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MARTIN DISEMBARKS FROM THAT NOBLE AND FAST-SAILING LINE-OF-PACKET SHIP,
'THE SCREW', AT THE PORT OF NEW YORK, IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
HE MAKES SOME ACQUAINTANCES, AND DINES AT A BOARDING-HOUSE. THE
PARTICULARS OF THOSE TRANSACTIONS
Some trifling excitement prevailed upon the very brink and margin of the
land of liberty; for an alderman had been elected the day before;
and Party Feeling naturally running rather high on such an exciting
occasion, the friends of the disappointed candidate had found it
necessary to assert the great principles of Purity of Election and
Freedom of opinion by breaking a few legs and arms, and furthermore
pursuing one obnoxious gentleman through the streets with the design of
hitting his nose. These good-humoured little outbursts of the popular
fancy were not in themselves sufficiently remarkable to create any great
stir, after the lapse of a whole night; but they found fresh life and
notoriety in the breath of the newsboys, who not only proclaimed them
with shrill yells in all the highways and byways of the town, upon the
wharves and among the shipping, but on the deck and down in the cabins
of the steamboat; which, before she touched the shore, was boarded and
overrun by a legion of those young citizens.
'Here's this morning's New York Sewer!' cried one. 'Here's this
morning's New York Stabber! Here's the New York Family Spy! Here's the
New York Private Listener! Here's the New York Peeper! Here's the New
York Plunderer! Here's the New York Keyhole Reporter! Here's the
New York Rowdy Journal! Here's all the New York papers! Here's full
particulars of the patriotic locofoco movement yesterday, in which
the whigs was so chawed up; and the last Alabama gouging case; and the
interesting Arkansas dooel with Bowie knives; and all the Political,
Commercial, and Fashionable News. Here they are! Here they are! Here's
the papers, here's the papers!'
'Here's the Sewer!' cried another. 'Here's the New York Sewer! Here's
some of the twelfth thousand of to-day's Sewer, with the best accounts
of the markets, and all the shipping news, and four whole columns of
country correspondence, and a full account of the Ball at Mrs White's
last night, where all the beauty and fashion of New York was assembled;
with the Sewer's own particulars of the private lives of all the ladies
that was there! Here's the Sewer! Here's some of the twelfth thousand of
the New York Sewer! Here's the Sewer's exposure of the Wall Street
Gang, and the Sewer's exposure of the Washington Gang, and the Sewer's
exclusive account of a flagrant act of dishonesty committed by the
Secretary of State when he was eight years old; now communicated, at a
great expense, by his own nurse. Here's the Sewer! Here's the New York
Sewer, in its twelfth thousand, with a whole column of New Yorkers to be
shown up, and all their names printed! Here's the Sewer's article
upon the Judge that tried him, day afore yesterday, for libel, and the
Sewer's tribute to the independent Jury that didn't convict him, and the
Sewer's account of what they might have expected if they had! Here's
the Sewer, here's the Sewer! Here's the wide-awake Sewer; always on the
lookout; the leading Journal of the United States, now in its twelfth
thousand, and still a-printing off:--Here's the New York Sewer!'
'It is in such enlightened means,' said a voice almost in Martin's ear,
'that the bubbling passions of my country find a vent.'
Martin turned involuntarily, and saw, standing close at his side, a
sallow gentleman, with sunken cheeks, black hair, small twinkling eyes,
and a singular expression hovering about that region of his face, which
was not a frown, nor a leer, and yet might have been mistaken at the
first glance for either. Indeed it would have been difficult, on a much
closer acquaintance, to describe it in any more satisfactory terms than
as a mixed expression of vulgar cunning and conceit. This gentleman wore
a rather broad-brimmed hat for the greater wisdom of his appearance; and
had his arms folded for the greater impressiveness of his attitude. He
was somewhat shabbily dressed in a blue surtout reaching nearly to
his ankles, short loose trousers of the same colour, and a faded buff
waistcoat, through which a discoloured shirt-frill struggled to force
itself into notice, as asserting an equality of civil rights with
the other portions of his dress, and maintaining a declaration of
Independence on its own account. His feet, which were of unusually
large proportions, were leisurely crossed before him as he half leaned
against, half sat upon, the steamboat's bulwark; and his thick cane,
shod with a mighty ferule at one end and armed with a great metal
knob at the other, depended from a line-and-tassel on his wrist. Thus
attired, and thus composed into an aspect of great profundity, the
gentleman twitched up the right-hand corner of his mouth and his right
eye simultaneously, and said, once more:
'It is in such enlightened means that the bubbling passions of my
country find a vent.'
As he looked at Martin, and nobody else was by, Martin inclined his
head, and said:
'You allude to--?'
'To the Palladium of rational Liberty at home, sir, and the dread of
Foreign oppression abroad,' returned the gentleman, as he pointed with
his cane to an uncommonly dirty newsboy with one eye. 'To the Envy of
the world, sir, and the leaders of Human Civilization. Let me ask you
sir,' he added, bringing the ferule of his stick heavily upon the deck
with the air of a man who must not be equivocated with, 'how do you like
'I am hardly prepared to answer that question yet,' said Martin 'seeing
that I have not been ashore.'
'Well, I should expect you were not prepared, sir,' said the gentleman,
'to behold such signs of National Prosperity as those?'
He pointed to the vessels lying at the wharves; and then gave a vague
flourish with his stick, as if he would include the air and water,
generally, in this remark.
'Really,' said Martin, 'I don't know. Yes. I think I was.'
The gentleman glanced at him with a knowing look, and said he liked his
policy. It was natural, he said, and it pleased him as a philosopher to
observe the prejudices of human nature.
'You have brought, I see, sir,' he said, turning round towards Martin,
and resting his chin on the top of his stick, 'the usual amount of
misery and poverty and ignorance and crime, to be located in the bosom
of the great Republic. Well, sir! let 'em come on in shiploads from the
old country. When vessels are about to founder, the rats are said to
leave 'em. There is considerable of truth, I find, in that remark.'
'The old ship will keep afloat a year or two longer yet, perhaps,' said
Martin with a smile, partly occasioned by what the gentleman said,
and partly by his manner of saying it, which was odd enough for he
emphasised all the small words and syllables in his discourse, and left
the others to take care of themselves; as if he thought the larger parts
of speech could be trusted alone, but the little ones required to be
constantly looked after.
'Hope is said by the poet, sir,' observed the gentleman, 'to be the
nurse of young Desire.'
Martin signified that he had heard of the cardinal virtue in question
serving occasionally in that domestic capacity.
'She will not rear her infant in the present instance, sir, you'll
find,' observed the gentleman.
'Time will show,' said Martin.
The gentleman nodded his head gravely; and said, 'What is your name,
Martin told him.
'How old are you, sir?'
Martin told him.
'What is your profession, sir?'
Martin told him that also.
'What is your destination, sir?' inquired the gentleman.
'Really,' said Martin laughing, 'I can't satisfy you in that particular,
for I don't know it myself.'
'Yes?' said the gentleman.
'No,' said Martin.
The gentleman adjusted his cane under his left arm, and took a more
deliberate and complete survey of Martin than he had yet had leisure to
make. When he had completed his inspection, he put out his right hand,
shook Martin's hand, and said:
'My name is Colonel Diver, sir. I am the Editor of the New York Rowdy
Martin received the communication with that degree of respect which an
announcement so distinguished appeared to demand.
'The New York Rowdy Journal, sir,' resumed the colonel, 'is, as I expect
you know, the organ of our aristocracy in this city.'
'Oh! there IS an aristocracy here, then?' said Martin. 'Of what is it
'Of intelligence, sir,' replied the colonel; 'of intelligence and
virtue. And of their necessary consequence in this republic--dollars,
Martin was very glad to hear this, feeling well assured that if
intelligence and virtue led, as a matter of course, to the acquisition
of dollars, he would speedily become a great capitalist. He was about
to express the gratification such news afforded him, when he was
interrupted by the captain of the ship, who came up at the moment to
shake hands with the colonel; and who, seeing a well-dressed stranger on
the deck (for Martin had thrown aside his cloak), shook hands with him
also. This was an unspeakable relief to Martin, who, in spite of the
acknowledged supremacy of Intelligence and virtue in that happy country,
would have been deeply mortified to appear before Colonel Diver in the
poor character of a steerage passenger.
'Well cap'en!' said the colonel.
'Well colonel,' cried the captain. 'You're looking most uncommon bright,
sir. I can hardly realise its being you, and that's a fact.'
'A good passage, cap'en?' inquired the colonel, taking him aside,
'Well now! It was a pretty spanking run, sir,' said, or rather sung, the
captain, who was a genuine New Englander; 'considerin' the weather.'
'Yes?' said the colonel.
'Well! It was, sir,' said the captain. 'I've just now sent a boy up to
your office with the passenger-list, colonel.'
'You haven't got another boy to spare, p'raps, cap'en?' said the
colonel, in a tone almost amounting to severity.
'I guess there air a dozen if you want 'em, colonel,' said the captain.
'One moderate big 'un could convey a dozen champagne, perhaps,' observed
the colonel, musing, 'to my office. You said a spanking run, I think?'
'Well, so I did,' was the reply.
'It's very nigh, you know,' observed the colonel. 'I'm glad it was a
spanking run, cap'en. Don't mind about quarts if you're short of 'em.
The boy can as well bring four-and-twenty pints, and travel twice as
once.--A first-rate spanker, cap'en, was it? Yes?'
'A most e--tarnal spanker,' said the skipper.
'I admire at your good fortun, cap'en. You might loan me a corkscrew at
the same time, and half-a-dozen glasses if you liked. However bad the
elements combine against my country's noble packet-ship, the Screw,
sir,' said the colonel, turning to Martin, and drawing a flourish on
the surface of the deck with his cane, 'her passage either way is almost
certain to eventuate a spanker!'
The captain, who had the Sewer below at that moment, lunching
expensively in one cabin, while the amiable Stabber was drinking himself
into a state of blind madness in another, took a cordial leave of his
friend the colonel, and hurried away to dispatch the champagne; well
knowing (as it afterwards appeared) that if he failed to conciliate the
editor of the Rowdy Journal, that potentate would denounce him and his
ship in large capitals before he was a day older; and would probably
assault the memory of his mother also, who had not been dead more than
twenty years. The colonel being again left alone with Martin, checked
him as he was moving away, and offered in consideration of his being an
Englishman, to show him the town and to introduce him, if such were his
desire, to a genteel boarding-house. But before they entered on these
proceedings (he said), he would beseech the honour of his company at the
office of the Rowdy Journal, to partake of a bottle of champagne of his
All this was so extremely kind and hospitable, that Martin, though it
was quite early in the morning, readily acquiesced. So, instructing
Mark, who was deeply engaged with his friend and her three children,
that when he had done assisting them, and had cleared the baggage,
he was to wait for further orders at the Rowdy Journal Office, Martin
accompanied his new friend on shore.
They made their way as they best could through the melancholy crowd of
emigrants upon the wharf, who, grouped about their beds and boxes, with
the bare ground below them and the bare sky above, might have fallen
from another planet, for anything they knew of the country; and walked
for some short distance along a busy street, bounded on one side by the
quays and shipping; and on the other by a long row of staring red-brick
storehouses and offices, ornamented with more black boards and white
letters, and more white boards and black letters, than Martin had ever
seen before, in fifty times the space. Presently they turned up a narrow
street, and presently into other narrow streets, until at last they
stopped before a house whereon was painted in great characters, 'ROWDY
The colonel, who had walked the whole way with one hand in his breast,
his head occasionally wagging from side to side, and his hat thrown back
upon his ears, like a man who was oppressed to inconvenience by a sense
of his own greatness, led the way up a dark and dirty flight of stairs
into a room of similar character, all littered and bestrewn with odds
and ends of newspapers and other crumpled fragments, both in proof and
manuscript. Behind a mangy old writing-table in this apartment sat a
figure with a stump of a pen in its mouth and a great pair of scissors
in its right hand, clipping and slicing at a file of Rowdy Journals;
and it was such a laughable figure that Martin had some difficulty in
preserving his gravity, though conscious of the close observation of
The individual who sat clipping and slicing as aforesaid at the Rowdy
Journals, was a small young gentleman of very juvenile appearance, and
unwholesomely pale in the face; partly, perhaps, from intense thought,
but partly, there is no doubt, from the excessive use of tobacco, which
he was at that moment chewing vigorously. He wore his shirt-collar
turned down over a black ribbon; and his lank hair, a fragile crop, was
not only smoothed and parted back from his brow, that none of the Poetry
of his aspect might be lost, but had, here and there, been grubbed up by
the roots; which accounted for his loftiest developments being somewhat
pimply. He had that order of nose on which the envy of mankind has
bestowed the appellation 'snub,' and it was very much turned up at the
end, as with a lofty scorn. Upon the upper lip of this young gentleman
were tokens of a sandy down; so very, very smooth and scant, that,
though encouraged to the utmost, it looked more like a recent trace of
gingerbread than the fair promise of a moustache; and this conjecture,
his apparently tender age went far to strengthen. He was intent upon
his work. Every time he snapped the great pair of scissors, he made
a corresponding motion with his jaws, which gave him a very terrible
Martin was not long in determining within himself that this must be
Colonel Diver's son; the hope of the family, and future mainspring of
the Rowdy Journal. Indeed he had begun to say that he presumed this
was the colonel's little boy, and that it was very pleasant to see
him playing at Editor in all the guilelessness of childhood, when the
colonel proudly interposed and said:
'My War Correspondent, sir--Mr Jefferson Brick!'
Martin could not help starting at this unexpected announcement, and the
consciousness of the irretrievable mistake he had nearly made.
Mr Brick seemed pleased with the sensation he produced upon the
stranger, and shook hands with him, with an air of patronage designed
to reassure him, and to let him blow that there was no occasion to be
frightened, for he (Brick) wouldn't hurt him.
'You have heard of Jefferson Brick, I see, sir,' quoth the colonel,
with a smile. 'England has heard of Jefferson Brick. Europe has heard of
Jefferson Brick. Let me see. When did you leave England, sir?'
'Five weeks ago,' said Martin.
'Five weeks ago,' repeated the colonel, thoughtfully; as he took his
seat upon the table, and swung his legs. 'Now let me ask you, sir which
of Mr Brick's articles had become at that time the most obnoxious to the
British Parliament and the Court of Saint James's?'
'Upon my word,' said Martin, 'I--'
'I have reason to know, sir,' interrupted the colonel, 'that the
aristocratic circles of your country quail before the name of Jefferson
Brick. I should like to be informed, sir, from your lips, which of his
sentiments has struck the deadliest blow--'
'At the hundred heads of the Hydra of Corruption now grovelling in the
dust beneath the lance of Reason, and spouting up to the universal arch
above us, its sanguinary gore,' said Mr Brick, putting on a little blue
cloth cap with a glazed front, and quoting his last article.
'The libation of freedom, Brick'--hinted the colonel.
'--Must sometimes be quaffed in blood, colonel,' cried Brick. And when
he said 'blood,' he gave the great pair of scissors a sharp snap, as if
THEY said blood too, and were quite of his opinion.
This done, they both looked at Martin, pausing for a reply.
'Upon my life,' said Martin, who had by this time quite recovered his
usual coolness, 'I can't give you any satisfactory information about it;
for the truth is that I--'
'Stop!' cried the colonel, glancing sternly at his war correspondent and
giving his head one shake after every sentence. 'That you never heard of
Jefferson Brick, sir. That you never read Jefferson Brick, sir. That
you never saw the Rowdy Journal, sir. That you never knew, sir, of its
mighty influence upon the cabinets of Europe. Yes?'
'That's what I was about to observe, certainly,' said Martin.
'Keep cool, Jefferson,' said the colonel gravely. 'Don't bust! oh you
Europeans! After that, let's have a glass of wine!' So saying, he got
down from the table, and produced, from a basket outside the door, a
bottle of champagne, and three glasses.
'Mr Jefferson Brick, sir,' said the colonel, filling Martin's glass
and his own, and pushing the bottle to that gentleman, 'will give us a
'Well, sir!' cried the war correspondent, 'Since you have concluded to
call upon me, I will respond. I will give you, sir, The Rowdy Journal
and its brethren; the well of Truth, whose waters are black from being
composed of printers' ink, but are quite clear enough for my country to
behold the shadow of her Destiny reflected in.'
'Hear, hear!' cried the colonel, with great complacency. 'There are
flowery components, sir, in the language of my friend?'
'Very much so, indeed,' said Martin.
'There is to-day's Rowdy, sir,' observed the colonel, handing him a
paper. 'You'll find Jefferson Brick at his usual post in the van of
human civilization and moral purity.'
The colonel was by this time seated on the table again. Mr Brick also
took up a position on that same piece of furniture; and they fell to
drinking pretty hard. They often looked at Martin as he read the paper,
and then at each other. When he laid it down, which was not until they
had finished a second bottle, the colonel asked him what he thought of
'Why, it's horribly personal,' said Martin.
The colonel seemed much flattered by this remark; and said he hoped it
'We are independent here, sir,' said Mr Jefferson Brick. 'We do as we
'If I may judge from this specimen,' returned Martin, 'there must be a
few thousands here, rather the reverse of independent, who do as they
'Well! They yield to the popular mind of the Popular Instructor, sir,'
said the colonel. 'They rile up, sometimes; but in general we have a
hold upon our citizens, both in public and in private life, which is as
much one of the ennobling institutions of our happy country as--'
'As nigger slavery itself,' suggested Mr Brick.
'En--tirely so,' remarked the colonel.
'Pray,' said Martin, after some hesitation, 'may I venture to ask,
with reference to a case I observe in this paper of yours, whether the
Popular Instructor often deals in--I am at a loss to express it without
giving you offence--in forgery? In forged letters, for instance,' he
pursued, for the colonel was perfectly calm and quite at his ease,
'solemnly purporting to have been written at recent periods by living
'Well, sir!' replied the colonel. 'It does, now and then.'
'And the popular instructed--what do they do?' asked Martin.
'Buy 'em:' said the colonel.
Mr Jefferson Brick expectorated and laughed; the former copiously, the
'Buy 'em by hundreds of thousands,' resumed the colonel. 'We are a smart
people here, and can appreciate smartness.'
'Is smartness American for forgery?' asked Martin.
'Well!' said the colonel, 'I expect it's American for a good many things
that you call by other names. But you can't help yourself in Europe. We
'And do, sometimes,' thought Martin. 'You help yourselves with very
little ceremony, too!'
'At all events, whatever name we choose to employ,' said the colonel,
stooping down to roll the third empty bottle into a corner after the
other two, 'I suppose the art of forgery was not invented here sir?'
'I suppose not,' replied Martin.
'Nor any other kind of smartness I reckon?'
'Invented! No, I presume not.'
'Well!' said the colonel; 'then we got it all from the old country, and
the old country's to blame for it, and not the new 'un. There's an end
of THAT. Now, if Mr Jefferson Brick and you will be so good as to clear,
I'll come out last, and lock the door.'
Rightly interpreting this as the signal for their departure, Martin
walked downstairs after the war correspondent, who preceded him with
great majesty. The colonel following, they left the Rowdy Journal Office
and walked forth into the streets; Martin feeling doubtful whether
he ought to kick the colonel for having presumed to speak to him,
or whether it came within the bounds of possibility that he and his
establishment could be among the boasted usages of that regenerated
It was clear that Colonel Diver, in the security of his strong position,
and in his perfect understanding of the public sentiment, cared very
little what Martin or anybody else thought about him. His high-spiced
wares were made to sell, and they sold; and his thousands of readers
could as rationally charge their delight in filth upon him, as a glutton
can shift upon his cook the responsibility of his beastly excess.
Nothing would have delighted the colonel more than to be told that
no such man as he could walk in high success the streets of any other
country in the world; for that would only have been a logical assurance
to him of the correct adaptation of his labours to the prevailing taste,
and of his being strictly and peculiarly a national feature of America.
They walked a mile or more along a handsome street which the colonel
said was called Broadway, and which Mr Jefferson Brick said 'whipped the
universe.' Turning, at length, into one of the numerous streets which
branched from this main thoroughfare, they stopped before a rather
mean-looking house with jalousie blinds to every window; a flight of
steps before the green street-door; a shining white ornament on the
rails on either side like a petrified pineapple, polished; a little
oblong plate of the same material over the knocker whereon the name of
'Pawkins' was engraved; and four accidental pigs looking down the area.
The colonel knocked at this house with the air of a man who lived there;
and an Irish girl popped her head out of one of the top windows to see
who it was. Pending her journey downstairs, the pigs were joined by two
or three friends from the next street, in company with whom they lay
down sociably in the gutter.
'Is the major indoors?' inquired the colonel, as he entered.
'Is it the master, sir?' returned the girl, with a hesitation
which seemed to imply that they were rather flush of majors in that
'The master!' said Colonel Diver, stopping short and looking round at
his war correspondent.
'Oh! The depressing institutions of that British empire, colonel!' said
Jefferson Brick. 'Master!'
'What's the matter with the word?' asked Martin.
'I should hope it was never heard in our country, sir; that's all,' said
Jefferson Brick; 'except when it is used by some degraded Help, as new
to the blessings of our form of government, as this Help is. There are
no masters here.'
'All "owners," are they?' said Martin.
Mr Jefferson Brick followed in the Rowdy Journal's footsteps without
returning any answer. Martin took the same course, thinking as he went,
that perhaps the free and independent citizens, who in their moral
elevation, owned the colonel for their master, might render better
homage to the goddess, Liberty, in nightly dreams upon the oven of a
The colonel led the way into a room at the back of the house upon
the ground-floor, light, and of fair dimensions, but exquisitely
uncomfortable; having nothing in it but the four cold white walls and
ceiling, a mean carpet, a dreary waste of dining-table reaching from
end to end, and a bewildering collection of cane-bottomed chairs. In the
further region of this banqueting-hall was a stove, garnished on either
side with a great brass spittoon, and shaped in itself like three little
iron barrels set up on end in a fender, and joined together on the
principle of the Siamese Twins. Before it, swinging himself in a
rocking-chair, lounged a large gentleman with his hat on, who amused
himself by spitting alternately into the spittoon on the right hand of
the stove, and the spittoon on the left, and then working his way back
again in the same order. A negro lad in a soiled white jacket was busily
engaged in placing on the table two long rows of knives and forks,
relieved at intervals by jugs of water; and as he travelled down one
side of this festive board, he straightened with his dirty hands the
dirtier cloth, which was all askew, and had not been removed since
breakfast. The atmosphere of this room was rendered intensely hot and
stifling by the stove; but being further flavoured by a sickly gush
of soup from the kitchen, and by such remote suggestions of tobacco as
lingered within the brazen receptacles already mentioned, it became, to
a stranger's senses, almost insupportable.
The gentleman in the rocking-chair having his back towards them, and
being much engaged in his intellectual pastime, was not aware of their
approach until the colonel, walking up to the stove, contributed
his mite towards the support of the left-hand spittoon, just as the
major--for it was the major--bore down upon it. Major Pawkins then
reserved his fire, and looking upward, said, with a peculiar air of
quiet weariness, like a man who had been up all night--an air which
Martin had already observed both in the colonel and Mr Jefferson Brick--
'Here is a gentleman from England, major,' the colonel replied, 'who
has concluded to locate himself here if the amount of compensation suits
'I am glad to see you, sir,' observed the major, shaking hands with
Martin, and not moving a muscle of his face. 'You are pretty bright, I
'Never better,' said Martin.
'You are never likely to be,' returned the major. 'You will see the sun
'I think I remember to have seen it shine at home sometimes,' said
'I think not,' replied the major. He said so with a stoical indifference
certainly, but still in a tone of firmness which admitted of no further
dispute on that point. When he had thus settled the question, he put his
hat a little on one side for the greater convenience of scratching his
head, and saluted Mr Jefferson Brick with a lazy nod.
Major Pawkins (a gentleman of Pennsylvanian origin) was distinguished by
a very large skull, and a great mass of yellow forehead; in deference
to which commodities it was currently held in bar-rooms and other such
places of resort that the major was a man of huge sagacity. He was
further to be known by a heavy eye and a dull slow manner; and for being
a man of that kind who--mentally speaking--requires a deal of room to
turn himself in. But, in trading on his stock of wisdom, he invariably
proceeded on the principle of putting all the goods he had (and more)
into his window; and that went a great way with his constituency of
admirers. It went a great way, perhaps, with Mr Jefferson Brick, who
took occasion to whisper in Martin's ear:
'One of the most remarkable men in our country, sir!'
It must not be supposed, however, that the perpetual exhibition in the
market-place of all his stock-in-trade for sale or hire, was the major's
sole claim to a very large share of sympathy and support. He was a great
politician; and the one article of his creed, in reference to all public
obligations involving the good faith and integrity of his country, was,
'run a moist pen slick through everything, and start fresh.' This
made him a patriot. In commercial affairs he was a bold speculator.
In plainer words he had a most distinguished genius for swindling, and
could start a bank, or negotiate a loan, or form a land-jobbing company
(entailing ruin, pestilence, and death, on hundreds of families), with
any gifted creature in the Union. This made him an admirable man of
business. He could hang about a bar-room, discussing the affairs of the
nation, for twelve hours together; and in that time could hold forth
with more intolerable dulness, chew more tobacco, smoke more tobacco,
drink more rum-toddy, mint-julep, gin-sling, and cocktail, than any
private gentleman of his acquaintance. This made him an orator and a
man of the people. In a word, the major was a rising character, and a
popular character, and was in a fair way to be sent by the popular party
to the State House of New York, if not in the end to Washington itself.
But as a man's private prosperity does not always keep pace with his
patriotic devotion to public affairs; and as fraudulent transactions
have their downs as well as ups, the major was occasionally under a
cloud. Hence, just now Mrs Pawkins kept a boarding-house, and Major
Pawkins rather 'loafed' his time away than otherwise.
'You have come to visit our country, sir, at a season of great
commercial depression,' said the major.
'At an alarming crisis,' said the colonel.
'At a period of unprecedented stagnation,' said Mr Jefferson Brick.
'I am sorry to hear that,' returned Martin. 'It's not likely to last, I
Martin knew nothing about America, or he would have known perfectly well
that if its individual citizens, to a man, are to be believed, it always
IS depressed, and always IS stagnated, and always IS at an alarming
crisis, and never was otherwise; though as a body they are ready to make
oath upon the Evangelists at any hour of the day or night, that it
is the most thriving and prosperous of all countries on the habitable
'It's not likely to last, I hope?' said Martin.
'Well!' returned the major, 'I expect we shall get along somehow, and
come right in the end.'
'We are an elastic country,' said the Rowdy Journal.
'We are a young lion,' said Mr Jefferson Brick.
'We have revivifying and vigorous principles within ourselves,' observed
the major. 'Shall we drink a bitter afore dinner, colonel?'
The colonel assenting to this proposal with great alacrity, Major
Pawkins proposed an adjournment to a neighbouring bar-room, which, as he
observed, was 'only in the next block.' He then referred Martin to
Mrs Pawkins for all particulars connected with the rate of board and
lodging, and informed him that he would have the pleasure of seeing that
lady at dinner, which would soon be ready, as the dinner hour was two
o'clock, and it only wanted a quarter now. This reminded him that if the
bitter were to be taken at all, there was no time to lose; so he walked
off without more ado, and left them to follow if they thought proper.
When the major rose from his rocking-chair before the stove, and so
disturbed the hot air and balmy whiff of soup which fanned their brows,
the odour of stale tobacco became so decidedly prevalent as to leave no
doubt of its proceeding mainly from that gentleman's attire. Indeed,
as Martin walked behind him to the bar-room, he could not help thinking
that the great square major, in his listlessness and langour, looked
very much like a stale weed himself; such as might be hoed out of
the public garden, with great advantage to the decent growth of that
preserve, and tossed on some congenial dunghill.
They encountered more weeds in the bar-room, some of whom (being thirsty
souls as well as dirty) were pretty stale in one sense, and pretty fresh
in another. Among them was a gentleman who, as Martin gathered from the
conversation that took place over the bitter, started that afternoon for
the Far West on a six months' business tour, and who, as his outfit and
equipment for this journey, had just such another shiny hat and just
such another little pale valise as had composed the luggage of the
gentleman who came from England in the Screw.
They were walking back very leisurely; Martin arm-in-arm with Mr
Jefferson Brick, and the major and the colonel side-by-side before them;
when, as they came within a house or two of the major's residence, they
heard a bell ringing violently. The instant this sound struck upon their
ears, the colonel and the major darted off, dashed up the steps and in
at the street-door (which stood ajar) like lunatics; while Mr Jefferson
Brick, detaching his arm from Martin's, made a precipitate dive in the
same direction, and vanished also.
'Good Heaven!' thought Martin. 'The premises are on fire! It was an
But there was no smoke to be seen, nor any flame, nor was there any
smell of fire. As Martin faltered on the pavement, three more gentlemen,
with horror and agitation depicted in their faces, came plunging wildly
round the street corner; jostled each other on the steps; struggled for
an instant; and rushed into the house, a confused heap of arms and
legs. Unable to bear it any longer, Martin followed. Even in his
rapid progress he was run down, thrust aside, and passed, by two more
gentlemen, stark mad, as it appeared, with fierce excitement.
'Where is it?' cried Martin, breathlessly, to a negro whom he
encountered in the passage.
'In a eatin room, sa. Kernell, sa, him kep a seat 'side himself, sa.'
'A seat!' cried Martin.
'For a dinnar, sa.'
Martin started at him for a moment, and burst into a hearty laugh; to
which the negro, out of his natural good humour and desire to please, so
heartily responded, that his teeth shone like a gleam of light. 'You're
the pleasantest fellow I have seen yet,' said Martin clapping him on the
back, 'and give me a better appetite than bitters.'
With this sentiment he walked into the dining-room and slipped into
a chair next the colonel, which that gentleman (by this time nearly
through his dinner) had turned down in reserve for him, with its back
against the table.
It was a numerous company--eighteen or twenty perhaps. Of these some
five or six were ladies, who sat wedged together in a little phalanx by
themselves. All the knives and forks were working away at a rate that
was quite alarming; very few words were spoken; and everybody seemed to
eat his utmost in self-defence, as if a famine were expected to set in
before breakfast time to-morrow morning, and it had become high time
to assert the first law of nature. The poultry, which may perhaps be
considered to have formed the staple of the entertainment--for there was
a turkey at the top, a pair of ducks at the bottom, and two fowls in the
middle--disappeared as rapidly as if every bird had had the use of its
wings, and had flown in desperation down a human throat. The oysters,
stewed and pickled, leaped from their capacious reservoirs, and slid by
scores into the mouths of the assembly. The sharpest pickles vanished,
whole cucumbers at once, like sugar-plums, and no man winked his eye.
Great heaps of indigestible matter melted away as ice before the sun.
It was a solemn and an awful thing to see. Dyspeptic individuals bolted
their food in wedges; feeding, not themselves, but broods of nightmares,
who were continually standing at livery within them. Spare men, with
lank and rigid cheeks, came out unsatisfied from the destruction of
heavy dishes, and glared with watchful eyes upon the pastry. What Mrs
Pawkins felt each day at dinner-time is hidden from all human knowledge.
But she had one comfort. It was very soon over.
When the colonel had finished his dinner, which event took place while
Martin, who had sent his plate for some turkey, was waiting to begin,
he asked him what he thought of the boarders, who were from all parts of
the Union, and whether he would like to know any particulars concerning
'Pray,' said Martin, 'who is that sickly little girl opposite, with the
tight round eyes? I don't see anybody here, who looks like her mother,
or who seems to have charge of her.'
'Do you mean the matron in blue, sir?' asked the colonel, with emphasis.
'That is Mrs Jefferson Brick, sir.'
'No, no,' said Martin, 'I mean the little girl, like a doll; directly
'Well, sir!' cried the colonel. 'THAT is Mrs Jefferson Brick.'
Martin glanced at the colonel's face, but he was quite serious.
'Bless my soul! I suppose there will be a young Brick then, one of these
days?' said Martin.
'There are two young Bricks already, sir,' returned the colonel.
The matron looked so uncommonly like a child herself, that Martin could
not help saying as much. 'Yes, sir,' returned the colonel, 'but some
institutions develop human natur; others re--tard it.'
'Jefferson Brick,' he observed after a short silence, in commendation
of his correspondent, 'is one of the most remarkable men in our country,
This had passed almost in a whisper, for the distinguished gentleman
alluded to sat on Martin's other hand.
'Pray, Mr Brick,' said Martin, turning to him, and asking a question
more for conversation's sake than from any feeling of interest in its
subject, 'who is that;' he was going to say 'young' but thought it
prudent to eschew the word--'that very short gentleman yonder, with the
'That is Pro--fessor Mullit, sir,' replied Jefferson.
'May I ask what he is professor of?' asked Martin.
'Of education, sir,' said Jefferson Brick.
'A sort of schoolmaster, possibly?' Martin ventured to observe.
'He is a man of fine moral elements, sir, and not commonly endowed,'
said the war correspondent. 'He felt it necessary, at the last election
for President, to repudiate and denounce his father, who voted on the
wrong interest. He has since written some powerful pamphlets, under
the signature of "Suturb," or Brutus reversed. He is one of the most
remarkable men in our country, sir.'
'There seem to be plenty of 'em,' thought Martin, 'at any rate.'
Pursuing his inquiries Martin found that there were no fewer than four
majors present, two colonels, one general, and a captain, so that he
could not help thinking how strongly officered the American militia must
be; and wondering very much whether the officers commanded each other;
or if they did not, where on earth the privates came from. There seemed
to be no man there without a title; for those who had not attained to
military honours were either doctors, professors, or reverends. Three
very hard and disagreeable gentlemen were on missions from neighbouring
States; one on monetary affairs, one on political, one on sectarian.
Among the ladies, there were Mrs Pawkins, who was very straight, bony,
and silent; and a wiry-faced old damsel, who held strong sentiments
touching the rights of women, and had diffused the same in lectures;
but the rest were strangely devoid of individual traits of character,
insomuch that any one of them might have changed minds with the other,
and nobody would have found it out. These, by the way, were the only
members of the party who did not appear to be among the most remarkable
people in the country.
Several of the gentlemen got up, one by one, and walked off as they
swallowed their last morsel; pausing generally by the stove for a minute
or so to refresh themselves at the brass spittoons. A few sedentary
characters, however, remained at table full a quarter of an hour, and
did not rise until the ladies rose, when all stood up.
'Where are they going?' asked Martin, in the ear of Mr Jefferson Brick.
'To their bedrooms, sir.'
'Is there no dessert, or other interval of conversation?' asked Martin,
who was disposed to enjoy himself after his long voyage.
'We are a busy people here, sir, and have no time for that,' was the
So the ladies passed out in single file; Mr Jefferson Brick and such
other married gentlemen as were left, acknowledging the departure
of their other halves by a nod; and there was an end of THEM. Martin
thought this an uncomfortable custom, but he kept his opinion to himself
for the present, being anxious to hear, and inform himself by, the
conversation of the busy gentlemen, who now lounged about the stove as
if a great weight had been taken off their minds by the withdrawal of
the other sex; and who made a plentiful use of the spittoons and their
It was rather barren of interest, to say the truth; and the greater part
of it may be summed up in one word. Dollars. All their cares, hopes,
joys, affections, virtues, and associations, seemed to be melted down
into dollars. Whatever the chance contributions that fell into the slow
cauldron of their talk, they made the gruel thick and slab with dollars.
Men were weighed by their dollars, measures gauged by their dollars;
life was auctioneered, appraised, put up, and knocked down for its
dollars. The next respectable thing to dollars was any venture having
their attainment for its end. The more of that worthless ballast, honour
and fair-dealing, which any man cast overboard from the ship of his Good
Name and Good Intent, the more ample stowage-room he had for dollars.
Make commerce one huge lie and mighty theft. Deface the banner of the
nation for an idle rag; pollute it star by star; and cut out stripe by
stripe as from the arm of a degraded soldier. Do anything for dollars!
What is a flag to THEM!
One who rides at all hazards of limb and life in the chase of a fox,
will prefer to ride recklessly at most times. So it was with these
gentlemen. He was the greatest patriot, in their eyes, who brawled the
loudest, and who cared the least for decency. He was their champion who,
in the brutal fury of his own pursuit, could cast no stigma upon them
for the hot knavery of theirs. Thus, Martin learned in the five minutes'
straggling talk about the stove, that to carry pistols into legislative
assemblies, and swords in sticks, and other such peaceful toys; to seize
opponents by the throat, as dogs or rats might do; to bluster, bully,
and overbear by personal assailment; were glowing deeds. Not thrusts and
stabs at Freedom, striking far deeper into her House of Life than any
sultan's scimitar could reach; but rare incense on her altars, having a
grateful scent in patriotic nostrils, and curling upward to the seventh
heaven of Fame.
Once or twice, when there was a pause, Martin asked such questions as
naturally occurred to him, being a stranger, about the national poets,
the theatre, literature, and the arts. But the information which these
gentlemen were in a condition to give him on such topics, did not extend
beyond the effusions of such master-spirits of the time as Colonel
Diver, Mr Jefferson Brick, and others; renowned, as it appeared, for
excellence in the achievement of a peculiar style of broadside essay
called 'a screamer.'
'We are a busy people, sir,' said one of the captains, who was from the
West, 'and have no time for reading mere notions. We don't mind 'em
if they come to us in newspapers along with almighty strong stuff of
another sort, but darn your books.'
Here the general, who appeared to grow quite faint at the bare thought
of reading anything which was neither mercantile nor political, and was
not in a newspaper, inquired 'if any gentleman would drink some?' Most
of the company, considering this a very choice and seasonable idea,
lounged out, one by one, to the bar-room in the next block. Thence
they probably went to their stores and counting-houses; thence to the
bar-room again, to talk once more of dollars, and enlarge their minds
with the perusal and discussion of screamers; and thence each man to
snore in the bosom of his own family.
'Which would seem,' said Martin, pursuing the current of his own
thoughts, 'to be the principal recreation they enjoy in common.' With
that, he fell a-musing again on dollars, demagogues, and bar-rooms;
debating within himself whether busy people of this class were really
as busy as they claimed to be, or only had an inaptitude for social and
It was a difficult question to solve; and the mere fact of its being
strongly presented to his mind by all that he had seen and heard, was
not encouraging. He sat down at the deserted board, and becoming
more and more despondent, as he thought of all the uncertainties and
difficulties of his precarious situation, sighed heavily.
Now, there had been at the dinner-table a middle-aged man with a dark
eye and a sunburnt face, who had attracted Martin's attention by having
something very engaging and honest in the expression of his features;
but of whom he could learn nothing from either of his neighbours, who
seemed to consider him quite beneath their notice. He had taken no part
in the conversation round the stove, nor had he gone forth with the
rest; and now, when he heard Martin sigh for the third or fourth
time, he interposed with some casual remark, as if he desired, without
obtruding himself upon a stranger's notice, to engage him in cheerful
conversation if he could. His motive was so obvious, and yet so
delicately expressed, that Martin felt really grateful to him, and
showed him so in the manner of his reply.
'I will not ask you,' said this gentleman with a smile, as he rose and
moved towards him, 'how you like my country, for I can quite anticipate
your feeling on that point. But, as I am an American, and consequently
bound to begin with a question, I'll ask you how you like the colonel?'
'You are so very frank,' returned Martin, 'that I have no hesitation in
saying I don't like him at all. Though I must add that I am beholden to
him for his civility in bringing me here--and arranging for my stay,
on pretty reasonable terms, by the way,' he added, remembering that the
colonel had whispered him to that effect, before going out.
'Not much beholden,' said the stranger drily. 'The colonel occasionally
boards packet-ships, I have heard, to glean the latest information
for his journal; and he occasionally brings strangers to board here, I
believe, with a view to the little percentage which attaches to those
good offices; and which the hostess deducts from his weekly bill. I
don't offend you, I hope?' he added, seeing that Martin reddened.
'My dear sir,' returned Martin, as they shook hands, 'how is that
possible! to tell you the truth, I--am--'
'Yes?' said the gentleman, sitting down beside him.
'I am rather at a loss, since I must speak plainly,' said Martin,
getting the better of his hesitation, 'to know how this colonel escapes
'Well! He has been beaten once or twice,' remarked the gentleman
quietly. 'He is one of a class of men, in whom our own Franklin, so
long ago as ten years before the close of the last century, foresaw
our danger and disgrace. Perhaps you don't know that Franklin, in very
severe terms, published his opinion that those who were slandered
by such fellows as this colonel, having no sufficient remedy in the
administration of this country's laws or in the decent and right-minded
feeling of its people, were justified in retorting on such public
nuisances by means of a stout cudgel?'
'I was not aware of that,' said Martin, 'but I am very glad to know
it, and I think it worthy of his memory; especially'--here he hesitated
'Go on,' said the other, smiling as if he knew what stuck in Martin's
'Especially,' pursued Martin, 'as I can already understand that it may
have required great courage, even in his time, to write freely on any
question which was not a party one in this very free country.'
'Some courage, no doubt,' returned his new friend. 'Do you think it
would require any to do so, now?'
'Indeed I think it would; and not a little,' said Martin.
'You are right. So very right, that I believe no satirist could breathe
this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow,
he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature,
and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has
anatomized our follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and
who has escaped the foulest and most brutal slander, the most inveterate
hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a strange name in my ears,
believe me. In some cases I could name to you, where a native writer
has ventured on the most harmless and good-humoured illustrations of
our vices or defects, it has been found necessary to announce, that in
a second edition the passage has been expunged, or altered, or explained
away, or patched into praise.'
'And how has this been brought about?' asked Martin, in dismay.
'Think of what you have seen and heard to-day, beginning with the
colonel,' said his friend, 'and ask yourself. How THEY came about,
is another question. Heaven forbid that they should be samples of the
intelligence and virtue of America, but they come uppermost, and in
great numbers, and too often represent it. Will you walk?'
There was a cordial candour in his manner, and an engaging confidence
that it would not be abused; a manly bearing on his own part, and a
simple reliance on the manly faith of a stranger; which Martin had
never seen before. He linked his arm readily in that of the American
gentleman, and they walked out together.
It was perhaps to men like this, his new companion, that a traveller
of honoured name, who trod those shores now nearly forty years ago, and
woke upon that soil, as many have done since, to blots and stains upon
its high pretensions, which in the brightness of his distant dreams were
lost to view, appealed in these words--
'Oh, but for such, Columbia's days were done;
Rank without ripeness, quickened without sun,
Crude at the surface, rotten at the core,
Her fruits would fall before her spring were o'er!'