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their religion. It has withdrawn much of the
sweetness and light from their social life, and has
left literature and art as monotonous a wilderness
as their own prairies.


The first relation affected by the worship of
equality, and one which underlies every social
condition in the United States, is that of master
and servant. This, in its patriarchal or modern
English sense, can hardly be said to exist in
America. If, by law and in popular belief, one
man be the equal of another, it necessarily follows
that the position of the servant, or help, to the
citizen who pays him for certain specified service
is essentially different from that which he holds in
countries where tradition and prescription have
attached to menial service other conditions than
the bare performance of particular duties. The
first and the most important of these is the out-
ward observance of unvarying respect to the
master. This habit of deference, which would be
termed servile in America, has in it no necessary
element of servility. The relations between a
well-bred Englishman and his servants are cordial
and mutually respectful ; with them he is not
familiar, but neither is he arrogant or unreasonable.
The prescription of a thousand years has decided
that they move on different though parallel lines ;
they do not approach, but neither do they collide.
Here, the divisions between the different classes
are almost as complete as those which separate the
castes of India those immemorial barriers against


change which only those would remove who do
not understand that they insure the stability of our
Eastern Empire. When in England a successful
tradesman gives up business and buys an estate in
the country he breaks altogether from his former
moorings. He will not be received with open
arms by the county families, and if they do not
return his calls, his isolation is complete. But the
neglect of the exclusive caste does not affect the
behaviour of the menial class towards him ; and
his footmen are as obsequious and dignified as
those of his aristocratic neighbours. However
much Boston or Virginia may proclaim their high
descent pretensions which seem somewhat out of
place in a Republic or however contemptuously
the exclusive clubs of New York may regard the
enriched parvenu, there are no recognised castes in
America. Mr. Macgillicuddy, the ex-grocer, with
his house in Fifth Avenue and his wife and
daughters brilliant with diamonds, has changed
position but little from the time when he bullied
his shop boys in Broadway. Indeed his personal
interest in the shop continues ; for were he to be idle
he would find no one to keep him company, and
would probably die of ennui. And as there is no
caste of masters, so is there none of service. The
advantage of the feudal tradition which prevails in


England is, that domestic service being held in no
dishonour, and implying no loss of self-respect, it
has grown into a science to be perfectly acquired
by patience and study alone. The exclusiveness
and fastidiousness of a cultivated and wealthy
class have produced the perfection of domestic
service, performed with the least possible friction,
by persons as accomplished in their menial but
still honourable duties as the masters in their
several occupations. In America there is nothing
of this, and the absence of quiet and respectful
service is to an Englishman an ever-recurring
source of annoyance. No one can deny that the
American ideal is a noble one, and worthy a great
and free people. Every political dogma which
encourages the true man to rise above the evil
surroundings of his birth or his misfortunes, and
look his fellow, without fear or favour, in the face,
is worthy of respect, and the doctrine of equality
has distinctly raised the character of the mass of
the American people. The servility which is too
often the disgrace of Europe is unknown ; and,
among the many fine qualities of the Americans,
none are more honourably conspicuous than their
courage, frankness and independence.

So strongly do I feel this that I would not wish
my observations on some practical applications of


the doctrine of equality to be considered as hostile
criticism, but rather as passionless comment on
curious phases of national life. For to English
prejudice and prejudice it may be equality is
a bitter pill to swallow. I remember a family who
sold their possessions in England for a settlement
in the Western States. The soil was favourable,
the climate congenial, and they might have grown
to love their new home but for the one circum-
stance that they were compelled to take their
meals with the farm labourers. It was no feudal
survival, with the master above and the servants
below the salt ; all were socially equal, and their
helps would at once have left them had they been
relegated to the kitchen ; so, after a prolonged
struggle with these, to them, impossible sur-
roundings, they sold their farm and returned to
England, poorer if not wiser than they left it. In
the Northern States, the Irish and negroes almost
monopolise domestic service, but the first are un-
trained and the latter are only efficient within
narrow limits. So difficult and indeed impossible
is it to procure good servants that the whole style
of living has been affected by it. The houses are
strangely small ; and in a city as wealthy as New
York there are very few which in London would be
considered of the first rank. The spacious family


mansions, which in London are to be counted by
thousands in the western quarters, hardly exist in
New York. Fifth Avenue which, with a few off-
shoots, forms the fashionable quarter contains but
few houses above the average of those in a London
square. Country houses, in the English sense of
the word, with great establishments of servants of
every grade, are unknown. The New York million-
aire, whose wealth makes so imposing a show in
London or Paris, lives at home in what we should
consider a very modest fashion. He inhabits a
house of a dozen rooms, and is served by four or
five helps. His house is small because he cannot
procure good servants ; or his servants are few
as his house is not large enough for a great es-
tablishment. There should here be some room for
compensation. An English gentleman with an
income of ,100,000 a year will keep up a large
London house and two or three places in the
country, the expenditure on which swallows up
the greater portion of his income. Hence it is
that the English aristocracy are so little dis-
tinguished for acts of public beneficence ; and
landlords who amass millions from the ground
rents of London do nothing to beautify the
metropolis in which they should take a special
pride, and the dignity cf which they should


associate with their own. The great benefactions
to the public, colleges, parks, obelisks, and squares,
are the honourable gifts of merchants and manu-
facturers, of stock-jobbers and vendors of quack
medicines. The American millionaire, who by no
personal extravagance can spend his income, might
be expected to devote a considerable portion of it
to the public good. But this is the last thing of
which he thinks ; and it is only fair to remember
that riches make to themselves wings and fly
away with strange rapidity in America. The
money easily won is easily lost, as the history
of Monte Carlo may remind us ; and the pile of
many a Yankee millionaire has been made in
a manner quite as speculative and no more
honourable than the chances of the gaming-

The American town house which is too small
to accommodate an establishment of servants
is obviously too small for a governess, so the
daughters of the family, deprived of that careful
home training which is held to be essential in
England, are exposed to the roughness and the
independence of a day-school, often in company
with boys of the same age. The effect of this on
the young American, of either sex, is not attractive,
though if American parents approve the system,


with its freedom and development of individuality,
no one else has any right to complain. But I
believe that it is only approved, because, under
existing conditions, it is impossible to adopt any
other ; and the independence of their children,
which to outsiders seems to savour of disrespect,
is unnoticed by Americans, who have grown so
accustomed to it that it has ceased to wound.
American children are wonderfully bright and
clever, but their good manners are too often
conspicuous by their absence.

Equality, which makes it impossible to procure
service at home, induces a great part of the
community to reside in hotels, which form a far
more important feature in American than in
English life. The American hotel is to a well
ordered establishment of the same name in
Europe what a six franc table-d'hdte meal at a
Paris caravansary is to an artistically conceived
dinner at the Cafe" Anglais. Some are better,
some worse; the Fifth Avenue Hotel or the
Potter Palmer House at Chicago compare un-
favourably with Barnum's menagerie, while a very
few are distinctly good, such as the Windsor in
New York, which is probably the best in America,
with some of the old-world politeness, and one of
the only cooks hitherto discovered on the new


continent. The typical American hotel is as
splendid as colour and gilding can render it ; for
the law of republican simplicity has determined
that all public institutions, such as railway cars,
steamboats and hotels, shall be decorated in the
fashion which commends itself to the ornate taste
of the shoddy millionaire, rather than to the more
sober requirements of his poorer fellow-travellers.
The ground floor, entrance hall, drinking bar and
reading-rooms constitute the 'agora' or public
meeting-place of the entire adult male population-
Here at mid-day and at night they assemble to
discuss politics, the stock exchange and the last
murder ; to quarrel, and smoke, and spit, and
liquor up ; and the bewildered traveller passes with
difficulty through their noisy ranks to the counter
where the hotel clerk, like Rhadamanthus, sits
supreme above the babel, issuing decrees which
are without appeal. This young man has formed
the frequent target for American humour. He is
said to have been originally created to fill the
throne of an emperor or a dukedom, but there
being few of these vacant has condescended to
accept temporarily a position behind the hotel
register. But, like the Peri, he does not forget his
lost paradise, and his austerity, indifference to the
public, and ignorance of every matter which can


be referred to him is probably unsurpassed. He
is fortunately more insolent to his own countrymen
than to Englishmen who, not being accustomed to
salaried incivility, are more disposed to resent it.
Having secured his room, in which every colour
and every article of furniture will be an outrage on
good taste for the protective tariff compels hotel
managers to patronize native manufactures the
traveller finds himself an unregarded unit in the
crowd. Service in the proper sense does not
exist ; and he will find it difficult to get his boots
blacked unless he descend into the nether regions
and have them polished on his feet. The dining-
rooms, as the ground floor, are open to the public ;
as indeed are the drawing-rooms, called in Irish
fashion (which indeed is the origin of nine-tenths
of so called colloquial Americanisms) the parlours ;
but these last are deserted, so far as the male sex
are concerned. After dining, they retire to smoke
and drink, and the emancipated half of the world
is left to enjoy its freedom alone.

The difference between the English and the
American hotel is in the comparative privacy of
the former. There are now, in London, hotels,
built or building, as large as any in New York,
several with upwards of a thousand rooms, but
they are practically closed to the public. Each


visitor is as secure from outside intrusion as if in
his own house. The idea of making the hotel the
common lounge for the loafers of the street corner
and the drinking bars has fortunately not yet
commended itself to English managers.

The American traveller pays a fixed sum for
board and lodging, a system which has many
advantages. It is on the whole cheap, and the
traveller knows precisely what will be the amount
of his bill. But it demoralizes the national cuisine,
which is a department into which democratic ideas
should not be permitted to enter. The American
people being as accustomed to feed at public
tables as the Spartans, and the table d'hote being
accommodated to the simplest palate and the
shortest purse, the result has been that (putting
clubs and private houses apart) cookery is an
unknown art in America. There is abundance
indeed, but it is the Homeric abundance of
quartered oxen and sheep roasting whole on the
spit. Roast and boiled in endless variety ; fish,
flesh and fowl ; dishes so numerous as to satisfy
the appetite of a Cyclops, but hardly anything
fit to eat. The first thing brought by the waiter
at every meal is a glass of iced water, in itself
sufficient to spoil both dinner and digestion. The
victim is then persuaded to declare the ten or


twenty dishes, from the endless menu, of which
he will partake ; and he is fortunate if he can
prevent the waiter from bringing them all at once.
Ordinarily the diner is seen surrounded by the
numerous dishes of his choice, eating against time
to prevent the entries getting cold while he is
swallowing his soup. It is not the custom to
drink wine at dinner, and this alone is fatal to
the artistic conception of dining. The drinking
is done at the bar, after meals, standing ; in the
most unwholesome manner, and of the most un-
wholesome materials the hundred mixed liquors
which are known to fame as American drinks, and
which by themselves account for any amount of
dyspepsia and ill health. The coloured waiters
are far more polite and attentive than their white
comrades ; but in America, as in Europe, money
will do much ; though the traveller, if wise, will
distribute his largess on arrival instead of on
departure, and can thus ensure, if liberally in-
clined, as good attendance as he can desire. The
Americans do not ordinarily fee the servants ; but
without this precaution, the foreigner may starve
in the midst of plenty. There is one restaurant
in New York of world-wide reputation Del-
monico's at which the cuisine is only good by
comparison with the general monotony of bad


cooking, though it is asserted to be superior to any
establishment in London or Paris.

In travelling, the doctrine of equality has been
tempered by the enterprise of Mr. Pullman, whose
saloon and sleeping cars form, to all intents and
purposes, a separate and higher class, although
this idea is abhorrent to true Republicanism
However this may be, the rich and the poor
except on those less important lines which know
not Mr. Pullman, are as much separated in travel-
ling as in England. To compensate for this
deviation from Republican principle, the eman-
cipated negro attendant will endeavour to illustrate
and assert the law of equality by taking his seal
in the car, placing his dirty boots on the opposite
cushions, and generally acting as new-born freedom
suggests ; and, in New Mexico, I have sat at
dinner next to the engine-driver, who was a
most worthy and amusing citizen, and to whose
presence only hypercriticism would have objected,
had he condescended, before joining the ladies and
gentlemen, to remove the grease and soot from
his face and hands. The person who in America
impressed me as possessing power of the most
absolute kind, before whose authority that of the
President himself seemed to pale, was the railway
guard, or conductor. Even the hotel clerk is a less



imposing personage in the Republic. Travelling
many thousand miles through the States, I watched
the conductor under many conditions and on many
lines of railway ; but I do not remember to have
seen one who was ordinarily civil or who had the
faintest knowledge of any subject connected with
the line on which he was employed. Where or
when the train stopped ; where refreshments were
to be procured ; at what junction the traveller
should change carriages ; on all such subjects his
mind was a blank. The railway company which
employed him was a monopoly which systemati-
cally disregarded and despised the public by which
it prospered, and he too acknowledged no obliga-
tion of politeness or information. He did not
consider himself paid to be civil or to answer the
wild questions of unreasoning travellers who ought
to purchase enigmatical guide books and discover
for themselves the mysteries of the road.

Nothing is more striking than the patience with
which the free American citizen bears the insolence
of office ; the rudeness of ticket-collectors, the
unnecessary violence of the police, and the general
contempt of every petty employ <* of the govern-
ment or of private companies, who, one and all,
seem to consider the public they serve as a beast
of burden to be beaten or driven at their pleasure.


We are accustomed to this official aggressiveness
and petty insolence in France or Italy, but it seems
strangely out of place in an Anglo-Saxon Republic.
For this temper is altogether foreign to the people.
There is no more kindly and considerate person in
the world than the unofficial American. Hospi-
table, generous and warm-hearted, he will take
infinite trouble to assist a stranger, and if you ask
him to direct you in the public street, will probably
walk far out of his way to point out your destina-
tion. But politics have so demoralised office that
with its possession his whole temper seems changed.
The old wine of authority is too strong for Re-
publican bottles, and next to being an official
yourself, there is hardly a greater misfortune than
to have to conduct dealings with one.

One of the most curious social results of equality
is the supposed right which it gives to one portion
of the community to interfere with the private and
domestic concerns of another. Even the President
of the United States is not above such interference.
Mr. R. B. Hayes was a total abstainer, and nothing
stronger than lemonade was to be procured at the
White House during his occupancy. When Presi-
dent Arthur, a temperate and courteous gentleman,
succeeded to office, a committee of ladies is said to
have waited upon him and informed him that he

G 2


must drink only water ; but he courageously
informed them that he should regulate his dinner-
table without their assistance. Not long since, the
Free-Will Baptists of Minnesota passed a resolu-
tion warmly approving the noble and economical
spirit of Mr. Hayes in serving water to his guests,
and viewing "with growing alarm the use of intoxi-
cants by President Arthur." This concern for the
manners and morals of the highest officials, how-
ever impertinent, has not been altogether unjusti-
fied, for every citizen is a possible occupant of the
Presidential chair, and may carry there the habits
he has acquired during his earlier days of rail-
splitting or cattle-farming. I remember a former
President with whom sobriety was an exceptional,
and indeed a phenomenal, phase of existence ; and
a United States minister at a European Court
who was too uncertain of the direction in which
his legs would take him to receive the Royalties
who had honoured his evening party.

When Presidents can claim no immunity from
the shrill lectures of prohibitionist missionaries, it
is clear that the rank and file of simple citizens
cannot hope to drink in peace. Against this per-
secution the Germans have stoutly fought, and are
prepared for any sacrifice rather than lose their
national beer. Where they are most numerous the


prohibitionists have had least success ; but there
are wide districts in which no intoxicating beverage
is to be procured without a resort to humiliating
subterfuges. The .people no doubt drink a great
deal, and most crimes in America, as in England,
have their origin in intoxication. But there are
few drunken people to be seen ; and whether the
liquor trade be a blessing or a curse, it is not for a
Republic which professes to uphold individual
liberty to insist upon people abstaining against
their will. We have, however, no occasion to cross
the ocean to see fervent Liberals preaching a com-
pulsory temperance in opposition to the true spirit
of Liberalism.



IT was with much interest and some anxiety
that I went to Chickering Hall to hear Matthew
Arnold's first lecture in New York, for he had
freely condemned the Americans in former days as
a race of Philistines, and they have long memories.
We English are accustomed to Mr. Arnold when,
like Balaam, he starts on a mission of cursing.
Whether we drink champagne, or sand the sugar,
or beat our wives, we know that there is no escape
from condemnation. Unless we can take refuge
with the few elect in his private ark, we belong to
an upper class materialised, a middle class vul-
garised, or a lower class brutalised. But the Ame-
ricans were not used to this drastic treatment, and
had shown some temper when told that, even if
they had fewer barbarians and less mob, they were
an unredeemed and irredeemable vulgar middle


class. Chickering Hall, however, displayed no
signs of hostility. On the contrary, when Mr.
Parke Godwin had ended a laboured and perfervid
introduction, the great English critic was received
by a crowded house with every sign of sympathy
and respect. There was not a vacant chair, and
the audience was evidently largely composed of
the most educated and cultured classes, and in-
cluded many ladies. But the lecture, as such,
was a complete failure. Matthew Arnold says he
dislikes public speaking, and certainly his voice is
or was unequal to the demands of a well- filled
hall. Reading his lecture with the manuscript
close to his eyes, placing a strong accent on the
penultimate or ante-penultimate syllable, and
dropping the last altogether, allowing the voice to
so sink at the close of a sentence that the last
words were inaudible, without gesture or expres-
sion, Mr. Matthew Arnold combines in himself all
the possible faults of a public lecturer. Sitting
ten rows in front of the reader, I found it impos-
sible to hear the whole of any sentence or to follow
the argument of the address. Occasionally, a
quotation more or less familiar could be picked
from the general monotone as Dr. Johnson's
declaration that " Patriotism is the last refuge of
a scoundrel," or Plato's description of Athenian


society : " There is but a very small remnant of
honest followers of wisdom, and they who are of
these few and have tasted how sweet a possession
is wisdom, and who can fully see the madness of
the multitude, what are they to do ? "

But these were mere oases of sound in a desert
of inaudibility; and of the fifteen hundred persons
present, perhaps a hundred understood the lecture,
to some four hundred an occasional sentence was
vouchsafed, while a thousand heard nothing. An
American audience is wonderfully patient and
generous ; and although at first from several parts
of the hall came unavailing cries of " Louder,"
" Can't hear you," yet, when it was thoroughly
realised that remonstrance and entreaty were in
vain, the audience resigned themselves to the
enjoyment of their Barmecide feast in a manner
both amusing and pathetic. The lecture, if audible,
would hardly have satisfied an American audience.
Its purport seemed to be that majorities were
always vicious and wrong; and that the only
advantage to America in her great and increasing
population was that, in so vast a multitude of fools
and knaves, there must be a considerable "remnant"
who, if fortune were favourable, which the lecturer
did not anticipate, might redeem and transform the
corrupt mass. Mr. Matthew Arnold is very likely


right, but With these sentiments America has no
sympathy. It holds that he wastes his rare powers
in futile criticism of the Philistines, who are the
practical men of the world and who do its real

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Online LibraryLepel Henry GriffinThe great republic → online text (page 5 of 11)