Ratcliffe Hicks.

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eventually become the law. It is a part of the
code of Prussia, the Netherlands, and Austria ; and
however much we may boast of America, she fol-
lows in her laws the reforms in Europe, and rarely
leads them.

But it is said that drunkenness is voluntary, and
therefore no excuse ; and so the courts have said
for two hundred years. But was it any more vol-
untary with Johnson than with Mrs. Hess, who
sold him the drink, knowing full well the effect it
might have upon him. The result was to both of
them unforeseen, unsought, and unpremeditated,
and in the administration of law and justice that
fact should be taken into consideration.

The ever present argument against this doctrine
is founded on an unreasoning fear. The world
will gradually learn, however, that it is the certainty
of some punishment rather than the severity of an
occasional punishment which deters men from
crime. The people on the Continent of Europe
are as anxious to preserve their lives as the people
of Connecticut. It is the same argument that is
urged against the abolition of capital punishment ;
but the statistics show that there are less murders
268



JOHNSON TRIAL

in Rhode Island and Michigan since the abolition
of capital punishment than there were before.
The time will come when the people of this coun-
try will look back upon capital punishment and
the scenes enacted in the execution of it with the
same disgust and shame that we, of our day, do
upon those foolish fanatics who once hung men
and women for being witches, in order to protect
society. It is no benefit to the dead to crucify
the living ; and it is no protection to the living to
enforce a punishment which the rich and powerful
hardly ever suffer, but the poor and friendless
rarely escape. Hanging brutalizes the community,
and too often only attests the inhumanity of man-
kind to man. The onward march of events for
two hundred years has eradicated a thousand evils
and wrongs which the barbaric progenitors of the
English race had incorporated into the English
jurisprudence. And time will work wonderful
changes yet. The man who thinks that the laws
of America are perfect and will never be improved,
is filling his own eyes with sand.

I have done what I could under our present
laws to alleviate the condition of an unfortunate
man to whose defence I have been assigned; and
I trust that the kind Providence that tempers the
winds to the shorn lamb will move the hearts of
all good people to assist in relieving John Robert
Johnson from suffering the extremity of his pun-
ishment. Ratcliffe Hicks.
269



A SOUTHERN TRIP

From the '' Bridgeport Farmer,'^ March 13, 1873.

Hon. Ratcliffe Hicks, of Tolland, not only makes
good speeches in the House of Representatives upon
any subject in which he takes a particular interest,
but he has also the faculty, when travelling, of writing
entertaining sketches. Mr. Hicks is now at Lake-
wood, N. J., having returned last week from an ex-
tended Southern tour. By reason of his large real-
estate and other interests he is well known in this city,
and the two following letters written by him will be
read with interest : —

El Paso, Texas, Feb. 24, 1893.

After leaving New York, I made my first stop
at Atlanta. Every time I visit Atlanta I am more
impressed with the city. It is a Northern city
transplanted in Southern soil.

I went from Atlanta to New Orleans, which I
found had greatly improved in the last five years
and showed signs of considerable prosperity. The
establishment of large sugar refineries and cotton-
mills has been of great benefit to the place. The
United States government pays annually about
;^8,ooo,ooo in sugar bounties to planters, and there
270



A SOUTHERN TRIP

are less than one hundred persons who divide this
money ; but this has been of much help to the State
of Louisiana. There are many beautiful residences,
and the city seemed particularly attractive after
leaving the wintry climate of New York City.
Flowers were in bloom. Men were cutting the
lawns, and the gardens were like our own in June.

I went from New Orleans to San Antonio ; and
as this was all new to me, I was wonderfully im-
pressed with the country through which I passed.
The magnificent fields where they raise their
sugar-cane and rice reminded me of the fields in
France, — so level, so rich, and so extensive.
They are now in the height of their planting, and
their weather is like ours in June.

The forests are very interesting to observe, the
trees being covered with moss, giving them a weird
appearance. The ground is covered with the low
palms which we prize so much in the North in
our hot-houses ; and the leaves of the trees having
so many different colors — red, white, green, and
different shades of green and red — made it all
look exceedingly interesting to a Northern man.

San Antonio certainly possesses the best climate
of any place that I ever visited in my travels. It
is far superior to that of Nice or Naples, or to any
spot in Europe or the West Indies or America
which I have seen. The temperature was 75°, but
it was that dry air which does not cause perspira-
tion; it was the most exhilarating temperature
271



RATCLIFFE HICKS

that I have ever experienced. They are happy if
they can get two days of rain in the year, for it is
almost one continuous sunshine with them. It
seemed strange that on Washington's Birthday,
when you were suffering from such violent storms,
people should be walking and driving in San An-
tonio in weather equal to that of our best summer
seasons.

I came on last night to El Paso, and am not
impressed favorably with the place. It is much
cooler here, is windy and very dusty, and there
are no signs of vegetation apparent at present.

I never before could realize the magnitude of
the State of Texas. You can travel as for as from
New York to Chicago, and then go two hundred
miles farther before you cross the State of Texas, —
a State which in fifty years is liable to have any-
where from fifty to seventy-five or perhaps one
hundred Congressmen, and to equal in Washington
the power of all the other thirteen original States.
A State that is larger than New York, Ohio, Indi-
ana, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland,
and New Jersey, with a climate so favorable to the
growth of the population, and a soil so favorable
to its support, has in it possibilities that are mar-
vellous when you come to think of them soberly.
It only needs time and double-track railroads and
speedy communication with Chicago and New
York and Philadelphia, connecting those places by
twenty-four or thirty-six hours, to bring this coun-
272



A SOUTHERN TRIP

try to the notice of the Northern people more than
has ever yet been done.

Denver, March i, 1893.

The day I wrote you from El Paso it was very
windy, and rather disagreeable on account of the
dust; but the next day was extremely pleasant,
and the people all said that the previous day was
an exception. I liked El Paso the more I saw of
it, especially the climate, as it was considerably
higher than at San Antonio, and the atmosphere
was drier and more exhilarating. I bought some
bank stock when there which pays twelve per
cent per annum, and earns about twenty per cent.

I went over into Mexico and visited the city of
Juarez. It is a real Mexican city, and in visiting
it one gets a very good idea of the Mexicans. I
am frank to say that I was not favorably impressed
with the Mexicans or their country. They are
about two hundred years behind the times, and, in
my opinion, always will be.

This land from San Antonio to El Paso suffers
greatly from want of water, and I never realized
before the importance or the magnitude of the
undertaking to irrigate that vast section of country.
There are thousands of miles of land capable of
wonderful development in the future when water
has been provided by some feasible system of irri-
gation. It is calculated that thirty thousand cattle
have perished in the last year between San Antonio
iS 273



RATCLIFFE HICKS

and El Paso from thirst, and it is a pitiful sight to
see the cattle all along the railroad sufiering and
perishing from the same cause.

One word more about the magnitude of the
State of Texas. It has over nine thousand miles
of railroad. To get an idea of what those figures
mean, — its railroads if stretched in a continuous
line would reach across the Atlantic Ocean three
times ; or, to express it in another way, they would
reach from Liverpool to New York, across the
prairies and mountains to San Francisco, and
across the Pacific Ocean to Japan.

Leaving El Paso, we came up on the Santa F6
road through New Mexico, — a country suffering,
as I have indicated heretofore, from want of water,
and inhabited very largely by Mexicans living in
little adobe or earth houses one story high, and
giving poor promise of becoming good American
citizens and voters.

I stayed at Colorado Springs one night. I pre-
sume it is a beautiful place in summer. It is finely
laid out, and is in a mountainous country with fine
natural scenery, and is largely inhabited by wealthy
people. I visited the Garden of the Gods, and
was not so much impressed as I expected to be.
After going over the Canadian Pacific and across
the mountains on the Santa F^ road, and having
visited most of the mountainous countries of
Europe, the Garden of the Gods seems to me to
be largely overwritten.

274



A SOUTHERN TRIP

I came thence to Denver. There seems to me
to be only two cities in the West, — Chicago and
Denver. To hear the people tell of the wonderful
fortunes accumulated here in a short space of time
sounds like a novel ; but they confirm their state-
ments by showing you the people and the prop-
erty, and you finally have to confess that more and
larger fortunes have been acquired in Denver and
vicinity in the last ten or twenty years than in any
other place on the globe. They show you prop-
erty which belonged to a lady here some fifteen
years ago, left to her and appraised at ^2,200,
which sold recently for $125,000. They show you
lots which sold a few years ago at $400, and now
sell quickly at $4,000. They show you a corner
lot owned by a Connecticut lady which was sold
eight years ago for $40,000, soon after sold for
$80,000, a few months later for $120,000, and
about a year ago for $235,000 ! I give these as
simply specimens of the v/onderful advance in
property in this city. I have never seen or known
anything like it ; and why any young man, be he
lawyer, doctor, physician, dentist, or business man,
stays down East is beyond my comprehension, —
that is, if he cares to accumulate a fortune and be
in the swim.

It is estimated that there are over one hundred

millionaires in Denver, a place of one hundred and

twenty thousand inhabitants, — which is probably

more than there are in all Connecticut, with seven

275



RATCLIFFE HICKS

hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants and two
hundred years of savings.

I have had one or two propositions made me
here to go into large real- estate transactions ; but
while I think there is lots of money in them, I
have finally made up my mind to keep out of them,
for I can see that it will make for me more work.
I have purchased some bank stock here, however,
as a kind of souvenir of the place. It pays eight
per cent annually on cost, and also pays the taxes.
I am very favorably inclined towards the banks of
Colorado as an investment. I find that they are
making a great deal of money, much more than
similar institutions in the East can make, and they
seem to make it safely and to be well managed.
I think it a grand thing for every man having
money to invest to visit the West and see for him-
self this country and the opportunities for making
money, even if he does not care to try it himself.

R. H.



276



A CONDENSED HISTORY OF
BERMUDA.

Letter to the " Meriden Republican."

Hamilton, Bermuda, April 21, 1875.

Dear Republican, — Judge Sumner and myself
arrived here Monday morning, having been one
day longer on the voyage than we had expected.
We were both of us somewhat sea-sick the first day
or two out. Sumner kept calling for oranges, and
he told John (the little Welshman that waited on
us) to tell the steward not to be discouraged : he
was only trying to lay a foundation in his stomach
to put something substantial on.

The hotel at Hamilton, where we are stopping,
is kept by Mr. Dodge, who in the summer keeps
the hotel at the top of Mount Washington. The
accommodations at the hotel are very good, and
the charge is three dollars per day.

The Bermudas are a group of about three hun-
dred islands, distant from New York about seven
hundred miles, and on a latitude with Charleston,
S. C. The group of islands extend thirty miles,
and by means of ferries and bridges you can drive
277



RATCLIFFE HICKS

nearly the whole length of the group. In the
harbors lie one hundred little islands which make
one think of Lake George. We have been driving
around the islands for the past four days. The
first thing that attracts the attention of a stranger
from New England is the vegetation. The first
day or two we did nothing but stop the driver and
inquire, " What is that tree ? " There are growing
here India-rubber, date, cocoanut, lemon, orange,
palmetto, coffee, bamboo, fig, tamarind, and many
other kinds of trees. The streets are lined with a
very homely-looking tree. They call it the " Pride
of India."

The next thing which attracts attention are the
wonderful caves, containing beautiful pools of
water, with splendid specimens of stalactites hang-
ing from the roofs. Then there are forts and
dockyards. This is the largest military and naval
station of the English government, except Malta.
It is estimated that the English have spent as high
as $500,000,000 here in all. The dockyards are
enormous, and every hill is crowned with a fortifi-
cation. The English undoubtedly regard this as a
key to their Western possessions, and a valuable
spot in case of war with us.

There are about twenty thousand inhabitants on
the islands. Their principal business is raising vege-
tables for the American market. They can raise
every year two or three crops of onions, potatoes,
tomatoes, watermelons, squashes, beans, and all our
278



BERMUDA

varieties of vegetables. Their principal export now
is onions. They could, if they were as enterprising
as our New England farmers, raise a large quantity
of all kinds of vegetables for export to New York. I
asked one colored man, who was gathering onions
in a field, how much he would get for his crop this
year. He said ^2,000. The two races live here
on the most perfect good terms. The blacks out-
number the whites three to one. The blacks vote
and hold office, the same as the whites ; but no
man can vote unless he is worth $300.

Bermuda is governed by a little parliament of its
own. The climate is one of the best in the world.
Water never freezes. They have no fires in their
houses, and sit out doors the year round. In sum-
mer it is not very warm. Sunstrokes are unknown,
and thunder- showers are rare. A lightning-rod
man would be a great curiosity here, as they have
none. The place has a Spanish look. The houses
are mostly one-story, built of soft stone, resem-
bling chalk, sawed out in blocks ; the roofs are of
the same material. They have no wells, as the
island is all a solid rock. They save their rain-
water, and keep it in large covered stone-cisterns
in their yards. The buildings and roofs are all
whitewashed. The roads are as hard as rock. The
soil is rarely more than a foot deep anywhere, and
they use the spade instead of the plough. The islands
are of oval formation, and are surrounded by reefs
extending eight or ten miles out to sea ; so that it
279



RATCLIFFE HICKS

is very dangerous approaching them, and nearly
every week some ship is wrecked because the
captain does not know the channel.

There is no doubt that these islands will be
more and more visited from year to year by
Americans. It is only within four or five years
that a steamer has been regularly running here
from New York. As the beauty of the islands and
the salubrity of the climate become known, and
the ease of access increases, Americans will flock
here instead of going to Florida. The fare from
New York here and back is ^50, which includes
everything. We shall leave here in about a week.
Yours very truly,

Ratcliffe Hicks.



280



PROPOSED REDUCTION

Of the Rate of Interest to be Charged by Savings
Banks and the School Fund, 1880.

To THE Members of the Connecticut Legislature:

There is an act pending before your Committee
on Banks which is worthy of your serious consider-
ation. It is the proposed reduction in the rate of
interest to be charged by Savings Banks and the
School Fund. It concerns more directly the in-
terests of your constituents than any and all other
legislation pending before your body.

It is a question which you are compelled to
meet. Are you going to vote on the side of wis-
dom, of justice, and of relief to the already over-
burdened land-holders of the State ; or are you
going to allow capital to take advantage of its
power to wrench undue returns from the struggling
property-holders of Connecticut? If you fail in
your duty, another Legislature will right the wrong.
This question is now being agitated by the voters,
and will not down until it is righted.

What are the facts?

I. No man to-day can safely invest his money
where it will earn more than from four to five per
281



RATCLTFFE HICKS

cent net. In a late number of the " Financial
Chronicle " a comparison is made between the
value of representative stocks and bonds at the same
dates in 1872 and in 1880, and shows that upon
an average the purchaser would realize from six to
eight per cent on his capital in 1872, and that he
realizes only from 3I to 4f per cent now. Will
you, then, compel the honest, industrious masses of
this State to pay six per cent when they furnish the
best collateral security in the world, — the roof
over their heads?

2. There is no prospect that the rate of interest
will increase for many years, if ever.

(a) The West, which so long absorbed the
money of the East, is no longer asking for loans.
Good Western mortgages are readily taken at
home.

(/^) The legislation of the Western States is
tending to drive Eastern capital away. In Illinois,
last winter, a law was passed forbidding the taking
of more than eight per cent interest, and also for-
bidding the mortgaging of land to trustees to secure
bonds, thus hampering the future sale of Western
loans. Again the Legislature of Illinois has for-
bidden all corporations located out of the State
from holding land longer than five years ; so that
if such a corporation is obliged to foreclose its loans,
it must sell the lands within five years.

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Online LibraryRatcliffe HicksSpeeches and public correspondence of Ratcliffe Hicks .. → online text (page 15 of 18)