|To Mary Perkins Olmsted|
To Mary Perkins Olmsted
|"The Pioneer Condition and the Drift of Civilization"|
To John Olmsted
To John Wheeler Harding
To Mary Perkins Olmsted
Oct 20th 1863
The grandest scene I ever saw was Eastward from Mt. Bullion yesterday, the Sierra Nevada over the valley of the Merced. We rode by a trail not very difficult to follow, though steep and rocky, to the top of the ridge East of Bear Valley village, where in 3/4 of an hour from the office we came upon it. We then rode on a trail which it was awful to follow with that scene constantly over your left shoulder three or four miles to Fremonts' camp, from-which it is still commanded, and then back to the crest of Mt. Bullion at a higher point, where we had the Sierra view on one side and on the other looked quite over Bear Valley and Oso Mountain range, upon the San Joachim valley beyond the coast range dimly discernable in the Indian summer beyond. From a similar point of observation (I guess 4000 ft. above San Joachim) the Campagna cannot appear very differently. The side down South & East of Mt. Bullion was all fine. The day's ride was twenty miles probably and though often somewhat difficult, John, with a small squad of China-men, would in a month make it perfectly convenient. It wants a few stones rolled & chapparal shortened in. The mountain sides are very steep, awkward to descend and fearful to ride in contour-line the trail being a scarcely perceptible jog in the face of the slope, and the awful valley gaping below but it is not really dangerous or difficult, and requires no skill.
There are a great many pleasanter places than Fremonts' camp tho' that is pleasant but it is the only spring on the ridge or at all elevated so far as I have yet learned. While Mrs. Fremont was living there (40 ft from the spring her tent was) Grizzlies frequently came to the spring to drink. She saw them. We saw coon-tracks & thousands of rabbit tracks, one snake track in the dust, but no animals but squirrels & birds. The trees are better that way, somewhat. The rocks have a greater variety of lichens I think than with us. I have not seen cactus-aloe or any of the dry-country plants. I can't think why.
I start for San Francisco to be about 10 days, tomorrow.
I like it all, better & better.
Fred. Law Olmsted.
To Mary Perkins Olmsted
Octr 31 1863.
I received yours of Septr 29 and Octr 2d a few days ago. I have been too much crowded since I left here for San Francisco, five days after my arrival to write you having previously written four or five times. Meantime I have continued well, and have got along very smoothly with my business that is with my personal responsibilities, but have been very much vexed with law business and the general ruinous condition of the estate, for which I am not responsible. I have got pretty good command of the machinery and shall soon knock something out of it or burst the boilers. It is not as hard to get control of it as I expected to find it, because, chiefly I don't really have to take anybody else's place, or get anybody else's knowledge. There was nobody here in command; the acting Superintendent was a mere book-keeper, locum tenons pro tempore, and there was nobody here who knew much about the estate. The reason being that nobody had settled here. This sojourning habit of the people who are here is shown in their want of interest in the fixed qualities of the place. Nobody knows what the trees and plants are. They are all like ourselves strangers. And the business has been managed under the same influence. In a month, there will not be a man of the old central administration left, yet I shall have discharged but one and he an absentee. Nobody was fixed: all had plans more or less definite, for going somewhere else, and as they see that I don't particularly need them, they go. I make it a favor to me that they stay as long as they do, yet of course, it gives a considerable advantage to me in having matters established in my own way, easily. Whether the mines can be made to pay handsomely, I don't know. It don't look any more promising than it did in New York, I must confess. But the estate has some great advantages and I don't despair.
I shall want very much to get in new, decent, people with families, and to break up some of the present settlements. There's a lot of Italians here in the valley, who seem to have adopted the old California habits and with odd Yankees, Southerners and Mexicans none really settled here keep up the old customs gambling, rowing, yelling and fighting. There's a big row with yells and pistol-shots going on now. There's a grave yard back of the inn, with twenty or thirty graves. "There's only one man in that lot that didn't die a natural death in his boots." I would prefer to have you live somewhere else than here, as soon as convenient, and would like to have some neighbors that you wouldn't be afraid of letting the children get among. I think we can bring it about in course of the year. There are a good many elements that would rapidly crystallize upon a healthy centre. For that reason we should avoid the present centres and yet not put ourselves in an eccentrics position.
The two most vexatious circumstances are that in every place which would be otherwise tempting the ground is rocky and stoney and the least disreputable trees have been cut off. It angers me to see how all the tolerable, big trees have been wasted and still are being wasted, though I am checking it. The trees don't look nearly as badly to me, as they did at first. I don't know why, but I see considerable beauty in them, and, in the shrubs especially, great promise for the spring. Indeed, the spring must be glorious here spring and early summer. I want to know more about the plants, and hope you may bring some information, for I can't find anyone here, who knows one from another. You will find an ample field in which to exercise your mineral-mania, if it lasts. My table is loaded with quartz. Granite & slate are jammed together in the valley and the quartz is squeezer through fissures of both. I see serpentine ledges too, I think.
Come well-prepared to ride in the dust and among briars. Beyond them, it is fine. The moon-lit mountains are superb, and there is no malaria.
Things are worse here than I dare say to anybody but you and to you with a caution. There is not a mine on the estate that is honestly paying expenses. The $60,000 a month profit of last spring was partly a piece of good luck in one of the mines & a good deal, throwing every expense possible into the future & making no preparations for the future.
To John Olmsted
January 15 1864.
I must have been putting off writing you for several weeks; the reason for not feeling quite ready day after day being, I suppose, because I have been for some time expecting by every succeeding mail from Stockton, to get a telegraphic message from you, in answer to my enquiry when Mary was to leave & who with her, and also because I have not been well. I suppose "dyspesia" covers my troubles, but the particular action of it in my case, makes writing a task to be dreaded. I write as little as I can and ride as much as I can and am gaining on it.
I confess I am sadly homesick. It is very hard to make up my mind to adopt this as my home or to begin life over again in making friends here. I don't see how I can hope to make Mary contented to live here or to endure it. It is dreadfully rough, and I even when on horseback, can't help turning many a long, lingering look back upon civilization and homes. I detest this intermediate state between bivouacking and home-living. Individually, I am comfortable enough. I have made my office comfortable; I have comfortable meals, I have a loveable horse and I enjoy the air and the landscape.
I gave a dinner today to the Superintendents, with my central staff and Judge Jones, wife & sister. (He has just gone upon the bench from a superintendency on the estate). We had four ladies and twelve gentlemen: dinner served in my office. The Oso hotel and Charles Maulters exhausted their resources and we had a very good dinner, neatly & quietly served. It was by far the greatest triumph of civilization over the prevailing idolatry of discomfort and disorder that Bear Valley has seen, I think.
The moral soil is excessively inert here. What little of religion of profession there is chiefly takes the Southern Methodist form. There is a Methodist Church South & a ditto North, I understand in Mariposa & they have preachers the Northern man is said to be much the best, & he is a Kentuckian with less than an "ordinary common school education" & no ideas beyond the catechism. A real missionary going about doing good and not making a business of preaching, either wholesale or retail, would find a grand field here.
I'm not sure that the Chinese are not the best part of the population morally. They are quiet, industrious, peaceable and there seems to be less essential vice in opium-smoking than in our national excitements. It seems to me a great deal could be made of them if they could be rightly taken hold of. It's a shocking commentary upon our assumptions of moral & religious advancement over the rest of the world to see how they are treated & what ideas they must form of our character. I frequently salute them with a word as I pass them at work and get a rude, insolent, contemptuous reply. This being the custom of the country to them is all the English they have learned. In short they know nothing of us that is not detestable, and with such ideas of Christians they are going back by ship loads to the land of Confucius.
I employ them all I can in the mills and mines and am more successful in my attempts to do so than I supposed I could be. Of 24 hands now employed at a mine which I am opening at Mariposa, twelve are Chinamen and I pay them only half the wages we pay at our other mines for the same labor. They do not seem to be excessively penurious they live pretty well dress as well as our people, and their trade is of importance to our merchants. They lie and steal whenever they can make anything by it, but they work more steadily and faithfully than Cornish men. You see more industry without parsimony and frugality without meanness among them than among the ruling races here.
Of our Europeans, the Italians are here, as they were on the park, the most industrious. They do nearly all the market gardening. I don't think the Diggers are as bad a people as they are generally represented to be. I see a good deal of industry among them. I often observe both men and women very steadily employed in pounding acorns. A bread made of flour of acorns with grass hoppers seems to be the commonest food. They also make a soup of it, boiled in a basket, woven watertight. Of course they can't put it on the fire, & the boiling is effected by heating stones and dropping them in the soup. They are very ugly with hair like a heavy black fur shading their foreheads. Their children are sometimes bright and quite interesting. Babies are carried in a basket on the back, sometimes with a queer little penthouse over their heads.
My box of books from Mason bringing the Waverly novels, presented me by the Sanitarians in Washington, has just arrived. I am very glad to have them. I can read when I can't write or ride.
Thank you for Littell & papers. They are worth a good deal here.
Your affectionate Son
Fred. Law Olmsted.
To John Olmsted
Sept. 14th 1864.
We returned here last week from the mountains, all in improved health, and find the weather agreeably cool and pleasant. Mary and the children had been in camp seven weeks, the last month in the Yo-Semite. I was with them most of the time but made three visits to the Estate and I also a journey through the high Sierras to the Eastward of the Yo-Semite I reaching the brink of the Mono desert beyond them.
I wrote you soon after we arrived in the Yo-Semite telling you that we found it much more beautiful than we had been led to anticipate. We had a very pleasant camp there and, spite of a good many difficulties from the distance of stores and markets and the inconveniences of transportation, managed to live quite healthfully and comfortably. The children enjoyed the life very much and seemed to gain health daily.
John accompanied me in my journey to the Eastward and we had with us Prof Brewer of the State Geological Survey (and lately appointed Professor of Practical Agriculture in Yale College). We also had a guide and drove a pack-mule, going mounted ourselves, of course. The first day out of the Valley we reached an elevation of nine thousand feet and came little below this again for a week. We nevertheless suffered scarcely any inconvenience from cold or rarefied air. The view to the Eastward was very fine, the slope on that side being very abrupt, the desert plain of Mono 5,000 feet below us commencing not more than six miles away. In the midst of the desert there was a considerable lake and three or four cones and craters of volcanic ashes. The horizon was everywhere broken by mountain ridges, those on the North East being in Nevada Territory and those in the South East beyond the valley of Owen's river, the most distant being more than 150 miles away. A few miles to the North of us was Mt. Dana, a very symmetrical peak 14,000 feet high; to the South, a group of peaks the center and highest being Mt. Lyell which is a little higher than Mt. Dana. The Geological Survey spent several days trying to get to the top of it last year without success. On its North side there was a snow bank six miles long in parts of which we could see the red snow described by Arctic travelers. Many Arctic plants and insects as well as birds and animals are found in this snowy region. We saw several. The surface of the mountain was composed of boulders and splinters of slate and quartz which I found difficult, especially where we had to get up steep slopes, to ride over, but by making short tacks and resting my horse every fifteen or twenty feet, not impracticable. In coming down however I took the worst part on foot. Growing on and among these stones even to the very top we found some beautiful Alpine flowers most of them I believe indistinguishable from those found in the Alps. It freezes at this elevation and even some thousand feet below it every night in the year. There was no snow on the side where we ascended but John went down on the East side to a bank and brought us a snow-ball for our dinner. The chief inconvenience of the whole trip was the cold weather at night. Though we made great fires and had all the blankets we could lie under, the cold kept me awake more or less every night. Every morning I found the water in my canteen under my pillow frozen. We did not fairly test the temperature by the Thermometer but one morning half an hour after sunrise it stood at 14 F. During the day nevertheless the temperature was very agreeable.
The Sierra peaks are generally of a light grey granite though some are of slate like that which we ascended. Their form is that of snow-drifts after a very gusty storm, some being of grand simplicity while others are pinnacled, columnar castleated and fantastic. There are numerous small lakes which as they are frozen solid in the winter contain no fish and there are numerous small streams running for the most part through narrow grassy meadows: outside of these and below the line of perpetual snow there is a forest of pines and firs peculiar to the region, all but one disappearing at about 10,500 and this gradually becoming a mere shrub and then itself disappearing. I have given you a sort of catalogue of the more important elements but do not attempt to convey to you any impression of the scenery which is of a very peculiar character and much the grandest that I have ever seen.
On the Estate we have got our new Mill running at Mariposa. We have made no drafts on the Treasurer for a month or more and if our Mills were not likely to be stopped for want of water, I think I should have no occasion to draw again; but within a few days the effects of the drought have been alarming. You know this is our second very long dry season, little rain having fallen last winter.
I gained health constantly while in the mountains, felt better and could ride further without fatigue than before for a long time, but I find the old symptoms returning as soon as I come back to the desk.
I wish you could see the children, they all look so well. We were amused on going into a log cabin, the whole of one end of which was a fire-place, with about two cords of pine-wood blazing in it, to hear Owen drawl: "Why that's just like the fire place in grandfather's parlor!" They made a considerable botanical collection & learned a good deal about rocks, glaciers etc., and John did some pretty stiff climbing. His eyes seem perfectly well. They have all come back into school and civilized habits more readily than I had expected.
I am not sure that I acknowledged Yours of 24th July, which was received with much pleasure, in the Yo-Semite.
To John Wheeler Harding
Note: Harding, pastor of the First Congregational Church, had written to Olmsted inquiring if Olmsted thought he could "work usefully" in California
Mariposa Co. Cal. Oct. 20th 1864.
My Dear Harding;
Your letter of August 1st having been directed to San Francisco, has, by some eccentric freak of efficiency in the Post Office, just been brought to me here.
I find it very difficult to give you the advice you wish; I mean advice that would be really valuable to you, but I will do my best. My knowledge of the country from personal observation you must understand is extremely limited and it is quite possible that much that I have seen and experienced is more exceptional than I am aware of, although I have taken considerable pains by comparing notes with intelligent men whose range of observation has been wider, to guard against this danger. I don't know what your knowledge of California affairs may be but presume that it is not very different from that which I possessed before I thought of coming here, so that the simplest general answer to your inquiries will be given in the statement that in all matters to which they relate I have been extremely disappointed.
The population out of San Francisco with which I have come in contact consists almost entirely of thriftless, fortune-hunting, improvident, gambling vagabonds; I mean in its essential character. Of course there is a wide range and I see men who by comparison with others are respectable but of men who have a deep abiding faith in living by intelligent industry directed to the essential benefit of their fellow citizens, I see almost none. That is the most important fact of my observations. The occupation which is the grand basis of all the wealth in the State and out of which all other enterprises and occupations gambling, stage-driving, saw milling, farming, preaching and what not grow; by which they are sustained and without which they would all come to grief any day is that of gold mining. Under this head are included the two entirely distinct operations of washing gold out of the surface soil, and of mining proper; that is to say, the excavation of quartz veins containing or supposed to contain gold, and the treatment of the quartz subsequent to its extraction from these veins. The situation in which the first can be pursued with greater profit than is included in the wages of ordinary agricultural labor in the East are very limited. Far more limited now than a few years since and growing rapidly more limited every year. Nine tenths of this business in this part of the country has already fallen into the hands of Chinese who are content to work for moderate wages. Consequently the communities of white men which have been heretofore established and built up upon the profits of placer mining, including the farmers and gardeners and others who supplied the wants of placer miners, are in a large majority of cases either in a decaying condition or already completely broken up. Within a dozen miles of where I live there are old mining villages, cities some of them were called, which are now completely deserted except perhaps by a few Chinamen or Mexicans.
You must imagine for yourself what the condition of society is under these circumstances. It is nowhere; there is no society. Any appearance of social convenience that may be found is a mere temporary and temporizing expedient by which men cheat themselves to believe that they are not savages.
All this is the general rule; now for the exceptions. In the few instances where quartz mines have been established which have continued for some time to be profitable, there society is forming on something like a substantial foundation and there you find some real phenomena of civilization. Then all this mining of course makes a general trade which has a few nuclei such as San Francisco and one or two lumber marts and places of concentration, exchange and embarkation of merchandize. In these especially there must be a vigorous class of men, vigorous in whatever they put their hands to, vigorous and enterprising, daring, audacious, often more than that, criminally reckless. Of course these qualities are sometimes applied to good, benevolent, religious purposes. How much such application there is in the State I am not in a position very well to judge, not having come in the slightest degree in contact with it outside of San Francisco and there only slightly, in connection with Starr King and the Sanitary Commission. This side of Stockton, eighty miles distant, I do not know of a single church in operation except one run exclusively by Secessionists, and more I suppose as a political than a religious enterprise.
There is not a public school in operation in this part of the country, at the present time, to my knowledge. More than half our population are heathens, pagans, worshippers of idols, and on an average these are the more industrious, orderly, peaceable, temperate and altogether respectable and civilized. They are oppressed, swindled and abused in the most atrocious manner by the rest. They are nevertheless patient, meek and docile, though of course suspicious, and hard of yielding confidence or trusting at all to white men. Many of them understand and some speak English. If they have ever learned anything of white men except new forms of vice and wickedness, I can't think by what means it has been. I never have heard of the slightest effort or purpose on the part of any white man, woman or child to do them good.
Society is growing less unstable and uncivilized in the State with considerable rapidity. The number of paying quartz mines and especially of districts within which quartz mining operations promise to be on an average permanently profitable is increasing. The possibility of establishing permanent communities and a real civilization with its various joint stock advantages in churches, schools, civil-courts and family homes, is thus secured at many points. The demand for pastoral services, as for all other conveniences of civilization, must consequently be increasing.
There is an immense number of young men constantly coming to California and who generally go to the devil at a rate of speed seldom paralleled in well organized communities. I have examined a few to ascertain the reason of it more exactly than I could by general observation. Their explanation in each case was a very simple one: they had nowhere else to go. My private opinion is that capital in churches would not pay here at present half as much as capital expended in some other ways.
I don't know whether what I have written will serve your purpose at all or not, or whether if it does so it will have an encouraging or discouraging effect upon your disposition to come here. I have given you my impression of what seem to me to be the important general facts bearing upon the question.
Very Cordially Yours,
Fred. Law Olmsted.
Our own place of residence in the ancient times (of Buchanan) bore the name of Bear Camp, and though the Postmaster General has given it another, that remains its proper name. It has a population of from two to three hundred and contains three general stores, two "ho tels", five other establishments for supplying liquors & cigars, two supplied with Billiard tables and one with a piano, a Livery Stable, Bakery, Foundry, Machine Shop, Smithy and Cobbler's shop, two or three lodge rooms and a public hall for dancing and other entertainments. It has a Mexican suburb, an Indian suburb and a Chinese suburb, the latter containing at this time about forty inhabitants. There are three good gardens near the camp, each well irrigated and admirably cultivated, one managed by an Italian, one by a Frenchman and one worked by a company of Chinese, who pay a small rent to citizens for the land but work on their own account, with admirable skill and painful thoroughness and industry.
I have been much puzzled to guess why there is this collection of people always here, and how it is supported. Plainly a considerable number cannot live by anything they earn here and now but besides these the number who seem to be making their living, and a pretty good living too, is more than a stranger can at once account for. The shopkeepers and tradesmen sell goods to miners living in smaller camps around us or to other shop-keepers and peddlers who supply these outer camps. The gardeners have the same market. But I have found it difficult to believe that its demand is so large or so varied as the supply that continues to be provided would seem to indicate. The fact undoubtedly is that the amount consumed or made way with per head of population, both of necessaries and of luxuries of certain kinds and these latter not a few, would very greatly outrun that of any community in Europe or the Atlantic States.
I was not prepared to find in a region so remote from the great centres of civilization so little of rural or backwoods simplicity. The English speaking people are no more unsophisticated here than in Piccadilly or St. Giles'. Even the farmers have more commonly the carriage, style and manners of unfortunate horse jockeys and dissipated market men than of solid, steady and frugal countrymen. Go where you will on the mountains, the hills or the plains, wherever the slightest trail has been formed or the smallest sign of industry mining, mechanical or agricultural is to be found, you may also find empty sardine boxes, meat, oyster and fruit cans, wine, ale, olive and sauce bottles, with playing cards and torn leaves of novels, magazines and newspapers, more commonly New York newspapers, but sometimes French, German or English.
Our camp is at the outside of a cluster of five stations of supply of similar character and among them within twelve miles to the Southward there are five public bakeries. We are supplied at our own door with fresh rolls as well as with milk every morning before breakfast. Our bread is of better quality than any I ever tasted made in New England. There are two public breweries, and no better beer is made in the United States than is supplied by one of them. There are three tolerable restaurants and several establishments which must be styled cafes and cabarets rather than bar-rooms or dram shops; being provided with small tables, and two of them with vine covered arbors, where men sometimes rest and refresh themselves in a quiet and temperate way. When away from home I gladly resort to them as an escape from the parlors, dining rooms and bar-rooms of the hotels. Of these there are five of the ordinary dreary Western American kind, of which four on an average make each a new landlord bankrupt every six months. There are eight or ten public billiard tables; there are two hot bath establishments. There are eight or nine livery stables. There is a newsman, who keeps a reading room and also acts as canter for the European and Eastern magazines and illustrated papers. The stock of clothing materials & of articles for the table to be found in the two dozen stores is much larger & more varied than would be found in most Eastern towns of several fold larger population & of several fold greater average wealth. There are established brokers, nurses, midwives, barbers, sign-painters, metal-roofers. And this list of our sources of supply and distribution indicates another condition which I was not prepared to find in this remote wild region, in the variety of trades and handicrafts represented in the population. When it has happened that the services of a slater, thatcher, glazier, cooper, Sadler, painter, confectioner, pastry cook, florist, piano tuner were wanted, someone previously unknown in the required capacity has come forth in good time from among our neighbors more or less fairly prepared for the occasion.
In a frontier or immature state of society, each individual becomes connected by ties of interest or otherwise with a certain number of others who are of distinct importance to him and to whom he is of distinct importance. He knows what he has to do with everyone about him and what everyone about him has to do with him. When he comes into the midst of an older or more fully organized community, he finds individuals comparatively unimportant and a large part of every man's interest in others so indirect, attenuated, ramified and subtle that it appears to him that there is no genuine friendship, trust or truth, any more than there is thorough-going hatred, enmity or manly courage in regard to injuries. The fact is that friendship, the obligation of truth and trust or dependence on others is exercised in a much more extended and elaborate way, the heart and mind are both more liberal than he is able to appreciate, and in truth it is he who has been growing contracted, concentrated and direct in the exercise of his natural qualifications for helping and being helped by his fellow-men otherwise.
Notwithstanding the constant changes which I have described [frequent population shifts], the immediate community about me is so small, and my business responsibility has been of such a character, that I have taken an interest more or less active in the condition, the habits and tendencies of nearly every individual sojourner near me. I have been anxious for the introduction of conditions favorable to progress toward a thriftier state of things, toward a community of larger and steadier commercial demands, larger and steadier productive power. On this account, it has naturally become a habit with me to weigh the value of individuals, with reference to the general end which I should like to feel that I am aiding my neighbors to approach, and I find that whenever my attention is called to a man I at once rank him according to an intuitive estimate of the part he is likely to bear, if any, in this respect. I find that for convenience of thinking I habitually classify my neighbors according to my estimate of their measurement by some scale which exists in my mind. I have never to this moment attempted to define clearly to myself what this scale is, but looking out the window as I write, I see two men and I know that both stand near the bottom notch and that the scale is too rude to show any difference between them. It interests me to find that this is the case because there are striking differences between them.
One stands idle but erect, and though of feeble form, with the pose of a noble statue; his face is streaked with vermilion; a quiver of undressed fox skin, full of arrows, hangs over one naked shoulder, a ragged blanket over the other and there is a bow in his hand. I saw him standing within six feet of where he now is an hour ago and with no difference of position except that his vacant eyes were directed toward the other end of the village. He is a dull, silent, stupid savage. He was born near here and when he was born his mother had never seen a white man.
The other reclines near the tavern-door. He has a cigar in his mouth, a Colt's revolver in one pocket, a Geneva watch in another and scores of machines and many hundreds of hands have been employed in preparing his apparel. When freshly and mildly stimulated, he has a very active mind and a ready utterance. It is not unlikely that tomorrow morning, after he has taken a warm bath, his cognac and soda water, coffee and one or two after breakfast drams, [I shall] again hear him discoursing, as I did this morning, with indignant eloquence on "the mockery of justice, the debasement of the ermine, the ignorance of law, the degrading demagogueism, the abominable infidelity by !" of a recent decision of a Court with regard to the rights of colored people in public conveyances, reported in a San Francisco newspaper. In twenty minutes he will have made use of words primarily prepared for him by Saxon, Roman, Greek, Sanskrit and I know not what other brains. Then again he will pass under my window humming a hymn of Handel, or I shall find him at the Post Office sitting in an arm chair, made for him in New Hampshire, and reading a novel first written in France, translated in England and printed for him in Boston. He will have been served before the day is over by your work and by mine and by that of thousands of other men, and yet will think of nothing so often or so intensely as the "cursed luck" by which he is served no better. And what will he do for us? Play a game of billiards with you or take a hand at cards if you want amusement, and if he wins money in this or any other way of speculating he will use it "generously." Within a year by pledging his word to drink no more he induced a poor hard worked widow to become his wife, having been previously the father of several children of different colors for [whose] maintenance or education he has never worked an hour or concerned~himself a moment. He is [a] tall and large framed white man of English stock, born in a state of society which he speaks of [as] "the highest reach of civilization."
While I see no other men but these, I am reminded of two others by hearing the strokes of an axe and the dull rap of a hammer. The first comes from a Chinese servant preparing wood for the baker's oven over the way, the other from a crippled German shoemaker. These two men again I at once range together and very far above the Indian and the Fruit of civilization not, perhaps more than half way to the higher notches yet, not a majority of my neighbors stand higher than these two steady, plodding, short-sighted, frugal workers. But it is not industry, nor well-balanced demand and supply, nor sobriety and inoffensiveness only that I lay to the scale. There is some general quality which these lie back of and support perhaps, but which I look most for and find feeble in the stolid German and weaken Chinaman.
Trying one man and another and reflecting upon what it is in each that sets him high or low in my scale, I come to the conclusion that the highest point on my scale can only be met by the man who possesses a combination of qualities which fit him to serve others and to be served by others in the most intimate, complete and extended degree imaginable. Shall we call it communitiveness? Then I find not merely less of a community but less possibility of community, of communitiveness, here among my neighbors of all kinds than in any other equal body of men, I ever saw.
The condition of emigrants arriving in U.S. indicates that their civilization is a forced, artificial habit; that it rests but in slight degree upon interior character, depends on police, on municipal regulations; on metropolitan conveniences. These left behind, or by any unusual occurrence overcome, whether in the Old World or here, we see the savage propensities. They need to grow without such supports to gain strength and self supporting vigor and that is what frontier freedom with free institutions does for them.
The change in the character and habits of men which occurs in America may be divided into (5) stages, as follows:
It is not of course to be supposed that there is a regular, distinct and complete development in each stage before another is enteredor that there are no backslidings or irregular and unsound advances. Special circumstances will at times call out the higher qualities in every man, however torpid they may ordinarily seem to be in him. On the other hand under special temptations, the most advanced are apt to appear selfish, narrow minded, mean and heathenish.
Nor is [it] to be supposed that in any given period of time, or in any given number of generations, an individual, family or community will necessarily have advanced from one stage to another.
As a general rule, however, it may be laid down that the longer the period in which men have been subject to that class of influences which are peculiarly active in America, and the less they have been subject to that class of influences which are more active in Europe, that is to say the more purely American the circumstances have been which have influenced the formation of character, the more nearly will they be fitted and inclined to live in communities in which every individual on the whole during his life is of service to and is served by every other therein in which consequently all the intelligence and other forces of those who constitute them are employed with the least waste and to the highest ends.
(This then is American. The other things are remnants of European decivilization.)
If I am right in my statement of the stages by which men & communities advance in America, it may be possible by an examination of various institutions and other phenomena to determine according to the preponderance of certain elements whether they are representative of one or another of the stages between the decivilization of Europe & the civilization which is all that is creditable, or valuable to the world, in America.