THE SECRETS OF THE GREAT CITY
A Work Descriptive of the Virtues and the Vices, the Mysteries, Miseries and Crimes of New York City
EDWARD WINSLOW MARTIN
THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
The City of New York is the largest and most important in America. Its corporate limits embrace the whole of Manhattan Island, on which it is situated, and which is bounded by the Hudson, the East and Harlem rivers, and by Spuyten Duyvil creek, which last connects the Harlem with the Hudson. Being almost entirely surrounded by deep water, and lying within sight of the ocean, and only sixteen miles from it, the city is naturally the greatest commercial centre of the country. The extreme length of the island is fifteen miles, and its average breadth a mile and a half. The city lies at the head of New York Bay, which stretches away for miles until the Narrows, the main entrance to the harbor, are reached, presenting a panorama unsurpassed for natural and artificial beauty. The people of New York are very proud of their bay, and justly regard it as one of the most magnificent in the world.
The city was originally settled by the Dutch, toward the close of the year 1614, and called by them New Amsterdam. In 1664, it passed into the hands of the English, and was named New York, which name was also given to the whole province. The first settlement was made at the extreme lower part of the island, on the spot now known as the Battery. A fort was erected, and the little hamlet surrounded by a strong stockade as a protection against the savages. The first settlers were eminently just in their dealings with the red men, and purchased the island from them, giving them what was considered by all parties a fair price for it. They felt sure that their new home was destined to become a place of importance in the course of time. Its commercial advantages were evident at a glance; the climate was delightful, being neither so rigorous as that of the Eastern colonies, nor so enervating as that of the Southern. The hopes of the founders of New York are more than realized in the metropolis of to-day.
The city grew very slowly at the beginning. In 1686, it was regularly incorporated by a charter. In 1693, the first printing press was set up in the city by William Bradford. In 1690, New York contained five hundred and ninety-four houses and six thousand inhabitants. In 1790, one hundred years later, the city had a population of thirty-three thousand. It was not until the beginning of the present century that it commenced that wonderful growth which has given it its present importance. At first it spread more rapidly on the east side than on the west. As late as the close of the Revolution, what is now Chambers street was the extreme upper limit, and its line was marked by a strong stockade, built across from river to river, with gates leading to the various country roads which traversed the upper part of the island.
The City of New York now extends from the Battery to the Harlem river and Spuyten Duyvil creek, and is built up with great regularity as far as One-hundred and Thirtieth street. Harlem, Yorkville, Manhattanville, Bloomingdale, Carmansville, and Washington Heights or Fort Washington, were all originally separate villages, but are now parts of the great city. The island comes to a point at the Battery, and from this extremity stretches away northward like a fan. It attains its greatest width at Fourteenth and Eighty-seventh streets. Broadway is the longest street, running from, the Battery to Spuyten Duyvil creek, a distance of fifteen miles. It is lighted with gas along the entire line. Street railways and omnibus lines connect the various parts of the city, affording cheap and rapid transportation within its limits. Ferry boats ply constantly between the island and the neighboring shores, and railroads and steamboats connect it with all parts of the world.
The population of New York is over one million of inhabitants. This does not include the immense throng of visitors for business and pleasure. It is estimated that forty thousand of these arrive and depart daily. During times of more than ordinary interest—such as a national convention of some political party, the meeting of some great religious body, the world's fair, or some such special attraction— these arrivals are greatly increased. During the recent session of the Democratic National Convention, in July, 1868, the number of strangers present in the city was estimated at two hundred thousand. The amount of money brought into the city by these strangers is astonishing. Millions are spent by them annually during their visits to the metropolis.
The population is made up from every nation under Heaven. The natives are in the minority. The foreign element predominates. Irishmen, Germans, Jews, Turks, Greeks, Russians, Italians, Spaniards, Mexicans, Portuguese, Scotch, French, Chinese—in short, representatives of every nationality—abound. These frequently herd together, each class by itself, in distinct parts of the city, which they seem to regard as their own.
Land is very scarce and valuable in New York, and this fact compels the poorer classes to live in greater distress than in most cities of the world. The whole number of buildings in the city in 1860 was fifty-five thousand, which includes churches, stores, etc. In the same year the population was eight hundred and five thousand, or one hundred and sixty-one thousand families. Of these fifteen thousand only occupied entire houses; nine thousand one hundred and twenty dwellings contained two families, and six thousand one hundred contained three families. As we shall have to recur to this subject again, we pass on now, merely remarking that these "tenement sections" of the city, as they are called, are more crowded now than ever, the increase in buildings having fallen far behind the increase of the population in the last eight years.
This mixed population makes New York a thorough cosmopolitan city; yet at the same time it is eminently American. Although the native New York element is small in numbers, its influence is very great. Besides this, numbers flock to the city from all parts of the Union, and this constant influx of fresh American vitality does much to keep the city true to the general character of the country.
It has been well said, that "New York is the best place in the world to take the conceit out of a man." This is true. No matter how great or flattering is the local reputation of an individual, he finds upon reaching New York that he is entirely unknown. He must at once set to work to build up a reputation here, where he will be taken for just what he is worth, and no more. The city is a great school for studying human nature, and its people are proficients in the art of discerning character.
In point of morality, the people of New York, in spite of all that has been said of them, compare favorably with those of any other city. If the darkest side of life is to be seen here, one may also witness the best. The greatest scoundrels and the purest Christians are to be found here. It is but natural that this, being the great centre of wealth, should also be the great centre of all that is good and beautiful in life. It is true that the Devil's work is done here on a gigantic scale, but the will of the Lord is done on an equally great, if not a greater, scale. In its charities New York stands at the head of American communities—the great heart of the city throbs warmly for suffering humanity. The municipal authorities expend annually seven hundred thousand dollars in public charities. The various religious denominations spend annually three millions more, and besides this the city is constantly sending out princely sums to relieve want and suffering in all parts of our broad land.
The people of New York are the most liberal of any in America in matters of opinion. Here, as a general rule, no man seeks to influence the belief of another, except so far as all men are privileged to do so. Every religious faith, every shade of political opinion, is tolerated and protected. Men concern themselves with their own affairs only. Indeed, this feeling is carried to such an extreme that it has engendered a decided indifference between man and man. People live for years as next door neighbors, without ever knowing each other by sight. A gentleman once happened to notice the name of his next door neighbor on the door-plate. To his surprise he found it the same as his own. Accosting the owner of the door-plate one day, for the first time, he remarked that it was singular that two people bearing the same name should live side by side for years without knowing each other. This remark led to mutual inquiries and statements, and to their surprise the two men found they were brothers—sons of the same parents. They had not met for many years, and for fully twelve years had lived side by side as neighbors, without knowing each other. This incident may be overdrawn, but it will illustrate a peculiar feature of New York life.
Strangers coming to New York are struck with the fact that there are but two classes in the city—the poor and the rich. The middle class, which is so numerous in other cities, hardly exists at all here. The reason of this is plain to the initiated. Living in New York is so expensive that persons of moderate means reside in the suburbs, some of them as far as forty miles in the country. They come into the city, to their business, in crowds, between the hours of seven and nine in the morning, and literally pour out of it between four and seven in the evening. In fair weather the inconvenience of such a life is trifling, but in the winter it is absolutely fearful. A deep snow will sometimes obstruct the railroad tracks, and persons living outside of the city are either unable to leave New York, or are forced to spend the night on the cars. Again, the rivers will be so full of floating ice as to render it very dangerous, if not impossible, for the ferry boats to cross. At such times the railroad depots and ferry houses are crowded with persons anxiously awaiting transportation to their homes. The detention in New York, however, is not the greatest inconvenience caused by such mishaps. Many persons are frequently unable to reach the city, and thus lose several days from their business, at times when they can ill afford it.
We have already referred to the scarcity of houses. The population of the city increases so rapidly that house-room cannot be provided for all. House rent is very high in New York. A house for a family of six persons, in a moderately respectable neighborhood, will rent for from sixteen hundred to twenty-five hundred dollars, the rate increasing as the neighborhood improves. On the fashionable streets, houses rent for from six thousand to fifteen thousand dollars per annum. These, it must be remembered, are palatial. Many persons owning these houses, live in Europe, or in other parts of the country, and pay all their expenses with the rent thus secured.
In consequence of this scarcity of dwellings, and the enormous rents asked for them, few families have residences of their own. People of moderate means generally rent a house, and sub-let a part of it to another family, take boarders, or rent furnished or unfurnished rooms to lodgers.
Furniture is expensive, and many persons prefer to rent furnished houses. These are always in demand, and in good localities command enormous prices. Heavy security has to be given by the lessee in such cases, as, without this, the tenant might make away with the furniture. Many persons owning houses for rent, furnish them at their own expense, and let them, the heavy rent soon paying a handsome profit on the furniture.
Persons living in a rented house are constantly apprehensive. Except in cases of long leases, no one knows how much his rent may be increased the next year. This causes a constant shifting of quarters, and is expensive and vexatious in the highest degree. It is partly due to the unsettled condition of the currency, but mainly to the scarcity of houses.
Many—indeed; the majority of the better class of inhabitants—prefer to board. Hotels and boarding houses pay well in New York. They are always full, and their prosperity has given rise to the remark that, "New York is a vast boarding house." We shall discuss this portion of our subject more fully in another chapter.
To persons of means, New York offers more advantages as a place of residence than any city in the land. Its delightful climate, its cosmopolitan and metropolitan character, and the endless variety of its attractions, render it the most delightful home in America. That this is true is shown by the fact that few persons who have lived in New York for twelve months ever care to leave it. Even those who could do better else where are powerless to resist its fascinations.
THE STREETS OF NEW YORK.
The City of New York has been regularly laid out and surveyed for a distance of twelve miles from the Battery. It has over two hundred miles of paved streets. Most of the streets in the old Dutch city are crooked and narrow, but above that they are broader, and better laid on; and after passing Fulton street, they become quite regular. Above Fourteenth street, the city is laid off in regular squares. First street is located about a mile and four fifths above the Battery. From this the cross streets extend to Two hundred and twenty-eighth street.
The lengths of the blocks, between First and One-hundred and twenty- first streets, vary from one hundred and eighty-one to two hundred and eleven feet eleven inches.
Those between the avenues (which run at right angles to the streets), vary from four hundred and five to nine hundred and twenty feet.
The avenues are all one hundred feet wide, excepting Lexington and Madison, which are seventy-five, and Fourth Avenue, above Thirty-fourth street, which is one hundred and forty feet wide.
The numerical streets are all sixty feet wide, excepting Fourteenth, Twenty-third, Thirty-fourth, Forty-second, and eleven others, north of these, which are one hundred feet wide.
There are twelve fine avenues at parallel distances apart of about eight hundred feet. They begin about First or Fourth street, and run to the end of the island. Second and Eighth are the longest, and Fifth and Madison the most fashionable.
The most wonderful street in the world is Broadway. It extends, as we have said, the whole length of the island. But its most attractive features are between the Bowling Green and Thirty-fourth street—the chief part of these being below Fourteenth street. The street is about sixty feet wide, and is thronged with vehicles of every description. Often times these vehicles crowd the streets to such an extent that they become "jammed," and the police are forced to interfere and compel the drivers to take the routes assigned them. The scene at such a time is thrilling. A stranger feels sure that the vehicles cannot be extricated without loss of life or limb to man or beast, and the shouts and oaths of the drivers fairly bewilder him. In a few moments, however, he sees a squad of policemen approach, and plunge boldly into the throng of vehicles. The shouts and oaths of the drivers cease, the vehicles move on, one at a time, according to the orders of the police, and soon the street is clear again, to be blocked, perhaps, in a similar manner, in less than an hour. Twenty thousand vehicles daily traverse this great thoroughfare.
It is always a difficult matter to cross Broadway in the busy season. Ladies, old persons, and children, find it impossible to do so without the aid of the police, whose duty it is to make a way for them through the crowds of vehicles. A bridge was erected at the corner of Broadway and Fulton street, which is the most crowded part of the city, for the purpose of allowing pedestrians to cross over the heads of the throng in the street. It proved a failure, however. Few persons used it, except to see from it the magnificent panorama of Broadway, and the city authorities have ordered it to be taken down. It disfigures the street very much, and its removal will be hailed with delight by the native population.
Broadway properly begins at the Bowling Green. From this point it extends in a straight line to Fourteenth street and Union Square. Below Wall street, it is mainly devoted to the "Express" business, the headquarters and branch offices of nearly all the lines in the country centering here. Opposite Wall street, on the west side of Broadway, is Trinity Church and its grave-yard. From Wall street to Ann street, Insurance Companies, Real Estate Agents, Bankers and Brokers predominate. At the corner of Ann street, is the magnificent "Herald Office," adjoining which is the "Park Bank," one of the grandest structures in the country. Opposite these are the Astor House and St. Paul's Church. Passing the Astor House, the visitor finds the Park, containing the City Hall, on his right. Across the Park are Park Row and Printing House Square, containing all the principal newspaper offices of the city. Old Tammany Hall once stood on this Square, but the site is now occupied by the "The Sun," and "Brick Pomeroy's Democrat"—Arcades Ambo.
Beyond the City Hall, at the north-east corner of Chambers street and Broadway, is "Stewart's marble dry goods palace," as it is called. This is the wholesale warehouse of A. T. Stewart & Co., and occupies the entire block. The retail department of this great firm, is higher up town. Passing along, one sees, in glancing up and down the cross streets, long rows of marble and brown stone warehouses, stretching away for many blocks on either hand, and affording proof positive of the immensity and success of the business transacted in this locality.
Opposite Pearl street is the New York Hospital, standing back amidst its noble old trees; the yard is cut off from the street by an iron railing. Crossing Canal street, the widest and most conspicuous we have yet passed over, we see the handsome establishment of Lord & Taylor. rivals to Stewart, in the retail dry goods trade; on the corner of Grand street. The brown stone building opposite, is Brooks' clothing house, the largest and finest in the country. Between Broome and Spring streets, are the marble and brown stone buildings of the famous St. Nicholas Hotel. On the block above, and opposite, is Tiffany's, too well known to need a description. On the corner of Prince street, is Ball & Black's, a visit to which palace is worth a trip to the city. Diagonally opposite is the Metropolitan Hotel, in the rear of which is the theatre known as Niblo's Garden. Above this we pass the Olympic Theatre, the great Dollar store, the Southern Hotel, the New York Hotel, the New York Theatre, and Goupil's famous art gallery. On the corner of Tenth street, is a magnificent iron building, painted white. This is Stewards up town, or retail store. It is always filled with ladies "shopping," and the streets around it are blocked with carriages. Throngs of elegantly dressed ladies pass in and out, the whole scene being animated and interesting. Above this is Grace Church, one of the most beautiful religious structures in the city. On the corner of Thirteenth street, is Wallack's Theatre. At Fourteenth street, we find a handsome square, formerly a fashionable place of residence, but now giving way to business houses and hotels. This is Union Square. Passing around it, Broadway runs in a north-westerly direction, and at the intersection of the great thoroughfare with Fifth Avenue, at Twenty-third street, we see the magnificent front of the Fifth Avenue Hotel. On the block beyond are the Albemarle and Hoffman Houses, with the St. James a little above. Opposite are the Worth Monument and Madison Square. Above this are several minor hotels, and Wood's Theatre. The street is but little improved above Thirty-fourth street.
Below Twenty-third street, and especially below Union Square, Broadway is built up magnificently. Marble, brown stone, and iron warehouses, extend in long rows on each side of the street. There are some old shanties still standing on the great thoroughfare, but they are rapidly disappearing, and in a few years will be entirely gone. The view from any point below Fourteenth street, ranges from Union Square to the Bowling Green, and is grand and exhilarating beyond description. The windows of the stores are filled with the gayest and most showy goods. Jewels, silks, satins, laces, ribbons, household goods, silver ware, toys, paintings; in short, rare, costly, and beautiful objects, greet the gazer on every hand.
There are no railroad tracks on Broadway below Fourteenth street; the public travel is done by means of omnibusses, or stages, as they are called. Several hundred of these traverse the street from the lower ferries as far up as Twenty-third street, turning off at various points into the side streets and avenues. At night the many colored lamps of these vehicles add a striking and picturesque feature to the scene. They are filled with all sorts of people.
The Broadway side walks are always crowded, and this throng of passers- by is, to our mind, the most attractive feature of the busy scene. Every class and shade of nationality and character is represented here. America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and even Oceanica, has each its representatives here. High and low, rich and poor, pass along these side-walks, at a speed peculiar to New York, and positively bewildering to a stranger. No one seems to think of any person but himself, and each one jostles his neighbor or brushes by him with an indifference amusing to behold. Fine gentlemen in broad cloth, ladies in silks and jewels, and beggars in squalidness and rags, are mingled here in true Republican confusion. The bustle and uproar are very great, generally making it impossible to converse in an ordinary tone. From early morning till near midnight this scene goes on.
A gentleman from the remote interior, once put up at the St. Nicholas Hotel. He came to the City on urgent business, and told a friend who was with him, that he intended to start out early the next morning. This friend saw him, about noon the next day, waiting at the door of the St. Nicholas Hotel, surveying the passing crowd with an air of impatience.
"Have you finished your business?" he asked.
"No," said the gentleman, "I have not yet started out. I've been waiting here for three hours for this crowd to pass by, and I see no signs of it doing so."
The friend, pitying him, put him in a stage, and started him off, telling him that crowd usually took twenty-four hours to pass that point.
At night the scene changes. The crowd of vehicles on the street is not so dense, and the "foot passengers" are somewhat thinned put. The lower part of the city, which is devoted exclusively to business, is deserted. For blocks the only persons to be seen are the policemen on their beats. Above Canal street, however, all is life and bustle. The street is brilliantly lighted. The windows of the stores and restaurants, and the lamps of the theatres and concert saloons, add greatly to the general illumination, while the long lines of the red, green, and blue lights of the stages, rising and falling with the motion of the vehicles, add a novelty and beauty to the picture. Strains of music or bursts of applause, float out on the night air from the places of amusement, not all of which are reputable. The street is full of all kinds of people, all of whom seem to be in high spirits, for Broadway is a sure cure for the "blues." One feature mars the scene. At every step, almost, one passes women and girls, and even mere children, seeking for company, and soliciting passers by with their looks and manner, and sometimes by open words. The police do not allow these women to stop and converse with men on the street, and when they find a companion, they dart with him down a side street. This goes on until midnight. Then the street gradually becomes deserted, and for a few hours silence reigns in Broadway.
Leaving the City Hall, and passing through Chatham street, one suddenly emerges from the dark, narrow lane, into a broad square, with streets leading from it to all parts of the city. It is not overclean, and has an air of sharpness and repulsiveness that at once attract attention. This is Chatham Square, the great promenade of that class generally known as "the fancy."
At the upper end of the Square is a broad, well paved, flashy looking street, stretching away to the northward, crowded with street cars, vehicles of all kinds, and pedestrians. This is the Bowery. It begins at Chatham Square, and extends as far as the Cooper Institute on Eighth street, where Third and Fourth Avenues, the first on the right hand, the other on the left, continue the thoroughfare to the Harlem river.
The Bowery first appears in the history of New York under the following circumstances. About 1642 or 1643, it was set apart by the Dutch as the residence of superannuated slaves, who, having served the Government faithfully from the earliest period of the settlement of the island, were at last allowed to devote their labors to the support of their dependent families, and were granted parcels of land embracing from eight to twenty acres each. The Dutch were influenced by other motives than charity in this matter. The district thus granted was well out of the limits of New Amsterdam, and they were anxious to make this negro settlement a sort of breakwater against the attacks of the Indians, who were beginning to be troublesome. At this time the Bowery was covered with a dense forest. A year or two later, farms were laid out along its extent. These were called "Boweries," from which the present street derives its name. Bowery No. I. was bought by Governor Stuyvesant. His house stood about where the present St. Mark's (Episcopal) Church is located. In 1660, or near about that year, a road or lane was laid off, through what are now Chatham street, Chatham Square, and the Bowery, to the farm of Governor Stuyvesant, beyond which there was no road. To this was given the distinctive name of the "Bowery Lane." In 1783, the Bowery again came into prominent notice. On the 25th of November of that year, the American army, under General Washington, marched into the Bowery early in the morning, and remained until noon, when the British troops evacuated the city and its defences. This done, the Americans marched down the Bowery, through Chatham and Pearl streets, to the Battery, where they lowered the British flag, which had been left flying by the enemy, and hoisted the "Stars and Stripes" of the new Republic.
After the city began to extend up the island, the Bowery, which had been eminently respectable in its earlier history, lost caste. Decent people left it, and the poorer and more disreputable classes took possession. Finally, it became notorious. It was noted for its roughs, its rowdy firemen, its courtezans—in short, it was the paradise of the worst elements of New York. The march of trade and improvement along the east side of the city has effected a partial reformation, but still the Bowery is generally regarded as one of the doubtful localities of the city.
The street runs parallel with Broadway, and is about a mile in length. It is much wider than the latter thoroughfare. It is tolerably well built up; and is improving in this respect every year. In connection with Chatham Square, it is the great route from the lower part of the island to the Harlem river on the east side. It is devoted principally to the cheap trade. The Jews abound here. The display of goods in the shops is attractive, but flashy. Few persons who have the means to buy elsewhere, care to purchase an article in the Bowery, as those familiar with it know there are but few reliable dealers along the street. Strangers from the country, servant girls, and those who are forced to put up with an inferior article from the want of a few dollars, and often a few cents, to buy a better one, trade here. As a general rule, the goods sold are of an inferior, and often worthless, quality, and the prices asked are high, though seemingly cheap. Large fortunes are made by the Bowery merchants, who, with but few exceptions, are adepts in the art of swindling their customers.
Pawnbrokers' shops, "Cheap Johns," second class hotels, dance houses, fifth rate lodging houses, low class theatres, and concert saloons, abound in the lower part of the street.
The Sunday law, which, seems to be so rigidly enforced in other parts of the city, is a dead letter in the Bowery. Here on Sunday, one may see shops of all kinds—the vilest especially—open for trade. Cheap clothing-stores, etc., concert saloons, and the most infamous dens of vice, are in full blast. The street, and the cars traversing it, are thronged with the lower classes, in search of what they call enjoyment. At night all the places of amusement are open, and are crowded to excess. Boughs, thieves, fallen women, and even little children, throng them. Indeed, it is sad to see how many children are to be found in these vile places. The price of admission is low, and, strange as it may sound, almost any beggar can raise it. People have no idea how much of the charity they lavish on street beggars goes in this direction. The amusement afforded at these places ranges from indelicate hints and allusions to the grossest indecency.
Another feature of the Bowery is the immense beer-gardens with which it abounds. We refer to those of the better class, which are patronized chiefly by the German element of the city. These are immense buildings, fitted up in imitation of a garden. Some are very handsomely frescoed, and otherwise adorned. They will accommodate from four hundred to twelve hundred guests. Germans carry their families there to spend a day, or an evening. Clubs, parties of friends, and public societies, often pay such visits to these places. Some carry their own provisions; others purchase them from the proprietor. There is no admittance fee: the entrance is free. Beer and other liquids are served out at a small cost. Guests are coming and going all the time. Sometimes as many as five thousand people will visit one of these places in the course of an evening. The music is a great attraction to the Germans. It is exquisite in some places, especially in the Atlantic Garden, which is situated in the Bowery, near Canal street.
The profits are enormous; the proprietors frequently realize handsome fortunes in the course of a few years. Were these places all the Germans claim for them; they would be unobjectionable; but there is no disguising the fact that they encourage excess in drinking, and offer every inducement for a systematic violation of the Sabbath.
Besides these, there are saloons and gardens where none but the abandoned are to be seen. These will be noticed further on.
Respectable people avoid the Bowery, as far as possible, at night; but on Sunday night, few but those absolutely compelled to visit it, are to be seen within its limits. Every species of vice and crime is abroad at this time, watching for its victims. Those who do not wish to fall into trouble should keep out of the way.
The Avenues of New York commence with First Avenue, which is the second east of the Bowery. They are numbered regularly to the westward until Twelfth Avenue is reached. This street forms the western shore of the island in the extreme upper part of New York. East of First Avenue, above Houston street, there are five short avenues, called A, B, C, D, E,—the first being the most westerly. There are also other shorter avenues in the city, viz.: Lexington, commencing at Fourteenth street, lying between Third and Fourth Avenues, and extending to Sixty-sixth street; and Madison, commencing at Twenty-third street, lying between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, and running to Eighty-sixth street. Second and Eighth are the longest. Third Avenue is the main street of the east side, above Eighth street Eighth Avenue is the great thoroughfare on the west side Hudson street, of which Eighth Avenue is a continuation is rapidly becoming the West-side Bowery. Fifth and Madison are the most fashionable, and are magnificently built up with private residences, along almost their entire length. The cross streets connecting them, in the upper part of the city, are also handsomely laid off, and are filled with long rows of fine brown-stone and marble mansions.
The streets of New York are well laid off, and are paved with an excellent quality of stone. The side-walks generally consist of immense stone "flags." In the lower part of the city, in the poorer and business sections, they are dirty, and always out of order. In the upper part they are clean, and are often kept so by private contributions.
The avenues on the eastern and western extremities of the city are the abodes of poverty, want, and often of vice, hemming in the wealthy and cleanly sections on both sides. Poverty and wealth are close neighbors in New York. Only a block and a half back of the most sumptuous parts of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, want and suffering, vice and crime, hold their court. Fine ladies can look down from their high casements upon the squalid dens of their unhappy sisters.
THE CITY GOVERNMENT.
The City of New York is governed by a Mayor, a Board of Aldermen and a Board of Common Councilmen. The Mayor has been stripped by the Legislature of the State of almost every power or attribute of power, and is to-day merely an ornamental figure-head to the City government. The real power lies in the Boards named above, and in the various "Commissioners" appointed by the Legislature. These are the Commissioners in charge of the streets, the Croton Aqueduct, Public Charities and Corrections, the Police and Fire Departments.
We do not seek to lay the blame for the mismanagement and infamy of the government of this City on any party or parties. It is a fact that affairs here are sadly mismanaged, whoever may be at fault.
In place of any statements of our own concerning this branch of our subject, we ask the reader's attention to the following extracts from a pamphlet recently published by Mr. James Parton. He says:
The twenty-four Councilmen who have provided themselves with such ample assistance at such costly accommodation are mostly very young men,—the majority appear to be under thirty. Does the reader remember the pleasant description given by Mr. Hawthorne of the sprightly young bar- keeper who rainbows the glittering drink so dexterously from one tumbler to another? That sprightly young barkeeper might stand as the type of the young men composing this board. There are respectable men in the body. There are six who have never knowingly cast an improper vote. There is one respectable physician, three lawyers, ten mechanics, and only four who acknowledge to be dealers in liquors. But there is a certain air about most of these young Councilmen which, in the eyes of a New-Yorker, stamps them as belonging to what has been styled of late years "our ruling class,"—butcher-boys who have got into politics, bar-keepers who have taken a leading part in primary ward meetings, and young fellows who hang about engine-houses and billiard-rooms. A stranger would naturally expect to find in such a board men who have shown ability and acquired distinction in private business. We say, again, that there are honest and estimable men in the body; but we also assert, that there is not an individual in it who has attained any considerable rank in the vocation which he professes. If we were to print the list here, not a name would be generally recognized. Honest Christopher Pullman, for example, who leads the honest minority of six that vainly oppose every scheme of plunder, is a young man of twenty- seven, just beginning business as a cabinet maker. Honest William B. White, another of the six, is the manager of a printing office. Honest Stephen Roberts is a sturdy smith, who has a shop near a wharf for repairing the iron work of ships. Morris A. Tyng, another of the honest six, is a young lawyer getting into practice. We make no remark upon these facts, being only desirous to show the business standing of the men to whom the citizens of New York have confided the spending of sundry millions per annum. The majority of this board are about equal, in point of experience and ability, to the management of an oyster stand in a market. Such expressions as 'them laws,' 'sot the table,' '71st rigiment,' and 'them arguments is played out,' may be heard on almost any Monday or Thursday afternoon, between two and three o'clock, in this sumptuous chamber.
But what most strikes and puzzles the stranger is the crowd of spectators outside the railing. It is the rogues' gallery come to life, with here and there an honest looking laborer wearing the garments of his calling. We attended six sessions of this 'honorable body,' and on every occasion there was the same kind of crowd looking on, who sat the session out. Frequently we observed looks and words of recognition pass between the members and this curious audience; and, once, we saw a member gayly toss a paper of tobacco to one of them, who caught it with pleasing dexterity. We are unable to explain the regular presence of this great number of the unornamental portion of our fellow-beings, since we could never see any indications that any of the crowd had an interest in the proceedings. As the debates are never reported by any one of the seventeen reporters who are paid two hundred dollars a year for not doing it, and as the educated portion of the community never attend the sessions, this board sits, practically, with closed doors. Their schemes are both conceived and executed in secresy, though the door is open to all who wish to enter. This is the more surprising, because almost every session of the board furnishes the material for a report, which an able and public-spirited journalist would gladly buy at the highest price paid for such work in any city.
Debates is a ludicrous word to apply to the proceedings of the Councilmen. Most of the business done by them is pushed through without the slightest discussion, and is of such a nature that members cannot be prepared to discuss it. The most reckless haste marks every part of the performance. A member proposes that certain lots be provided with curbstones; another, that a free drinking hydrant be placed on a certain corner five miles up town; and another, that certain blocks of a distant street be paved with Belgian pavement. Respecting the utility of these works, members generally know nothing and can say nothing; nor are they proper objects of legislation. The resolutions are adopted, usually, without a word of explanation, and at a speed that must be seen to be appreciated.
* * * * *
At almost every session we witnessed scenes like the following: A member proposed to lease a certain building for a city court at two thousand dollars a year for ten years. Honest Christopher Pullman, a faithful and laborious public servant, objected, on one or two grounds; first, rents being unnaturally high, owing to several well known and temporary causes, it would be unjust to the city to fix the rent at present rates for so long a period; secondly, he had been himself to see the building, had taken pains to inform himself as to its value, and was prepared to prove that twelve hundred dollars a year was a proper rent for it even at the inflated rates. He made this statement with excellent brevity, moderation, and good temper, and concluded by moving that the term be two instead of ten years. A robust young man, with a bull neck and of ungrammatical habits, said, in a tone of impatient disdain, that the landlord of the building had 'refused' fifteen hundred dollars a year for it. 'Question!' 'Question!' shouted half a dozen angry voices, the question was instantly put, when a perfect war of noes voted down Mr. Pullman's amendment. Another hearty chorus of ayes consummated the iniquity. In all such affairs, the visitor notices a kind of 'ungovernable propensity to vote for spending money, and a prompt disgust at any obstacle raised or objection made. The bull-necked Councilman of uncertain grammar evidently felt that Mr. Pullman's modest interference on behalf of the tax-payer was a most gross impertinence. He felt himself an injured being, and his companions shared his indignation.
We proceed to another and better specimen. A resolution was introduced, appropriating four thousand dollars for the purpose of presenting stands of colors to five regiments of city militia, which were named, each stand to cost eight hundred dollars. Mr. Pullman, as usual, objected, and we beg the reader to mark his objections. He said that he was a member of the committee which had reported the resolution, but he had never heard of it till that moment; the scheme had been 'sprung' upon him. The chairman of the committee replied to this, that, since the other regiments had had colors given them by the city, he did not suppose that any one could object to these remaining five receiving the same compliment, and therefore he had not thought it worth while to summon the gentleman. 'Besides,' said he, 'it is a small matter anyhow';—by which he evidently meant to intimate that the objector was a very small person. To this last remark, a member replied, that he did not consider four thousand dollars so very small a matter. 'Anyhow,' he added, 'we oughter save the city every dollar we kin.' Mr. Pullman resumed. He stated that the Legislature of the State, several months before, had voted a stand of colors to each infantry regiment in the State; that the distribution of these colors had already begun; that the five regiments would soon receive them; and that, consequently, there was no need of their having the colors which it was now proposed to give them. A member roughly replied, that the colors voted by the State Legislature were mere painted banners, 'of no account.' Mr. Pullman denied this. 'I am,' said he, 'captain in one of our city regiments. Two weeks ago we received our colors. I have seen, felt, examined, and marched under them; and I can testify that they are of great beauty, and excellent quality, made by Tiffany and Company, a firm of the first standing in the city.' He proceeded to describe the colors as being made of the best silk, and decorated in the most elegant manner. He further objected to the price proposed to be given for the colors. He declared that, from his connection with the militia, he had become acquainted with the value of such articles, and he could procure colors of the best kind ever used in the service for three hundred and seventy five dollars. The price named in the resolution was, therefore, most excessive. Upon this, another member rose and said, in a peculiarly offensive manner, that it would be two years before Tiffany and Company had made all the colors, and some of the regiments would have to wait all that time. 'The other regiments,' said he, 'have had colors presented by the City, and I don't see why we should show partiality.' Whereupon Mr. Pullman informed the board that the City regiments would all be supplied in a few weeks; and, even if they did have to wait awhile, it was of no consequence, for they all had very good colors already. Honest Stephen Roberts then rose, and said that this was a subject with which he was not acquainted, but that if no one could refute what Mr. Pullman had said, he should be obliged to vote against the resolution.
Then there was a pause. The cry of 'Question!' was heard. The ayes and noes were called. The resolution was carried by eighteen to five. The learned suppose that one half of this stolen four thousand dollars was expended upon the colors, and the other half divided among about forty persons. It is conjectured that each member of the Councilmen's Ring, which consists of thirteen, received about forty dollars for his vote on this occasion. This sum, added to his pay, which is twenty dollars per session, made a tolerable afternoon's work.
Any one witnessing this scene would certainly have supposed that now the militia regiments of the City of New York were provided with colors. What was our surprise to hear, a few days after, a member gravely propose to appropriate eight hundred dollars for the purpose of presenting the Ninth Regiment of New York Infantry with a stand of colors. Mr. Pullman repeated his objections, and recounted anew the generosity of the State Legislature. The eighteen, without a word of reply, voted for the grant as before. It so chanced that, on our way up Broadway, an hour after, we met that very regiment marching down with its colors flying; and we observed that those colors were nearly new. Indeed, there is such a propensity in the public to present colors to popular regiments, that some of them have as many as five stands, of various degrees of splendor. There is nothing about which Councilmen need feel so little anxiety as a deficiency in the supply of regimental colors. When, at last, these extravagant banners voted by the Corporation are presented to the regiments, a new scene of plunder is exhibited. The officers of the favored regiment are invited to a room in the basement of the City Hall, where City officials assist them to consume three hundred dollars' worth of champagne, sandwiches, and cold chicken—paid for out of the City treasury—while the privates of the regiment await the return of their officers in the unshaded portion of the adjacent park.
It is a favorite trick with these Councilmen, as of all politicians, to devise measures, the passage of which will gratify large bodies of voters. This is one of the advantages proposed to be gained by the presentation of colors to regiments; and the same system is pursued with regard to churches and societies. At every one of the six sessions of the Councilmen which we attended; resolutions were introduced to give away the people's money to wealthy organizations. A church, for example, is assessed a thousand dollars for the construction of a sewer, which enhances the value of the church property by at least the amount of the assessment. Straightway, a member from that neighborhood proposes to console the stricken church with a "donation" of a thousand dollars, to enable it to pay the assessment; and as this is a proposition to vote money, it is carried as a matter of course. We select from our notes only one of these donating scenes. A member proposed to give two thousand dollars to a certain industrial school,— the favorite charity of the present time, to which all the benevolent most willingly subscribe. Vigilant Christopher Pullman reminded the board that it was now unlawful for the Corporation to vote money for any object not specified in the tax levy as finally sanctioned by the Legislature. He read the section of the Act which forbade it. He further showed, from a statement by the Comptroller, that there was no money left at their disposal for any miscellaneous objects, since the appropriation for 'City contingencies' was exhausted. The only reply to his remarks, was the instant passage of the resolution by eighteen to five. By what artifice the law is likely to be evaded in such cases, we may show further on. In all probability, the industrial school, in the course of the year, will receive a fraction of this money—perhaps even so large, a fraction as one half. It may be that, ere now, some obliging person about the City Hall has offered to buy the claim for a thousand dollars, and take the risk of the hocus-pocus necessary for getting it—which to him is no risk at all.
It was proposed, on another occasion, to raise the fees of the Inspectors of weights and measures—who received fifty cents for inspecting a pair of platform scales, and smaller sums for scales and measures of less importance. Here was a subject upon which honest Stephen Roberts, whose shop is in a street where scales and measures abound, was entirely at home. He showed, in his sturdy and strenuous manner, that, at the rates then established, an active man could make two hundred dollars a day. 'Why,' said he, 'a man can inspect, and does inspect, fifty platform scales in an hour,' The cry of 'Question!' arose. The question was put, and the usual loud chorus of ayes followed.
As it requires a three-fourths vote to grant money—that is, eighteen members—it is sometimes impossible for the King to get that number together. There is a mode of preventing the absence, or the opposition of members, from defeating favorite schemes. It is by way of "reconsideration." The time was, when a measure distinctly voted down by a lawful majority, was dead. But, by this expedient, the voting down of a measure is only equivalent to its postponement to a more favorable occasion. The moment the chairman pronounces a resolution lost, the member who has it in charge moves a reconsideration; and, as a reconsideration only requires the vote of a majority, this is invariably carried. By a rule of the Board, a reconsideration carries a measure over to a future meeting—to any future meeting which may afford a prospect of its passage. The member who is engineering it watches his chance, labors with faltering members out of doors, and, as often as he thinks he can carry it, calls it up again—until, at last, the requisite eighteen are obtained. It has frequently happened, that a member has kept a measure in a state of reconsideration for months at a time, waiting for the happy moment to arrive. There was a robust young Councilman, who had a benevolent project in charge of paying nine hundred dollars for a hackney-coach and two horses, which a drunken driver drove over the dock into the river, one cold night last winter. There was some disagreement in the Ring on this measure, and the robust youth was compelled to move for many reconsiderations. So, also, it was long before the wires could be all arranged to admit of the appointment of a 'messenger' to the City Librarian, who has perhaps less to do than any man in New York who is paid eighteen hundred dollars a year; but perseverance meets its reward. We hear that this messenger is now smoking in the City Hall at a salary of fifteen hundred dollars.
There is a manoeuvre, also, for preventing the attendance of obnoxious, obstructive members, like the honest six, which is ingenious and effective. A 'special meeting' is called. The law declares that notice of a special meeting must be left at the residence or the place of business of every member. Mr. Roberts's residence and Mr. Roberts's place of business are eight miles apart, and he leaves his home for the day before nine in the morning. If Mr. Roberts's presence at a special meeting, at 2 P. M., is desired, the notice is left at his shop in the morning. If it is not desired, the notice is sent to his house in Harlem, after he has left it. Mr. Pullman, cabinet-maker, leaves his shop at noon, goes home to dinner, and returns soon after one. If his presence at the special meeting at 2 P. M. is desired, the notice is left at his house the evening before, or at his shop in the morning. If his presence is not desired, the notice is left at his shop a few minutes after twelve, or at his house a few minutes past one. In either case, he receives the notice too late to reach the City Hall in time. We were present in the Councilman's Chamber when Mr. Pullman stated this inconvenience, assuming that it was accidental, and offered an amendment to the rule, requiring notice to be left five hours before the time named for the meeting. Mr. Roberts also gave his experience in the matter of notices, and both gentlemen spoke with perfect moderation and good temper. We wish we could convey to our readers an idea of the brutal insolence with which Mr. Pullman, on this occasion, was snubbed and defrauded by a young bar-keeper who chanced to be in the chair. But this would be impossible without relating the scene at very great length. The amendment proposed was voted down, with that peculiar roar of noes which is always heard in that chamber when some honest man attempts to put an obstacle in the way of the free plunder of his fellow-citizens.
These half-fledged legislators are acquainted with the device known by the name of the 'previous question.' We witnessed a striking proof of this. One of the most audacious and insolent of the Ring introduced a resolution, vaguely worded, the object of which was to annul an old paving contract, that would not pay at the present cost of labor and materials, and to authorize a new contract at higher rates. Before the clerk had finished reading the resolution, honest Stephen Roberts sprang to his feet, and, unrolling a remonstrance with several yards of signatures appended to it, stood, with his eye upon the chairman, ready to present it the moment the reading was concluded. This remonstrance, be it observed, was signed by a majority of the property-owners interested, the men who would be assessed to pay for one half of the proposed pavement. Fancy the impetuous Roberts, with the document held aloft, the yards of signatures streaming down to his feet and flowing far under his desk, awaiting the time when it would be in order for him to cry out, 'Mr. President.' The reading ceased. Two voices were heard, shouting 'Mr. President.' It was not to Mr. Roberts that an impartial chairman could assign the floor. The member 'who introduced the resolution was the one who 'caught the speaker's eye,' and that member, forewarned of Mr. Roberts's intention, moved the previous question. It was in vain that Mr. Roberts shouted 'Mr. President.' It was in vain that he fluttered and rattled his streaming ribbon of blotted paper. The President could not hear a word of any kind until a vote had been taken upon the question whether the main question should be now put. That question was carried in the affirmative, by a chorus of ayes, so exactly timed that it was like the voice of one man. Then the main question was put, and it was carried by another emphatic and simultaneous shout.
POLITICAL BLACK MAIL.
Mr. Parton thus briefly exposes the system of political black mail practiced in the City government:
The plunder of the persons who are so unfortunate as to serve the public, and of those who aspire to serve the public, is systematic, and nearly universal. Our inquiries into this branch of the subject lead us to conclude that there are very few salaries paid from the city or county treasury which do not yield an annual per centage to some one of the 'head-centres' of corruption. The manner in which this kind of spoliation is sometimes effected may be gathered from a narrative which we received from the lips of one of the few learned and estimable men whom the system of electing judges by the people has left upon the bench in the City of New York. Four years ago, when the inflation of the currency had so enhanced the price of all commodities that there was, of necessity, a general increase of salaries, public and private, there was talk of raising the salaries of the fourteen judges, who were most absurdly underpaid even when a dollar in paper and a dollar in gold were the same thing. Some of the judges were severely pinched in attempting to make six thousand half-dollars do the work which six thousand whole ones had accomplished with difficulty; and none, perhaps, more severely than the excellent and hospitable judge whose experience we are about to relate. A person known by him to be in the confidence of leading men about the City Hall called, upon him one day, and informed him that it was in contemplation to raise the salaries of all the judges $2,000 per annum. The judge observed that he was much relieved to hear it, for he had gone so deeply into the Sanitary Commission and other projects for promoting the war, and had made so many expensive journeys to Washington in furtherance of such projects, that he did not see how he could get through the year if the inflation continued. 'Well, judge,' said the person, 'if the judges are disposed to be reasonable, the thing can be done.' 'What do you mean by reasonable?' asked the judge. The reply was brief and to the point: 'Twenty-five per cent, of the increase for one year.' The judge said No. If his salary could not be raised without that, he must rub on, as best he could, on his present income. The person was evidently much surprised, and said: 'I am sorry you have such old-fashioned notions. Why, judge, everybody does it here.' Nothing more was heard of increasing the judges' salaries for a whole year, during which the inflation itself had become inflated, and every door-keeper and copyist had had his stipend increased. At length, the spoilers deemed it best, for purposes of their own, to consent the salaries of the judges should be increased $1,000; and, a year after that, the other $1,000 was permitted to be added.
It was recently proved, in the presence of the Governor of the State, that the appointment of the office of Corporation Attorney was sold to one incumbent for the round sum of $10,000. This is bad enough, but worse remains to be told Sworn testimony, from thirty-six witnesses, taken by a committee of investigation, establishes the appalling fact, that appointments to places in the public schools are systematically sold in some of the wards—the wards where the public schools are almost the sole civilizing power, and where it is of unspeakable importance that the schools should be in the hands of the best men and women. One young lady; who had just buried her father and had a helpless mother to support, applied for a situation as teacher, and was told, as usual, that she must pay for it. She replied that she could not raise the sum demanded, the funeral expenses having exhausted the family store. She was then informed that she could pay 'the tax' in instalments. Another poor girl came on the witness-stand on crutches, and testified that she had paid $75 for a situation of $300 a year. Another lady went to a member of the Ring, and told him, with tears, that she saw no way of procuring the sum required, nor even of saving it from the slender salary of the place. The man was moved by her anguish, took compassion upon her, and said he would remit his share of 'the tax.' It was shown, too, that the agent of all this foul iniquity was no other than the principal of one of the schools. It was he who received and paid over the money wrung from the terror and necessities of underpaid and overworked teachers. We learn from the report of the committee that the Ring in this ward was originally formed for the express purpose of giving the situations in a new and handsome school 'to the highest bidder'; and, as the opening of the new school involved the discharge of a small number of teachers employed in the old schools, the Ring had both, the fear and the ambition of the teachers to work upon. 'There was a perfect reign of terror in the ward,' says the report of the investigating committee. 'The agent performed his duty with alacrity and with a heartlessness worthy of the employers. It appears that he not only summoned the teachers to come to him, but that he called on their parents and friends as to the amount they should pay for their appointments—the sums varying from $50 to $600, according to the position sought.'
And who were the Ring that perpetrated this infamy? They were a majority of the trustees elected by the people, and the School Commissioner elected by the people—six poor creatures, selected from the grog-shop and the wharf, and intrusted with the most sacred interest of a republic, the education of its children.
"The result of all this plunder," continues Mr. Parton, "is, that in thirty-six years the rate of taxation in the city and county of New York has increased from two dollars and a half to forty dollars per inhabitant! In 1830, the city was governed for half a million dollars. In 1865, the entire government of the island, including assessments on private property for public improvements, cost more than forty millions of dollars. In 1830, the population of the city was a little more than two hundred thousand. It is now about one million. Thus, while the population of the county is five times greater than it was in 1830, the cost of governing it is sixteen times greater. And yet such is the value of the productive property owned by the city,—so numerous are the sources of revenue from that property,—that able men of business are of the deliberate opinion that a private company could govern, clean, sprinkle, and teach the City by contract, taking as compensation only the fair revenue to be derived from its property. Take one item as an illustration: under the old excise system, the liquor licenses yielded twelve thousand dollars per annum; under the new, they yield one million and a quarter. Take another: the corporation own more than twenty miles of wharves and water-front, the revenue from which does not keep the wharves in repair; under a proper system, they would yield a million dollars above the cost of repairs."
THE METROPOLITAN POLICE.
The Metropolitan Police are justly the pride of New York, for the City is chiefly indebted to the force for its quiet and security. The old police system needs no description here. It was a failure in every respect. It failed to protect either life or property. Criminals performed their exploits with impunity, and were either encouraged or aided by the police in many instances. The members of the old force were too often taken from the ranks of the criminal classes, and made to serve the ends of unprincipled politicians. Finally the system became so worthless and corrupt that the best men of the City and State, without distinction of party, resolved to take the control of the police out of the hands of the Mayor and Council, and place them under the direction of a Commissioner appointed by the Legislature.
THE NEW SYSTEM.
The resolution to make the police independent of the politicians in the City government, was the last resort left to the better class of citizens, and the Legislature, appreciating the necessity for prompt action, at once complied with the demand made for a change. A "Metropolitan District,", consisting of the cities of New York and Brooklyn, the counties of New York, Kings, Richmond, and Westchester, and a part of Queens county, embracing a circuit of about thirty miles, was created by law. The control of this district was given to a commission of five citizens, subject to the supervision of the Legislature. The Mayors of New York and Brooklyn were made ex-officio members of this board.
Mr. Wood, who was Mayor of New York at the time of the passage of this law, resolved to resist it, and to continue the old police in power. His conduct came near creating a terrible riot, but he was at length induced to submit to the law. The new system worked badly for some years, owing to the incompetency of the persons appointed as superintendent; but in 1860 a change was made. Mr. John A. Kennedy was appointed Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police, and the number of the commissioners was cut down to three. The law was remodeled, and besides other important changes, the duties of each member of the force were clearly defined.
The new superintendent set to work with a will, and it was not long before the benefits of his administration became manifest. He had been informed that the force was almost as incompetent and inefficient as its old time predecessor, and he resolved to stop this. He caused the creation of the grade of inspector, and the appointment of energetic and reliable men. These inspectors are required to keep a constant watch over the rank and file of the force. They report every breach of discipline, examine the station houses and every thing connected with them, at pleasure. No member or officer of the force has the right to refuse to allow such examination or to refuse to answer any question put to him concerning his duty. The effect of this new rank was most happy. The men became conscious that the eyes of their superiors were on them at all times, and that the slightest breach of discipline on their part was sure to be detected and reported. The force became attentive and efficient, as if by magic. Incompetent and insubordinate members were thrown out, and good men put in their places. Matters continued to improve, until now, after a lapse of nearly eight years, the city has the best police force in the world.
Mr. Kennedy is not a popular man in New York. To say that he has made mistakes in his present position, is but to say he is human. He has had a hard task before him, but he has succeeded in accomplishing it. He has given order, security, and a sense of security to the city, and it is not strange that in so doing he has made numerous enemies. He has often exceeded his power, and has committed acts that smack strongly of petty tyranny; but there can be no doubt of the fact that he has earnestly and faithfully labored for the cause of law and order. He makes the best chief of police this country has ever seen, and when he is gone, his place will be hard to fill.
Mr. Kennedy has Scotch-Irish blood in his veins, which may be the reason of his success. He is small in size, and quiet and unobtrusive in his demeanor. He has executive ability of a high order, but inclines rather strongly to the side of arbitrary power, which trait has earned him, amongst the masses, the title of "King Kennedy." He has infused his energy into the force, and is entitled to the greater part, if not all of the credit for the success of the new system.
The police force on duty in the city, consists of one super intendent, four inspectors, thirty-four captains, one hundred and thirty-one sergeants, one thousand eight hundred and six patrolmen, sixty-nine doormen, and fifty special policemen, making a total of two thousand and ninety-five officers and men. The men are clothed in a neat uniform of dark blue cloth, with caps of hard polished leather. They are armed with clubs and revolvers, and are regularly drilled in military tactics. In case of a riot, this enables them to act together, and with greater efficiency against a mob. The most rigid discipline prevails, and the slightest error on the part of officers or men is reported at headquarters.
There are thirty-three precincts, including the detective squad. The force is charged with the duty of guarding about three hundred day and four hundred night posts, about four hundred and twenty-five miles of streets in the patrol districts, and fourteen miles of piers. There are twenty-five station houses fitted up as lodging rooms for the men, and having room also for accommodating wandering or destitute persons, large numbers of whom thus receive temporary shelter.
During the year ending October 31, 1865, (which may be taken as a fair specimen of the work of the force,) 68,873 arrests were made. Of these 48,754 were males, 20,119 females; 53,911 arrests were for offences against the person; 14,962; for offences against property. The following table will show the status of New York criminal society.
Total Charge Males Females Arrests Assault and Battery 6,077 1,667 7,744 Assault with intent to kill 197 1 198 Attempt at rape 40 —— 40 Abortion 2 2 4 Bastardy 141 —— 141 Bigamy 14 5 19 Disorderly conduct 8,542 5,412 13,954 Intoxication 11,482 4,936 16,418 Juvenile delinquents 154 25 179 Kidnapping 20 5 25 Suspicious persons 1,617 440 2,057 Vagrancy 978 838 1,816 Arson 35 —— 35 Attempts to steal 236 9 245 Burglary 291 3 294 Forgery 151 3 154 Fraud 104 17 121 Grand Larceny 1,675 946 2,621 Gambling 249 3 252 Highway robbery 199 6 205 Keeping disorderly house 177 165 342 Picking pockets 225 20 275 Petit larceny 3,380 1,860 5,240 Passing counterfeit money 414 46 460 Receiving stolen goods 166 51 217 Swindling 5 3 8 Violations of the Sunday laws 183 20 203
The police are mustered at a certain hour in the morning by their officers, and are marched from the station house to their "beats." The day patrol is relieved by that appointed for night duty. The men are required to be neat in their persons and dress, and to be polite and respectful to citizens. They are required to give information to strangers and citizens concerning localities, etc., and to render prompt assistance in suppressing any kind of violence or disorder. They are instructed to direct persons not to lounge or loiter on the main thoroughfares, which are always too much crowded to permit such obstructions. Details are made for places of amusement and public resort. If the patrolman on duty at one of these places sees a known thief or pickpocket enter, he orders him to leave the premises. If the fellow refuses to obey, he is arrested and locked up in the station house for the night. By this means respectable persons, at public resorts, are saved heavy losses at the hands of the "light-fingered gentry."
The largest and finest looking men are detailed for the. Broadway Squad. The duties of this Squad are heavy, and often require not only considerable patience, but great physical endurance.
The Police Headquarters of the Metropolitan District are located in a handsome marble building, five stories high, situated on Mulberry Street, between Houston and Bleecker Streets. The building is fitted up with great taste for the express accommodation of the business of the force. The greatest order prevails. Every thing is in its place, and every man in his. There is no confusion. Each department has its separate room.
The Superintendent's office is connected by telegraph with every precinct in the entire district. By means of this wonderful invention a few seconds only are required to dispatch the orders of "King Kennedy" to any part of the district. News of a robbery and description of the burglar are flashed all over the city and adjoining country before the man has fairly secured his plunder. If a child is lost a description is sent in the same way to each precinct, and in a marvellously quick time the little one is restored to its mother's arms. By means of his little instrument, "King Kennedy" can track a criminal not only all over his own district, but all over the Union. He is firm in the exercise of his authority—often harsh and too impulsive, but on the whole as just as human nature will allow a man to be.
THE TRIAL ROOM.
One of the most interesting rooms in the headquarters is that for the trial of complaints against members of the force. Every sworn charge is brought before Commissioner Acton? who notifies the accused to appear before him to answer to it. Except in very grave cases, the men employ no counsel. The charge is read, the Commissioner hears the statements of the accused, and the evidence on both sides, and renders his decision, which must be ratified by the full "Board". The majority of the charges are for breaches of discipline. A patrolman leaves his beat for a cup of coffee on a cold morning, or night, or reads a newspaper, or smokes, or stops to converse while on duty. The punishment for these offences is a stoppage of pay for a day or two. First offences are usually forgiven. Many well-meaning but officious citizens enter complaints against the men. They are generally frivolous, but are heard patiently, and are dismissed with a warning to the accused to avoid giving cause for complaint. Thieves and disreputable characters sometimes enter complaints against the men, with the hope of getting them into trouble. The Commissioner's experience enables him to settle these cases at once, generally to the dismay and grief of the accuser. Any real offence on the part of the men is punished promptly and severely, but the Commissioners endeavor by every means to protect them in the discharge of their duty, and against impositions of any kind.
Another room in the headquarters is called
THE PROPERTY ROOM.
This is a genuine "curiosity shop". It is filled with unclaimed property of every description, found by or delivered to the police, by other parties finding the same, or taken from criminals at the time of their arrest. The room is in charge of a property, clerk, who enters each article, and the facts connected with it, in a book kept for that purpose. Property once placed in this room is not allowed to be taken away, except upon certain specified conditions. Unclaimed articles are sold, after being kept a certain length of time, and the proceeds are paid to the Police Life Insurance Fund.
When a man applies for a position in the police force, he has to show proofs of his good character and capacity before he can be employed. As soon as he is appointed, he is provided with a uniform, assigned to a precinct, and put on duty. For one month after his appointment he is required to study the book of laws for the government of the force, and to be examined daily in these studies by Inspector James Leonard; who is in charge of the "Class of Instruction." These examinations are continued until the recruit is found proficient in the theoretical knowledge of his duties.
The following extract from the Metropolitan Police Law will show the care taken of the men:—
If any member of the Metropolitan Police Force, whilst in the actual performance of duty, shall become permanently disabled, so as to render his dismissal from membership proper, or if any such member shall become superannuated after a ten years' membership, a sum of not exceeding one hundred and fifty dollars, as an annuity, to be paid such member, shall become chargeable upon the Metropolitan Police Life Insurance Fund. If any member of the Metropolitan Police Force whilst in the actual discharge of his duty, shall be killed, or shall die from the immediate effect of any injury received by him, whilst in such discharge of duty, or shall die after ten years' service in the force, and shall leave a widow, and if no widow, any child or children under the age of sixteen years, a like sum, by way of annuity, shall become chargeable upon the said fund, to be paid such widow so long only as she remains unmarried, or to such child or children so long as said child, or the youngest of said children, continues under the age of sixteen years.
We do not claim, in what we have written, that the police of this city are perfect, but we do maintain that they are better than those of any other American city.
In New York, poverty is a great crime, and the chief effort of every man and woman's life, is to secure wealth. Society in this city is much like that of other large American cities, except? that money is the chief requisite here. In other cities poor men, who can boast of being members of a family which commands respect for its talents or other good qualities, or who have merit of their own, are welcomed into what are called "select circles" with as much warmth as though they were millionaires. In New York, however, men and women are judged by their bank accounts. The most illiterate boor, the most unprincipled knave, finds every fashionable door open to him without reserve, while St. Peter himself, if he came "without purse or scrip," would see it closed in his face. Money makes up for every deficiency in morals, intellect, or demeanor.
Nor is this strange. The majority of fashionable people have never known any of the arts and refinements of civilization except those which mere wealth can purchase. Money raised them from the dregs of life, and they are firm believers in it. Without education, without social polish, they see themselves courted and fawned upon for their wealth, and they naturally suppose that there is nothing else "good under the sun."
WHO ARE THE FASHIONABLES.
The majority of the dwellers in the palaces of the great city, are persons who have risen from the ranks. This is not said to their discredit. On the contrary, every intelligent person takes pride in the fact that in this country it is in the power of any one to rise as high as his abilities will carry him. The persons to whom we refer, however, affect to despise this. They take no pride in the institutions which have been so beneficial to them, but look down with supreme disdain upon those who are working their way up. They are ashamed of their origin, and you cannot offend one of them more than to hint that you knew him a few years ago as a mechanic, or shop-keeper.
Some of the "fashionables" appear very suddenly before the world. A week ago, a family may have been living in a tenement house. A sudden fortunate speculation on the part of the husband, or father, may have brought them enormous wealth in the course of a few days. A change is instantly made from the tenement house to a mansion on Fifth or Madison Avenue. The newly acquired wealth is liberally expended in "fitting up," and the lucky owners of it suddenly burst upon the world of fashion as stars of the first magnitude. They are courted by all, and invitations to the houses of other "stars" are showered upon them. They may be rude, ignorant, uncouth in their manners, but they have wealth, and that is all New York society requires. They are lucky if they retain their positions very long. A few manage to hold on to the wealth which comes to them thus suddenly, but as a general rule those who are simply "lucky" at the outset find Dame Fortune a very capricious goddess, and at the next turn of her wheel, pass off the stage to make room for others who are soon to share their fate.
This element is known in the city as "The Shoddy Society." During the time of the oil speculations, many persons were suddenly and unexpectedly made rich by lucky ventures in petroleum lands and stocks, and the shoddy element was in its glory; but now other speculations are found to recruit the ranks of this class. Wall street is constantly sending fresh "stars" to blaze on Fifth Avenue, and ruthlessly sweeping away others to make room for them.
The "Shoddy" element is by no means confined to those who make fortunes rapidly, or by speculations. There are many who rise very slowly in the world, and who when blessed with fortune throw themselves headlong into the arms of "Shoddy."
It is not difficult to recognize these persons. They dress not only handsomely, but magnificently. Indeed they make up in display what they lack in taste. They cover themselves with jewels, and their diamonds, worn on ordinary occasions, might, in some cases, fairly rival the state gems of European potentates. Their red, hard hands, coarse faces, vulgar manners, and loud, rude voices, contrast strikingly with the splendor with which they surround themselves. They wear their honors uneasily, showing plainly how little accustomed they are to such things. They look down with disdain upon all less fortunate in wealth than themselves, and worship as demi-gods those whose bank account is larger than their own. They have little or no personal dignity, but substitute a supercilious hauteur for it.
A DEFEAT AND A TRIUMPH.
The following incident will show how money is worshipped in New York: A gentleman, now one of the wealthiest men of the city, some years ago found himself well off in worldly goods. He was the possessor of one million of dollars. He was living at that time in a modest house, in a modest street, and was anxious to get into society. In order to do this, he resolved to give a ball, and invite the wealthiest and oldest families in New York. These people were his customers in business; and he supposed they would not object to receiving his hospitality. He was, unlike most of those who worship society, a man of real merit. His invitations were issued, and at the appointed time his mansion was made ready for a magnificent entertainment, but, though the family waited, and the rooms were kept lighted until the "wee hours of the morning," not a single one of those, to whom the invitations were sent, put in an appearance during the evening. The mortification of the would-be host and family, was intense, and it is said that he swore a mighty oath that he would acquire wealth and luxury, sufficient to compel the intimacy of those who had scorned him because he was less fortunate than themselves. He kept his word, and today he stands at the head of that class to which he once aspired in vain.
WHAT THEY TALK ABOUT.
A work recently published in Paris gives the following account of the topics discussed at a "shoddy" ball:
Following the advice of my companion, I listened to the gentlemen who were idling through the rooms. Everywhere that word 'dollar,' constantly repeated, struck upon my ear. All conversation had for its subject mercantile and financial transactions; profits, either realized, or to be realized, by the speakers, or the general prospect of the market. Literature, art, science, the drama, those topics which are discussed in polite European society, were not even alluded to. Another peculiarity I noticed—namely, the practice of self- commendation and praise. Egotism seemed to permeate the mind of everybody—the word 'I' was constantly on the lips of the speakers.
A ball or a party is the place to bring out the votaries of fashion. They crowd the salons of the host or hostess. Frequently they pay little attention to their entertainers, except to ridicule their awkwardness and oddities, conscious all the while that similar remarks will be made about them when they throw open their own houses to their friends.
The opera draws them out in crowds, especially the Bouffe. Few understand the French or Italian languages, few are proficients in music, but they go because "it is the thing, you know." Opera bouffe is very popular, for those who cannot understand the language are generally quick enough to catch or appreciate the indecency of the plot or situations. The more indecent the piece, the more certain it is of a long run.
Few fashionable women have time to attend to their families. These are left to the mercy of hirelings. The titles of wife and mother are becoming merely complimentary. They are ceasing to suggest the best and purest types of womanhood. That of mother is becoming decidedly old fogyish, and to-day your fine lady takes care that her maternal instincts shall be smothered, and that her family shall not increase beyond a convenient number. Children grow up in idleness and extravagance, and are unfitted for any of the great duties of life. They are taught to regard wealth as the only thing to be desired, and they are forced up as rapidly as possible to join the ranks of the fast young men and women of New York, who disgrace what are called our "upper circles."
Extravagance is the besetting sin of New York society. Money is thrown away. Fortunes are spent every year in dress, and in all sorts of follies. Houses are furnished and fitted up in the most sumptuous style, the building and its contents often being worth over a million of dollars.
People live up to every cent of their incomes, and often beyond them. It is no uncommon occurrence for a fine mansion, its furniture, pictures, and even the jewels and clothes of its occupants, to be pledged to some usurer for the means with which to carry on this life of luxury. Each person strives to outdo the rest of his or her acquaintances. The rage for fine houses and fine clothes is carried to an amazing extent, and to acquire them, persons of supposed respectability will stoop to almost any thing. Of late years, a number of fashionable ladies have been detected in dry-goods stores in the act of purloining fine laces, embroideries, and other goods, and concealing them under their skirts.
A LADY'S GLOVE.
Two or three years ago the fashionable world was thrown into a state of excitement by the marriage of a Fifth Avenue belle to a gentleman of great wealth. The night before the wedding the bride's presents, amounting to a small fortune in value, were exhibited to a select circle of friends. Amongst the various articles was a magnificent diamond necklace, the gift of the groom, which attracted universal attention. After the guests departed, the bride-elect, before retiring for the night, returned to take a parting glance at her diamonds. To her horror, they were missing. The alarm was given, and a search was made. The jewels could not be found, however, but a small kid glove—a lady's—was discovered lying on the table. The bride's father was a sensible banker, and he at once "hushed up" the affair, and put the glove and the case in the hands of an experienced detective. In a few weeks the thief was discovered. She proved to be the wife of a wealthy merchant. She had stolen the diamonds with the intention of taking them to Europe to have them reset. In consequence of the return of the jewels, and the social position of the thief, the matter was dropped.
Only wealthy marriages are tolerated in New York society. For men or women to marry "beneath" them is a crime society cannot forgive. There must be fortune on one side. Marriages for money are directly encouraged. It is not uncommon for a man who has made money to make the marriage of his daughter the means of getting the family into society. He will go to some young man within the pale of good society, and offer him the hand of his daughter and a fortune. The condition on the part of the person to whom the offer is made is, that he shall use his influence to get the bride's family within the "charmed circle." Such proposals are seldom refused.
When a marriage is decided upon, it is the bounden duty of the happy pair to be married in a fashionable church. To be married in or buried from Grace Church is the desire of every fashionable heart. Invitations are issued to the friends and acquaintances of the two families, and no one is admitted into the church without such a card. Often "no cards" are issued, and the church is jammed by the outside throng, who profane the holy temple by their unmannerly struggles to secure places from which the ceremony can be viewed. Two clergymen are engaged to tie the knot, a single minister being insufficient for such grand affairs. A reporter is on hand, who furnishes the city papers with the full particulars of the affair. The dresses, the jewels, the appearance of the bride and groom, and the company generally, are described with a slavishness that is disgraceful.
If the wedding is at Grace Church, Brown, the "great sexton," is in charge of all the arrangements. He understands every detail connected with such an affair, and will not allow any one to interfere with him. A wedding over which he presides is sure to be a success. It is needless to say he has his time well taken up with such engagements. At weddings and at parties, Brown makes out the list of persons to be invited. He allows no interference. He knows his invitations will be accepted, and as he knows who is in town, both stranger and resident, he can always make out a full list. He directs every thing, and carries his arrangements out with the decision and authority of an autocrat. The Lenten Season is his bugbear. It is fashionable to observe Lent in New York, and funerals are then the only opportunities for the display of his peculiar talents. These he makes as interesting as possible. He charges a liberal price for his services, and is said to have amassed considerable money.
As it is the ambition of every one to live fashionable, it is their chief wish to be laid in the grave in the same style. Undertakers at fashionable funerals are generally the sexton of some fashionable church, that, perhaps, of the church the deceased was in the habit of attending. This individual prescribes the manner in which the ceremony shall be carried out, and advises certain styles of family mourning. Sometimes the blinds are closed and the gas lighted. The lights in such cases are arranged in the most artistic manner, and every thing is made to look as "interesting" as possible.
A certain fashionable sexton always refuses to allow the female members of the family to follow their dead to the grave. He will not let them be seen at the funeral at all, as he says "it's horridly vulgar to see a lot of women crying about a corpse; and, besides, they're always in the way."
After the funeral is over, none of the bereaved ones can be seen for a certain length of time, the period being regulated by a set decree. They spend the days of their seclusion in consultations with their modiste, in preparing the most fashionable mourning that can be thought of; in this they seem to agree fully with a certain famous modiste, who declared to a widow, but recently bereaved, that "fashionable and becoming mourning is so comforting to a person in affliction."
A ROMANCE OF FIFTH AVENUE.
Hollow as it is, Shoddy in New York has its romances. One of the most striking of those which occur to us is the story of a family which we shall designate by the name of Swigg. There will, doubtless, be those who will recognize them.
If Mr. and Mrs. Ephraim Swigg had a weakness for any thing it was for being considered amongst that "select and happy few," known to the outside world as "the upper ten." Mr. Swigg had wealth, and Mrs. Swigg meant to spend it. She could not see the use of having money if one was not to use it as a means of "getting into society;" and though she contented herself with being thus modest in her public expressions, she was, in her own mind, determined to make her money the power which should enable her to lead society. She meant to shine as a star of the first magnitude, before whose glories all the fashionable world should fall. She would no longer be plain Mrs. Ephraim Swigg, but the great and wealthy Mrs. Swigg, whose brilliancy should eclipse any thing yet seen in Gotham. Oh! she would make Fifth Avenue turn green with jealousy. There was only one difficulty in the way—Mr. Swigg might not be willing to furnish the sum necessary for the accomplishment of this grand purpose: still she would attempt it, trusting that when he had fairly entered upon the joys of fashionable life, he would be too much charmed with them to begrudge "the paltry sums" necessary to continue them.
Mr. and Mrs. Swigg had not always enjoyed such advantages. There was a time when the lady might have been seen in a market stall, where her robust beauty drew to her crowds of admirers of doubtful character. She had made a wise choice, however, and after looking coldly upon these swains, had bestowed her hand upon Ephraim Swigg, a rising young butcher, who sold his wares in the same market. To be sure, Mr. Swigg was not a beauty, nor even as handsome as the plainest of the admirers she had cast aside; but he had a more substantial recommendation than any of them. He was the owner of a lucrative business, and had several thousands laid by in hard cash. So, influenced by these considerations, Miss Polly Dawkins became Mrs. Ephraim Swigg. In justice to her, be it said, she made a good wife. He was equally devoted, and they were genuinely happy. They had one child, a daughter, who, as she grew up, bade fair to ripen into a very pretty woman.
They prospered steadily, and matters went on smoothly with them until the rebellion startled the men of means with a vague fear for the safety of their worldly possessions; then Mr. Swigg, reckoning over his property, found himself possessed of a handsome fortune. He watched the course of affairs anxiously until the great disaster at Bull Run, and then, like a good patriot, set to work to see how he could help the country out of its difficulties. Mr. Swigg's patriotism was of the substantial kind—he derived the chief benefit from it. He bethought himself of taking out a contract for supplying the Army of the Potomac with cattle and other necessaries. He put his scheme into execution, and, like every thing he attempted, it was successful. The army was fed, and towards the close of the year 1864 Mr. Swigg found himself worth three millions of dollars.
Of course, with all this to "back" them, the Swiggs at once became people of note. Their entrance into society was easy enough, and no one was sufficiently impolite to remember their past lives against them. Mr. Swigg's coarse red face was attributed to his fine health, his rudeness of manner was called eccentricity, and his frequent breaches of etiquette were passed over in polite silence. Mrs. and Miss Swigg got on better. The mamma was naturally a shrewd woman, and she quickly adopted herself to the requirements of New York society, which are very few and simple to one who has two or three millions at command. The daughter had enjoyed greater advantages than her parents; she had been trained in the best schools, and as far as her naturally weak mind was capable of doing so, had profited by the efforts of her teachers. She was a weak and silly girl, and was indulged in every whim and caprice by her parents. She was nineteen years old, and having fulfilled the promise of her youth, was indeed a handsome girl. Of course she was a belle, the sole heiress of three millions could be nothing else, were she as ugly as Hecate.
Mrs. Swigg had reasoned correctly. With all his shrewdness and good sense, her liege lord shared her own weakness for high life, and readily complied with all her requests for money. He was not a stingy man at heart, and he was really glad to see his wife and daughter doing so well. Indeed they were all very good people—only their sudden rise in the world had turned their heads.
Mr. Swigg purchased an elegant mansion on Fifth Avenue, which some broken down patrician offered for sale, and the family commenced their fashionable career in a blaze of glory. They had one of the finest establishments in the city; they gave splendid entertainments, and the young bloods soon found that they could enjoy themselves at the Swigg levees very much as they pleased, as their host and hostess were too glad to see them, to criticize their conduct very closely. The worthy couple counted many celebrities amongst their guests. There were generals, both major and brigadier, colonels and captains in abundance, and occasionally some dark-skinned, bewhiskered foreigner, who rejoiced in the title of count, marquis, or lord, and who looked more like he had passed his days in the galleys, than in the courts of the old world. The warmest welcome of the host and hostess, especially the latter, was reserved for these gentlemen. Between the man in the blue and gold of his country's livery, who had daily perilled his life for the perpetuity of the institutions that had made the fortunes of the Swiggs, and the titled, suspicious-looking foreigner, of whom they knew nothing with certainty, the good people never hesitated. The preference was given to the latter.
One of these gentlemen was especially welcome. This was the Baron Von Storck, who claimed to be an Austrian nobleman of great wealth. In support of his assertion, when he appeared at fashionable entertainments, he covered the front of his coat with ribbons of every hue in the rainbow. He made his appearance in New York society almost simultaneously with the Swiggs, and from the first, devoted himself particularly to them or to Miss Arabella, the heiress of the three millions.