W. Fraser (William Fraser) Rae.

Westward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons online

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improved, but the progress of their country will be
even more rapid than it has been, while the admira-
tion of those who watch and welcome its advance
will be all the greater and all the more sincere.

A countryman and travelling companion, whose
attachment to the flag and liking for the Cunard
line were too strong to be overcome by the tempta-
tion of novelty even when presented in the form
of German steamers famed for the comfort of their
arrangements, having resolved to return home in
the Cuba, I took my passage in that steamer also.
It is noteworthy how those who frequently cross the


Atlantic acquire preferences for certain steam-ships.
They do this for the same reason that a traveller re-
turns to the hotel at which he is specially welcome
because there he is personally known. An Atlantic
steam-boat is but a floating hotel, and acquaintance
with those who are permanently on board ensures
an amount of attention for which the new-comer
looks in vain. Some Americans who were among
my fellow passengers spoke strongly in favour of
the Cuba. They had sailed in her at different
seasons of the year and when on board felt less
apprehension for their safety than when in other
steamers or when in a railway train. She had not
a reputation for speed ; but she was a good seaboat.
Starting an hour after the Colerado, a vessel belong-
ing to the Guion line, we had an opportunity of
seeing which was the more rapid sailer. The
struggle was not a long one, nor was the race hotly
contested. In nautical phrase the Cuba walked
away from the Colerado.

The incidents of the voyage were too unimportant
to merit special notice. Most striking of them all was
an Atlantic gale lasting two days. The prodigious
mass of water which unceasingly rolls over the lofty
rocks at Niagara is supposed to convey one of the
best examples of irresistible power to be seen in
Nature. I cannot but think, however, that the


ocean heaving and foaming under the influence of a
gale is a spectacle quite as imposing and majestic.
The mighty sweep of the limitless waves appears
fraught with ruin to everything in their path. As
the infuriated wind shrieks and battles with the
rising billows, the insignificance of man is the
thought which takes possession of the mind only to
be expelled however by the proud reflection that the
powers of the air and the water are put at defiance
by the vessel which triumphantly keeps her course
and thus demonstrates the perfection of man's handi-
work and extent of human resources.

The progress of invention has given to man the
empire over the sea, but it has not yet enabled him
uniformly to enjoy his triumph. To but a small
minority is it given to take pleasure in a sea-voyage
and to laugh at the very notion of being painfully
affected by the motion of a vessel. Dr. Chapman
has proclaimed that if his remedy of applying ice,
enclosed in an India-rubber bag, to the spinal cord
were universally adopted by those who are subject to
sea-sickness, the malady would be almost unknown.
But the sufferers commonly refuse to adopt any
plan which does not accord with their own views.
Each one has his private panacea. On board the
Cuba I witnessed some experiments in this line
which were at least novel. One passenger had im-


plicit faith in port wine, freely administered. He
bore bravely up for two days and then was seen no
more. Another had perfect confidence in hot West
Indian pickles mixed with potatoes. Of this com-
pound he ate heartily and he alleged that it did him
good. Appearances prompted another conclusion.
A third said that there was nothing like marmalade
and of this he took large quantities after every meal.
More noteworthy than the remedies themselves was
the childlike belief which those who employed them
manifested in their efficacy. If sea-sickness could
be cured by faith, then sea-sickness ought never to
affect a large number of persons. The majority,
however, generally learn by agonizing experience
that Neptune is a deity neither to be offended with
impunity nor propitiated with ease. Nowhere but at
sea can the minority who are always well, practically
appreciate the nature of the satisfaction which, ac-
cording to Lucretius and Rochefoucauld, is the
most perfect that 'human beings can enjoy, the satis-
faction of being in rude health and entire comfort
while others are living pictures of woe, and are bear-
ing witness by their acts to the truth of Sir Thomas
Overbury's saying that the sea is a f moving misery.'
It is so common to praise the steamers of the
Cunard Company, and these steamers are in many
respects so admirable, that the duty of pointing out


defects has been considered too invidious a one to
be discharged willingly. In consequence of this
the managers of that company may remain entirely
ignorant of minor, but not unimportant, complaints
made by passengers in their steam-boats. One of
these is not applicable to the Cunarders alone, yet
that is no excuse for the arrangements of these
steamers being open to the strictures which I am
about to make. When the passage-money is paid,
the steward's fee is professedly included in the
amount. This plan commends itself to most per-
sons, as it saves trouble and obviates annoyance
should the contract be rigidly carried out on both
sides. In reality, however, the payment is a sham,
or an imposition. If no steward's fee were in-
cluded in the passage-money, a saving would be
effected to the extent of at least one sovereign.
The cabin steward, the saloon steward, and a per-
sonage calling himself boots, all make it clear that
they expect fees. Payments made under these
circumstances are simply black mail levied in
modern guise. It is reasonable that if extra trouble
be given, an extra payment should be made ; but in
no case should money be handed directly to the
servants. The purser is the proper person through
whose hands permissible gratuities should pass, or
a box might be provided to contain the sums which


might be contributed voluntarily, the total being di-
vided pro rata among all those entitled to share in
the distribution. There are other matters which the
company would do well to consider with a view to
rendering their steamers as comfortable as they are
safe. What these are I shall not specify ; if the com-
pany desire to learn further particulars, let them send
an agent during one voyage, and report what the pas-
sengers say openly and without reticence. It would
be wise not to treat these things with contempt, for
competitors are pressing close on the heels of the
Cunard Company. In many points of detail the
steamers of the German lines are arranged with
far more consideration for the convenience and com-
fort of passengers, than are the finest among the

On arriving at Euston- square after a journey
which, if not unbroken, was yet very rapidly made
from San Francisco to London, the mind naturally
dwells on the railway which has rendered such a
journey possible. Regarded as a whole the Pacific
Railway is a great triumph of engineering skill and
patriotic enterprise. It will contribute as much to
consolidate and perpetuate the Union as the most
splendid and thorough of Grant's victories, either
as soldier or statesman.

Even more satisfactory than the fact that the


Pacific Railway has virtually opened out a new coun-
try, as well as provided a new route to the East,
is the stimulus it has given to continue and extend
the work of which its originators were the daring
and devoted pioneers. A second line through
Kansas will soon be completed, thus opening up the
country to the south of the present one. A third
line is in contemplation which will open up the
country to the north of it, bringing traffic from
Lake Superior to the mouth of the Columbia River.
In this rivalry the Canadians are about to take
part. A line has been projected which will bring
Halifax as near to Victoria as New York is to San
Francisco. This line will traverse the Dominion of
Canada from ocean to ocean and render millions of
acres of the richest land in the known world acces-
sible to the emigrant and adapted for the settler.
As a route to the East, the Canadian Pacific Rail-
way will shorten the distance between Liverpool
and Hong Kong by 700 miles, compared with any
other railway traversing the Continent of America.
Thus, the three greatest enterprises of recent years
the Atlantic Cable, the Pacific Railway, the
Suez Canal are of inestimable value as examples
as well as achievements. The success in each case
has led to the prosecution of undertakings which
would otherwise have long continued to be mere


projects, exciting the derision of the foolish and the
doubts of the prudent. It is a good omen for the
future of humanity that England, France, and
America, should have become vigorous rivals in
works far more worthy to be praised than the com-
petition which aims at covering the sea with iron-
clad men-of-war, and the land with soldiers armed
to the teeth, works of which the good is never in-
terred with the bones of those who have aided in
their achievement, but survives and operates to
make the race of man happier by rendering the
globe more habitable.





6 WHAT do you think of America ? ' ' How did
you like the Americans ? ' These two questions
were frequently put to me, after returning home
from the United States. Possibly, the readers of
the foregoing pages may not object if the substance
of the replies which I made, is appended to this
volume by way of conclusion. The answers which
I shall furnish must necessarily be short and super-
ficial. All that I profess to do is to note one or
two salient points and comment on some unmistake-
able peculiarities. To do more would fill a volume.
Adequately to do as much, within the narrow com-
pass of a few pages, is a task of no small difficulty.
Great interest has always been felt throughout
the United Kingdom about the condition and
destiny of the vigorous off-shoot which has rapidly
waxed great on the American continent. In order
to gratify this natural and praiseworthy curiosity
many English travellers have paid visits to the
United States and placed on record their experi-
ences and their prognostications. Unfortunately the


anxiety to compose a saleable work has been more
apparent than the determination to produce a fair
and accurate one. Hence it is that English books
of travel in America are for the most part either
bundles of prejudices artistically arranged, or else
deliberate caricatures skilfully drawn.

The circumstance that the Americans are living
and active incarnations of modern Republicanism, is
an element in the calculation which has had undue
influence in moulding the conclusions of some Eng-
lish visitors to their land. Even among educated
men in the United Kingdom there lurks the silly
and baleful notion that all English-speaking Re-
publicans are dangerous animals ; semi-lunatics or
utter knaves ; human gorillas imperfectly tamed
and wholly uncivilized. For the Republicans of
antiquity and for Republics which have foundered in
the seas of time are manifested true admiration and
fervent sympathy. Nor is it impossible to find
several persons of note who will admit that French-
men and Spaniards are justified' in preferring a
Republican form of government to a cruel and
grinding despotism.

In the case of the Swiss an exception is always
unreservedly made. The patriotism which inspired
the fabulous deeds of William Tell, the proximity
to a mountain so famous as Mont Blanc, or some

B B 2


occult reason , has surrounded the Swiss with a halo
of romance, and caused those who abominate the
very name of a Republic to approve of such a Re-
public as that of Switzerland. The reasons com-
monly assigned for the approbation bestowed upon
the form of government in existence among the
Swiss are that Switzerland is a small country, is
sparsely populated, is inhabited by a frugal and
industrious people, and is very mountainous. These
reasons are deemed conclusive, chiefly because they
are supposed to justify the remark that, in a country
of vast area and containing a population as large as
that of the United Kingdom, the Republic esta-
blished there is either a ' bubble ' destined to burst,
or the precursor of anarchy. I have been unable
to discern a tittle of evidence confirmatory of these
views. The tokens of failure do not lie on the
surface. It is impossible for any one who is not
the slave to foregone conclusions to travel through
the United States and converse with persons of
every rank in the social and intellectual scale
without becoming convinced that the system of
government prevailing there, a system which has its
basis in the possession of brains and disregards
altogether the accidents of birth, is a system at
once popular and efficient, and that, if imperfect in
minor details, it is as a whole a finely devised and


carefully co-ordinated scheme for the government of
the people by the people.

This opinion will be regarded in some quarters
as rank heresy. It does not accord with the con-
clusions of many able writers. The statements of
some recent travellers may be used to refute my
conclusions. These travellers would be entitled to
the greater weight as authorities if they had proved
themselves capable of arguing logically and desirous
of chronicling facts with impartiality. One of them
passed an adverse judgment upon Republican insti-
tutions because he got a bad bed-room in the best
New York hotel and because he detested the street
and railway cars. Another writer has insidiously
endeavoured to discredit the Great Republic by
giving unfair prominence, in his description of what
he strangely christened ' New America/ to some
abnormal phases of pseudo-religious life, and by
inducing his readers to infer that the most dis-
creditable and profligate aberrations of sexual
relationship constitute all that is characteristic of
American society. Still more recently, a gentleman
who journeyed over a large portion of the world in
order to test mankind by a new standard, has drawn
a ghastly picture of the Republic of the West.
In the opinion of this writer, wherever pew-rents
are charged, there everything is out of joint.


When he found pew-rents in combination with Re-
publicanism he was obliged to ransack the language
for terms of vituperation sufficiently strong where-
with to testify his abhorrence and disgust. Writers
whom their friends deem merely eccentric and per-
fectly harmless may yet be able, if gifted with a
command of invective and trained to wield the pen,
to work more mischief than the wisest can ever

While convinced as to the worthless or mis-
chievous character of many books written about the
United States, I am ready to admit that some
American citizens act in a way which occasions
misunderstanding and provokes retaliation. Their
insolent assumption of superiority irritates and
offends not a few. In addition to vaunting the
perfection of the system of government founded
by their predecessors, they foolishly sneer at and
wantonly revile the systems in force elsewhere.
While on the one hand, the prejudiced native of
the Old World dislikes arrangements of which the
inherent defect is their novelty ; on the other, the
uncultured citizen of the United States scoffs at the
institutions of the United Kingdom simply on ac-
count of their antiquity. The one thinks that every-
thing new must be bad ; the other that everything
old must be rotten. What I deplore is the disposition


frequently manifested on both sides to be captious
and critical rather than to study and comprehend,
the readiness to decide on insufficient data, the dis-
like to make allowance for unavoidable imperfec-
tions. Each is apt to be offended if the expected
flattery be withheld. Both naturally resent what is
styled good advice, but which in reality is veiled
malice. This kind of good advice is hardly less
dangerous than the proverbial good intentions. If
administered too freely, or inopportunely, it creates
a hell of which the existence cannot be excused by
saying that the supply of pavement is ample.

The English traveller in America has reason to
take special note of the hotels. They materially
differ from what he has seen either at home or on the
Continent of Europe. For convenience of arrange-
ment the first-class American hotel is unrivalled.
Everything the visitor may require is within his
reach. Shops of various kinds are generally in
communication with the spacious entrance hall,
while within that hall is an office whence telegrams


may be sent off, and where railway tickets may be
purchased. In one respect the English first-class
hotel is preferable. It generally has, what the
American has not, a reading-room containing, in
addition to the daily newspapers, the weekly


journals, monthly magazines, and quarterly reviews.
The reading-room in an American hotel is meagrely
supplied with newspapers, the frequenter being
expected to buy his newspaper or periodical at the
adjoining book-stall. Another drawback is that
the American hotel is designed as much for the
accommodation of the lounger as for the reception
of the traveller. The idle public of the city makes
free use of the entrance hall and reading-room,
monopolizing the fireplace in winter and the seats
near the window in summer. As a rule, bachelors,
and married men travelling without their wives, get
the worst rooms in all hotels ; but in an American
hotel they are treated with marked disrespect. The
rooms set apart for them are in striking contrast
to those which married couples are allowed to
occupy without paying more for the superior ac-
commodation. Making this fact the foundation of a
theory, the ingenious speculator might advance a
new explanation of the early marriages for which
Americans are remarkable.

Travelling by rail has become very luxurious in
several States, while, in others, it is a very fatiguing
means of locomotion. The Western States are
gradually teaching those of the East to carry pas-
sengers from place to place in perfect comfort.
Nothing can be less agreeable than the ordinary


American railroad car: no carriage is more admi-
rable than the car which has given to Mr. Pullman
wealth and fame. Why an English railway com-
pany should not try the experiment of running
some of these sleeping or drawing-room cars is a
mystery to which I can find no clue. If it be said
that the distances are too short, I answer that five
hours in a railway carriage need not necessarily be
hours of torture.' The journey between London
and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness
is surely long enough to warrant the employment
of the improved carriage. Such a carriage is used
when the Queen journeys from Windsor to Bal-
moral. Now, that provided for her use is neither
more sumptuously decorated, nor more commo-
diously arranged than the best of Mr. Pullman's
cars. To travel in them involves payment of an
additional charge. This extra fare is cheerfully
paid in America. Is it probable that Englishmen
would refuse to buy luxury on the rail if they had
the option ? Besides, the system has been found
to be not only popular but remunerative. The
shareholders in f Pullman's Car Company ' receive
dividends at the rate of 12 per cent. If one of
these cars were shown at the Exhibition of Works
of Utility to be held next year at South Kensing-
ton, the English public would blush to perceive


that in this matter they have been surpassed, and
would form an opinion most favourable to the spirit
and enterprise of the active citizens of Chicago.

The observant and unprejudiced visitor who has
spent a few days in the United States begins
to doubt the correctness of what he has read
about the manners and appearance of the people.
After the experience of a few weeks his new
notions become more precise and appear still more
plausible. The result of a few months' travel and
scrutiny is to transform his earlier views altogether
and make him feel that, in trusting certain tra-
vellers, he has been the victim of misplaced con-
fidence. As for the repulsive Yankee of the novelist
he is nowhere to be met with in the flesh. He has
apparently been evolved out of the novelist's con-
sciousness. The typical American has not yet
been sketched with the writer's pen or the artist's
pencil. This is not surprising, for the task is one
of which the difficulty is only second to that in-
volved in portraying the typical European. The
external marks and latent variations which separate
and characterise Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans,
Spaniards, and Italians are scarcely more distinctive
than those which separate the native of Maine from
the native of South Carolina ; the native of Ohio


or Illinois from the native of Connecticut ; the
native of Massachusetts from the native of Texas,
California, or Oregon. All of them are citizens
of the United States, but each is an American
with a difference. The type must include and
express both the points of agreement and the points
of dissimilarity, and I repeat that such a type has yet
to be exhibited to the world by the word-painter or
the draughtsman. If Mr. ( Punch ' would make a
note of this he might hereafter gratify his admirers
not only with exquisitely drawn cartoons, but also
with a typical American as true to nature as is his
typical Frenchman or German.

It is as great a blunder to group Americans
under one category as to confound the Highlander
of Skye with the Cornish miner, the London cock-
ney with the Dublin Irishman. No one acquainted
with the French would regard the Frenchmen who
perambulate Regent Street or Leicester Square as
worthy representatives of the quick-witted, mer-
curial and polished Parisians, while able to trace
a likeness between them and the swaggering and
boastful Gascons. Now the discrimination to be
exercised in such a case as this should also be dis-
played when opinions are passed upon Americans
travelling in Europe. Some of them have no claim
whatsoever to represent their country. Probably


they have become enriched by speculation. The
discovery of a petroleum spring or the possession of
a fat army contract may have suddenly filled their
pockets to overflowing. They have got wealth, but
no manners ; they have the desire to shine, but can-
not do so at home. The best American society is
as exclusive as that of London, Paris, or Vienna.
Foreign adventurers may gain admittance into it ;
but the native upstart is carefully excluded. The
latter has no choice but to seek in Europe that
which he cannot obtain at home. In the twofold
capacity of a rich man and an American citizen he
is welcomed everywhere ; his bad-breeding being
laid to the charge of Republicanism ; his wealth
being attributed to the possession on his part of
extraordinary abilities. At the fashionable water-
ing places of Germany during the summer and
at the fashionable resorts in the south of France
and Italy during the winter these men, accom-
panied by their underbred wives and ill-bred chil-
dren, are to be seen in all the glory of upstart
millionaires. Highly paid couriers rob them and
translate for them. They occupy the most expen-
sive rooms in the hotels ; eat the delicacies which
are not in season ; drink wines of the rarest vintage.
They are the targets for criticism and scorn as they
loll in splendid carriages alongside of their wives


resplendent in dresses of the newest fashion and
glistening with gems of great price. These men
can sign their names and write intelligible letters.
Newspapers they can read and enjoy. But of cul-
ture they are bereft, and of manners they have not
even a varnish. To regard these blustering and
unattractive members of the e Petroleum' or ' Shoddy
Aristocracy' as anything but Americans in name, is
to err in a way of which the grossness cannot be
adequately apprehended by anyone who has not

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Online LibraryW. Fraser (William Fraser) RaeWestward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons → online text (page 22 of 27)