It is said that American conversation among men tends to degenerate into a mere exchange of anecdotes. I can remember only one party which was in the least degree open to this reproach; and there the anecdotes were without exception so good, and so admirably told, that I, for one, should have been sorry to exchange them for even the loftiest discourse on Shakespeare and the musical glasses. Here, for instance, is an example of the American gift of picturesque exaggeration. On board one of the Florida steamboats, which have to be built with exceedingly light draught to get over the frequent shallows of the rivers, an Englishman accosted the captain with the remark, "I understand, captain, that you think nothing of steaming across a meadow where there's been a heavy fall of dew." "Well, I don't know about that," replied the captain, "but it's true we have sometimes to send a man ahead with a watering-pot!" Or take, again, the story of the Southern colonel who was conducted to the theatre to see Salvini's Othello. He witnessed the performance gravely, and remarked at the close, "That was a mighty good show, and I don't see but the coon did as well as any of 'em." A third anecdote that charmed me on this occasion was that of the man who, being invited to take a drink, replied, "No, no, I solemnly promised my dear dead mother never to touch a drop; besides, boys, it's too early in the morning; besides, I've just had one!"
Furthermore, as I recall the party in question, I feel that I am wrong in implying that the conversation was mainly composed of anecdotes. It was mainly composed of narratives; but that is a different matter. There is a clear distinction between the mere story-teller and the narrator. Two or three of the party were brilliant narrators, and delighted us with accounts of personal experiences, quaint character-sketches, novels in a nutshell. One of the guests was, without exception, the most ready-witted man I ever met. His inexhaustible gift of lightning repartee I saw illustrated on another occasion, when he presided at the midnight "gambol" of a Bohemian club, at which it needed the utmost tact and presence of mind to "ride the whirlwind and direct the storm." At the luncheon party, he related several episodes from his chequered journalistic career in a style so easy and yet so graphic that one felt, if they could have been taken down in shorthand, they would have been literature ready-made. It is a clear injustice to confound such talk as this with a mere bandying of Joe-Millers.
The one drawback to American hospitality is that it is apt to be too profuse. I have more than once had to offer a mild protest against being entertained by a hard-working brother journalist on a scale that would have befitted a millionaire. The possibility of returning the compliment in kind affords the canny Scot but poor consolation. A dinner three times more lavish and expensive than you want is not sweetened by the thought that you may, in turn, give your host a dinner three times more expensive and lavish than he wants. Both parties, on this system, suffer in digestion and in pocket, while only Delmonico is the gainer. It seems to me, on the whole, that in this country the millionaire is too commonly allowed to fix the standard of expenditure. Society would not be less, but more, agreeable if, instead of always emulating the splendours of Lucullus, people now and then studied the art of Horatian frugality. And I note that in club life, if the plutocrat sets the standard of expenditure, the aristocrat looks to the training of the servants. Their obsequiousness is almost painful. There is not the slightest trace of democratic equality in their dress, their manners, or their speech.
Take it all and all, America is a trying place of sojourn for the aforesaid canny Scot—the man who without being stingy (oh, dear, no!) has "all his generous impulses under perfect control." The sixpences do not "bang" in this country: they crepitate, they crackle, as though shot from a Maxim quick-firer. For instance, the lowest electric-trolley fare is twopence-halfpenny. It is true that for five cents you can, if you wish it, ride fifteen or twenty miles; but that advantage becomes inappreciable when you don't want to ride more than half a mile. Take, again, the harmless, necessary operation of shaving. In a good English barber's shop it is a brief and not unpleasant process; in an American "tonsorial parlour" it is a lingering and costly torture. One of the many reasons which lead me to regard the Americans as a leisurely people rather than a nation of "hustlers" is the patience with which they submit to the long-drawn tyranny of the barber. In England, one grudges five minutes for a shave, and one pays from fourpence to sixpence; in America one can hardly escape in twenty-five minutes, and one pays (with the executioner's tip)[G] from a shilling to eighteenpence. The charge would be by no means excessive if one wanted or enjoyed all the endless processes to which one is subjected; but for my part I would willingly pay double to escape them. The essential part of the business, the actual shaving, is, as a rule, badly performed, with a heavy hand, and a good deal of needless pawing-about of the patient's head. But when the shave is over the horrors are only beginning. First, your whole face is cooked for several minutes in relays of towels steeped in boiling water. Then a long series of essences is rubbed into it, generally with the torturer's naked hand. The sequence of these essences varies in different "parlours," but one especially loathsome hell-brew, known as "witchhazel" is everywhere inevitable. Then your wounds have to be elaborately doctored with stinging chemicals; your hair, which has been hopelessly touzled in the pawing process, has to be drenched in some sickly-smelling oil and brushed; your moustache has to be lubricated and combed; and at last you escape from the tormentor's clutches, irritated, enervated, hopelessly late for an important appointment, and so reeking with unholy odours that you feel as though all great Neptune's ocean would scarcely wash you clean again. Only once or twice have I submitted, out of curiosity, to the whole interminable process. I now cut it short, not without difficulty, before the "witchhazel" stage is reached, and am regarded with blank astonishment and disapproval by the tonsorial professor, who feels his art and mystery insulted in his person, and is scarcely mollified by a ten-cent tip. Americans, on the other hand, go through all these processes, and more, with stolid and long-suffering patience. Yet this nation is credited with having invented the maxim "Time is money," and is supposed to act up to it with feverish consistency!
POSTSCRIPT.—As I have said a good deal about clubs in this letter, let me add to it a word as to the influence of club life in keeping America in touch with England. At all the leading clubs one or two English daily papers and all the more important weekly papers are taken as a matter of course; so that the American club-man has not the slightest difficulty in keeping abreast of the social, political, and literary life of England. As a matter of fact, the educated American's knowledge of England every day puts to shame the Englishman's ignorance of America. Reciprocity in this matter would be greatly to the advantage of both countries. I am much mistaken if there is a single club in London where American periodicals are so well represented on the reading-room table as are English periodicals in every club in New York. Yet there is assuredly no dearth of interesting weekly papers in America, some connected with daily papers, others independent. It may be said that they are not taken at English clubs because they would not be read. If so, the more's the pity; but I do not think it is so; for this is a case in which supply would beget demand. At any rate, there must be numbers of people in London who would be glad to keep fairly in touch with American life, if they could do so without too much trouble. Why should there not be an Anglo-American social club, organised with the special purpose of bringing America home (in a literal sense) to London and England? Why should not (say) the Century Club of New York be reproduced in London, with American periodicals as fully represented in its news-room and reading-room as are English periodicals in an American club of the first rank? Interest in and sympathy with America would be the implied condition of membership; and by a judiciously-devised system of non-resident membership, American visitors to London would be enabled to read their home newspapers in greater comfort than at the existing American reading-rooms, and would, moreover, come into easy contact with sympathetically-minded Englishmen, to their mutual pleasure and profit. Such a club might, in process of time, become a potent factor in international relations, and form a new bond of union, of quite appreciable strength, between the two countries.
[Footnote G: I had read or been told that the tip system did not obtain in America, except in the case of negroes and waiters. A very few days in New York undeceived me. I went twice to a barber's shop in the basement of the house in which I lived, paid fifteen cents to be shaved, and gave the operator nothing; but at my second visit I found myself so lowered upon by that portly and heavy-moustached citizen that I never again ventured to place myself under his razor, but went to a more distant establishment and tipped from the outset. There are, indeed, certain classes of people—railroad conductors for instance—who do not expect the tips which in England they consider their due; but, according to my experience, the safe rule in America is, "when in doubt—tip."]
Boston—Its Resemblance to Edinburgh—Concord, Walden Pond, and Sleepy Hollow—Is the "Yankee" Dying Out?—America for the Americans—Detroit and Buffalo—The "Middle West."
The luxury of my quarters in Boston seduced me into a disquisition on American hospitality which would have come in equally well with reference to any other city. Were I to search very deeply into my soul (an exercise much in vogue in Boston), I might perhaps find reasons for my rambling off. To say that Boston did not interest me would be the reverse of the truth. It interested me deeply; but it did not excite me with a sense of novelty or vastness. One can only repeat the obvious truth that it is like an exceptionally dignified and stately English town. One instinctively looks around for a cathedral, and finds the State House in its stead. To the founders of this city, the glory of God was not a thing to be furthered, or even typified, by any work of men's hands; but the salvation of men's souls, they thought, could be best achieved in a well-ordered democratic polity. Their descendants have of late years taken to decorating their places of worship, and Trinity Church (by H.H. Richardson), and the new Old South Church, are ambitious and beautiful pieces of ecclesiastical architecture. But the old Old South Meeting-House, the ecclesiastical centre of the city, is the flat and somewhat sour negation of all that is expressed or implied in an English cathedral. Let me not be understood to disparage the Old South or the spirit which fashioned it. In my eyes, minster and meeting-house are equally interesting historic monuments, and to my hereditary instincts the latter is the more sympathetic. I merely note the fact that the most conspicuous edifice in Boston, its Duomo, its St. Peter's or St. Paul's, is dedicated, not to the glory of God, but to the well-being of man.
Not physically, of course, but intellectually, Boston has been likened to Edinburgh. The parallel is fair enough, with this important reservation, that the theological element in the atmosphere is not Presbyterian but Unitarian. The Boston of to-day, it must be added, especially resembles Edinburgh in the fact that its pre-eminence as an intellectual centre has virtually departed. The Atlantic Monthly survives, as Blackwood, survives, a relic of the great days of old; but Boston has no Scott Monument to bear visual testimony to her spiritual achievement. She ought certainly to treat herself to a worthy Emerson Monument on the Common, whither the boy Emerson used to drive his mother's cows: not, of course, a Gothic pile like that which commemorates the genius of Scott, but a statue by the incomparable St. Gaudens, under a modest classic canopy.
But if, or when, such a monument is erected, it will absolve no one of the duty of making a pilgrimage to Concord. Even if it had no historic or literary associations, this simple, dignified, beautiful New England village, with its plain frame houses and its stately elm avenues, would be well worth a visit. Village I call it, but township would be a better word. Let no one go there with less than half a day to spare, for the places of interest are widely scattered. My companion and I went first to Walden Pond, then to the Emerson and Hawthorne houses, then to that ideal burying-place, Sleepy Hollow, where Emerson and Hawthorne and Thoreau rest side by side, and finally to the bridge—
Where once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world.
Everything here is beautifully appropriate. The commemorative statue of the "minute-man" with his musket is simple and expressive, and the four lines of Emerson's hymn graven on the pedestal are the right words written by the right man, entwining, as it were, the historical and literary associations of the place. An exquisite appropriateness, too, presides over the Poets' Corner of Sleepy Hollow. The grave of Emerson is marked by a rough block of pure white quartz, in which is inserted a bronze tablet bearing the words:—
The passive master lent his hand To the vast soul that o'er him planned.
Altogether, among the places of pilgrimage of the English-speaking race, there is none more satisfactory or more inspiring than Concord, Mass.
If Boston is no longer a great centre of literary production, it remains, with its noble public library in its midst, and with Harvard University on its outskirts, a great centre of culture. I shall always remember a luncheon party at Harvard, where I was the guest of an eminent Shakespearean critic, and had for my fellow guests a very learned Dante scholar (one of the most delightful talkers imaginable), a famous psychologist, a political economist, and a lecturer on English literature. The talk fell upon the depopulation of New England, or rather the substitution of an alien race for (I had almost said) the indigenous Yankee stock. There was some discussion as to whether the Yankee was really dying out, or had merely spread throughout the West, taking with him and disseminating the qualities which had made the greatness of New England. It was not denied, of course, that westward emigration has much to do with the matter. The New England farmer, unable to stand up against the competition of the prairies, has betaken himself to the prairies so as to compete on the winning side. But one of the company maintained that this did not account for the whole phenomenon. "The real key to it," he said, "lies in such a family history as mine. My grandmother was the youngest of thirteen children; my mother was the eldest of five; my brother and I are two; and we are unmarried."
I am inclined to think that this story of a dwindling stock is typical, not for New England alone, but for other parts of the Union. It seems as though the pressure of life in the Eastern States, and perhaps some subtle influence of climate upon temperament, were rendering the people of old Teutonic blood—British, Dutch, and German—unwilling to face the responsibility of large families, and so were giving the country over to the later and usually inferior immigrant and his progeny. I am not sure that it might not be well to cultivate a new sense of social duty in this matter. Is it Utopian to suggest a policy of "America for the Americans"—some effectual restriction of immigration before it is too late, so as to leave room for the natural increase of the American people? This is an "expansion," a "taking up of the white man's burden," which would command my warmest sympathy. It is to the interest of the whole world that the America of the future should be peopled by "white men" in every sense of the word.
New England, however, cannot be utterly depopulated of its old stocks, for at every turn you come up against those good old Puritan names which bespeak a longer ancestry than many an English peer can claim. I find among the signatures to a petition against the reinstatement of an elevated railroad in Boston, such names as Adams, Morse, Lowell, Emerson, Bowditch, Lothrop, Storey, Dabney, Whipple, Ticknor, and Hale. Of the fifty signatures, only three (or, at the outside five, if we include two doubtful cases) are of other than English origin. In contrast to this I may mention another list of names which came under my notice at the same time—a list of the purchasers at a sale by auction of seats for a New York first-night. Here twenty-six names out of forty are obviously of non-English origin, while several of the remaining fourteen have a distinctly Hebraic ring.
Though very much smaller than New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Boston is essentially a great city, with a very animated street life, and nothing in the least provincial about it. But it is not in these great capitals, not even in this marvellous Chicago where I am now writing, that one most clearly realises the bewildering potentialities of the United States. It is precisely in the minor, the provincial cities, which to us in Europe are no more than names—perhaps not so much. For instance, what does the average Englishman know of Detroit?[H]
What State is it in? Is it in the North or the South, the East or the West? For my part I knew in a general way, having been there before, that Detroit was situated somewhere between Chicago and Niagara Falls, but until a few days ago I should have been puzzled to describe its situation more precisely. Well, I arrive in this obscure, insignificant place, and find it a city of considerably more than a quarter of a million inhabitants, beautifully laid out, magnificently paved and lighted, its broad and noble avenues lined with handsome commercial houses and roomy if not always beautiful villas, trees shading its sidewalks, electric cars swimming in an endless stream along its bustling thoroughfares, its imposing public library swarming with readers, its theatres crowded, its parks alive with bicyclists, an eager activity, whether in business, culture, or recreation, manifesting itself on every hand. Or take, again, Buffalo, somewhat larger than Detroit, but still by no means a city of the first rank. Everything that I have said of Detroit applies to it, with the addition that some of its commercial buildings are not only palatial in their dimensions, but original and impressive in their architecture. An afternoon stroll along Woodward-avenue, Detroit, or Main-street, Buffalo, reassures one as to the future—the physical, at any rate—of the American people. The prevailing type is, if not definitely Anglo-Saxon, at any rate Teutonic, and the average of physical development is very high, especially among the women. It may have some bearing upon what I have been saying above to note that, in point of stature and beauty, the Bostonian woman, as a rule, seemed to me to fall far short of her sisters in the other cities I have visited. I have before my mind's eye many distinguished and delightful exceptions to this rule; but, postponing gallantry to sociological candour, I state my general impression for what it is worth.
Here, in Chicago, gallantry and candour go hand in hand. A legend of the envious East represents that a Chicago young man travelling in Louisiana wrote to his sweetheart: "DEAR MAMIE,—I have shot an alligator. When I have shot another, I will send you a pair of slippers." The implication is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, a base and baseless calumny. New York itself does not present a higher average of female beauty than Chicago, and that is saying a great deal. But I must not enlarge on this fascinating topic. A Judgment of Paris is always a delicate business, and I am in nowise called upon to make the invidious award. Were I compelled to undertake it, I could only distribute the apple, and my homage, in equal shares to the goddesses of the East, the South, and the Middle West.
When I was in Chicago in '77, it was the metropolis of the West, without qualification. Now it is merely the frontier city of the Middle West. From the standpoint of Omaha and Denver, it seems to fill the Eastern horizon, and shut out the further view. Many stories are told to show how absolutely and instinctively your true Westerner ignores the Eastern States and cities. Here is one of the most characteristic. A little girl came into the smoking car of a train somewhere in Kansas or Nebraska, and stood beside her father, who was in conversation with another man. The father put his arm round her and said to his companion, "She's been a great traveller, this little girl of mine. She's only ten years old, and she's been all over the United States."
"You don't say!" replied the other; "all over the United States?"
"Yes, sir; all over the United States," said the proud father; and then added, as though the detail was scarcely worth mentioning, "except east of Chicago."
Chicago, unfortunately, marks the limit of my wanderings; so I shall return to England without having seen anything of the United States, except for a sort of Pisgah-glimpse from the tower of the Auditorium.
[Footnote H: My own visit to Detroit illustrated this vagueness of the average Englishman. I was anxious to see Mr. James A. Herne's famous play, Shore Acres, and learned from Mr. Herne that it would be played by a travelling company at Buffalo on a certain date. I carefully noted the place and day, but contrived to mix up Buffalo and Detroit in my mind, and arrived on the appointed day in Detroit—nearly two hundred and fifty miles from the appointed place! It was as though, having arranged to be in Brighton at a certain time, one should go instead to Scarborough.]
Chicago—Its Splendour and Squalor—Mammoth Buildings—Wind, Dust, and Smoke—Culture—Chicago's Self-Criticism—Postscript: Social Service in America.
When I was in America twenty-two years ago, Chicago was the city that interested me least. Coming straight from San Francisco—which, in the eyes of a youthful student of Bret Harte, seemed the fitting metropolis of one of the great realms of romance—I saw in Chicago the negation of all that had charmed me on the Pacific slope. It was a flat and grimy abode of mere commerce, a rectilinear Glasgow; and to an Edinburgh man, or rather boy, no comparison could appear more damaging. How different is the impression produced by the Chicago of to-day! In 1877 the city was extensive enough, indeed, and handsome to boot, in a commonplace, cast-iron fashion. It was a chequer-board of Queen-Victoria-streets. To-day its area is appalling, its architecture grandiose. It is the young giant among the cities of the earth, and it stands but on the threshold of its destiny. It embraces in its unimaginable amplitude every extreme of splendour and squalor. Walking in Dearborn-street or Adams-street of a cloudy afternoon, you think yourself in a frowning and fuliginous city of Dis, piled up by superhuman and apparently sinister powers. Cycling round the boulevards of a sunny morning, you rejoice in the airy and spacious greenery of the Garden City. Driving along the Lake Shore to Lincoln Park in the flush of sunset, you wonder that the dwellers in this street of palaces should trouble their heads about Naples or Venice, when they have before their very windows the innumerable laughter, the ever-shifting opalescence, of their fascinating inland sea. Plunging in the electric cars through the river subway, and emerging in the West Side, you realise that the slums of Chicago, if not quite so tightly packed as those of New York or London, are no whit behind them in the other essentials of civilised barbarism. Chicago, more than any other city of my acquaintance, suggests that antique conception of the underworld which placed Elysium and Tartarus not only on the same plane, but, so to speak, round the corner from each other.
As the elephant (or rather the megatherium) to the giraffe, so is the colossal business block of Chicago to the sky-scraper of New York. There is a proportion and dignity in the mammoth buildings of Chicago which is lacking in most of those which form the jagged sky-line of Manhattan Island. For one reason or another—no doubt some difference in the system of land tenure is at the root of the matter—the Chicago architect has usually a larger plot of ground to operate on than his New York colleague, and can consequently give his building breadth and depth as well as height. Before the lanky giants of the Eastern metropolis, one has generally to hold one's aesthetic judgment in abeyance. They are not precisely ugly, but still less, as a rule, can they be called beautiful. They are simply astounding manifestations of human energy and heaven-storming audacity. They stand outside the pale of aesthetics, like the Eiffel Tower or the Forth Bridge. But in Chicago proportion goes along with mere height, and many of the business houses are, if not beautiful, at least aesthetically impressive—for instance, the grim fortalice of Marshall Field & Company, the Masonic Temple, the Women's Temperance Temple (a structure with a touch of real beauty), and such vast cities within the city as the Great Northern Building and the Monadnock Block. The last-named edifice alone is said to have a daily population of 6000. A city ordinance now limits the height of buildings to ten stories; but even that is a respectable allowance. Moreover, it is found that where giant constructions cluster too close together, they (literally) stand in each other's light, and the middle stories do not let. Thus the heaven-storming era is probably over; but there is all the more reason to feel assured that the business centre of Chicago will ere long be not only grandiose but architecturally dignified and satisfactory. A growing thirst for beauty has come upon the city, and architects are earnestly studying how to assuage it. In magnificence of internal decoration, Chicago can already challenge the world: for instance, in the white marble vestibule and corridors of The Rookery, and the noble hall of the Illinois Trust Bank.
At the same time, no account of the city scenery of Chicago is complete without the admission that the gorges and canyons of its central district are exceedingly draughty, smoky, and dusty. Even in these radiant spring days, it fully acts up to its reputation as the Windy City. This peculiarity renders it probably the most convenient place in the world for the establishment of a Suicide Club on the Stevensonian model. With your eyes peppered with dust, with your ears full of the clatter of the Elevated Road, and with the prairie breezes playfully buffeting you and waltzing with you by turns, as they eddy through the ravines of Madison, Monroe, or Adams-street, you take your life in your hand when you attempt the crossing of State-street, with its endless stream of rattling waggons and clanging trolley-cars. New York does not for a moment compare with Chicago in the roar and bustle and bewilderment, of its street life. This remark will probably be resented in New York, but it expresses the settled conviction of an impartial pedestrian, who has spent a considerable portion of his life during the past few weeks in "negotiating" the crossings of both cities.
On the other hand, I observe no eagerness on the part of New York to contest the supremacy of Chicago in the matter of smoke. In this respect, the eastern metropolis is to the western as Mont Blanc to Vesuvius. The smoke of Chicago has a peculiar and aggressive individuality, due, I imagine, to the natural clearness of the atmosphere. It does not seem, like London smoke, to permeate and blend with the air. It does not overhang the streets in a uniform canopy, but sweeps across and about them in gusts and swirls, now dropping and now lifting again its grimy curtain. You will often see the vista of a gorge-like street so choked with a seeming thundercloud that you feel sure a storm is just about to burst upon the city, until you look up at the zenith and find it smiling and serene. Again and again a sudden swirl of smoke across the street (like that which swept across Fifth-avenue when the Windsor Hotel burst into flames) has led me to prick up my ears for a cry of "Fire!" But Chicago is not so easily alarmed. It is accustomed to having its airs from heaven blurred by these blasts from hell. I know few spectacles more curious than that which awaits you when you have shot up in the express elevator to the top of the Auditorium tower—on the one hand, the blue and laughing lake, on the other, the city belching volumes of smoke from its thousand throats, as though a vaster Sheffield or Wolverhampton had been transported by magic to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. What a wonderful city Chicago will be when the commandment is honestly enforced which declares, "Thou shalt consume thine own smoke!"
What a wonderful city Chicago will be! That is the ever-recurring burden of one's cogitations. For Chicago is awake, and intelligently awake, to her destinies; so much one perceives even in the reiterated complaints that she is asleep. Discontent is the condition of progress, and Chicago is not in the slightest danger of relapsing into a condition of inert self-complacency. Her sons love her, but they chasten her. They are never tired of urging her on, sometimes (it must be owned) with most unfilial objurgations; and she, a quite unwearied Titan, is bracing up her sinews for the great task of the coming century. I have given myself a rendezvous in Chicago for 1925, when air-ships will no doubt make the transit easy for my septuagenarian frame. Nowhere in the world, I am sure, does the "to be continued in our next" interest take hold on one with such a compulsive grip.
Culture is pouring into Chicago as rapidly as pork or grain, and Chicago is insatiate in asking for more. In going over the Public Library (a not quite satisfactory building, though with some beautiful details) I was most of all impressed by the army of iron-bound boxes which are perpetually speeding to and fro between the library itself and no fewer than fifty-seven distributing stations scattered throughout the city. "I thought the number was forty-eight," said a friend who accompanied me. "So it was last year," said the librarian. "We have set up nine more stations during the interval." The Chicago Library boasts (no doubt justly) that it circulates more books than any similar institution in the world. Take, again, the University of Chicago: seven years ago (or, say, at the outside ten) it had no existence, and its site was a dismal swamp; to-day it is a handsome and populous centre of literary and scientific culture. Observe, too, that it is by no means an oasis in the desert, but is thoroughly in touch with the civic life around it. For instance, it actively participates in the admirable work done by the Hull House Settlement in South Halsted-street, and in the vigorous and wide-spreading University Extension movement.
At the present moment, Chicago is not a little resentful of the sharp admonitions addressed to her by two of her aforesaid loving but exacting children. One, Professor Charles Zueblin, has been telling her that "in the arrogance of youth she has failed to realise that instead of being one of the progressive cities of the world, she has been one of the reckless, improvident, and shiftless cities." Professor Zueblin is not content (for example) with her magnificent girdle of parks and boulevards, but calls for smaller parks and breathing spaces in the heart of her most crowded districts. He further maintains that her great new sewage canal is a gigantically costly blunder; and indeed one cannot but sympathise with the citizens of St. Louis in inquiring by what right Chicago converts the Mississippi into her main sewer. But if Professor Zueblin chastises Chicago with whips, Mr. Henry B. Fuller, it would seem, lashes her with scorpions. Mr. Fuller is one of the leading novelists of the city—for Chicago, be it known, had a nourishing and characteristic literature of her own long before Mr. Dooley sprang into fame. The author of The Cliff-Dwellers is alleged to have said that the Anglo-Saxon race was incapable of art, and that in this respect Chicago was pre-eminently Anglo-Saxon. "Alleged," I say, for reports of lectures in the American papers are always to be taken with caution, and are very often as fanciful as Dr. Johnson's reports of the debates in Parliament. The reporter is not generally a shorthand writer. He jots down as much as he conveniently can of the lecturer's remarks, and pieces them out from imagination. Thus, I am not at all sure what Mr. Fuller really said; but there is no doubt whatever of the indignation kindled by his diatribe. Deny her artistic capacities and sensibilities, and you touch Chicago in her tenderest point. Moreover, Mr. Fuller's onslaught encouraged several other like-minded critics to back him up, so that the city has been writhing under the scourges of her epigrammatists. I have before me a letter to one of the evening papers, written in a tone of academic sarcasm which proves that even the supercilious and "donnish" element is not lacking in Chicago culture. "I know a number of artists," says the writer, "who came to Chicago, and after staying here for a while, went away and achieved much success in New York, London, and Paris. The appreciation they received here gave them the impetus to go elsewhere, and thus brought them fame and fortune." Whatever foundation there may be for these jibes, they are in themselves a sufficient evidence that Chicago is alive to her opportunities and responsibilities. She is, in her own vernacular, "making, culture hum." Mr. Fuller, I understand, reproached her with her stockyards—an injustice which even Mr. Bernard Shaw would scarcely have committed. Is it the fault of Chicago that the world is carnivorous? Was not "Nature red in tooth and claw" several aeons before Chicago was thought of? I do not understand that any unnecessary cruelty is practised in the stockyards; and apart from that, I fail to see that systematic slaughter of animals for food is any more disgusting than sporadic butchery. But of the stockyards I can speak only from hearsay. I shall not go to see them. If I have any spare time, I shall rather spend it in a second visit to St. Gaudens' magnificent and magnificently placed statue of Abraham Lincoln, surely one of the great works of art of the century, and of the few entirely worthy monuments ever erected to a national hero.
POSTSCRIPT.—The above-mentioned Hull House Settlement in South Halsted-street, under the direction of Miss Jane Addams, is probably the most famous institution of its kind in America; but it is only one of many. There is no more encouraging feature in American life than the zeal, energy, and high and liberal intelligence with which social service of this sort is being carried on in all the great cities. This is a line of activity on which England and America are advancing hand in hand, and however much one may deplore the necessity for such work, one cannot but see in the common impulse which prompts and directs it a symptom of the deep-seated unity of the two peoples. Nothing I saw in America impressed me more than the thorough practicality as well as the untiring devotion which was apparent in the work carried on by Miss Addams in Chicago and Miss Lillian D. Wald in Henry-street, New York. And in both Settlements I recognised the same atmosphere of culture, the same spirit of plain living, hard working, and high thinking, that characterises the best of our kindred institutions in England. A lady connected with the University of Chicago, who is also a worker at the Hull House Settlement, told me a touching little story which illustrates at once the need for such work in Chicago, and the unexpected response with which it sometimes meets. She had been talking about the beauties of nature to a group of women from the slums, and at the end of her address one of her hearers said, "I ain't never been outside of Chicago, but I know it's true what the lady says. There's two vacant lots near our place, an' when the spring comes, the colours of them—they fair makes you hold your breath. An' then there's the trees on the Avenoo. An' then there's all the sky." On another occasion the same lady met with an "unexpected response" of a different order. She was showing a boy from the slums some photographs of Italian pictures, when they came upon a Virgin and Child. "Ah," said the boy at once, "that's Jesus an' his Mother: I allus knows them when I sees 'em." "Yes," said Miss R——, "there is a purity and grandeur of expression about them, isn't there—" "Tain't that," interrupted the boy, "it's the rims round their heads as gives 'em away!"
Apart from the Settlements, there are many energetically-conducted Societies in America for the social and political enlightenment of the masses. I have before me, for instance, a little bundle of most excellent leaflets issued by the League for Social Service of New York. They deal with such subjects as The Duties of American Citizenship, The Value of a Vote, The Duty of Public Spirit, The Co-operative City, &c. They include an admirable abstract in twenty-four pages, of Laws Concerning the Welfare of Every Citizen of New York, and the same Society issues similar abstracts of the laws of other States. They have a large and well-equipped lecture organisation, and they issue excellent practical Suggestions for Conferences and Courses of Study. The problem to be grappled with by this Society and others working on similar lines is no doubt one of immense difficulty. It is nothing less than the education in citizenship of the most heterogeneous, polyglot, and in some respects ignorant and degraded population ever assembled in a single city, since the days of Imperial Rome. The spread of political enlightenment in New York and other cities cannot possibly be very rapid; but no effort is being spared to accelerate it. I sometimes wonder whether the obvious necessity for political education in America may not, in the long run, prove a marked advantage to her, as compared, for instance, with England. Dissatisfaction, as I have said above, is the condition of progress. We are apt to assume that every Briton is born a good citizen; and in the lethargy begotten of that assumption, it may very well happen that we let the Americans outstrip us in the march of enlightenment.
New York in Spring—Central Park—New York not an Ill-governed City—The United States Post Office—The Express System—Valedictory.
It is with a curious sensation of home-coming that I find myself once more in New York. Spring has arrived before me. The blue dome of sky has lost its crystalline sparkle, and the trees in Madison-square have put on a filmy veil of green. Going to a luncheon party in the Riverside region, I determine, for the sheer pleasure and exhilaration of the thing, to walk the whole way, up Fifth-avenue and diagonally across Central Park. What a magnificent pleasure ground, vast, various, and seductive! A peerless emerald on the finger of Manhattan! If I were not bound by solemn oaths to present myself at West-End-avenue at half-past one, I could loaf all the afternoon by the superb expanse of the Croton Reservoir, looking out over the giant city of sunshine, with the white dome of Columbia College and the pyramid of Grant's Monument on the northern horizon, and far to the eastward the low hills of Long Island.
Passing the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am reminded, not only that I have never been inside it, but that in all the cities I have visited I have not gone to a single show-place, museum, or picture-gallery, save one remarkable private collection in Baltimore. Of course I must also except (a large exception!) the public libraries of Washington, Boston, and Chicago, which are, in a very eminent sense, "show-places." Still, it seems somewhat remarkable (does it not?) that in a country which is understood in Europe to be monotonous and unattractive to travellers, I should have spent two months not only of intellectual interest but of aesthetic enjoyment, without once, except in a chance moment of idleness, feeling the least inclination to fall back upon, the treasures of European art which it undoubtedly contains. I have even ignored the marvels of nature. I passed within twenty miles of Niagara; I saw the serried icefloes sweeping down from Lake Erie to the cataract; and I did not go to see them plunge over. In the first place, I had been there before; in the second place, I should have had to sacrifice six hours of Chicago, where I wanted, not six hours less, but six weeks more.
Before saying farewell—a fond farewell!—to New York, let me supplement my first impressions with my last. The most maligned of cities, I called it; and truly I said well. Here is even the judicious Mr. J.F. Muirhead of "Baedeker," betrayed by his passion for antithesis into describing New York as "a lady in ball costume, with diamonds in her ears and her toes out at her boots." This was written, to be sure, in 1890, and may have been true in its day; for it takes an American city much less than a decade to belie a derogatory epigram. Now, at any rate, New York has had her shoes mended to some purpose. She is not the best paved city in the world, or even in America, but neither is she by any means the worst; and her splendid system of electric and elevated railroads renders her more independent of paving than any European city. Fifth-avenue is paved to perfection; Broadway and Sixth-avenue are not; but at any rate the streets are not for ever being hauled up and laid down again, like some of our leading London thoroughfares. Holborn, for example, may be ideally paved on paper, but its roadway is subject to such incessant eruptions of one sort or another that it is in practice a much more uncomfortable thoroughfare than any of the New York avenues. For the rest, New York has a copious and excellent water supply, which London has not; it has a splendidly efficient fire-brigade; it has an admirable telephone system, with underground wires; and even its electric trolleys get their motive-power from underneath, whereas in Philadelphia the overhead wires are, I regret to say, killing the trees which lend the streets their greatest charm. Altogether, Tammany or no Tammany, New York cannot possibly be described as an ill-governed city. Its government may be wasteful and worse; inefficient it is not. Even the policemen seem to be maligned. I never found them rude or needlessly dictatorial.
In one of the essential conveniences of modern life, New York is far behind London; but the blame lies, not with the city, but with the United States. Its postal arrangements are at best erratic, at worst miserable. Letters which would be delivered in London in three or four hours take in New York anywhere from six to sixteen hours. It was a long time before I realised and learned to allow for the slowness of the postal service. At first I used mentally to accuse my correspondents of great dilatoriness in attending to notes that called for an immediate reply. On one occasion I posted in Madison Square at 3 P.M. a letter addressed to the Lyceum Theatre, not a quarter of a mile away, suggesting an appointment for the same evening after the play. The appointment was not kept, for the letter was not delivered till the following morning! To ensure its delivery the same evening, I ought to have put a special-delivery stamp on it—price fivepence—in addition to the ordinary two-cent stamp. No doubt it is the universal employment of the telephone in American cities that leads people to put up with such defective postal arrangements.
But it is not only within city limits that the United States Post Office functions with a dignified deliberation. The ordinary time that it takes to write (say) from New York to Chicago, and receive an answer, might be considerably reduced without any acceleration of the train service. It sounds incredible, but it is, I believe, the case, that the simple and eminently time-saving device of a letter-box in the domestic front-door is practically unknown in America. I did observe one, in Boston, so small that a fair sized business letter would certainly have stuck in its throat. One evening I was sitting at dinner in a fashionable street in New York, close to Central Park, when I was startled by a distinctly burglarious noise at the window. My host smiled at my look of bewilderment, and explained that it was only the letter-carrier; and, sure enough, when the servant came into the room she picked up three or four letters from the floor. The postman was somehow able to reach the front window from the "stoop," open it, and throw in the evening's mail—a primitive arrangement, more suggestive of the English than of the American Gotham. Even the gum on the United States postage-stamps is apt to be ineffectual. When you are stamping letters in hot haste to catch the European mail, you are as likely as not to find that the head of President Grant has curled up and refuses—most uncharacteristically—to stick to its post.
The conveniences of the express system, again, are, in my judgment, greatly overrated. It is often slow and always expensive. It seems to have been devised by the makers of Saratoga trunks, for it puts a premium upon huge packages and a tax upon those of moderate size. I speak feelingly, for I have just paid, eight shillings for the conveyance of five packages from my room to the wharf, a distance of about a mile and a half. A London growler would have taken them and myself to boot for eighteenpence, three of the packages going outside, and two, with their owner, inside. It is true that had I packed all my belongings in one huge box the same company would have conveyed them to the steamer for one and eightpence, which is the regular charge per package. But I could not have taken this box into my state-room; I must in any case have had a cabin trunk; and for an ocean voyage, a bundle of rugs is, to say the least of it, advisable. Thus I could not have escaped paying four and tenpence for the conveyance of my baggage alone—rather more than three times as much as it would have cost to convey my baggage and myself the same distance in London. It must not be forgotten, of course, that the New York Express Company would, if necessary, have carried the goods much further for the same charge of forty cents a package. The limit of distance I do not know: it is probably something like twenty miles. But a potential ell does not reconcile me to paying an exorbitant price for the actual inch which is all I have any use for. This method of simplification—fixing the minimum payment on the basis of the maximum bulk, weight, and distance—seems to me essentially irrational. In some cases, indeed, it cuts against the Express Company. When I first had occasion to move from one abode to another in New York—a distance of about a quarter of a mile—I thought with glee "Now the famous express system will save me all trouble." But I found that it would cost two dollars to express my belongings, whereas even the notoriously extortionate New York cabman would convey me and all my goods and chattels for half that sum. So the Express Company's loss was cabby's gain.
"The ship is cheered, the harbour cleared," and none too merrily are we dropping down by the Statue of Liberty to Sandy Hook and the Atlantic. (There is a point, by the way, a little below the Battery, from which New York looks mountainous indeed. Its irregularly serrated profile is lost, and the sky-scrapers fall into position one behind the other, like an artistically grouped cohort of giants. "Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise," while in the background the glorious curve of the Brooklyn Bridge seems to span half the horizon. I could not but think of Valhalla and the Bridge of the Gods in the Rheingold. Elevator architecture necessarily sends one to Scandinavian mythology in quest of similitudes.) It is with acute regret that I turn my back upon New York, or, rather, turn my face to see it receding over the steamer's wake. Not often in this imperfect world are high anticipations overtopped, as the real American has overtopped my half-reminiscent dream of it. "The real America?" That, of course, is an absurd expression. I have had only a superficial glimpse of one corner of the United States. It is as though one were to glance at a mere dog-ear on a folio page, and then profess to have mastered its whole import. But I intend no such ridiculous profession. I have seen something of the outward aspect of five or six great cities; I have looked into one small facet of American social life; and I have faithfully reported what I have seen—nothing more. At the same time my observations, and more especially my conversations with the scores of "bright" and amiable men it has been my privilege to meet, have suggested to me certain thoughts, certain hopes and apprehensions, respecting the future of America and the English-speaking world, which I shall try to formulate elsewhere. For the present, let me only sum up my personal experiences in saying that all the pleasant expectations I brought with me to America have been realised, all the forebodings disappointed. Even the interviewer is far less terrible than I had been led to imagine. He always treated me with courtesy, sometimes with comprehension. One gentleman alone (not an American, by the way) set forth to be mildly humorous at my expense; and even he apologised in advance, as it were, by prefixing his own portrait to the interview, as who should say, "Look at me—how can I help it?" Again, I had been led rather to fear American hospitality as being apt to become importunate and exacting. I found it no less considerate than cordial. Probably I was too small game to bring the lion-hunters upon my trail. The alleged habit of speech-making and speech-demanding on every possible occasion I found to be merely mythical. Three times only was I called upon to "say something," and on the first two occasions, being taken unawares, I said everything I didn't want to say. The third time, having foreseen the demand, I had noted down in advance the heads of an eloquent harangue; but when the time came I felt the atmosphere unpropitious, and suppressed my rhetoric. The proceedings opened with an iced beverage, called, I believe, a "Mississippi toddy," probably as being the longest toddy on record, the father of (fire) waters; and on its down-lapsing current my eloquence was swept into the gulf of oblivion. The meeting, fortunately, did not know what it had lost, and its serenity remained unclouded. But it is not to the Mississippi toddies and other creature comforts of America that I look back with gratitude and affection. It is to the spontaneous and unaffected human kindness that met me on every hand; the will to please and to be pleased in daily intercourse; and, in the spiritual sphere, the thirst for knowledge, for justice, for beauty, for the larger and the purer light.
NORTH AND SOUTH
In Washington, on the 6th of April last, business was suspended from mid-day onwards, while President McKinley and all the high officers of State attended the public funeral at Arlington Cemetery of several hundred soldiers, brought home from the battlefields of Cuba. The burial ground on the heights of Arlington—the old Virginian home, by the way, of the Lee family—had hitherto been known as the resting-place of numbers of Northern soldiers, killed in the Civil War. But among the bodies committed to earth that afternoon were those of many Southerners, who had stood and fallen side by side with their Northern comrades at El Caney and San Juan. The significance of the event was widely felt and commented upon. "Henceforth," said one paper, "the graves at Arlington will constitute a truly national cemetery;" and the same note was struck in a thousand other quarters. Poets burst into song at the thought of their
"Resting together side by side, Comrades in blue and grey!
"Healed in the tender peace of time, The wounds that once were red With hatred and with hostile rage, While sanguined brothers bled.
"They leaped together at the call Of country—one in one, The soldiers of the Northern hills, And of the Southern sun!
"'Yankee' and 'Rebel,' side by side, Beneath one starry fold— To-day, amid our common tears, Their funeral bells are tolled."
The artlessness of these verses renders them none the less significant. They express a popular sentiment in popular language. But, as here expressed, it is clearly the sentiment of the North: how far is it shared and acknowledged by the South? Happening to be on the spot, I could not but try to obtain some sort of answer to this question.
Again, as I stood on the terrace of the Capitol that April afternoon, and looked out across the Potomac to the old Lee mansion at Arlington, while all the flags of Washington drooped at half-mast, a very different piece of verse somehow floated into my memory:
"Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor, For 'alf o' Creation she owns: We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword and the flame, And salted it down with our bones. (Poor beggars!—it's blue with our bones!)"
The association was obvious: how the price of lead would go up if England brought home all her dead "heroes" in hermetically-sealed caskets! My thought (so an anti-Imperialist might say) was like the smile of the hardened freebooter at the amiable sentimentalism of a comrade who was "yet but young in deed." But why should Mr. Kipling's rugged lines have cropped up in my memory rather than the smoother verses of other poets, equally familiar to me, and equally well fitted to point the contrast?—for instance, Mr. Housman's:—
"It dawns in Asia, tombstones show, And Shropshire names are read; And the Nile spills his overflow Beside the Severn's dead."
Or Mr. Newbolt's:
"Qui procul hinc—the legend's writ, The frontier grave is far away; Qui ante diem periit, Sed miles, sed fro patria."
The reason simply was that during the month I had spent in America the air had been filled with Kipling. His name was the first I had heard uttered on landing—by the conductor of a horse-car. Men of light and leading, and honourable women not a few, had vied with each other in quoting his refrains; and I had seen the crowded audience at a low music-hall stirred to enthusiasm by the delivery of a screed of maudlin verses on his illness. He, the rhapsodist of the red coat, was out and away the most popular poet in the country of the blue, and that at a time when the blue coat in itself was inimitably popular. Nor could there be any doubt that his Barrack-room Ballads were the most popular of his works. Not a century had passed since the Tommy Atkins of that day had burnt the Capitol on whose steps I was standing (a shameful exploit, to which I allude only to point the contrast); and here was the poet of Tommy Atkins so idolised by the grandsons of the men of 1812 and 1776, that I, a Briton and a staunch admirer of Kipling, had almost come to resent as an obsession the ubiquity of his name!
It seemed then, that the rancour of the blue coat against the red must have dwindled no less significantly than the rancour of the grey coat against the blue. Into the reality of this phenomenon, too, I made it my business to inquire.
There can be no doubt that the Spanish War has done a great deal to bring the North and the South together. It has not in any sense created in the South a feeling of loyalty to the Union, but it has given the younger generation in the South an opportunity of manifesting that loyalty to the Union which has been steadily growing for twenty years. Down to 1880, or thereabouts, the wound left by the Civil War was still raw, its inflammation envenomed rather than allayed by the measures of the "reconstruction" period. Since 1880, since the administration of President Hayes, the wound has been steadily healing, until it has come to seem no longer a burning sore, but an honourable cicatrice.
Every one admits that the heaviest blow ever dealt to the South was that which laid Abraham Lincoln in the dust. He, if any one, could have averted the mistakes which delayed by fifteen years the very beginning of the process of reconciliation. His wise and kindly influence removed, the North committed what is now recognised as the fatal blunder of forcing unrestricted negro suffrage on the South. This measure was dictated partly, no doubt, by honest idealism, partly by much lower motives. Then the horde of "carpet-baggers" descended upon the "reconstructed" States, and there ensued a period of humiliation to the South which made men look back with longing even to the sharper agonies of the war. Coloured voters were brought in droves, by their Northern fuglemen, to polling-places which were guarded by United States troops. Utterly illiterate negroes crowded the benches of State legislatures. A Northerner and staunch Union man has assured me that in the Capitol of one of the reconstructed States he has seen a coloured representative gravely studying a newspaper which he held upside down. The story goes that in the legislature of Mississippi a negro majority, which had opposed a certain bill, was suddenly brought round to it in a body by a chance allusion to its "provisions," which they understood to mean something to eat! This anecdote perhaps lacks evidence; but there can be no doubt that the freedmen of 1865 were, as a body, entirely unfitted to exercise the suffrage thrust upon them. A degrading and exasperating struggle was the inevitable result—the whites of the South striving by intimidation and chicanery to nullify the negro vote, the professional politicians from the North battling, with the aid of the United States troops, to render it effectual. Such a state of things was demoralising to both parties, and in process of time the common sense of the North revolted against it. United States troops no longer stood round the ballot-boxes, and the South was suffered, in one way and another, to throw off the "Dominion of Darkness." Different States modified their constitutions in different ways. Many offices which had been elective were made appointive. The general plan adopted of late years has been to restrict the suffrage by means of a very simple test of intelligence, the would-be voter being required to read a paragraph of the State constitution and explain its meaning. The examiner, if one may put it so, is the election judge, and he can admit or exclude a man at his discretion. Thus illiterate whites are not necessarily deprived of the suffrage. They may be quite intelligent men and responsible citizens, who happened to grow to manhood precisely in the years when the war and its sequels upset the whole system of public education in the South. At any rate (it is argued), the illiterate white is a totally different man from the illiterate negro. How far such modifications of the State constitutions are consistent with the Constitution of the United States, is a nice question upon which I shall not attempt to enter. The arguments used to reconcile this test of intelligence with Amendments XIV. and XV. of the United States Constitution seem to me more ingenious than convincing. But, constitutional or not, the compromise is reasonable; and though people in the South still feel, as one of them put it to me, that the Republican party "may yet wield the flail of the negro over them," the flail has been laid aside long enough to permit the South, in the main, to recover its peace of mind and its self-respect. The negro problem is still difficult enough, as many tragic evidences prove; but there is no reason to despair of its ultimate solution.
Meanwhile material prosperity has been returning to the South; agriculture has revived, and manufactures have increased. Social intercourse and intermarriage have done much to promote mutual comprehension between North and South, and to wipe out rankling animosities. Each party has made a sincere effort to understand the other's "case," and the war has come to seem a thing fated and inevitable, or at any rate not to have been averted save by superhuman wisdom and moderation on both sides. With mutual comprehension, mutual admiration has gone hand in hand. The gallantry and tenacity of the South are warmly appreciated in the North, and it is felt on both sides that the very qualities which made the tussle so long and terrible are the qualities which ensure the greatness of the reunited nation. But changes of sentiment are naturally slow and, from moment to moment, imperceptible. It needs some outside stimulus or shock to bring them clearly home to the minds of men. Such a stimulus was provided by the conflict with Spain. It did not create a new sense of solidarity between the North and the South, but rather brought prominently to the surface of the national consciousness a sense of solidarity that had for years been growing and strengthening, more or less obscurely and inarticulately, on both sides of Mason and Dixon's line. It consummated a process of consolidation which had been going on for something like twenty years.
Furthermore, the Spanish War deposed the Civil War from its position as the last event of great external picturesqueness in the national history. However sincere may be our love of peace, war remains irresistibly fascinating to the imagination; and the imagination of young America has now a foreign war instead of a civil war to look back upon. The smoke of battle, in which the South stood shoulder to shoulder with the North, has done more than many years of peace could do to soften in retrospect the harsh outlines of the fratricidal struggle.
At the same time, there is another side to the case which ought not to be overlooked. The South is proud, very proud; and the older generation, the generation which fought and agonised through the terrible years from '61 to '65, is more than a little inclined to resent what it regards as the condescending advances of the North. This feeling is not confined to those out-of-the-way corners where, as the saying goes, they have not yet heard that the war—the Civil War—is over. It is not confined to the old families, ruined by the war, whom the tide of returning prosperity has not reached, and never will reach. It is strong among even the most active and progressive of the veterans of '65. They smile a grim smile in their grizzled beards at the fuss which has been made over this "picayune war," as they call it. They, who came crushed, impoverished, heartbroken, out of the duel of the Titans—they, who know what it really means to sacrifice everything, everything, to a patriotic ideal—they, to whom their cause seems none the less sacred because they know it irrevocably lost—how can they be expected to toss up their caps and help the party which first vanquished, and then, for many bitter years, oppressed them, to make political capital out of what appears, in their eyes, a more or less creditable military picnic? It is especially the small scale of the conflict that excites their derision. "Did you ever hear of the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House?" one of them said to me. I confessed that I had not. "No," he said, "nor has any one else heard of the battle of Dinwiddie Court-House. It was one of the most insignificant fights in the war. But there were more men killed in half an hour in that almost forgotten battle, than in all this mighty war we hear so much about. Ah!" he continued, "they think we are vastly gratified when they 'fraternise' with us on our battlefields and decorate the graves of our dead. I don't know but I prefer the 'waving of the bloody shirt' to this flaunting of the olive-branch. They have their victory; let them leave us our graves."
An intense loyalty, not only to the political theories of the South, but to the memory of the men who died for them—"qui bene pro patria cum patriaque jacent"—still animates the survivors of the war. With a confessed but none the less pathetic illogicality, they feel as though Death had not gone to work impartially, but had selected for his prey the noblest and the best. One of these survivors, in a paper now before me, quotes from Das Siegesfest the line—
"Ja, der Krieg verschlingt die Besten!"
and then remarks: "Still, when Schiller says:—
'Denn Patroklus liegt begraben, Und Thersites kommt zurueck,'
his illustration is only half right. The Greek Thersites did not return to claim a pension."
The dash of bitterness in this remark must not be taken too seriously. The fact remains, however, that among the veterans of the South there prevails a certain feeling of aloofness from the national jubilation over the Spanish War. They "don't take much stock in it." The feeling is widespread, I believe, but not loud-voiced. If I represented it as surly or undignified, I should misrepresent it grossly. It is simply the outcome of an ancient and deep-seated sorrow, not to be salved by phrases or ceremonies—the most tragic emotion, I think, with which I ever came face to face. But it prevails almost exclusively among the older generation in the South, the men who "when they saw the issue of the war, gave up their faith in God, but not their faith in the cause." To the young, or even the middle-aged, it has little meaning. I met a scholar-soldier in the South who had given expression to the sentiment of his race and generation in an essay—one might almost say an elegy—so chivalrous in spirit and so fine in literary form that it moved me well-nigh to tears. Reading it at a public library, I found myself so visibly affected by it that my neighbour at the desk glanced at me in surprise, and I had to pull myself sharply together. Yet the writer of this essay told me that when he gave it to his son to read, the young man handed it back to him, saying, "All this is a sealed book to me. I can not feel these things as you do."
More important, perhaps than the sentiment of the veterans is the feeling, which has been pretty generally expressed, that the South was slighted in the actual conduct of the late war—that Southern regiments and Southern soldiers (notably General Fitzhugh Lee) were unduly kept in the background. Still, there is every reason to believe that the general effect of the war has been one of conciliation and consolidation. From the ultra-Southern point of view, the North seems merely to have seized the opportunity of making honourable amends for the "horrors of reconstruction;" but even those who take this view admit that the North has seized the opportunity, and that gladly. As a matter of fact the good-will of the North, and its desire to let bygones be bygones, are probably very little influenced by any such recondite motive. It is in most cases quite simple and instinctive. "There are no rebels now," said the commandant of the Brooklyn Navy Yard when he gave orders to delete the fourth word of the inscription "Taken from the rebel ram Mississippi" over a trophy of the Civil War displayed outside of his quarters. Admiral Philips had probably no thought of "reconstruction" or of "making amends;" he simply obeyed a spontaneous and general sentiment. The Southern heroes of the Civil War, moreover, are freely admitted, and enthusiastically welcomed, into the national Pantheon.
When the thirty-fourth anniversary of "Appomattox Day," which brought the war to an end, was celebrated in Chicago on April 10 last (Governor Roosevelt being the guest of honour), the memory of Lee was eulogised along with that of Grant, and the oration in his honour was received with equal applause. Finally, it is admitted even by those who are most inclined to make light of the sentiment elicited by the late war, that all the States of the Atlantic seaboard are instinctively drawing together to counterpoise the growing predominance of the West. This substitution of a new line of cleavage for the old one may seem a questionable matter for rejoicing. But in any great community, conflicts of interest must always arise. The recognition of the problems which await the Republic in the near future does not imply any doubt of her ability to arrive at a wise and just solution of them.
The most loyal of the Southern veterans, I have said, recognise that the cause of the South is irrevocably lost. By the cause of the South I do not, of course, mean slavery. There is probably no one in the South who would advocate the reinstatement of that "peculiar institution," even if it could be effected by the lifting of a finger. "The cause we fought for and our brothers died for," says Professor Gildersleeve of Baltimore, "was the cause of civil liberty, not the cause of human slavery.... If the secrets of all hearts could have been revealed, our enemies would have been astounded to see how many thousands and tens of thousands in the Southern States felt the crushing burden and the awful responsibility of the institution which we were supposed to be defending with the melodramatic fury of pirate kings."
What was it, then, that the South fought for? In what sense was its cause the cause of "civil liberty?" A brief inquiry into this question may be found to have more than a merely historic interest—to have a direct bearing, indeed, upon the problems of the future, not only for America, but for the English-speaking world.
Let me state at once the true inwardness of the matter, as I have been led to see it. The cause of the South was the cause of small against large political aggregations; and the world regards the defeat of the South as righteous and inevitable, because instinct tells it that the welfare of humanity is to be sought in large political aggregations, and not in small. Providence, in a word, is on the side of the big (social) battalions.
From the point of view of pure logic, of academic argument, the case of the South was enormously strong. Consequently, the latter-day apologists of the Confederacy devote themselves with pathetic fervour, and often with great ingenuity, to what the impartial outsider cannot but feel to be barren discussions of constitutional law. They point out that the States—that is, the thirteen original States—preceded the Federal Union, and voluntarily entered into it under clearly-defined conditions; that the Federal Government actually derived its powers from the consent of the States, and could have none which they did not confer upon it; that the maintenance of slavery in the Southern States, and the right to claim the extradition of fugitive slaves, were formally safeguarded in the Constitution; that it was in reliance upon these provisions that the Southern States consented to enter the Union; that the right of secession had been openly and repeatedly asserted by leading politicians and influential parties in several Northern States, and was therefore no novel and treasonable invention of the South; and, finally, that the right to enter into a compact implied the right to recede from it when its provisions were broken, or obviously on the point of being broken, by the other party or parties to the agreement. All this is logically and historically indisputable. The Southerners were the conservative party, and had the letter of the Constitution on their side; the Northerners were the reformers, the innovators. Entrenched in the theory of State Sovereignty, the South denied the right of the North, acting through the Central Government, to interfere with its "peculiar institution;" and even those who deplored the existence of slavery felt themselves none the less bound to assert and defend the right of their respective States to manage their own affairs.[I] It was a conflict as old as the Revolution—and even, in its germs, of still older date—between centripetal and centrifugal forces, between national and local patriotism. The makers of the Constitution had tried to hold the scales justly, but in their natural jealousy of a strong central power, they had allowed the balance to deflect unduly on the side of local independence. The North, the national majority, felt, obscurely and reluctantly, that a revision of the Constitution in the matter of slavery was essential to the national welfare.[J] The South maintained that the States were antecedent and superior to the Nation, and said, "If your Nation, in virtue of its mere majority vote, insists on encroaching on State rights which we formally reserved as a condition of entering the Nation, why then, we prefer to withdraw from this Nation and set up a nation of our own, in which the true principles of the Constitution shall be preserved." Thereupon the North retorted, "We deny your right to withdraw," and the battle was joined.
The North said, "You have no right to withdraw," but it meant, I think, something rather different. It threw overboard the question of abstract, formal, technical right, and fought primarily, no doubt, for a humanitarian ideal, but fundamentally to enforce its instinct of the highest political expediency. The right interpretation of a state-paper, however venerable, would not have been a question worthy of such terrible arbitrament. Even the emancipation of the negro, had that been the sole object of the contest, would have been too dearly paid for in blood and tears. The question at issue was really this: What is the ideal political unit? The largest possible? or the smallest convenient? What mattered abstract argument as to the right to secede? Once grant the power to secede, once suffer the precedent to be established, and the greatest democracy the world had ever seen was bound to break up, not only into two, but ultimately into many petty republics, wrangling and jangling like those of Spanish America. To this negation of a great ideal the North refused its consent. National patriotism had outgrown local patriotism. It had become to all intents and purposes a fiction that the Federal Government derived its powers from the States; Thirteen of them, indeed, had sanctioned the Federal Government, but the Federal Government had sanctioned and admitted to the Union twenty-one more. In these the sentiment of priority to the Union could not exist, while State Sovereignty was a doctrine limited by considerations of expediency, rather than a patriotic dogma. Immigration, and westward migration from the north-eastern States, had produced a race of men and women whose patriotism was divorced, so to speak, from any given patch of soil, but was wedded to the all-embracing idea of the United States, with the emphasis on the epithet. They thought of themselves first of all as American citizens, and only in the second place as citizens of this State or of that. This habit or instinct is still incomprehensible, and almost contemptible, to the Southerner of the older generation; but the Time-Spirit was clearly on its side.
Thus, then, I interpret the fundamental feeling which impelled the North to take up arms: "Better one stout tussle for the idea of Unity, than a facile acquiescence in the idea, of Multiplicity, with all its sequels of instability, distrust, rivalry, and rancour. Better for our children, if not for us, one great expenditure of blood and gold, than never-ending threats and rumours of war, commercial conflicts, political complications, frontiers to be safeguarded, bureaucracies to be financed." Of course I do not put this forward as a new interpretation of the question at issue. It is old and it is obvious. But though the national significance of the struggle has long been recognised, I am not sure that its international, its world-historic significance, has been sufficiently dwelt upon. We Europeans have been apt to think that, because the theatre of conflict was so distant, we had only a spectacular, or at most an abstract-humanitarian, interest in it. There could not be a greater mistake. The whole world, I believe, will one day come to hold Vicksburg and Gettysburg names of larger historic import than Waterloo or Sedan.
[Footnote I: "Submission to any encroachment," says Professor Gildersleeve, "the least as well as the greatest, on the rights of a State, means slavery;" this remark occurring early in an article of twenty-five columns, in which negro slavery is not so much as mentioned until the twenty-first column.]
[Footnote J: See Postscript to this article.]
The iconoclast of to-day is full of scorn for patriotism, which he holds the most retrograde of emotions. He may as usefully declaim against friendship, comradeship, the love of man for woman or of mother for child. The lowest savage regards himself, and cannot but regard himself, as a member of some sort of political aggregation. This feeling is one of the primal instincts of humanity, and as such one of the permanent data of the problem of the future. It is folly to denounce or seek to eradicate it. The wise course is to give it large and noble instead of petty and parochial concepts to which to attach itself. Rightly esteemed and rightly directed, patriotism is not a retrograde emotion, but one of the indispensable conditions of progress.
"Nothing is," says Hamlet, "but thinking makes it so." It is not oceans, straits, rivers, or mountain-barriers, that constitute a Nation, but the idea in the minds of the people composing it. Now, the largest political idea that ever entered the mind—not of a man—not of a governing class—but of a people, is the idea of the United States of America. The "Pax Romana" was a great idea in its day, but it was imposed from without, and by military methods, upon a number of subject peoples, who did not realise and intelligently co-operate in it, but merely submitted to it. It has its modern analogue in the "Pax Britannica" of India. The idea of the United States, on the other hand, gives what may be called psychological unity to one of the largest political aggregates, both in territory and population, ever known to history. In the modern world, there are only two political aggregates in any wise comparable to it: the British Empire, whereof the idea is not as yet quite clearly formulated; and the Russian Empire, whereof the idea, in so far as it belongs to the people at all, is a blind and slavish superstition. Holy Russia is a formidable idea, Greater Britain is a picturesque and pregnant idea; but the United States is a self-conscious, clearly defined and heroically vindicated idea, in whose further vindication the whole world is concerned. It is only an experiment, say some—an experiment which, thirty years ago, trembled on the brink of disastrous failure, and which may yet have even greater perils to encounter. This is true in a sense, but not the essential truth. Let us substitute for "experiment" another word which means the same thing—with a difference. The United States of America, let us say, is a rehearsal for the United States of Europe, nay, of the world. It is the very difficulties over which the croakers shake their heads that make the experiment interesting, momentous. The United States is a veritable microcosm: it presents in little all the elements which go to make up a world, and which have hitherto kept the world, almost unintermittently, in a state of battle and bloodshed. There are wide differences of climate and of geographical conditions in the United States, with the resulting conflict of material interest between different regions of the country. There are differences of race and even of language to be overcome, extremes of wealth and poverty to be dealt with. As though to make sure that no factor in the problem of civilisation should be omitted, the men of last century were at pains to saddle their descendants with the burden of the negro—a race incapable of assimilation and yet tenacious of life. In brief, a thousand difficulties and temptations to dissension beset the giant Republic: in so far as it overcomes them, and carries on its development by peaceful methods, it presents a unique and invaluable object-lesson to the world. The idea of unity, annealed in the furnace of the Civil War, has as yet been stronger than all the forces of disintegration; and there is no reason to doubt that it will continue to be so. When France falls out with Germany, or Russia with Turkey, there is nothing save a purely material counting of the cost to hinder them from flying at each other's throats. The abstract humanitarianism of a few individuals is as a feather on the torrent. Such sentiment as comes into play is all on the side of bloodshed. It takes very little to make a Frenchman and a German feel that they are in a state of war by nature, and that peace between them is an artificial and necessarily unstable condition. But in America, should two States or two groups of States fall out, there is a strong, and we may hope unconquerable, sentiment of unity to be overcome before the dissentients even reach the point of counting the material cost of war. Men feel that they are in a state of peace by nature, and that war between them, instead of being a hereditary and almost consecrated habit, would be a monstrous and almost unthinkable crime. The National Government, as established by the Constitution, is in fact a permanent court of arbitration between the States; and the common-sense of all may be trusted to "hold a fractious State in awe." "Did not people say and think the same thing in 1859," it may be asked, "on the eve of the greatest Civil War in history?" Possibly; but that war was precisely what was needed to ratify the Union, and lift it out of the experimental stage. "Blut ist ein ganz besondrer Saft," and it is sometimes necessary that other pacts than those of hell should be written in blood, before the world recognises their full validity. Heaven forbid that the Deed of Union of the United States should require a second time to be retraced in red!
But it is an illusion, though a salutary one, that civil war is any more barbarous than international war. What the world wants is the realisation that every war is a civil war, a war between brothers, justifiable only for the repression of some cruelty more cruel than war itself, some barbarism more barbarous. Towards this realisation the United States is leading the way, by showing that, under the conditions of modern life, an effective sense of brotherhood, a resolute loyalty to a unifying idea, may be maintained throughout a practically unlimited extent of territory.
But, while enumerating the difficulties which the Republic has to overcome, I have said nothing of the one great advantage it enjoys—a common, or at any rate a dominant, language. The diversity of tongues which prevails in Europe is doubtless one of the chief hindrances to that "Federation of the World" of which the poet dreamed. But if the many tongues of Europe retard its fusion into what I have called a political aggregate, there exists in the world a political aggregate larger in extent than either Europe or the United States, which possesses, like the United States, the advantage of one dominant language. I mean, of course, the British Empire; and surely it is, on the face of it, a fact of good augury for the world that the dominant language of these two vast aggregations of democracies should happen to be one and the same. The hopes—and perhaps, too, some apprehensions—arising from this unity of speech will form the subject of another article.
POSTSCRIPT.—My representation of the South as the conservative and the North as the innovating party is the only point in this article to which (so far as I know) serious objection has been made. A very able and courteous critic—Mr. Norman Hapgood—writes to me as follows: "I think the history of the Kansas-Nebraska trouble, in which the preliminary conflict centred, the speeches of the time, North and South, the party platforms, all proved that the North said, 'Slavery shall keep its rights and have no further extension,' while the South said, 'It shall go into any newly-acquired territory it chooses.' In 1860 the slave interest was more protected and extended by law than ever before in the history of the country. It had simply made a new claim which the North could not allow. The abolitionists were few; the Northerners who said that slavery should not be extended were many.... I don't believe there is an American historian of standing who does not say that the propositions of the South, on which the North took issue in 1861, were these: (1) Slavery shall go into all territory hereafter acquired; (2) We will secede if this is not allowed."
It was inevitable that this protest should be raised, since, in the limited space at my command, I had imperfectly expressed my meaning. My reply to Mr. Hapgood puts it, I hope, more clearly. It ran as follows:".... What I was trying to do was not so much to summarise conscious motives as to present my own interpretation (right or wrong) of the sub-conscious, the unconscious forces that were at work. I go behind the declarations of Northern statesmen, and what, I have no doubt, was the sincere sentiment of the majority in the North, against interference with slavery in the existing slave States. I have tried to allow to this sentiment what weight it deserves, in saying that the North 'obscurely and reluctantly felt a revision of the Constitution essential to the national welfare.' But my view is that whatever they said, and whatever, on the surface of their minds, they thought, the people of the North knew, even if they denied it to themselves, that chattel slavery was impossible in the modern world; and furthermore that the people of the South were justified in that instinct which told them that the institution, fatally menaced, was to be saved only by secession. The kernel of the matter, to my thinking, lay in the fugitive slave question. The provision of the Constitution for the return of fugitive slaves, though it may seem a matter of detail, was, I think, in reality the keystone of the arch. Make it inoperative, and the institution was doomed. Now many of the Northern States, by 'personal liberty laws' and the like, had long been picking at that keystone. Whatever were the professions of politicians and people as to non-interference, they shrank from the logical corollary, which would have been the sincere, whole-hearted and cheerful carrying out of Article IV., Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution. They were even, I think, logically bound to accept loyally the Dred Scott decision, which was absolutely constitutional. To protest against it, to seek to evade it, was to insist on a revision of the Constitution. But it was inconceivable that a civilised community, not blinded by local Southern prejudice, could loyally accept the Dred Scott decision, or could cheerfully assist the Southern slaveholder to capture and carry off from their own hearthstones, as it were, his runaway chattel. Therefore, the position and the protestations of the North were mutually contradictory. It was a case of trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds; and the North was bound to the hare by fundamental considerations of humanity and self-interest, to the hounds, only by a compact accepted at a time when its consequences could not possibly be foreseen. I do not doubt that the North, on the surface of its will, sincerely desired to keep this compact; but the South, with an instinct which was really that of self-preservation, looked, as I am trying to look, beneath the conscious surface to the unconscious sweep of current. It is not with reference to the struggle for Western expansion that I call the South the conservative and constitutional party. There, as it seems to me, the question was entirely an open one, the power of Congress over territories being undefined in the Constitution; and no doubt the South, in the course of the struggle, often took up violent and extravagant positions. My argument is that the attitude of the North, whatever its protestations, virtually threatened the institution of slavery in the old slave States, and that therefore the South had virtual, if not formal, justification for holding the constitutional compact broken."
THE REPUBLIC AND THE EMPIRE
Though one of the main objects which I proposed to myself in visiting America was to take note of American feeling towards England as affected by the Spanish War, I soon found that, so far as the gathering of information by way of question and answer was concerned, I might almost as well have stayed at home. A curious diffidence beset me from the first. I shrank from recognising that there was any question as to the good feeling between the two countries, and still more from seeming to appeal to a non-existent or a grudging sense of kinship. It seemed to me tactless and absurd for an Englishman to lay any stress on the war as affecting the relations between the two peoples. What had England done? Nothing that had cost her a cent or a drop of blood. The British people had sympathised with the United States in a war which it felt to be, in the last analysis, a part of the necessary police-work of the world; it had applauded in American soldiers and sailors the qualities it was accustomed to admire in its own fighting men; and the British Government, giving ready effect to the instinct of the people, had, at a critical moment, secured a fair field for the United States, and broken up what might have been an embarrassing, though scarcely a very formidable, anti-American intrigue on the part of the Continental Powers. What was there in all this to make any merit of? Nothing whatever. It was the simplest matter in the world—we had merely felt and done what came natural to us. The really significant fact was that any one in America should have been surprised at our attitude, or should have regarded it as more friendly than they had every right and reason to expect. In short, I felt an irrational but I hope not unnatural disinclination to recognise as matter for question and remark a state of feeling which, as it seemed to me, ought to "go without saying."
Above all was I careful to avoid the word "Anglo-Saxon." I heard it and read it with satisfaction, I uttered it, never. It is for the American to claim his Anglo-Saxon birthright, if he feels so disposed; it is not for the Briton to thrust it upon him. To cheapen it, to send it a-begging, were to do it a grievous wrong. Besides, the term "Anglo-Saxon" is inaccurate, and, so to speak, provisional. Rightly understood, it covers a great idea; but if one chooses to take it in a strict ethnological sense, it lends itself to caricature. The truth is, it has no strict ethnological sense—it may rather be called an ethnological countersense, no less in England than in America. It represents an historical and political, not an ethnological, concept. The Anglo-Saxon was already an infinitely composite personage—Saxon, Scandinavian, Gaul, and Kelt—before he set foot in America; and America merely proves her deep-rooted Anglo-Saxonism in accepting and absorbing all sorts of alien and semi-alien race-elements. But when we have to go so far behind the face-value of a word to bring it into consonance with obvious facts, it is safest to use that word sparingly.
In brief, I did not wear my Anglo-Saxon heart on my sleeve, or go about inviting expressions of gratitude to England for having, like Mr. Gilbert's House of Lords,
Done nothing in particular, And done it very well.
Yet evidences of a new tone of feeling towards England met me on every hand, both in the newspapers and in conversation. The subject which I shrank from introducing was frequently introduced by my American acquaintances. It was evident that the change of feeling, though far from universal, was real and wide-spread. Americans who had recently returned to their native land, after passing some years abroad, assured me that they were keenly conscious of it. Many of my acquaintances were opposed to the policy which brought about the Spanish War, and declared the better mutual understanding between England and America to be its one good result. Others adopted the view to which Mr. Kipling had given such far-echoing expression, and frankly rejoiced in the sympathy with which England regarded America's determination to "take up the white man's burden." In the Kipling craze as a whole, after making all deductions, I could not but see a symptom of real significance. It was partly a mere literary fashion, partly a result of personal and accidental circumstances; but it also arose in no small degree from a novel sense of kinship with the men, and participation in the ideals, celebrated by the poet of British Imperialism.
The change, moreover, extended beyond the book-reading class, wide as that is in America. It was to be noted even in the untravelled and unlettered American, the man whose spiritual horizon is bounded by his Sunday newspaper, the man in the street and on the farm. The events of the past year had taught him—and he rubbed his eyes at the realisation—that England was not an "effete monarchy," evilly-disposed towards a Republic as such,[K] and dully resentful of bygone humiliations by land and sea, but a brotherly-minded people, remembering little (perhaps too little) of those "old, unhappy, far-off things," willing to be as helpful as the rules of neutrality permitted, and eager to applaud the achievements of American arms.
Millions of people who had hitherto felt no touch of racial sympathy, and had been conscious only of a vague historic antipathy, learned with surprise that England was in no sense their natural enemy, but rather, among all the nations of Europe, their natural friend. Anglophobes, no doubt, were still to be found in plenty; but they could no longer reckon on the instant popular response which, a few years ago, would almost certainly have attended any movement of hostility towards England. An American publicist, who has perhaps unequalled opportunities for keeping his finger on the pulse of national feeling, said to me, "It is only three or four years since I heard a Federal judge express an earnest desire for war with England, as a means of consolidating the North and South in a great common enthusiasm. Of course this was pernicious talk at any time," he added; "but it would then have found an echo which it certainly would not find to-day."
This puts the international situation in a nutshell, so far as to-day is concerned. But what about to-morrow?
[Footnote K: See Postscript to this article.]
When people spoke to me of the sudden veering of popular sympathy from France and Russia, and towards England, I could not help asking, now and again, "When is the reaction coming?" "There is no reaction coming," I was told with some confidence. For my part, I hope and believe that a permanent advance has been made, and that any reaction that may set in will be trifling and temporary. But to ensure this result there is still the most urgent need for the exercise of wisdom and moderation on both sides. The misunderstandings of more than a century are not to be wiped out in two or three months of popular excitement. What we have arrived at is not a complete mutual understanding, but merely the attitude of mind which may, in course of time, render such an understanding possible. That, to be sure, is half the battle; but the longer and more tedious half is before us.