The Charlotte News

Thursday, May 25, 1939


Site Ed. Note: For those fond of a little Dickens, we supply from American Notes, 1868, recounting a trip of 1842, the passage to which Cash refers in "That Foxy Lion". For those fond of Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchett, and Tiny Tim, we supply the passage to which Cash refers in "That Foxy Lion". For those fond of thinking that it is perfidious Albion, we supply the passage to which Cash refers in "That Foxy Lion". And for those fond of spitting tobacco juice in actresses' faces to make some point obscure beyond reason or discernment, over things which happened 35 years ago, we supply the passage to which Cash refers in "That Foxy Lion".

To each of those, we also commend "Men Against Fear".

Chapter VIII - Washington. The Legislature. And The President's House.

We left Philadelphia by steamboat, at six o'clock one very cold morning, and turned our faces towards Washington.

In the course of this day's journey, as on subsequent occasions, we encountered some Englishmen (small farmers, perhaps, or country publicans at home) who were settled in America, and were travelling on their own affairs. Of all grades and kinds of men that jostle one in the public conveyances of the States, these are often the most intolerable and the most insufferable companions. United to every disagreeable characteristic that the worst kind of American travellers possess, these countrymen of ours display an amount of insolent conceit and cool assumption of superiority quite monstrous to behold. In the coarse familiarity of their approach, and the effrontery of their inquisitiveness (which they are in great haste to assert, as if they panted to revenge themselves upon the decent old restraints of home), they surpass any native specimens that came within my range of observation: and I often grew so patriotic when I saw and heard them, that I would cheerfully have submitted to a reasonable fine, if I could have given any other country in the whole world the honour of claiming them for its children.

As Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva, the time is come when I must confess, without any disguise, that the prevalence of those two odious practices of chewing and expectorating began about this time to be anything but agreeable, and soon became most offensive and sickening. In all the public places of America this filthy custom is recognised. In the courts of law the judge has his spittoon, the crier his, the witness his, and the prisoner his; while the jurymen and spectators are provided for, as so many men who in the course of nature must desire to spit incessantly. In the hospitals the students of medicine are requested, by notices upon the wall, to eject their tobacco juice into the boxes provided for that purpose, and not to discolour the stairs. In public buildings visitors are implored, through the same agency, to squirt the essence of their quids, or "plugs," as I have heard them called by gentlemen learned in this kind of sweetmeat, into the national spittoons, and not about the bases of the marble columns. But in some parts this custom is inseparably mixed up with every meal and morning call, and with all the transactions of social life. The stranger, who follows in the track I took myself, will find it in its full bloom and glory, luxuriant in all its alarming recklessness, at Washington. And let him not persuade himself (as I once did, to my shame) that previous tourists have exaggerated its extent. The thing itself is an exaggeration of nastiness, which cannot be outdone.

On board this steamboat there were two young gentlemen, with shirt collars reversed as usual, and armed with very big walking-sticks; who planted two seats in the middle of the deck, at a distance of some four paces apart; took out their tobacco boxes; and sat down opposite each other to chew. In less than a quarter of an hour's time, these hopeful youths had shed about them, on the clean boards, a copious shower of yellow rain; clearing, by that means, a kind of magic circle, within whose limits no intruders dared to come, and which they never failed to refresh and re-refresh before a spot was dry. This being before breakfast, rather disposed me, I confess, to nausea; but looking attentively at one of the expectorators, I plainly saw that he was young in chewing, and felt inwardly uneasy himself. A glow of delight came over me at this discovery; and, as I marked his face turn paler and paler, and saw the ball of tobacco in his left cheek quiver with his suppressed agony, while yet he spat, and chewed, and spat again, in emulation of his older friend, I could have fallen on his neck and implored him to go on for hours.

We all sat down to a comfortable breakfast in the cabin below, where there was no more hurry or confusion than at such a meal in England, and where there was certainly greater politeness exhibited than at most of our stage-coach banquets. At about nine o'clock we arrived at the railroad station, and went on by the cars. At noon we turned out again, to cross a wide river in another steamboat; landed at a continuation of the railroad on the opposite shore; and went on by other cars; in which, in the course of the next hour or so, we crossed by wooden bridges, each a mile in length, two creeks, called respectively Great and Little Gunpowder. The water in both was blackened with flights of canvas-backed ducks, which are most delicious eating, and abound hereabouts at that season of the year.

These bridges are of wood, have no parapet, and are only just wide enough for the passage of the trains; which, in the event of the smallest accident, would inevitably be plunged into the river. They are startling contrivances, and are most agreeable when passed.

We stopped to dine at Baltimore, and, being now in Maryland, were waited on, for the first time, by slaves. The sensation of exacting any service from human creatures who are bought and sold, and being, for the time, a party as it were to their condition, is not an enviable one. The institution exists, perhaps, in its least repulsive and most mitigated form in such a town as this; but it is slavery; and though I was, with respect to it, an innocent man, its presence filled me with a sense of shame and self-reproach...

...The Senate is a dignified and decorous body, and its proceedings are conducted with much gravity and order. Both Houses are handsomely carpeted; but the state to which these carpets are reduced by the universal disregard of the spittoon with which every honourable member is accommodated, and the extraordinary improvements on the pattern which are squirted and dabbled upon it in every direction, do not admit of being described. I will merely observe, that I strongly recommend all strangers not to look at the floor; and if they happen to drop anything, though it be their purse, not to pick it up with an ungloved hand on any account.

It is somewhat remarkable too, at first, to say the least, to see so many honourable members with swelled faces; and it is scarcely less remarkable to discover that this appearance is caused by the quantity of tobacco they contrive to stow within the hollow of the cheek. It is strange enough, too, to see an honourable gentleman leaning back in his tilted chair, with his legs on the desk before him, shaping a convenient "plug" with his penknife, and, when it is quite ready for use, shooting the old one from his mouth as from a pop-gun, and clapping the new one in its place. I was surprised to observe that even steady old chewers of great experience are not always good marksmen, which has rather inclined me to doubt that general proficiency with the rifle, of which we have heard so much in England. Several gentlemen called upon me who, in the course of conversation, frequently missed the spittoon at five paces; and one (but he was certainly short-sighted) mistook the closed sash for the open window at three. On another occasion, when I dined out, and was sitting with two ladies and some gentlemen round a fire before dinner, one of the company fell short of the fire-place six distinct times. I am disposed to think, however, that this was occasioned by his not aiming at that object; as there was a white marble hearth before the fender, which was more convenient, and may have suited his purpose better...

...The President's mansion is more like an English club-house, both within and without, than any other kind of establishment with which I can compare it. The ornamental ground about it has been laid out in garden walks; they are pretty, and agreeable to the eye; though they have that uncomfortable air of having been made yesterday, which is far from favourable to the display of such beauties.

My first visit to this house was on the morning after my arrival, when I was carried thither by an official gentleman, who was so kind as to charge himself with my presentation to the President.

We entered a large hall, and, having twice or thrice rung a bell which nobody answered, walked without further ceremony through the rooms on the ground-floor, as divers other gentlemen (mostly with their hats on, and their hands in their pockets) were doing very leisurely. Some of these had ladies with them, to whom they were showing the premises; others were lounging on the chairs and sofas; others, in a perfect state of exhaustion from listlessness, were yawning drearily. The greater portion of this assemblage were rather asserting their supremacy than doing anything else, as they had no particular business there, that anybody knew of. A few were closely eyeing the movables, as if to make quite sure that the President (who was far from popular) had not made away with any of the furniture, or sold the fixtures for his private benefit...

...There were some fifteen or twenty persons in the room. One, a tall, wiry, muscular old man, from the west; sunburnt and swarthy; with a brown-white hat on his knees, and a giant umbrella resting between his legs; who sat bolt upright in his chair, frowning steadily at the carpet, and twitching the hard lines about his mouth, as if he had made up his mind "to fix" the President on what he had to say, and wouldn't bate him a grain. Another, a Kentucky farmer, six feet six in height, with his hat on, and his hands under his coat-tails, who leaned against the wall and kicked the floor with his heel, as though, he had Time's head under his shoe, and were literally "killing" him. A third, an oval-faced, bilious-looking man, with sleek black hair cropped close, and whiskers and beard shaved down to blue dots, who sucked the head of a thick stick, and from time to time took it out of his mouth to see how it was getting on. A fourth did nothing but whistle. A fifth did nothing but spit. And, indeed, all these gentlemen were so very persevering and energetic in this latter particular, and bestowed their favours so abundantly upon the carpet, that I take it for granted the Presidential housemaids have high wages, or, to speak more genteelly, an ample amount of "compensation:" which is the American word for salary in the case of all public servants...

Whether, in this rather expectorant atmosphere around Washington, Dickens--or Cash--had ever imparted to the eyne the once widely believed, (at least among the pan-diabolifugists), origin of editors around about the country, as indited by nonetheless than the old book shaker, D. Knickerbocker, (whose regular purveyor was amicus curia to Dickens 'til estranged by the book from which the above text excepts itself), in Chapter VII, "Containing a doleful disaster of Antony the Trumpeter--And how Peter Stuyvesant, like a second Cromwell suddenly dissolved a rump Parliament", of Book 7, "Containing the third part of the reign of Peter the Headstrong--his troubles with the British nation, and the decline and fall of the Dutch dynasty", from A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, Volume 2, we don't know. Perhaps those who are familiar with Spuyten Duyvil Creek do.

Which is, apparently, in this Dizzy Cab, to say--yes, spitballs.

For, after all, in the atmosphere we've in sway, with all the rest of it quite in play, it only takes one little Piper, three miles away, to empty the whole place into the Day.

Men Against Fear

Concerning The Calm Of The Men Trapped On The Squalus

"What did you do while you waited?" one of the rescued sailors from the Squalus was asked.

"We discussed things," he said. And went on: "No one was excited at any time... There was no panic--none whatsoever. Every word from every man was a cheerful one... I'm not afraid to say that not one man ever thought he would not be rescued."

He was describing their behavior, of course. Many of those men came out suffering from shock--a thing that does not happen to calm men--a thing that is almost invariably the result of terrible fear.

They were afraid. For they were men, not gods--lumps of protoplasm like the rest of us lumps that die if they are without air for a few moments. And they were, in one of the most fearful of all situations which can face men. The behaviorist psychologists maintain that there are only two things of which the new born human creature is instinctively afraid: falling and being bound--placed in a situation where its power cannot be exerted to attempt to change its situation. And it was in that last precisely that these men were placed. Outside was death. Inside was death, too, when the air should be gone--and it was going steadily. Already the burning chlorine fumes generated by the wet batteries were getting about. But all they could do was wait.

The adrenaline poured insistently into their veins, telegraphing secret, stealthy fear to their brains, and every cell of their bodies--hurling its insistent warnings along their taut nerves, tensing their muscles, turning them sick and blind. Insinuating. Yes. The rescue ships were coming--or were they? Yes, they would get there in time--or would they? The new machines would work, or they would successfully raise the submarine. Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not. Most likely they were doomed. Run, fight, anything but this waiting to die like rats in a trap.

But they would not yield to it. They would fight it down, hold it inside. With elaborate care, they would putter about at the controls quite as though it was still in their power to move when they saw fit. With elaborate care they would grin out of white faces, and go on talking casually, holding the conversation rigidly to the mechanical matters in hand, to the question of the exact manner of their rescue, just as though it were all really a foregone conclusion, just as though it were no more than waiting for the shore boat to take them off for leave. Through the everlasting eternity of the paralyzed hours, while the air grew steadily worse and the chlorine fumes deepened.

It is a profoundly moving story. For it is in essence the story of the mind and will of man which, while it cannot make him a god--the master of his environment--can and does make him after all something more than a mere piece of protoplasm.

That Foxy Lion

The Tempest In A Thimble in Washington Shows Just How Subtle He Really Is

It is an amusing light which is thrown on the theory of isolationists that the Britishers are such cunning and wicked masters of propaganda that they once sucked us into a war and are likely to suck us into another--an amusing light which is thrown on that theory by the current uproar over Their Majesties' visit in Washington.

Lady Lindsay, wife of the British Ambassador, began it by issuing an ukase to the effect that everybody who came into the regal presences would be expected to bow from the waste and walk backward. That, indeed, set a lot of assiduous snobs to practicing these difficult arts 24 hours a day. But also it got the hackles of the Harold McGrath 4,000 Per Cent School of Americanos--brought such a squawk from them, in fact, that Sir Ronald Lindsay hastened to call in the press and say that after all it would only be necessary to be polite: meaning, presumably, to lay off witty little cracks about the American Revolution and Grandpa George III and not to spit on the floor (Englanders generally have never forgotten Charles Dickens' "American Notes," and still expect each of us to go about with a matched set of four spittoons).

Then Lady Lindsay, having already got her foot in it, proceeded to dive in head foremost. She was going to give a garden party for the King and Queen, and the guests were to come out of Washington's Blue Book, not the Congressional directory. Naturally, the isolationists and their ladies did not get invited. And so, with their hearts burning hot, these ladies are currently sticking their husbands into a kind of isolationism that makes their best efforts in the past seem pale. But it is not only the isolationists of long-standing. Most of the rest of these Congressional ladies who didn't get invited are popping sore, too--and so it looks as if the net result of that garden party is going to be that the isolation party will be enormously expanded: that hereafter the atmosphere in Washington is going to be ever more full of spread-eagle declamation anent the wickedness of that old double-crossing lion, perf. alb.

It all sounds like Gilbert and Sullivan, and it sheds no lustre on the dignity and good sense of our Congressional families. It argues all too strongly, indeed, for that theory that we are still in the spittoon social stage. But it is at least plain that the Britishers are less than Machiavellian in their manipulation of propaganda. Nobody can have done it worse, save possibly the Germans.

Senate Slowness

Saves Us From Disgraceful Exhibition In Bergdoll Case

The Senate's delay in action on the bill passed by the House to keep Grover Cleveland Bergdoll from landing in the United States has apparently saved the country from a gratuitous exhibition of spitefulness. Bergdoll is slated to land today from the Bremen, and to surrender immediately to the authorities to begin serving of his sentence for draft dodging in the last war. And that being the case, it is too late for the bill to stop him now.

Bergdoll has himself to blame for the bitterness with which a great many people regard him, of course. His draft dodging was no worse than that of hundreds of other men, some of whom have never served a day for it. But he made the incredibly foolish mistake of taunting the authorities while he dodged about the country--and so focused the attention of the whole nation on himself as a sort of avatar of the spirit of draft dodging. Even in the middle of that, however, the court thought five years in prison was adequate penalty for his sentence. And if today he prefers to come home and serve that sentence rather than continue to enjoy "freedom" and Adolf Hitler's 90,000,000-square-mile prison-house, what sensible reason can be offered for saying him nay?

There is none, of course. To do it would be simply to say that with the years we had not returned from war hysteria to perspective but had grown steadily in vindictiveness. The Senate does seem sometimes still to have its uses, after all--precisely such uses as were contemplated by the Fathers when they ordained it.


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