San Francisco History

Chambliss' Diary

Chapter I.

THE word Society, as it is generally used in conversation and writing, by all civilized persons in the United States, is supposed to mean the better or more refined portion of any law-respecting community; well-bred persons of culture and enlightenment, to whom the masses may look for the very best examples in everything that pertains to social usages; citizens whose actions are above reproach; ladies and gentlemen who, by their pure instincts and good influences, direct and facilitate the advancement of respectability.

When we speak of the state of society, we do not mean the condition of any organization or "set," the members of which may claim distinction above all other "sets" or organizations in a community; we do not mean the high municipal officers, for mere incumbency is no guarantee of either veracity or integrity, or even common decency, nowadays; and we certainly do not mean the rich people of a community, for it is not necessary for a person to possess vast wealth in order to be a good citizen; we simply mean the general state of civilization.

All persons of intelligence should understand that the present state of civilization is due to the labors of those who brought it about; therefore, the word society is not applicable to persons of leisure, who do nothing at all except boast that they never work, simply because they have enough to live on without doing anything that resembles work, or as they themselves express it: "We don't work because we don't have to."

That is just it exactly; they prefer to live their useless lives in idleness, and squander what was earned, honestly, perhaps, in some instances, by those who are no longer numbered among the living.

When a man boasts that he is a "gentleman of leisure," it is perfectly safe to consider him a fool, an impostor, an upstart, or anything except a gentleman.

Among creatures of this class, refinement, culture, politeness, proper behavior, and in fact, all things that tend to elevate mankind, are held in about as much esteem as honor among the politicians of the present time.

With those who claim to be members of the "leisure class," the definition of society seems to have undergone a complete change. According to their edicts, no one who is thoroughly upright and honorable in all things can possibly be a good citizen. To tell the truth about anything is high treason.

I wish it distinctly understood that in speaking of this useless "leisure class," I do not mean all persons who are rich enough to live without work, nor do I mean those who, having earned fortunes honestly, see fit, in the afternoon of their lives, to retire from active business cares and take some enjoyment out of the profits of their labors. Far from it, for it would be extremely absurd for me to give the reader any such impression of my personal knowledge of mankind, which has been derived entirely from experience and associations. There are many retired business men, and retired officers of the army and navy, in this country, whom I consider gentlemen in every sense of the modern definition of the word.

In speaking of a gentleman's social qualifications, his financial standing should never be mentioned as a requisite factor, for if he is a gentleman, he will be one at all times and under all circumstances, adverse or otherwise, and the combined malice of all his enemies, and the malignant growling, the ludicrous barking, and the pitiful whinings of all the jealous rivals, two-faced acquaintances, and fair-weather friends in creation can never change his real nature, any more than such petty annoyances have changed the individual opinions of the man we now, for the second term, honor as the acknowledged highest official gentleman of the nation: Grover Cleveland.

It is customary at state dinners and banquets to propose the health of the chief magistrate of the host's country first. We Americans are noted for showing less respect to our Chief Executive than any other civilized people.

Supposing now that the reader has read and digested the prefatory remarks and the dedication, let us continue our dissection of the social system by proposing the health of the President upon whose shoulders all disappointed mercenary office-seekers and malcontented anarchists, irrespective of party, political hypocrisy, or previous occupation, have endeavored to saddle all the blame for the treachery and imbecility of the up-to-date Judases and would-be builders of a Tower of Babel, known, be it written to the sorrow and shame of society at large, as the Fifty-third Congress.

History tells us that a large majority of our great men were born poor. Several Presidents of the United States were born in very modest circumstances. Our Saviour, for that matter, was born in a stable. Therefore a person who professes Christianity should never condemn a good man on account of his having been born poor, or because he works for his living.

The Revolutionary War left our forefathers, who fought for the independence of America, in very straitened circumstances. In those days men were not judged by the size of their bank accounts. Parvenus and "gentlemen of leisure" were unknown quantities for many years. Our ancestors found, after seven years of hard fighting, that they had independence and nothing else, except what they were able to produce by cultivating the soil and engaging in legitimate trade and business pursuits. They were equal to the occasion, however, and civilization made rapid progress under the new form of government; and by general consent it was agreed that there should never be any more aristocracy in America. As long as this principle was maintained, our country was the acknowledged paradise of the world.

It soon became known in all the countries of Europe that the American form of government allowed equal rights to all civilized races; and then the tide of immigration to this country set in. The newcomers met with receptions that they had never dreamed of in their native countries. They were welcomed upon their arrival, and extended all of the privileges enjoyed by those who had fought to free the country from the foreign yoke.

At first, immigration was a good thing for the country. Many good people, sick and tired of the oppression of monarchs and aristocrats, came over and proved to be valuable citizens. But too much of a good thing of this kind is worse than not enough. Out of this foreign immigration there sprang up an evil which has grown to such alarming proportions that, at the present time, our very form of government is threatened with disruption.

The Highest Official Gentleman, in the uniform of Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. By permission of The Illustrated American.

Glad of an opportunity to get rid of their paupers, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, Russia, Spain, Norway, and Sweden threw open the flood-gates of their sewers, and shipped us thousands and hundreds of thousands of the very lowest and most undesirable elements of civilization.

Those unfortunate creatures, who never enjoyed in their own countries the privileges that stray felines and canines are allowed over here, are the very devils, in human form, who defy law and order, and threaten the destruction of the government that fosters them.

Bad as the hated Chinese are, any true thinking person, who knows what he is talking about, will tell you that the European paupers who are pouring into New York, and spreading westward as fast as they can be counted by the corrupt officials, are worse than the Chinese a hundred times over. The Chinese laborer never interferes with our politics, nor undertakes to defy our laws, as the European beggar does. The Chinaman gives full value in labor for every cent that he gets from his employer, and he does his work without a murmur; while the European pauper, suddenly elevated to a three dollar a day job, is always ready to go on a strike and ruin his employer without a moment's notice.

Almost every day of the year that the weather permits, you can see the curbstone orators all over San Francisco shouting at the tops of their steam-beer-toned voices that "the Chinese must go!" but you never hear anyone of those vagabonds say anything about the European outlaws, or the "emancipated" African savages who are murdering the officers and soldiers of our government, wrecking our railroad trains, robbing our citizens, assaulting and butchering American ladies and children, and pillaging and burning our homes. Oh, no! the demon who commits the crime is "only fighting for his rights."

"He's all right," shouts the malodorous, anarchistic agitators and curbstone orators. "Let him go right ahead and rob, murder, burn, steal, wreck trains, stop the United States mails, ransack private homes, butcher defenseless ladies"--anything at all that his villainous imagination may suggest. Everything goes just so long as he will vote for a jingo for president, or an O'donnell for mayor.* And he is winked at by General Dimond and ex-Admiral Meade, and treated to steam beer by other "soldiers" of the national "guard" of patriotic pension pickers. But "the Chinese," who never commit any such depredations, "must go."

[*Note : I mean Dr. C. C. O'donnell of Chinatown, S. F.]

Those very open-air politicians, who are obliged to do their fuming and raving in wagons and on street corners for the reason that the proprietors of public halls refuse them admission, are worse than the Chinese "highbinders" ever dared to be.

Now, I am not advocating the Chinese, by any means. I never did like a Chinaman. Personally, I dislike him very much, but I prefer him to the anarchist and the African at all times. This is merely an expression of candid opinion on the absurdity of allowing those anarchistic old beer-soaked vagrants of the Dennis Kearney, Dr. O'donnell, Eugene Debs class of society, calling themselves orators, to obstruct the public streets to tell their illiterate followers that a man who never interferes with anybody's business must be killed or sent away, while the worst murderers, cut-throats, train-wreckers, robbers, anarchists, bomb-throwers, thieves, and other outlaws that ever went unhanged, are allowed to commit the most atrocious crimes, and go along unmolested.

No politician or office-seeker seems to have the moral courage to say, "The anarchists and Africans must go!" Through fear of losing a few votes, the politicians do not even venture to say that the anarchists must stop coming over from Europe. When an anarchist is brought into court and tried for murder or arson, he generally goes free. The reason of this is because there are enough of them in the country to clog the wheels of the machinery of justice, which are oiled and regulated to protect all manner of fraud, and turn only in the direction indicated by organized political capital. The up-to-date politician is the friend of the anarchist; he cares nothing about his color or odor--he needs his vote.

The very vilest anarchists that ever lived are pouring into New York by the shipload, all the time, and yet no politician seems to make the slightest objection to their coming.

A Chinese exclusion act we already have. What we are sadly in need of now is an European exclusion act that will shut out foreign immigration of all classes. Not that I am opposed to foreigners on general principles; not that I am prejudiced against the better elements of European society, for no one appreciates more than I the indisputable fact that real ladies and gentlemen are desirable citizens, whether they are of Italian, Spanish, French, English, Irish, German, Dutch, or any other civilized nationality; but we have all that we can take care of now, and it is time to announce through Congress that the invitation list is closed. Herein lies a brilliant opportunity for some real American statesman.

The man who frames and engineers this bill through Congress will go down to history, and will be esteemed by all true Americans as the greatest man of the day. The necessity of a general exclusion act is so great and so plain to every good citizen, that, if one is not framed soon, we will be forced into the belief that every member of Congress, capable of framing such a bill, is bought up by the gigantic steamship and railroad companies, and other corporations of Europe and the East, that contract for and bring those immigrants over. As a true born citizen, I move that our gates be locked against this foreign invasion, called immigration, and that the naturalization law be repealed at once. I am not a politician, but I should like to know if there is one politician or office-seeker in the country who is not afraid to second this motion.

An act authorizing the deportation of a few millions of anarchists and savages, irrespective of color or nationality, would be hailed with delight.

If those demons could be returned to their native countries and exchanged for law-abiding persons, Congress would be justified in appropriating a sum sufficient to defray all expenses necessary for transportation both ways. And we could well afford to let English ships do the transporting.

The general exclusion act should contain an article specially designed for the unconditional exclusion of penniless princes, lords, barons, counts, and all other cheap-titled adventurers who, like Prince Andre Poniatowski and Count de Castellane, are likely to be sent over here in the future, by the same board of matrimonial brokers that sent these two sweet-scented "noblemen" (?), to marry rich parvenuesses on percentage. Such adventurers are representatives of the better elements of foreign society about as much, in reality, as are the notorious members of the Parvenucracy who purchase them--and pay their gambling debts and Mistress hire--representatives of true American society; namely, in their feeble minds.

"How much am I offered for myself, my gall and my empty title? "First, second, third and last call and sold to the flour sack."

A special clause should be worded so as to render it utterly impossible for those soulless daughters, adopted daughters, sisters-in-law, or nieces, as the case may be, of our Parvenucracy, who "marry" titled paupers with yellow striped crests, to ever return to America under any pretext whatever.

Those marble-hearted specimens of femininity who trade their very souls and bodies, as well as their ill-gotten gold, for ignoble empty titles, are worse, morally and intellectually, and really do more harm to society at large, than even the unfortunate Chinese and Japanese dancing girls who are imported to this country and sold to the Oriental merchants, who, as soon as they tire of them, again dispose of them to the keepers of houses of shame similar to the house kept by Maud Nelson, the daughter-in-law of the millionaire ex-senator, James G. Fair of Nevada and California.

Not one of Mr. Fair's daughters has succeeded in marrying a prince as yet, but the up-to-date "Magdalen" that his son Charlie married has a past record that, from a moral point of view, would compare favorably, as far as the income from her peculiar business permitted her to go, with that of any prince who has lived since the days of Charles II.; not excepting even Prince Hatzfeldt, who married the "adopted"(?) daughter of the C.P.R.R. octopus, surnamed Huntington; Prince Colonna, who married the daughter of Bonanza Mackay's "wife"; or Prince Poniatowski, whom William H. Crocker, the "king" of Snob Hill, is said to have purchased for a Fourth of July present for his "true American" sister-in-law, Miss Beth Sperry, soon after old man Carpentier, of Oakland, refused to buy it for his little niece, Miss Maude Burke, before the latter became Lady Bache-Cunard.

Source: Chambliss, William H. Chambliss' Diary; Or, Society As It Really Is. 1895: New York.  Library of Congress, "California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900.


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