There is None, Thank Heaven, In America Now.
None So Poor We Do Not Do Them Reverence,
Provided They Have a Title in the Family.
Kanaka, Negro, the Child of Adventurer or Throned Lewdness, It Matters Not If the Title is Good.
Correspondence of the Mail.]
New York, May 30.—This is the age of liberality and emancipation—liberty of thought and emancipation from all confining prejudices. We live in an age in which all men and women may do as they please, provided they do not infringe on the rights of others, and we have found the happy millennium when all men are free and equal in age as they were at the time of their creation.
Thank Heaven we Americans have no prejudices. We open the World’s Fair on Sunday, sell liquor at all hours of the night, permit women to market their bodies as their souls, countenance big hats at the theater and give Chinese and negroes equal rights. Our society has as warm a welcome for vice as for virtue, provided the former buys her clothes at Worth’s and regards an English beast a fit mate for an American queen if he has only a coat-of-arms on his carriage.
Thank Heaven we are getting above all the vulgar prejudices of truth and decency, that we do not condemn our women to wear the fetters of matrimony as a shield for their offspring, and have decided that they and we are entitled to all the license that the monkey folk and the pigs have.
Free from prejudice! Never was a people half so free.
Before the war the wicked people in the South used magnifying glasses to search amid the roots of a maiden’s hair for the evidence of a trace of negro blood, which if found would send her to the brothel or the slave pen.
Four months ago there came to this land a young woman who wore the title of the Princess Kaiulani, heir-apparent to the throne of Hawaii, and hopeful some day of becoming ruler of the poi-eating, hula-dancing, leprous population of some fly-speck islands. She came with an English grocer named Davis to tell her great and good friend Grover Cleveland that it would be wrong to take away her throne to make a Jim Blaine holiday. There was no secret about her birth and parentage. The Hawaiian Minister in Washington knew all about her, and the Commission took pains to tell that she was the daughter of Prince Like Like [Princess Likelike], who had married a Scotchman named Cleghorn. Presumptively she was Cleghorn’s daughter, but if the other story told was true what matter, for among the Hawaiians the law has always been that the child shall take its standing from the mother. Hawaiian morality, which gave freedom of choice to the woman, made such a law necessary. There could be no doubt about the mother, and the father was no one’s business but the mother’s. So let it go that Kaiulani was begotten by one Cleghorn, a Scotch adventurer stranded on the shore of Oahu, where he took a native woman for a wife and lived at her expense ever afterwards. Being princess only as the daughter of Like Like, we look to the mother for her origin. She was own sister to Kalakaua and, like him, the child of a native woman who bore them out of wedlock. To all who lived in Honolulu then their father was known as Nigger John, a stranded colored escape from a whaler who shaved men and took the fancy of a native woman. Look at one of the silver coins of Kalakaua or at his portrait and there you see the thick lips, kinky hair and projecting jaw of the negro. Look at Kalakaua and you see the kink in the hair, the blue in the nails and, despite the taint of white blood from her father, even more indisputable evidence of negro blood than in her Uncle David.
The mixture of Kanaka, negro and adventurer; this incarnation of rapacity, lust and wantonness, came to Washington to the hear of the land, where but a few years ago even the purest of her race were tabooed. She came with a ridiculous Englishman who had become her guardian for the sake of notoriety, and who carried around a big red cushion for her to sit upon that her seat might look like a miniature throne. It was not her fault that her guardian is an ass, her parentage doubtful and her grandfather a negro; that she only represented vicious ancestors; but what do you think of Washington society that went wild over this girl; of the mothers and daughters of the proudest and best families in the haughty South struggling and scrambling to clutch her hand or kiss her lips?
Free from prejudice! Well, I should smile.
They knew all about her ancestors, for the papers had told the tale; they knew all of the base lives of her people, for that had been trumpeted about, but they did not care—she had in her veins the blood of a man who 100 years ago had made himself a king because he was able to whip any other man in the Islands, and, though that blood was mixed with negro barber and white adventurer at the rate of two to one, it was enough.
New York once had a 400, till McAllister in his wisdom cut it down to 150. That 150 includes the females of Astors, Vanderbilts, Van Rensselaers and other Dutch who peddled or raised vegetables on Manhattan Island in early days. They are so exclusive that they disown their own children if they marry outside of the set, and so haughty that ordinary people laugh at them. We are told that money will not gain admission to their circle, and their doors are barred against the good and virtuous of their sex who lack Knickerbocker blood.
Once there was a Queen of Spain whose vices were the talk of the world. Her name, Isabella, was a byword and a reproach; it was typical of wantonness. She shared with Catherine of Russia and Cleopatra the odium of the greatest licentiousness possible to woman. She was the scandal of courts, the reproach of her nation. A Pope once remonstrated with her for her open contempt of decency, and priest chided her from their pulpits. No one dared excuse her, and the only palliation ever offered was that her reason was shaken. She had a daughter who, like the daughter of Like Like, took rank from her mother. The father was no consequence and was unknown. Whether a French officer, a Spanish soldier or an Italian professor, did not matter. Isabella kept her secret. This daughter is the Infanta of Spain, and to boom the World’s Fair she is now the guest of the American government. No doubt she is a very nice young woman, a kind mother and a good wife to a handsome husband younger than herself. She is not beautiful, has a dark mustache on her lip, gracious manner and common sense. She was received by the proper officials, met the wives and daughters of the Tammany leaders and agreed to attend a reception given by the New York Hundred and Fifty and a few more. A hall was hired for the occasion, and at one end of a throne the hundred and fifty ladies of Manhattan had spread a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of tapestry and thousands of dollars’ worth of flowers. The common people sat in boxes and gazed.
At the proper time the ladies that head America’s best society, who had been spending hours practicing a courtesy, advanced, one at a time, touched her hand and backed out from her presence. Then came a lady portly of figure, large of stomach and displaying a mighty pair of fat shoulders that looked like a mass of castile soap—the mottled kind. Her train was two yards long, her diamonds worth a score of fortunes. Her ample bust looked as if she had nourished a dozen giant cubs, but it was not beautiful. She tripped to the steps of the throne, and then bowing till her fat knees bore on the ground the weight of her body she seized the hand of Isabella’s daughter and kissed it. She seemed to like it, and her lips fairly slobbered. The spectators shuddered, and the man at the Infanta’s side looked disgusted.
It was Mrs. Astor. Next came Mrs. Paran Stevens, fatter and coarser and more wobbly of flesh than the Astor woman, bowed to her knees and kissed the hand that Mrs. Astor had slobbered over.
The look of disgust on the face of the man who calls the Infanta wife deepened, and he spoke to the major domo. More fat women came and knelt, and kissed the Infanta’s hand.
Seven of them did this, and then the major domo spoke.
“No more now,” he said; “presently.”
The Infanta and her husband looked relieved; they left the throne and made their way to a box, where, behind the curtains, they laughed and sneered.
There is no prejudice, thank Heaven, in American society now! BASCOM.
(Stockton Evening Mail, 6/6/1893, p. 5)