The Town Crier

San Francisco News Letter/March 13, 1869

“Hear the Crier!” “What the devil art thou?”

“One that will play the devil, sir, with you.”


Our correspondent, “Inquirer,” is informed that the reporters of the daily papers are not in any way connected with the Police. It is true the nature of their duties is such that, in some cases, they doubtless might, as our correspondent says, be advantageously empowered to make arrests, but we believe the right has never been conferred upon them. “Inquirer” should not judge by appearances. The officers so persistently “puffed” in the columns of the dailies are not identical with the writers who puff them; but it is quite natural that the reporters should desire to stand well with the officers of the law, inasmuch as the reporters themselves are frequently driven by necessity to commit petty offenses against property. We cannot believe, with a great many, that the reporters receive from the officers a regular salary for their services; at least we think they frequently render such services without actual stipulation, and in some cases, probably, without the hope of direct reward. Our correspondent should be careful how he maligns the Police, and it is beneath his dignity to misrepresent the reporters.


To those interested in zoology there is no more pleasant and instructive resort than Woodward’s Gardens. On last Tuesday the attractions were increased ten-fold by a visit of the reporters of the daily press to their fellow, the young camel. Quite a crowd of naturalists surrounded the singular visitors and professed themselves well pleased with their novel behavior and human-like intelligence. Some of them were quite docile and allowed their ears to be stroked and their bristles to be rubbed the wrong way without showing any ferocity. A characteristic fraud was perpetrated by the big editor of the Chronicle, who carried off the young camel under his coat, leaving his reporter in its stead. A writ of habeas corpus was issued as soon as a close inspection revealed the swindle. He of the Times having foolishly entered the monkey-cage is forever lost to journalism, as it is impossible to distinguish him from the legitimate occupants of the sanctum. Those of our citizens who had the pleasure of seeing this reportorial delegation came away with a firm belief in the development theory. They say these singular animals are certainly distantly related to the human species.


With regard to the matter of punishment for crime, society exhibits far more wisdom than from the mistaken theory of Free Will could be expected from it. Our whole system of criminal jurisprudence is unconsciously based upon the truth that the will is not free, and actions are the result of extraneous influences. Penalties, legal and otherwise, are administered not because there is any inherent connection between crime and punishment, but simply to add a predominating influence upon the side of virtue. No one ever merited reward or deserved punishment, in the ordinary acceptation of these terms. Ignorance of this truth has given us a religion which rewards when reward can have no object, and punishes after punishment has ceased to be reformatory. Let us digress: If we were Sheridan Corbyn we should hunt over our stage property for a raw-hide, and having found it, should visit the Barnacle office. The end.


The Board of Education are in a fog. The proposition to appoint a lady Sub-Master in the Spring Valley School is too much for them; their collective intelligence staggers under the unaccustomed burden, and like a wild colt who first feels the saddle upon his back, the Board snorts, bucks and kicks up behind. Mr. Cobb himself, accustomed as he is to unravel educational complications, cannot quite get the clue to this one, but believes, generally, that the appointment would “subvert and upheave the entire school system.” Mr. Sinton is of opinion that as the appointment would invert the order of nature it would be a kind of flying in the face of Providence. The Committee on Gender report adversely, but other members favor altering the dictionary so that “Master” shall be feminine. Meantime, Spring Valley stock is unaffected by this lively discussion in relation to the “works.”


Dr. Van Zandt having presented some anatomical apparatus to the school department, received a letter of thanks from Mr. Cobb, president of the Board of Education. The following is an extract: “In doing so, permit me to offer the reflection that he who, as a benefactor, links his name with our great public school system, is far surer of an honorable immortality than he who treads the thorny ways of political preferments.” Of course Dr. Van Zandt was after an honorable immortality; that was his motive. Mr. Cobb is also after it, and, according to his view, is on the right road. Perhaps we shall be pardoned for directing his special attention to those words in his letter that we have taken the liberty of italicizing.


The Tax-Payer’s Union is progressing favorably. Enterprises of this kind are not matured in a day. The Union, after several weeks of painful organization, is now prepared to receive communications! These will be treated with the greatest consideration, and the writers carefully shielded from public scorn. All complaints against clergymen, landladies, mothers-in-law and school-teachers must be authenticated by the writer’s signature or at least by his mark. Those against public officers may be anonymous if accompanied by a fee. No notice taken of complaints against friends of the members, nor of letters signed by Democrats. The Union is not a political machine. This cannot be too often repeated.


We have received the following communication from a constant reader of the dailies: “Please tell me whether the grade of General is higher than that of Corporal; also whether four is a larger or a smaller number than two, and if so, why.” [Our correspondent will find his first question fully answered in the Morning Call of last Tuesday, and by closely watching the editorial columns of the Alta his doubts with regard to the other matter will, in the course of time, be set at rest. A studious observation of the latter sheet has convinced us that four are not so many by half as two; but we have not the ability to explain it.]


The Rev. Mr. Murray, a young man recently settled over the Park Street Church in Boston, startled his staid parishioners the other Sunday by inserting a petition in his prayer that the Lord would also “bless those middle-aged females in the congregation whose youthful hopes had been disappointed.” It will be remembered that the Rev. Mr. Murray’s predecessor in the pastorate of the Park Street Church was the Rev. Dr. Stone, now of this city. It is certainly very good of Mr. Murray to go about in the track of the fell destroyer and blaster of youthful hopes, pouring holy oil upon the wounds of his old maiden victims.


Bulwer’s “Zanoni” should have a place upon the shelves of the California Pioneers. Like the ancient order of Rosecrucians, which the author of “Zanoni” describes, the Pioneers have learned the secret of perpetuating their species indefinitely. Death rather increases than diminishes their numbers. For once old Time is at fault; the harvest is too heavy for his scythe, and he will have to employ one of the modern reapers. Models may be seen at any of the gin palaces of London and New York. For proofs of their efficiency, see tables of mortuary statistics.


The only point upon which there is a possibility of a difference of opinion between General Grant and the Legislative Department of the Government is upon the question of prerogative.—Alta. [Considering that the question of prerogative is the very rock upon which the legislative and executive departments of governments are eternally splitting with the most disastrous consequences, the signification which the Alta attaches to the word “only” is peculiar, to say the least.]


A correspondent would like to know the date of the earliest divorce. Voltaire says it occurred six weeks after the first marriage. For further information apply at Chicago.


In this issue of the News Letter we print a card from Mayor McCoppin, which will be found of great interest. There are few persons who clearly understand the Outside Land question; and even the owners or occupants of these lands are themselves mostly in the dark so far as relates to the tax recently assessed upon them. The Mayor clears up this point very satisfactorily, and the course he advises is undoubtedly best for all concerned.


On last Tuesday William Farrell, of Contra Costa, was arrested for perjury, He had sworn before the Police Court that his wife was his mother, and the Police Court had believed him. The perjury in itself is nothing, but here is an opportunity to retaliate upon dashing young bridegrooms from the country, who have long been in the habit of palming off their ridiculous spooneyism upon us as a perfectly proper article of bucolic filial piety.


A certificate of the election of trustees of the New Jerusalem Society has been filed with the county clerk. The object of the Society is to co-operate with the Cocos Island Treasure-Seeking Company. Capital stock: an unlimited amount of incredible stupidity, divided into shares of two-idiot-power each. Place of business: Stockton Lunatic Asylum. Term of existence: as long as an outraged public sentiment will tolerate.


The British Government is rummaging amongst Sanscrit literature with a view of preserving the old religious beliefs which existed five thousand years ago and were recorded in the Vedas. We beg to direct special attention to the pleasant fable of the Hindoo virgin, Devanageri, and her son Jezous Christina, which was probably an imitation of a similar but somewhat more recent and authentic history.


The Town Crier remarks with sorrow that the editor of the Bulletin, fired with ambition to emulate him, has indulged in unseemly jocularity; has, in fact, attempted a mild joke at the expense of the Examiner’s sausages. The witticism, however, partakes of the nature of its subject—disjointed, flaccid and blunt at both ends. The Town Crier forgives, but cannot forget.


Julius Oipel has sued Frederick Wile for seducing the former’s wife. He claims ten thousand dollars for this. He sues him again for inducing her to get a divorce and thus depriving him forever of her society. Ten thousand for that, too. We apprehend that if the first complaint be true he will hardly recover anything for the second “injury.”


We had supposed that Mr. Stewart had simply declined the Secretaryship of the Treasury, but it seems he did more. The Herald says he wrote “a definitive letter of declination.” We cannot be too thankful that Mr. Stewart was ineligible; a man who writes these things ought not to be Secretary of the Treasury. He is capable of any enormity.


The Bulletin says that the few who have made any money thus far at White Pine have made it by selling claims. This shows the stupidity of the owners of the Eberhardt Mine, who supposed that they were making money by taking out two million dollars’ worth of silver. It is to be hoped they will stop now and get to selling.


A camel colt was born at Woodward’s Gardens last week. The editor of the Alta is reported as having endeavored to swallow it; but having just previously injured himself by straining at a gnat he was unsuccessful. He has since so completely recovered as to accomplish the deglutition of the mother with the greatest ease.


Speaking of the non-attendance of certain supervisors at the meeting of the board on Monday evening, the Alta says: “Why is the municipal business thus neglected by men who are elected and sworn to discharge public duties? [For answer to this conundrum, see private characters of the absentees.]


The editor of a morning paper, who has long considered himself the greatest benefactor of San Francisco, now admits the superior claim of his business rival, the steam-paddy. We think there is little choice between the two. They do the dirty work of the city equally well and with equal intelligence.


Speaking of Grant’s message asking the Senate to repeal the law which disqualifies Stewart for the secretaryship of the Treasury, the Times says: “Subsequent reflection showed him the impropriety of his demand, and he withdrew it.” For “subsequent reflection” read “the Senate’s refusal.”


A contemporary is sure the Senate will repeal the Tenure-of-office Law “because the best interests of the Government demand it.” Our contemporary’s logic is faultless, but an astounding amount of credulity is necessary to supply the minor premise in its syllogism.


Journals exist and flourish, not for special or party purposes, but because they furnish to their readers full and copious details of news, mingled with intelligent and perspicuous comments upon current events.—Alta [Then the Alta is not a journal.]


The telegraph reports a strong attempt to oust Mr. Sherman Day from the office of Surveyor General of this State. He ought to be ousted; a man who will hold an office without letting anybody but a Washington reporter know it, is not fit to be trusted.


The Sacramento Union favors obliging all qualified electors to vote. This is a free country, and if a man does not do as he pleases he should be compelled to. Liberty of action can be sustained only by compulsory legislation.


Is there no law to prevent drivers of trucks stopping so often in the middle of the street to clean the blood and brains of little boys and old women off their wheels? This thing is becoming a nuisance. It impedes travel.


There seems to be a general impression that the publication office of the Alta California newspaper is on California street. We are happy to correct this mistake; that paper is published on Fulsome street.


The Town Crier’s landlady says she does not take the Alta because there are no “Wants” in it. The Town Crier begs pardon, but thinks there is at least one; a want of common sense.


We find the following lexicographical wisdom in an unpublished edition of Webster: “MacCrelhsh, a. Like a mackerel; fishy.”


A common hatred often proves a more powerful bond than a common interest.—Chronicle. [As, for instance, between yourself and decency.]


A drunken man was found asleep upon the sidewalk on Kearny street. He was arrested for personating an officer.


“An Interesting Issue.” See Barnacle. See, also, the camel-pen at Woodward’s Gardens.


Six of the jury in this case are produce dealers.—Times. [Great is trial by jury!]


Assayers and Soothsayers.—One of these classes belongs to the diviners; the other to the refiners of society. Which is which?


(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)

More historic journalism from Ambrose Bierce and 13 major American authors is freely available at The Archive of American Journalism.