A Traveler's Notes: Destination New York 1856 Part V
 

New York City
 
Sabbath, March 18. To-day I heard Dr J. W. Alexander of the Presbyterian Church in Fifth Avenue. This is more like one of our newer Scottish churches than most I have been in America as yet. It is a handsome Gothic structure, with open roof; and being entirely carpeted and cushioned alike, it has a comfortable appearance. Dr Alexander enters the pulpit, a grave and reverend-looking man, the first clergyman not of the Episcopal Church I have seen here with a white neck cloth. After the usual services and psalms the (psalms and hymns used are a version and collection issued, under the authority of the Synod, by the Presbyterian Board of Publications, Philadelphia), the text was announced (Job xiii. 26) "Thou hast made me to remember the sins of my youth." The preacher began by illustrating the proposition, That the season of youth has its sins. The term "innocent youth" is not a true one. He then went on to show that these sins of youth are not obliterated as to their consequences by the lapse of any length of time. We may forget them; but God does not. He pointed out, next, that the sins of youth have consequences in after life. The proverb is true, "The sins of youth are the smart of age." These consequences are temporal. They affect the health "Thy bones shall be full of the sins of thy youth;" or the reputation: a sin done in youth may blast the character of a lifetime. They are spiritual also. One sin leads on to another, till the whole being is utterly degraded. He cited the example of Nero, in youth so tender-hearted, that when given a sentence of death to sign, he exclaimed that he wished he had never learned to write "Utinam nescire literas!"--and yet becoming afterwards a monster of cruelty. Restraint once removed, we go on sinning in the midst of light. The resulting consequences are steps in the descent impenitency, hardness of heart, forsaking the sanctuary. The fall is gradual; the extremity of crime is not reached all at once. You see, he said (referring to the murder of Poole), some wretched man shot down in the midst of his drunken reveling and ruffian companions, in the haunts of vice. He has not reached that point at one step, but by degrees. Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. Then comes remorse; and there is no suffering equal to the pangs of conscience. The iniquities of youth are written as bitter things against us in the record of God; and they reappear in the pangs of remorse. For an example of this he referred to Augustine. (See "Confessions," book ii., chapter 4.) They come back especially in the times of affliction. It becomes all to pray with the Psalmist, "Remember not against me the sins of my youth." All this, he argued, in pursuing the subject, should make us acquiesce in trials when they come upon us. "Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" Strictly speaking, trials are not punishment. They are not penal. The penalty has been borne by Jesus. Yet they savor of penalty. They show us what our sins deserve. They are like scars of wounds, healed, but breaking out now and again to remind us they are there. They are the chastenings of a Father's hand, to purify to sanctify; and their effect should be to bring us to the foot of the cross to the blood of Jesus to abominate and to forsake the sins of youth, lest they become also the sins of maturity and of old age. He concluded with the impressive remark "We, as in Christ, claiming to be washed and saved by his blood, and recollecting what we were, 'hole of the pit whence we were dug,' should rejoice with trembling, fearing lest we fall. To this feeling of watchfulness, we should also join thankfulness, rejoicing with the apostle, when, in the fullness of gratitude and thankfulness he wrote, 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.'"

At the close of the services Dr Alexander intimated that he would catechize the children of the congregation to-day at two o'clock. He preaches at half-past three; lectures on Tuesday evenings on the history in the Acts, and holds a congregational prayer-meeting on Thursday evening. He seems a hard-working man.

I walked back to the hotel by Fifth Avenue and Washington Square. The houses are very fine, quite palatial. They all have basement floors with entrance from the street for family use, besides the grand entrance. The New York University is a very fine building, on the east side of Washington Square.

At two o'clock went, under the guidance of Mr. Cushman, to visit the Five Points schools. Turning to the left off Broadway, pretty far down, near the Park, we passed along one side of the city prison, a great granite building in the Egyptian style, appropriately enough named "The Tombs." Crossing Centre Street, just at the station of the Newhaven Railway, we entered Baxter Street, which led to a small irregular space, into which five streets open, and this is Five Points. The wretchedness of this locality could hardly be exaggerated. Miserable houses, overcrowded with miserable tenants, filth and squalor everywhere. Stenches fit to make one faint in passing, and a neighborhood of the most infamous and degraded characters.

Here, in 1850, an effort was made under the Rev. L. M. Pease, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to introduce the Bible. A room which had been a gin-shop was rented and cleaned, and converted into a chapel. Things have gone on and on till the mission premises now embrace several houses, houses which were formerly the worst dens of infamy in New York. These are now made use of as temporary homes; and in addition to Sabbath-schools, Sabbath services, and week-day instruction for children, there is a system for procuring employment for adults, and securing for them a home till they can be drafted out into the country as servants, a process going on at present at the rate of about seventy in a month.

Over a door we read the announcement, "Mission House and House of Industry," and entering were most kindly received. We were ushered into a hall, formed of two rooms on different levels, where several large classes of boys and girls were being taught. Mr. Pease was not at home. Mr. Johnstone was superintending for him, and he handed us over to Mr. Eels, a gentleman who has from the first taken a deep interest in this work, and under whose guidance we were conducted over the premises. Up-stairs we found a Bible class, in which the teacher was reading and enforcing a portion of Scripture to forty or fifty grown-up women, who seemed to be listening most attentively. There were some men also in the class. These live in the premises. In an adjoining room was a large class of as many very young children, whom a youth was teaching. English, Irish, Americans, Germans, Dutch, Italians, and Jews were all to be found in this class. I was particularly interested by one pretty little flaxen-haired Jewess about six years of age, who is deaf and dumb. Poor thing! she ran up to Mr. Eels, who kindly acknowledged her acquaintance by shaking her little hand (it was white and beautiful) and patting her head; and she then made friends with me, looking up and smiling cheerfully. We were then taken into the saleroom and office, and saw baskets, shirts, flowers, and other things, made by the women and children. We were also presented with copies of a report and other documents illustrative of the history of this effort on behalf of the poor, "to permanently secure their advancement, by employment, kindness, and Christianity."

At half-past two school was to be over, and the whole family, as Mr. Eels called it, would then assemble in the large hall used as a chapel. Presently they did so. In front were seated the adult women; on one side the girls, and on the other the boys. The speakers stood in the wide door between the rooms, raised two steps above the larger room, in which most of the inmates and scholars were assembled. Behind them were the men and visitors. The place was full, about 250 children and adults being present. From the fact of the objects of this mission's care being constantly distributed to situations, the inmates change very often. Some reside and constantly work at trades in the house, but most only pass through.

After singing and reading a portion of Scripture, several general addresses were made to the children. One referred in its close to the hymn well known in the Sabbath-schools of Britain, but which the speaker did not know if they had in New York or not--


"I think when I read the sweet story of old."

As he sat down, the stranger's heart was touched by the lady who led the music gracefully leading this very hymn. Thus are children in both hemispheres uttering the same words of praise and prayer to the same Saviour. May we not feel assured that many both in the east and west find Him a Saviour indeed?

Mr. Eels followed. His address was an oration, declaimed in a most impassioned strain, and accompanied with vigorous action. He began: "Children, it is not often that I am absent from you at mid-day on Sabbath, but to-day I was away for half an hour. And what, think you, took me away? A boy whispered to me that some Indians from the Far West would be to-day at the Tabernacle, and I love the Indians, and I went to see them. When I went there I saw two Indian-looking men, and I thought I knew them, but I could not tell. And as I looked hard at them, they saw me, and they recognized me in a moment, and pronounced my name. Then I recollected who they were, and we saluted. And why did I not know them? Because, when I saw them many years ago, on their prairies far beyond Chicago, they wore blankets and feathers, while to-day they were clothed like Christian men. And my heart leaped for joy to see them, and they too were glad. And I said, 'Where are your fathers and mothers, and your brothers and sisters?' But a cloud came over their faces, and they were sad, and they said, 'The tribe with whom you took counsel, when seven thousand Indians sat before you and before their sachems, around the council-fire, has only three thousand now! Our fathers and our brothers who camped round your wigwam, on the far-western prairie, have passed away; our mothers too have passed away; and our sisters, who were like the bounding fawns, are not they too have passed away, and we are sad!' All this, and more, Mr. Eels gave in Indian, and translated it. It was scenic. The audience was riveted. I was carried quite away. Then he went on: "You too are changing. Faces that were here last Sabbath I do not see here to-day. But they have not all died, although death has been here. They have gone over the country, some to situations, some to be adopted, and all, we trust, to be made happy. Cheer up, little ones. You shall not always sit there. Cheer up. There is good in store for you," &c. &c. It was an eloquent address. Several others spoke, and a hymn was sung between each address. The children's attention never seemed to flag. Some among the women were impressed even to tears. The proceedings were closed with the benediction.

All the while the little meek Jewess was sitting on the step at my feet. Many a time did she look up and smile, and put up her hand, her soft white hand. There was no want of intelligence. She seemed quite capable, I observed, of communicating to some extent her wishes, by signs to her companions.

There is another mission-house on the opposite side of the street. I believe it is managed separately from this. One's heart fills with thankfulness to see a spot, which but a few years ago, less than five years ago, was without exception the worst in New York, thus tended, and seed sowing in it, ay, and bearing fruit too. Must we not breathe the earnest wish, God prosper it?

The institution is managed by a society, incorporated by charter, under the name and title of "The Five Points House of Industry," Mr. Pease being superintendent, and Mrs. Pease matron. Previously to the beginning of 1854, the property belonged to Mr. Pease, but he then, "in the most disinterested manner," say the trustees, "vested in us, by legal conveyance, the property of every kind connected with the enterprise, and resigned into our hands the control of the institution, which he has fostered and conducted for nearly four years with highly creditable and successful management. He is now the superintendent, not the owner, of the Five Points House of Industry."

This experiment is one of so much importance, and possesses so much of universal interest, that the following brief summary of its origin and progress may not be deemed out of place. It is in the form of an address by Mr. Pease to the trustees, on the occasion of their assuming the responsibility of the institution. They have published a more lengthened history, showing what difficulties Mr. Pease had to contend with, and much of them alas that it should be so! from those who called themselves friends. Mr. Pease's, however, as most succinct, suits our purpose best.

"The Five Points House of Industry," he says, "originated in a humble individual effort, made in the summer of 1850, to obtain employment for a number of unhappy females, who, with the strongest desires to escape from their wretched and guilty mode of life, were debarred from every other. It was the answer of a pitying Providence (as we cannot but feel persuaded) to their own agonized entreaty. It happened to me to hear that entreaty.

"'Don't tell us,' they cried, 'how innocent and happy we once were, and how wicked, and infamous, and miserable we are now: don't talk to us of death and retribution, and perdition before us: we want no preacher to tell us all that but tell us, oh! tell us, some way of escape! Give us work and wages! Do but give us some other master than the devil, and we will serve him!'

"Now the question was, and still is, so far as there is any question Was that a true, honest statement of their case? I thought it was, and tried to meet it. The community thought differently, and that made my task a hard one. Nobody believed that work was what they wanted; that they had the same nature, acted on by the same motives, and disposed to the pursuit of happiness in the same ways with other people. Like the lost angel, they were supposed to have said, 'Evil, be thou my good;' and to riot in wretched vices, and starve upon the scanty wages of crime, housed by turns in jails, poor-houses, and kennels, racked by disease, and scourged by the law, was actually thought to be the choice of a large portion of mankind, rather than to live in comfort and respectability by honest labor. This they passionately denied; and, taking them at their word, I had to work out the truth of it by single-handed experiment. For want of any other person to place so much confidence in them, I had to become first their employer, and next their father. First, I became a manufacturer, and gave them shirts to make; next I gave them a home, and became the head of a family.

"Happily the position taken was so true, that no long time, and but little capital, were required to convince a few people of it partially, and thus to gain a beginning of assistance to the little germ, which thenceforward worked itself out into larger and larger room, by the inherent vitality of truth. I began, in July, with thirty or forty women sewing by day, in the chapel of the Methodist mission.*

[Note : * In another communication on this subject, Mr. Pease says: "We had about forty women of the lowest class the first day. It would assuredly move the hardest heart amongst the rich, who find what is called virtue so easy, if I had time to tell what I saw and heard of the struggles made by these lost creatures to practice the long-unused, perhaps never learned, arts of honest industry, at this unexpected opportunity. They took my work to their wretched homes at night: they sewed by the borrowed light of a neighbor's candle or fire; and they were found plying the needle beneath the street lamp! To be sure, much of the work they did was indescribable, and it would be long and profitless to tell you all the patience and expense it cost to bring the sewing to an average quality, such as to earn any net compensation, although it was, of course, necessary to pay each individual all or more than her work brought by itself. Suffice it to say that our struggles, almost hopeless at first, were successful in the end, and such was the germ of the House of Industry. As the movement progressed, benevolent individuals became interested, and contributions began to flow in. But the first condition of reform was only begun to be accomplished: the reform itself was scarce commenced, nor was the practicable point yet reached. Their dens of sub-beastly vice, filth, and intoxication, were places to stifle the first aspirations to a better life. In short, we made up our minds to come down and dwell among them, and adopt a family of outcasts.

"One of the buildings now composing the House of Industry was emptied by process of law, as a brothel the only possible way to obtain a tenement for our purpose and men were set to work with hoes and shovels to remove the accumulated filth. It had been an establishment of the better class on the Five Points: but, to understand the kind of eminence enjoyed by it, you should be informed that I subsequently removed from one of its immediate neighbors, a grade lower in 'respectability' I mean from the house alone forty cart-loads of solid filth. After the hoes and carts had done their part, we began in the upper storey to cleanse out vermin and putrefaction, by covering the floors with quick-lime, into which a sufficient quantity of water was thrown, and after drenching the walls, the liquid was left to percolate to the next storey, where the process was repeated, and so on to the ground. By such means as these, our dwelling was prepared, and the first day of our occupancy we took in thirty or forty Five Points females of all ages."]

"In August, I took a house on the Five Points, and constituted them a family. In September, the day-school was started, which was taken under the patronage of Mr. Donaldson, Mrs. Bedell, and the members of Ascension church, and has flourished under the care of the latter to this day. In October, we were able to add a second house, and the inmates were increased to fifty or sixty. In February, an additional room was hired, admitting a dozen more. In May 1851, four houses were taken, and the number of inmates ran as high as one hundred and twenty. It now came for ten months under the control of the National Temperance Society. A bakery had at this time been added to its industrial arrangements, and coarse basket-making was introduced soon after. In March 1852, the establishment reverted to my control, on the same terms on which it had been conveyed to the Temperance Society, viz., the payment of all existing liabilities. In May 1853, three more houses on the Five Points were added to the number, and in January last (1854), the house, No. 383 Broome Street, was appropriated to the very small children, invalids, and others, making in all eight houses occupied by the Five Points House of Industry. The house in Broome Street, however, will not be needed after May 1, as its purposes will be better answered by that in the country, to be completed about that time.

"For the last six months we have supported, in doors and out, a daily average of at least five hundred persons, by their labors here, and by the benefactions of the charitable. The average number of inmates is now about three hundred, of whom a hundred and fifty are children, twenty-five men, and a hundred and twenty-five women. Two hundred children are in the schools, of whom about half are from outside, but receive partial board from us. We employ two men and thirty women in sewing; sixteen girls in fine basket-making; three men and ten boys in shoe-making; an average of twenty-five women and girls in straw-work; about twenty-five persons on the farm (in building and the care of workmen); and the rest of our inmates are engaged in miscellaneous necessary services, except a small number who pay board in the institution, for the purpose of reformation or protection. The whole number which has passed through the institution, since its commencement, cannot be estimated lower than 1500 to 2000.

"But there is a species of moral progress not easily shown by figures or description. I have alluded to the incredulity of the public with reference to the willingness of these lost people to lead an honest life, if enabled to do so. This unbelief was so strong, that, during the first year of our labors, it was almost impossible to obtain a situation for one of our girls in any decent family. By degrees, however, a few obtained trial, and the example of their success as domestics caused neighboring employers to inquire for similar girls. Slowly the demand thus spread, until, so great is the change in public feeling, we have sent to situations, throughout the past year, from thirty to fifty persons per month, with an urgent and continual demand for twice as many as we can supply.

"With regard to the state of the public mind towards this enterprise of benevolence, the most encouraging developments have been witnessed in the last six months. The purchase of our farm through the spontaneous liberality of ten individuals, is prominent among the tokens for good with which we have been favored, and has been followed by a stream of benefactions, which, though perhaps not large in comparison with the work devolved upon the Christian community of New York in behalf of its poor or in comparison with its ability to perform that sacred work without delay, is still large enough to afford a signal token of the revival of primitive Christian charity in the modern world. The entire amount received or subscribed since October last is nearly $25,000 (£5000).

"The Farm, purchased last fall, consists of sixty-four acres of choice arable land, and cost $11,390, of which $1390 are paid, and the balance, to be paid in annual installments of $1000, is pledged to the institution in equal parts by ten gentlemen who came forward voluntarily and without concert to assume the burden of these payments. Our land lies in the town of East Chester, West Chester county, sixteen miles from the city, between the Harlem and Newhaven railroads, about one mile distant from the former at Bronxville, and half a mile from the latter at Pelhamville. The region of country in which it is situated is elevated and healthy, and the farm itself is a delightful spot, with a slightly undulating surface, adorned with groves of hickory, maple, chestnut, and other forest trees, and watered on two sides by the beautiful little river Bronx.

"We have now the foundations and materials in readiness for a frame building, measuring twenty-eight by forty-five feet, and two stories high, with attic and basement, which will be ready for occupation about the first of May [1854]. This building is situated a few rods in the rear of the probable site of the main buildings. It will accommodate a hundred of our people this summer, and will serve for farm and building purposes until the main buildings are ready, after which it will always be convenient for workshops or some other necessary use.

"I should recommend an appeal to the public for means to construct, during the present season (on a well-considered plan) at least the central division of an edifice, which will by the extent of its accommodations tell materially upon the condition of the destitute in this city next winter; at the same time, that no sudden or excessive expansion is attempted, and no debt incurred. The building should be so planned as to admit of extensive enlargements, with perfect economy and convenience, as fast as the public liberality, stimulated by the successful management of the institution, shall enable the trustees to effect them.

"While the country establishment should be regarded as the great field of improvement, and the principal dwelling-place of those under our charge, the house at the Five Points should not be given up, but maintained as a centre of operations and influence in the city, a place of reception, trial, and training, and of temporary employment and relief when such only are needed. The prospect of transfer to an inviting home in the country, will generally be a strong incentive to good conduct, by which the length of trial in the house at the Five Points may be regulated.

"The principal industrial operations being there carried on, it may be hoped will eventually render the country establishment in a great measure self-supporting, while that at the Five Points will always be partially so. The employments at the country house should be farming and gardening (in the proper seasons), in which all inmates of either sex should take part, according to their strength and capacity. In the intervals, house-work, plain-sewing, tailoring, shoe-making, basket-making, and all other branches of industry which can be profitably introduced, should be taught and carried on. All of our operations, whether in city or country, will doubtless be conducted on the vital and distinctive principle of the system, as embodied in the articles of incorporation, viz., voluntary labor and just wages as far as practicable; and charity, pure and free, where charity becomes necessary. It is this which distinguishes our system from pauperism, and justifies the effort to supersede the alms-house by the house of industry. We start with recognizing the claim of our unfortunate brethren to our best counsel and assistance in the common duty of supporting themselves and their families by free and honorable labor; subject only to such restraints and conditions as their moral necessities may render necessary to that end; and as far as possible in the exercise of all the natural relations and responsibilities ordained for the moral health and development of man; or in a state as much as possible approximated to that great institution of nature and nature's God, the Family.

"We regard it as the best thing we can do to give employment and encouragement to otherwise suffering or thriftless families, without impairing their domestic ties or responsibilities; and we labor for the time when society will take upon itself to see that none shall be driven to beggary and crime by lack of honorable employment. Next to individual homes of their own, (improved in comfort and economy by the public care), is the object, when no better can be obtained, of giving the destitute a general home, where they may resort for employment, board, instruction, and whatever else they need, without sacrifice of independence and self-reliance, except so far as their own labor falls short of supporting them; the line where strict justice fails their need, and charity begins to supply it, being distinctly marked. In such an establishment the great principle to be kept ever in view is, that we are dealing not with things but with persons, in all respects essentially like ourselves, and that our great end should be the development of their humanity on all sides, to higher and nobler forms. The deadly evils of strict segregation in large and uniform classes, should be guarded against so far as the nature of the case will allow, and may and should be mitigated (with other improvements of situation) by promotion into higher departments, as the moral progress of individuals may warrant and merit.

"Finally, whatever importance we attach to judicious measures for temporal, social, and moral improvement, may we and our successors never forget the eternal necessity of religion to the welfare of created beings, nor cease to make it our paramount object to bring them to a saving acquaintance with the gospel of Christ. Upon this depends the worth as well as the success of all our labors; failing of this, or of an influence tending thither, our toil and treasure will be but as water spilled upon the ground. Bible instruction, daily devotion, weekly divine service, and Sunday-schools, must be established and unchangeable parts of our system, and should be attended to with the paramount fervor and zeal appropriate to the pursuit of 'man's chief end.' May the gospel, in its purity and spirituality, and the devoutly invoked presence of the Divine Spirit, never depart from this institution; but may it end, as it began, in simple, humble efforts for the salvation of SOULS!"

We bid adieu to the Five Points House of Industry, by transcribing the following lines which a lady has addressed to the little children there:--

"THE CHILD'S ANGEL.


"Do you know it, little children?
In your hours of sportive glee,
That an angel stands beside you,
Whom your young eyes cannot see?
A holy guardian angel,
Who smiles upon your joy,
And who loves the cheerful courage
Of each little girl and boy.

"Do you know it, little children?
When the tears are in your eyes,
When your heart is sore and heavy,
With the bitter thoughts that rise;
That same dear guardian angel,
Still hovers fondly nigh,
To whisper words of soothing,
And to calm the trembling sigh?


"Do you know it, little children?
When you do the things you ought;
When your tongue the truth is telling,
When you think a loving thought;
That guardian angel's smiling
Is like sunshine in your breast,
Though you know not whence it cometh,
But you feel that you are blest?


"Do you know it, little children?
When you speak what is not so;
When you take what is another's;
When you strike an angry blow--
That same good angel weepeth
In sorrow for your sin,
Repentant thought still breathing,
The guilty breast within?


"Do you know it, little children?
Through all the live-long day,
That guardian angel hovers
Unseen about your way,
To shield you from temptation,
To make you good and true,
That this world, so wide and wicked,
May be some day bless'd by you?


"Do you know it, little children?
When you go to sleep at night,
That angel watches o'er you,
Till the morning brings its light,--
That holy guardian angel,
Whom our Father God has given,
To guide your straying footsteps,
In the path that leads to heaven?"

On the way up town from the Five Points, we looked in at the Tabernacle, where the Indian friends of Mr. Eels were holding a meeting. One of them was speaking when we entered, and his subject was the Indian belief about a future state. I presume he had before described his nation's idea of good men and bad, for he represented the good man as one who walked in a certain way, and the bad man as one who took another road. Both came at last, however, to a broad river, beyond which was the pleasant land. Over this river the only way was by going along a small pole that was laid across, and the pole was very small. The good man, coming along his direct road, when he came to it went straight upon it, for he never dodged for difficulties, and he held up his head so that he was not afraid of the torrent that was foaming below. At the other side was the spirit of good, and there, too, was the spirit of evil; and the spirit of good smiled and beckoned him on, but the spirit of evil pelted him with stones and chips to make him fall off. But as he never dodged in life he did not do so now, but kept his head up and went on, until he got fairly over and was in the happy land, where he joined his ancestors, in fine hunting-grounds, and played ball, and was happy for ever.

But the bad man, when he came up sideways from his crooked road, saw how small the pole was, and was afraid, and would gladly not have gone over. But there was an influence he could not help, pushing him on, so go he must. He had an old pipe in one hand and an old tobacco-pouch in the other, and so he goes on. But as he never was able to hold up his head when he lived, but always looked down, so he does still, and thus he sees the torrent and is frightened. And if he does look up, the spirit of good is frowning on him, and the spirit of evil is grinning at him.

Besides, this evil spirit begins to pelt him too: and as he was always fond of dodging, and never could go straight on when alive, so he begins to dodge now, first to one side to avoid a stone, and then to the other side to clear a chip, till in his fear and confusion he drops his old pipe and tobacco-box, and being a mean man he cannot bear to lose them, old and worthless as they are; so he makes a plunge after them, falls into the torrent, and is hurried down over rapids and cataracts into a great whirlpool, where he is eddied about for ever.

He went on to say, a characteristic of the red men is good feeling and love to each other, and to all men. As an example of this he instanced a case: Several whites, men of peace, had gone among them and been kindly treated, and supplied with everything they needed without any price. One, on offering payment received the reply, "Do not make us unhappy, by causing us to lose the pleasure of having given you what you needed without money." As a further instance of the same disposition, he said that in times of famine the opposite took place among the Indians from what might be seen among the whites. As provisions grew scarce, said he, the white man charges them more. When the Indian's provisions get scarce he charges them less; and when there is a famine, he will take no money for food, but if he has it, willingly gives it to his starving fellows, for he says that to take money for food in famine is like buying a man's life. What a beautiful principle, I could not help thinking; and as regards its Christianity, how far ahead of the Christian's political economy!

One of the maids told me to-day that in summer, when the hotel is fullest, there are 350 servants employed, and that there are nearly as many now. She says that this is not a land of freedom. The Americans hate the Irish (nearly all the servants are Irish), and would like to make them slaves like the blacks, only they can't. She says the Irish procession yesterday was to be the grandest ever seen, but the snow and rain spoiled it, and they could not walk. Thinks it will take place to-morrow. Says the Americans don't want to let foreigners have any rights (this is Know-nothingism). That Bill Poole was a "loafer." He was respectable, she believes, once, but took to going to drinking-saloons and fighting, and so became a ruffian. The feeling thus evinced of antagonism between the native American and the imported population, especially the Irish, is very strong and very prevalent. We met with it everywhere. The "helps" here are remarkably plentiful, idle, and independent, perhaps impudent.

I was much struck to-day in observing the facility which all the speakers whom I heard seemed to possess of expressing themselves easily. With the majority in England this is the seldom-attained result of laborious effort, but to Americans it seems to come naturally. They feel equal to the best of whoever may be listening to them, and hence have no hesitation in telling their mind, which they do with the utmost confidence, believing their own opinions to be as valuable as any one's else, no matter whose.

As a specimen of children without mauvaise honte and without forwardness a rare combination in England, and all but unknown in Scotland--we have seen nothing to equal's. They are free, natural, and affectionate. Most of the American children are too pert. In fact they do not look like children. They are diamond editions of men and women embryo republicans, and look as if already borne down by the burden of affairs. They address their parents as "Sir," and "Madam;" and ere they are well out of the nursery, assume the airs and bearing of ripe manhood.

In some points of etiquette there is greater strictness in America than at home. Thus you may give your arm to a lady to escort her to dinner, but if you are walking with her in the street, it is not usual to offer your arm, unless in the case of husband and wife, brother and sister, or other near relationship. At the table-d'hôte we have attempted several times to get into conversation with people who sat next us, but except in rare instances we have always been repulsed, sometimes with a short answer, sometimes with none at all. On one occasion a person, and he too had addressed me first, rudely rose and left in the middle of my reply to his remarks.

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A Traveler's Notes: Destination New York  1856 Part V
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

BIBLIOGRAPHY: America by river and rail; or, Notes by the way on the New World and its people. By Wiliam Ferguson, F.L.S.London, J. Nisbet and co., 1856.
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