‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 14.’ by a Correspondent in New York (16 September, 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 discussion focuses on the system of government, political parties and elections. For some context, this piece was published almost a year to the day after President Garfield had been assassinated. Perhaps one of the most interesting entries in this series, it comes with some intriguing observations,

“All are politicians (in their way) after they are ten years of age. For months before the election, people’s minds are kept in an intense state of excitement. Meetings, or rallies as they are called, are held. Torchlight processions walk the street, bands of music parade in all parts of the town, cannons are fired from every available point, fireworks go off from every corner, people wrangle and fight with one another, and many a time is blood drawn. During these contests nothing is talked of, morning, noon, or night, but politics, politics, until one gets disgusted at them.”

“I have seen a man leave my side in the workshop to go and vote for a certain candidate and come back in ten minutes with his two dollars in his pocket he had received for voting the other way. My impression is that a great deal of this political enthusiasm is for the sake of the almighty dollar.”

System of Government — Education — Religion — Political Parties — [Illegible], &c.

I need tell none of your readers that instead of having a Queen, King, Czar, or Sultan for our ruler, we have a President, chosen from amongst the people by the people. He may belong to the poorest of the poor. He may have been a poor mule driver on a canal bank, as was our late lamented martyred Garfield. No blue blood is required in the veins of our Chief Magistrate. Instead of having to go to a foreign country to get a nondescript to hold that office, ours must be a naturalised citizen, not appointed though hereditary incapacity, but elected by the votes of every man who has attained the age of twenty-one and been five years in the country. Instead of being in power for life, he is only chosen for four years. Instead of doing nothing for his salary, he is commander-in-chief of both army and navy, and bound by oath to do his best to preserve, protect, and defend the laws of his country. Instead of receiving three or four hundred thousand pounds a year, he received ten thousand, and has to keep his own family. When he commits any crime against the laws of his country, he is liable to be removed from office and punished for his offence. He has no power in making or altering laws, for the first article in the Constitution of the United States says:—“All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” This Senate consists of two members from each State, making it now seventy-four members. They are chosen for the period of six years. They have the power over the House of Representatives. They deal with what would be called in Great Britain imperial questions. The House of Representatives now have two hundred and forty-five members, chosen for the term of two years. These members make the laws for the different States, subject to the Senate. The members of each House receive a salary of one thousand pounds per annum. For each day’s absence, except when caused by sickness, eight dollars per day is deducted from his salary. Such is a brief and very imperfect sketch of how we are governed in this country.

Let us take a glance at the educational condition of the country. Education is not compulsory, but it is free, that is, free from direct school fees; but the people are taxed for it in much the same manner in which you are taxed for your free libraries, only instead of being local, it is national. With the school system you can get all branches of education to your children, from the age of five years up to twenty-one. At the present time there are about ten millions of children and youth under instruction. In 1876 there were three thousand seven hundred public libraries in the States, containing twelve million volumes.

As to the religious position of the country, we find that the Methodists head the list. Taking all the different sects of that body, they number fourteen millions. The Baptists are next in number, all their different sects numbering twelve millions; Roman Catholics, six millions; Presbyterians, four millions; Lutherans, three millions; Episcopalians, two millions. These are the principal churches in America. Of course we have all the smaller denominations, not forgetting the Mormons, who are set down at one hundred and fifty thousand.

As to the laws that are made, I have no fault to find with them, but I have a very poor estimate of how they are put in force, or rather not put in force, besides the many loopholes that are left for people to evade them. For instance, in the States of New York and Pennsylvania it is enacted that no intoxicating liquor be sold on Sunday. Having been in some of the large cities in those States, and seen how this law was administered, it seemed to me that Sunday was the busiest day the saloon-keepers had, everything in the liquor line being sold in the openest manner, and the authorities looking it broad in the face. The principal reason for non-convictions is that the powers that be know too well that if they convicted any of the violators they would come out of office at the first election, as the Justices of Peace and other petty office holders are voted into office by the direct vote of the district, and the saloon-keepers generally have a good deal of influence in such elections. Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 14.’ by a Correspondent in New York (16 September, 1882)”

‘Political Oppression in the Counties’ by A Christian Democrat (17 January, 1880)

The following is an editorial that appeared in the ‘People’s Journal’ under the name ‘A Christian Democrat’. This powerful attack on the undemocratic actions of Conservative parliamentary candidates and the established church’s failure to mobilise voters appeared in the buildup to the 1880 general election. Readers were urged to go to the polls, high turnout was the way to defeat the Conservative government of Disraeli. Perhaps the most interesting passage is the attack on the government’s wars in Southern Africa and Afghanistan (the infamous battle of Isandlwana would still have been in the minds of many).

“How will our missionaries look the people of India in the face as messengers of peace on earth and goodwill to men now? How will they go to Zululand with the Gospel? We have ravaged the homes of the people, sent fire and sword into peaceful valleys, and trampled every principle of righteousness under foot, and then we send missionaries to convert the countries we have made desolate with most cruel and unjust war. The voters of Scotland must take this responsibility. If they wish an end put to this kind of policy they must come as Christian men to the poll, and send men to Parliament who will demand with authority that all this shall be changed.”

The 1880 election saw victory for Gladstone’s Liberals, and a reduction in the Tory vote in Scotland (winning just 6 of 58 seats, down from 18 in 1874).

To the Editor of the People’s Journal.

Sir,—I appeal to the people. No abuse, however powerfully defended, can resist the will of the people. A great crime is being done, a cruel wrong, under the protection of the law, is being inflicted, and there is no helper. I invoke the indignation of a people who love justice and hate oppression. In all our counties some proprietors of the soil are forcing the very best men and women to leave their homes or to violate their conscience. In Perthshire, for example, the Earl of Mansfield is inflicting most cruel wrong on a population whose only fault is their liberal opinions. Here are two facts:—In 1843 on the Logie-Almond estate there were 87 cottagers belonging to the Established Church. In 1878 only 23 remained. Of the twenty-one men who voted for Mr Parker in 1868 only four now remain on the estate. Sir, I accuse the noble Earl of a deliberate attempt to violate the Constitution. I denounce him as a setter of class against class, as a destroyer of that happy and cordial relationship which should exist between laird and tenant. I ask for Parliamentary inquiry. The House of Commons is insulted and its privileges and rights violated y this Earl, who uses the rights of property in this unrighteous way. Noble Christian men are banished from the homes of their fathers; families are torn up and flung houseless upon the world; men are forced to abandon their lawful calling—all for purely political honesty. They have committed no crimes; they have only exercised the rights put into their hands by Parliament. Sir, I call on Parliament to defend these honest men, who are punished for doing honestly the work Parliament gave them to do. Nor is the Earl of Mansfield the sole offender. All over our counties, and in Perthshire particularly, is this cruel and unconstitutional policy being pursued. I warn such violators of the spirit of the law that they shall not escape public censure. But, sir, they care for nothing. Public opinion they defy. They know they are abhorred, and that all honourable men despise their conduct. Parliament must instantly assert its power, and punish these violators of the equitable spirit of our law.

A host of little factors and small country bankers infest our counties. They know every man and his circumstances. If there is a bill to be renewed, if in consequence of bad seasons there is an arrear of rent, if there is any little difficulty perplexing a voter, then is the opportunity of these official oppressors. They have no shame, no delicacy. They come to the voter and simply say—“Now, are you to vote for our candidate? Give me your hand and your word that you will!” In vain the poor man tries to evade a direct reply. His wife, his daughters, his sons see his humiliation and burn with shame and rage. They all know the situation; they belong to the Free Church or the United Presbyterian; they are humbled and distressed. The shameless coward presses his advantage and the vote is promised. In hundreds of homes in Scotland this plan is pursued. And when stalwart noble men, like those at Logie-Almond, declare themselves staunch, out of twenty-one in a few years only four are left—the rest driven helpless from their homes. Sir, you as the editor of the People’s Journal have great influence. I call on you to wield it now. Especially I ask the voters in the villages who have feus to vote to a man against a system like this. I ask the Liberal candidates for burghs to raise this question. I call on the House of Commons to defend its privileges. I ask every honest man to stamp the cruel, cowardly conduct of these petty factors and pompous little bankers with their contempt. I ask Boards of Directors of our great banks to see that their influence and wealth are not used in this degrading oppression.

But, sir, I appeal chiefly to Christian men, who hold aloof from politics. I claim their help. Is Christianity only an affair of prayer meetings and religious observances on Sabbath days? No verily. The other side are organised. The licensed spirit trade to a man vote, and try to influence other voters. Their money interest is at stake, and they unite and make a mighty power, not in towns only but in counties. A languid and fitful opposition will not avail against an organisation like this. I wish to press on Christian men their duty as citizens. In municipal elections and in parliamentary voting I ask them to come to the poll. Men of high character are returned indeed by small majorities against men who are a shame to constituencies, but the majorities are too small—they should be overwhelming. The reason is that good, easy-going men do not trouble themselves to vote. A Scottish man with stuff in him should despise even being sent for or conveyed to the poll. To vote is his duty, his principle, he ought to vote frankly and openly too, giving all the influence he possesses to the side his conscience approves. The real weight of the Christian sentiment of the country is never felt in Parliament. A great statesman like Mr Gladstone requires to be insulted and driven from office before the good men of Britain are roused to take an interest in politics. Sir John Lawrence, and Lord Northbrook, and the Duke of Argyle have all entered their solemn protest against this unrighteous war in India. They have protested in vain. Why in vain? Because Christian men stayed away from the poll at the last election, and said that Whig and Tory had nothing to do with their religion. Sir, these men are responsible for this war. They did not support the right men at the right time, and the affairs of the county have fallen into the hands of men who “go in for gunpowder and glory.” Continue reading “‘Political Oppression in the Counties’ by A Christian Democrat (17 January, 1880)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 13.’ by a Correspondent in New York (15 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 discussion focuses on churches and observance of the Sabbath.

Churches and Sabbath Observance.

Taking up a Yankee newspaper, I read a paragraph commenting on Dundee having a population of 142,000 souls, and on a given Sunday only 30,000 church attenders. After reading this I thought I could not do worse than give you a short resume of Sabbath observance in America. In the first place, I think that if we had the Saturday half-holiday here it would tend in some measure towards the better observance of the Sabbath, for we find that human nature is human nature all over, and if a man works hard, as is generally the ease here, for sixty hours a week, and comes home on Saturday night after six o’clock, tired and weary, with no time for recreation or social enjoyment, are there not some extenuating excuse for him if he, instead of going to church, seeks some of the sociality which he is denied at any other time through the week? Can you blame him for going to our free hills and valleys and sniffing the [illegible] air, or in looking through nature up to nature’s God? But there are plenty of God-fearing, church-going people in America, as you have among yourselves, and, I suppose, many hypocrites as well. They sometimes, like some orthodox Scotchmen, profess more than they practice. According to the following advertisement, which appeared in one of our newspapers lately, there are some very pious people here. Said advertisement read thus:—“Wanted, a young man to take charge of a pair of horses of a religious turn of mind.” So that not only the people themselves, but even their horses are “unco guid.” It would be superfluous to tell your readers that there is no Church and State patronage in this country; but I can assure them that if disestablishment will cause the churches to be as attractive as they are here the sooner they join the disestablishment crusade the better. The churches of all denominations in this country are very elaborately and comfortably fitted up. The pulpits, or rather platforms, are elegantly set out with easy chairs and desks. They are seldom above two or three feet from the ground, and are ascended by two or three steps at each side. All the passages, aisles, and floors are laid with carpets. The bottoms and backs of the seats are soft lined; footstools covered with thick cloth and small [illegible] or drawers for holding books are in every pew. In winter stoves are placed in different parts of the buildings, which keep it nice and warm. In summer all the ladies and a few of the gentlemen use fans with great vigour, which keeps a soft breeze (having a perfume of confectionery) buzzing all over the church. I went into a church in Pittsburgh once on a hot summer’s evening, which happened to be the Sunday for the dispensation of the Sacrament. A clergyman [illegible] distance preached the sermon, and the minister of the congregation had a large fan, which he used with a power equal to steam in fanning the preacher. But this fanning system is of great benefit to churchgoers, for while the clergyman is administering balm to your spirit, the ladies look after your bodily comforts. There is a great deal more freedom used here between pastors and their flocks than there is at home—there not being nearly so much straitlacedness or stiff-neckedness among clergymen here. For instance, during the time the congregation are assembling for worship the pastor goes up and down the aisles shaking hands and asking after his flock’s social as well as spiritual welfare. If there are any pic-nics, concerts, social meetings, or any pleasure parties held in any way connected with the members of the churches, the pastors almost invariably give them their countenance and presence. I think this commingling of social matters between preachers and hearers is of great mutual benefit, and tends to foment a brotherliness between parties, instead of blind idol worship, as I have seen at home, where some people are more in awe of their earthly pastor than they are of their heavenly Master. As a rule, there are only two diets of worship in Presbyterian Churches on Sabbaths—one in the forenoon, the other in the evening, with Sunday schools and Bible classes between. The evening services do not begin until half-past seven, which is, I think, a mistake, as it is often nine before one can get home, which to us Scotch people is rather late for a Sunday evening. I have before me a Rochester newspaper in which is a large advertisement headed thus:—“Grand Sacred Concert, Sunday, February 5th, at Genesse Falls Park,” then follows the programme, with selections from “Billee Taylor,” followed by songs, solos, polka, quadrille, and other sacred music.  One Sunday evening we went to the Free Methodist Church, and the first objects which met our gaze on entering the edifice were large placards hung round the walls on which was painted in letters of enormous size the following:—“The congregation is expected to remain until the close of the service.” Another ran thus:—“Do not spit on the floor.” The first and principal part of the evening’s proceedings was the taking up of the collection. I may say that I have never seen any plates at the church doors here, but they have the barefaced, old-fashioned plan of thrusting the wooden ladle under your nose. All denominations are kind to strangers. Two ushers generally stand at the end of the aisles to lead you to a seat and find a book for you. In fact, they are as kind as a Reform Street draper after you have made a heavy purchase, for when you are retiring they bow and scrape and smirk and smile, and say—“Good evening, sir. Call again, sir. Be happy to see you, sir.” Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 13.’ by a Correspondent in New York (15 July, 1882)”

‘Bodkin Draws His “Huggar”’ (28 December, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of Tammas Bodkin, the character used by editor William D. Latto to speak frankly (and amusingly) on current affairs. Latto became editor of the people’s journal in December 1860 and used the platform to launch Tammas, bringing himself a fair amount of fame in Victorian Scotland.

Maister Editor,—My prophecy has come true, nor did I need to wait lang for the fulfilment thereof. Tibbie has unbosomed a’ her griefs anent Mrs Davidson’s new apparel; an’, what is mair an’ waur, Tibbie’s pawkie tongue has gotten her the victory! Noo she is as happy as the nicht is lang, for she is upsides wi’ Mrs Davidson; yea, she is actually a gude wheen shillin’s superior to that individual, muckle as she did think o’ her bannet that cost three-an’-thirty “bob.” As sure as ought, after hearin’ a’ Tibbie’s wechty ratiocination, an’ balancin’ the yeas an’ the nays forgainst ane anither, I was driven to the inevitable conclusion that her will behooved to be law, an’ that I micht juist as weel haud my tongue as speak, unless I agreed to let it wag in unison wi’ her’s. Hoo she managed to convince me that she was “half-nakit,” an’ stood greatly in need o’ a backburthen o’ silk mercery an’ haberdashery goods, will be fully, truly, an’ particularly set forth in the sequel o’ my discoorse.

Weel, ye see, for twa or three days after Mrs Davidson’s visit, unco few words passed between Tibie an’ me on ony subject, an’ absolutely nane ava anent the contents o’ that worthy lady’s bandbox an’ broon paper parcels. I foresaw what was maskin’ up, an’ the prospect was onything but pleasant to behold. Weel kenned I that a sacrifice o’ sax or aucht pounds sterlin’ wad be necessary in order to restore Tibbie to her wonted serenity o’ soul an’ smoothness o’ temper; aboot that I had nae doots whatsomever. The contemplation o’ that disagreeable contingency, I ha’e as little doot, not only subtracted frae the habitual radiancy o’ my coontenance, but addit nae that little acerbity to the usual equanimity o’ my temper. It is sometimes necessary, in the way o’ business, to put on a face scarcely consistent wi’ the condition o’ the internal machinery o’ the body, but at ane’s ain fireside, if onywhere, it is surely quite allooable to let the physog shadow forth the feelins o’ the heart. Consequently, when I am angry either wi’ Tibbie or wi’ Willie Clippins, I tak’ gude care to adverteese them o’ the circumstance, by makin’ my physiognomy, as well as my haill walk an’ conversation, serve as the ootward tokens an’ visibilities thereof. There is nae use for a man toilin’ hard to keep a hoose aboon his head, if he is to be sae little the maister thereof as to be under the necessity o’ playin’ the hypocrite at his ain fireside, an’ deceivin’ even the very wife o’ his bosom.

Tibbie is auld-farrand eneugh at discernin’ the signs o’ the times to ken when to speak, an’ when to haud her tongue. T is the sign o’ a gude general to be able to see an’ to seize upon the precise moment when the enemy is in a swither whether to fecht or flee, an’ by leadin’ up his reserves in the nick o’ time, to mak’ a bauld stroke for victory. This faculty my Tibbie possesses to an ooncommon degree. She begins by cajolin’ me wi’ her saft blandishments against whilk my sternest resolutions are no proof o’ shot, an’ ends by leadin’ me captive, like a fule to the correction o’ stocks. In this I canna claim ony singularity for mysel’, for it has been the way o’ the warld ever sn’ t was a warld, an’ will likely remain sae as lang as men an’ women are drawn thegither by the silken cords o’ love, an’ that’ll be, accordin’ to my interpretation o’ the language o’ prophecy, till the crack o’ doom.

Tibbie’s first move towards oilin’ my temper pin was to throw on her bannet ae nicht an’ gang her wa’s doon i’ the gloamin’ to the Fish Market an’ fetch up a skate, as a peace-offerin’. So when she returned, she cries me to the kitchen. “Tammas,” quoth she, “wad ye hae time to look ben for a wee?”

Ben I goes, an’ there in a bucket lies the skate—an object that awakened in my stammack most pleasin’ visions o’ a feast o’ fat things. I’ve haen a lithe side to skate ever sin’ I could discern between my richt hand an’ my left, an’ its a feelin’ that will abide wi’ me as lang as I can tell what is gude for me, an’ after that, I’m thinking, I winna be worth muckle, either to Tibbie or to the warld at lairge. I stood an’ beheld it for a few seconds, then I seized it by the tail, an’ held it up atween me an’ the licht to see if it was a thorny-black, an’ lastly, I restored it to the bucket, but meanwhile I said naething, though I dinna doot my face gave unmistakable tokens o’ the inward satisfaction that I really felt an’ cherished. Tibbie watched the tide in her affairs, took it at the flood, an’ found that it led her on to fortune.

“What think ye o’ my purchase, Tammas?” quoth she, wi’ ane o’ her most winning smiles stealin’ ower her pawkie face; “Isna that a worthy beast! Hoo the fishwives were jokin’ me aboot it, Tammas! but fegs I gied them in their cheenge, an’ never mindit what they said. I think ye’ll get petawtis an’ skate to yer dinner the morn, Tammas.”

Tibbie said a great deal mair to the same purpose, an’ of coorse I gied my assent to the feck o’ her discoorse, for she taen care to mak’ it, even to the most minute particular, an echo o’ my weel-known sentiments on that subject. So, after discussin’ the merits o’ her purchase to oor hearts’ content, I gaed my wa’s ben to the needle, an’ Tibbie she kiltit her sleeves to her shoother heads, an’, knife in hand, set to wark to embowel the skate—an operation at which, n my humble opinion, she hasna her marrow amang a’ the women o’ my acquaintance. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Draws His “Huggar”’ (28 December, 1861)”

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

‘Bodkin’s Goose Falls into a Serious Transgression’ (21 December, 1861)

The following is one of the many epistles of Tammas Bodkin, the character used by editor William D. Latto to speak frankly (and amusingly) on current affairs. Latto became editor of the people’s journal in December 1860 and used the platform to launch Tammas, bringing himself a fair amount of fame in Victorian Scotland.

Maister Editor,—Havin’ finished the waddin’ suit I spoke aboot last week, I’m noo at leisure to tell ye the result o’ my interview wi’ Tibbie an’ Mrs Davidson.

Weel ye see, as I was sayin’, when I gaed but to the kitchen at Tibbie’s command, I found her standin’ afore the lookin’ glass arrayed in Mrs Davidson’s new regimentals, an’ presentin’, I maun say, to my e’e at least, a very comely sicht. First an’ foremost, an’ to begin wi’ her upper story, there was a most lovely, an’, accordin’ to Mrs Davidson, a very costly bannet on the head o’ her, wi’ some queer fleegaries stuch atween the snoot an’ her forehead, that bore a strikin’ resemblance to a wren’s nest; but as this is no the season o’ nidification amang the feathered sangsters o’ the grove, a bird’s nest it couldna weel hae been, though what it really was clean surpasses my vocabulary to name. Most fearfully an’ wonderfully was that precious head-piece bedeckt wi’ ribands o’ a’ the hues o’ the rainbow. Tibbie remindit me o’ a ship buskit up in flamin’-coloured clouts, and juist ready to tak’ the grand plunge into her “future element.” A shawl, that I sanna attempt to describe, enveloped her person frae neck to heel, an’ aroond her neck there was twined an article that Mrs Davidson ca’d a sable boa, but that seemed to my inexperienced e’e to have been fashioned on the model o’ a hairy-worm. Add to a’ thae variorums, a muff o’ the same colour an’ quality as the boa, an’ ye’ll behold my Tibbie. I cuist my e’e ower her haill corporation frae head to fit, an’ quoth she, “Tammas, what d’ye think o’ yer gudewife the nicht?” Of coorse I wasna gaen to say afore Mrs Davidson a’ that I thocht, an’ a’ that I wad hae said, an’ a’ that I did say, ahint her back; but weel I wat, I thocht nae that little in my ain mind, an’ no the least distressin’ reflection was this, that I was in for a suit o’ the like raiment for Tibbie, as sure as I was a livin’ man an’ a dutiful husband.

“Think o’ ye, Tibbie?” quoth I. “Ou ye’re weel eneuch,” quoth I.

“Weel eneuch?” quoth Tibbie. “Is that a’ your skill, Tammas? D’ye no think Mrs Davidson’s bravity becomes me richt weel, Tammas?”

“Ou aye, I suppose they do,” quoth I, drily, an’ at the same time spittin’ on the guse to see if she was ready for liftin’.

“But that’s no what I meant, Tammas,” quoth Tibbie. “Ha’e ye naething to say aboot this lovely bannet, for instance, but juist ‘weel eneuch,’ an ‘on aye?’ D’ye no think it gars me look a dizzen o’ years younger like, Tammas?”

“Maybe it does, Tibbie,” quoth I, “but likes an ill mark, my woman; an’, besides, ye canna deceive me as to yer age noo, TIbbie, after I had the fillin’ up o’ the census paperie. D’ye mind hoo auld I set ye doon therein, Tibbie? If it werna for Mrs Davidson there I wad tell ye.”

“Hoots, toots, Tammas, min,” quoth she, “ye’re awa’ frae the subject noo a’thegither, but tel me what ye think o’ this muff, Tammas; would’nt it fit me to a very shavin’?”

“Ou aye, Tibbie,” quoth I, “an’ if I can lay me hands on a dead cat ony way, ye’se get a muff, Tibbie.”

“What d’ye think was the price o’ that bannet?” enquired Mrs Davidson.

“Canna say, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I. “Bannets are no exactly in my line o’ business, an I dinna like to venture a guess on the subject, for I’m far frae bein’ a witch at guessin’.”

“Weel, what will ye gi’e me if I tell ye?” quoth Mrs Davidson.

“My thirst for knowledge o’ that kind is no sae very intense as to induce me to pay a high fee for it,” quoth I.

“Juist three-an’-therty shillings, Mr Bodkin,” quoth she, “an’ no ae farthin’ less. It’s a real bargain, ye see, for the man said it was ‘very chaste,’ an’ newly arrived frae Parish.”

“Ye remind me o’ the auld proverb, Mrs Davidson,” quoth I.

“Yea, Mr Bodkin, an’ what proverb is that?”

“That a fule an’ his siller are sure partit,” quoth I.

“Aha! Mr Bodkin,” quoth she; “ye may say what ye like, but I’ve saved twa an’ saxpence on that bannet, for the man wad hae haen five-an’-therty an’ saxpence for’t, but I wadna agree to his terms. So ye see I’ve saved half a day’s wage to John Davidson by that stroke o’ business.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin’s Goose Falls into a Serious Transgression’ (21 December, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America — No. 11.’ by a Correspondent in New York (20 May, 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 discussion focuses on drinking culture and alcoholism in the United States.

Drinking Habits Among the Yankees.

Mr William Pearce, the builder of the Arizona, Elbe, and Alaska steamships, has been in this country on a visit, and on being interviewed and questioned on the facilities for shipbuilding in this country as compared with Great Britain he says:—“We are, to be sure, hampered somewhat by the despotic system of Trades Unions among our working men. And, again, where our men work fifty-four hours in a week, yours work sixty. The working men in this country, too, are not so intemperate as ours are, which is another advantage American employers have.” “Angels and ministers of grace defend us,” where has this English shipbuilder got his information? It has long been my opinion that those who come here on a short pleasure trip, or just comes to see what o’clock it is in America, or only stops as long as digest the last meal they got on board the steamer that brought them out, know more about the history of America, geographically, geologically, commercially, socially, morally, and every other way than those who have been born and bred here for a long lifetimes. So it is with this Englishman. Does he mean to tell us that there is no despotic system of Trades Unions (as he loves to term it) in America? What he in his erroneous egotism calls despotism is far more rampant here than where he builds his ships. It is true that our working hours are properly six more per week than in the old country; but do Americans as a rule work more hours in a year than Scotchmen or Englishmen do? No, they do not. The Yankee thinks no more of taking a day to himself than a Scotchman does of taking a morning, and he does take it. Yankees don’t work nearly so steadily or continuously as this gentleman’s shipbuilders do. And, don’t you forget it, I don’t say that Uncle Sam is lazy. Oh no; I guess he only gets tired pretty often, and it takes a very small excuse to make him lay off work for a time. I thoroughly believe that if we had the Saturday half-holiday established here it would tend to lessen the taking of days during the week, for Americans, like other people, think that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. As to the charge of the British workman being more intemperate than American workmen, I will be as charitable as to think that he spoke more in ignorance than in trying to hurt his fellow-countrymen are more intemperate in every sense of the word than the Americans are, and I think it would be far better to remain silent than speak at random of things we know not of. The Excise Commissioners of New York City report they have licensed 8561 places to sell liquor, and there are at least 1500 unlicensed places in the city, making above 2000 reports for making drundarks [sic? drunkards?] in the city of New York alone. A correspondent of a newspaper says that the Astor House of that city has the largest bar business in the world, and adds—“It is a bad day’s business when they do not sell over 700 dollars worth of liquor.

In the city of Denver during the year 1880 the total income for the sale of boots and shoes, coal, and the products of the bakeries amounted to 1,875,000 dollars. The income for the sale of liquors for the same period was 2,000,000 dollars, or 25,000 dollars more for liquor than for the above necessaries of life. An authority on the subject says:—“A sum equal to the earnings of all the railways is drunk up every year in this country. Instead of men saving their money in case of hard times, they place their dollars in the liquor saloons, and draw an interest of bloodshot eyes and staggering gait. In time as they become better customers they get a substantial dividend of delerium tremens, and soon their brain succumbs.” Two million persons are employed in different branches of the liquor traffic. Four hundred murders and five hundred suicides annually are due to the drinking of alcohol in this country. And this is the land where sobriety is represented to be one of the characteristics of its people, and who are held up to you Scotch and English working men as worthy of imitation! Bah, the next time this English shipbuilder comes here to open his mouth and let his tongue say anything that has a mind to, let him take some other topic which he knows something about, and not come here in his ignorance and ridicule his fellow-countrymen, more especially the very men who build his ships and helped to build his fortune.

“O, ye wha are sae guid yersel’,

Sae pious and sae holy,

Ye’ve nought to do but mark an’ tell

Your neibours’ fauts an’ folly.”

Correspondent.