‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 12.’ by a Correspondent in New York (1 July, 1882)

The following is part of a series of articles on the condition of the United States of America for working class Scottish immigrants. One of the core tenants of The People’s Journal was to encourage self-improvement for the working classes. For these reason the paper would regularly promote emigration and provide news  and publish correspondence from the major destination of Scots in the period (the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Here the corespondent responds to a critical letter which appeared in the 29 April 1882 edition of the paper.

Reply to D. Kinlay, of Louisiana.

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—I suppose most of the readers of your Journal know that we have people in this country called “cranks.” Guiteau was a “crank” when he murdered Garfield for the purposes of getting another to fill his victim’s office. We have a “crank” in this city who goes about bookstalls seizing and tearing up periodicals that he considers not up to his standard of morality, and last week he finished up by going into an art gallery, taking out a knife and cutting a picture to pieces because he thought it immoral. There are other “cranks” who send vilifying and threatening letters to those who do not think and write as they do. I see by your Journal of April 29th that there is such a one in Louisiana, who has been trying to vilify an abuse me because some of my letters did not come up to his standard of thinking. When I left Dundee some years ago, I promised to write a few letters on America and Americans as I found them—not as others think they have found them. Therefore I never took it in my head, nor ever will, to give my letters to others for perusal, alteration, or amendment before sending them to you. This wiseacre tells you that my letters are literary hash—disgusting and untrue. They may be literary hash and disgusting—that verdict I will only take from you and your readers—but when he says they are untrue I am almost tempted to say to him—You are another. However, I will be more charitable, and say that I believe he wrote his letter more in a spirit of egotism than anything else for what advancement can I gain by writing to friends and acquaintances that which is not true. If he has got a pair of spectacles to spare that suits his sight, and will send them to me, I might then write differently. All through his letter he sneeringly holds on to the opinion that all my information has been got from the very dregs of society, while he has learned his opinions in such places as the proud City of Blue [?], made classic by the shades of Yale University; and on rolling prairies, where every spot is a garden of flowers. Although my lot has been cast in a different mould from his, yet, thank God, I have never required to go to the lowest of the low for any information. All the fifty years of my life have been spent amongst as respectable people as ever he found in gardens of flowers, rolling prairies, or Universities—I mean the working classes.

Whatever I have said about the women of America whom I have met is true as a rule, but it does not apply to all American women (as he puts it in my mouth). Does he think that I don’t have eyes, ears, and brains, to see, hear, and judge of human nature as well as himself. While working in Pennsylvania there were thousands of women working near me, and in another State there was a factory alongside of my workshop where eight hundred women were working, and I have been in other cities amongst them, and in Rochester there are thousands of them working round about me. Thus my critic will see I have not gathered only a few incidents about some women, and made a sweeping generalisation of all, at he says I have done. When he said I was telling lies, he should have remembered that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. [Illegible] to American women being called ladies, I maintain that it is almost universal, and I see no harm in it. I like to hear, as I often hear little children say to their mothers—“Ma, there is a lady at the door, or ma, the lady upstairs wants you. A working man’s wife or a girl who earns her money in a factory is just as much entitled to be called lady as any Dowager Duchess that every wore a coronet. But my Louisiana friend seem not to think so, for he says that a never saw an American lady ashamed at being called a women. Pray what would she have to be ashamed of? But he adds—“I have seen servant girls bristle up at the world”—another “sneer at us lower classes.” As to women speaking in churches until they were exhausted, he says he never say anything of the kind. There are lots of things he never say. I have seen it over and over again. One winter when working in a place called Fulton I went often to hear and see them, not to mock; but it was a novelty to me. I have seen it here in Rochester and I am going to take a brother of mine who has just landed hero to see the same thing enacted tomorrow night. In the Rochester Union of last Monday appeared the following paragraph:—“In Louisville Kentucky, last Sunday, is a Baptist Church, after the services were over several women got up to speak. One more vehement than the rest got so excited that she dropped down dead in her seat.” This is worse that my description yet; but perhaps the newspaper is telling lies as well as myself. As to the anecdote about the woman who told her husband that “he was drunk through and through,” my vilifier says it is disgusting, and reveals the nature of the sources whence I got my information; that is to say that I went to the lowest and most depraved society to get the story. Now I will tell him where I got the joke, and he will then see the dirty source I got it from. It was in Fulton, N. Y., in the fall of 1880, at a public meeting of respectable people, numbering about 1200 who had assembled to hear one of the best speakers who was stumping the country during the Presidential election, and it was this gentleman who told the joke, and instead of its being received with disgust it was received with cheers and laughter by the whole audience. Here were 1200 people who thought it nice, happy joke, while our solitary friend thinks it was disgusting. I am sorry for him. It is said that a joke has to be hammered into a Scotchman’s head before he can see it, but in the case of our Louisiana friend it would require to be fired out of one of Armstrong’s 90 ton guns before it would reach his brain. He threatens to criticise more of my letters. Those who know me know how little I fear controversy. Let him blaze away. His threat reminds me of the big Irishman who had a little wife, who when he misbehaved used to give him a thrashing, and on his being remonstrated with by his companions for being so soft as to let her do it, he replied

“Ach, sure it pleases her and doesn’t hurt me.”

So it will be with your


Rochester N. Y., June 3, 1882.

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