did not, however, prevent them from charging for 
the permits in their bills. 



376 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

cost of " opening " new streets in the city of New York. 
Under cover of those innocent-looking words, incredible 
sums of money are stolen from the owners of real estate. 
In the year 1811, the entire island, except a small strip at 
its northern extremity, was surveyed ; the sites of all the 
future streets and avenues were settled, marked with stone 
pillars, and laid down on maps ; so that, ever since that 
time, all land has been bought, sold, held, and improved 
with reference to the streets that were one day to run 
through it, by it, or near it. The work was so well done 
that those maps, and no others, are still used by assessors 
of taxes, and for all other official purposes. Copies of them 
are to be found for reference in one of the rooms of the 
building whereto all the world repairs every November to 
be taxed. Bearing these facts in mind, the reader will 
easily comprehend the audacity of the theft to which his 
attention is now directed. 

A new street is ordered to be " opened," and the judges 
of the Supreme Court appoint three commissioners to per- 
form the work, at four dollars per day each. l?o " open " a 
street, in the legal sense, is not to go to work with shovel 
and pickaxe and convert a strip of meadow into a street, 
but merely to buy the strip from the owners, transfer the 
title to the Corporation, and then formally declare the 
street " opened." Since the surveys are already done, and 
the maps already made, and since the expense of the whole 
transaction is borne by the owners of land upon the street, 
who bought that land because the street would one day ex- 
ist, this legal opening is the merest form. The commission- 
ers buy the land required at the rate of one dollar for each 
lot taken, which is one among many proofs of the pure for- 
mality of the business. We will now state, first, what the 
three commissioners actually do who are so lucky as to have 
a street to open ; and then we will show what is charged 
for the arduous work. 

They meet in a room in the third story of a building in 
Nassau Street, which is from five to eight miles from the 
street about to be opened. They hire the room for the 
meetings of the commissioners. True, it is already occu- 
pied, and no change in it is made by the occupant ; but 
they hire it, nevertheless. They appoint a surveyor, a 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 377 

clerk, an assistant clerk, and sometimes, we believe, a mes- 
senger. These appointments cost them three minutes of 
their valuable time ; for there are people who have acquired, 
in some way, a claim to those appointments, and are ap- 
pointed as a matter of course. There is not, there cannot 
be, a doubt that the "understanding" between the judges, 
the commissioners, the surveyors, and the clerks is com- 
plete before the first step is taken. The clerk is the ruling 
mind of the affair. It is he who lets the room ; it is he who 
draws up the final report ; it is he who divides the spoil, 
and takes, probably, the largest single share. He conceives, 
arranges, starts, and conducts the operation, and he does it 
at his ease in his own hired room. The officers being ap- 
pointed, the commissioners have earned their four dollars 
each, and adjourn. 

Every day, between the hours of twelve and two, they 
visit the apartment, inquire after the health of their clerk, 
perhaps take a cigar with him, see that their names are 
entered as having attended, which entitles them to four 
dollars, and then return, refreshed, to their private business. 
Meanwhile sundry advertisements are published, announ- 
cing to parties interested what is going on. The surveyor 
may or may not take a car and ride up to the street, or 
walk over the part to be opened. Perhaps there is a house, 
built before 1811, which extends over the line of the street ; 
and if 3D, the owner is entitled to compensation. Usually, 
however, there is nothing of the kind ; and usually the 
surveyor, an old hand at the business, knows whether there 
is or not without going up to see. A draughtsman, mean- 
while, has been copying a map of the street from the maps 
of 1811 ; and the clerk writes along the border of it (from 
the tax-books) the names of the owners of the lots on each 
side of the street. Sundry other advertisements are then 
published, calling upon parties interested to come and see 
what has been done, and state objections, if any there are. 
The clerk* then draws up a report, and the thing is done. 
None of these operations are hurried. Care is taken of the 
interests of the commissioners. It is not until they have 
paid their noontide respects to the clerk for a prodigious 
number of days that the street is pronounced " open." 

Then the bill is presented. The surveyor charges as 



378 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

though he had made original surveys and drawn original 
maps. The clerk charges as though his report were the 
result of original searches and researches. The commis- 
sioners charge as though the opening had been the tardy 
fruit of actual negotiations. The rent of the room is charged 
as though it had been occupied wholly by the commission- 
ers. And all of these charges are the very highest which 
any one, in his most lavish mood, could even think of in 
connection with the work supposed to be done. When we 
add, that half a dozen of these openings are frequently go- 
ing on at the same time, in the same snug upper room, and 
conducted by the same individuals, the reader will not be 
surprised to learn that the net result of the business to the 
master spirit, for the year ending June, 1866, was $ 25,466, 
of which sum $ 4,433 was charged for the rent of the room, 
which he hires for about $ 300 per annum, and $ 950 was 
charged for "disbursements and postage-stamps." One 
surveyor's bill for the" same year was $ 54,000. It has been 
ascertained, after a laborious examination of the public 
records, that the total cost of " opening" twenty-five streets, 
or parts of streets, averaging less than half a mile each in 
length, was $257,192.12. The public is indebted for this 
information to Mr. William H. Whitbcck, president of an 
association of property-owners recently formed to protect 
themselves against further spoliation of the same nature. 

The Executive Council of the Citizens' Association has 
recently given publicity to a large number of facts relating 
to the same iniquity. We will select one of them : 

" In opening 124th Street, the Commissioners awarded to the owner 
of a house standing in the northwest angle of 124th Street and Second 
Avenue some $ 4, 500 for the damage to his building by the opening 
of the street. If this house had stood in the middle of the street, and 
had been entirely destroyed by the opening, he should not have re- 
ceived one cent, inasmuch as the house was built subsequent to 1811, 
when the map of the city was planned. The fact is, that, in 1811, a 
monument was planted at the intersection of 124th Street and Second 
Avenue, and the person who built the house built it in the angle of 
the street, and facing the country road. The owner knew well where 
the street was to be, and so avoided building upon it. As the house 
was bnilt facing the angle, the two ends of its rectangular piazza ex- 
tended about six feet over the line, the one end over the line of Sec- 
ond Avenue, and the other end over the line of 124th Street. Now, 
if the owner built his house encroaching upon the street, he should 
not have been paid for the damage caused by his own negligence. It 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YOEK. 379 

appears, however, that the piazza has been rounded so as not to ex- 
tend over the line ; and for this rounding of the piazza, which could, 
have been done at an expense of certainly not more than $ 1,000, the 
owner has been allowed the enormous sum of $ 4, 500. The house 
stands there as good as it ever was. Need we say that the owner is a 
prominent politician ? " 

We have since conversed with the gentleman who was 
charged with the investigation of this case. He assures us 
that the rounding of the piazza cost, in reality, about $ 250 ; 
and that he placed it at $ 1,000 in his report, because, be- 
ing ignorant of carpentry, he deemed it best to mention a 
sum much in excess of the probable cost. 

Our lessening space warns us to forbear, though we have 
scarcely made an impression upon the mass of facts before 
us. We cannot dwell upon the favoritism practised toward 
the real constituents of the spoilers, the liquor-dealers, 
who actually paid a less sum per annum for licenses, and 
contributed a smaller amount to the Inebriate Asylum, 
than the liquor-dealers of Albany. We must pass by such 
enormous frauds as that known by the name of the Ganse- 
voort swindle, in the course of which a tract of land was 
bought from the city at half its value, kept in costly litiga- 
tion for several years, then bought back by the city for 
twice its value, and all the taxes remitted for the inter- 
vening period. Nor can we give details of the manner in 
which mean men steal from the price of the school-chil- 
dren's copy-books and slate-pencils, nor open up the enor- 
mous and complicated cheat which is covered by the word 
" stationery." How the hard-earned claims of poor labor- 
ers are " shaved," under pretence that there is no money to 
pay them in the Treasury ; by what means a clerk of a 
market enjoys an income as large as that of the President 
of the United States; how the funerals of eminent men, 
the celebration of national festivals, and the return of 
scarred veterans from the seat of war have been made the 
occasion, first, of drunken revelry, and afterwards of 
wholesale plunder ; how the delicate wines provided for the 
sick in the public institutions are poured down the filthy 
gullets of many whose natural drink is distilled molasses ; 
how the most valuable ferry leases, wharf privileges, and 
railroad charters are given away or sold for a tenth of their 
value to " dummies " who represent the very men who 



380 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

grant them ; how many men hold two or more offices at 
once ; and fifty other scandals into which we have looked, 
we must pass by with this brief indication of their na- 
ture. It would be amusing to show the process by which 
(until honest Christopher Pullman stopped it last spring) 
the city was made to pay $ 87 every time the Corporation 
granted permission to an old woman to keep a peanut-stand 
on a corner, for which she paid one dollar. As a portion 
of the "proceedings" of the two boards, the "resolution " 
had to be published in seventeen newspapers, and paid for 
in each, which cost the sum just mentioned. The same 
worthy gentleman has proved, by personal inquiry, that 
every rocket or firework discharged on the Fourth of July 
by order of the Corporation costs the city exactly twice as 
much as a private citizen pays for the same articles. 

The result of all this plunder is, that in thirty-six years 
the rate of taxation in the city and county of New York 
has increased from two dollars and a half to forty dollars 
per inhabitant ! In 1830, the city was governed for half a 
million dollars. In 1865, the entire government of the 
island, including assessments on private property for public 
improvements, cost more than forty millions of dollars. 
In 1830, the population of the city was a little more than 
two hundred thousand. It is now about one million. Thus, 
while the population of the county is five times greater 
than it was in 1830, the cost of governing it is sixteen 
times greater. And yet such is the value of the productive 
property owned by the city, so numerous are the sources 
of revenue from that property, that able men of business 
are of the deliberate opinion that a private company could 
govern, clean, sprinkle, and teach the city by contract, 
taking as compensation only the fair revenue to be derived 
from its property. Take one item as an illustration : un- 
der the old excise system, the liquor licenses yielded twelve 
thousand dollars per annum ; under the new, they yield 
one million and a quarter. Take another : the Corporation 
own more than twenty miles of wharves and water-front, 
the revenue from which does not keep the wharves in re- 
pair ; under a proper system, they would yield a million 
dollars above the cost of repairs. 

We trust no reader of this article not one needs 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 381 

to be reminded that the money stolen by the thieves into 
whose hands the city has fallen is the smallest item of the 
mighty sum of evil resulting from the system. A person, 
however, must intimately know New York to realize what a 
welling fount of moral pollution it is. Those within the 
circle of corruption, and all with whom they continue to 
have dealings, lose at length all sense of honor and shame, 
all power to distinguish between right and wrong, and, 
finally, all knowledge that there is any difference between 
them. It is a most insidious thing. Many a good young 
man has been drawn into the system so insensibly that he 
has become an habitual stealer of the public money, almost 
without knowing it. Others are conscious thieves, but not 
yet hardened beyond remorse. Some of these are, as it 
were, imprisoned in the system, and know not how to es- 
cape. A very large number are morally non-existent, and 
have no other thought or occupation except to devise and 
execute schemes of spoliation. And we do believe that no 
man who serves, sells to, or buys from the city, and no man 
who tries to serve, sell to, or buy from the city, does en- 
tirely escape contamination. What a tale we could tell of 
one notorious, but not naturally bad man, who, from a re- 
spectable though humble employment on the wharves, was 
lured into the low politics of his ward, and drank himself 
into such favor that he obtained, at length, the means of 
buying the privilege to steal as head of one of the depart- 
ments, and now, his place being abolished, and all his 
ill-gotten gains squandered in vice and ambitious schemes, 
slinks out of view, fatally diseased, and bereft of hope ! 
But this part of our subject we leave to our readers' own 
reflections, and we rejoice to know that it will fare better 
there than it could in these pages ; for, truly, the moral 
harm which this system is now doing in New York, and 
to the country through New York, is something which 
baffles and eludes written language. 

The question now occurs, How was it that a city contain- 
ing so many public-spirited and honorable men fell into the 
control of a gang of thieves 1 

It has all come about in one generation. Within the 
memory of men still living, the affairs both of the city and 
the State of New York were so well managed that other 



382 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

States and cities were glad to copy their methods of doing 
public business. The time was when men, after a brilliant 
career in Congress, regarded it as promotion to be Mayor 
of the city ; when a seat in the city legislature was the 
coveted reward of a lifetime of honest dealing in private 
business; when a seat in the State Legislature was the 
usual first step to the highest places in the national govern- 
ment ; when the very ward committees were composed of 
eminent merchants and lawyers ; and when even to serve as 
secretary to a ward committee was a feather in the cap of 
a bank-teller or head book-keeper in a great house of busi- 
ness. In other words, the time was when the city was gov- 
erned by its natural chiefs, the men who had a divine 
right to govern it. Nay, more : it was once a distinction 
to be a voter, since none could vote who were not house- 
holders. None could vote who had not given their fellow- 
citizens some evidence of an ability to vote understandingly, 
and some indication of a disposition to vote correctly. The 
particular test selected we do not admire ; and all we can 
say in favor of it is that it was better than none. It did 
exclude the great mass of ignorance and vice ; it did admit 
the great mass of intelligence and virtue ; it did answer the 
* purpose in a respectable degree. 

This system was changed by the Constitutional Conven- 
tion of 1821, which abolished the household restriction, and 
admitted to the polls all citizens, native and foreign, except 
convicted criminals and madmen. Among those who op- 
posed this fatal change was Martin Van Buren ; and all the 
dire consequences of it which he predicted have come upon 
the city. He said it would utterly corrupt the politics of 
New York, by giving it over into the hands of ten thousand 
ignorant or vicious men, whose votes could not be overcome. 
It would " drive from the polls all sober-minded people," 
from mere despair of effecting any good by voting. It would 
take away one powerful motive to virtue by abolishing the 
distinction between voters and non-voters. To be a voter, 
said Mr. Van Buren, is now " the proudest and most inval- 
uable attribute of freemen." It was one of the rewards of 
industry and self-control. A proud day it was to a young 
mechanic, when he left his new home and his newly married 
wife, and walked, for the first time, to the polls to deposit 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 383 

his vote. It stamped him a respectable man. He was 
thenceforth a full-fledged citizen, one of the masters of the 
city, the rulers of which were his servants ; and they knew 
it, and treated him accordingly. Mr. Van Buren's remon- 
strances were not heeded, and the old system was abolished. 

The evil consequences did not immediately appear, be- 
cause the habit of selecting respectable men for the public 
service survived the system which had created that habit. 
The reign of Andrew Jackson, which debauched the national 
government, developed rapidly all the tendencies to corrup- 
tion latent in the government of the city. A lower grade 
of men were elected to office, and a grade still lower worked 
the machinery by which they were elected. Still, there 
was no system of stealing. A defalcation occasionally oc- 
curred ; aldermen sometimes pocketed bundles of cigars 
from the "tea-room"; others contrived to convey their 
families to evening parties at the expense of the city; 
others may sometimes have cribbed an odd half-ream of 
paper or a box of pens; and, doubtless, there was some 
jobbery, and much favoritism, as there is in all govern- 
ments. Honesty, however, continued to be the rule in the 
public service. We mean, that, although the politics of 
the city were debased, and the men elected were always 
depreciating, there was no thought among them of using 
their places as conveniences for plundering their constituents. 
As late even as 1850 an alderman or chief of. a department 
would have actually lost standing with his fellows if sus- 
pected of taking a bribe or of having a concealed inter- 
est in a contract. Yes, even in 1850, but sixteen years 
ago, it was a disgrace to steal the people's money on any 
pretext. If any one had then foretold that the time was 
at hand when the only men in the city government de- 
spised and snubbed by their equals would be the few who 
did not steal, no man could have believed the wild pre- 
diction. 

About the year 1850, when it began to be perceived that 
omnibuses could no longer convey the morning and evening 
multitudes of people, and when street railroads in many 
avenues were projected, the Corporation conceived the fancy 
that they had the right to grant the privilege of laying 
rails in the public streets to private companies. In fact, it 



384 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

was taken for granted on all hands that this was their right ; 
and it was in connection with those railroad grants that 
the corruption, on a great scale, began. It was then that 
the low, immature, ignorant, unprincipled, irresponsible, 
untaxed persons who formed the majority of the city legisla- 
ture discovered that an alderman could, by a judicious use 
of his opportunities, not merely get a good deal of money, 
but make his fortune, during a single term of service. 
" Rings " were then first formed ; " agents " were then first 
employed, the mysterious go-betweens who have to be 
"seen" before anything can be done. The necessity for 
this machinery was soon perceived ; for, at first, some sad 
mistakes occurred, which threatened for a time to spoil the 
game. One company, for example, distributed forty thou- 
sand dollars among the Aldermen, but were outbid, and the 
grant was given to another company. Naturally enough, 
they demanded their money back ; but many of the poor 
creatures had already squandered their shares, and were 
totally unable to refund. One of the defrauded men, as it 
chanced, was a member of the grand jury, and he announced 
his determination to bring the matter before that body. 
Means were found to satisfy his claim ; about one half the 
whole sum was given up, and the rest was paid in promises 
that have never been fulfilled. New-Yorkers remember the 
ancient, familiar firm of Kipp and Brown, formerly blazoned 
on the gorgeous sides of countless omnibuses. Mr. Solomon 
Kipp, the head of that firm, used to say that he personally 
expended fifty thousand dollars in " getting through " the 
two comparatively unimportant railroad grants in which 
he was interested. We have the affidavits of other par- 
ties before us, which justify the conclusion that, from this 
single source, the Corporation corruptly gained a round 
million in about ten years. 

Thus the system of spoliation began. Thus was the cu- 
pidity of the politicians inflamed. From that time to this, 
the ordinary New York politician has regarded public office 
in no other light than as a chance to steal without the risk 
of the penitentiary. It is not that the city government, so 
far as controlled by politicians, sometimes steals. We do 
not make that charge. We say it does nothing but steal ; 
for even the most useful or necessary public work is 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 385 

sanctioned by it only so far as it affords promise of gain to 
politicians. 

At the present time, as we are informed by one whose 
opportunities of knowledge are unequalled, all the political 
concerns of the city are controlled by about seven men, 
heads of city departments and others. In most of the 
wards, a nomination to office by the party which is ludi- 
crously styled Democratic insures an election by the people ; 
and it is these seven men who work the machinery by 
which Democratic nominations are ground out. They are 
the power behind the ballot-box, greater than the ballot-box 
itself. Candidates for Congress, for the State Legislature, 
for the numerous boards of city legislators, must pass the 
ordeal of their inspection, and pay their price, before their 
names can go upon the " slate " ; and such is the absolute- 
ness of their power over ignorant voters, that they have 
caused to be elected to Congress by Irish votes a man who, 
as editor of a " Know-Nothing " newspaper, had been em- 
ployed for seven years in vilifying Irishmen and their 
religion. They have taken up a man who commanded one 
of the companies of artillery that marched from the field 
of Bull Run because their "time was up," and, while the 
whole civilized world was pointing at him the finger of 
scorn, elected him to one of the most lucrative offices in 
the United States. Of late years, these lords of the town 
have had the deep cunning to give a few of their best ap- 
pointments and several minor offices to Republicans, as 
part of their system of preventing investigation. This was 
a master stroke. Most of the publishers of newspapers 
were already bribed to silence by the Corporation advertis- 
ing, and all the reporters were hired not to report anything 
disagreeable by the annual gift of two hundred dollars. 
This letting in of a few Republicans to share the spoils 
completed the system of repressing inquiry. They have 
known, too, how to turn to account the feud between two 
Republican leaders, which, after distracting the politics of 
the State of New York for many years, has transferred the 
battle-ground to Washington, and now threatens to snatch 
from the nation the fruits of its victory over rebellion, or 
at least to postpone its enjoyment of them. 

Such are some of the consequences that have resulted 
17 T 



386 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

from admitting to the polls unqualified and untaxed men, 
in a city which catches and retains the worst of the foreign 
emigration, and where there are seven foreign-born voters 
to every five native. In New York, we actually see the 
state of things contemplated by Daniel Webster in his 
Pittsburg speech, when he asked, " Who would be safe in 
any community where political power is in the hands of 
the many, and property in the hands of the few ? " Such 
an unnatural state of things, he added, could nowhere long 
exist. Political power in the city of New York is in the hands 
of seventy-seven thousand foreign voters and fifty-two thou- 
sand native voters ; while the great bulk of the property of 
the city is owned by about fifteen thousand persons. Po- 
litical power in New York simply means the power to steal 
with impunity the property of those fifteen thousand per- 
sons. This stealing does not take the form of open and 
indiscriminate spoliation, because it can be more conven- 
iently done, and longer done, through the machinery of 
politics. 

Having now stated as fully as our limits permit the con- 
dition of the government of the city, it remains for us to 
do what little we can towards pointing out the remedy. In 
considering this part of our subject, modesty and hesitation 
would become the wisest and ablest of men. It is no time 
to dogmatize and declaim, when the dearest interests of 
civilization are to be rescued from imminent and deadly peril. 
Next year, we trust, there will be a convention assembled 
to revise the Constitution- of the State of New York, and 
upon the action of that body we hang all our hope of speedy 
and radical reform. If any one, therefore, has so much as 
a single well-weighed suggestion to offer toward a practi- 
cable plan, now is the time for him to offer it. On this great 
and most difficult problem every person in the State of 
New York- who is so happy as to have a thinking head upon 
his shoulders should now habitually meditate and converse. 

Patchwork will not answer. That has been tried, and 
found insufficient. While the ship is still on the ocean, it 
is well to stop the leak with anything that will even slightly 
diminish the risk of death. But the thing now in order is 
to go into dock, and overhaul the hull from keel to taffrail, 
or perhaps to abandon the vessel and build a new one. It 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YOEK. 387 

is so exceedingly important for us all to understand this, 
that we will pause here a moment to mention a few of the 
expedients for checking thievery which have signally failed. 
All mere expedients have failed, or are failing. Nothing 
will ever stop it but some system, the natural working 
of which will put into office a controlling number of honest 
men. 

The total failure of the contract system is a case in point. 
To check jobbery and favoritism, it was enacted several years 
ago that all work done for the city, and all commodities 
supplied to the city, greater in value than $ 600, should be 
the subject of contracts, to be awarded, after due notice, to 
the lowest bidder. The contract system, so far from put- 
ting an obstacle in the way of corruption, has furnished 
facilities for it. We have the sworn testimony before us, 
that it is common for fictitious bids to be sent in, for genu- 
ine ones to be bought off, and for parties who are best pre- 
pared to do the work required to be kept in ignorance of 
the proposals. Large iron contracts, for example, have been 
awarded before any one of the great iron firms. have been 
aware that such contracts were in the market ; and they have 
been awarded to men who never melted a pound of iron 
nor had any means whatever of doing the work. To a 
pork-butcher was assigned the contract for building a very 
costly bridge over a wide river ; and the difficult work of 
grading an avenue, hilly and rocky, has been awarded to a 
politician ignorant of the most rudimerital engineering. 
We have before us a successful bid for supplying the city 
offices with stationery, in which we find the bidder offering 
to supply " blue folio post " at one cent per ream ; "magnum 
bonum pens," at one cent per gross ; " lead pencils," at one 
cent per dozen ; " English sealing-wax," at one cent per 
pound ; and eighty-three other articles of stationery, at 
the uniform price of one cent for the usual parcel. This 
was the " lowest bid," and it was, of course, the one ac- 
cepted. It appeared, however, when the bill was presented 
for payment, that the particular kind of paper styled " blue 
folio post " had never been called for, nor any considerable 
quantity of the other articles proposed to be supplied for 
one cent. No one, strange to say, had ever wanted "mag- 
num bonum " pens at one cent a gross, but in all the 



388 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

offices the cry had been for " Perry's extra fine," at three 
dollars. Scarcely any one had used " envelopes letter-size " 
at one cent per hundred, but there had been countless calls 
for " envelopes note-size " at one cent each. Between the 
paper called "blue folio post," at one cent per ream, and 
the paper called " foolscap extra ruled," at five dollars and 
a half, the difference was too slight to be perceived ; but 
every one had used the foolscap. Of what avail are con- 
tracts, when the officials who award them, and the other 
officials who pay the bill, are in league with the contractor 
to steal the public money 1 

To prevent one of the most common kinds of theft, it was 
enacted that every person who presented a bill to the city 
should take an oath, before receiving his money, that he had 
not paid, and would not pay, any part of it to any one for 
getting him the work. This law is shamelessly evaded 
every day. A school commissioner orders work of a print- 
er, telling him to be sure to charge a good round price. 
The work is done, the bill presented, the oath taken, the 
money paid. A few days after, that commissioner or his 
friend has some printing of his own to be done, which the 
printer does, and sends with the work a receipted bill. We 
can produce a printer who has upon his books $ 10,000 
worth of work done gratis, in recompense for services ren- 
dered in procuring him city jobs. When the procurer of 
the work has no occasion for printing, it is usual for him to 
borrow sums of money of the printer, which, like Dr. John- 
son's sixpence, are " not to be repaid.' 1 Many of these petty 
politicians are, in fact, universal " dead-heads," and prey on 
all the town. One. remark which we chanced to hear from 
one of them was exceedingly suggestive. " Pullman," said 
a young Councilman to our honest friend Christopher, 
" what did you want that Harlem Railroad grant rescinded 
for 1 " He alluded to the grant of the privilege to lay rails 
and run cattle trains through the handsomest street in the 
upper part of the island, in the teeth of the most vehement 
opposition on the part of the residents. " For my part," 
continued the virtuous youth, " there is no company I would 
sooner give my vote to than the Harlem. If I ask 'em to 
take on a hand or give a place to a friend, they 're sure to 
do it. There 's not a more obliging company in New York 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 389 

than the Harlem." The Harlem Railroad Company, reader, 
is Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the ablest men of busi- 
ness now living. The Councilman whose words we have 
quoted would not be employed by him in any .post requir- 
ing average skill and honesty. And yet, behold the great, 
strong man courting the favor of the weak, little one ! Do 
we blame either of these men Is We arraign only the sys- 
tem which puts them in false and corrupting relations with 
each other and with their fellow-citizens. 

It was lately enacted, that a three-fourths vote of both 
boards the Aldermen and Councilmen should be requi- 
site to pass any bill granting or paying money. This was 
done because there was always a Democratic majority in 
both boards, and that majority was always corrupt. But 
it did not even retard the profuse voting of money. It 
merely required the Ring to buy up or bully a few more 
members, which was done in a week, and the work went on 
as bravely as before. The present board of Councilmen be- 
gan their term of service with thirteen Republicans and 
twelve Democrats, owing to special exertions on the part of 
reformers. Those thirteen Republicans were elected, at 
great expense, for the sole purpose of outvoting the thieves, 
and they were all solemnly pledged so to do. But the sys- 
tem repels men of strong and tried honesty, and conse- 
quently seven of the thirteen speedily fell into the toils. 
Some were purchased, others were intimidated, others were 
persuaded, but all yielded alike to the behests of the Ring. 
And, really, we cannot wonder at it. The six faithful 
members of the board are useless to their constituents. 
The most just, the most necessary measure proposed by 
them is voted down as a matter of course. A young, inex- 
perienced Councilman sees, on the one hand, the favor of 
his colleagues, the smiles of the City Hall, the freedom of 
the city's stores and shops, places for his friends, and 
$ 7,000 a year ; and, on the other, the frowns and surly 
opposition of his colleagues to everything he asks or pro- 
poses, a warfare against nefarious schemes which he knows 
to be useless, and which the public neither applaud nor 
hear of. For his brother, no easy clerkship is created ; for 
his second-cousin's benefit, no great man discovers that he 
is in need of a fourth assistant messenger \ and if a carman 



390 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

in his ward loses a horse through a hole in a wharf, and 
justly calls upon the neglectful city government to buy him 
another, it is enough for him to introduce the bill for it to 
be voted down. Can we wonder that so many immature 
persons yield to a temptation so insidious, and which ad- 
dresses itself to so many of the weak places in human nature 
at once 1 

Another well-meant expedient has completely failed. 
Owing to the lavish expenditures, it invariably happens 
that many of the sums appropriated for specific objects are 
exhausted long before the end of the year. For example, 
in 1865, the comptroller estimated the cost of printing and 
stationery at $ 145,000, and the Legislature of the State 
granted $ 160,000. But the amount expended in that 
year was $ 310,324. This excess would have presented 
difficulties to ordinary financiers, but none to those who 
control the finances of New York. Formerly, the deficit 
was supplied by " transferring " the money appropriated to 
other objects. " Transfer, the wise it call." But this de- 
vice having been forbidden by legislative enactment, parties 
interested sued the city for the amount of their claims ; and, 
having obtained judgment against the unfortunate city, 
went through the form of seizing the* portraits and furni- 
ture of the Governor's room in the City Hall. Then a judi- 
cial decision was obtained, which declared that judgments 
against the city " must be paid " ; and, sheltered by this 
decision, the city treasurer paid them. In the year 1864, 
the amount of the judgments paid from the public treasury 
was $ 1,262,398. Last winter, a new expedient was devised 
to prevent this impudent evasion of a most proper and ne- 
cessary law. It was enacted that no amount in excess of a 
specific appropriation should be recoverable by judgment. 
By what audacious trick this enactment will be set at naught 
has not yet appeared ; but that it will be set at naught we 
have little doubt. If it is not, it will be only owing to the 
vigilance and tact of the public-spirited lawyers who are 
lending the aid of their talents to the Citizens' Association. 

As these minor expedients have failed of their object, so, 
we believe, the grand expedient of all the transfer of the 
control of the city government to the State Legislature 
is not to be relied on for the future. That expedient, false 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 391 

in principle, was justified only by the urgent necessity of 
the case. To that temporary transfer of power from a com- 
pletely corrupt to an incompletely corrupt organization, we 
owe it that the city of New York is still, in some degree, 
inhabitable. For ten years past, nothing has stood between 
the city and universal spoliation, except the Governor of 
the State and a small number of intelligent, incorruptible 
members of the Legislature. To them we owe the rescue 
of the police from the control of city politicians ; and to 
the police, thus rendered efficient, we owe the deliverance 
of the city from rapine during the riots of 1863, For 
twenty-four hours, until adequate assistance arrived, they 
kept the mob in check by their discipline, courage, and 
rapidity. No one can tell what would have occurred, or 
what would not, if we had then had for policemen creatures 
appointed to serve the mean purposes of the mean men 
whose character we have been exhibiting, and who were in 
the fullest sympathy with brother savages torturing our 
prisoners captured in war. To the Legislature, also, we are 
indebted for a tolerable administration of the affairs of the 
Central Park, of the Health Board, and of some other de- 
partments now controlled by honest men appointed at Al- 
bany. 

On the other hand, the interference of the Legislature 
has, at length, reduced the city government to a condition 
of political chaos. The Mayor has been deprived of all 
controlling power. The Board of Aldermen, seventeen in 
number, the Board of twenty-four Couiicilmen, the twelve 
Supervisors, the twenty-one members of the Board of Edu- 
cation, are so many independent legislative bodies, elected 
by the people. The police are governed by four Commis- 
sioners, appointed by the Governor for eight years. The 
charitable and reformatory institutions of the city are in 
charge of four Commissioners whom the City Comptroller 
appoints for five years. The Commissioners of the Cen- 
tral Park, eight in number, are appointed by the Governor 
for five years. Four Commissioners, appointed by the 
Governor for eight years, manage the Fire Department. 
There are also five Commissioners of Pilots, two appointed 
by the Board of Underwriters and three by the Chamber 
of Commerce. The finances of the city are in charge of 



392 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

the Comptroller, whom the people elect for four years. The 
street department has at its head one Commissioner, who 
is appointed by the Mayor for four years. Three Commis- 
sioners, appointed by the Mayor, manage the Croton Aque- 
duct department. The law officer of the city, called the 
Corporation Counsel, is elected by the people for three years ! 
Six Commissioners, appointed by the Governor for six years, 
attend to the emigration from foreign countries. To these 
has been recently added a Board of Health, the members 
of which are appointed by the Governor. Was there ever 
such a hodge-podge of a government before in the world 1 
And nowhere is there any adequate provision for holding 
these several powers to their responsibility. Consequently, 
although the system of plunder has now been. in operation 
for sixteen years, during which the public thieves have 
stolen not less than fifty millions of dollars, not one man 
of them has ever been punished, nor even made to dis- 
gorge. 

There is a still more terrible objection to governing the 
city of New York at a city one hundred and sixty miles 
distant from it. The Legislature itself is corrupt. The 
same seven men who control the politics of the city nom- 
inate the city members of the Legislature ; and these, rein- 
forced by corrupt men from other cities, control one branch 
of the Legislature and are powerful in the other. Some- 
times the city leaders cause themselves to be elected to the 
Legislature ; but usually they select, from the clerks in the 
public offices, their own creatures, mindless, dependent 
men, whose only virtue is a cur-like fidelity to their mas- 
ters. No language can overstate the hopeless incapacity 
of these men for the business of legislation. They can 
only vote as they are ordered ; and if you wish to buy 
their votes, you must arrange the price, not with them, buc 
their owners in New York. To elect such men to the Legis- 
lature is only to transfer power from the Legislature to 
the lobby, there at Albany we see, within the rails of the 
Assembly, a crowd of poor, ignorant, irresponsible clerks ; 
and in the lobby we find men representing Cornelius Van- 
derbilt, the Central Railroad, the Erie Railroad, the Aster 
estate, and many other men and companies controlling vast 
resources and carrying great prestige. Moreover, the agents 



THE GOVEKNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YOEK. 393 

representing these strong men and powerful organizations 
are persons of skill and audacity. When such a reversal 
of the natural order of things exists, and when the mem- 
bers of the Legislature are paid by the State a less sum 
per diem than their board costs, to say nothing of drink 
and billiards, what must be the result 1 We need not 
say. 

A very able lobby agent, who has been in the business 
many years, has given us an inkling of the mode of proce- 
dure. " When we get to Albany," said he, " we make out 
our lists, and, after studying them and comparing notes, we 
classify members, and make an estimate of what it is going 
to cost to get our bills through. We find out about how 
much each man expects, and who is running him. Then 
we arrange the thing in New York with certain people, 
whose consent is necessary. The price for a vote ranges 
from fifty dollars to five hundred, unless it is that of the 
chairman of a committee. He wants more, because he has 
to appear on the record as originating the measure." 

It was probably one of these originating gentlemen who 
could explain the testimony given recently in an Albany 
corruption case by a lady who proved herself a true help- 
meet to her husband. She testified that a lobby agent 
called at her house one Sunday afternoon, when there was 
" some conversation " respecting the accused Senator, which 
the court " ruled out." She continued thus : " The next 
morning I put $ 2,500 in greenbacks into a yellow en- 
velope, and gave it to my only son, eleven years old. The 
boy got into the wagon with his father. / never saw the 
money again" 

If there is in this world a man who can be truly said to 
know anything, Mr. Thurlow Weed knows the Legislature of 
the State of New York. His testimony respecting the cor- 
ruption in that Legislature, as given in the " Daily Times," 
a few months ago, is as follows : 

" Formerly the suspicion of corruption in a member would have put 
him ' into Coventry,' while knowledge of such an offence would have 
insured the expulsion of the offender. Now ' bribery and corrup- 
tion ' prevail to an extent greater than existed in the worst days of 
the Parliament of England, where, happily for England, the practice, 
has been reformed, as it must be here, or corruption will undermine 
the government. No measure, however meritorious, escapes the at- 
17* 



394 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

tention of 'strikers.' Venal members openly solicit appointment on 
paying committees. In the better days of legislation, when no un- 
lawful motive existed, it was considered indelicate in a member to 
indicate to the Speaker any preference about committees. The evil 
has been growing, each year being worse than the preceding, until 
reform is sternly demanded. Could the secret history of the present 
Legislature be exposed to the public gaze, popular indignation would 
be awakened to a degree heretofore unknown. In the Assembly 
everything was struck at. Not even a religious charity found exemp- 
tion. The source of rapacious corruption were the Assembly Railroad 
Committee, and the Committee on Cities and Villages. I say this 
upon reliable authority, to correct the 'Tribune' and the 'Times,' 
in both of which journals this Legislature is commended for its in- 
tegrity. That there were honest and honorable members in both 
Houses, by whose integrity and firmness much bad legislation was ar- 
rested, is true. The Senate, fortunately, presents, an inflexible 
majority of upright members ; while in the House, the Ring was for- 
midable enough to put through whatever paid or promised to pay 
liberally, in defiance and derision of the efforts of an honest minor- 
ity." 

Mr. Weed says, that not even a religious charity found 
exemption. We can confirm that assertion. A com- 
mittee of benevolent ladies went to Albany last winter, and 
asked the Legislature to give them $ 20,000 in aid of an 
institution for the nurture and education of children who 
lost their fathers in the war. They said in their petition, 
that, after having been compelled to refuse admission to 
two hundred children of slain soldiers and sailors, who had 
no one left on earth to care for them, they had resolved to 
try and erect a larger building, for which purpose they pro- 
posed to raise $ 20,000, and asked the Legislature to double 
the sum. Even this holy charity the shameless villains 
"struck at." An agent of the Ring called upon the ladies, 
and said, in the plainest English, " Pay me $ 2,000, and 
you can have half the sum you petition for ; pay me 
$ 5,000, and you have the whole." The poor ladies, con- 
fronted for the first time in their lives with the extreme of 
human depravity, knew not what to think of this proposal, 
nor what to say to the man who made it. Anxious for 
their orphans, and far from their natural advisers, they 
were on the point of yielding, when the husband of one of 
them came to the rescue, and urged them not to taint their 
infant enterprise with the leprosy of corruption. They 
were reluctant to give up the aid so urgently needed, but 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NW YORK. 395 

4 

they did so at last. Later in the session, the Ring, finding 
that nothing could be got from them, allowed the honest 
minority to carry a bill giving them $ 5,000. This narra- 
tive we received from the lips of the estimable and distin- 
guished lady who headed the deputation. 

It is such facts as these which convince us that the Legis- 
lature, as now elected, cannot be trusted for the future 
government of the city. The reform must be radical. It 
must begin at the bottom, with the voters, and work its 
way up. The Citizens' Association a body of eminent 
merchants, lawyers, and men of leisure, united for the sole 
object of reforming the government of the city have 
proved, by most costly and laborious experiment, that the 
majority, long controlled by the plunderers, cannot be 
shaken from their devotion to them. By needless inter- 
ference with the Sunday usages of the Germans, as well as 
by some wise and just restrictions upon the selling of 
liquor, the friends of reform have rendered the great grog- 
shop interest a unit for the corruptionists, and that interest 
can send to the polls twenty-five thousand votes. By very 
great exertions, an honest man can be chosen Mayor : for 
there is still in New York a small majority of the whole 
number of voters who will vote as they ought, if the issue 
is clear between honesty and corruption. But in the wards 
and districts inhabited chiefly by ignorant foreigners and 
vicious natives, the case is hopeless. Printed matter can- 
not reach them. They are untrained in the duties of 
citizenship. A prodigious number of them have some small 
interest in maintaining the system of plunder ; for from the 
stolen millions flow numberless rills of lawless or excessive 
gain ; so that the city is like an Italian farm irrigated by 
the dirty waters of a pestilential stream. They pay no 
tax. Since their share of the taxation is paid by them in the 
form of rent, it is the " extortionate landlord " whom they 
blame when their rejit rises, in five years, from six dollars to 
twelve dollars a month, for two little rooms. They never 
think of going round to Councilman O'Rafferty's grog-shop, 
or Assemblyman Tooley's desk in the Comptroller's Office, 
or Supervisor McShaughnessy's market-stand, and berating 
them for cutting down their children's allowance of fresh 
meat and Christmas toys. It has been found impossible to 



396 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

make them see any connection between their pinching rents 
and the reckless votes of a man who has promised one of 
their relatives the place of seventh assistant door-keeper to 
the scavenger's office. The thing has been faithfully tried, 
and found impossible. What honest men print they cannot 
read, what honest men say they will not hear. 

In view of the expected Constitutional Convention, we 
beg to offer for consideration the following suggestions. 

No man should be deprived of the right of suffrage who 
now legally possesses it. The State must fulfil its compact 
to the end, cost what it may. 

But no man, native or foreign, should henceforth be ad- 
mitted to the suffrage who cannot read English composition 
of medium difficulty. More than that the State has no 
right to demand. Its right to exclude persons who cannot 
read arises from the fact that such persons are dependent 
upon others for the information without which an intelli- 
gent vote cannot be cast. Such a rule, applied to the city 
of New York, would exclude not less than fifteen thousand 
votes ; and this alone would give the city back to its legiti- 
mate owners, the virtuous and industrious portion of its 
inhabitants. This alone would do it ! 

No man should be allowed to vote at any city or State 
election who has not paid a direct tax ; and that tax should 
vary with the whole amount to be raised. It would cost 
about twenty million's a year, for many years to come, to 
govern, tame, and teach Manhattan Island. Suppose the 
voters' tax were thirty cents per million dollars of the levy. 
Then, if the city were honestly governed, a workingman's 
tax would be $ 6 a year. But if stealing should raise the 
levy to forty millions, it would be $ 12. Now, the differ- 
ence between $ 6 and $12 to a man who earns $15 a 
week is such that he would be very likely to ask his 
representatives what it meant, which is the very result to 
be desired. 

The system of governing the city of New York at Albany 
should be abandoned as soon as it can be safely done. If 
the city cannot govern itself, it must learn how to do it ; 
and there is no way of learning how to do a thing except 
by doing it. 

No officers should be elected by the people except the 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 397 

Mayor and the members of the city legislature. The peo- 
ple are puzzled and confounded on election days by long 
lists of candidates, whose names they never heard before. 
To ask the mass of voters to select a corporation counsel, a 
sheriff, a comptroller, a judge, is self-evident absurdity. 

The distinction between the city of New York and the 
county of New York, with all its costly train of conse- 
quences, should be abolished. 

Longer terms of service for Mayor, Aldermen, and Coun- 
cilmen would, perhaps, be desirable. The appointments to 
all minor offices should be permanent. No creature should 
be intrusted with the unlimited power of removal. If the 
city would be well served, it must treat its servants so that 
men of honor and capacity will be found to serve it. A 
man of honor and capacity will not hold his livelihood at the 
mere mercy of another man. 

There must be a decided increase of many salaries. Men 
capable of managing the finances of a great city, men fit to 
control any of the departments, cannot be induced to fore- 
go their chance of fortune in private business by salaries no 
greater than those paid to bank-tellers and book-keepers. 
A rich man of respectable talents may occasionally be in- 
duced to serve as Secretary of the United States Treasury 
for a sum per annum less than modest housekeeping costs 
in Washington. It is insanity to pay him such a salary, it 
is true ; but then the honor counts for something. In a 
commercial city, business is done on business principles ; 
and if a $ 20,000 man is wanted, $ 20,000 must be paid for 
him. It is not just salaries that burden any people ; it is 
stealing that does that. On the other hand, an officer who 
holds his office until proved to have misbehaved in it need 
not be paid the salary justly due to one whom a breath un- 
makes. 

Somewhere in the system of city government there must 
be a power, a court, a something, independent and disinter- 
ested, before which an officer accused of misconduct or 
incapacity can be arraigned promptly and fairly tried. 

It might be well that the Board of Aldermen should be 
composed of men who pay a tax upon $ 5,000 worth of real 
or personal estate. With a taxed and restricted suffrage, 
this safeguard against profusion might not be necessary; 



398 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

but if the suffrage remains unrestricted and untaxed, some 
provision of this kind will have to be adopted. 

These are some of the ideas which have occurred to us, 
and we offer them for consideration, with sincere deference 
to those who are versed in the art of governing. It is an 
arduous task which the people of New York have before 
them, and it will task both their wisdom and their patience 
to the utterjnost. It will be difficult to dislodge the pub- 
lic thieves. It was difficult to take Richmond. But the 
taking of Richmond and the capture of the Rebel army 
were not more essential to the triumph of the United 
States over its enemies, than the reform of the government 
of New York is to the credit anoT spread of free institutions 
throughout the world. We have all heard of revivals of 
religion. Why may we not look for a great and glorious 
revival of public spirit ? There are, indeed, indications that 
such a revival has begun. We hear of several instances of 
men of leisure who are awakening to the truth that there 
is a nobler way of using the gift of leisure than in looking*, 
out of a club window, or in collecting valueless rarities, or in 
printing exactly one hundred copies of antiquated trash 
upon " large paper." The existence of an organization so 
respectable and determined as the Citizens' Association is a 
sign of promise, and we hope to see its efforts seconded by 
other societies. Dr. Franklin mentions that, several months 
before the meeting of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, 
clubs and societies were formed for the purpose of exchang- 
ing opinions and gathering knowledge relating to the science 
of government. One of them met weekly at his own house, 
when papers were read and discussed, and questions were 
proposed for consideration during the week. Why not have 
a dozen such in every ward this winter ready to co-operate 
with the Citizens' Association 1 The " Tribune," which has 
honorably distinguished itself by giving unrelenting pub- 
licity to schemes of spoliation, and the " Times," which has 
exposed much of the interior working of the system, and 
holds no parley with the thieves, both, we are assured, 
are ready to lend their columns to the work of reform. 
W T hatever any club may be able to expose or suggest, that 
is of the requisite brevity and importance, will find ready 
access to the public through those great journals. 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 399 

We have been obliged in this article to limit ourselves to 
a single feature of the misgovernment of New York, the 
stealing of the public money. There are departments of 
the system into which we shrink from casting a glance. 
To some of these corrupt men are intrusted the pauper, 
the sick, the criminal, the insane. It is their duty to guard 
the myriads of the virtuous poor against the rapacity which 
builds for them habitations that are unsafe and pestilential. 
Think what the government of such a city might be and 
do, what noble institutions it might found, what grand 
experiments undertake, what beautiful edifices construct, 
what merit employ and reward ! The legislature of the 
city, composed of men eminent in business, in science, and 
in benevolence, the men first in their several spheres, 
would rank high among the great parliaments of the world, 
and contribute powerfully to its advancing civilization. The 
city of New York abounds in able and honest gentlemen, 
in every sphere of life. On just conditions they can be won 
to the public service. Why can we not have them 3 

And let no one suppose that this is a subject which con- 
cerns the people of New York only. It concerns us all. 
Not only has every American citizen an interest in the 
welfare and honor of his country's chief city, -but the evils 
under which New York suffers exist, to some degree, in 
many other towns, and threaten all of them. New York, 
as we have said, is a sieve which lets through the best of 
the emigration that comes to our shores, but catches and 
retains the worst ; and therefore it is in that city that the 
system of unqualified suffrage has been first' put to a test 
under which it has broken down completely and hopelessly. 
But in all our large cities there is of necessity an assemblage 
of ignorant, irresponsible, and thoughtless men, totally 
incapable of performing the duties of citizenship. We 
accordingly find in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, New 
Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, Albany, Rochester, Buffalo, 
St. Louis, and many other cities, the insidious beginnings 
of that misgovernment which has made New York the by- 
word and despair of the nation.* New York, too, is suffer- 

* During the prevalence of the cholera, an appalling glimpse was given 
the public of the interior of a jail in the city of Brooklyn. An eye-witness 
wrote : " The cholera there resulted from overcrowding the cells. The 
ventilation is bad, the air offensive, the food, pork, beans, bread, and mo- 



400 TOPICS OF THE TIME. 

ing vicariously for her sister cities. As it has been her des- 
tiny to suffer most from the evils of ignorant and untaxed 
suffrage, so it is her duty to wrestle first with those evils, 
and apply a remedy which shall be radical, final, and uni- 
versally imitable. She will perform that duty. She is per- 
forming it. No city of equal size on earth contains so 
great a mass of public spirit and administrative capacity, 
and we feel persuaded that the time is near at hand when 
those great qualities will be successfully exerted in rescuing 
the metropolis from the hands of the spoilers who have 
stolen into possession of it. 

It looks now as though one half of civilized mankind were 
going henceforth to live in towns ; and it appears to us 
that in the laying out, the decoration, and government of 
towns America has shown a particular talent. How full of 
all pleasantness are the villages of New England, with their 
gardens and lawns, their tidy fences and spotless houses, 
their ample streets, and their mighty elms waving over all. 
What other land can show towns so vigorous and handsome 
as Nashville, Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, Rochester, and 
fifty others that will occur to the reader 1 What a spirited 
thing it was in Vermont to commission young Larkin Mead 
to adorn her Capitol with a statue of Ethan Allen ; and in 
Cleveland, to commemorate Perry's victory by one of the 
finest out-of-door monuments in the world ; and in Tennes- 

lasses; and when the late intensely hot and debilitating weather is taken 
into account, it should be a matter of wonder that every one was not 
stricken down. The criminal courts adjourned from June until October, 
and to my knowledge there are many tliere too poor and friendless to get 
bail, that will be able to prove their entire innocence when put on trial. 
To keep these persons in overcrowded cells with broken-down drunkards, 
whose systems were fitted by long habit for disease, would be little better 

than murder A panic existed that no imagination can conceive. 

Terror was in everv face. In one cell, an Englishman in collapse, rising 
up and falling down convulsively, his cell-mates running round almost 
distracted; in another, a corpse 'about to be removed. Two little boys, 
waiting to go to the House of Refuge, were screaming at the top of their 
voices from fear; a drunken man singing a maudlin song in a corridor; 
men in the halls, with their faces to the gratings, ti-ying to breathe fresh 
air, for fear of inhaling contagion. Several others, with symptoms of ap- 
proaching cholera, were expecting death. If all the prisoners could be 
kept in the jail until they dropped off one by one, there might be some 
sense in it, apart from its inhumanity. But the jail supplies the alms- 
house, the penitentiary, the workhouse, and, in many instances, the lunatic 
asylum, with inmates. Prisoners are first usually taken there before being 
sent to those institutions." 



THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK. 401 

see, to crown the heights of Nashville with a State House 
of unequalled elegance and solidity ; and in marvellous 
Chicago, three times to raise the entire city for the sake of 
better drainage, and to bore far out under Lake Michigan 
for pure water ! How good it was in great Boston to put it 
within the reach of all her boys and girls to learn how to 
swim, and of all her men and women to practise the art ! 
This was one of those fine details of civilization which are 
only reached after the great essentials have been realized 
and become habitual. New York, too, might boast, even 
amid her blushes. The Central Park was a noble gift to 
posterity ; the Croton Aqueduct was a truly Eoman thought ;, 
and all the islands, are they not covered with public in- 
stitutions, nobly planned 1 We can truly say, that the peo- 
ple of the United States have shown an aptitude for orderly 
and elegant arrangement. They know how to make their 
towns and cities fit abodes for civilized beings, and they 
mean to make them such. 

But the spoiler must be expelled, or he will spoil all. 
Honest men possess all the true, trustworthy intelligence 
there is in the world. Villains of talent there may be, but 
no wise villain, still less a villain of public spirit. The 
thieves must be driven out, if it costs a bloody war ; and 
it will cost a bloody war if they are not. 



THE END. 



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