The second lay in the tone of
the productions. Leading articles which include gems such as
"Back of such and such a place," or, "We noticed, Tuesday, such
an event," or, "don't" for "does not," are things to be accepted
with thankfulness. All that made me want to cry was that in
these papers were faithfully reproduced all the war-cries and
"back-talk" of the Palmer House bar, the slang of the
barber-shops, the mental elevation and integrity of the Pullman
car porter, the dignity of the dime museum, and the accuracy of
the excited fish-wife. I am sternly forbidden to believe that
the paper educates the public. Then I am compelled to believe
that the public educate the paper; yet suicides on the press are
Just when the sense of unreality and oppression was strongest
upon me, and when I most wanted help, a man sat at my side and
began to talk what he called politics.
I had chanced to pay about six shillings for a travelling-cap
worth eighteen-pence, and he made of the fact a text for a
sermon. He said that this was a rich country, and that the
people liked to pay two hundred per cent, on the value of a
thing. They could afford it. He said that the government imposed
a protective duty of from ten to seventy per cent on foreign-made
articles, and that the American manufacturer consequently could
sell his goods for a healthy sum. Thus an imported hat would,
with duty, cost two guineas. The American manufacturer would make
a hat for seventeen shillings, and sell it for one pound fifteen.
In these things, he said, lay the greatness of America and the
effeteness of England. Competition between factory and factory
kept the prices down to decent limits, but I was never to forget
that this people were a rich people, not like the pauper
Continentals, and that they enjoyed paying duties.
To my weak intellect this seemed rather like juggling with
counters. Everything that I have yet purchased costs about twice
as much as it would in England, and when native made is of
Moreover, since these lines were first thought of, I have visited
a gentleman who owned a factory which used to produce things. He
owned the factory still. Not a man was in it, but he was drawing
a handsome income from a syndicate of firms for keeping it
closed, in order that it might not produce things. This man said
that if protection were abandoned, a tide of pauper labor would
flood the country, and as I looked at his factory I thought how
entirely better it was to have no labor of any kind whatever
rather than face so horrible a future.
Meantime, do you remember that this peculiar country enjoys
paying money for value not received? I am an alien, and for the
life of me I cannot see why six shillings should be paid for
eighteen-penny caps, or eight shillings for half-crown
cigar-cases. When the country fills up to a decently populated
level a few million people who are not aliens will be smitten
with the same sort of blindness.
But my friend's assertion somehow thoroughly suited the grotesque
ferocity of Chicago.
See now and judge! In the village of Isser Jang, on the road to
Montgomery, there be four Changar women who winnow corn - some
seventy bushels a year. Beyond their hut lives Purun Dass, the
money-lender, who on good security lends as much as five thousand
rupees in a year. Jowala Singh, the smith, mends the village
plows - some thirty, broken at the share, in three hundred and
sixty-five days; and Hukm Chund, who is letter-writer and head of
the little club under the travellers' tree, generally keeps the
village posted in such gossip as the barber and the mid-wife have
not yet made public property.
Chicago husks and winnows her wheat by the million bushels, a
hundred banks lend hundreds of millions of dollars in the year,
and scores of factories turn out plow-gear and machinery by
steam. Scores of daily papers do work which Hukm Chund and the
barber and the midwife perform, with due regard for public
opinion, in the village of Isser Jang. So far as manufactories
go, the difference between Chicago on the lake, and Isser Jang on
the Montgomery road, is one of degree only, and not of kind. As
far as the understanding of the uses of life goes, Isser Jang,
for all its seasonal cholers, has the advantage over Chicago.
Jowala Singh knows and takes care to avoid the three or four
ghoul-haunted fields on the outskirts of the village; but he is
not urged by millions of devils to run about all day in the sun
and swear that his plowshares are the best in the Punjab; nor
does Purun Dass fly forth in an ekka more than once or twice a
year, and he knows, on a pinch, how to use the railway and the
telegraph as well as any son of Israel in Chicago. But this is
The East is not the West, and these men must continue to deal
with the machinery of life, and to call it progress. Their very
preachers dare not rebuke them. They gloss over the hunting for
money and the thrice-sharpened bitterness of Adam's curse, by
saying that such things dower a man with a larger range of
thoughts and higher aspirations. They do not say, "Free
yourselves from your own slavery," but rather, "If you can
possibly manage it, do not set quite so much store on the things
of this world."
And they do not know what the things of this world are!
I went off to see cattle killed, by way of clearing my head,
which, as you will perceive, was getting muddled.