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Assembly intrusted the delicate task of preparing the groundwork of discussion with the commissioners; and subsequently he was appointed to the Committee of Nine which the following year presented to the Great Sanhedrin the conclusions which had been formulated and agreed upon by the Assembly and helped to secure their adoption.
The Sanhedrin and the first Napoleon had become a memory, and Europe was experiencing a new cycle of oppression and revolution, when my father reached maturity.
The Revolution of 1848 was a heroic effort of the liberal forces of Europe to achieve constitutional government. Its failure in Germany caused a general exodus of participants to other countries. A host came to the United States, including such men as Sigel, Schurz, Stahl, and many others who later gained eminence as Generals in the Civil War. Americans in spirit, having made their sacrifices basically for American principles, they constituted a valuable acquisition to American citizenship.
Those who remained, who were prevented by circumstances from emigrating, were subjected to all those petty annoyances and discriminations which a reactionary government never fails to lay upon people who have revolted and revolted in vain. My father was only locally prominent in the revolutionary movement, and, though not actively prosecuted, was made to feel that emigration was the only means of relief.
Paramount also were the economic circumstances in which he found himself after the Revolution. Before the event a landowner and grain dealer on a large scale, he was now reduced financially, even in debt. Assuredly, a place where
reactionary and triumphant officialdom delighted in annoying one was not the scene for a retrieval of fortune. He wanted a new field for his enterprise. In 1852 he left for America.
GETTING A NEW START IN DIXIE
Like the prudent man he was, he went alone, to establish himself first, if only in a small way, rather than allow his family to exchange the comparative security of their familiar surroundings for the doubtful insecurity of an unknown land.
"Go South," was the recommendation of former acquaintances whom he met after landing in Philadelphia. Acting on this suggestion, he went on to Oglethorpe, Georgia, where he met some more acquaintances from the old country. Through them he made a connection with two brothers Kaufman, who plied the peddler's trade. They owned a peddler's wagon, with which they dispensed through the several counties of the State an assortment of dry-goods and what were known as Yankee notions. For my father this was indeed a pioneer business in a pioneer country, yet it was not like the peddling of today. In the fifties the population of the whole State of Georgia was only about 900,000. Because of the existence of slavery there were on the large plantations often more colored people than there were whites living in the near-by villages. The itinerant merchant, therefore, filled a real want, and his vocation was looked upon as quite dignified. Indeed, he was treated by the owners of the plantations with a spirit of equality that it is hard to appreciate to-day. Then, too, the existence of slavery drew
born, December 23. 1850
a distinct line of demarcation between the white and black races. This gave to the white visitor a status of equality that probably otherwise he would not have enjoyed to such a degree.
Provided only, therefore, that the peddler proved himself an honorable, upright man who conscientiously treated his customers with fairness and made misrepresentations regarding his wares, he was treated as an honored guest by the plantation owners-certainly a spirit of true democracy. The visits were made periodically and were quite looked forward to by the plantation owners. The peddler usually stayed one night at the house of his customer, and took his meals with the family.
Another ideally democratic feature about these sojourns was that spirit of Southern hospitality which, even in the relationship between the wealthiest and most aristocratic family and the humble peddler, permitted no pay for board and lodging, and only a small charge for food for the horses. The peddler, in turn, usually made a gift to either the lady or her daughter. Often he provided himself with articles for this purpose, but usually on one visit he would find out what might be welcome and on the next visit bring it. The bonds of friendship thus made are, I venture to say, hardly understandable in our day.
In the course of these wanderings my father came to Talbotton, a town of some eight or nine hundred inhabitants, the county seat of Talbot County, and about forty miles east of the Alabama boundary. Talbotton immediately impressed him so favorably that he selected it as the next home for his family. It had an air of refinement that pleased him; here were gardens with nicely cultivated flowers and shrubbery, and houses that were neat, well kept, and properly painted. Upon inquiry, he found further that there were splendid schools for both boys and girls.
There was another factor which doubtless caused father to be favorably impressed with Talbotton; it was court week when he arrived, at which time a town has a more or less festive appearance and is at its best so far as activity is concerned. Then there was a third factor that influenced him to settle there. Before doing business in any county peddlers were required to go to the county seat to buy a license. At Talbotton this license was very high, and my father doubted that his business in Talbot County would warrant the expense. The idea occurred to him to utilize the presence of the many strangers in town to test the possibilities of the place by unpacking and displaying his goods in a store. An interview with Captain Curley, the only tailor in the town, developed the fact that the store he occupied was too large for his needs and he would be willing to share it with my father. So this arrangement was promptly made, and at a cost less than the expense of the county license for itinerant merchandising.
The experiment proved most satisfactory. In a few weeks the stock was so depleted that my father proposed to his partner that they rent a store and settle in Talbotton. This they did. My father then prepared to go to Philadelphia to get a stock of goods. His partner counseled against this. There was a merchant in Oglethorpe who up to this point had supplied them with all their merchandise; they would need to refer to him for credit, and they were still indebted to him for the stock in hand; also he would probably not approve of their settling down in a store instead of peddling. The new store offered large display space in comparison with the wagon, and the partner doubted my father's ability to get enough credit in Philadelphia to make a proper display. Still another obstacle: The line of merchandise that was to constitute most of their stock was what was then known as dry-goods and domestics. This business was entirely in the hands of the Yankees, and the most difficult one in which to gain a foothold, especially for a German immigrant without capital.
Having opened the store, my father toiled long hours to make it prosper. But it was two years before he could send for the family.
DEACONS DUELED WITH KNIVES Three years previous to this my mother had suffered a paralytic stroke. The long, trying trip to America with four small children called for courage and resource to an unusual degree. The oldest child, Isidor, was nine years old, my sister Hermine seven and a half, Nathan six, and myself three and a half
We arrived at New York September 12, 1854. My father met us at the dock. Yellow fever was raging in Savannah, the port through which we had to pass to reach Talbotton, so we pelled to wait in Philadelphia until it was considered safe to proceed. Talbotton was on court days filled with visitors and wore a holiday air. Sometimes the liquor flowed a little too freely among the visitors, and knife and pistol fights followed. In one case two deacons of the same church altercated until one slashed the other to death with his knife.
After considerable delay the murderer was tried, but because of his high stand
South that kind of quarreling meant a serious fight.
I think because of these facts the Southern boys were much more guarded and polite to each other in speech than was customary among Northern boys. Perhaps much of the so-called Southern politeness had its roots in the use in boyhood of milder terms in case of disagreement.
CIRCUIT RIDERS CHARMED BY
On the whole, though, the town itself was for those times an enlightened and
ing in the community he was acquitted, moderately prosperous community. Our
doubtless on the plea of self-defense, and he got off scot free.
This all left a deep impression on my young mind and made me a prohibitionist long before I knew the meaning of the word. In the North when boys got to fighting they used their fists; in the South they used, besides their fists, sticks and stones, and consequently it was a more serious and dangerous affair. If in the North one boy cursed another or called him a liar it would not necessarily lead to a fist fight; in fact, it usually stopped at recrimination.
family was received with kindness. We quickly became accustomed to our new environment. My mother and father soon enjoyed local fame for different excellences-mother for the trimness and skillful cultivation of her flower and
regetable patch, father for his Biblical While housewives admired rudition. the horticultural skill of my mother. circuit-riding ministers went into long theological discussions with my father. Ours was a hospitable home, though modest, and never a circuit rider came to Talbotton but he had dinner at our
house, after which the discussions commenced in earnest. If a text was in question, my father always had his Hebrew copy of the Old Testament at hand and was ready to translate passages literally for their information.
I was thus fairly brought up on theological discussion. From my earliest days, it seems, I have been so situated as to be made aware of denominational controversy. At the table in my parents' home I saw and listened to representatives of every Christian creed. In college I figured, but as an olive-branched neutral, in the feud between "Evidences of Christianity" and the non-Episcopalians. And later years saw me in Turkey as the American diplomatic envoy, defending the representatives of Christian churches from the hostility of the Turk.
My brother Isidor and my sister were immediately sent to school, and my sec ond brother and I were likewise sent as soon as we arrived at school age. We were the only Jewish family in the town. This aroused the curiosity of those who had never met persons of our race or religion before. I remember hearing a man express the doubt that we were
Jews: He stated with some assurance that all Jews had black hair and dark complexions, while my father was blond and blue-eyed.
My father sent Nathan and myself to a Sunday school at this time. Here we heard the Bible read and were taught principally from the Old Testament. Our teacher was a gunsmith who had more piety than knowledge. What he lacked in erudition he made up in good intentions. But long talks with my father formed the backbone of my religious instruction.
FIRST LESSONS IN ORATORY
In 1863 our family moved to Columbus, Georgia. A great, a tremendous city, I thought-blocks of brick houses, a broad Main Street, 12,000 inhabitants. The public school had not yet been established in Georgia. Off I was sent to schoolmaster Flynn's private institution of learning, where I was taught the three R's, Latin, and elocution-a great deal of the last. For, South and North, it was the great oratorical period. Like the rest, I practiced before the mirror and under the trees. Though my first piece before the school assembly was an avowal of undying courage, a recital of John Adams's "Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Constitution," I could not resist stage fright. I sank and swam-lived and died-survived and perished-with shaky knees.
Flynn was no rod-sparer and childspoiler, so I was not sorry, a year later, when his school was discontinued, to study under Dr. Dewey, who was less severe and had wider sympathy and culture. Under him I began Virgil and afterwards Horace.
There were no public libraries there, and few individuals excepting professional men had many books. The standard assortment consisted of the Bible, Josephus, Burns. A few had Shakespeare's works.
Aside from my school readings I was not bookish. Boys of my age led an outdoor life there. Barefoot nine months of the year, each of us the possessor of a shotgun, we hunted wild fowl and rabbits in season and out and indulged passionately in all the seasonable sports, top-spinning, marbles, ball-playing the last not in the form seen to-day, but a game called town ball.
COFFEE MADE OF SWEET POTATOES
Our home was comfortable, wholesome, hospitable, and our wants so few and simple that I felt as happy and independent as any child of the richest. My mother was an excellent manager, and on very moderate resources the house shone with cheerfulness.
Life in the South, except among the owners of large plantations who entertained on a lavish scale, was simple. A simple life has its advantages in inducing self-help and in not making one unhappy because of the absence of those things which are regarded as luxuries.
I recall that in our part of the country coffee was unobtainable except when a few bags arrived on a ship that had run the blockade. Our mothers found a palatable substitute by cutting sweet potatoes in little cubes, drying them in the sun, then roasting and grinding them as one would the ordinary bean. This made a palatable drink colored like coffee and without the harmful stimulant of caffeine. When salt gave out and candles became scarce, ingenuity came into play. Every family had its smoke-house for curing meats, and the earth floors of the smoke-houses were found to be permeated considerably with salt from previous curings; so a method of extraction was devised. Candleseach family knew how to make them from a mixture of fat and beeswax melted and poured into tin molds. We children helped our mothers make those candles. They gave a soft light for our living-room and for our studies at night.
Children of my age lived largely upon corn-bread and molasses, which never ceased to be plentiful.
IMPRESSIONS OF SLAVERY
As a boy brought up in the South, I did not question the right or wrong of slavery. Its existence, like any other custom or institution, I regarded as a matter of course. The grown people of the South, whatever they thought about it, would not, except in rare instances, speak against it; and even then in the most private and guarded manner. To do otherwise would subject one to social ostracism.
We heard slavery defended in the pulpit and justified on Biblical grounds by leading ministers. With my father it was different. I frequently heard him
Where the future ambassador rent to school in Talbot County. Georgia
discuss the subject with the ministers who came to our house, and he would point out to them that the Bible must be read with discrimination and in relation to the period to which the chapters refer; and it must not be forgotten that it is the history of a people covering more than a thousand years; and that even then there had been no such thing as perpetual bondage, as all slaves were declared free in the year of jubilee.
Looking backward and making comparisons between my observations as a boy in the South and later in the North, I find there was much more freedom of expression in the North than in the South. Few people in the South would venture to express themselves against the current of dominant opinion upon matters of sectional importance. The institution of slavery with all that it implied seemed to have had the effect of enslaving, or, to use a milder term, checking, freedom of expression on the part of the master class only in lesser degree than among the slaves themselves.
In our town, as in all Southern communities, the better families were kind, especially to their household slaves, whom they regarded as members of the family requiring guardianship and protection, as if they were children. And the slaves addressed their masters by their first names and their mistresses as "Miss." My mother, for instance, was "Miss Sara." I recall one of our servants pleading with my mother:
"Miss Sara, won't you buy me? I want to stay here. I love you and the white folks here, and I am afraid my master will hire me out or sell me to some one else."
At that time we hired our servants from their masters, whom we paid an agreed price. But, as the result of such constant pleadings, my father purchased household slaves one by one from their masters, although neither he nor my mother believed in slavery. If we children spoke to the slaves harshly or disregarded their feelings, we were promptly checked and reprimanded by our parents. My father also saw to it that our two men-servants learned a trade; the one learned tailoring and the other how to make shoes, though it was regarded as disloyal-at any rate, looked upon with suspicion-if a master permitted a slave boy or girl to be taught even reading and writing. When later we came North, we took with us the two youngest servants, one a boy about my age, and the other a girl a little older. They were too young to look out for themselves, and, so far as they knew, they had no relatives. We kept them with us until they grew up and could look out for themselves.
a club-like block of buff brick, with garage to match, stood cool and impressive behind a formal lawn.
As a matter of fact, the man in the flivver was neither cocky nor a millionaire, although the number of servants in his house proclaimed the latter. He was merely Martin, of Martin & Co., jobbers in paper and twine; a stocky, round-headed man who wore his hair clipped in summer and his overcoat in winter.
Every one at the office swore by him. There were few who at one time or another had not been given a lift home in his flivver sedan.
But he was in no such favor at the house he was now approaching. Peter, his wife's chauffeur, rolled the garage doors for him with a superior expression. The same indefinable something lurked in the bland face of the butler as he unchained the side door.
THE RICH HOUSE"
BY CONRAD RICHTER
His wife's face showed perfunctory appreciation.
"That is something." She hesitated, her eyes revealing first the thought behind them. "I must confess I have felt like a beggar recently. The Steeses have bought the Temple antiques. They are going to store their own lovely furniture. Imagine that wonderful old home furnished with those priceless things!" Her voice became bitter. "And we do not even own a stamp collection."
Her husband glanced soberly past her into the bedroom beyond, from which the perfume of her bath came luxu riantly. Certain of the eagerness had left his eyes. His voice, however, remained strong.
"You've got to realize, Bess, that a jobber doesn't have margin enough to make a million. In fact, just now, with his warehouse full and the market going the wrong way, his margin is against him." His eyes forcibly regained their buoy ancy. "But nobody can say it isn't a great spring day. They called it summer down at the office. What do you say to running out to the farm a couple days and loaf around, I've been plug "Madame is not down as yet, I think, ging pretty hard. Guess you have, too.
"The lady about, Oliver?" queried Martin, in his cheerful, business-bred democracy.
ARTIN nodded a chin chiseled by long arguments with competition, hung his inexpensive hat on the glittering newel lamp, and started vigorously up the wide padded stairs. Behind him with a shrug, Oliver lifted the hat gingerly to the antlered rack overhanging the massive hall table.
At the same moment in the upper hall the door to a bedroom opened and Mrs. Elisabeth Martin emerged, suited, hatted, and gloved. She stopped, a trifle surprised to see her husband home from the office before five-thirty. He met her glance of modulated doubt with hearty enthusiasm.
"Got some news, Bess. Came home a little early to celebrate. Saved around twelve thousand to-day on a rotten market! The way things are now, that's something to brag about."
Do us good."
Mrs. Elisabeth Traylor Martin's face revealed traces of slight irritation. "I cannot understand, George, why you persist in remaining so stubbornly attached to that place when you know how it annoys me. We are really quite beyond the farm stage,' although you don't seem aware of it. I have been always thankful Mrs. Steese has never seen it. I can imagine her secret amusement at your red barn and whitewashed house. There is no effort to keep it from being terribly common."
"Why, that's the best part of it," protested her injured husband. "It lets us get this house and the help off our back. We're free. Nobody expects us to dress up or not to chop wood or help milk the cows or feed the stock-or dry the dishes, if we want to."
For a second he thought he had aroused a latent spark in his wife's eyes.
"Remember," he pleaded on, "when we started housekeeping in that two-room apartment on Second Street. Remember how our writing-table couldn't hold all the dinner dishes, so you had to put the bread-plate and sugar-bowl on the footboard of the bed. Remember how when company came somebody had to sit on the fancy cushion on the high trunk and somebody had to sit on the bed. Those were happy days, Bess!"
"They were ridiculously silly," replied his wife. "We were so simple-minded we didn't know what pleasures we were missing. Any one can be happy if they wish to be ignorant. If you feel an incurable tendency toward the country, George, why not buy a place like the Merrils'? You remember the big hedge along River Road. The house is Elizabethan, with a wonderful casino for teas. There is room for the servants and quarters for the gardeners. The Riverside Country Club is right aside. You can golf. The greenhouse and flowers are simply gorgeous. I am sure, if we bought, Mrs. Merril would propose my name to the Garden Club. George, Junior, should never feel ashamed to invite his friends there."
"Good Lord!" said her husband. "He isn't ashamed to ask them out to the farm, is he?"
"Let us hope so," devoutly commended his wife.
"I can't believe that, Bess. There's fifty times more fun for a boy on our farm than the slick Merril place."
"Perhaps for a boy when you were one," informed his wiser half. "Not for a boy to-day."
"If there's an animal that doesn't change," declared Martin positively, “it's a boy."
Downstairs on the library's white mantel a clock chimed. His wife drew back a hurried coat sleeve, then hastened to the head of the stairs.
"Oliver! Tell Peter to come!" She glanced back to her husband. "I shall return later to help Laura pack. The Ellises have asked me to Elliswood for a special house party. I have f
George, Junior." She plucked a hair from her skirt. "If you care to run out to the Merril place next week, I will try to go along. I know you will rave when you see it." At the sound of the rolling garage door she gave a dainty gesture of gloved adieu and gracefully descended the noiseless stairs.
THE car door clashed. The noise of the
Tmotor was subsequently lost in the
motor was subsequently lost in the stream of traffic on the street. Martin remained glancing out of the three slender landing windows to the grim graystone wall of the old Muhlenberg house next door. Mary, the upstairs girl, came blundering in from the back hall, humming a little Gaelic song she had learned in County Clare thirty years before. He did not glance up or around.
Later the sound of fresh young voices from the drive roused him. They were in the front hall by the time he descended the stairs-George, Junior, and another boy from the Select Hill School; Herbert, his first name was. He lived a few doors away in a brand-new Colonial pile. Martin greeted them with unaffected heartiness.
"Well, boys, how does a day like this strike your blood? How'd you fellows like to run out with me to the farm to-morrow morning?"
There was little of the expected boyish whoop. Martin saw the other youth inspect him almost brazenly from head to foot.
"How'd we go?" wondered his own boy without much enthusiasm.
"Well," replied his father, jocularly, "my Rolls-Royce ought to hold a couple lightweights like us."
Now he was nearly certain it was insolence in the eyes of the strange boy. His own son scorned him passively.
"I don't see what you want us to get shook up in a tin lizzie all the way out there for! There's nothing special going on, is there? I'm not crazy over just hiking around some old fields. Are you, Herbert?"
"I'm not!" observed that youth with cold finality.
Martin looked slightly jolted.
"You don't want to drive horses, or jump in the haymow, or go fishing, or chew birch bark, or look for a phoebe's nest on a day like this!" he demanded, incredulously.
George, Junior, looked to his friend. That young man slightly curled the corner of his mouth. The father played his last card.
"Well, look here. How about getting Mrs. Hopple to make fresh strawberry ice-cream. How's that?"
"Oh, Lord, dad," said George, Junior, "I had only two ice-cream sodas to-day! Besides, I'm going out to Herbert's country place to-morrow. They have a garage with four cars and a boat-house with a thirty-foot launch." He turned with sudden interest to his companion. 'You said you'd make Thomas show me
o run the electric!" The Herbert nted. They hurried out by the
Martin glanced at his watch. It was five-forty. Who at the office wanted to talk to him now?
"This is Martin," he answered in the little booth at the end of the hall, an upright coffin that reeked with expensive cigarette incense. "Oh, howdy, Ed? ... Six wires in one hour, Ed! They must have had a powwow. I'll say so. Six cents is some drop. I guess we'll have to let her drop. What's the loss? . . . I said, what's the loss if we do lose something? What's a hundred thousand dollars? . . . No, I'm not crazy, Ed. I was. . . . I said, I was crazy. I'm not now. I guess I don't understand myself, Ed. Cheer up. If I'm not worried, you got no reason to be. See you to-morrow. Good-night." He hung up. Somehow the world seemed better, his back a bit eased from the long unsuspected strain.
RS. Elisabeth Traylor Martin returned to the buff-brick home in Millionaires' Row a day earlier than she had anticipated. Her husband heard her soprano voice greet Oliver briefly at the front door. He was surprised to find himself so calm. A week ago, under a similar crisis, he would have been wanting to pace the room. Now as he heard the quick steps to the library he had to force himself to lay down his magazine.
"Hello, Bess!" he greeted kindly, rising. "Have a nice time?"
There was no reply from the white, frightened-looking woman. Swiftly she closed the door to the broad hall, then advanced unsteadily to the other side of the richly lighted birch table.
"It can't the paper this morning couldn't-if you're taking it like this!" He bowed his head in simple emotion. "Martin & Company's failed, Bess. My fault principally. Paper's been too high. We carried too much stock. When the drop came, we couldn't unload." He made a crude reluctant gesture. got to be brave, Bess. I asked Harry Trine to buy the farm, so the Hopples would have a decent landlord."
"Not everything, George?" agonized his wife, piteousness in her eyes.
He brought down his head the infinitesimal part of an inch that was
into the high wing-chair by the white fireplace. Daze, horror, humiliation, reproach, self-pity chained her face. Presently she rose and managed to walk from the room. Standing by the library table, he could hear the key turn in her lock upstairs.
She did not come down at any time during the following day, but, to his eminent relief, appeared for breakfast the third morning, pale, bitterly resigned to the inevitable. The meal, for
the most part, was eaten in silence. The father never remembered seeing George, Junior's, young quantity of self-assurance so scattered and subdued. It was as if he had suddenly become aware of higher powers in the world than his
In the hall, later in the morning, she asked whether they could not leave the city. It did not matter where-just so they should meet no one she knew. She also wished she might be permitted to escape the harrowing details of the sale, the humiliation before the servants and neighbors.
He assured her on both counts earnestly. Without comment she started upstairs. As if on second thought, she turned on the landing and gave him the ghost of a rallying smile. It lightened for him much of that gray day.
To his slight surprise, George, Junior, instead of accompanying her, preferred to remain by the sinking ship. It was to be the first auction of his young life, and his intimate rôle in the proceedings was too rare to be wasted. The red flag especially excited his boyish interest. Young Herbert from the Colonial pile was not in evidence.
The servants in a body attended. Peter, the only married one of the group, bought a few trifles, to the whispered applause of the others. Once Martin thought he saw Mary dab at her eyes, but he wasn't sure. She stood a little apart from her companions. The prices paid seemed like some harsh burlesque. He was thankful Bess was not there to be tortured.
It was late when he and Junior said a final good-by to the house, now cold and unfamiliar in bare walls and floors. The boy had insisted upon remaining without supper until the end. His unfevered young eyes had missed nothing. As piece after piece of furniture, long intimates of his young life, were knocked down to strangers and carried out, he seemed to grasp the deeper meaning and extent of his family's misfortune. Once or twice Martin found his eyes on him with that mute understand ing that comes from the unknown to grip the hearts of companions in distress.
"What are you going to do now?" he whispered in the trolley en route to the small hotel where his mother awaited them.
"Oh," said his father, with an effort toward his old heartiness, "I guess I can find a job some place."
HEY unearthed a small, sordidly furnished apartment in Elverson, a thriving little city thirty-two miles east. The apartment was on the third floor. When the wind was from the east, it brought to their nostrils the acrid taste of a cigar factory; from the west, smoke from a tall stack several squares distant. The apartment curtains and bed-linen were hardly immaculate in consequence, and the window-sills persisted in cinders. But George, Junior's, mother informed her husband, far rather this than