San Francisco History

Chambliss' Diary

Chapter XIX.

WE remained in Sydney about two weeks, during which time I became more impressed than ever with the absurdity of the prejudice which exists among certain classes in the Northern and Eastern States against the English and all persons who are British subjects, and a similar prejudice which prevails among the less enlightened elements of English society against America and everything that is American.

How persons of ordinary intelligence and common sense can become so narrow-minded, in these times of civilization and peace, as to entertain personal feelings on account of international differences of opinions, is more than I can understand. With my personal experience, obtained during many years of travel, as a foundation for an opinion on this subject, I do not believe that citizens of either nation who insist on having personal disagreements over certain old international disturbances which are now regarded only as matters of history and things of the past,--by all persons except boodle politicians and their followers,--are possessed of an over-supply of any kind of sense. We are now living in an age of peace and prosperity, and it is time that we should learn that we are civilized.

When I say "we," I do not include those insolent vultures and titled knaves who come over here from Europe to trade their empty titles and immaculate "gall" for the strangely accumulated dollars of certain vulgar old ex-hod-carrier, ex-haberdasher, and ex-barkeeper millionaires, with a daughter, or niece, or sister-in-law, or a "something else" thrown in. Heaven forbid that I should include any such creatures as those when I begin a sentence or a paragraph with the pronoun "we," because they are practically beyond redemption.

Types of "Americans" who hate everything that is English.

Neither do I mean that other equally loathsome division of avowed enemies of society and civilization which includes anarchists, political bosses, bunko steerers, "fruit-pickers" and others. I mean persons who recognize common sense as a legitimate basis upon which to regulate their dealings with their fellow-man and woman; persons who are loyal to the rules and regulations laid down in the great code or rule of action, called the law of nature, which is unquestionably the foundation of every just law of man.

It is a mistake to teach a person to do unto others as he would have others do unto him, unless you teach him to reverse the rule occasionally. No gentleman who has the misfortune to be waylaid and set upon and attacked by a pack of cowardly ruffians, black-leg gamblers, or "fruit-pickers," is going to stand any such contemptible assault without fighting his assailants with whatever weapons he may have, or with his fists if he is unarmed, even though the thugs may be accompanied by one of their gang--in policeman's uniform--to arrest all the combatants, and cart the gentleman off to the police stations with them in the patrol wagon, and then compel the gentleman who was assaulted to send for a bondsman, while the thugs are allowed to go without bail. Such things have happened right in San Francisco and New York, and the thugs have received complimentary notices from their family papers, the Post, World, and Wave, Morning Journal and Police Gazette, whose disreputable proprietors are universally detested by all honorable journalists who know them.

But what are we to expect, since we have so many thugs and cut-throats on the police force, and so many knaves and blackguards in offices which are maintained at the expense of the honest taxpayers? Thugs and cut-throats always stand in with each other, though they sometimes run big political bluffs to secure "blocks of votes," a la C. P. Huntington.

Those dishonorable office-holders, having been "squeezed" and "cinched" by the boodle political bosses like Burns, Rainey, Buckley, Platt, Hume, Cosgrave, and Bartlett, who nominate them, go into office for what they expect to make out of the political industries known as bribery and blackmail. They know that owing to the disreputable character of the "bosses" who put them up for election, they stand no show of ever being re-elected; so they take everything in sight--after the fashion of a certain Sheeny named Levy--during their term in office. It is almost impossible to get a regular already-paid District Attorney to even listen to a charge preferred by an honest citizen against any one of those freebooters.

Types of "Englishmen" who hate all the Americans.

Persons who have no better sense, however, than to vote for a great, big, simple, flabby, overgrown booby, who prides himself on being hail-fellow-well-met with all the steam beer guzzling toughs in a city, deserve no sympathy.

The above is political society, and it is a part and parcel of Parvenucracy--an eternal disgrace to civilization, and an everlasting stain on the fair name of America.

On the 16th of May we took our departure from Sydney, on our return voyage to San Francisco. My new friends came aboard the Mariposa, in a tugboat, just before we left our anchorage in the bay, to see us off.

For some time past the Wilsons had been making preparations for a trip around the world, by way of China and India to England, where they were to pay a visit to Mr. Wilson's parents and relatives; thence to New York, Washington, and Richmond, to see Mrs. Wilson's family and relatives, after which they intended returning to Australia, via New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. Miss Anna was to be one of the party as far as New York, where she was to be placed at some Eastern seminary to complete her schooling.

While Mrs. Wilson was outlining the proposed tour to me, on the deck of the Mariposa, the gong sounded. The deck was crowded with passengers and their friends who had come aboard to see them off, but it did not take long for all not going to get down into the tugs alongside, from the decks of which they waved their parting farewells as the Mariposa weighed anchor and steamed out of the harbor.

We touched at the usual ports of call en route to San Francisco, and made one call that was not on the schedule. When we stopped at Tutuilla, on the 25th of May, Captain Hayward received information that the English bark Henry James, bound from Newcastle, N.S.W., to San Francisco, and consigned to Balfour, Guthrie & Co., had been wrecked at Palmyra Island, and that the captain, officers, crew, and passengers, including two ladies, were all on the barren island, except the first officer and four seamen, who had sailed all the way from the scene of the wreck (1350 miles) to Tutuilla, in one of the lost vessel's lifeboats, to look for assistance. This information was followed by requests from the captain of the U.S.S. Mohican, and the authorities at Apia, to Captain Hayward, to go to the rescue of the unfortunate mariners. These requests were unnecessary, however, because Captain Hayward's mind was already made up.

"If I could only be induced to run for Senator, I would raise politics to a higher social standard."--Mr. Longshortridge, in the Argus (at so much per inch).

Dispatching his business at Tutuilla as speedily as possible, Captain Hayward headed the Mariposa for Palmyra, and gave Chief Engineer Harry Wilson--Handsome Harry as he is called--instructions to "speed her up," and get there as soon as possible.

Four days later we came to, off the treacherous coral reefs, and lowered a lifeboat, and picked up twenty-two of the most pitiable-looking human beings that I had ever seen in all my varied and checkered experiences.

The ill-fated bark had run upon the reefs at night, and she had gone down so suddenly that the crew hardly escaped with their lives, and just what clothing they had on. All hands, except the watch on deck, were asleep at the time she struck, and had no time to dress. In their excitement some of the men had left the wreck with nothing more in the way of baggage than that which they came into the world with.

They had been on the almost barren island fully six weeks, with nothing to shelter them from the broiling rays of the tropical sun except the scanty shade of a few cocoanut trees and two little huts, which had been erected there years before, evidently by some castaways, whose bleached skeletons were there to tell the ghastly tale of the relief that never came. This, of course, added to the horror of the situation during the long and tedious wait of over forty days. All that the unfortunate people had to eat during all this time consisted of cocoanuts and sea-bird eggs, which happened to be plentiful enough when they were first cast ashore, but had almost ceased to exist before relief came. The birds, having discovered that their eggs were being devoured as fast as they could lay them, had abandoned the island and left their guests to starve. Water they had in great abundance, for it rained a little almost every night; but they could not have survived many more days on water alone.

Had the mate's lifeboat been lost before she reached Apia, twenty-two additional skeletons would have been added to the half-dozen already on the lonely island.

First Officer Hart steered the lifeboat which brought the castaways from the reef to the ship. The unhappy mariners were so black from the effects of the sun that they could scarcely be identified as having ever been born white. Long before our arrival, all hands had given up hope, except the two ladies, who stood it bravely until they saw the little American steamer round up within plain view, when they collapsed--woman-like--after all danger was over, and knew nothing more until they found themselves in comfortable staterooms, surrounded by all the luxuries that modern steamships afford, in addition to which they had the genuine sympathy of a score or more of lady passengers. When the famishing strangers were being passed from the lifeboat aboard the Mariposa, there was not a dry optic in the ship.

A sight which brought tears to the eyes of even Mr. Hart, was Captain Lattimore, the commander of the lost vessel. He was the last one to come aboard. His uniform consisted of a piece of canvas about a yard long and ten inches wide, which he wore around his loins. Sticking in this belt, he carried a huge sheath-knife. He came aboard accompanied by his faithful Newfoundland dog, which had been his companion during many stormy voyages. Purser Smith and Dr. Giberson assisted the captain on board, and, each gentleman taking him by an arm, they escorted him up to the bridge and presented him formally to Captain Hayward. As the latter gentleman extended his hand to his unfortunate brother mariner, Captain Lattimore took his sheath-knife from his belt and said: "Captain Hayward, allow me to surrender to you my command, and all that I possess in the world." At the same time his faithful dog sat down in front of Captain Hayward and held up his big, shaggy paw for the old man to shake, whining moanfully, as if pleading for his master.

Captain Ralph Lattimore and his dog coming aboard the Mariposa, at Palmyra Island.

Hayward is a strong man, but this was a little too much for him. He tried hard to smile, but he had to turn his head away and reach for his handkerchief, while he led Captain Lattimore into his private cabin and bade him help himself to anything on board the ship.

When the excitement of receiving the weather-beaten British tars had subsided somewhat, His Reverence the Archbishop of New Zealand, who was a passenger on board the Mariposa on his way to Rome, sent word around to the other gentlemen passengers to assemble in the social hall. There were about twenty-five of those gentlemen, including Englishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, Spaniards, and Americans, and each man understood what the Archbishop meant. In less time than it takes to write this story, over £ 125, equal to over 3000 francs, or the same amount of marks, or at least 1000 pesos, or about $600, were subscribed willingly by the passengers, and turned over to the good Archbishop, who in turn divided the contributions equally among the rescued castaways, adding a dollar to each out of his own pocket.

On the first of June we arrived at Spreckels' dock at Honolulu, where Captain Hayward turned over to British Minister Wodehouse the twenty-two English subjects.

The next day, June 2, we left Honolulu and pointed our prow for San Francisco.

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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