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Summer Suns in the Far West
Chapter I. Edinburgh to Philadelphia

IT was on a chequered day of April 1889 that, leaving home for a long furlough, my wife and I got on board the Furnessan at Greenock, amid the usual excitement over luggage, and the terror lest some package intended for present use should lose its way and wander into the hold. An Edinburgh winter is a somewhat serious thing both for men and women who are not altogether backward in the service of the public, and a long holiday seemed very desirable for both, if we were to return to harness, and spend the evening of life in active service. Having a married son near Los Angeles, in Southern California, we determined to direct our footsteps thither and spend a few weeks in that semi-fabulous region. Some of our worthy friends thought that, being well on in the sixties, we were fit for the lunatic asylum in undertaking such a journey at our time of life. We pointed out that modern travel had been reduced to the simplest of arts: that we had just to go on board the steamer at Greenock and come out of it at New York; that if we pleased we might then go on board a Pullman car at New York, loll in an easy-chair by day and repose in a sleeping-berth by night, and come out six days after at Los Angeles; and that the risks incurred were really not much greater than in the Morningside street car, or the ferry-boat to Burntisland. Still, wise people shook their heads. And very emphatically the directors of an insurance company shook their corporate head, when I wished to purchase from them a couple of accident policies. After extra premiums had been clapped on for travelling in America, and other adjustments made, the arrangement suddenly collapsed at the eleventh hour. It turned out that at our age accident policies would not be granted on any terms! No wise company would vouch for such decrepit lives. I confess I was more amused than disappointed at the extraordinary caution of the worthy directors, though there was no time to apply elsewhere. We were led to think more of the unseen Protector. Anyhow, we did not mind the refusal; possibly because grapes have, a way of turning sour when you cannot reach them.

Happily our luggage came together all right, and our berths were fairly comfortable; but it was midnight before we weighed anchor, and the working of the engine and rattling of the chains, as the crew kept lowering the cargo, gave us a concert of the most hideous music under which weary pilgrims ever tried to woo sleep. Morning, as usual, found us at Moville, on the north coast of Ireland, where we took on board our Celtic contingent in wonderfully good condition. Twice before I had witnessed the same process at Queenstown; but whether it was that Moville is in Lister, or that the condition of the Irish peasantry has improved, our present immigrant cargo was by far the best-conditioned I had ever seen. I. remember noticing once at Queenstown that though numberless girls were almost in rags, there was none that wanted a gum-flower; and the toilet of one poor girl attracted my special notice, she having a boot on one foot and a shoe on the other. There was nothing of this sort on board the Furnessan. All told, we were more than twelve hundred souls on board, and on the whole we were a happy family. The weather was cold but not rough, and there was a minimum amount of sea-sickness. We got very friendly with one another: it is wonderful how friendly you become during a voyage; and, alas! it is wonderful how soon your friendships pass out of mind.

There is not much variety of scenery on the Atlantic. Our one excitement was a shoal of big whales, some of which came so near the ship that we were almost able to make their individual acquaintance. Sunday brings a change—a pleasant change, 1 cannot help thinking, to most. I conducted service on both Sundays, both in the saloon and on the foredeck. Good Friday seemed likely to pass without any recognition, till a deputation from the intermediate cabin came to me and asked me to hold service there. It was an awkward place, but the service was the heartiest of any we held. There can be little privacy for intermediate and steerage passengers; and each evening the intermediates had a concert, or recitations, or something of that sort, in their dining room to keep them lively. On Good Friday they thought they ought to be more' serious. It is easy to touch the feeling! of emigrants, with their native shore's behind them and an unknown future before them. To them it is no mere figure of speech when life is called a pilgrimage. Never is “God of bethel” more appropriate, never is a brighter welcome given to those truths which look forward to the end of the pilgrimage, and the gathering together in the Father’s house.

It was on a Sunday night that we sighted the lights about Sandy Nook, and soon after greeted the electric blaze from the great Statue of Liberty. Monday morning we were astir by five o’clock, and an hour or two later were safely moored at the Anchor Wharf. As this was my third visit, I had no new sensations, but could enjoy the interest of fresher passengers looking out for the first time on the American shore.

But I well remembered the sensation of my own first visit, at the marvellous metamorphosis which the shore presented as compared with former times: instead of the Red Indian with his plume waving over his head and his tomahawk by his side, one looked out on magnificent cities, whose wharves and docks, railways and steamboats, churches and colleges, and smiling suburban villas, proclaimed the triumph of industry and art. There used to be a story of a Pope asking an American pilgrim to the Vatican whether the aborigines or the English were the more numerous in New York! But we must pass in haste from the sentimental to the battle of life, and submit the contents of our travelling-boxes to the keen eye of the custom-house officer. Whether he was overawed by our respectability, or otherwise impressed in our favour, we know not, but he gave us a very easy inspection. We bade a hasty adieu to our fellow-passengers—such of them as were within reach-and in half-an-hour were comfortably quartered in the Grand Union Hotel.

My long and well-known connection with the General Presbyterian Alliance (called by the public the “Pan-Presbyteriun,” and by the profane the “Pan”), which brings Americans and Scotsmen into right friendly relations, procured for me an unexpected welcome. Before I had left the steamer, a minute of the American branch was placed in my hands, couched in very complimentary terms, welcoming me to America, and appointing my dear friend Dr. Schall and three other friends to look after me in New York, and hold some kind of public meeting. The public meeting was out of the question, for I was unable to remain long enough in New York ; but Dr. Schall was kind enough to invite some friends to his house, and we bad a most pleasant evening. In a New York paper, The Scottish American, the company was given, all well-known in New York—Dr. and Mrs. Talbot Chambers, Dr. and Mrs. John Hall, Dr. and Mrs. Cuvier, Dr. and Mrs. Waters, Dr. and Mrs. J. S. Hamilton, Dr. and Mrs. Ellinwood, Professors Shedd, Briggs, Hastings, Brown, and Vincent; S. B. Brownell, Esq., Dr. Field, and many others. I could only utter my hearty thanks for so kind a welcome, all the more that I was travelling in an entirely private capacity, and the last thing L was looking for was such a recognition, it was a good opportunity for expressing what has long been one of my very earnest feelings—the desire that nothing may ever happen to disturb the friendly relations of the two great branches of the English people, as Professor Freeman has called them, but that Britain and the United States may ever move on hand in hand, united and cordial, in every measure fitted to advance the civilization and the Christianization of the world.

New York was all astir with preparations for the celebration of the Washington Centennial, which came on about this time. But it would detain me too long to describe that or any other New York scene. I was greatly interested in the sermon of Bishop Potter, in which he made a bold and earnest effort to restore the political life of the country to the state of purity it enjoyed when it bore the impress of Washington’s noble character. It was amusing to watch the newspaper war which followed. It was too strong a dose for those patriots who can stomach nothing but eulogy and admiration; but it struck a deep chord in all the nobler souls of the country. The universal and simultaneous honour paid to the memory of Washington by so many millions of people could hardly fail of good result. It could not but be useful to remember that the one thing that made him great was his honest and profound regard for the welfare of his people, and that what endeared his memory to millions, and made them proud of him, was his patient devotion to duty, his sacrifice of self, his indifference to wealth, honour, and pleasure— his one object in life to serve his country. “Go, and do thou likewise,” termed the appropriate application to every public man in America of every oration, sermon, or speech delivered on the occasion.

Among the objects which I was anxious to accomplish during this visit, one was to get at the truth respecting the prohibition movement in the country. One hears such opposite opinions. “A great success and blessing,” say some; “an utter failure,” say others. “As much drink consumed under nominal prohibition as before, with the addition that the law is brought into contempt, and with the further addition that the drink is dearer in price and worse in quality.” "A wonderful increase of both material and moral prosperity.” The truth, T knew, must lie between these extremes, but whereabout between?

Within the last few days the state of Massachusetts had voted decidedly against prohibition, as the state of Pennsylvania did afterwards, when the question was Sued there in dune. 7 called on Mr. Maynard of the New York Observer, who had been quite recently appointed a commissioner by that paper to travel about and make full inquiry on the subject. Mr. Maynard had just returned from a three weeks’ tour in the state of Kansas, in which he had made inquiry of all sorts of people—friends and foes, judges and magistrates, jailers and policemen, ministers and merchants—on the results of prohibition. His report was eminently favourable. Not only was prohibition the law, but it was strictly enforced there, and even rich men who had violated it were sent remorselessly to prison. Crime and disorder of every kind had marvelously decreased. Mr. Maynard had begun a series of articles in the New York Observer, giving the results of his inquiry. I asked him what he thought of the Massachusetts vote. He said he was not in the least surprised. Prohibition was a very strong measure, and like the abolition of slavery, it would cost many a battle to achieve it. He had the firmest confidence that in the course of time it would prevail universally in America, and would be as decidedly held to be the right thing as the abolition of slavery was now. I asked him about the high-license system which now exists in some states. Licenses in some instances cannot be got under £200. Mr. Maynard did not think they had done any such good as to render the agitation for prohibition superfluous. Other friends whom I have consulted are more friendly to the high-license system. It has shut up an immense number of low drinking-saloons, but of course it has brought increased custom to the richer drink-sellers. One thing I see very clearly: one must make careful discrimination between one place and another in deciding what measures are best for temperance reform,

Short though our time was in New York, we resolved to have a glance at two things—the Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge. Nineteen years ago I had visited the Park, which was then only beginning to awake to a consciousness of what it might become. I well remember the quarry holes, the heaps of rubbish, and profusion of ungainly things scattered abroad. But this wilderness has blossomed as the rose. In a friend’s carriage we drove luxuriously over the gravel paths, through groves of greenery tastefully brightened by the blaze of flowers and the gleam of marble statuary. The carriage drives were dotted with mounted police, framed to catch runaway horses whether attached to carriages or loose. The gallery of art and the museum of natural history have been placed in the Park, as well as the zoological collection, as inducements to the citizens to make it a place of frequent resort. Perhaps some of our corporations at home might take a hint from this. As for Brooklyn Bridge, it is a marvellous structure to be hung on a couple of chains. Nine years ago, if I remember rightly, a slim line like a spider’s thread was all that was visible—a small beginning for so wonderful a result, I found it difficult to convince Americans that our Forth Bridge was a vaster undertaking, and that they would need to apply themselves to something still greater if they aspired to own the most notable bridge in the world.

Though California was our destination, we had so many kind friends in some of the eastern states that we arranged to spend a few days at Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Chicago on our westward way. And everywhere we were received with such hospitality that our great difficulty was to break away. We had to complain that, though going ahead was the great feature of the country, they would not let us go ahead.

Philadelphia had a special interest; for it was there the reunited General Assembly, to which I was sent as a delegate from the Free Church, was held in 1870; and it was there, too, that the second General Presbyterian Council (the “Pan”) met in 1880. Alas! not a few of our dearest friends both in Philadelphia and New York had passed away in the interval. It was pleasant to see that, as the old standard-bearers fell, there were other men to take the colours. The Women’s Foreign Missionary Society, a great institution, which has flourished wonderfully, and greatly promoted the mission cause, was holding its annual meeting, attended by more than live hundred women. My wife was carried off to the meeting, and received a most gratifying reception. She was much struck by the business capacity and great energy of the American women. During the year they have collected 145,000 dollars—say nearly £30,000.

They have one hundred and forty-six missionaries in foreign countries, of whom seventy have been sent out during the year. It would be worth while to give a full statement of their work, as contained in their annual report, and, what would be even more interesting, a statement of their methods. But space forbids further reference. One of the secretaries of the society was the daughter of our host.

A son in the same family was secretary to the Christian Endeavour Society. This is a society having objects somewhat similar to that of our guilds at home. But while the society is so far denominational that each congregation has its own branch, the whole is united in one great confederation, somewhat like the Presbyterian Alliance. The society holds a great annual meeting, which took place this year at Philadelphia. My friend was busy with preparations. It was expected that four thousand at least would be present—not all as delegates. I think the actual number was between six and seven thousand. There were members present from California and other far-distant parts of the country. Distance is no bugbear to American travellers.

Philadelphia is building a magnificent city hall, on a magnificent site at the union of Broad and High Streets. The only pity is that the building obstructs the continuous view which there used to be from end to end of these fine streets. The new erection is of marble; and as it has to wait for annual appropriations of money from the city, it advances but slowly towards completion. A new feature of Philadelphia, as also of New York, is the immense blocks of offices and other business chambers, for which eight stories is now a moderate height. The enormous cost of building areas necessitates this arrangement. The old Edinburgh houses of ten or twelve stories are being left behind. I heard an American repeat the somewhat apocryphal story of a man who, in falling from the top of one of the tall Edinburgh houses, he passed a servant girl cleaning a window about the fifth story, and remarked to her, “Eh, lassie, sic a clype I’m gaein’ to get but it might be fathered now on New York or Philadelphia. There is no trouble getting to the top of these Titanic houses, for they are all furnished with one or more “elevators,” or, as we should call them, “lifts,” which land you in a few seconds in any story you wish to visit. Hydraulic pressure furnishes the power, and the only drawback to your satisfaction is pity for the monotonous life of the man or boy in charge, engaged all clay long in working the apparatus.

The Americans have a wonderful way of scenting out men (and women too) who are supposed to be able to speak in public. Professor Shaw of Lincoln University, son-in-law of an old friend (his wife is a daughter of the late Rev. William Arnot of Edinburgh), found us out at Philadelphia, and invited us to pay a visit to his college. Mr. Shaw being an old student of mine at Edinburgh, and his wife an old friend of us both, brief though our time was, we could not but accept the invitation. Lincoln University is situated between Philadelphia and Baltimore, and is designed for training men of colour for the ministry. It is of recent origin; and though it has made excellent progress during its short career, the term “university” (as in many other instances in America) denotes not what it already is, but what it aspires to be. Though under Presbyterian auspices, it is open to young men of all evangelical denominations; and it has no fewer than one hundred and sixty students. The only department of the university thoroughly equipped is the theological. Professor Shaw has the chair of Hebrew, and he maintains stoutly that negro students are as capable as any other of proficiency in Hebrew, and indeed in all other branches of liberal study. He maintains that the mixture of blood is not the explanation of this, inasmuch as students of pure blood are just as capable as those of mixed. This. I know, is not the universal opinion; for instance, Mr. Moody, who has a great power of knowing men, does not regard the negro as equal in capacity to other races.

Of course there was a reception, and I was introduced to the professors and their wives, and to some of the ministers and residents in the surrounding district. One gentleman introduced himself to me as the first professor of the English Bible in any college in the world. He drills the students in the Bible, making them commit to memory many suitable passages, and sustain examinations on important portions of it. Men of colour are not the only students who would be better for this exercise.

Before I got to Lincoln, Professor Shaw had wired me for a “talk.” I agreed to give a lecture on Livingstone and Africa, though I had no written materials, and happily it interested them quite remarkably. Some of them were preparing for service in Africa, and the name of Livingstone was dear to them all. In fact, the hall in which I lectured was called Livingstone Hall, having been the gift of an admirer of the great missionary. A black student opened with an excellent prayer, and another closed. In a Presbyterian divinity college there is little scope for negro eccentricity, such as we often hear of. The men work for their maintenance during the recess, and for the most part pay the cost of board. They are not at all particular as to what they work at. At Professor Shaw’s we were served by a coloured waiter in full black dress and copious linen breast. He was one of the students, or “boys,” as the professor called them, and his business was that of a waiter. In towns like Baltimore it is said that some negroes have made a little fortune by “waiting.”

There are two points connected with the negro race on which I was desirous to get information—negro religion and negro social prospects. It is well known that the great majority of the negroes, especially down south, are either Baptists or Methodists. Under the shadow of these systems they have more scope to indulge their native tastes. The element that predominates in their religion is the emotional. They are fond of singing hymns, of appeals to the senses and the imagination, but do not usually care for appeals to the intellect and the conscience. I was told, for instance, of a native preacher who had given out one of the commandments for his text, when a hearer rose up and told him, “We don’t want to hear nothing of that sort here; you stop, and give us the gospel.” It reminded me of what I had heard of a negro woman who had stolen a goose but would not own it, that one Sabbath morning she informed her mistress that she was going to the communion. Her mistress remonstrated, as she had never “’fessed the goose.” “Well, madam,” she said, “I don’t deny that I did take it; but if you suppose that for the matter of one goose I am going to deny my Saviour, you are much mistaken.” On a certain plantation there was a most eloquent and powerful negro preacher. There had been much depredation on the plantation, and it occurred to the owner to enlist the services of the preacher to deliver a sermon against stealing. He said he understood he was a very impressive preacher. The negro in reply “guessed he could do it pretty smart.” He then asked him to preach a sermon on honesty. The preacher’s face assumed a strange look. No, he said, he could not do that; for if he gave out such a subject, it would throw quite a chill over the congregation. On the other hand, I have heard of negroes and negro preachers as blameless and pure of life as the whitest of the white. And some of them are powerful preachers, despite their grotesque composition and pronunciation. At Lincoln University, and I have no doubt at other seminaries, the tone of instruction gives my emphatic check to any divorce of religion and morality.

With regard to negro social prospects, the problem of the future is just where it was. I so appreciable progress has been made in the way of amalgamating the two races with each other. The churches are feeling themselves obliged to agree to some compromise on the subject. The difficulty of bringing black and white into one baffles all of them.

Coloured people don’t commonly like white ministers, and white people have still more determined objections to black pastors. When a Synod or an Assembly meets at any place, no white family will take in a coloured delegate. The consequence is that virtually separate churches have to be formed for white and black. The Methodist Church has a coloured Conference, and the Southern Presbyterian Church has a coloured Synod, in some sense these are parts of the white organization, but otherwise they are separate. When I was in Baltimore I found that two of my friends in that city—Dr. Joseph Smith, and Dr. Leftwich, of the First Presbyterian Church, for both of whom I officiated—had just been south, conferring with delegates from the Southern Church on co-operation in work among the negroes, and it was in this direction that their proposals ran. It is disappointing to find that we are so far from a satisfactory solution of the problem; but it is a characteristic of the American people not to wait till they can secure the optimist arrangement of any question, but to do the best they can in the circumstances. If America had not made good use of this rule, it would never have been the country that it is.

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