New York, March 9, 1866.
THE justice and the candid spirit of Mr. Gladstone's remarks in regard to the position of the Government and the people of the United States towards the Fenians have been generally noticed, and with pleasure. We are accused of being a vain and irritable people, greedy of praise, resentful of fair, and intolerant even of friendly, criticism. Now there is not in Mr. Gladstone's speech in question, from beginning to end, a single compliment, expressed or implied, of the most delicate kind. It is not even "soothing." It is simply just, candid, and respectful; and yet we vain, irritable, sympathy-craving Yankees are perfectly well pleased with it,— ask nothing more or better. On the other hand, the complaint by the Times of " the liberty that Fenianism enjoys in the States," if honestly made, seems to us unworthy of the in- telligence of the people whose principal organ of opinion that paper aims to be. If, as the Times charges, only British power prevents Ireland and Canada from being " revolutionized by armies raised, armed, and officered in the United States, in spite of the United States laws," then there would be reason for its complaints of the inefficiency of the United States Government. But it is not so. Not a man has left our soil, by land or by water, on a hostile expedition against any part of the British Empire ; not a corporal's guard or a cock-boat is known or suspected of preparations to start on such an expedition. A number of Irish- men assemble in the open air and hear speeches against " British tyranny," and a smaller number assemble in a room and call them- selves the Irish Senate. I am sorry if the readers of the Times do not know that there might be regular sessions of a Congress of the United States in Exeter Hall for a twelvemonth, and we should not dream of adopting the Times' language, and calling it "con- trary to the comity of friendly nations."
But the Fenians collect money here with the avowed purpose of using it to revolutionize Ireland ? They certainly do ; and although what they collect is not enough to be of any real use, even in the first steps of a rebellion, it is just enough to seem to their ignorance a large sum, enough to dazzle and bewilder their heated imaginations, and to so keep up their foolish association. Yet the trouble of the leaders is upon this very point. The flow of money in small contributions has begun seriously to diminish, and in spite of an enormous mass meeeting to promote the sale of the little bonds of the " Irish Republic," Pat and Biddy cannot be enticed into making that disposition of their sav- ings. The little bonds remain unsold. It is, however, only in
the possession of money that gives the Fenians the semblance of an existence as a body. They come over here bringing, in the words of the London Daily News," masses of burning hatred to • England," they work hard, prosper, lay up money, and is it strange that they are ready to lay out part of it in the luxury of feeding their hatred ? If they did not prosper here they might hate Eng- land to their heart's content, and they would not only be harmless, but seem harmless to you ; for they could not keep up an organiza- tion, or send out emissaries to Ireland. And it is a part of their bitterness that they have found upon a foreign soil the com- fort and the freedom that they could not find at home. Thus the prosperity and untrammelled action of people in humble life in this country is the cause, or at least the occasion, of serious trouble to the British Government, as it is a source of annoyance and discomfort to British tourists. For nearly all that is offensive in the United States to our British visitors (excepting always the vile habit of tobacco-chewing) has its source in the material prosperity and political importance of utterly uncultivated people, much the larger proportion of whom are foreign-born. There are more beggars on horseback here than in any other country. They discredit the old adage by not riding to the devil, but they do their riding in a way which offends all people who are born or bred to the saddle. Besides these, the throngs in public places and public conveyances are more than half made up of people whose status it would be difficult to decide, but who are not so cleanly, intelligent, respectable-looking, or well behaved as the carpenter, painter, or plasterer who come to do odd jobs at your house, and yet who read fluently, write, are active politicians, can get on pretty well in whatever they undertake to do, and who have money to spend upon comforts, and even upon luxuries. Mr. Barnum has made two fortunes by knowing how large this class is, and what sort of amusement it likes to have for the twenty-five cents. a head that it always has to spare in its pocket. Now these people lack on the one hand that grace of manner which belongs to the Continental races of Europe, even in the humblest station, and on the other that deference to superior position which supplies the Anglo-Saxon lack of that grace in the eyes of cultivated English- men.
It is chiefly on the street railways that one is brought in con- tact with this large class, foreign and native, of our population. On these there is now no ground of exclusion but positive drunkenness or violence. The hairdresser, who "must draw a line somewhere," drew his at bakers, but here no line is drawn, and the baker comes in, and not only sits by you, but perhaps stands against you, for the cars are so crowded now at nearly all hours of the day that people stand on the steps as well as in the passage-way between the seats as thickly as they can be packed, and the companies will not increase their accommodation. Some of my recent experience in these vehicles has been not very notable to a resident here, but decidedly characteristic. The exact- ing disposition and indifferent, almost imperious manner of "Ameri- can women" of a certain sort in public places hasbeen often remarked by British writers who have visited this country. I can assure you that the Irish peasant woman is much quicker at learning this than she is at learning how to be a good servant, and that in this respect she quickly surpasses those who are native and to the manner born. The other day I was sitting near the door in a crowded car when a young Irishwoman entered. I had twice resigned a seat on that trip, once to a woman with a child in her arms and once to an old negreas, and I thought that that would do for once, so I did not rise, especially as the young woman's base was enormous ; she so broadened from the shoulders down. You might as well have expected a pyramid to tire with standing. But getting out before I did, she pulled the check-strap with a snap, saying, as she turned away, " Ye might iv given a seat to a lady." Another day, as I stood upon the top step or platform, which was crowded, the car stopped for an old shirtless Irish- man, who had a bundle of old hats in each hand half as big as himself, and he thrust himself into the crowd, hanging one bundle upon the brake-handle and holding on to the other as best he could, without the slightest regard to the convenience of his fellow-passengers. On this same trip a man who had been drinking, but showed no outward sign of drunkenness, was taken sick and vomited from the platform into the street as the car went on. The conductor was at the other end of the car, and did not see him, or he would have been put off. But it was noticeable that neither of the three people who did see him, and who looked significantly at each other, called the con- ductor's attention to the matter. Their faces seemed to say, " Well, it is only a little added to the much ; don't let the poor fellow be turned off so long as it is no worse." On this same trip, too, my attention, as I stood outside, was attracted by signs of excitement inside the car. Squeezing my way to the door, I found three young Irishmen talking in the most insolent manner to an elderly gentleman, who was very quiet, and only dropped a word now and then by way of protest. The three Irishmen, who were decently dressed, were Fenians ; and it seems that, having just whiskey enough to make them boastful and pugnacious, they had begun to utter their hatred of British rule for Ireland very loudly, and much to the annoyance of their fellow- passengers, and finally they swore roundly and freely. Upon this the elderly gentleman in question told them very decidedly to be quiet, and not disturb their fellow-passengers, some of whom were ladies. Whereupon they poured out their wrath upon his head. They should have been put out, and the conductor stood ready to eject them upon complaint, but as no one did complain, and as they refrained from violence and from further profanity, they were allowed to remain. At last one of them said to their victim, " Yer a Yankee, ain't yer ?" " Yes," he said, " I am a Yankee." Then they abused him worse than before. I laughed, but I confess that when I thought the matter over, it did not seem to me that the open reviling of a man in New York by an Irish peasant because he was a Yankee was a very amusing incident. I left the car with the scene yet unfinished, for all this occurred in going about a mile and a half. I must say, however, that street railway travelling is rarely so thickly strewn with incident, even in New York.
A day or two afterwards, at an unpretending eating-house where I sometimes go for luncheon, I took my seat purposely at the same little table with a man who seemed as if he had come straight from working on the wharves. He was just ordering pork chops and fried eggs ! " And I say," he called to the waiter girl, "six eggs, fried on both sides." She went off, laughing a little, and he looked at me and said, " I guess she thinks I'm rather hard on eggs." He was a tremendous fellow, big-limbed, and deep-chested, with close curled hair and red russet cheeks ; and I knew instantly from the gleam of his open grey eye that he was a Yankee. He was very civil, and called the waiter girl ma'am. When his pork chops and his six fried eggs, with appropriate garnish, including a large cup of coffee, were put before him, he indeed was hard on them. He seized knife and fork and went at the viands in such a way, using both instruments almost at once as hewers and conveyers of food, that I thought instantly of Scott's lines,
"They flung the feeble targe aside, And with both hands the broadsword plied:'
Having cleared his plates rapidly, he ordered buckwheat cakes by way of dessert. I took this opportunity to be sure of my man, and said," So you are enough of a Yankee to eat buckwheat cakes?" " Guess I be," he replied ; " and I'm Yankee enough to know how to make 'em and bake 'em ; and there I guess I'm ahead of you." Now at another little table next this .man sat one of the most polished men in appearance and manner that I ever saw; grey- haired but with only a few streaks of silver in his auburn mous- tache and aide whiskers, plainly but scrupulously dressed, and who ate as daintily as a high-bred woman, and to a Yankee who looked into his eye was as unmistakably a Yankee as the other. I once saw a man come into Delmonico's, which I am told by travelled Englishmen is one of the most elegant restaurants in the world, and sit down at a table without his coat. The head waiter whispered to him that gentlemen were expected to sit at table there in their coats ; whereupon he rose, and with his coat on his arm walked out. Both the offence and the discipline of this case were very unusual. But why, you may well ask, was the dis- cipline unusual ? Why do we suffer these offences and discom- forts ? Why do we consent to ride in street cars packed like herrings, in a promiscuous heap of roughs, half-tipsy Irish pea- sants, and gentlemen ? Simply because we cannot help ourselves. There are in proportion to population probably more people in New York who are annoyed by this 'condition of things than there would be in London. If you don't like to be packed like herrings in a railway car and protest, the company says to you that you need not take the car. Here are ten for every one of you whose taste is not so fastidious, who have money to spend, and whose money makes dividends as well as yours—better, because there's more of it. And so you must take things as they come, or keep your own carriage. I once heard a conductor, when two ladies declined getting into a car thronged as I have described, say to himself, " Humph! they want a car to themselves I a'pose." This great, struggling, pushing mass of undeferential, but thoroughly good-natured people, with money to spend, which many of them spend on costly and very hideous garments, is the one among us that you best know by description. It is very unlovely to look upon, if you look down. But suppose in imagination you place yourself at the bottom and look up. Perhaps you may then see that although a deferential European farm labourer or artisan, who knows his place and keeps it on from 9s. to 30s. a week, is plea- Banter to look upon, and even more agreeable as a companion, he might find it better to be in this condition of social hobbledehoydom, with the hope of rising out of it. It is the consciousness of this, pervading society here as it does, that causes us to endure cheer- fully and hopefully many of the discomforts of our prosperity.