Henry Pearson Gratton.

As a Chinaman saw us; passages from his letters to a friend at home online

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himself from an arduous duty by pretending to share the great privilege
with them.

No one would think of walking steadily for six days, yet once this
became sport; dozens of men undertook it, and long walks became a fad.
If a man committed a crime and should be sentenced to play the modern
American game of football every day for thirty days as a punishment,
there are some who might prefer a death sentence and so avoid a
lingering end; but under the title of "sport" all young men play it, and
a number are maimed and killed yearly.

Sport is in the blood of the common people. Children begin with tops,
marbles, and kites, yet never appreciate our skill with either. I amazed
a boy on the outskirts of Washington one day by asking him why he did
not _irritate_ his kite and make it go through various evolutions. He
had never heard of doing that, and when I took the string and began to
jerk it, and finally made the kite plunge downward or swing in circles,
and always restored it by suddenly slacking off the cord, he was
astonished and delighted. The national game is baseball, a very clever
game. It is nothing to see thousands at a game, each person having paid
twenty-five or fifty cents for the privilege. In summer this game,
played by experts, becomes a most profitable business. Rarely is any one
hurt but the judge or umpire, who is at times hissed by the audience and
mobbed, and at others beaten by either side for unfair decisions; but
this is rare.

Football is dangerous, but is even more popular than the other. You
might imagine by the name that the ball is kicked. On the contrary the
real action of the game consists in running down, tripping up, smashing
into, and falling on whomever has the ball. As a consequence, men wear a
soft armor. There are fashions in sports which demonstrate the
ephemeral quality of the American love for sport. A while ago "wheeling"
was popular, and everybody wheeled. Books were printed on the etiquette
of the sport; roads were built for it and improved; but suddenly the
working class took it up and fashion dropped it. Then came golf,
imported from Scotland. With this fad millions of dollars were expended
in country clubs and greens all over the United States, as acres of land
were necessary. People seized upon this with a fierceness that warmed
the hearts of dealers in balls and clubs. The men who edited wheel
magazines now changed them to "golf monthlies." This sport began to wane
as the novelty wore off, until golf is now played by comparatively few
experts and lovers.

Society introduced the automobile, and we have the same thing - more
magazines, the spending of millions, the building of the _garage_, and
the appearance of the _chaufeur_ or driver. Then came the etiquette of
the auto - a German navy cap, rubber coat, and Chinese goggles. This
peculiar uniform is of course only to be worn when racing, but you see
the American going out for a slow ride solemnly attired in rubber coat
and goggles. The moment the auto comes within reach of the poor man it
will be given up; but it is now the fad and a most expensive one, the
best machines costing ten thousand dollars or more, and I have seen
races where the speed exceeded a mile a minute.

All sports have their ethics and rules and their correct costuming.
Baseball men are in uniform, generally white, with various-colored
stockings. The golfer wears a red coat and has a servant or valet, who
carries his bag of clubs, designed for every possible expediency. To
hear a group of golfers discuss the merits of these tools is one of the
extraordinary experiences one has in America. I have been made fairly
"giddy," as the Englishmen say, by this anemic conversation at country
clubs. The "high-ball" was the saving clause - a remarkable invention
this. Have I explained it? You take a very tall glass, made for the
purpose, and into it pour the contents of a small cut-glass bottle or
decanter of whisky, which must be Scotch, tasting of smoke. On this you
pour seltzer or soda-water, filling up the glass, and if you take enough
you are "high" and feel like a rolling ball. It is the thing to take a
"high-ball" after every nine holes in golf. Then after the game you
bathe, and sit and drink as many as your skin will hold. I got this from
a professional golf-teacher in charge of the - - links, and hence it
is official.

The avidity with which the Americans seize upon a sport and the
suddenness with which they drop it, illustrating what I have said about
the lack of a national sporting taste, is well shown by the coming of a
game called "ping pong," a parlor tennis, with our battledores for
rackets. What great mind invented this game, or where it came from, no
one seems to know, but as a wag remarked, "When in doubt lay it to
China." Some suppose it is Chinese, the name suggesting it. So
extraordinary was the early demand for it that it appeared as though
everybody in America was determined to own and play ping pong. The
dealers could not produce it fast enough. Factories were established all
over the country, and the tools were ground out by the ten thousands.
Books were written on the ethics of the game; experts came to the
front; ping pong weeklies and monthlies were founded, to dumfound the
masses, and the very air vibrated with the "ping" and the "pong."

The old and young, rich and poor, feeble and herculean, all played it.
Doctors advised it, children cried for it, and a fashionable journal
devised the correct ping-pong costume for players. Great matches were
played between the experts of various sections, and this sport, a game
really for small children, after the fashion of battledore and
shuttlecock, ran its course among young and old. Pictures of adult
ping-pong champions were blazoned in the public print; even churchmen
took it up. Public gardens had special ping-pong tables to relieve the
stress. At last the people seized upon ping pong, and it became common.
Then it was dropped like a dead fish. If some cyclonic disturbance had
swept all the ping-pong balls into space, the disappearance could not
have been more complete. Ping pong was put out of fashion. All this to
the alien suggests something, a want of balance, a "youngness" perhaps.

At the present time the old game of croquet is being revived under
another name, and tennis is the vogue among many. Among the fashionable
and wealthy men polo is the vogue, but among a few everything goes by
fads for a few years. Every one will rush to see or play some game; but
this interest soon dies out, and something new starts up. Such games as
baseball and football, tennis and polo are, in a sense, in a class by
themselves, but among the pastimes of the people a wide vogue belongs to
fishing, and shooting wild fowl and large game. The former is universal,
and the Americans are the most skilled anglers with artificial lures in
the world, due to the abundance of game-fish, trout, and others, and the
perfect Government care exercised to perfect the supply.

As an illustration, each State considers hunting and fishing a valuable
asset to attract those who will come and spend money. I was told by a
Government official that the State of Maine reckoned its game at five
million dollars per annum, which means that the sport is so good that
sportsmen spend that amount there every year; but I fancy the amount is
overestimated. The Government has perfect fish hatcheries, constantly
supplying young fish to streams, while the business in anglers' supplies
is immense. There are thousands of duck-shooting clubs in the United
States. Men, or a body of men, rent or buy marshes, and keep the poor
man out. Rich men acquire hundreds of acres, and make preserves.
Possibly the sport of hunting wild fowl is the most characteristic of
American sports. This also has its etiquette, its costumes, its
club-houses, and its poker and high-balls. I know of one such club in
which almost all the members are millionaires. A humorous paper stated
that they used "gold shot."

As a nation the Americans are fond of athletics, which are taught in the
schools. There are splendid gymnasiums, and boys and girls are trained
in athletic exercises. Athletics are all in vogue. It is fashionable to
be a good "fencer." All the young dance. I believe the Americans stand
high as a nation in all-around athletics; at least they are far ahead of
China in this respect.

I have reserved for mention last the most popular fashion of the people
in sport, which is prize-fighting. Here again you see a strange
contradiction. The people are preeminently religious, and
prize-fighting and football are the sports of brutes; yet the two are
most popular. No public event attracts more attention in America than a
gladiatorial fight to the finish between the champion and some aspirant.
For months the papers are filled with it, and on the day of the event
the streets are thronged with people crowding about the billboards to
receive the news. No national event, save the killing of a President,
attracted more universal attention than the beating of Sullivan by
Corbett and the beating of Corbett by Fitzsimmons, and "Fitz" in turn by
Jeffries. I might add that I joined with the Americans in this, as the
modern prize-fighter is a fine animal. If all boys were taught to
believe that their fists are their natural weapons, there would be fewer
murders and sudden deaths in America. I have seen several of these
prize-fights and many private bouts, all with gloves. They are governed
by rules. Such a combat is by no means as dangerous as football, where
the obvious intention seems to be to break ribs and crush the opponent.

Rowing is much indulged in, and yachting is a great national maritime
sport, in which the Americans lead and challenge the world. In no sport
is the wealth of the nation so well shown. Every seaside town has its
yacht or boat club, and in this the interest is perpetual. Even in
winter the yacht is rigged into an "ice-boat." I have often wondered
that fashionable people do not take up the romantic sport of falconry,
as they have the birds and every facility. I suggested this to a lady,
who replied, "Ah, that is too barbaric for us." "More barbaric than
cock-fighting?" I asked, knowing that her brother owned the finest
game-cocks in the District of Columbia. Among the Americans there is a
distinct love for fair play, and such sports as "bull-baiting,"
"bull-fights," "dog-fights," and "cock-fights" have never attained any
degree of popularity. There are spasmodic instances of such indulgences,
but in no sense can they be included, as in England and Spain, among the
national sports, which leads me to the conclusion that, aside from the
many peculiarities, as taking up and dropping sports, America, all in
all, is the greatest sporting nation of the world. It leads in
fist-fighting, rifle-shooting, in skilful angling, in yachting, in
rowing, in running, in six-day walking, in auto-racing, in trotting and
running horses, and in trap-shooting, and if its champions in all fields
could be lined up it would make a surprising showing. I am free to
confess and quite agree with a vivacious young woman who at the country
club told me that it was very nice of me to uphold my country, but that
we were "not in it" with American sports.

The Presidents are often sportsmen. President Cleveland and President
Harrison both have been famous, the former as a fisherman, the latter as
well as the former as a duck-shooter. President McKinley has no taste
for sport, but the Vice-President is a promoter of sport of each and
every kind. He is at home in polo or hurdle racing, with the rifle or
revolver. This calls to mind the national weapon - the revolver.
Nine-tenths of all the shooting is done with this weapon, that is
carried in a special pocket on the hips, and I venture to say that a
pair of "trousers" was never made without the pistol pocket. Even the
clergymen have one. I asked an Episcopal clergyman why he had a pistol
pocket. He replied that he carried his prayer-book there. The Southern
people use a long curved knife, called a bowie, after its inventor. Many
people have been cut by this weapon. The negro, for some strange reason,
carries a razor, and in a fight "whips out" this awful weapon and
slashes his enemy. I have asked many negroes to explain this habit or
selection. One replied that it was "none of my d - - business." Nearly
all the others said they did not know why they carried it.



The average Irishman whom one meets in America, and he is legion, is a
very different person from the polished gentleman I have met in Belfast,
Dublin, and other cities in Ireland; but I never heard that the American
Irishman, the product of an ignorant peasantry crowded out of Ireland,
had been accepted as a type of the race. Peculiar discrimination is made
in America against the Chinese. Our lower classes, "coolies" from the
Cantonese districts, have flocked to America. Americans "lump" all
Chinese under this head, and can not conceive that in China there are
cultivated men, just as there are cultivated men in Ireland, the
antipodes of the grotesque Irish types seen in America.

I believe there are seventy-five or eighty thousand Chinamen in America.
They do not assimilate with the Americans. Many are common laborers,
laundrymen, and small merchants. In New York, Chicago, San Francisco,
and other cities there are large settlements of them. In San Francisco
many have acquired wealth. The Chinese quarter is to all intents and
purposes a Chinese city. None of these people, or very few, are
Americanized in the sense of taking an active part in the government;
Americans do not permit it. I was told that the Chinese were among the
best citizens, the percentage of criminals being very small. They are
honest, frugal, and industrious - too industrious, in fact, and for this
very reason the ban has been placed upon them. Red-handed members of the
Italian Mafia - a society of murderers - the most ignorant class in
Ireland, Wales, and England, the scum of Russia, and the human dregs of
Europe generally are welcome, but the clean, hard-working Chinaman is

Millions are spent yearly in keeping him out after he had been invited
to come. He built many American railroads; he opened the door between
the Atlantic and the Pacific; he worked in the mines; he did work that
no one else would or could do, and when it was completed the American
laborer, the product of this scum of all nations, demanded that the
Chinaman be "thrown out" and kept out. America listened to the blatant
demagogues, the "sand-lot orators," and excluded the Chinese. To-day it
is almost impossible for a Chinese gentleman to send his son to America
to travel or study. He will not be distinguished from laundryman
"John," and is thrown back in the teeth of his countrymen; meanwhile
China continues to be raided by American missionaries. The insult is
rarely resented. In the treaty ratified by the United States Senate in
1868 we read:

"The United States of America and the Empire of China cordially
recognize the inherent right of man to change his home and allegiance,
and also the mutual advantage of the free immigration and emigration of
their citizens and subjects respectively from the one country to the
other for purposes of curiosity, of trade or as permanent residents."

Again we read, in the treaty ratified under the Hayes administration,
that the Government of the United States, "if its labor interests are
threatened by the incoming Chinese, may regulate or limit such coming,
but may not _absolutely prohibit_ it." The United States Government has
disregarded its solemn treaty obligations. Not only this, our people,
previous to the Exclusion Act, were killed, stoned, and attacked time
and again by "hoodlums." The life of a Chinaman was not safe. The labor
class in America, the lowest and almost always a foreign class, wished
to get rid of the Chinaman so that they could raise the price of labor
and secure all the work. China had reason to go to war with America for
her treatment of her people and for failure to observe a treaty. The
Scott Exclusion Act was a gratuitous insult. I hope our people will
continue to retaliate by refusing to buy anything from the Americans or
sell anything to them. Let us deal with our friends.

Then came the Geary Bill, which was an outrage, our people being thrown
into jail for a year and then sent back. I might quote some of the
charges made against our people. Mr. Geary, I understand, is an Irish
ex-congressman from the State of California, who, while in Congress, was
the mouthpiece of the worst anti-Chinese faction ever organized in
America. He was ultimately defeated, much to the delight of New England
and many other people in the East. Mr. Geary's chief complaint against
the Chinese was that they work too cheaply, are too industrious, and do
not eat as much as an American. He obtained his information from Consul
Bedloe, of Amoy. He says the average earnings of the Chinese adult
employed as mechanic or laborer (in China) is five dollars per month,
and states that this is ten per cent above the average wages prevailing
throughout China.

The wages paid, according to his report, per month, to blacksmiths are
$7.25; carpenters, $8.50; cabinet-makers, $9; glass-blowers, $9;
plasterers, $6.25; plumbers, $6.25; machinists, $6; while other classes
of skilled labor are paid from $7.25 to $9 per month, and common
laborers receive $4 per month. In European houses the average wages paid
to servants are from $5 to $6 a month, without board. Clothing costs per
year from 75 cents to $1.50. Out of these incomes large families are
maintained. He says: "The daily fare of an Amoy working man and its cost
are about as follows: 1ВЅ pounds of rice, 3 cents; 1 ounce of meat, 1
ounce of fish, 2 ounces of shell-fish, 1 cent; 1 pound of cabbage or
other vegetable, 1 cent; fuel, salt, and oil, 1 cent; total, 6 cents.

"Here," said Mr. Geary, "is a condition deserving of attention by all
friends of this country, and by all who believe in the protection of the
working classes. Is it fair to subject our laborer to a competitor who
can measure his wants by an expenditure of six cents a day, and who can
live on an income not exceeding five dollars a month? What will become
of the boasted civilization of our country if our toilers are compelled
to compete with this class of labor, with more competitors available
than twice the entire population of France, Germany, Austria, Belgium,
Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain?

"The Chinese laborer brings neither wife nor children, and his wants are
limited to the immediate necessities of the individual, while the
American is compelled to earn income sufficient to maintain the wife and
babies. There can be but one end to this. If this immigration is
permitted to continue, American labor must surely be reduced to the
level of the Chinese competitor - the American's wants measured by his
wants, the American's comforts be made no greater than the comforts of
the Chinaman, and the American laborer, not having been educated to
maintain himself according to this standard, must either meet his
Chinese competitor on his own level, or else take up his pack and leave
his native land. The entire trade of China, if we had it all, is not
worth such a sacrifice."

Mr. Geary forgets that when Chinamen go to America they adapt themselves
to prevailing conditions. Chinese cooks in the States to-day receive
from $30 to $50 per month and board; Chinese laborers from $20 to $30,
and some of them $2 per day. In China, where there is an enormous
population, prices are lower, people are not wasteful, and the
necessities of life do not cost so much. The Chinaman goes to America to
obtain the benefit of _high_ wages, not to _reduce_ wages. I have never
seen such poverty and wretchedness in China as I have seen in London,
or such vice and poverty as can be seen in any large American city. Mr.
Geary scorns the treaties between his country and China, and laughs at
our commercial relations. He says, "There is nothing in the Chinese
trade, or rather the loss of it, to alarm any American. We would be
better off without any part or portion of it."

In answer to this I would suggest that China take him at his word, and I
assure you that if every Chinaman could be recalled, if in six months or
less we could take the eighty or one hundred thousand Chinamen out of
the country, the region where they now live would be demoralized. The
Chinese control the vegetable-garden business on the Pacific Coast; they
virtually control the laundry business; and that the Americans want
them, and want cheaper labor than they are getting from the Irish and
Italians, is shown by the fact that they continue to patronize our
people, and that in various lines Chinamen have the monopoly. Even when
the "hoodlums" of San Francisco were fighting the Chinese, the American
women did not withdraw their patronage, and while the men were off
speaking on the sand-lots against employing our people their wives were
buying vegetables from them.

Why? Because their hypocritical husbands and brothers refused to pay
higher prices. America is suffering not for want of the cheapest labor,
but for a laborer like the Chinese, and until they have him industries
will languish. With American labor and American "union" prices it is
impossible for the American farmer or rancher to make money. The
vineyardist, the orange, lemon, olive, and other fruit raisers can not
compete with Europe. Labor is kept up to such a high rate that the
country is obliged to put on a high tariff to keep out foreign
competition, and in so doing they "cut off the nose to spite the face."
The common people are taxed by the rich. The salvation of industrial
America is a cheap, but not degraded, labor. America desires
house-servants at from $10 to $12 per month; this is all a mere servant
is worth. She wants good cooks at $12 or $15 per month. She wants
fruit-pickers at $10 to $12 per month and board. She wants vineyard men,
hop-pickers, cherry, peach, apricot and berry pickers, and people to
work in canneries at these prices. She wants gardeners, drivers,
railroad laborers at lower rates, and, to quote an American, "wants them

When in San Francisco I made a thorough investigation of the
"house-servant" question, and learned that our people as cooks in
private houses were receiving from $30 to $50 per month and board. A
friend tells me there is continued protest against this. Housekeepers on
the Pacific coast are complaining of the lack of "Chinese boys," and
want more to come over so that prices shall go down. The American wants
the Chinaman, but the American _foreign laborer_, the Irishman, the
Italian, the Mexican, and others who dominate American politics, do not
want him and will not have him. As a result of this bending to the alien
vote the Americans find themselves in a most serious and laughable
position in their relations to domestic labor.

I am not overstating the fact when I say that the "servant-girl"
question is going to be a political issue in the future. The man may
howl against the Chinese, but his wife will demand that "John" be
admitted to relieve a situation that is becoming unbearable. As the
Americans are all equal, there are no servants among them. The poor are
as good as the "boss," and won't be called servants. You read in the
papers, "A lady desires a position as cook in a small family, no
children; wages, $35." "A young lady wishes a position to take care of
children; salary, $30." "A saleslady wants position." "A lady (good
scrubber) will go out by the day; $2." When you meet these "ladies," in
nine cases out of ten they are Irish from the peasant class - untidy,
insolent, often dissipated in the sense of drink. When they apply for a
position they put the employer through a course of questions. Some want
references from the last girl, I am told. Some want one thing, some
another, and all must have time for pleasure. Few have the air of
servants or inferiors, but are often offensive in appearance and
manners. I have never been called "John" by the girls who came to the
door where I called to pay a visit, but I could see that they all wished
so to address me. In England, where classes are acknowledged and a
servant is hired as a servant, and is one, an entirely different state
of affairs holds. They are respectful, having been educated to be
servants, know that they are servants, and as a result are cared for and

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Online LibraryHenry Pearson GrattonAs a Chinaman saw us; passages from his letters to a friend at home → online text (page 10 of 12)