Speaking of New York as a traveler, I have two faults to find with it. In the first place, there is nothing to see; and, in the second place, there is no mode of getting about to see anything. Nevertheless, New York is a most interesting city. It is the third biggest city in the known world, for those Chinese congregations of unwinged ants are not cities in the known world. In no other city is there a population so mixed and cosmopolitan in their modes of life. And yet in no other city that I have seen are there such strong and ever visible characteristics of the social and political bearings of the nation to which it belongs. New York appears to me as infinitely more American than Boston, Chicago, or Washington. It has no peculiar attribute of its own, as have those three cities — Boston in its literature and accomplished intelligence, Chicago in its internal trade, and Washington in its Congressional and State politics. New York has its literary aspirations, its commercial grandeur, and, Heaven knows, it has its politics also. But these do not strike the visitor as being specially characteristic of the city. That it is pre-eminently American is its glory or its disgrace, as men of different ways of thinking may decide upon it. Free institutions, general education, and the ascendency of dollars are the words written on every paving-stone along Fifth Avenue, down Broadway, and up Wall Street. Every man can vote, and values the privilege. Every man can read, and uses the privilege. Every man worships the dollar, and is down before his shrine from morning to night.
As regards voting and reading, no American will be angry with me for saying so much of him; and no Englishman, whatever may be his ideas as to the franchise in his own country, will conceive that I have said aught to the dishonor of an American. But as to that dollar-worshiping, it will of course seem that I am abusing the New Yorkers. We all know what a wretchedly wicked thing money is — how it stands between us and heaven — how it hardens our hearts and makes vulgar our thoughts! Dives has ever gone to the devil, while Lazarus has been laid up in heavenly lavender. The hand that employs itself in compelling gold to enter the service of man has always been stigmatized as the ravisher of things sacred. The world is agreed about that, and therefore the New Yorker is in a bad way. There are very few citizens in any town known to me which under this dispensation are in a good way, but the New Yorker is in about the worst way of all. Other men, the world over, worship regularly at the shrine with matins and vespers, nones and complines, and whatever other daily services may be known to the religious houses; but the New Yorker is always on his knees.
That is the amount of the charge which I bring against New York; and now, having laid on my paint thickly, I shall proceed, like an unskillful artist, to scrape a great deal of it off again. New York has been a leading commercial city in the world for not more than fifty or sixty years. As far as I can learn, its population at the close of the last century did not exceed 60,000, and ten years later it had not reached 100,000. In 1860 it had reached nearly 800,000 in the City of New York itself. To this number must be added the numbers of Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and Jersey City, in order that a true conception may be had of the population of this American metropolis, seeing that those places are as much a part of New York as Southwark is of London. By this the total will be swelled to considerably above a million. It will no doubt be admitted that this growth has been very fast, and that New York may well be proud of it. Increase of population is, I take it, the only trustworthy sign of a nation’s success or of a city’s success. We boast that London has beaten the other cities of the world, and think that that boast is enough to cover all the social sins for which London has to confess her guilt. New York, beginning with 60,000 sixty years since, has now a million souls — a million mouths, all of which eat a sufficiency of bread, all of which speak ore rotundo, and almost all of which can read. And this has come of its love of dollars.
For myself I do not believe that Dives is so black as he is painted or that his peril is so imminent. To reconcile such an opinion with holy writ might place me in some difficulty were I a clergyman. Clergymen, in these days, are surrounded by difficulties of this nature — finding it necessary to explain away many old-established teachings which narrowed the Christian Church, and to open the door wide enough to satisfy the aspirations and natural hopes of instructed men. The brethren of Dives are now so many and so intelligent that they will no longer consent to be damned without looking closely into the matter themselves. I will leave them to settle the matter with the Church, merely assuring them of my sympathy in their little difficulties in any case in which mere money causes the hitch.
To eat his bread in the sweat of his brow was man’s curse in Adam’s day, but is certainly man’s blessing in our day. And what is eating one’s bread in the sweat of one’s brow but making money? I will believe no man who tells me that he would not sooner earn two loaves than one — and if two, then two hundred. I will believe no man who tells me that he would sooner earn one dollar a day than two — and if two, then two hundred. That is, in the very nature of the argument, caeteris paribus. When a man tells me that he would prefer one honest loaf to two that are dishonest, I will, in all possible cases, believe him. So also a man may prefer one quiet loaf to two that are unquiet. But under circumstances that are the same, and to a man who is sane, a whole loaf is better than half, and two loaves are better than one. The preachers have preached well, but on this matter they have preached in vain. Dives has never believed that he will be damned because he is Dives. He has never even believed that the temptations incident to his position have been more than a fair counterpoise, or even so much as a fair counterpoise, to his opportunities for doing good. All men who work desire to prosper by their work, and they so desire by the nature given to them from God. Wealth and progress must go on hand in hand together, let the accidents which occasionally divide them for a time happen as often as they may. The progress of the Americans has been caused by their aptitude for money-making; and that continual kneeling at the shrine of the coined goddess has carried them across from New York to San Francisco. Men who kneel at that shrine are called on to have ready wits and quick hands, and not a little aptitude for self-denial. The New Yorker has been true to his dollar because his dollar has been true to him.
But not on this account can I, nor on this account will any Englishman, reconcile himself to the savor of dollars which pervades the atmosphere of New York. The ars celare artem is wanting. The making of money is the work of man; but he need not take his work to bed with him, and have it ever by his side at table, amid his family, in church, while he disports himself, as he declares his passion to the girl of his heart, in the moments of his softest bliss, and at the periods of his most solemn ceremonies. That many do so elsewhere than in New York — in London, for instance, in Paris, among the mountains of Switzerland, and the steppes of Russia — I do not doubt. But there is generally a vail thrown over the object of the worshiper’s idolatry. In New York one’s ear is constantly filled with the fanatic’s voice as he prays, one’s eyes are always on the familiar altar. The frankincense from the temple is ever in one’s nostrils. I have never walked down Fifth Avenue alone without thinking of money. I have never walked there with a companion without talking of it. I fancy that every man there, in order to maintain the spirit of the place, should bear on his forehead a label stating how many dollars he is worth, and that every label should be expected to assert a falsehood.
I do not think that New York has been less generous in the use of its money than other cities, or that the men of New York generally are so. Perhaps I might go farther and say that in no city has more been achieved for humanity by the munificence of its richest citizens than in New York. Its hospitals, asylums, and institutions for the relief of all ailments to which flesh is heir, are very numerous, and beyond praise in the excellence of their arrangements. And this has been achieved in a great degree by private liberality. Men in America are not as a rule anxious to leave large fortunes to their children. The millionaire when making his will very generally gives back a considerable portion of the wealth which he has made to the city in which he made it. The rich citizen is always anxious that the poor citizen shall be relieved. It is a point of honor with him to raise the character of his municipality, and to provide that the deaf and dumb, the blind, the mad, the idiots, the old, and the incurable shall have such alleviation in their misfortune as skill and kindness can afford.
Nor is the New Yorker a hugger-mugger with his money. He does not hide up his dollars in old stockings and keep rolls of gold in hidden pots. He does not even invest it where it will not grow but only produce small though sure fruit. He builds houses, he speculates largely, he spreads himself in trade to the extent of his wings — and not seldom somewhat farther. He scatters his wealth broadcast over strange fields, trusting that it may grow with an increase of a hundredfold, but bold to bear the loss should the strange field prove itself barren. His regret at losing his money is by no means commensurate with his desire to make it. In this there is a living spirit which to me divests the dollar-worshiping idolatry of something of its ugliness. The hand when closed on the gold is instantly reopened. The idolator is anxious to get, but he is anxious also to spend. He is energetic to the last, and has no comfort with his stock unless it breeds with Transatlantic rapidity of procreation.
So much I say, being anxious to scrape off some of that daub of black paint with which I have smeared the face of my New Yorker; but not desiring to scrape it all off. For myself, I do not love to live amid the clink of gold, and never have “a good time,” as the Americans say, when the price of shares and percentages come up in conversation. That state of men’s minds here which I have endeavored to explain tends, I think, to make New York disagreeable. A stranger there who has no great interest in percentages soon finds himself anxious to escape. By degrees he perceives that he is out of his element, and had better go away. He calls at the bank, and when he shows himself ignorant as to the price at which his sovereigns should be done, he is conscious that he is ridiculous. He is like a man who goes out hunting for the first time at forty years of age. He feels himself to be in the wrong place, and is anxious to get out of it. Such was my experience of New York, at each of the visits that I paid to it.
But yet, I say again, no other American city is so intensely American as New York. It is generally considered that the inhabitants of New England, the Yankees properly so called, have the American characteristics of physiognomy in the fullest degree. The lantern jaws, the thin and lithe body, the dry face on which there has been no tint of the rose since the baby’s long-clothes were first abandoned, the harsh, thick hair, the thin lips, the intelligent eyes, the sharp voice with the nasal twang — not altogether harsh, though sharp and nasal — all these traits are supposed to belong especially to the Yankee. Perhaps it was so once, but at present they are, I think, more universally common in New York than in any other part of the States. Go to Wall Street, the front of the Astor House, and the regions about Trinity Church, and you will find them in their fullest perfection.
What circumstances of blood or food, of early habit or subsequent education, have created for the latter-day American his present physiognomy? It is as completely marked, as much his own, as is that of any race under the sun that has bred in and in for centuries. But the American owns a more mixed blood than any other race known. The chief stock is English, which is itself so mixed that no man can trace its ramifications. With this are mingled the bloods of Ireland, Holland, France, Sweden, and Germany. All this has been done within but a few years, so that the American may be said to have no claim to any national type of face. Nevertheless, no man has a type of face so clearly national as the American. He is acknowledged by it all over the continent of Europe, and on his own side of the water is gratified by knowing that he is never mistaken for his English visitor. I think it comes from the hot-air pipes and from dollar worship. In the Jesuit his mode of dealing with things divine has given a peculiar cast of countenance; and why should not the American be similarly moulded by his special aspirations? As to the hot-air pipes, there can, I think, be no doubt that to them is to be charged the murder of all rosy cheeks throughout the States. If the effect was to be noticed simply in the dry faces of the men about Wall Street, I should be very indifferent to the matter. But the young ladies of Fifth Avenue are in the same category. The very pith and marrow of life is baked out of their young bones by the hot-air chambers to which they are accustomed. Hot air is the great destroyer of American beauty.
In saying that there is very little to be seen in New York I have also said that there is no way of seeing that little. My assertion amounts to this; that there are no cabs. To the reading world at large this may not seem to be much, but let the reading world go to New York, and it will find out how much the deficiency means. In London, in Paris, in Florence, in Rome, in the Havana, or at Grand Cairo, the cab-driver or attendant does not merely drive the cab or belabor the donkey, but he is the visitor’s easiest and cheapest guide. In London, the Tower, Westminster Abbey, and Madame Tussaud are found by the stranger without difficulty, and almost without a thought, because the cab-driver knows the whereabouts and the way. Space is moreover annihilated, and the huge distances of the English metropolis are brought within the scope of mortal power. But in New York there is no such institution.
In New York there are street omnibuses as we have — there are street cars such as last year we declined to have, and there are very excellent public carriages; but none of these give you the accommodation of a cab, nor can all of them combined do so. The omnibuses, though clean and excellent, were to me very unintelligible. They have no conductor to them. To know their different lines and usages a man should have made a scientific study of the city. To those going up and down Broadway I became accustomed, but in them I was never quite at my ease. The money has to be paid through a little hole behind the driver’s back, and should, as I learned at last, be paid immediately on entrance. But in getting up to do this I always stumbled about, and it would happen that when with considerable difficulty I had settled my own account, two or three ladies would enter, and would hand me, without a word, some coins with which I had no life-long familiarity, in order that I might go through the same ceremony on their account. The change I would usually drop into the straw, and then there would arise trouble and unhappiness. Before I became aware of that law as to instant payment, bells used to be rung at me, which made me uneasy. I knew I was not behaving as a citizen should behave, but could not compass the exact points of my delinquency. And then, when I desired to escape, the door being strapped up tight, I would halloo vainly at the driver through the little hole; whereas, had I known my duty, I should have rung a bell, or pulled a strap, according to the nature of the omnibus in question. In a month or two all these things may possibly be learned; but the visitor requires his facilities for locomotion at the first moment of his entrance into the city. I heard it asserted by a lecturer in Boston, Mr. Wendell Phillips, whose name is there a household word, that citizens of the United States carried brains in their fingers as well as in their heads; whereas “common people,” by which Mr. Phillips intended to designate the remnant of mankind beyond the United States, were blessed with no such extended cerebral development. Having once learned this fact from Mr. Phillips, I understood why it was that a New York omnibus should be so disagreeable to me, and at the same time so suitable to the wants of the New Yorkers.
And then there are street cars — very long omnibuses — which run on rails but are dragged by horses. They are capable of holding forty passengers each, and as far as my experience goes carry an average load of sixty. The fare of the omnibus is six cents, or three pence. That of the street car five cents, or two pence halfpenny. They run along the different avenues, taking the length of the city. In the upper or new part of the town their course is simple enough, but as they descend to the Bowery, Peck Slip, and Pearl Street, nothing can be conceived more difficult or devious than their courses. The Broadway omnibus, on the other hand, is a straightforward, honest vehicle in the lower part of the town, becoming, however, dangerous and miscellaneous when it ascends to Union Square and the vicinities of fashionable life.
The street cars are manned with conductors, and, therefore, are free from many of the perils of the omnibus; but they have perils of their own. They are always quite full. By that I mean that every seat is crowded, that there is a double row of men and women standing down the center, and that the driver’s platform in front is full, and also the conductor’s platform behind. That is the normal condition of a street car in the Third Avenue. You, as a stranger in the middle of the car, wish to be put down at, let us say, 89th Street. In the map of New York now before me, the cross streets running from east to west are numbered up northward as far as 154th Street. It is quite useless for you to give the number as you enter. Even an American conductor, with brains all over him, and an anxious desire to accommodate, as is the case with all these men, cannot remember. You are left therefore in misery to calculate the number of the street as you move along, vainly endeavoring through the misty glass to decipher the small numbers which after a day or two you perceive to be written on the lamp posts.
But I soon gave up all attempts at keeping a seat in one of these cars. It became my practice to sit down on the outside iron rail behind, and as the conductor generally sat in my lap I was in a measure protected. As for the inside of these vehicles the women of New York were, I must confess, too much for me. I would no sooner place myself on a seat, than I would be called on by a mute, unexpressive, but still impressive stare into my face, to surrender my place. From cowardice if not from gallantry I would always obey; and as this led to discomfort and an irritated spirit, I preferred nursing the conductor on the hard bar in the rear.
And here if I seem to say a word against women in America, I beg that it may be understood that I say that word only against a certain class; and even as to that class I admit that they are respectable, intelligent, and, as I believe, industrious. Their manners, however, are to me more odious than those of any other human beings that I ever met elsewhere. Nor can I go on with that which I have to say without carrying my apology further, lest, perchance, I should be misunderstood by some American women whom I would not only exclude from my censure, but would include in the very warmest eulogium which words of mine could express as to those of the female sex whom I love and admire the most. I have known, do know, and mean to continue to know as far as in me may lie, American ladies as bright, as beautiful, as graceful, as sweet, as mortal limits for brightness, beauty, grace, and sweetness will permit. They belong to the aristocracy of the land, by whatever means they may have become aristocrats. In America one does not inquire as to their birth, their training, or their old names. The fact of their aristocratic power comes out in every word and look. It is not only so with those who have traveled or with those who are rich. I have found female aristocrats with families and slender means, who have as yet made no grand tour across the ocean. These women are charming beyond expression. It is not only their beauty. Had he been speaking of such, Wendell Phillips would have been right in saying that they have brains all over them. So much for those who are bright and beautiful, who are graceful and sweet! And now a word as to those who to me are neither bright nor beautiful, and who can be to none either graceful or sweet.
It is a hard task, that of speaking ill of any woman; but it seems to me that he who takes upon himself to praise incurs the duty of dispraising also where dispraise is, or to him seems to be, deserved. The trade of a novelist is very much that of describing the softness, sweetness, and loving dispositions of women; and this he does, copying as best he can from nature. But if he only sings of that which is sweet, whereas that which is not sweet too frequently presents itself, his song will in the end be untrue and ridiculous. Women are entitled to much observance from men, but they are entitled to no observance which is incompatible with truth. Women, by the conventional laws of society, are allowed to exact much from men, but they are allowed to exact nothing for which they should not make some adequate return. It is well that a man should kneel in spirit before the grace and weakness of a woman, but it is not well that he should kneel either in spirit or body if there be neither grace nor weakness. A man should yield everything to a woman for a word, for a smile — to one look of entreaty. But if there be no look of entreaty, no word, no smile, I do not see that he is called upon to yield much.
The happy privileges with which women are at present blessed have come to them from the spirit of chivalry. That spirit has taught man to endure in order that women may be at their ease; and has generally taught women to accept the ease bestowed on them with grace and thankfulness. But in America the spirit of chivalry has sunk deeper among men than it has among women. It must be borne in mind that in that country material well-being and education are more extended than with us; and that, therefore, men there have learned to be chivalrous who with us have hardly progressed so far. The conduct of men to women throughout the States is always gracious. They have learned the lesson. But it seems to me that the women have not advanced as far as the men have done. They have acquired a sufficient perception of the privileges which chivalry gives them, but no perception of that return which chivalry demands from them. Women of the class to which I allude are always talking of their rights, but seem to have a most indifferent idea of their duties. They have no scruple at demanding from men everything that a man can be called on to relinquish in a woman’s behalf, but they do so without any of that grace which turns the demand made into a favor conferred.
I have seen much of this in various cities of America, but much more of it in New York than elsewhere. I have heard young Americans complain of it, swearing that they must change the whole tenor of their habits toward women. I have heard American ladies speak of it with loathing and disgust. For myself, I have entertained on sundry occasions that sort of feeling for an American woman which the close vicinity of an unclean animal produces. I have spoken of this with reference to street cars, because in no position of life does an unfortunate man become more liable to these anti-feminine atrocities than in the center of one of these vehicles. The woman, as she enters, drags after her a misshapen, dirty mass of battered wirework, which she calls her crinoline, and which adds as much to her grace and comfort as a log of wood does to a donkey when tied to the animal’s leg in a paddock. Of this she takes much heed, not managing it so that it may be conveyed up the carriage with some decency, but striking it about against men’s legs, and heaving it with violence over people’s knees. The touch of a real woman’s dress is in itself delicate; but these blows from a harpy’s fins are as loathsome as a snake’s slime. If there be two of them they talk loudly together, having a theory that modesty has been put out of court by women’s rights. But, though not modest, the woman I describe is ferocious in her propriety. She ignores the whole world around her as she sits; with a raised chin and face flattened by affectation, she pretends to declare aloud that she is positively not aware that any man is even near her. She speaks as though to her, in her womanhood, the neighborhood of men was the same as that of dogs or cats. They are there, but she does not hear them, see them, or even acknowledge them by any courtesy of motion. But her own face always gives her the lie. In her assumption of indifference she displays her nasty consciousness, and in each attempt at a would-be propriety is guilty of an immodesty. Who does not know the timid retiring face of the young girl who when alone among men unknown to her feels that it becomes her to keep herself secluded? As many men as there are around her, so many knights has such a one, ready bucklered for her service, should occasion require such services. Should it not, she passes on unmolested — but not, as she herself will wrongly think, unheeded. But as to her of whom I am speaking, we may say that every twist of her body and every tone of her voice is an unsuccessful falsehood. She looks square at you in the face, and you rise to give her your seat. You rise from a deference to your own old convictions, and from that courtesy which you have ever paid to a woman’s dress, let it be worn with ever such hideous deformities. She takes the place from which you have moved without a word or a bow. She twists herself round, banging your shins with her wires, while her chin is still raised, and her face is still flattened, and she directs her friend’s attention to another seated man, as though that place were also vacant, and necessarily at her disposure. Perhaps the man opposite has his own ideas about chivalry. I have seen such a thing, and have rejoiced to see it.
You will meet these women daily, hourly, everywhere in the streets. Now and again you will find them in society, making themselves even more odious there than elsewhere. Who they are, whence they come, and why they are so unlike that other race of women of which I have spoken, you will settle for yourself. Do we not all say of our chance acquaintances, after half an hour’s conversation, nay, after half an hour spent in the same room without conversation, that this woman is a lady, and that that other woman is not? They jostle each other even among us, but never seem to mix. They are closely allied; but neither imbues the other with her attributes. Both shall be equally well born, or both shall be equally ill born; but still it is so. The contrast exists in England; but in America it is much stronger. In England women become ladylike or vulgar. In the States they are either charming or odious.
See that female walking down Broadway. She is not exactly such a one as her I have attempted to describe on her entrance into the street car; for this lady is well dressed, if fine clothes will make well dressing. The machinery of her hoops is not battered, and altogether she is a personage much more distinguished in all her expenditures. But yet she is a copy of the other woman. Look at the train which she drags behind her over the dirty pavement, where dogs have been, and chewers of tobacco, and everything concerned with filth except a scavenger. At every hundred yards some unhappy man treads upon the silken swab which she trails behind her — loosening it dreadfully at the girth one would say; and then see the style of face and the expression of features with which she accepts the sinner’s half muttered apology. The world, she supposes, owes her everything because of her silken train, even room enough in a crowded thoroughfare to drag it along unmolested. But, according to her theory, she owes the world nothing in return. She is a woman with perhaps a hundred dollars on her back, and having done the world the honor of wearing them in the world’s presence, expects to be repaid by the world’s homage and chivalry. But chivalry owes her nothing — nothing, though she walk about beneath a hundred times a hundred dollars — nothing, even though she be a woman. Let every woman learn this, that chivalry owes her nothing unless she also acknowledges her debt to chivalry. She must acknowledge it and pay it; and then chivalry will not be backward in making good her claims upon it.
All this has come of the street cars. But as it was necessary that I should say it somewhere, it is as well said on that subject as on any other. And now to continue with the street cars. They run, as I have said, the length of the town, taking parallel lines. They will take you from the Astor House, near the bottom of the town, for miles and miles northward — half way up the Hudson River — for, I believe, five pence. They are very slow, averaging about five miles an hour; but they are very sure. For regular inhabitants, who have to travel five or six miles perhaps to their daily work, they are excellent. I have nothing really to say against the street cars. But they do not fill the place of cabs.
There are, however, public carriages — roomy vehicles, dragged by two horses, clean and nice, and very well suited to ladies visiting the city. But they have none of the attributes of the cab. As a rule, they are not to be found standing about. They are very slow. They are very dear. A dollar an hour is the regular charge; but one cannot regulate one’s motion by the hour. Going out to dinner and back costs two dollars, over a distance which in London would cost two shillings. As a rule, the cost is four times that of a cab, and the rapidity half that of a cab. Under these circumstances, I think I am justified in saying that there is no mode of getting about in New York to see anything.
And now as to the other charge against New York, of there being nothing to see. How should there be anything there to see of general interest? In other large cities — cities as large in name as New York — there are works of art, fine buildings, ruins, ancient churches, picturesque costumes, and the tombs of celebrated men. But in New York there are none of these things. Art has not yet grown up there. One or two fine figures by Crawford are in the town, especially that of the Sorrowing Indian, at the rooms of the Historical Society; but art is a luxury in a city which follows but slowly on the heels of wealth and civilization. Of fine buildings — which, indeed, are comprised in art — there are none deserving special praise or remark. It might well have been that New York should ere this have graced herself with something grand in architecture; but she has not done so. Some good architectural effect there is, and much architectural comfort. Of ruins, of course, there can be none — none, at least, of such ruins as travelers admire, though perhaps some of that sort which disgraces rather than decorates. Churches there are plenty, but none that are ancient. The costume is the same as our own; and I need hardly say that it is not picturesque. And the time for the tombs of celebrated men has not yet come. A great man’s ashes are hardly of value till they have all but ceased to exist.
The visitor to New York must seek his gratification and obtain his instruction from the habits and manners of men. The American, though he dresses like an Englishman, and eats roast beef with a silver fork — or sometimes with a steel knife — as does an Englishman, is not like an Englishman in his mind, in his aspirations, in his tastes, or in his politics. In his mind he is quicker, more universally intelligent, more ambitious of general knowledge, less indulgent of stupidity and ignorance in others, harder, sharper, brighter with the surface brightness of steel, than is an Englishman; but he is more brittle, less enduring, less malleable, and, I think, less capable of impressions. The mind of the Englishman has more imagination, but that of the American more incision. The American is a great observer; but he observes things material rather than things social or picturesque. He is a constant and ready speculator; but all speculations, even those which come of philosophy, are with him more or less material. In his aspirations the American is more constant than an Englishman — or I should rather say he is more constant in aspiring. Every citizen of the United States intends to do something. Every one thinks himself capable of some effort. But in his aspirations he is more limited than an Englishman. The ambitious American never soars so high as the ambitious Englishman. He does not even see up to so great a height, and, when he has raised himself somewhat above the crowd, becomes sooner dizzy with his own altitude. An American of mark, though always anxious to show his mark, is always fearful of a fall. In his tastes the American imitates the Frenchman. Who shall dare to say that he is wrong, seeing that in general matters of design and luxury the French have won for themselves the foremost name? I will not say that the American is wrong, but I cannot avoid thinking that he is so. I detest what is called French taste; but the world is against me. When I complained to a landlord of a hotel out in the West that his furniture was useless; that I could not write at a marble table whose outside rim was curved into fantastic shapes; that a gold clock in my bed-room which did not go would give me no aid in washing myself; that a heavy, immovable curtain shut out the light; and that papier-mache chairs with small, fluffy velvet seats were bad to sit on, he answered me completely by telling me that his house had been furnished not in accordance with the taste of England, but with that of France. I acknowledged the rebuke, gave up my pursuits of literature and cleanliness, and hurried out of the house as quickly as I could. All America is now furnishing itself by the rules which guided that hotel-keeper. I do not merely allude to actual household furniture — to chairs, tables, and detestable gilt clocks. The taste of America is becoming French in its conversation, French in its comforts and French in its discomforts, French in its eating and French in its dress, French in its manners, and will become French in its art. There are those who will say that English taste is taking the same direction. I do not think so. I strongly hope that it is not so. And therefore I say that an Englishman and an American differ in their tastes.
But of all differences between an Englishman and an American, that in politics is the strongest and the most essential. I cannot here, in one paragraph, define that difference with sufficient clearness to make my definition satisfactory; but I trust that some idea of that difference may be conveyed by the general tenor of my book. The American and the Englishman are both republicans. The governments of the States and of England are probably the two purest republican governments in the world. I do not, of course, here mean to say that the governments are more pure than others, but that the systems are more absolutely republican. And yet no men can be much farther asunder in politics than the Englishman and the American. The American of the present day puts a ballot-box into the hands of every citizen, and takes his stand upon that and that only. It is the duty of an American citizen to vote; and when he has voted, he need trouble himself no further till the time for voting shall come round again. The candidate for whom he has voted represents his will, if he have voted with the majority; and in that case he has no right to look for further influence. If he have voted with the minority, he has no right to look for any influence at all. In either case he has done his political work, and may go about his business till the next year, or the next two or four years, shall have come round. The Englishman, on the other hand, will have no ballot-box, and is by no means inclined to depend exclusively upon voters or upon voting. As far as voting can show it, he desires to get the sense of the country; but he does not think that that sense will be shown by universal suffrage. He thinks that property amounting to a thousand pounds will show more of that sense than property amounting to a hundred; but he will not, on that account, go to work and apportion votes to wealth. He thinks that the educated can show more of that sense than the uneducated; but he does not therefore lay down any rule about reading, writing, and arithmetic, or apportion votes to learning. He prefers that all these opinions of his shall bring themselves out and operate by their own intrinsic weight. Nor does he at all confine himself to voting, in his anxiety to get the sense of the country. He takes it in any way that it will show itself, uses it for what it is worth, or perhaps far more than it is worth, and welds it into that gigantic lever by which the political action of the country is moved. Every man in Great Britain, whether he possesses any actual vote or no, can do that which is tantamount to voting every day of his life by the mere expression of his opinion. Public opinion in America has hitherto been nothing, unless it has managed to express itself by a majority of ballot-boxes. Public opinion in England is everything, let votes go as they may. Let the people want a measure, and there is no doubt of their obtaining it. Only the people must want it — as they did want Catholic emancipation, reform, and corn-law repeal, and as they would want war if it were brought home to them that their country was insulted.
In attempting to describe this difference in the political action of the two countries, I am very far from taking all praise for England or throwing any reproach on the States. The political action of the States is undoubtedly the more logical and the clearer. That, indeed, of England is so illogical and so little clear that it would be quite impossible for any other nation to assume it, merely by resolving to do so. Whereas the political action of the States might be assumed by any nation tomorrow, and all its strength might be carried across the water in a few written rules as are the prescriptions of a physician or the regulations of an infirmary. With us the thing has grown of habit, has been fostered by tradition, has crept up uncared for, and in some parts unnoticed. It can be written in no book, can be described in no words, can be copied by no statesmen, and I almost believe can be understood by no people but that to whose peculiar uses it has been adapted.
In speaking as I have here done of American taste and American politics, I must allude to a special class of Americans who are to be met more generally in New York than elsewhere — men who are educated, who have generally traveled, who are almost always agreeable, but who, as regards their politics, are to me the most objectionable of all men. As regards taste they are objectionable to me also. But that is a small thing; and as they are quite as likely to be right as I am, I will say nothing against their taste. But in politics it seems to me that these men have fallen into the bitterest and perhaps into the basest of errors. Of the man who begins his life with mean political ideas, having sucked them in with his mother’s milk, there may be some hope. The evil is at any rate the fault of his forefathers rather than of himself. But who can have hope of him who, having been thrown by birth and fortune into the running river of free political activity, has allowed himself to be drifted into the stagnant level of general political servility? There are very many such Americans. They call themselves republicans, and sneer at the idea of a limited monarchy, but they declare that there is no republic so safe, so equal for all men, so purely democratic as that now existing in France. Under the French Empire all men are equal. There is no aristocracy; no oligarchy; no overshadowing of the little by the great. One superior is admitted — admitted on earth, as a superior is also admitted in heaven. Under him everything is level, and, provided he be not impeded, everything is free. He knows how to rule, and the nation, allowing him the privilege of doing so, can go along its course safely; can eat, drink, and be merry. If few men can rise high, so also can few men fall low. Political equality is the one thing desirable in a commonwealth, and by this arrangement political equality is obtained. Such is the modern creed of many an educated republican of the States.
To me it seems that such a political state is about the vilest to which a man can descend. It amounts to a tacit abandonment of the struggle which men are making for political truth and political beneficence, in order that bread and meat may be eaten in peace during the score of years or so that are at the moment passing over us. The politicians of this class have decided for themselves that the summum bonum is to be found in bread and the circus games. If they be free to eat, free to rest, free to sleep, free to drink little cups of coffee, while the world passes before them, on a boulevard, they have that freedom which they covet. But equality is necessary as well as freedom. There must be no towering trees in this parterre to overshadow the clipped shrubs, and destroy the uniformity of a growth which should never mount more than two feet above the earth. The equality of this politician would forbid any to rise above him instead of inviting all to rise up to him. It is the equality of fear and of selfishness, and not the equality of courage and philanthropy. And brotherhood, too, must be invoked — fraternity as we may better call it in the jargon of the school. Such politicians tell one much of fraternity, and define it too. It consists in a general raising of the hat to all mankind; in a daily walk that never hurries itself into a jostling trot, inconvenient to passengers on the pavement; in a placid voice, a soft smile, and a small cup of coffee on a boulevard. It means all this, but I could never find that it meant any more. There is a nation for which one is almost driven to think that such political aspirations as these are suitable; but that nation is certainly not the States of America.
And yet one finds many American gentlemen who have allowed themselves to be drifted into such a theory. They have begun the world as republican citizens, and as such they must go on. But in their travels and their studies, and in the luxury of their life, they have learned to dislike the rowdiness of their country’s politics. They want things to be soft and easy; as republican as you please, but with as little noise as possible. The President is there for four years. Why not elect him for eight, for twelve, or for life? — for eternity if it were possible to find one who could continue to live? It is to this way of thinking that Americans are driven, when the polish of Europe has made the roughness of their own elections odious to them.
“Have you seen any of our great institootions, sir?” That of course is a question which is put to every Englishman who has visited New York, and the Englishman who intends to say that he has seen New York, should visit many of them. I went to schools, hospitals, lunatic asylums, institutes for deaf and dumb, water-works, historical societies, telegraph offices, and large commercial establishments. I rather think that I did my work in a thorough and conscientious manner, and I owe much gratitude to those who guided me on such occasions. Perhaps I ought to describe all these institutions; but were I to do so, I fear that I should inflict fifty or sixty very dull pages on my readers. If I could make all that I saw as clear and intelligible to others as it was made to me who saw it, I might do some good. But I know that I should fail. I marveled much at the developed intelligence of a room full of deaf and dumb pupils, and was greatly astonished at the performance of one special girl, who seemed to be brighter and quicker, and more rapidly easy with her pen than girls generally are who can hear and talk; but I cannot convey my enthusiasm to others. On such a subject a writer may be correct, may be exhaustive, may be statistically great; but he can hardly be entertaining, and the chances are that he will not be instructive.
In all such matters, however, New York is pre-eminently great. All through the States suffering humanity receives so much attention that humanity can hardly be said to suffer. The daily recurring boast of “our glorious institootions, sir,” always provokes the ridicule of an Englishman. The words have become ridiculous, and it would, I think, be well for the nation if the term “Institution” could be excluded from its vocabulary. But, in truth, they are glorious. The country in this respect boasts, but it has done that which justifies a boast. The arrangements for supplying New York with water are magnificent. The drainage of the new part of the city is excellent. The hospitals are almost alluring. The lunatic asylum which I saw was perfect — though I did not feel obliged to the resident physician for introducing me to all the worst patients as countrymen of my own. “An English lady, Mr. Trollope. I’ll introduce you. Quite a hopeless case. Two old women. They’ve been here fifty years. They’re English. Another gentleman from England, Mr. Trollope. A very interesting case! Confirmed inebriety.”
And as to the schools, it is almost impossible to mention them with too high a praise. I am speaking here specially of New York, though I might say the same of Boston, or of all New England. I do not know any contrast that would be more surprising to an Englishman, up to that moment ignorant of the matter, than that which he would find by visiting first of all a free school in London, and then a free school in New York. If he would also learn the number of children that are educated gratuitously in each of the two cities, and also the number in each which altogether lack education, he would, if susceptible of statistics, be surprised also at that. But seeing and hearing are always more effective than mere figures. The female pupil at a free school in London is, as a rule, either a ragged pauper or a charity girl, if not degraded, at least stigmatized by the badges and dress of the charity. We Englishmen know well the type of each, and have a fairly correct idea of the amount of education which is imparted to them. We see the result afterward when the same girls become our servants, and the wives of our grooms and porters. The female pupil at a free school in New York is neither a pauper nor a charity girl. She is dressed with the utmost decency. She is perfectly cleanly. In speaking to her, you cannot in any degree guess whether her father has a dollar a day, or three thousand dollars a year. Nor will you be enabled to guess by the manner in which her associates treat her. As regards her own manner to you, it is always the same as though her father were in all respects your equal. As to the amount of her knowledge, I fairly confess that it is terrific. When in the first room which I visited, a slight, slim creature was had up before me to explain to me the properties of the hypothenuse, I fairly confess that, as regards education, I backed down, and that I resolved to confine my criticisms to manner, dress, and general behavior. In the next room I was more at my ease, finding that ancient Roman history was on the tapis. “Why did the Romans run away with the Sabine women asked the mistress, herself a young woman of about three and twenty. “Because they were pretty,” simpered out a little girl with a cherry mouth. The answer did not give complete satisfaction, and then followed a somewhat abstruse explanation on the subject of population. It was all done with good faith and a serious intent, and showed what it was intended to show — that the girls there educated had in truth reached the consideration of important subjects, and that they were leagues beyond that terrible repetition of A B C, to which, I fear, that most of our free metropolitan schools are still necessarily confined. You and I, reader, were we called on to superintend the education of girls of sixteen, might not select, as favorite points either the hypothenuse or the ancient methods of populating young colonies. There may be, and to us on the European side of the Atlantic there will be, a certain amount of absurdity in the Transatlantic idea that all knowledge is knowledge, and that it should be imparted if it be not knowledge of evil. But as to the general result, no fair-minded man or woman can have a doubt. That the lads and girls in these schools are excellently educated, comes home as a fact to the mind of any one who will look into the subject. That girl could not have got as fair at the hypothenuse without a competent and abiding knowledge of much that is very far beyond the outside limits of what such girls know with us. It was at least manifest in the other examination that the girls knew as well as I did who were the Romans, and who were the Sabine women. That all this is of use, was shown in the very gestures and bearings of the girl. Emollit mores, as Colonel Newcombe used to say. That young woman whom I had watched while she cooked her husband’s dinner upon the banks of the Mississippi had doubtless learned all about the Sabine women, and I feel assured that she cooked her husband’s dinner all the better for that knowledge — and faced the hardships of the world with a better front than she would have done had she been ignorant on the subject.
In order to make a comparison between the schools of London and those of New York, I have called them both free schools. They are, in fact, more free in New York than they are in London; because in New York every boy and girl, let his parentage be what it may, can attend these schools without any payment. Thus an education as good as the American mind can compass, prepared with every care, carried on by highly-paid tutors, under ample surveillance, provided with all that is most excellent in the way of rooms, desks, books, charts, maps, and implements, is brought actually within the reach of everybody. I need not point out to Englishmen how different is the nature of schools in London. It must not, however, be supposed that these are charity schools. Such is not their nature. Let us say what we may as to the beauty of charity as a virtue, the recipient of charity in its customary sense among us is ever more or less degraded by the position. In the States that has been fully understood, and the schools to which I allude are carefully preserved from any such taint. Throughout the States a separate tax is levied for the maintenance of these schools, and as the taxpayer supports them, he is, of course, entitled to the advantage which they confer. The child of the non-taxpayer is also entitled, and to him the boon, if strictly analyzed, will come in the shape of a charity. But under the system as it is arranged, this is not analyzed. It is understood that the school is open to all in the ward to which it belongs, and no inquiry is made whether the pupil’s parent has or has not paid anything toward the school’s support. I found this theory carried out so far that at the deaf and dumb school, where some of the poorer children are wholly provided by the institution, care is taken to clothe them in dresses of different colors and different make, in order that nothing may attach to them which has the appearance of a badge. Political economists will see something of evil in this. But philanthropists will see very much that is good.
It is not without a purpose that I have given this somewhat glowing account of a girls’ school in New York so soon after my little picture of New York women, as they behave themselves in the streets and street cars. It will, of course, be said that those women of whom I have spoken, by no means in terms of admiration, are the very girls whose education has been so excellent. This of course is so; but I beg to remark that I have by no means said that an excellent school education will produce all female excellencies. The fact, I take it, is this: that seeing how high in the scale these girls have been raised, one is anxious that they should be raised higher. One is surprised at their pert vulgarity and hideous airs, not because they are so low in our general estimation, but because they are so high. Women of the same class in London are humble enough, and therefore rarely offend us who are squeamish. They show by their gestures that they hardly think themselves good enough to sit by us; they apologize for their presence; they conceive it to be their duty to be lowly in their gesture. The question is which is best, the crouching and crawling, or the impudent, unattractive self-composure. Not, my reader, which action on her part may the better conduce to my comfort or to yours. That is by no means the question. Which is the better for the woman herself? That, I take it, is the point to be decided. That there is something better than either, we shall all agree — but to my thinking the crouching and crawling is the lowest type of all.
At that school I saw some five or six hundred girls collected in one room, and heard them sing. The singing was very pretty, and it was all very nice; but I own that I was rather startled, and to tell the truth somewhat abashed, when I was invited to “say a few words to them.” No idea of such a suggestion had dawned upon me, and I felt myself quite at a loss. To be called up before five hundred men is bad enough, but how much worse before that number of girls! What could I say but that they were all very pretty? As far as I can remember, I did say that and nothing else. Very pretty they were, and neatly dressed, and attractive; but among them all there was not a pair of rosy cheeks. How should there be, when every room in the building was heated up to the condition of an oven by those damnable hot-air pipes.
In England a taste for very large shops has come up during the last twenty years. A firm is not doing a good business, or at any rate a distinguished business, unless he can assert in his trade card that he occupies at least half a dozen houses — Nos. 105, 106, 107, 108, 109 and 110. The old way of paying for what you want over the counter is gone; and when you buy a yard of tape or a new carriage — for either of which articles you will probably visit the same establishment — you go through about the same amount of ceremony as when you sell a thousand pounds out of the stocks in propria persona. But all this is still further exaggerated in New York. Mr. Stewart’s store there is perhaps the handsomest institution in the city, and his hall of audience for new carpets is a magnificent saloon. “You have nothing like that in England,” my friend said to me as he walked me through it in triumph. “I wish we had nothing approaching to it,” I answered. For I confess to a liking for the old-fashioned private shops. Harper’s establishment for the manufacture and sale of books is also very wonderful. Everything is done on the premises, down to the very coloring of the paper which lines the covers, and places the gilding on their backs. The firm prints, engraves, electroplates, sews, binds, publishes, and sells wholesale and retail. I have no doubt that the authors have rooms in the attics where the other slight initiatory step is taken toward the production of literature.
New York is built upon an island, which is I believe about ten miles long, counting from the southern point at the Battery up to Carmansville, to which place the city is presumed to extend northward. This island is called Manhattan, a name which I have always thought would have been more graceful for the city than that of New York. It is formed by the Sound or East River, which divides the continent from Long Island by the Hudson River, which runs into the Sound, or rather joins it at the city foot, and by a small stream called the Harlem River, which runs out of the Hudson and meanders away into the Sound at the north of the city, thus cutting the city off from the main-land. The breadth of the island does not much exceed two miles, and therefore the city is long, and not capable of extension in point of breadth. In its old days it clustered itself round about the Point, and stretched itself up from there along the quays of the two waters. The streets down in this part of the town are devious enough, twisting themselves about with delightful irregularity; but as the city grew there came the taste for parallelograms, and the upper streets are rectangular and numbered. Broadway, the street of New York with which the world is generally best acquainted, begins at the southern point of the town and goes northward through it. For some two miles and a half it walks away in a straight line, and then it turns to the left toward the Hudson. From that time Broadway never again takes a straight course, but crosses the various avenues in an oblique direction till it becomes the Bloomingdale Road, and under that name takes itself out of town. There are eleven so-called avenues, which descend in absolutely straight lines from the northern, and at present unsettled, extremity of the new town, making their way southward till they lose themselves among the old streets. These are called First Avenue, Second Avenue, and so on. The town had already progressed two miles up northward from the Battery before it had caught the parallelogramic fever from Philadelphia, for at about that distance we find “First Street”. First Street runs across the avenues from water to water, and then Second Street. I will not name them all, seeing that they go up to 154th Street! They do so at least on the map and I believe on the lamp-posts. But the houses are not yet built in order beyond 50th or 60th Street. The other hundred streets, each of two miles long, with the avenues, which are mostly unoccupied for four or five miles, is the ground over which the young New Yorkers are to spread themselves. I do not in the least doubt that they will occupy it all, and that 154th Street will find itself too narrow a boundary for the population.
I have said that there was some good architectural effect in New York, and I alluded chiefly to that of the Fifth Avenue. The Fifth Avenue is the Belgrave Square, the Park Lane, and the Pall Mall of New York. It is certainly a very fine street. The houses in it are magnificent — not having that aristocratic look which some of our detached London residences enjoy, or the palatial appearance of an old-fashioned hotel in Paris, but an air of comfortable luxury and commercial wealth which is not excelled by the best houses of any other town that I know. They are houses, not hotels or palaces; but they are very roomy houses, with every luxury that complete finish can give them. Many of them cover large spaces of the ground, and their rent will sometimes go up as high as 800 pounds and 1000 pounds a year. Generally the best of these houses are owned by those who live in them, and rent is not, therefore, paid. But this is not always the case, and the sums named above may be taken as expressing their value. In England a man should have a very large income indeed who could afford to pay 1000 pounds a year for his house in London. Such a one would as a matter of course have an establishment in the country, and be an earl, or a duke, or a millionaire. But it is different in New York. The resident there shows his wealth chiefly by his house; and though he may probably have a villa at Newport or a box somewhere up the Hudson, he has no second establishment. Such a house, therefore, will not represent a total expenditure of above 4000 pounds a year.
There are churches on each side of Fifth Avenue — perhaps five or six within sight at one time — which add much to the beauty of the street. They are well built, and in fairly good taste. These, added to the general well-being and splendid comfort of the place, give it an effect better than the architecture of the individual houses would seem to warrant. I own that I have enjoyed the vista as I have walked up and down Fifth Avenue, and have felt that the city had a right to be proud of its wealth. But the greatness and beauty and glory of wealth have on such occasions been all in all with me. I know no great man, no celebrated statesman, no philanthropist of peculiar note who has lived in Fifth Avenue. That gentleman on the right made a million of dollars by inventing a shirt collar; this one on the left electrified the world by a lotion; as to the gentleman at the corner there, there are rumors about him and the Cuban slave trade but my informant by no means knows that they are true. Such are the aristocracy of Fifth Avenue, I can only say that, if I could make a million dollars by a lotion, I should certainly be right to live in such a house as one of those.
The suburbs of New York are, by the nature of the localities, divided from the city by water. Jersey City and Hoboken are on the other side of the Hudson, and in another State. Williamsburg and Brooklyn are on Long Island, which is a part of the State of New York. But these places are as easily reached as Lambeth is reached from Westminster. Steam ferries ply every three or four minutes; and into these boats coaches, carts, and wagons of any size or weight are driven. In fact, they make no other stoppage to the commerce than that occasioned by the payment of a few cents. Such payment, no doubt, is a stoppage; and therefore it is that Jersey City, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg are, at any rate in appearance, very dull and uninviting. They are, however, very populous. Many of the quieter citizens prefer to live there; and I am told that the Brooklyn tea parties consider themselves to be, in esthetic feeling, very much ahead of anything of the kind in the more opulent centers of the city. In beauty of scenery Staten Island is very much the prettiest of the suburbs of New York. The view from the hillside in Staten Island down upon New York harbor is very lovely. It is the only really good view of that magnificent harbor which I have been able to find. As for appreciating such beauty when one is entering a port from sea or leaving it for sea, I do not believe in any such power. The ship creeps up or creeps out while the mind is engaged on other matters. The passenger is uneasy either with hopes or fears, and then the grease of the engines offends one’s nostrils. But it is worth the tourist’s while to look down upon New York harbor from the hillside in Staten Island. When I was there Fort Lafayette looked black in the center of the channel, and we knew that it was crowded with the victims of secession. Fort Tompkins was being built to guard the pass — worthy of a name of richer sound; and Fort something else was bristling with new cannon. Fort Hamilton, on Long Island, opposite, was frowning at us; and immediately around us a regiment of volunteers was receiving regimental stocks and boots from the hands of its officers. Everything was bristling with war; and one could not but think that not in this way had New York raised herself so quickly to her present greatness.
But the glory of New York is the Central Park — its glory in the minds of all new Yorkers of the present day. The first question asked of you is whether you have seen the Central Park, and the second is as to what you think of it. It does not do to say simply that it is fine, grand, beautiful, and miraculous. You must swear by cock and pie that it is more fine, more grand, more beautiful, more miraculous than anything else of the kind anywhere. Here you encounter in its most annoying form that necessity for eulogium which presses you everywhere. For in truth, taken as it is at present, the Central Park is not fine, nor grand, nor beautiful. As to the miracle, let that pass. It is perhaps as miraculous as some other great latter-day miracles.
But the Central Park is a very great fact, and affords a strong additional proof of the sense and energy of the people. It is very large, being over three miles long and about three-quarters of a mile in breadth. When it was found that New York was extending itself, and becoming one of the largest cities of the world, a space was selected between Fifth and Seventh Avenues, immediately outside the limits of the city as then built, but nearly in the center of the city as it is intended to be built. The ground around it became at once of great value; and I do not doubt that the present fashion of Fifth Avenue about Twentieth Street will in course of time move itself up to Fifth Avenue as it looks, or will look, over the Park at Seventieth, Eightieth, and Ninetieth Streets. The great water-works of the city bring the Croton River, whence New York is supplied, by an aqueduct over the Harlem River into an enormous reservoir just above the Park; and hence it has come to pass that there will be water not only for sanitary and useful purposes, but also for ornament. At present the Park, to English eyes, seems to be all road. The trees are not grown up; and the new embankments, and new lakes, and new ditches, and new paths give to the place anything but a picturesque appearance. The Central Park is good for what it will be rather than for what it is. The summer heat is so very great that I doubt much whether the people of New York will ever enjoy such verdure as our parks show. But there will be a pleasant assemblage of walks and water-works, with fresh air and fine shrubs and flowers, immediately within the reach of the citizens. All that art and energy can do will be done, and the Central Park doubtless will become one of the great glories of New York. When I was expected to declare that St. James’s Park, Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens altogether were nothing to it, I confess that I could only remain mute.
Those who desire to learn what are the secrets of society in New York, I would refer to the Potiphar Papers. The Potiphar Papers are perhaps not as well known in England as they deserve to be. They were published, I think, as much as seven or eight years ago; but are probably as true now as they were then. What I saw of society in New York was quiet and pleasant enough; but doubtless I did not climb into that circle in which Mrs. Potiphar held so distinguished a position. It may be true that gentlemen habitually throw fragments of their supper and remnants of their wine on to their host’s carpets; but if so I did not see it.
As I progress in my work I feel that duty will call upon me to write a separate chapter on hotels in general, and I will not, therefore, here say much about those in New York. I am inclined to think that few towns in the world, if any, afford on the whole better accommodation, but there are many in which the accommodation is cheaper. Of the railways also I ought to say something. The fact respecting them, which is most remarkable, is that of their being continued into the center of the town through the streets. The cars are not dragged through the city by locomotive engines, but by horses; the pace therefore is slow, but the convenience to travelers in being brought nearer to the center of trade must be much felt. It is as though passengers from Liverpool and passengers from Bristol were carried on from Euston Square and Paddington along the New Road, Portland Place, and Regent Street to Pall Mall, or up the City Road to the Bank. As a general rule, however, the railways, railway cars, and all about them are ill managed. They are monopolies, and the public, through the press, has no restraining power upon them as it has in England. A parcel sent by express over a distance of forty miles will not be delivered within twenty-four hours. I once made my plaint on this subject at the bar or office of a hotel, and was told that no remonstrance was of avail. “It is a monopoly,” the man told me, “and if we say anything, we are told that if we do not like it we need not use it.” In railway matters and postal matters time and punctuality are not valued in the States as they are with us, and the public seem to acknowledge that they must put up with defects — that they must grin and bear them in America, as the public no doubt do in Austria, where such affairs are managed by a government bureau.
In the beginning of this chapter I spoke of the population of New York, and I cannot end it without remarking that out of that population more than one-eighth is composed of Germans. It is, I believe, computed that there are about 120,000 Germans in the city, and that only two other German cities in the world, Vienna and Berlin have a larger German population than New York. The Germans are good citizens and thriving men, and are to be found prospering all over the Northern and Western parts of the Union. It seems that they are excellently well adapted to colonization, though they have in no instance become the dominant people in a colony, or carried with them their own language or their own laws. The French have done so in Algeria, in some of the West India islands, and quite as essentially into Lower Canada, where their language and laws still prevail. And yet it is, I think, beyond doubt that the French are not good colonists, as are the Germans.
Of the ultimate destiny of New York as one of the ruling commercial cities of the world, it is, I think, impossible to doubt. Whether or no it will ever equal London in population I will not pretend to say; even should it do so, should its numbers so increase as to enable it to say that it had done so, the question could not very well be settled. When it comes to pass that an assemblage of men in one so-called city have to be counted by millions, there arises the impossibility of defining the limits of that city, and of saying who belong to it and who do not. An arbitrary line may be drawn, but that arbitrary line, though perhaps false when drawn as including too much, soon becomes more false as including too little. Ealing, Acton, Fulham, Putney, Norwood, Sydenham, Blackheath, Woolwich, Greenwich, Stratford, Highgate, and Hampstead are, in truth, component parts of London, and very shortly Brighton will be as much so.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01