‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 10.’ (22 April, 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 Mormonism. An extremely contentious issue at the time which inspired much suspicion (see Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel ‘A Study in Scarlet’.

The Mormon Question.

One of the greatest questions now agitating the people of this country is, Shall Mormonless be permitted to continue its baneful, pernicious, and unholy despotism in this country, or shall we blot out for ever this deep stain on America’s [illegible]? Utah, the land of the Mormons, lies to the far west, almost direct west from New York. It s for the most part in a deep basin, surrounded by high mountains—the Great Salt Lake basin—and the lakes and rivers have no outlet. The Great Salt Lake is 100 miles long and 50 broad. There are 84,000 square miles in the territory. The soil is fertile and the climate, though dry and cool, is very healthy. About three-fourths dry and cool, is very healthy. About three-fourths of the inhabitants are Mormons. At the present time there are about 125,000 Mormons in Utah, and in the neighbouring States or territories 35,000 more. Some of your readers may not know to what extent this brutalising system is allowed to go on here. A celebrated New York preacher, the Rev. Dr Newman, speaking of Mormonism recently, said:—“Mormonism is a political body in the disguise of a church. It s a nullification, disloyalty, treason. It is a despotism, and the head of the Church is the despot. His immediate kingdom is Utah, with 150,000 deluded people; his remote kingdom is the world, and all men are his subjects. He is styled ‘prophet,’ ‘seer,’ and ‘revelator,’ and assumes that he is the only mediator through whom Jehovah reveals His will to man. He assumes infallibility, and claims the right to direct everything, from the slightest matter to the most important. The Mormons are bound to consult him. He claims the exclusive right to marry and to divorce. Each Mormon is required to pay one-tenth of his possessions when he enters the Church, and thereafter to pay one-tenth of his annual increases. This amount is paid over in trust for the saints to the President of the Church, who is to-day the richest man in America. As a civil and an ecclesiastical ruler the head of Mormondom claims the right to sentence offenders to death, and the twelve apostles believe in slaying the Lord’s enemies, no matter whom they may be. Mormonism is anti-republican. It is a kingdom within our Republic. It is a despotism under our own flag. It dreams of the conquest of the world. Polygamy is an incidental evil of this monstrous political despotism in our midst. We are reaping the evils of procrastination. We have dallied with this iniquity till it now alarms us. We esteemed Mormonism a standing joke to be laughed out of existence, but to-day it commands out most serious attention. We said it would succumb to the march of civilisation. In 1850 we organised a Territorial Government composed of Mormons, and thus recognised the Government. We have allowed the national domain to be parcelled out by that Territorial Legislature, and most of it by fraud. We have suffered emigrants to enter Utah from all lands. We have consented that all such persons should be clothed with the rights of citizenship, and we have permitted the women of that Territory to be invested with the power of the ballot, which women are white slaves. We have waited till the enemy is organised into secret military forces in the possession of arms, and who are now drilling for their advance. Nay, more, for ten years Republicans and Democrats have sat in Congress with a Mormon and a polygamist, who has recently flaunted in the face of the nation his contempt for the law of 1862. These are out delinquencies.” Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 10.’ (22 April, 1882)”

‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 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,—It’s wi’ nae sma’ amoont o’ trepidashun an’ wi’ great fear and tremblin’ that I venture to ask you the favour o’ insertin’ this letter; but I think it’s only fair that baith sides sid be heard, an’ yer Journal weekly testifies that ye’re o’ the same opeenion.

Alloo me, then, to tell ye, Sir, that I didna juist exackly like to cheek up tae the maister i’ the coorse o’ his learned prelection on matrimony last week, of whilk I was the oonfortunate victim; but believe me, though I said naething, I thocht plenty. Wi’ a’ due deference to the maister’s sooperior pooers o’ judgment, experience, an’ ability—no only in cuttin’ oot in the first style o’ fashion a pair o’ peg-top slacks, but also in bein’ the author o’ sae muckle leeterary maiter—I maun say that I think he juist took raither muckle on him when, withoot ony warnicement, as he ca’s it, he gae me sic a discoorse on matrimony. It took my breath clean awa’, an’ I didna get ae wink o’ sleep a’ nicht thinkin’ on’t. It wad hae been a’ very guid if he had been addressin’ a bridegroom, but the idea o’ me marryin’ is something that I canna for the life o’ me get ower—marryin’, an’ my time no oot—marryin’, an’ me hisna aboon—but I sanna say hoo muckle, or raither hoo little i’ the Savin’s Bank, for fear yer readers wid lauch at’s—marryin’, an’ my—my—my—whisker hardly begun to sprout again aifter its Hallowe’en untimely end—marryin’, an’, most important consideration o’ a’, only the words “Thomas Bodkin” on the sign-brod. Na, na. Ye mauna tell the maister, Mr Editor, when I lat ye into the secret that sin he cam’ sae muckle into notice, I’ve ha’en an e’e on the sign bein’ altered some day—tho’ it’ll maybe be a lang time yet—but wadna it soond fine. “Bodkin & Clippins, Tailors and Clothiers?”—far better than “Bobbins, Bodkin, & Co.,” so wisely rejected by “Tammas” (I houp he’ll excuse this fameeliarity). An’ here lat me say I dinna like thae Co.’s ava—they’re awfu’ oonstable like, an’ onything can be dune oonder that ugly wird at the end o’ some firms—“Co.” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Criticised by Clippins’ (30 November, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 9.’ (15 April, 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).

Advice To Emigrants.

In the Southern Atlantic States there is a fine climate, and much good land offered at reasonable prices, but with the exception of Florida, the social, political, and educational conditions of these States are not such as to make emigration to them desirable. These States are ruled too much by the pistol, the rifle, and the shot-gun to make life agreeable there. Florida is obtaining a large number of northern settlers, and though some portions of the State are subject to malarious fevers, and its principal towns suffer from yellow fever, the climate in the interior is delightful, and the culture of the orange, lemon, fig, and other semi-tropical fruits is becoming large and profitable. Land in desirable portions of the State is in much demand, and is bringing higher prices than that I have named in other States. Tennessee (East Tennessee in particular), has much desirable land, having a delightful climate, great mineral wealth, and much valuable timber; and in many places a fertile soil. A number of large [illegible] from great Great Britain have already located themselves here, and most of them are doing well. Land can be obtained at low prices, especially if purchased for colonies in large tracts. In Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa there are no very desirable lands belonging to the Government. Some railroad Directors and others have land grants, and will sell alternate sections to settlers at from six to ten dollars per acre. These lands being on trunk railroad lines are in many cases desirable as investments. Minnesota has a fertile soil, great enterprise, and a magnificent future. The climate in winter is cold, but dry and uniform. In summer it is delightful. In the western portion of the State is the best land for spring wheat in the United States. This region is attracting great numbers of emigrants. Land in every way desirable can now be procured in this region under the Homestead Act or under the Timber Culture Act. Every citizen of the United States, or those who declare their intention to become such, over twenty-one years of age, whether male or female (except the married female), possesses three rights entitling him or her to 480 acres of Government land, a pre-emption homestead, and an entry under the Timber Culture Act. A pre-emption is a fourth of a section, or 160 acres of land obtained by occupancy and improvement and the payment of 1 dollar 25 cents per acre, or 200 dollars for 160 acres. Payment can be made at any time after 6 months, or within 33 months from date of entry, and a deed obtained allowing to dispose of or hold the purchase at will. A homestead is a similar tract obtained by the payment of 14 dollars Government fees, and the continued occupancy and improvement of the land for five successive years. Persons are not required to remain on it uninterruptedly, but an abandonment for six months works a forfeiture. Those who prefer, and are able, can secure a title after six months by paying the pre-emption price. A claim under the Timber Culture Act is secured by paying 14 dollars Government fees, and the planting of tree seeds or cuttings to the amount of ten acres. Three years time is allowed for this, making the cost merely nominal. Two years are allowed before any trees need be planted, and the entire expense, if done by employed labour, will not exceed 120 dollars for the entry. Persons entering a claim for timber culture are not require to occupy it, or even go upon it, if they do not desire to do so. The improvements can be made by employed help. Every individual may enter either pre-emption or homestead, and a claim under the Timber Culture Act at the same time, making 320 acres, and often fulfilling the requirements of the law regulating either of these former two, can exercise his remaining unoccupied right giving him 480 acres. Persons wishing to enter these lands must appear in person at a Territorial Untied States Land office, or before a Clerk of the Court for the country in which the land is located.

I have tried to make this rather complicated land getting system as easy of understanding as I could. It can scarcely be thoroughly understood at the first glance; but I have no doubt but those who intend coming here in the agricultural interest will give this or any other and better description of how land can be obtained in this country more than a passing glance. My information is not based on any claptrap advertisements or agencies. The most of it is taken from statistics published by the Statistical Bureau at Washington and from reliable parties who have been in and seen the workings of the most of our States. I could give you an account of more of our States and Territories, but as they are something of a repetition of the others, I conclude it would be too dry for the generality of your readers. Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 9.’ (15 April, 1882)”

‘Bodkin on Matters Matrimonial’ (23 November, 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,—The ither nicht i’ the gloamin’, Tibbie bein’ oot for some errands, an’ the hoose bein’ quiet, baith but an’ ben, Willie an’ me fell to oor cracks aboot ae thing an’ anither, an’ so, after settlin’ the American war to oor ain entire satisfaction, an’ regulatin’ the price o’ the meal, an’ petawtis, an’ red herrin’, so as to gar them harmonise wi’ the current rates o’ wages, the conversation at last tane the direction o’ matrimony, whereon we had some unco edifyin’ discoorse. Willie fought rather shy o’ the subject, hooever, as was but natural in him, puir fallow, seein’ he has had nae experience in the ways o’ womankind farther than occasionally gallantin’ wi’ the charmin’ Mary Ann. Hoosomdever, I consider it to be a pairt o’ my duty not only to instruct him in the mystery o’ my proper profession, but also to put some smeddum in him in regaird to matrimony, an’ things in general, an’ therefore I embraced the opportunity o’ readin’ him a lecture on that branch o’ Social Science that I wad venture to ca’ Matrimonial Economy. He is maybe rather young to oonderstand sic a discoorse yet, but, as the proverb says, “Learn young learn fair.”

“Noo, Willie,” quoth I, “as we’re on the subject at ony rate, I maun hae a word, or twa wi’ ye aboot that sweetheart o’ yours, an’ hoo ye maun behave yersel baith before an’ after ye mak’ her yer wife. I think muckle o’ yer taste, Willie—very muckle indeed—for if I were allooed to criticise the looks o’ young leddies I wad say that Mary Ann is juist yer very marrow, sae far as I can judge frae the ootside o’ her, an’ I hope, for you sake as weel as her ain, that her moral qualities are but a faithfu’ reflex o’ her bonny, bloomin’, laughin’ coontenance, that maks her presence a perpetual sunshine.”

I saw that Wilie was in an unco steeriefyke when I entered upon this delicate subject, for his face grew as red as the fire, an’ he bit his lip, an’ he made sundry attempts to clear his throat o’ something that obstinately refused to budge in spite o’ a’ his hoastin’ an’ hawghin’, an’ he held the needle fleein’ wi’ a vigour an’ a velocity nae ordinary, an’ he hung doon his head like a bulrush—an’, takin’ a’thing into acoont, it was as plain as a pike-staff, to my apprehension, that Willie was thinkin’ black-burnin’ shame either o’ himsel’ or o’ me; but, hoosomdever, he was as mim as a moose, an’ said naething, an’ so I proceedit wi’ my discoorse:—

“But, Willie,” quoth I, “ye are but a young man yet, an’ winna be oot wi’ yer apprenticeship for anither twelvemonth, an’ I wad hae ye to exerceese due caution in comin’ oonder obligations either to Mary Ann or to ony o’ her sex. Ye maun remember, Willie, that marriage is a solemn oondertakin’, for when ye get a wife ye’ll be nae langer yer ain maister, but will be, to a certain extent, oonder petticoat government. I am, Willie—everybody is—an’ it wad be needless to deny it. Noo, ye wad need to consider aforehand, Willie, whether ye wad be willin’ to let Mary Ann wear the breeks, as the sayin’ is, for it’s ower late to consider that after the marriage-knot has been tied. Mind ye, there’s nae gettin’ oot o’ that scrape ance ye are fairly in; sae ye wad better look afore ye loup. Continue reading “‘Bodkin on Matters Matrimonial’ (23 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 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,—I aye like to gie young folk a little encouragement, provided they behave themsels, an’ do what they are bidden. Noo, I’ve never haen ony cause to complain o’ the behaviour o’ Willie Clippins. Shortcomins he may hae—as, indeed, there’s few folk free o’ them, no forgettin’ mysel amang the lave—but this thing I will say to the credit o’ Willie, he has never been obstinately nor wilfully mureungeous in his disposition, an’ aye when I have shown him the error o’ his ways, he has listened to my coonsels an’ reproofs wi’ becomin’ reverence. In doin’ that, of coorse, he is doin’ naething but his duty, an’ strictly speakin’, folk shouldna be bribit to do their duty; but still an’ on they are nane the waur at times o’ being allooed a little indulgence to keep them souple, an’ to shew that they are no juist viewed in the licht o’ workin’ machines, that maun gang on an’ on, frae day to day an’ frae year to year, withoot rest or recreation. Mony is the saxpence, an’ untold the quantities o’ sweeties I hae gien to Willie frae first to last, y way o’ encouragin’ him in weel-doin’, an’ never have I had cause to regret the bounties bestowed on him, for I’m sure he wad gang through fire an’ water to sair either Tibbie or me, an’ that withoot either the shadow o’ a glumsh or a grumble on his mirkie bit coontenance.

In my hoosehold Hallowe’en an’ Hogmanay, no to mention the various Fair days an’ ither great occasions, ha’e aye been held sacred to the spirit o’ fun an’ gude fellowship, an’ a’ kinds o’ harmless gilravage proper to the season. I’m that muckle o’ a Conservative in a social point o’ view—though I’m an oot an’ oot Radical in political matters—that I grieve to see a spirit o’ utilitarianism abroad, breakin’ up bit by bit a’ oor time-honoured customes an’ observances, an’ leavin’ us naething in their stead but hard wark an’ short commons to cheer oor pilgrimage through this vale o’ tears. I’m nae advocate for the carnivals an’ numberless saint days an’ holidays that ha’e the sign o’ the beast on their foreheads, but I’m dead against lettin’ go oor haud o’ the few seasons o’ mirth an’ harmless jollification we reserved when we voluntarily abandoned the mummeries o’ the great whore o’ Babylon, wha even to this oor ain day yet sits enthroned in the seven-hilled city, makin’ hersel’ drunk wi’ the blude o’ the saints. I like fun mysel’, an’ I like to see a’ mankind enjoyin’ themsel’s, if sae be they keep their mirth within the boonds o’ propriety, an’ dinna let their amusements degenerate into licentiousness.

Weel, ye see, Tuesday nicht bein’ Auld Hallowe’en, I, accordin’ to custom, gae Willie the forenicht to himsel’, an’ told him mair an’ farther that he micht bring in a half-dizzen or sae o’ his acquaintances, an’ I wad provide for their entertainment an’ amusement at my ain charges. This, I think, is a far better plan than simply turnin’ young folk adrift to rin-the-rout an’ seek amusement for themsel’s, when they maybe fa’ into evil company, an’ bring grief an’ shame upon themsel’s an’ upon a’ conneckit wi’ them. I’m no gien to offer advice unless it be especially sought for; but I wad for ance depairt frae that rule, an’ admonish my fellow-tradesmen, an’ maisters an’ mistresses o’ a’ kinds, no to think the twa or three shillin’s ill-waired that are spent on makin’ their servants happy, an’ keepin’ them oot o’ mischief. I can speak frae my ain experience on this subject, an’ I can safely say I never but got the bawbees spent in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, in that way paid back to me, plack an’ farthin’, principal an’ interest, afore the end o’ the day—so that, instead o’ bein’ a loser by my liberality, I have gained nae that little thereby, besides haein’ the sweet, the oonspeakable satisfaction o’ makin’ my fellow-creatures happy.

It wad ha’e done yer heart gude had ye seen hoo Willie garred the needle dance oot an’ in through the seam o’ the pair o’ slacks whereon he was engaged, when I made the important announcement that he was to be his ain maister after the chap o’ sax o’clock. I despatched Tibbie in the afternoon wi’ her radicle on her airm, an’ a twa shillin’ piece in her pouch, to buy an assortment o’ apples, nuts, an’ ither nick-nacks; an’ Willie, after takin’ his drappie o’ tea, washed his face, arrayed himsel’ in his est apparel, an’ set oot to invite his companions to the ploy. In coorse o’ time he returned, bringin’ twa o’ his male companions, and three o’ his female ditto. Od it’s wonderfu’ to behold hoo soon the youthhood o’ the present generation begin to pair. I’m certain sure, when Tibbie an’ me were like them, we wad hae thocht black burnin’ shame to hae been seen cheekin’ up to ane aniher; but ye see this is an age o’ progress, wherein it is baith lawfu’ an’ proper for folk to think aboot gettin’ married lang, lang afore they set abot cuttin’ their wisdom teeth. There was Billy Button, a geyan spruce lookin’ bit chappie, wha will be oot wi’ his apprenticeship on the term day, an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; there was Jeames Stitch, the auldest son o’ my freend an’ former servant Maister Stitch, wha is sairin’ his time in some haberdashery establishment wast the Nethergate—an unco gabby rascal he is for his years, but by nae means an ill-disposed bit loonie for a’ that—an’ he had his sweetheart alang wi’ him; an’ there was Willie himsel’, lookin’ as brisk as a bee on a midsummer mornin’—an’ he had his sweetheart under his wing, though he winna let me say she was his sweetheart, but it’s a gude point to deny weel, an’ I canna blame him for doin’ what I wad ha’e done mysel’ when I was like him, an’ what I did oftener than ance, as Tibbie can testify, if she likes to tell the truth on that subject. My certie, Willie has nae reason to be ashamed o’ his choice, for Mary-Ann—that was a’ the name she had, sae far as I could mak’ oot frae their conversation—was as blithe an’ bonnie a bit lassockie as ye could clap an e’e upon. Wi’ her lang black glossy locks gathered up in a poke in her back-neck, lookin’ for a’ the warld like a fisherman’s sou’-wester—though, of coorse, a far mair interestin’ object—wi’ a sweet little Garibaldi perkt on the croon o’ her bit head, whereon there flaunted a “dear little duck” o’ a “feather”—no meanin’ thereby that it was a deuk’s feather—na, na, it had dootless been pluckit frae the wing o’ some far-awa’ fowl, proverbial for its splendid plumage—wi’ a braw silk cloak that Tibbie thinks wad cost nae less than five-an’-twenty shillin’s, and maybe aughteen pence mair, coontin’ the border an’ the braidin’ on the breast o’t, wi’ a skirt made o’ a material the name whereof I forget at this precise moment—but Tibbie kens a’ aboot it—an’ for the crinoline, I didna get a sicht o’ that, but judgin’ frae appearances, I wad say it couldna hae been less than four or five yards in circumference; an’, to croon a’, wi’ “her rosy cheeks an’ cherry mou’, her sparklin’ een o’ bonnie lue, her dimpled chin, her forehead fair, her neck that scarce the very swan in spotless whiteness can compare—wi’ a’ thae charms, an’ ten times mair, bedeck a fairy form, an’ there thou wilt behold sweet Mary Ann.” Its really ill dune in me to let oot secrets, but the latter pairt o’ the foregoin’ description I discovered this mornin’ under the guse, carefully drawn up in Willie’s handwreatin’ on the braid side o’ a white paper poke that has a strong smell o’ tea blades. So, after that, Willie needna deny bein’ in love wi’ Mary Ann; an’, to tell the truth, had I been in Willie’s shoon, I wad hae been in love wi’ her, or wi’ some ane unco like her, mysel’, an’ that’s no sayin’ ae thing an’ thinkin’ anither. Continue reading “‘Bodkin Holds his Halowe’en (16 November, 1861)”

‘Bodkin Has a Fearful Night of it’ (9 November, 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,—I’m no gi’en to quarrel wi’ the weather, nor wi’ ony o’ the ither arrangements o’ Providence, but I canna help remarkin’ that the cauld in the end o’ last week has gi’en me something like the influenza, or, as Tibbie calls it, the “Fleen’ Nancy.” Were I as weel proteckit frae the bitin’ breath o’ auld John Frost by a hap-warm o’ creesh as s my friend Saunders Mucklepaunch the butcher, for instance, I could afford to set what philosophers ca’ the climatic influences at defiance; but, like the maist o’ my professional britherhood, I’m furnished wi’ a tabernacle that is but spairly fortified against the cranreuch an’ the nirlin’ winds o’ the winter solstice. Had it no been for the care bestowed on me by my adorable Tibbie, lang, lang ere noo wad I ha’e been ower that bourne whence nae traveller ever returns; but thanks to her thrift, an’ providence, an’ incomparable housewifery, here am I to this oor an’ day yet, aye able to stap aboot, an’ crack a joke—aye able to wield my needle—aye able to tak’ my bite an’ soup—an’, to mak’ a lang story short, aye i’ the land o’ the livin’, instead o’ bein’—as I micht ha’e been, but for Tibbie’s carefu’ nursin’—i’ the land o’ the leal. That’s the view that Tibbie taks o’ the subject at ony rate; an’ as she doesna like to be contradickit, an’ as I’ve nae objections to her believin’ that I hold my life frae her as my feudal superior an’ lord-paramount, I mak’ her quite welcome to nurse the idea in her bosom, the mar sae as it presents a powerfu’ incentive to her to exert hersel’ to the utmost for my comfort. An’, to gi’e Tibbie her due, she is a burnin’ an’ a shinin’ licht in my hoosehold. The provision she maks for my corporeal delectation is something quite marvellous. Within the last week or twa she has made nae fewer than half-a-dizzen o’ double-milled flannel sarks, four worsted slips, wrocht by her ain twa hands, an’ seven or aucht pairs o’ stockin’s o’ the very best lambs’ wool that she could get in a’ Reform Street—forbye twa pairs o’ pin mittens—ane o’ them for every day, an’ the ither for Sunday’s wear—an’ a’ to enable me

“To thole the winter’s sleety dribble

An’ cranreuch cauld.”

But, as Burns observes in the very neist verse—

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft agley,”

An’ sae it faired wi’ Tibbie’s schemes for the comfort o’ my corpus. The sudden cheenge o’ the temperature i’ the end o’ last week completely nirled my neb, an’ sent the cauld shivers shootin’ like arrows through my very banes an’ marrow. A’ Saturday an’ Sabbath I was juist at deid’s door, scarcely able to wingle a’e leg bye the ither. My head-piece was completely stappit up, an’ as douf an’ fushionless-like as an auld foggie turnip; an’ an attempt to blaw my nose garred a’ the internal organization thereof crack an’ fizz like a ginger-beer bottle castin’ the cork. My throat was like an open sepulchre in a literal sense, as it was a’ red flesh, an’ was as dry as a whistle. I couldna lat ower my spittle withoot doin’ violence to my feelin’s. My respiratory machinery, too, was as stiff as a rusty lock, an’ the words cam’ up frae the bottom o’ my chest wi’ a hoarse an’ raspin-like soond, as if they had been generated n the interior o’ a bass fiddle, or the drone o’ a bagpipe. Tibbie declared it was ugesome to hear me, an’ frichtsome to see me. Tibbie is a great physician in her ain hame-ower way—she kens a’ aboot the virtues o’ marshmallows, horehund, and docken blades, an’, as I tell her sometimes, if she wad juist set up business as a quack doctor, an’ advertise like Holloway, she wad be able by-and-bye to retire on a fortune. She has great faith in Colosynth’s pills, as an antidote to a disordered stamack; an’ for a cauld, she kens o’ naething better than to bathe the feet in het water, sup a pint o’ boilin’ brochan, sweetened wi’ treacle, an’ swallow a Dover’s poother to induce a copious perspiration. An auld wife’s cure that maybe, but auld wives’ cures are no aye the warst.

Weel, ye see, on Saturday nicht, Tibbie gets a’ her prescriptions prepared, an’ I placed mysel’ entirely oonder her jurisdiction. I believe I wad hae swallowed a dose o’ arsenic at her biddin’, wi’ the same feelin’ o’ resignation that I swallowed the pills an’ the Dover’s poother. Twa pills was to be the dose, an’ so she put them into a jug wi’ a narrow mooth, wherein there was a wee sup water to synd them doon wi’. I coupit up the jug, an’ swallowed the contents wi’ a sair struggle—my stamack, meanwhile, giein’ sundry intimations that the pills were very unwelcome visitors. In ither words, I was like to send them up again ootricht. Hoosomdever, by desperate effort, I succeedit in forcin’ Messrs Colosynth to preserve the status quo. Tibbie, havin’ put me through a’ my ither facin’s, concluded her doctorin’ by rowin’ up my head in a wab o’ flannel, an’ clappin’ on it my identical white night-cap as a sort o’ cope-stane to keep the ither theekin’ frae hirslin’ aff in my sleep. Whereupon I creepit awa’ to my roost, an’ happit mysel’ ower head an’ ears amang the gude warm blankets. In ten minutes I was asleep an’ on waukenin’ aboot eleven o’clock, when Tibbie cam’ to her bed, I was as weet, though scarcely as dirty, as if I had been hauled through the “fulzie” in Camperdown Dock. But O thae vile pills! They lay at the root o’ my tongue like twa mill-stanes. Every time I waukened through that lang and wearisome nicht, an’ I’m sure I did sae a score o’ times, there they lay like twa imps o’ darknes [sic] playin’ their “fantastic tricks” in my puir inside. If Tibbie hadna assured me to the contrary, I wad hae oondoubtedly believed as gospel the idea that mair than ance taen possession o’ my brain that she had by mistak’ gi’en me a couple o’ buck shot instead o’ the orthodox Colosynth’s.

It was somewhere aboot three o’clock i’ the mornin’, as Tibbie discovered afterwards on risin’ an’ feelin’ the hands o’ the clock, that I fell into an awfu’ quandary in my sleep, something sae horrible an’ awfu’ that I’ll think o’t wi’ fear an’ tremblin’ even until my deein’ day. I felt as if there was a mountain restin’ on the region o’ my stamack, weighin’ me doon—doon—doon—to the very centre o’ the earth. Desperately did I struggle to fling aff the fearfu’ incubus, but alas! a’ my struggles were in vain. I was powerless as Prometheus when he lay bound hand an’ fit on the tap o’ Mount Caucasus, wi’ the eagle preyin’ upon his vitals. I thocht I was in the ither warld, but in what department thereof I couldna exactly determine. Fearfu’ sichts did I behold, that made my very hair stand on end—or at least attempt to stand on end—for Tibbie had taen due precautions against a contingency o’ that kind by rowin’ up my head in a panoply o’ flannel. On my breast-bane sat a fiend o’ monstrous shape an’ hue, whase peepers were like the bull’s eyes on the paunches o’ a couple o’ policemen; whase mooth, half-a-yard wife, displayed twa raws o’ teeth that blinkit fire when they snashed forgainst ane anither; an’ whase body was covered wi’ spines, like the quills o’ the fretfu’ porcupine. In the ae hand it wielded a pick, an’ in the ither a shovel, wherewith it commenced to drive a shaft doon into my very heart.

“Avast there, will ye,” quoth I, “D’ye mean to murder me?”

“Ye blethern’ scamp,” quoth he, “Ye’ve been fillin’ the Journal, for months an’ months on end, wi’ stuff that canna be ony langer tholed, an’ dearly sall ye pay for yer folly, for I’ve been commissioned by the avengin’ sprites to punish ye for yer iniquity. This very nicht I thocht to possess my soul in patience, but behold when I opened the paper, there was that everlastin’ nonsense o’ yours. Noo, what hae ye got to say for yersel, why sentence o’ death sidna gang furth against ye?” Continue reading “‘Bodkin Has a Fearful Night of it’ (9 November, 1861)”

‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 6.’ by a Correspondent in New York (11 March, 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 murders, executions, and funerals.

Murders, Executions, and Funerals.

                On Friday of last week there were no fewer than seven executions in different States—three of them coloured men and four whites. One of the latter has been eighteen months in jail, and received sentence of death three times for the same crime. These seven were all murderers—two of them were executed at St Louis, State of Missouri, and in that State two men are under sentence of death. Another was hung a week ago, and twenty-seven are awaiting trial for murder. The newspapers here give graphic, but disgusting, accounts of executions. Here are a few extracts given us of one that took place in New Jersey last week. We are told on the morning of the execution the culprit several times walked to the window of the jail, and looked out upon the crowd which began to gather in the muddy streets. It was a gaping, idle crowd of slatternly women, beer-soaked men, and a large number of children. In one obscure corner of the street was an old woman kneeling and praying with spirit—swaying her body back and forth, mumbling over prayers for the murderer. She remained in her praying attitude for upwards of an hour regardless of the cold rain which was falling. Then we are told of how, when the condemned man was brought out to the gallows, one of the jailers who had hold of his arms had over-stimulated himself for the ordeal, and began to show signs of toppling over, and had to let go his hold of the prisoner. Next, of how, when this poor wretch was hurled into eternity, of the bending of the knees, twitching of the fingers, contortions of the limbs and body; of how the doctors immediately seized his wrists,, and kept correct record of the dying man’s pulse until his heart cease to beat; of how when cut down the noose of the rope had to be cut, as it was so deeply imbedded in his muscular neck, and of the face turning black and livid, and other disgusting details. One would think we ought to have had our morbid curiosity fully gratified by this account of the last moments of this felon; but not so, for in two days after we read of how the body was taken to an undertaker’s shop, where a motley throng was assembled. It rained incessantly, but the crowd was not to be deterred from seeing the last act of this disgraceful spectacle played out. The pavement in front of the shop was blocked, and the crowd filled the roadway in a solid phalanx extending twenty or thirty yards up and down the street. The crowd was not made up of loafers, but of well-dressed, respectable-looking people, and there were quite as many women to be seen around as men. Two policemen stood guard at the door. They had orders not to admit any boy or girl under eighteen years of age. It is only charitable to suppose that those guardians of the peace were but poor judges of age, as droves of young girls of not more than fifteen or sixteen gained admission, and gazed curiously, though quite unconcernedly, on the ashen face of the dead man. Fathers and mothers, to their shame be it said, brought children of tender years to see the dead felon, with his unhappy wife and worse than fatherless children weeping and wailing around the head of the coffin. The face and chest of the dead were exposed to view, a section of the lid of the coffin being removed for that purpose. The body was attired in a black suit, and a white collar and necktie concealed the ugly mark left by the rope upon the neck. The widow, with her boy and girl children, sat at the head of the coffin moaning and sobbing piteously while the curious throng filed around the dead man, peering curiously at the ghastly face as they paused a moment or so in passing by.

When the funeral rites had been concluded, the clergyman called upon all those present to with draw save the widow and her children, that, free from observation, they might take a last look at the dead husband and father. The scene that ensued was very painful. The poor women broke down utterly, and had to be led away by her friends, while the little lad, as he kissed the cold cheek of his dead father, wailed piteously, “Oh, my father; oh, my father.” On the arrival of the funeral cortege at the burying-ground, notwithstanding the heavy rain and the fact that the ways were ankle deep in mud, the road was lined five or six deep with men, women, and children, who had been waiting for hours to see the body of the murderer carried to its last resting-place. When the coffin was removed from the hearse a disgraceful scene ensued. A crowd of some hundreds of men and women, many of the latter carrying babes in their arms, rushed helter-skelter over newly-made graves, kicking aside, as they strode recklessly over, planted flowers placed by loving hands over the graves of their beloved ones, and even when the coffin was lowered into the grave they hooted and yelled, and the boys raced around the grave as though the occasion was the visit of a circus, instead of the burial of a fellow creature. The grave was speedily filled up, the crowd rapidly dispersed, and within five minutes only two or three morbidly curious people, who had arrived late upon the scene, stood around the spot beneath which lay the dead murderer in his gaudy coffin with its inscription—“Martin Kankowsky, died January 6, 1882, aged 35 years.” Continue reading “‘A Dundee Working Man on America—No. 6.’ by a Correspondent in New York (11 March, 1882)”