San Francisco News Letter/December 19, 1868
“Hear the Crier!” “What the devil art thou!”
“One that will play the devil, sir, with you.”
A correspondent writes us a deprecating letter, and wishes to know what fiend possesses us to lash everybody so unsparingly. Dear “Veritas,” we do nothing of the kind. We lash the Evil-disposed only and commend the Good alone. The Good are the friends of the News Letter, and like kings, can do no wrong; the Evil-disposed are its enemies, and can do little else. Some of them may occasionally stumble upon a good act, but it’s a scratch if they do, and we never see it. If any of “our shafts” strike our friends, as “Veritas” says they sometimes do, they never penetrate the triple steel with which the clear consciences of all patrons of the News Letter are protected. That which when applied to an enemy is biting and malicious satire, becomes merely harmless fun and good-natured criticism when directed against a friend. The form of target makes all the difference in the world in the nature of the projectile. This is a truth which has never yet been explained, and we believe has never before been stated. But it is a truth: our saying so makes it such. “Veritas” says we cause pain to many “amiable” men. Very likely. Though none of our enemies are of the Good—goodness depending entirely upon a certain relation to the News Letter—we are willing to believe there are many who are of the Amiable. Whenever their general Amiability shall fructify into specific Virtue, the lion—N. L.—and the lamb—Am.—Shall lie down together, and our dog Jack shall lead them.
William T. Higgins, the man who, after the defeat of Gorham, ground a hand-organ through Montgomery street, “was presented with a gold snuff-box, and departed for the East last Monday.” Whether his departure was a condition of the presentation, or vice versa, we do not positively know. The fact, however, that he went office-seeking to Washington, is much clearer. It is also confidently maintained by his friends—and so far as we know not disputed by his enemies—that in the exceedingly improbable event of his failure to show Gen. Grant the exact relation between organ-grinding and fitness for high position, and how the one implies the other, he will sail for Europe. We regret the loss of California of Mr. Higgins, and that he may not be also lost to the nation, would respectfully urge upon the in-coming administration his appointment as Hand-organist Extraordinary, or at least Monkey Plenipotentiary to the kitchen stairs of Ulysses the First. His remuneration need be only nominal: a gold snuff-box per annum, and a hebdomadal handful of pennies, thrown over the area railing by the black cook.
Has Bennett, late Secretary of the Labor Exchange, kicked out (we speak in vigorous metaphor) for cause—has Bennett gone on the Barnacle? It would seem so. Someone, at any rate, has been allowed to make a fool of himself in the editorial columns of that sheet by accusing all the market reporters of our press of falsifying their wheat quotations. But perhaps the writer has been less fool than knave. Upon reflection, it is plain that this is the case. But softly! We grow warm; moreover a light dawns upon us. What is this? “A proposed Farmers Exchanges.” O-oh. Exactly. A Farmers’ Exchange—with a Secretary. Perhaps we were rather hard upon the poor man; he must live, you know; yes, yes, he must live. So let him push on the proposed Farmers’ Exchanges, where “all this low huckstering and miserable gambling in the great product of the farmers’ labor will cease.” The dear farmer; the meek, abused agriculturist; he is to have a Secretary, is he? to teach him his business; and perhaps to do it for him? Don’t he wish he [the Secretary] may get it!
The Call hints at the necessity of getting rid of Supervisors Cavallier and Canavan; the one for sending and the other for accepting a challenge to fight a duel. Had the duel actually taken place there is little doubt but the necessity would still have existed all the same. If the Call is anxious to be rid of them, it is inconsistent to wish them punished for exhibiting a desire—a very mild one—to get rid of one another. Mr. Canavan, however, seemed to desire to get rid of his antagonist in one sense, and Mr. Cavallier to be clear of his in quite another. Mr. Cavallier showed a singular eagerness to make an end of the matter, and Mr. Canavan exhibited a laudable willingness to make an end of Mr. Cavallier. The one succeeded but too well in accomplishing his purpose: the other’s purpose could not have been too well accomplished. The aim of Mr. Cavallier was mistaken; that of Mr. Canavan was, unhappily, not taken at all.
The Editorial Notes of the Alta drivel with peculiar imbecility upon Spanish affairs. Instead of the ecclesiastical despotism of a royal—, there is a prospect of the re-establishment by the Constitutional Cortes (the oldest representative body in Europe) of the old constitutional monarchy, with freedom of religion, speech and trade. And this form of government—from the worst to one which is good, if not the best—this result of a great and significant revolution—the Editorial driveler designates as “little more than a change of masters.” The same notist is agitated lest we import small-pox from Panama. [Possibly the Panamanians feel a similar anxiety.] He fears that it may prove of a malignant type. He thinks that our present mild epidemic may have been derived thence. As there is not the slightest doubt that they, poor devils, have caught the disease from us, the notist is cheeky to say the least.
John Middleton brought suit against A. Whipple and others, to recover six thousand dollars, alleged to have been won at faro by the latter from a clerk of the former. Defendants denied winning a cent of the money, but offered plaintiff one thousand dollars to be rid of it. After a careful hearing of the testimony, the Court instructed the jury to mulct defendants for one thousand anyhow, which they did. Without professing any extraordinary interest in the matter, we may be allowed to remark that the thing looks queer to an outsider, and we recommend to the learned Court the modern example of the negro Justice, who fined plaintiff and defendant a dollar each, and made the constable pay the costs. The Gordian knot of a complicated case is sometimes more conveniently cut than untied.
The Bulletin having only just begun to fairly realize the earthquake of October, keeps feeling others all the time. It has experienced several this week. It takes a long time to agitate the eminently respectable Bulletin brain, but when it is once fairly under way there is no stopping it. “Perhaps it is stricken with remorse at having so shamefully underestimated the importance of the first shock, and being too disingenuous to retract, thinks to atone by frequency for what it denied to intensity. Rock away, Bulletin; we enjoy your oscillations now as much as we formerly wondered at your stolidity when we ourselves were hopping.
“Who is he? Who the devil is he? Why don’t I know him?” asked the Prince Regent concerning Deportment Turveydrop. One Hawkins—a Colonel Hawkins—a “distinguished” Hawkins, it appears—a person who achieved feats during the war, and glory by bragging about it afterwards—gave a blow-out and feed at the Nucleus Hotel, and put it in the papers. We can only quote the Regent: who the devil is Hawkins? We don’t know Hawkins. Why is Hawkins in the newspapers? Why should they recount to us this Hawkins feed? We regard Hawkins as ridiculous. Haw-kins! Haw.
The Oakland Transcript says: “In view of the fact that they have all been puffing his efficiency for six months or so, it is singular that none of the San Francisco papers have a friendly word in behalf of the Secretary of the Labor Exchange, who has been wrongfully discharged.” What! All, said ye, all? But show us the gentleman; that is, the Secretary “who has been wrongfully discharged,” and we engage to fill his ears with the din of friendly words. We have much good counsel in store for him, truly. Let him take an appeal. Sims did it—why not he?
President Cobb asked two seconds of time to speak to a question of privilege. He wished to say that he entertains the highest respect for the public press. He should strive in all humbleness to perform his duty in the Board, and hoped that if he succeeded his efforts would be properly appreciated.—Bulletin. [Thank you, General, for your compliment to the press—meaning the News Letter—but we fear humility is not in your line. However, we’ll forget and forgive, and if you continue humble, well; if not, we shall make you eat humble pie.]
The colored people of the city are making preparations to celebrate the first of January, upon which day, we learn from the Times, “the martyred Lincoln proclaimed to the world that there should be no more slavery in the land.” Mr. Lincoln did no such thing: he simply proclaimed that in certain of the states, the slaves then held should be free. The Emancipation Proclamation no more abolished slavery than the lopping off a branch uproots a tree, nor was it intended to do so; and, moreover, the Times ought to know it.
The Young Men’s Christian Association have been permitted to mortgage their new harem on Sutter street for twelve thousand dollars. We should like to know what they want of twelve thousand dollars. They smoke not, neither do they drink, and the expenses of the reading room, as also those of the lecture hall, are paid by free lunches to invited members of the press. Go to, ye simple! are our hard earnings to be squandered in the unhallowed extravagances of “blindman’s buff,” and “Simon-says-thumbs-up?
That was a funny reconciliation in the Board of Education. The following synopsis is all we have space for: Holt, President; Cobb, Director. Months of bad blood and attendant abuse. Holt going to resign, Cobb going to remain. Cobb: “Make me President.” Holt: “Take back what you said of me.” Cobb [musingly]: “Let’s see. As I am to remain, the Presidency is indispensable.” Holt [reflectively]: “As I am to leave the Board, a good character is desirable.” Both: “I’ll do it!” And they did it.
Does the Alta mean to permanently change places with the Police Gazette? Last Sunday it had about a column of minute particulars of one of the nastiest and bloodiest murders ever perpetrated in the slums of New York, by a drunken bruiser. Lucille Western would have scorned to personate either of the revolting characters served up in this Sunday paper. We give the Alta the benefit of this advertisement for the pleasure we experienced in throwing down the paper.
By this time it is pretty generally understood that the Rev. J. B. Thomas has been compelled, by ill health, to resign his charge of the First Baptist Church; there has been little else in the dailies for the last two weeks. We do not wish to be severe on a sick man, but really there are some things we tire of. By the way, it cost his congregation two hundred and ten dollars to listen to one of his parting sermons. There is some comfort in that anyhow.
The parsons of Columbus, Ohio, have announced that, unless they are allowed the free use of the State Library, they will not pray for the members of the legislature. What will be the result of the withdrawal of this tremendous support from the legislative power remains to be seen. It would be terrible if the members should be driven to the novel expedient of praying for themselves.
The boys of the Lincoln School will give an entertainment this evening for the purpose of supplying the school with certain needful apparatus. We suggest to those having charge of the expenditure, the expediency of purchasing a statue of Lincoln to adorn the western entrance. There is a piece of iron or something there which would have to be removed, but this could be done at little expense.
Henry Vincent has a lecture on the relation of Christian associations to the temptations and vices of society in its present condition.—Ex. [We do not know what may be the relation of these associations, generally, to vice and temptation, but it is quite clear that the relation of our Young Men’s Christian Association to mild idiocy is that of effect to cause.]
We submit the following conundrum to the Small-pox Committee: Provided you learn exactly who has, and accurately who has not, done his duty in preventing the spread of the disease heretofore, which is the better in a sanitary point of view—that knowledge or something else?
Jane Gibbon has sued Grant Israel for ten thousand dollars for alleged blows on the side of the head. If blows on one side are worth so much, there is certainly a strong inducement to anyone who is smitten to turn the other cheek also.
Bennett, who was lately kicked out of the Labor Exchange, is very lachrymose—crying at a sad rate, and covering the broad sheet of the Sacramento Union with his briny tears. He will feel better by and by—when we have done with him.
The latest subterfuge of a “used up man”—one who has dissipated fortune, character and self-respect—is to come to a large city and advertise himself as a “Bohemian.”—Times. [What has Prentice Mulford done to you? This is unkind.]
That was a good article of yours, Alta, about ventilation and all that. It affords us pleasure to pat you on the back once in a while, but don’t let our commendation puff you up with conceit. You know your weakness.
“Argus,”—Who is of course a correspondent of the Call—says onions are conductors of small-pox, and cautions the public against their use. If brain only were a conductor, “Argus” would have nothing to fear.
To treat a man Cavallierly means, under the new dispensation, to bristle up fiercely, talk loudly, and when your opponent is not the person you took him for, to bristle down again immediately and retreat.
Ed. A. Pollard says a “disreputable reporter” surreptitiously inserted the article in the Southern Opinion that produced his brother’s assassination. A card of denial may be expected from Fitz Smythe.
The Sacramento Union is rejoicing over the prospect of Chicago obtaining the trade of Salt Lake in place of San Francisco getting it. O, well, we don’t care; we shall still supply Suisun and Sacramento.
At a church in this city the Lord’s Supper was recently administered to two hundred and fifty communicants. There were, of course, no fish served up, but there was the usual superfluity of Eells.
The Alta asks in the caption to a leader, “What is the Tail of a Coment?” It is something which in length, vapor, and uselessness rivals the editorials of the Alta.
The boys are to be prevented from tooting their horns in the streets. Why not prevent old women from tooting theirs at home? Eh, Alta?
Grant’s destruction of unread letters is said to be the result of an agreement with the Pacific Mail Company. It compels travel to Washington.
On last Sunday evening the Rev. Dr. Bentley preached on “John’s Vision of the Judgment.” We withhold our judgment of the vision.
A compositor died, and the Alta said he was formerly employed in that establishment. De mortuis nil nisi bonum, Alta.
(Source: California State Library, Microfilm Collection)
The works of Ambrose Bierce and other major journalists are freely available from The Archive of American Journalism: www.historicjournalism.com