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A Race Of Slaves
by [?]

It is all very well for us to have invaded Europe, and awakened that somnolent continent to the lights and delights of American ways; to have beautified the cities of the old world with graceful trolleys and illuminated the catacombs at Rome with electricity. Every true American must thrill with satisfaction at these achievements, and the knowledge that he belongs to a dominating race, before which the waning civilization of Europe must fade away and disappear.

To have discovered Europe and to rule as conquerors abroad is well, but it is not enough, if we are led in chains at home. It is recorded of a certain ambitious captain whose “Commentaries” made our school-days a burden, that “he preferred to be the first in a village rather than second at Rome.” Oddly enough, we are contented to be slaves in our villages while we are conquerors in Rome. Can it be that the struggles of our ancestors for freedom were fought in vain? Did they throw off the yoke of kings, cross the Atlantic, found a new form of government on a new continent, break with traditions, and sign a declaration of independence, only that we should succumb, a century later, yielding the fruits of their hard-fought battles with craven supineness into the hands of corporations and municipalities; humbly bowing necks that refuse to bend before anointed sovereigns, to the will of steamboat subordinates, the insolence of be-diamonded hotel-clerks, and the captious conductor?

Last week my train from Washington arrived in Jersey City on time. We scurried (like good Americans) to the ferry-boat, hot and tired and anxious to get to our destination; a hope deferred, however, for our boat was kept waiting forty long minutes, because, forsooth, another train from somewhere in the South was behind time. Expostulations were in vain. Being only the paying public, we had no rights that those autocrats, the officials, were bound to respect. The argument that if they knew the southern train to be so much behind, the ferry-boat would have plenty of time to take us across and return, was of no avail, so, like a cargo of “moo-cows” (as the children say), we submitted meekly. In order to make the time pass more pleasantly for the two hundred people gathered on the boat, a dusky potentate judged the moment appropriate to scrub the cabin floors. So, aided by a couple of subordinates, he proceeded to deluge the entire place in floods of water, obliging us to sit with our feet tucked up under us, splashing the ladies’ skirts and our wraps and belongings.

Such treatment of the public would have raised a riot anywhere but in this land of freedom. Do you suppose any one murmured? Not at all. The well-trained public had the air of being in church. My neighbors appeared astonished at my impatience, and informed me that they were often detained in that way, as the company was short of boats, but they hoped to have a new one in a year or two. This detail did not prevent that corporation advertising our train to arrive in New York at three- thirteen, instead of which we landed at four o’clock. If a similar breach of contract had happened in England, a dozen letters would have appeared in the “Times,” and the grievance been well aired.

Another infliction to which all who travel in America are subjected is the brushing atrocity. Twenty minutes before a train arrives at its destination, the despot who has taken no notice of any one up to this moment, except to snub them, becomes suspiciously attentive and insists on brushing everybody. The dirt one traveller has been accumulating is sent in clouds into the faces of his neighbors. When he is polished off and has paid his “quarter” of tribute, the next man gets up, and the dirt is then brushed back on to number one, with number two’s collection added.