May 26th, 1867.
THE SEX IN NEW YORK
EDITORS ALTA: They do not treat women with as much deference in New York as we of the provinces think they ought. This is painfully apparent in the street-cars. Authority winks at the overloading of the cars - authority being paid for so winking, in political influence, possibly, for I cannot bring myself to think that any other species of bribery would be entertained for a moment - authority, I say, winks at this outrage, and permits one car to do the work of at least two, instead of compelling the companies to double the number of their cars, and permits them, also, to cruelly over-work their horses, too, of course, in the face of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The result of this over-crowding is to set the people back a long stride toward semi-civilization. What I mean by that dreadful assertion is, that the over-crowding of the cars has impelled men to adopt the rule of hanging on to a seat when they get it, though twenty beautiful women came in and stood in their midst. That is going back toward original barbarism, I take it. A car's proper cargo should be twenty-two inside and three upon each plat form - twenty-eight-and no crowding. I have seen fifty-six persons on a car, here, but a large portion of them were hanging on by the teeth. Some of the men inside had to go four or five miles, and naturally enough did not like to give up their seats and stand in a packed mass of humanity all that distance. So, when a lady got in, no man offered her a seat - no man dreamt of doing such a thing. No citizen, I mean. Occasionally I have seen a man, under such circumstances, get up and give his place to a lady, but the act betrayed, like spoken words, that he was from the provinces. I have seen negroes sitting stuck up comfortably in a car, and lovely young white ladies standing up before them, block after block, clinging to the leather supports that depended from the roof. And then I wanted a contraband for breakfast.
When I am with the Romans I try to do as the Romans do. I generally succeed reasonably well. I have got so that I can sit still and let a homely old maid stand up and nurse her poodle till she is ready to drop, but the young and the blooming, alas! are too many for me. I have to get up and vacate the premises when they come. Someday, though, may be, I shall acquire a New York fortitude and be as shameless as any.
The other day an ill-bred boy in a street-car refused to give up his seat to a lady. The conductor very properly snatched him out and seated the lady. Consequence: Justice Dowling fined that conductor a month's wages - sixty dollars - and read him a lecture worth sixty dollars more. Now, I think that was shameful. I think that was perfectly shameful, if the lady was young and beautiful. And it was just as shameful if the woman was old and feeble, too, no doubt.
In other cities men make way for women to their own discomfort, but complain that they get no thanks for it - not even a smile or a bow - but they don't make way here. I suppose the sex in New York have learned by hard experience how to value a concession from a strange gentleman. They thank one in unmistakable terms for such a kindness, even at the risk of being called on for a "personal interview" through the Herald's "Personals" the next day for it. A lady must not so far forget herself as to "kindly notice" a human puppy in a street car here if she does not want to figure in the "Personals."
Now I hate to say it, but women even have to stand up in omnibuses here when those vehicles are over-crowded - especially if she be so dead to all principle as to be sinfully homely. New York is fast arriving at a state of things. That is my opinion. I have no business to express it, perhaps, and I may get myself in trouble by it; but I care not; even though I perish, I shall still say it and stick to it, that this town is arriving at a state of things. And in that day, what will become of the wretched place? Verily, no man knoweth.
Well, surely, there is no accounting for things in this world. It is published that Harris - His Excellency C. C. Harris, of Honolulu - is to visit Washington as a sort of Envoy Extraordinary to engineer a Reciprocity treaty between the Hawaiian Government and ours. I have got to call on Harris. I owe it to my country to do it. I must conjure Harris by the new dignity that has been conferred upon him of the Grand Cross of the Legion of something or other; and by this other dignity of being by far the most extraordinary Envoy Extraordinary that ever was created by any Government history hath mentioned; and by the love and the respect he once bore this land of his nativity before he was born again as a royalty-worshipping Kanaka, not to lay his unsanctified hand upon anything here that he can't carry. It is his unhappy instinct to gobble, gobble, gobble - gobble up and carry off. Whether it be to gouge native (chiefs, or seek distinction on high as an Elder in Bishop Staley's Church and pass around the hat, (oh, blind and deluded congregation that would trust him with it ) or grab all the heavy offices, from Minister of Finance down to Attorney-General-by-brevet, and try to run the whole Hawaiian Government by himself, his instinct is the same, and it is always to gobble. So I must warn him.
And he must not swell around Washington and make eloquent speeches that seem to be splendid flights of oratory, but won't stand a fire-assay for sense, and won't wash for coherence, either, because we have got people in Congress who are just as good as he is at that, and so he won't attract any attention.
I must tell him to mind his own business - to mind his reciprocity treaty, and keep his hands off the things. If he does his work just exactly as he wants to do it, and as only his tireless industry and his marvellous cheek can do it, he can succeed in clinching a treaty that will make American interests very sick in the Sandwich Islands. The Herald's Honolulu correspondence of this morning rather warns Congress to look out for Harris, and I am inclined to think the warning was very well put in, and would find an echo from every American in the Islands. I still continue in my set opinion that Harris won't do.
THAT SINGULAR SHIPWRECK
Californians talk wickedly about the beaching of the Santiago de Cuba a day or two ago, and the passengers by that ship are loud in their denunciations of the mismanagement that caused that accident. They say it is on record that the Santiago had a narrow escape off Hatteras, and actually touched bottom-and further, that she touched on her two preceding trips. Some say that Captain Behm was drunk; all agree that the ship was running a curious course, considering that the weather was foggy, and that there was considerable room in the Atlantic Ocean further eastward and no shoals to imperil her. The Captain himself says that the ship was steering a proper course, but that an unknown current must have carried her in those nineteen miles from where she ought to have been. A miss is as good as a mile, we all know - but it is questionable whether a miss is as good as nineteen miles.
They say the Captain was below, drunk, and not attending to his business. Part of that charge is rather far-fetched - because the accident occurred out of the Captain's watch, and at a time when he had a right to be below, or in bed, or any where else he pleased. I suppose the ship's log will show where the vessel was at noon, and the courses she was put upon at eight in the evening and every few hours in the night; so if there was anything wrong about the direction the Captain ordered that she should be steered, it is easy to determine it.
I sailed with Captain Behm, in the San Francisco, from Greytown to New York, and saw a good deal of him. I never saw him drunk, or any approach to it. I did see him eternally figuring at his navigation books and charts, though, or looking up his subordinates and keeping them to their duties. It seemed to me at the time that he was a singularly faithful officer, and I know that no one thought of such a thing as feeling concerned for the safety of the ship while she was under his management. What they may say now, however, when he is unfortunate, is another matter.
I have talked with several of the Santiago's passengers, but of course no satisfactory solution of the problem of this curious accident could be arrived at. I expect, though, that if the truth were known, the officer on watch, or the man at the wheel, misunderstood the instructions by a point of the compass, or possibly even a couple of points; and it is also possible that the wheelsman may have been drowsy (it was the sleepiest watch in all the six), and didn't steer by instructions or anything else. A sleepy steersman often gets so far off his course on a sailing vessel that the sails flap in the wind and stir up the heedless officer of the deck - but on a steamer he might drowse on for hours if no warning canvas were spread. I hope Captain Behm will come out of this difficulty with a clear record, and somehow I cannot help but think he will. All who have sailed with him would be glad to see him found blameless in this matter.
Dull times begin to tell. The monstrous rents I spoke of some time ago are diminishing. May-day told the story. Every body offered to remain in rented houses and apartments at reduced rates, and were refused - and so everybody moved. Where the mischief they went to, nobody knows, but certainly rooms to rent and houses and even stores to let are quite plenty, now, whereas they were wonderfully scarce three months ago. Rents of rooms and dwellings have fallen off forty per cent. since the first of this month of May, and if business does not grow better there must be a still further reduction. Even stores are renting considerably cheaper now than they were before the 1st inst. "For rent," and "To let," are getting to be quite common signs, now, about the city.
The old Washoe instincts that have lain asleep in my bosom so long are waking up again here in the midst of this late and unaccountable freshet of blood-letting that has broken loose in the East. The papers, all of a sudden, are being filled with assassinations, and second-degree murders, and prize-fights, and suicides. It is a wonderful state of things. From a careless in difference to such matters, I have been roused up to an old-time delight in them, and now I have to have my regular suicide be fore breakfast, like a cocktail, and my side-dish of murder in the first degree for a relish, and my savory assassination to top off with while I pick my teeth and smoke. A breakfast would be insipid, now, without these condiments. If I were to order a beef steak rare and a murder in the first degree, and only got the former, I believe I would have to retire and wait for the evening papers.
All the air is filled with blood and crime. In this morning's paper is a suicide, with bloody details; a stabbing affray; a tremendous forgery case; two prize fights; a church robbed; a grave desecrated; a lot of minor crimes, and a continuation of the evidence in the case of Bridget Dergan, who is charged with murdering her mistress, some time ago in Jersey. A day or two ago an ex-policeman stepped out from behind a tree-box in a lonely place in Brooklyn, and blew a hole through a worthy citizen with a sinful air-gun, and for ten days we have been assailed with paragraphs charging our detectives with being partners with a gang of thieves and rascals, and helping them commit sundry great crimes (but which it couldn't be, you know). It is a dreadful state of things. I do not know whether I am in the heart of morality and civilization, or not. I begin to waver. All things look shaky to me, and I sigh for a Holier land.
But that Dergan case is a curious one. Mrs. Corriell's husband left her at home with her young child and the servant, Bridget Dergan, on a snowy winter's night. Toward midnight, neighbors heard sounds of struggling, and of beating, and banging, and smashing of furniture, and cries as of some one in mortal distress. They covered up their heads with the bed clothes to shut out these horrid noises; some took a frightened glance toward Mrs. Corriell's house, saw the shadow of figures darting hither and thither athwart the window curtains, and ran shuddering to bed again. Finally, Bridget, in her stocking feet and half dressed, came with the baby in her arms, after all was still, and called for admission at a house, and said there was trouble at Dr. Corriell's. Then she went to a preacher's house and waited dismally, and they let her in, and she said, before she was asked, that she believed Mrs. Corriell had been murdered - she didn't know, but she thought so - but she didn't know whether the house was on fire or not! [She made a pretty good stagger at it in the way of a guess, though, for it had been set on fire by somebody.] Bridget sat down in her night-dress, and when she noticed that the astonished preacher was staring at a great splotch of blood, as big as two hands, upon its front, she quietly rose up and folded that portion under her and sat down on it. The poor baby's eyes were fixed and it made no sound - was scared, the preacher's wife thought. Well, when the neighbors gathered in Mrs. Corriell's house they found her lying gashed and battered, and sweltering in her blood - dead; and the furniture was smashed and turned upside down, and the bed had been saturated with camphene and set on fire and was still burning. The points of bloody fingers were upon the door-facing - fingers that had been cut in three places with a knife, and corresponding wounds were found upon Bridget's fingers.
The savage murderer had bitten the dead woman's cheek. The thoughtful preacher took a neat cast of the wound, and, afterwards, a plaster-cast taken of Bridget's teeth was found to be exactly like it, and exactly like nobody's else. Snow was on the ground, and Bridget's shoeless tracks were in it, but not in anybody's else. Yet Bridget says two men came at 8 in the evening and scared her mistress, and then came later, and her mistress told her to seize the child and run, and she did so, and that is all she knows about the matter.
It is in evidence that Bridget is a mild, amiable, well conducted girl, who loved her mistress and her household, and bore a blameless character among all who knew her. I suppose the world has never produced so strong a case of pure circumstantial evidence against any creature as is against Bridget Dergan, (for mind you there is none whatever but circumstantial evidence, and will not be, as the prosecution has closed its case,) and I suppose that stronger evidence of temporary insanity on the part of the accused has seldom been met with - and yet Bridget's counsel announces his intention to prove that she did not commit this murder - is utterly innocent of having had any hand in the killing, and sets this forth as his line of defence. He remotely hints at weak-mindedness, or idiocy, on her part, and barely mentions her having speculated in fits to some extent, but says never a word about trying to clear her on the ground of insanity. That looks very singular. I don't know how he is going to get around that bite, and those teeth, and that bloody hand on the door, and the absence of all tracks going from the house or approaching it, save Bridget's. This line of defence, this claiming of innocence where a plea of insanity would fit so much better, gives this trial a splendid interest, and all the East will watch it closely to the end. It is perfectly invaluable to me since I have become so bloodthirsty.
INFORMATION FOR THE CHOLERA
By an Inspector's report for 1864, it was shown that one-half the population of New York city - in round numbers 500,000 souls - lived in tenement houses - lived in 15,000 tenement houses - an average of eight families to a house, though some houses contained fewer and some swarmed with two or three hundred persons. The city is said to contain over a million inhabitants, now, and half of them are packed away in these holes and dens and cellars of tenement houses, where unimaginable dirt is the rule and cleanliness is a miracle - would be a miracle, I mean, but they don't have it.
They are going to have these tenement houses all white washed inside, but that will hardly save the occupants when the cholera comes. It will be here soon, and it will sweep those sinks of corruption like a conflagration. You know how the telegraph thrilled us every day, a year ago, with accounts of the scourging of the great plague here, in Cincinnati, St. Louis and other places. I find now - at least they tell me - that respectable people did not die from it. The term is a hard one, but it describes well. Only the poor, the criminally, sinfully, wickedly poor and destitute starvelings in the purlieus of the great cities suffered, died, and were hauled out to the Potter's field - the well-to-do were seldom attacked. It seems hard, but truly humiliation, hunger, persecution and death are the wages of poverty in the mighty cities of the land. No man can say aught against honest poverty. The books laud it; the instructors of the people praise it; all men glorify it and say it hath its reward here and will have it here after. Honest poverty is a gem that even a King might feel proud to call his own, but I wish to sell out. I have sported that kind of jewelry long enough. I want some variety. I wish to become rich, so that I can instruct the people and glorify honest poverty a little, like those good, kind-hearted, fat, benevolent people do.
But, as I was saying, there is a place here for the cholera - its lodgings are set apart and made ready for it - and in the fullness of time it will enter in and occupy them. It is no need to growl at the Government, either State or municipal, about the pestilence-breeding tenement-houses, for they cannot help the matter much. They are doing all they can. They are making the landlords go to the expense of whitewashing the tenement-houses throughout, and when the landlord has done that he will gently raise the rent, and that will raise some of the tenants out, and then how much better off will they be? The cholera will follow them to the street.
R. L. Ogden, ("Podgers"), San Francisco correspondent of the New York Times, arrived here yesterday from Panama, and is at the Metropolitan. Also, Johnny Skae, and many other Californians and Washoe people, whom I have not yet met. They are all going to Europe, of course. So is everybody else. I am afraid the French language will not be spoken in France much this year. I shall feel mighty sick if, after rubbing up my rusty French so diligently, I have to run the legs off myself skirmishing around Paris, hunting for such a sign as "Ici on parle Francais."
Marshall, the painter of the famous Lincoln portrait (and the engraver of it also), is hard at work on a portrait of General Grant, now, from life. It is to be engraved on copper, and I suppose it will be published by Ticknor & Fields, the publishers of the Lincoln picture.
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