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NEW YORK v -.- -.- ... 1897





// may seem strange to the readers of some of
these pages that I dedicate this little book to you,
an American the loveliest, the truest, the most
competent of women, worthy to wear a coronet in
any country, needing none in your own. I lay
my prejudices as a Frenchman at your feet. Were
all your countrywomen like you, there could be no
happier land than this.

A o

America and the Americans

say, a succeeding friendship with both the

above-mentioned Secretary and his wife led

us to the discovery that a certain distant

American relative of Lafayette, who accompanied him

relatives* , . ,

on his second voyage to the New World,
saw and was conquered by a beautiful Amer
ican whom he met at Newport, and after
ward married. Hence it turned out that
the beautiful Madam R. is in sooth a rela
tive very distant of our family.

This accounts for my sister s anxiety to
hear more in detail of my impressions, first
of Madam R. (alas ! for the vanity of
women), and then of America and the

As I had affairs of importance to attend
to in England, I went first to England and
sailed from Liverpool to New York on one
of Her Majesty s White Star line of steam
ers, But one travels, I should think, under
English auspices only when one cannot
travel protected by a French chef, and
made comfortable by French attendance.
I am no Anglophobist, but the English
cannot make coffee, so that a Frenchman
has no breakfast ; they cannot dress salad,

Liverpool to New York

h?nce no luncheon ; they cannot make
soup, hence an ill-regulated dinner. As
one lives but to eat at sea, this is a serious
defect ; and though Crecy, Agincourt, and
Waterloo are suggestive arguments in fa
vor of English meat and drink, even to a

.... / - IT gastrono-

Frenchman, still they have failed to con- my.
vince me in favor of a breakfast for a glad
iator, a luncheon for a bull-dog, and dinner
for a digestive apparatus run by electricity.
It was a disappointment to me on look
ing over the passenger-list to find that
most of my fellow-travellers were not Amer
icans, but Germans, or so, at least, such
names as Arnheim, Bethel, Blumberger,
Salzberg, and others led me to suppose.
But I was soon to discover my mistake. In
spite of the fact that even I spoke better
English than most of the other frequenters
of the smoking-room, I was told by a young
gentleman from Boston that all these people
with the strange German names were Amer
icans. He told me also to take a tram-car
ride down Broadway, on my arrival in
New York, to see for myself to what a dol
orous extent that great city had become


America and the Americans

Semiticized. These loud - talking, pool-
selling, pool-buying, story-telling denizens
of the smoking-room, who spoke broken
English, were, as he had affirmed, Ameri

One of the large retail shops in New York,
the shop which, without equal courtesy and
business-like methods, attempts to do for
New York what the Bon Marche does for
Paris, and Whiteley s for London, is in the
hands of the Jews. These people are, said
my young friend, the banker, from Boston,
the Chinese of our retail trade. And surely
one has only to read the signs from one end
of Broadway to the other to be made ac
quainted with the fact that the Mosaic de
spoiling of the Egyptians goes on with re
newed vigor in New York to-day.

The famous New York cafe, The Del-
monicos, is a veritable synagogue at the
dinner-hour, for these mongrel Americans
are not pcrsonce grates at the clubs, and
are driven to congregate in restaurants.
One of the avenues running parallel to the
Fifth Avenue is almost given over to them
as a place of residence, and I was told that

Liverpool to New York

it is a favorite amusement of certain idle
young gentlemen to ride in the horse-cars on
this particular avenue, and to make bets as
to the percentage of their fellow-passengers
who between any two given streets will have
straight noses. One of the best-known
monthly magazines is in their hands ; the
minor and least attractive legal business of
the city is theirs to such an extent that rep
utable practitioners have more than once
threatened to take proceedings against their
disreputable methods, and the newspaper of
the largest circulation, and of the most
unsavory reputation, in New York, is also
owned by a Jew. /They are so numerous,
and control so much money and so many
votes, and fight for one another so unscru-
pulously, that no one criticises or attacks
them openly, though on all hands one hears
sneers, innuendoes, and dislike expressed.
My only opportunity for judging of their
good or bad qualities was what I saw and
heard in the smoking-room during the voy
age. For one meets them socially nowhere
at the clubs, in society, or elsewhere.
Of the score or more whom I could study

America and the Americans


" Ich weiss
nicht was
soil es be-
deuten ! "

at leisure on the steamer, whether they
were typical or not, I do not know. They
were theatrically American, however ; much
given to a constant display of cheap pa
triotism, which led one to surmise that they
were themselves a little self-conscious about
it, and, like all pretence, theirs revealed
itself in awkwardness and exaggeration.
I was told later by an ex -politician that
the cheap retail business, whether com
mercial, theatrical, legal, or journalistic,
was largely in the hands of these people.
On one occasion they attempted, in the
name of the Germans of New York, to foist
a statue and it was said a poor one of
Heine upon their good - humored step
brothers, the native Americans, but this
was too severe a test of their influence, and
the statue was declined. As a foreigner it
struck me as being supremely ridiculous
that the statue of a foreigner, however
eminent, which had been refused by three
cities of his native land, should even be
suggested as appropriate in America. But
as we shall see or, rather, as I shall say
all through these pages, the good -humor of

Liverpool to New York

the Americans is their greatest virtue, and
their most appalling vice.

If these people were not fair types of the
American, there was a young lady on board An
the steamer who was, I was informed, typi
cal of a large class of boarding-house, sum
mer-hotel Americans. She was of that V
wiry, thin, convex-back and concave-chest
development that one sees frequently in
the country towns of America. She had
bright eyes, a tireless tongue, and a frank
independence of manner, which would have
been suspicious in a Frenchwoman, awk
ward in an Englishwoman, and impossible
in a German Backfisch, though in her own
case it was apparently natural enough. In
twenty-four hours she knew every unat
tached man on board the ship, and had
walked and chatted with most of them, in
cluding myself. She was protected or
abetted in her promiscuous independence
by her father, who saw her only at meal-
hours in calm weather, when he was able
to be about. She lounged about in steamer-
chairs with this one and that, and was often
on deck alone with one man or another when

America and the Americans

A morose
view of he*

of this rbl<

all the other female passengers had retired.
She was only about twenty years of age,
but her innocence, or her experience, or
her temperament, seemed a sufficient safe
guard for her. To me she was merely a cu
riosity, but my friend from Boston sniffed
at her from afar, remarking that she rep
resented one of the pests of American civ
ilization, one of those divorce-breeding, and
divorce-excusing, women who are bad with
out vice, and good by the grace of God> x
Later, during a tour of the American
summer-resorts with an American friend,
the son of one of New York s ex-mayors, I
saw numbers of this class of young women.
It is not surprising that neither Frenchmen
nor Englishmen understand them, for in
France only a woman who is less innocent,
and in England only a woman who is more
innocent, could play this role. But here
such an one is, strange to say, neither
cocotte nor coquette. She aims neither at
your pocket nor at your heart. She per
mits every liberty, but no license, and owes
her existence to the reckless carelessness
and good-humor of the American parent,

Liverpool to New York

and to a certain climatic influence which
makes for sexlessness. For it is, indeed, true Tempera-
that, with the exception of the Southern
States, there is a steady falling off in the
birth-rate among those who are of Ameri
can parentage on both sides, for two or
more generations back; so I was told, at
least, by the polite and intelligent gentle
man who is at the head of the Department
of Statistics.

This curious phase of the native Ameri
can s physical temperament, and, coupled
with it, a certain strained religious senti
ment, make possible these promiscuous im
proprieties, which here result harmlessly,
but which in any other country would cer
tainly entail social disasters.

Nowhere have I seen or heard this point ^/
discussed namely, the influence of the
climate upon the procreative powers. It
may well be that this terrible climate, with
its ninety-eight, ninety-nine, and one hun
dred degrees in the shade in summer;
and in some parts as much as forty, and
even more, below the zero point in winter,
may have an unlooked-for effect upon the

America and the Americans

increase of population. When the tremen-
chanxes in dons immigration of foreigners lessens, and
character- the population, as a whole, has spent half a
century in this nervous atmosphere, there
may be, to the amazement of the statisti
cians, a sudden cessation of the present
enormous yearly increase of population.

In the South, where the factor of im
migration plays a less prominent part, al
ready the negroes are increasing at a ratio
of more than two to one faster than the
whites. New York is no longer Dutch,
though only one hundred years ago half
the signs in William Street were in Dutch,
and up to 1764 no sermon in English had
been preached in any of the three Dutch

Delaware is no longer Scandinavian and
Norwegian ; New England is no longer
Old England, or New England, but French-
Canadian and Irish, and not long ago Bos
ton itself had an Irish Catholic as its
mayor. Whether this is the result of the
enormous immigration the increase in
population during the ten years, 1880-90,
was 12,466,467 or owing, in part at least,


Liverpool to New York

to the growing sterility of the native-born
Americans, is a matter that concerns ethni
cal students, and which gains nothing from
its discussion by a mere curious traveller
like me.

Our scientific historian, Taine, would
attribute the taciturnity and moodiness of
the men also to the climate. In two cen- Effects of
turies the Puritans, the Cavaliers, the Hu- *
guenots, and the Dutch, have grown quite
away from the temperament of the parent
stocks. The American is voluble enough,
on occasion, as is the American Indian,
but the salient traits of the Americans to
day are their changeful moods. All hope
one day, all discouragement the next. Taci
turn and frowning, and then talkative and
nervously jolly. Some of the men who
have lived for a long time in the West are
already very like the Indians in disposi
tion ; and even in the East a serene equa
bleness of disposition is far more- rare than
among the men of Europe. Climate, en
vironment, call it what you will, I merely
note the fact, leaving it to the more studi
ous to explain.



First Impressions of New York

depends upon
one s p oint O f view> To j u dge

New York its politics, its
social life, the manners and
cultivation of its people from the level of
The point Paris or London or Amsterdam or Rome,
is to come to one s task with the eyes out
of focus.

One hundred years ago the population
of Philadelphia was 32,205, the population
of Boston was 14,640, and New York was
a small Dutch town at the mouth of the
Hudson with a population of 24,500.
Scarcely a street was paved ; street-lamps
were sometimes lighted and sometimes not ;
at the hour when fashionable dinners begin
now, all festivities and gayeties were over
then, and the cry of the watchman, " Nine
o clock and all s well," was heard ; John
Jacob Astor, whose descendants now give

First Impressions of New York

you dinners of the most luxurious descrip
tion, had just landed in New York with his
stock of violins ; theatres were tabooed as
immoral ; there was no national coinage,
and even so late as fifty years ago the small
money consisted mainly of foreign coins ;
there were no public libraries and no reading-
rooms ; there was less mail-matter distrib- A century s
uted then in a year by all the thirteen States
than is now distributed in one day from the
New York Post-office ; a man who had been
to Europe was pointed out in the streets as
a celebrity ; the total population of the na
tion then, it is estimated, was about two and
a half millions, now it is seventy millions ;
the annual cost of carrying on the whole
government was then 27,500,000 francs;
in 1895 the disbursements for pensions
alone were 704,796,805 francs, paid to
almost a million different persons.

These and many more facts of like im
port should be in possession of the traveller incomplete-
when he begins his sight-seeing in New "plained.
York. Then the newness of it all; the
vulgarity of much that one sees; the lack
of repose ; the thousand and one details


America and the Americans

left unattended to; the sudden fluctuations
in the social and financial world ; the lack
of courtesy among all the servants, public
and private, and the lack of good manners
among many of the masters ; the entire
disregard of personal liberty and of indi
vidual rights ; the strenuous efforts on all
hands and by everybody de vouloir tout
regler, excepte eux-memes, which may be
said to be a national characteristic these
features of this civilization, and much else
besides, are judged differently if you bear
in mind their own past, and do not at
tempt to measure them by the thousand
years of Paris or London, Venice or Rome.
For the first glimpses of the city, as you
New York sail into its glorious harbor, no excuses
are needed. Some of the buildings are so
high that they look like attempts of Jack,
of the bean-stalk fame, to build a step-
ladder to Heaven. The hard glaring light
of the sun brings out sharply the outlines
of the hundreds of colossal buildings stand
ing where one hundred years ago the first
Roosevelt had his tanneries, and the Lis-
penard meadows were a favorite resort of


First Impressions of New York

sportsmen, and land was sold by the acre
which is now leased by the square foot. It
affronts the imagination. Nowhere else in
the world has the giant of material progress
worn such huge seven-league boots. This
is impossible in the life of little more than
one generation of men, you say, as you
stand on the deck of your steamer, but in
another half hour you are disillusioned.

You land on a rough wooden wharf;
you are tumbled about and tumbled over
by men who speak in the brogue of Ireland
and the guttural of the Vaterland ; wagons
and men and horses are tangled in an
inextricable mass outside the rough shed ;
you are bundled into an ill-smelling car
riage with torn upholstery, which creaks
and groans as it is bumped along over the
wretched pavements, drawn by two Rosi-
nantes in a tattered harness, and driven by
an Irishman who throws aside his cigar
only after he has driven a block or two,
and whose costume is made up from the
wreckage of a bankrupt livery-stable and a
pawn-shop. You are charged fifteen francs
for your drive of, perhaps, two miles, and


America and the Americans

one franc extra for each piece of luggage,
and though you pay peaceably through
the nose, your coachman expectorates as
he gets back on his carriage, with never a
word of thanks, or a touch of the hat.

Then it is that you say, " Ah, no, this is
not a miracle, this is still a frontier settle
ment !

But, alas ! for one s impressions. You
are ushered to the rooms engaged for you
by your friend in Washington at a hotel
in Fifth Avenue. It has been done by
telegraph, but in a moment the wharf
and the hurly-burly and the expectorat
ing Hibernian are forgotten. There are
; flowers on the table, there is a bath-room

tions. . . . . . r

done in tiles, there are soft carpets, beauti
ful rugs, tasteful furniture, and the Figaro,
Revue des deux Mondes, and Le Petit Jour
nal, cut and on your table. The hot
water pours into the tub in a torrent, the
soap and towels are of the best, and the
breakfast, of fruit, fish, eggs, and coffee,
which follows soon after the bath, is
served in costly porcelain. I am the
guest of my friend here until the day after

First Impressions of New York

to-morrow, which is the earliest moment
he can get away from Washington.

I am a Frenchman, I am economical, I
look no in the mouth, but 1
cannot refrain from wondering what this
all costs. We met this young man, my
Bister and I, in Paris, through the intro
duction of my friend the attache. 1
father, an ex-mayor of the city, is, they

;i very rich man why or how I American
know not, but lucri bonus esf <.-.L>r <A re
qualibet as only these American nabobs
are rich in these days rich in cash not in
low-rent paying lands, like the English, or
in small -interest bearing rentes, like my
poor compatriots.

i with us in the country, and was
my guest at my {xx>r apartment in Paris,
but we gave him nothing like unto this.

I begin to regret my an-;cr at the wharf, A f
my annoyance at the bumping-machine in Zf*
which I was conveyed thence, my annihi-
lating astonishment at the coachman s fare.
Surely, 1 If, that momentary

discomfort v. feature, but an ac

cident, of this civilization.

America and the Americans

I begged to be let alone to-day and to
morrow, therefore I dine alone in the
evening down-stairs, at a small table, in a
large dining-room. There are many peo-

Tyfes. pie about in all sorts of costumes. At one
table are two gentlemen ; one of them has
a sandy chin-whisker which protrudes al
most at right angles from his chin ; he
and his friend have beefsteak, ice-cream,
and champagne for their dinner. Not a
dozen yards away is a party of four, two
gentlemen and two ladies, the ladies de
collete to the point of embarrassment, and
with jewels on hands and neck, and in
their hair. What exaggeration, I think to

Extremes, myself. The gentleman of the aggressive
chin-whisker only needs spurs and a som
brero to be of the prairies ; while the la
dies only need a little rouge, and as much
off the length of their skirts as they have
taken off their shoulders, to be of the erst
while Mabille.

But I doubt my own impressions now,
and therefore I make no generalizations of
New York s manners, customs, and cos
tumes, from these people, who may not be

First Impressions of New York

Americans at all. As for me, my own
dinner is of the most excellent, et rien ne
doit der anger f honnete homme qui dine.

The next morning, having the day to
myself, I remember me of the advice of
the young banker from Boston. From my
hotel to Broadway is not far. At the
corner of the street I determine to mount
one of the swift-passing tram-cars. They Aneiectri-
rush by me, one after the other, bells clang
ing, and silhouette figures swaying about
inside. I hold up my hand in vain. As
I am beginning to wonder whether they
are all express-trains, a kindly stranger
touches my arm and says : " You re on the
wrong corner, my friend. They only stop
on the farther corner, and if you don t
want your arms jerked out, you d better
mount the animal where he proposes to
stop ! " I turn to bow my thanks, but my
stranger takes two or three steps and a
jump away from me, grasps the platform
of a passing car, and as he fades away in
the distance, I see him gesticulating to me
to move down to the lower corner.

He was right. I move clown a few steps,


America and the Americans

and the next car stops in front of me with
a rumble and a grating noise, which I af
terward learn is made by an endless cable
under the street, which is the motive power
of all these rushing, clanging caravans. My
particular car is crowded inside and out
side. Each time it stops, you are hurled
id- forward and then back. People bending
* to sit down as the car starts, place their
posteriors anywhere but where they in
tended, and not infrequently in a space
already occupied by another. The con
ductor and the passengers come and go,
over your feet, jamming your legs mean
while; women at the far end of the car
make signs at the conductor to stop, in
vain, and finally elbow and shove them
selves to the door, hurtling against other
passengers, and flung now and then into the
arms of those sitting down, as the car
stops, or starts, suddenly.

Not far from where I got on, the con
ductor shouts something into the car, and
What New- of a sudden we veer around a curve at a
^aif^ prodigious rate of speed, and one lady who

"cuyrve" j^tf ^ QQn c lj n gj n g to a s t ra p in front of 1116


First Impressions of New York

is whirled round, still holding to the strap,
and knocks her neighbor s newspaper into
his face, and dislocates his hat with the
same movement ; while two men who had
been standing in the door- way are shot
into the car as from a catapult, where they A study

, T acrobatics,

are stopped short by those clinging to
straps in the passage-way.

At last I get a seat, and the drama that
goes on about me interests me so much
that I continue my ride as far as Wall
Street, forgetting all about my intention to
read the signs along the route.

These tram-cars seem to be gymnasiums
on wheels. The alertness of eye, and ner
vous, strained look of the thin faces and
wiry frames about me, are in some sort ex
plained. Both men and women must be
sharply and constantly watchful if they
are to survive a daily pilgrimage, or, bet
ter, a daily crusade in these vehicles. A
second s inattention, a moment s respite
from the dangling leather, which hangs
from the roof, and you are shot into some
body s back, bosom, or belly, or sent
sprawling your length over the knees of


America and the Americans

two or three of the seated passengers.
There is little bodily harm done, but there
is an ever-recurring succession of shocks to
the dignity and to the nerves.
American The most remarkable thing about it all

impertur- . ,

babiuty, is, that no one seems disturbed or greatly
put out by this involuntary riot which
takes place every few seconds.

These cars are owned by companies
which in return for the valuable franchise
of the use of the principal streets in the
city, promise good transportation facilities
at a cheap rate. They do it in the hig
gledy-piggledy fashion above described.
what -we In France such infringement of the rights
\kinkifit of the people to personal comfort and per-
* r ** sonal dignity, if persisted in, would result
in revolution ; and in London one day of
it would fill the next day s newspapers with
indignant protests, and in a week s time
the matter would be under the control of
the police.

But in this strange republic these good-
natured people are slaves to every conceiv
able form of political and financial job
bery, and no one protests. It may be the


First Impressions of New York

land of freedom, but it certainly is not the
land of freemen. Personal comfort, per
sonal privacy, the right to go and come,
and to live as one prefers, without com
ment, and even without newspaper noto
riety, are as impossible as in Russia, or in
Armenia. Each one is so taken up with
his own and somebody s business other
than his own, that he has no time, and no
vigor, left to defend what in every other
civilized country are deemed to be the most
precious personal prerogatives.

" Why does no one protest ? M I say to Protests
one American after another. It is useless,
they tell me. The protestor is unpopular
here. There are too many people inter

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