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Indis.” Chicago goes a step further, it claims to be the first in the realm of enterprise and successful adventure. If you suffer from morbid notions of palæontology, go to Chicago, and the glory of ancient things will there be rivalled by the new.
Within the city of London there is a square of ground which a Rothschild valued at the price of an equal area of golden sovereigns ; here, on lake Michigan, is a spot of land, won from the waters, which aspires to an equal golden value. What have these Western Yanks accomplished to make good their boasting ? Here, thirty-five years ago, they began to build around a solitary trading fort, and in one short generation of fervid American life they have reared a more splendid city than Nineveh. They have lodged in houses of brick and marble, a population, ten times the number of that which clusters round Cape Diamond. From Wisconsin, from Minnesota, from Iowa, from Indiana, from Illinois, yea from far away San Francisco, they have gathered up the reins of the iron roads, and hold them fast at their port on Michigan Lake. Their swing bridges over the river are marvels of ingenuity, but, impatient of delay, they have driven a tunnel under it.
They have conceived the idea that the waters of their lake shall be mingled with the Mississippi floods, to flow thereby, right down to the gulf of Mexico. It shall no longer be the exclusive right of the Britisher to tap the great lakes by his St. Lawrence; they, Western men, will draw them too, by a ship-canal into their own Mississippi. They may well be proud of their waterworks,—the supply can never fail. Two miles out in the lake they have built a “crib" which is connected with the shore by a tunnel carried ten feet under the bed of the lake. It was cut through solid clay, and not a drop of water
percolated from above during its construction. Out at the lake water-house, live the men in charge and their families. There are tide-shuttles, or water-gates fixed at different levels or depths, so that when the upper surface of lake-water is muddy or sandy, a lower and more undisturbed current can be admitted through the bluices, into the crib, for the town's supply. At Mackinaw, and at Sault St. Marie, the water seemed as green as emerald, but when the Chicago folks have filtered it and placed it on their tables, it sparkles like morning dew.
A noble avenuo, composed of pleasant dwellings, runs for miles along the margin of the lake. Pacing its terraces, it is somewhat difficult to understand that the expanse of water before you is only a fresh-water lake, and you would think the breeze which is blowing landward to be no other than one salted in the wide Atlantic.
Sitting over our claret and peaches at dinner with an Iowa merchant, he proposes to take me to the summit of a high mountain to see the thriving city. “ Reckon this 'll try your wind and nerves,” said my lithe western friend as he literally spun round up the interminable steps of the City Hall Tower. At length we were out on the turret, by the side of the straining flag-staff, and looking down upon the city ; from our lofty vantage-post, men looked like mice, and ships like cockle-shell boats. On terrafirma again, the streets seemed full of London life and Parisian toilets. Here is the Irish mason exulting to tell you
of five real dollars earned every day, when his lordship chooses to labour, very different from the twelve pence daily, and the “praties” of the "a'uld counthree." Here is an African lady, of undoubted Ethiopian skin, in ambercoloured garments, and there the Illinois farmer in his rough home-spun grey.
The citizens wanted a Chamber of Commerce, and straightway they built 600,000 dollars into the walls of a noble palace. At Chicago are the offices and head quarters of Pullman's Palace Sleeping Car Company; last year they returned 150,000 dollars as the year's profits, chargeable with Income Tax. Seeing that a traveller pays four dollars for a night's ride in one of the berths of their cars, it is not unreasonable to think their income must be enormous, and the profits princely.
A simile used by an American writer to describe British energy, is equally applicable to Americang
The Scandinavian fancied himself surrounded by Trolls — kind of goblin men, with vast power for work and skilful production–divine stevedores, carpenters, reapers, smiths and masons, swift to reward every kindness done them, with gifts of gold and silver. In all American history this dream comes to pass Certain Trolls or working-brains dwell in the Trollmounts of America, and turn the sweat of their face to power and renown.
Potter Palmer needed a mighty storehouse for his wares, “but it must be sprung up quick, sir.” Mr. Contractor understands all about “American hurry,” and sets to work. Tooled at the quarry, all his marble and stone are brought on to the ground ready for use.
I wish our English masons would remember this. Up rises a fabric, larger than a Manchester cotton-palace, when the first story is up, it is roofed with water-proof cloth, and while masons and bricklayers are building up No. 2, carpenters, painters, and decorators are busy in No. 1. In 60 days after the first stone is laid, the roof will be on, and P.P. will be telling his friends that in two weeks more, he will be selling goods in his new store; and in profits of dollars and cents he will soon win back its cost.
Very ingenious are these Yanks ; as a proof of it my friend Inglis O'Connor showed me in his office, specimens of lacework, beautifully executed in paper, and to crown all, when he explained the mechanism of his safe, lo and behold it opened with a song! Since the days of that wonderful leathern purse of Rob Roy, which was defended by a complex lock and concealed pistol, a slight advance has been made in the construction of such things. These worthy Americans have not all the enterprise of the city to answer for. Inglis took me to a large warehouse owned by three Scotch brothers. They were humble instruments in clothing the gaunt, stalwart men of the West, and not unwilling, for while the New England manufacturers had reaped a goodly crop of profit upon their goods, our friends the storemen came in for a second growth of gain ere they finally dispensed them.
I had a letter to a man of eminence in the city. What do you think was his history? Fifteen years ago he had run away when a boy from his humble home in Exeter, from a ship-builder's yard, and in this western city had risen and gained wealth fast. Is there a shop or block of buildings to be raised a step from their foundation, or to be thrust back a little from the street, Brown is the man to do it, and you may be sure that a goodly share of dollars will be his reward. As we sat in a little conservatory in the heart of dusty Chicago, he told me many a story of his early struggles aud now rising fortunes.
A countryman of mine who left Lincolnshire seventeen years ago, invited me to visit his home in Wisconsin. He has retired from active business ; upon his new estate he has built a comfortable homestead, and he spends his leisure in cultivating peaches and grapes. He will invite me to a row upon the lake which skirts his farm. Its bright waters have rolled there for ages, waiting to become useful to man, and of its beauty no English nobleman need be ashamed. Land and lake have come to the kind-hearted Lincolnshire farmer as the reward of honest labour, and he will perhaps found a family whose influence shall be greater than that of his one-time landlords, the Winns or the Lacys of the old country.
“You will find Chicago a pandemonium of wickedness," said a provincial gentleman to me, when I mentioned my intention of going Westward. Arrived there, the beginning of my experience looked omnious. On the station walls were conspicuous proclamations bidding us beware of “confidence men," on the waters of the adjoining lake a captain was flying the Fenian flag, a green emblem of defiance to my Queen and country; I heard stories from friend Brown of processions of citizens being attacked by the "Ribband Lodge” of the West, the cruel Klu-Klux clan, and murder done; of swarms of disbanded Southern soldiers hanging about the city, always ready for lawless deeds.
But the strongest powers are ranged on the side of order and peace. Each good citizen is for the sake of his own interests “a law unto himself,” and the lawless ones åre sometimes visited with terrible retribution. Sunday Schools and Churches scattered amongst the mansions of Wabash and Michigan avenues, and standing within the purlieu of humbler dwellings, attest the fact that Yanks, Scotch, and English have not left their religion behind them. Here in the metropolis of the West, and in hundreds of farm-houses, which nestle amid the broad corn-lands of Illinois and Iowa, we shall find the earnest faith of New England homes, the Ha Bible of Scotland, and the evangelical belief of Lutheran lands, by the side of the Catholic régime of priest and confession.