Page images





Concerning the Inauguration of the 50th President of the United States, and the Public Affairs of the 21st Century.



Presently at Washington.


Rasselas, Oregon.

WASHINGTON, Quarter of the Senate,


I was compelled to laugh outright at your literal acceptation of my two apes, in the description of Mrs. Delaroute's masque. Why, you silly one, do you not know that all the different classes of domestics have long since had places assigned them in the Zoological Gardens of the great world. A gentleman's servant is now his ape, (and there is reason in the term): his lackey, footman or waiter, is his tiger, and his porter his bear. In like manner my lady's maid is her mole, while the nurse is either opposum or doe. You know that all animals have a slight resemblance (what the chemists call a trace) of the human face divine, in their beastly lineaments, so that when Goethe and Retzsch together, made an Ass clerk and librarian of the herald's college: gave him a neck-cloth and spectacles, and put a pen behind his ear, there was no denying but that we had seen faces upon the shoulders of "men and brethren" of a very analogous and not quite so intelligent an expression. It is true, that some of the more ancient of our aristocracy prefer another mode of desig


nating their domestics. With them a man's valet is always named Thomas, his footman or waiter George, and his porter Peter; and of the other sex the maid is always Prudence or Nancy, the nurse Lucy, and the housekeeper or launnaming had been followed to such an exdress Wilkins. This latter system of tent in times past, that its more common appellatives were held to be servile and ungenteel-and James, John, Paul, and Peter, became among the upper classes plebeian and vulgar. They suffered as Mrs. Doll Tearsheet's word "occupy" had done, "which was an excellent good word before it was ill-sorted."

This precision of taste produced about this time a change in the Christian names of both sexes. For instance, the names of maid servants and working women being kept according to the nomenclature of holy church, at Anna, Jane, Eliza, or Margaret; the better orders, by way both of distinction and novelty, had their girls christened Nannie, Jennie, Lizzie, Fannie, Maggie, making them all diminutives. This practice continued till the census of the year 1880, when physiological statistics were for the first time considered, and in which it had been directed that the stature and weight of all full grown persons should be taken among their other personal qualifications. It was found from these returns and from those that followed, that the bulk and height of our sex had

materially diminished in the interval, and a celebrated physiologist and physician of the time having intimated that this contraction might, in some measure, be traced to the belittling of the names; a fashionable panic forthwith arose in the community, and from that time to this the practice of be-ninnying the feminine. gender has been discontinued. By the way what a practice and what a taste it was? To substitute for the queenly Jane, the pert and flirting Jenny-for Margaret, whose every consonant intimates a royal procession, the diminutive Maggie, which consorts only with mites and worms. About the same time our sex (a fair consequence of the immense production of flimsy fictions which was a characteristic of the age) began to introduce polyvocal (excuse the new word, I mean many-voweled,) names from the realms of poetry and romance—hence Desdemonas, Ophelias, Clorindas, Medoras, Zuleikas, and Cunegondas. were the other sex at all behind us in the two peculiarities we have mentionedwith them Henry was christened into Harry, William into Willie, John into Jack or (Scottice) into Jock, Laurence was diddled into Larry, or duplicated into Lorenzo: and Louis became Ludovico. Instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we got Matthias, and Marcus Tullius, Lucius, and Don Juan. About this time an ambassador of the Republic, to one of the proudest nations of the world, bore the grand pagan prefix of Julius Cæsar, with an English termination reminding us very much of that once celebrated person Anacharsis Clootz.


It is true, that our correlatives of the other sex, or rather their god-fathers and god-mothers, may have been influenced in this respect by higher motives. It has long been noticed that many of the great men who come among us-men destined to be felt in their own age and remembered long after it-have made their first appearance in the world with very strange announcements. The name of Napoleon Buonaparte bothered and amazed the old Abbé who examined him at Brienne: and he himself, in the first access of his great fortune, left the 'u' out of his last name

in order to make it more consonant and endurable to the great nation. When, in the beginning of the nineteenth century, the nationalities of Poland and Hungary began to show signs of vitality: to gather armies and banners, and leaders and allies, the name of their first captain, Shrtzntski, a name never heard of before, and unpronounceable by any known rule or analogy whatever, was held by skilful politicians to be, on that very account, a good omen for the success of the cause which he had undertaken and against England, France, Spain, or Italy, or any of the more facile tongues of Christendom, it might have done wonders and been a spell to raise the devil with. But the Austrians and Russians brought against it still more demoniacal conglomerates, terminations in etski and ouski-sounds begotten between their own coarse-mouthed gutturals and the smooth and slavish ows and wows of modern Greek. And, alas for the brave but down-trodden Poles and Maygars! their liberty was for the time anni. hilated and almost for ever! But if it had been the object of our sponsors in baptism to give us extraordinary names, on the ground, or for the sake either of present or future distinction, they should have remembered that to be effective they must have some consonance and agreement. A man who should be called Fingal Hodge, would have probably small chance of becoming a great general, or one named Ossian Grimes a successful poet. At any rate, you see I am a great believer in names, and think a modern Tristram Shandy, purged of the indecencies which disfigure Sterne's book and make it almost unmentionable among ladies, would be of much greater use, both in education and morals, than many of the treatises ending in ology which we wot of.

In regard to names, whether of persons or places, I have long regarded them as moral agencies of great importance, and have even ventured to suppose that names and national songs must both be under some special providence, their birth, growth and mutation are often so stangely significant. Of this we have a pertinent example in the names of two of the

suburbs of this great city. You know that its principal street, the Via Sacra, is Pennsylvania Avenue, and like the main thoroughfare of all great towns which are not walled or fortified, it loses itself at each end in straggling houses or widely built villas, like the two ends of Mirza's bridge, which disappeared in clouds instead of abutments, and were broken into holes, cracks and disconnected pieces. Now, in the centre of this grand street, where are the public edifices, hotels and official residences, there needed no sign-board, placard or advertisement, to inform even strangers where they were: but at the extremities of the street, where the buildings grew diminutive and unequal, it was necessary to put the name of the street in conspicuous letters for the assurance of passengers. On these sign-boards the name of Pennswoods Street was abbreviated into Pa. Avenue, and hence those inhabiting the suburb at the Eastern end, which was at first the most irregular and broken, came to be called Parvenues, and the suburb itself took in time that designation. At the other end of the Avenue, which contained for the most part residences of older citizens--those who had passed through the great mill, and returned from it with their skins whole and something to spare--the inhabitants were, in contradistinction, called Convenues, and that suburb took the corresponding soubriquet.

But to return to Mrs. Delaroute's apes, from which I have been too long digressing, they were no other than two especially large and ugly valets, who took for the time literally the shapes and properties which they had nominally borne long time before in the lady's household. They were much aided by dress, and their gibberish and gesticulation, which had been well taught and practised, was well played. They were in fact a part of the masquerade. That two such approximations to the baboon race should be found in the same family is due principally to the taste, not yet extinct, of choosing one's servants from the ugliest or most deformed specimens of humanity. For the custom still prevails which in earlier

times selected guards, warders and confidential servants from dwarfs, crook-backs and the deformed or mal-organized of the species; and a man of fortune now may be as much distinguished by the ugliness as the number of his servants. It is to my mind decidedly a wicked, unfeeling and unchristian practice, and is for the most part, if not altogether, confined to the male sex. As for ourselves, we prefer always to have our maids and menials nearly of our own kind and semblance.

There has been, to-day, a grand review and inspection of the city guards, or military police of the city. The exercise and drill were of the most imposing character, and displayed not only the perfection of the troops, but drew into the field many of the notabilities now present at the capital, both of the other sex and ours. Many ladies, chiefly from the interior, were in the field on horseback, well dressed and mounted, some of them exhibiting all the skill, grace and confidence of the most perfect menage. How much would our sex gain in health, in intellect, and in virtue, if a portion of the time lost upon cushions and in coaches, or of that which is worse than lost in overheated rooms and in the cruel harness of fashionable life, were spent in the blessed air, in communion with nature, among fair sights and sweet sounds? Every sense quickened with exercise, and the consciousness of commanding forces other than our own. I may, perhaps, at some other time, venture on a description of the feats of arms, and other concomitants of the gala, but at present let me give you some idea of the constitution and functions of these household troops, which may be considered as the Prætorian bands of the city government. They compose, at present, the militia as well as police of the city, and number about eight hundred men. They are divided into companies; their barracks being on the western side of the Mall, between the Government house and the Capitol. They are under the command of the Mayor of the City, their chief having the rank of Colonel. Their pay is the same as that of cadets: sufficient for their support, and this enables their

officers to recruit them from the most healthy and robust of the citizens, their term of service being five years. The rules of the body are exceeding strict, and like the laws of Draco, have but one punishment, which is dismissal. From this regiment are detailed all the guards necessary for the public buildings and public grounds, as well as the watchmen, police and firemen of the city. They have a gymnasium, and are constantly drilled, not only in military exercises and in the use of all arms, but in feats of strength and agility, so that they make a very formidable body for the suppression of riots or popular commotions. Their uniform is white, with dark, green faceings. The hat being a morion, with a metallic visor, crest and rim, and sides of a light, green cloth, making a head-piece capable of resisting everything but shot. This is their official dress when acting as soldiers or guards: but as watchmen they have at their command all sorts of costume and disguise. Upon the present occasion they composed a troop of light cavalry, a company of artillery, a battalion of infantry, and a train of pompiers or firemen, having with them one of the steam fire engines used now for extinguishing fires. When on duty as warders they carry a short wooden staff or truncheon, the symbol of their authority, also a brace of pistols for cases of emergency. The

colour of the uniform was selected in reference to cleanliness and the greater ease and certainty of inspection. The discipline is as strict as that of scholars, and to have served among them is a recommendation to higher military or civil duty. Their ranks being filled from the country at large, they are nearly independent of the interests, excitements and factions which may, from time to time, grow up among the citizens of the capital, and are therefore a more secure reliance in cases of mobs and tumults: for in other large towns, whenever it has been found necessary to support the magistracy by an armed force taken from the citizen soldiery, these last are always more or less infected with the rebellious feeling which is to be repressed, and of course more unreliable in time of ex

tremity. In slight commotions of this kind the fire engine has been used with decided effect, as on short notice it can be made to throw hot water instead of cold.

The establishment of this corps was the first attempt made in our country to improve the character of the police or municipal justice of large cities, setting it on a different and firmer basis than the systems of the old world, which we had at first been compelled to copy. These older constitutions had grown up gradually with the increased knowledge and wickedness of the age, and under the more or less despotic authority of European princes, (which last curb is almost a necessary condition to their existence), until their principal strength came to consist in a most perfect and omnipresent espionage. In London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna, at the time we speak of, about two per cent. of the whole population were in the pay of the municipal authorities, as spies upon the concerns and conduct of their fellow-citizens. In the older and weaker governments, where the clergy had been for a long time demoralized, the office of political informer had been mostly performed by them, but in the fresher and more liberal governments, the secret police had become an agent of a very different character, and consisted of a personnel picked, trained, and of unlimited powers. When applied to free institutions like our own, a system like this soon developed its insufficiency and its evil results. One of the worst effects of such an authority anywhere, is to assimilate and confound the ministers of justice with its subjects, to put the constable and the thief in the same class of society, and thus annihilate one of the most important relations among men. Even in London, at this time, a very considerable number of the detective police were also denizens of the hells and stews of the metropolis, and in the continental cities the number was much larger. This plan of intermingling and working up vice with the leaven of authority, had already shewn evil consequences, even in the European cities where it had been first practised, and where its abuse could be more sternly and absolutely controlled.

But in our cities, where population increased in a ratio till then unexampled, and where the popular will is always really paramount to the law, this amalgamation and alliance between wrong and right soon gave predominance to the evil principle, and the administration of justice became horribly venal and inefficient. Men were throttled for their purses in the open streets-women were snared into pit-falls for the Moloch lust of merchant princes, and the most sordid and horrid lust approached even the high places of the country and stained its hands with blood within sight of the Capitol. It soon became evident that something was wrong here, and the wise and good set themselves about a remedy. Men saw that the old saying of setting a thief to catch a thief, is not a true one, or will only serve where less than half the community are thieves themselves, or consider the crime venal. Besides, such a procedure is in no respect natural. The huntsman does not bait the she wolf with her own cubs, nor track the fox with dogs of his own scent and kindred, but trains for this purpose hounds of greater strength, and nobler and adverse instincts.

Another certain effect of this code and practice was to lessen and lower not only the morals, but the intelligence of the Justice and of his officers. In the whole range of English written fiction there is not found a single justice of the peace who has not, like Mr. Justice Shallow and Dogberry, and Verges, been "written down an ass"-showing very conclusively the public appreciation of this most important officer. So true is this, that it would be, even now, worth while for some novel or play writer to put into his piece a magistrate of this class, endued with at least the ordinary measure of honesty, intelligence and virtue. This would certainly be giving to the drama a new, and yet I doubt not a real character, and might save the piece containing it from neglect or disfavour. At any rate, such was the main and principal support of Cumberland's Benevolent Jew, a play now nearly forgotten, the chief purpose of which was to set up a good

hearted and charitable Israelite against the Shylock of Shakespeare. I need not say that for many years all the Jewry of London went to the representation of it. It will also be very evident, that in the association between thief and thief-taker, which such a police makes necessary, the authority of law loses power in proportion as the practice becomes known. When a felon is made aware that he may expect an informer in every accomplice, the effect is merely to sharpen his invention, and to add more impious weight to the adjurations by which he is bound to his associates. He was a villian at first, but is now a sworn one.

Before the introduction of the new military police, things came to such a pass that country people, visiting the larger cities, were obliged to put themselves in charge of a sort of semi-official persons, called routiers, who were licensed and registered, and hired themselves, as the cadies in Edinburgh used to do, to accompany and direct strangers through the mazes of the great towns, and were responsible for their safety. The practice was both expensive and annoying, and travellers who could not or would not afford it, were subjected both to inconvenience and danger, and it was common in such cases to have one's life insured for the period of residence in town.

The new plan of a military police was first tried in this city, the men are all picked, and between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years. They are enlisted for a term of years to make the appointment independent of the magistracy, and also to give them a purer and more honourable esprit du corps, than could possibly be induced upon a regiment of bailiffs and beadles, paid by perquisites, and with no hope before them of any future advancement. It was at first feared that a body thus constituted would become mercenary and corrupt, but this is sufficiently guarded against by the age of the men, who can never be enlisted for a second term, and by the character of the service, which is not only a school of military tactics, but of all kinds of useful knowledge. The review of to-day was in the nature of an inspection, pre

« PreviousContinue »