Henry Pearson Gratton.

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

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instances. If all the teachers were obliged to pass examinations in
culture, refinement, and the art of _conveying_ knowledge, there would
be a falling of pedagogic heads. The free and over education of the poor
places them at once above their parents. They are free, and the daughter
of a ditch laborer, whose wife is a floor scrubber, upon being educated
is ashamed of her parents, learns to play the piano, apes the rich, and
is at least unhappy.

The result is, there remains no peasant class. The effect of education
on the country boy is to make him despise the farm and go to the city,
to become a clerk and ape the fashions of the wealthy at six or eight
dollars a week. He has been educated up to the standard of his "boss"
and to be his equal. The overeducation of the poor is a heartless thing.
The women vie with the men, and as a result women graduates, taking
positions at half the price that men demand, crowd them out of the
fields of skilled labor, whereas the man, not crowded out, should,
normally, marry the girl. In power, strength, and progress the American
nation stands first in the world, and all this may be due to splendid
educational facilities. But this is not everything. There result strife,
unhappiness, envy, and a craze for riches. I do not think the Americans
as a race are as happy as the Chinese. Religious denominations try to
have their own schools, so that children shall not be captured by other
denominations. Thus the Roman Catholics have parochial schools, under
priests and sisters, and colleges of various grades. They oppose the use
of the Bible in the public school, and in some States their influence
has helped to suppress its use. The Quakers, with a following of only
eighty thousand, have colleges and schools. The Methodists have
universities, as have the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and others. All
denominations have institutions of learning. These schools are in the
hands of clergymen, and are often endowed or supported by wealthy
members of the denomination.

A remarkable feature of American life is the college of correspondence.
A man or firm advertises to teach by correspondence at so much a month.
Many branches are taught, and if the student is in earnest a certain
amount of information can thus be accumulated. Among the people I have
met I have observed a lack of what I term full, broad education,
producing a well-rounded mind, which is rare except among the class
that stands first in America - the refined, cultured, educated man of an
old family, who is the product of many generations. The curriculum of
the high school in America would in China seem sufficient to equip a
student for any position in diplomatic life; but I have found that a
majority of graduates become clerks in a grocery or in other shops, car
conductors, or commercial travelers, where Latin, Greek, and other
higher studies are absolutely useless. The brightest educational sign I
see in America is the attention given to manual training. In schools
boys are taught some trade or are allowed to experiment in the trades in
order to find out their natural bent, so that the boy can be educated
with his future in view. As a result of education, women appear in
nearly every field except that of manual labor on farms, which is
performed in America only by alien women.

The richest men in America to-day, the multi-millionaires, are not the
product of the universities, but mainly of the public schools. Carnegie,
Rockefeller, Schwab, men of the great steel combine, the oil magnates,
the great railway magnates, the great mine owners, were all men of
limited education at the beginning. Among great merchants, however, the
university man is found, and among the Harvard and Yale graduates, for
example, may be found some of America's most distinguished men. But
Lincoln, the martyred President, had the most limited education, and
among public men the majority have been the product of the public
school, which suggests that great men are natural geniuses, who will
attain prominence despite the lack of education. The best-educated men
in America to my mind are the graduates of West Point and Annapolis, the
military and naval academies. These two institutions are extremely
rigorous, and are open to the most humble citizens. They so transform
men in four years that people would hardly recognize them. The result is
a highly educated, refined, cultivated, practical man, with a high sense
of honor and patriotism. If America would have a school of this kind in
every State there would be no limit to her power in two decades.

Despite education, the great mass of the people are superficial; they
have a smattering of this and that. An employer of several thousand men
told the Superintendent of Education of the District of Columbia that he
had selected the brightest boy graduate of a high school for a position
which required only a knowledge of simple arithmetic. The graduate
proved to be totally unfit for the position and was discharged. Later he
became the driver of a team of horses. America abounds in thousands of
educational institutions, yet there is not one so well endowed that it
can say to the world we wish no more money. It is singular that some
multi-millionaire does not grasp this opportunity to donate one hundred
millions to a great national school or university, to be placed at
Washington, where the buildings would all be lessons in architecture of
marble after the plans of a world's fair. Instead they leave a few
thousands here and a few there. Carnegie, the leading millionaire, gives
libraries to cities all over the States, each of which bears the name of
the giver. The object is too obvious, and is cheap in conception. In San
Francisco some years ago a citizen tried the same experiment. He
proposed to give the city a large number of fountains. When they were
finished _each_ one was seen to be surmounted by his own statue. A few
were put up, how many I do not recall, but one night some citizens
waited on a statue, fastened a rope to its neck, and hauled it down. So
peculiar are the Americans that I believe if Mr. Carnegie should place
his name on ten thousand libraries, with the object of attaining undying
fame, the people, by a concerted effort, would forget all about him in a
few decades. Such an attempt does not appeal to any side of the American
character. I have known the best Americans, but Mr. Carnegie has not
known the best of his own countrymen or he would not attempt to
perpetuate his memory in this way.



Among the most delightful people I have met in America are the army and
navy officers, graduates of West Point and Annapolis, well-bred,
cultivated men, patriotic, open-hearted, and chivalrous. They are like
our own class of men who answer to the American term of gentlemen. I am
not going to tell you of their splendid ships, their training or
uniform, but of a few of their idiosyncrasies. There is no dueling in
the army. If two men have trouble at the academies they fight it out
with bare fists, and in the army settle it in some other way, dueling
being forbidden. Owing to the fact that all men are equal in America,
the attitude of the officer to the civilian is entirely different. If a
civilian strikes an officer in Germany the latter will cut him down with
his saber and be protected in it, but here the man would be arrested and
treated as any other criminal; in a word, the officer is a servant of
the people, and stands with them. He has been trained to treat his men
well, and they respect him. But while the officer is the people's
servant and his salary in some part is paid by the humblest grocer's
clerk, laborer, or artisan, the officer has a social position which, in
the eyes of himself and the Government, makes him the social equal of
kings and emperors; and here we see a strange fact in American life.

When a garrison is ordered to a town or city, people call to pay their
respects. The grocer, who in being taxed aids in paying the officer's
salary, is _persona non grata_. The grocer, milk dealer, shoe dealer,
and retail dealers in general might call, but would not be received on
cordial terms. The wife of the colonel might return the call of the
grocer's wife if she made a good appearance, but the latter would under
no circumstances be invited to a function at the camp or post. The
undertaker, the dentist, the ice-man, the retail shoe man are under the
ban. Certain kinds of business appear to have certain social rights.
Thus a dentist would not be received, but the man who manufactures
dentists' tools may be a leader among the "Four Hundred."

Strange complications arise. A young officer fell in love with a
sergeant's daughter, and married her, as I learned from a well-known
officer at the Army and Navy Club. This was serious enough, as there
could be no intimacy between a commissioned and non-commissioned
officer. The young man and his bride were ordered to a distant post,
where the story of course followed them. All went well for a time. The
bride sank her social inferiority in the rank of her husband, and the
ladies of the post called on her, not as the sergeant's daughter but as
the officer's wife. The mother of the bride finally decided to visit
her, and thus became the guest of the officer, who was a lieutenant.
Under ordinary circumstances it was the duty of all the ladies to call
on the mother of the lieutenant's wife; but it so happened that she was
the wife of a sergeant, and hence to call was impossible. No one did so.

The young wife felt herself insulted, and the ubiquitous reporter seized
upon the situation, until it was taken up by every paper in the country.
The pictures of mother, daughter, and sergeant were shown, and columns
were written on the subject. Almost to a man the editors denounced what
they termed the snobbishness of the army, and denounced West Point for
producing snobs, claiming that the ladies of the post, had they been
real ladies, would have called on a respectable laundress even if she
had been the sergeant's wife. I refer to this to show the intricacies of
American etiquette. The point is that nearly all the editors who knew
anything, believed that the ladies were right, but did not dare to say
so on account of the fact that the majority of their readers felt
themselves the equals of the army officer; hence the cry of snobbery
that went whistling over the land. The lieutenant committed a gross
mistake in marrying the girl; he married out of his class. But in
America I am told there are no classes, and I am constantly forgetting

In the army there are several black regiments (negroes). They have
black chaplains, and attempts have been made to find black officers,
but the social difficulties make this impossible, though the blacks are
free and independent citizens and help pay the salaries of the white
men. It would be impossible to force white soldiers to admit to their
regiment black soldiers. No white man would permit a black officer to be
placed over him, even by inference.

In the navy we see an entirely different situation. On every ship are
negroes in the crew, sleeping on the same gun-decks with the white men,
and no fault is found; but a negro officer would be an impossibility.
Though several have been sent to the Naval Academy, none have "gone
through." Even in these almost perfect institutions favoritism exists.
To illustrate: the son of a prominent man was about to fail in his
examinations, when the powers that be passed the word that he must
pass, _nolens volens_. The professor in whose class he was and who had
found him deficient resented this, and when he learned that it was the
intention to pass the boy over his head he resigned and was ordered to
his regiment. The young man was graduated, entered the army and, aided
by influence, jumped many of his class men and finally acquired rank at
the request of the wife of one of the Presidents. This was a very
exceptional case, the result of strong national sentiment that favored
the father.

The management of the army does not seem rational to a foreigner. To
preserve the idea of republican simplicity and equality, army men are
not rewarded with orders, as in other countries, which is a great
injustice. Few officers, though veterans of many wars, wear medals, and
when they do they were not given as rewards for bravery, but are merely
corps badges, showing that the officer belongs to this or that army
corps. But if an officer does a brave deed he may be promoted several
points over his fellows, as brave as he, but who did not have the same
opportunity to show bravery. Ill feeling may be the result. Every man is
expected to be brave, and extraordinary examples of bravery are
recognized in other nations by the presentation of medals, the
possession of which creates no ill feeling. The actual head of the army
is the Secretary of War, a political appointment, an adviser selected by
the President, who, usually, has no military knowledge. This officer
gives all the orders to the general of the army, and, as in a recent
instance, a vast amount of friction has been the result. Intense feeling
was occasioned by the elevation of certain officers, who were supposed
to possess remarkable executive ability.

Civil war veterans at the Army and Navy Club complained to an
acquaintance of mine that when they arrived at the seat of war in Cuba
they found their superior officers to be, first, General Wheeler, an
ex-Confederate, against whom they had fought in the civil war; second,
Colonel Wood, who had been a contract army surgeon under nearly all of
them; and finally, Lieutenant-Colonel Roosevelt, who was a babe in arms
when they were fighting the battles of the civil war. This story serves
to illustrate the point that political "pulls" and favoritism are
rampant in the service, and are the cause of much disgust among
officers. General Funston affords an illustration that has incensed many
officers. Funston was an unknown man, who captured Aguinaldo by a clever
ruse, a valuable and courageous piece of work, which should have been
rewarded with a decoration and _some_ promotion; but he was jumped over
the heads of hundreds, landing at the top of the army in one "fell
swoop." I judge the policy of the Government to be to promote officers
so soon as they show evidence of extraordinary capability.

It would be an easy matter for any one to obtain photographs of plans
and sketches of American fortifications. One of my friends hired a
photographer to get up what he called a scrap-book of pictures to take
home to his family in Tokio in order to "entertain his people." The
photographer sent him a wonderful series, showing the forts overlooking
New York harbor, interiors and exteriors; and those in Boston, Portland,
Baltimore, Fort Monroe, Key West, and San Francisco were also obtained.
Photographs of guns and charts, which can be purchased everywhere, were
included, as well as Government reports. If Japan ever goes to war with
the Yankees my friend's scrap-book will be in demand. I do not believe
the American War Department makes any secret of the forts. They are open
to the public. Even if a kodak were not permitted, pictures could be
secured. My friend said his photographer had a kodak which he wore
inside his vest, the opening protruding from a button-hole. All he had
to do was to stand in front of an object and pull a cord. Such a kodak
is known as a "detective camera." There are several designs, all very
clever. I once saw my face reproduced in a paper, and until I heard
about this camera it was a mystery how the original was obtained, as I
had not "posed" for any one.

The possibility of America going to war with another nation is remote.
From what I see of the people and their tremendous activity they could
not be defeated by any nation or combination of nations. They are like
Senator - - 's Malay game-cock, of which the senator has said that there
is only one trouble with him - the bird never knows when he is licked,
and if he does he does not stay licked. America could raise an army of
ten or twelve millions of the finest fighters in the world for defense
against any combination, and she would win. The senator told me a story,
which illustrates the situation. One of the American men-of-war in a
Malay port had an old American eagle aboard as a mascot and pet. When
the men got liberty they went ashore with the eagle, and showed it as an
"American game-cock." The natives wanted to arrange a match, and finally
one was planned, the eagle cock against a black Malay. When the fight
began, the black cock put its spur into the eagle several times, the
latter doing nothing but eye the cock, first with one eye, and then with
the other. Once more the black cock stabbed the eagle, bringing blood,
whereupon the eagle leaned forward, and as the cock thrust out its head,
seized it with one claw, pressed it to the ground, and with the other
tore off its head and began to eat it. This is what would happen if
almost any nation really and seriously went to war with the United
States. But the country was ill prepared for the war with Spain. If
Cervera had reached the New England coast he could have shelled Boston
and then New York.

Service in America is not compulsory. It is merely made popular, and as
a result, every part of the country has State militia of splendidly
drilled men, ready to be called on at a moment's notice. They receive no
pay, considering it an honor to be in the militia service. In the
regular army old names are perpetuated. The great generals and admirals
have sent sons into the service. Our Government would do well to send
young men to West Point and Annapolis. The Japanese did this for years,
and received the best of their ideas from those sources. There is but
one thing in the way. Chinamen are _tabooed_ in America, and doubtless
would reach no farther than the port of entry. The only way to get in
now would be for a new minister or diplomat to bring over ten or a dozen
young men as members of the suite and then distribute them among the
schools and universities - a humiliation that China will probably resent.

Our trade with America is extremely valuable to her. The cotton, flour,
and other commodities we import represent a vast sum, and I believe if
we refused at once to buy anything from America we could make our own
terms in less than two years. This could be accomplished very gradually.
The Americans would find it out first through their consuls, who are all
instructed to report on every possible point of vantage that can be
taken in China by their merchants. They would report a decreased demand.
American merchants would then demand an explanation from the Department
of State, and finally we could announce that we preferred to buy from
our friends, American treatment of the Chinese being inimical to good
feeling. Knowing the American business men as I do, you could count on a
wail coming up from them. An appeal would be made to Congress through
representatives and senators, the American business men demanding that
the "Chinese matter" be arranged upon a "more liberal basis." When you
touch the pocketbook of "Uncle Sam" you reach his earthquake center; yet
for defense, for the preservation of the national honor, this people
will spend untold sums. The American Government bond is the best
security in the world. It is founded on the rock of honor and
patriotism. And there is no repudiation like that of - - , and none like
the pretended one of - - .[12] We have our faults, and it is well to
recognize them; but I never saw them until I mingled with the English
and Americans.

There is of course a large foreign element in the American
army - thousands of Irish and Germans; but this does not signify, as I
learn that in the State of Massachusetts, the stronghold of Americans,
the Irish hold a third of the official positions, the native-born
Yankees about one-fourth. This is particularly exasperating to old
families in New England, as it is notorious that the Irish come directly
from the very dregs of the poverty-stricken peasantry - the
"bog-trotters." I was much impressed by the high standard of honor in
the army and navy, and am told that it is the rarest of occurrences for
a regular army officer to commit a crime or to default. This is due to
the training received at the military and naval schools, where young men
are placed on their honor.


[12] China has twice repudiated its Government bonds within four



It is seldom that I have been complimented in America, but a lady has
told me that she envied our "art sense." She said the Chinese are
essentially artistic, that the cheapest thing, the most ordinary
article, is artistic or beautiful. I wished that I could return the
compliment, but a strict observance of the truth compels me to say that
the reverse is true in America. If one go into a Chinese shop and ask
for any ordinary article, it will be found artistic. If one go into an
American shop, say a hardware "store," there will not be found an
article that would be considered decorative, while everything in a
Chinese shop of like character would fall under this head. The
conclusion is that the Chinese are artistic, while the Americans are

The reason lies in the fact that the Chinese are homogeneous, while the
Americans are a mixed race, that is injured by the continual
introduction of baser elements. If immigration could be stopped for
fifty years, and the people have a chance to acquire "oneness," they
might become artistic. The middle class, however, is, from an artistic
standpoint, a horror; they have absolutely no art sense, and the
_nouveaux riches_ are often as bad. The latter sometimes place their
money in the hands of an agent, who buys for them; but all at once a man
may break out and insist upon buying something himself, so that in a
splendid collection of European names will appear some artistic horror
to stamp the owner as a parvenu.

The Americans have not produced a great painter. By this I mean a
really great artist, nor have they a great sculptor, one who is or has
been an inspiration. But they have thousands of artists, and many poor
ones thrive in selling their wares. You may see a man with an income of
thirty thousand dollars having paintings on his walls that give one the
vertigo. The poor artist has taken him in, or "pulled his leg," to use
the latest American slang. There are some fine paintings in America. I
have visited the great collections in Boston, New York, Philadelphia,
Washington, Chicago, and those in many private galleries, but the best
of the pictures are always from England, France, Germany, and other
European countries. Old masters are particularly revered. Americans pay
enormous sums for them, but sometimes are deceived.

They have art schools by the hundred, where they study from the nude
and from models of all kinds. There are splendid museums of art,
especially in Boston and New York. The art interests are particularly
active, but not the people; there are a few art lovers only, the people
in the mass being hopeless. Cheap prints, chromos, and other deadly
things are ground out by the million and sold, to clog still deeper the
art sense of an inartistic people. They laugh at our conventional
Chinese art, but the extreme of conventionality is certainly better than
some of the daubs I have seen in American homes. Americans have peculiar
fancies in art. One is called Impressionist Art. As near as I can
understand it, painters claim that while you are looking at an object
you do not really see it all, you merely gain an impression; so they
paint only the impression. In a museum of art I was shown several rooms
full of daubs, having absolutely nothing to commend them, weird colors
being thrown together in the strangest manner, without rhyme or reason,
but over which people went mad. The great masters of Europe appeal to me
strongly. In America, marine painters attract me the most, for example,
Edward Moran, who is a splendid delineator of the sea. Bierstadt is a
noble painter, and so is Thomas Moran. There are half a hundred men who
are fine painters, but half a thousand men and women who think they are
artistic but who are not.

Americans have developed no individual architecture. You see
semipagoda-like effects in the East, and old English houses in the
South. They steal the latter and call them Colonial. They steal the
architecture of the Moors and call it Mexican. They borrow Roman and
Grecian effects for great public buildings. At one time they went mad

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Online LibraryHenry Pearson GrattonAs a Chinaman saw us; passages from his letters to a friend at home → online text (page 8 of 12)