Page images
PDF
EPUB

any one is waiting for him. I wonder if he was ever rocked in a Christian cradle. I wonder if that gashed and bloated forehead was ever kissed by a fond mother's lips. I wonder if he is stranded for eternity. But we cannot stop. We passed on down, the air loaded with blasphemies and obscenities, until I heard something that astounded me more than all. I said, “What is that?" It was a loud, enthusiastic Christian song, rolling out on the stormy air. I went up to the window and looked in. There was a room filled with all sorts of people, some standing, some kneeling, some sitting, some singing, some praying, some shaking hands as if to give encouragement, some wringing their hands as though over a wasted life. What was this? Oh! it was Jerry McAuley's glorious Christian mission. There he stood, himself snatched from death, snatching others from death. That scene paid for all the nausea and fatigue of the midnight exploration. Our tears fell with the rain-tears of sympathy for a good man's work; tears of gratitude to God that one lifeboat had been launched on that wild sea of sin and death; tears of hope that there might be lifeboats enough to take off all the wrecked, and, that, after a while, the Church of God, rousing from its fastidiousness, might lay hold with both hands of this work, which must be done if our cities are not to go down in darkness and fire and blood.

This cluster of cities have more difficulty than any other cities in all the land. You must understand that within the last twenty-eight years five millions of foreign population have arrived at our port. The most of those who had capital and means passed on to the greater openings at the West. Many however, stayed and have become our best citizens, and best members of our churches; but we know also that, tarrying within our borders, there

[ocr errors]

has been a vast criminal population ready to be manipulated by the demagogue, ready to hatch out all kinds of criminal desperation. The vagrancy and the beggary of our cities, augmented by the very worst populations of London and Edinburg, and Glasgow, and Berlin, and Belfast, and Dublin and Cork. We had enough vagahondage, and enough turpitude in our American cities before this importation of sin was dumped at Castle Garden. Oh! this pauperism, when will it ever be alleviated How much we saw! How much we could not see! How much none but the eye of Almighty God will ever see! Flash the lantern of the police aronnd to that station-house. There they come up, the poor creatures, tipping their torn hats, saying, “ Night's lodging, sir?" And then they are waived away into the dormi. tories. One hundred and forty thousand such lodgers in the city of New York every year. The atmosphere unbearable. What pathos in the fact that many families turned out of doors because they cannot pay their rent, come in here for shelter, and after struggling for decency, and struggling for a good name, are flung into this loathsome pool. The respectable and the reprobate. Innocent childhood and vicions old age. The Lord's poor and Satan's desperadoes. There is no report of almshouse and missionary that will ever tell the story of New York and Brooklyn pauperism. It will take a larger book, a book with more ponderous lids, a book made of paper other than that of earthly manufacture. The book of God's remembrance! At my baseinent door we average between fifty and one hundred calls every day for help. Beside that, in my reception room, from 7 o'clock in the morning until 10 o'clock at night, there is a continuous procession of people applying for aid, making a demand which an old-fashioned silken purse, caught at the iniddle with a ring, the wealth of Vanderbilt in one end and the wealth of William B. Astor in the other end, could not satisfy. Of course, I speak of those men's wealth while they lived. We have more money now than they have since they have their shroud on.

But even the shroud and the grave, we find, are to be contested for. Cursed be the midnight jackals of St. Mark's Churchyard! But I must go on with the fact that the story of Brooklyn and New York pauperism needs to be written in ink, black, blue and red-blue for the stripes, red for the blood, black for the infamy. In this cluster of cities 20,000 people supported by the bureau for the outdoor sick; 20,000 people taken care of by the city hospitals; 70,000 provided for by private charity; 80,000 taken care of by reformatory institutions and prisons. Hear it, ye churches, and pour out your benefaction. Hear it, you ministers of religion, and utter words of sympathy for the suffering, and thunders of indignation against the cause of all this wretchedness. Hear it, mayoralties and judicial bench, and constabularies. Unless we wake up, the Lord will scourge us as the yellow fever never scourged New Orleans, as the plague never smote Lon. don, as the earthquake never shook Carraccas, as the fire never overwhelmed Sodom. I wish I could throw a bombshell of arousal into every city hall, meeting-house and cathedral on the continent. The factories at Fall River and at Lowell sometimes stop for lack of demand, and for lack of workmen, but this million-roomed factory of sin and death never stops, never slackens a band, never rests a spindle. The great wheel of that factory keeps on turning, not by such floods as those of the Merrimac or the Connecticut, but crimson floods rushing forth from the groggeries, and the wine cellars, and the drinking saloons of the land, and the faster the floods rush the

ar

faster the wheel tarns; and the band of that wheel is woven from broken heart-strinys, and every time the wheel turns, from the mouth of the mill come forth blasted estates, squalor, vagrancy, crime, sin, woeindividual woe, municipal woe, national woe—and the creaking and the ruinbling of the wheels are the shrieks and the groans of men and women lost for two worlds, and the cry is, “Bring on more fortunes, more homes, more States, more cities, to make up the awful grist of this stupendous mill.”

Oh,” you say, "the wretchedness and the sin of the city will go out froin lack of material after awhile." No, it will not. The police lantern flashes in another direction. Here come 15,000 shoeless, hatless, homeless children of the street, in this cluster of cities. They are the reserve corps of this great army of wretchedness and crime that are dropping down into the Morgne, the East river, the Potter's Field, the prison. A philanthropist has estimated that if these children were placed in a great procession, double-file, three feet apart, they would make a procession eleven miles long. Oh! what a pale, coughing, hunger-bitten, sin-cursed, opthalmic throng--the tigers, the adders, the scorpions ready to bite and sting society, which they take to be their natural enemy. Howard Mission has saved many. Children's Aid Society has saved many. Industrial Schools have saved many.

One of these societies transported 30,000 children from the streets of our cities, to farms at the West, by a stratagem of charity, turning them from vagrancy into useful citizenship, and out of 21,000 children thus transported from the cities to farms only twelve turned out badly. But still the reserve corps of sin and wretchedness marches on. There is the regiment of boot-blacks. They seem jolly, but they have more gorrow than many an old man has had. All kinds of temptation. Working on, making two or three dollars a week. At fifteen years of age sixty years old in sin. Pitching pennies at the street corners. Smoking fragments of castaway cigars. Tempted by the gamblers. Destroyed by the top gallery in the low play house Blacking shoes their regular business. Between times blackening their morals. "Shine your boots, sir?" they call out with merry voices, but there is a tremor in their accentuation. Who cares for them You put your foot thoughtlessly on their stand, and you whistled or smoked, when God knows you might have given them one kind word. They never had one. Whoever prayed for a bootblack? Who, finding the wind blowing under the short jaoket, or reddening his bare neck, ever asked him to warm? Who, when he is wronged out of his ter cents, demands justice for himn God have mercy or the bootblacks. The newsboys, another regiment the smartest boys in all the city. At work at four o'clock in the morning. At half-past three, by unnatural vigilance, a wake themselves, or pulled at by rough hands. In the dawn of the day standing before the folding-rooms of the great newspapers, taking the wet, damp sheets over their arms, and against their chests already shivering with the cold. Around the bleak ferries, and up and down the streets on the cold days, singing as merrily as though it were a Christmas carol; making half a cent on each paper, some of them working fourteen hours for fifty cents! Nine thousand of these newsboys applied for aid at the Newsboys' Lodging-house on Park place, New York, in one year. About one thousand of them laid up in the savings bank connected with that institution, a little more than $3,000. But still this great army marches on, hungry, cold, sick, toward an early grave, or a quick prison. I tell you there is nothing

« PreviousContinue »