Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Is this old work as bad as people really try to make us believe it is? If things are as wicked as we are daily taught, then Sodom and Gomorrah have the present age worked down to a frazzle. The pulpits and the moral reformers picture to us a world so far gone in sin that there seems little hope for the future. Since the outcry of the past four or five years began about the white slave traffic, it is not safe for one’s wife, mother or daughter to start on a journey to the neighboring republic without running the risk of being held up at the border as a suspicious character, and not fit to be at large. And the same conditions exist as to women coming into Canada. Before the white slave traffic was supposed to exist, it was the proud boast of women that they could travel anywhere in Canada and in the United States free from suspicion, and that they were treated courteously by officials and every other man. It is not so now. A modest woman has to be subjected to a categorical examination by officials on both sides of the line that brings the blush of shame to her cheeks. The officials seem to be no respecters of persons. This outrage has got be so enormous that it is not safe for a woman to travel alone anymore. A woman came to Hamilton recently as a demonstrator of a certain line of goods from one of the leading houses in New York city to one of the leading houses in this city. She was a modest woman and gave close attention to her duties. Her salary, not being large enough to warrant her stopping at a high-priced hotel, and it is next-to-impossible for a woman who is a stranger to get admission to a private boarding house, she was compelled to take up her abode in one of the smaller hotels. It was not many days before the scandal manger got in her work. The story was sent abroad that this woman, who has only her reputation and ability as a demonstrator to depend upon, was engaged in the white slave traffic, and was reported to the police. The result was a detective called upon her and warned her to leave the town forthwith, and the woman would have been driven forth had it not been that her case was taken up by one of official influence. This woman was endorsed by the house in New York in whose services she was employed, and there was no reason whatever why she should have been interfered with.


          Here is another side to this picture of women who come and go without hindrance. Every now and then an item appears in the city papers of colored women enticing men into alleys and robbing them of money and valuables. No sympathy need be wasted on the salacious characters who are led into the alleys, but it shows that women of that class come into Canada from Buffalo and other border towns, commit robberies and get out with the utmost freedom. Why is it that the officers on both sides of the line allow such women to come and go at their pleasure, and yet when a decent lady attempts to enter either country, she is subjected to the most humiliating catechizing because the officer has suspicions that are an insult to every virtuous woman?


          During the summer months, comers and goers from either country are subjected to the vilest suspicion, no matter how respectable the person is in appearance. A couple of years ago, an American citizen was travelling to his home in the western states on a visit, accompanied by his wife. The couple had passed the allotted three score and ten, had every appearance of health and respectability and had money enough and to spare to pay their expenses, yet the man was subjected to a most humiliating catechizing by an immigrant officer while crossing on the ferry boat to Detroit. It did not matter to the officer that the passenger was an American citizen, had served in the army during the civil war, but he wanted to know why an American citizen should live ten or twelve years in Canada, even though he was engaged in legitimate business. While the immigration laws of both countries are necessary to prevent undesirables from going to and fro, yet they were never intended to bear oppressively upon respectable people who are travelling on business or for pleasure. Canada is holding out inducements to people in foreign lands to come over and supply the demand for labor, yet let an American attempt to come across the river to seek employment and the law bars him at the entrance gates. The present condition of affairs is all a muddle, and some of these days there must come a change for the better. Not many years ago, people could go and come at will – men with families desiring a change of homes, and men who wanted to change their labor from one country to another, hoping to better their conditions. What with alien labor law and white slave traffic scares, one has to run the gauntlet in changing from one country to the other. Women of loose morals seem to fare better in passing inspection at the borders than do virtuous women and girls. For instance, the police in Hamilton make a raid on undesirable houses and the police magistrate renders the inmates to leave town or suspend business. The unfortunate inmates must live even if they do not reform, and they are driven from one town to another. They can always manage to escape the officers and get across the river or they come from across the river and pollute Canadian towns. The men, who are equally guilty, stay tight at home and keep up the work of debauching girls. From the accounts we read in the daily papers, married men desert their homes and families and elope with girls of very immature age. The police and detectives could tell many stories that never find their way into print and probably it is better that these stories should not be told to inflame the minds of other young girls. The other day a married man deserted his family in Hamilton and took from the home of her mother a girl not more than thirteen years old. That child girl is ruined for life, and her poor mother’s heart is broken. The man will probably receive a short prison sentence, and while he is living in jail at the expense of the public, his poor wife and children may probably have to depend upon the charity of the city.


          If we are to believe the reports of good people gathered in conventions this world has gotten to be one great salacious whirlpool into which is drawn thousands of innocent young girls every year to supply the demand. They tell us that Hamilton is the breeding place of vice, and that an army of victims go from here year after year to fill the place of the other unfortunate girls who have before treaded the path of vice and have ended miserable lives while yet in their youth. Certainly Hamilton is not anymore moral than is any other towns of equal population. So long as mothers allow their fallen daughters to tramp the streets night after night, to visit dance halls and five-cent shows, to keep company with young men of bad habits and visit with them cafes of questionable character, so long will new recruits be found for the life that leads down to the slums. Our city council has done a wise act in compelling the removal of high board partitions and curtains in the cafes in this city. The police could tell strange cafes, and if mothers were only to hear them it might awaken them to the dangers to which their young daughters are exposed. Girls who have no homes in the city or are far separated from parental watchfulness are still more imperiled. Small wages for their work in stores and offices and the love of finery are other powerful lures. In several foreign countries, young women are kept under strict surveillance, and are never permitted to be alone with any man. In this country, too much freedom is allowed young girls. Within the sacred precincts of the home, the girl is measurably safe; tramp around the streets till late hours at night with questionable companies too often ends in moral ruin. Cheap shows and cheap performers poison the morals of young men of both sexes, and add to these the cheap literature and stories in magazines and papers, and it is only a wonder that the whole world to damnation.


          It was like taking a trip back into dreamland to attend the Grand this week to witness the resurrection of two of the old standard English comedies – She Stoops to Conquer, written by Oliver Goldsmith, and The Rivals by Brinsley Sheridan. It is not our purpose to attempt any criticism or eulogy further than to say that the performing company was all that could be desired; nothing omitted in the costumes and staging. It is nearly sixty years ago since this old Muser saw these plays and there were histrionic giants in those days, and the plays presented were clean and free from the double meaning that one hears in burlesque operas and vaudevilles of the present day. We wonder sometimes if any of those old players are still strutting their brief on the mimic stage of life. It is fifty years ago since we saw Mr. Nickinson and Mr. Peters on the stage in Cincinnati, and the next day we saw Mr. Nickinson lying cold in death on the sidewalk on the corner of Fourth and Vine streets, where he fell in an apoplectic fit resulting in immediate death.  Miss Charlotte Nickinson (afterward Mrs. Morrison) who played the leading lady parts died three or four years ago in Toronto, and Sunny Lee, the first walking gentleman of the old stock company, died a few weeks ago in Kingston. What a fascination the old plays have for the old-timers, and we wondered the other night, in looking over the audience in the Grand, how many there present could look back in memory to seeing the same plays in the Theatre Royal sixty years ago? Time moves ruthlessly along, and it is only here and there that one of the old school is left to dream of the past. Vaudeville and leg opera controls the stage nowadays, and sometimes the performers are very smutty in their efforts to be funny and draw the applause of the gallery gods. Evidently the people want that class of amusement, for the theatres are crowded afternoon and night, while such standard clean plays like She Stoops to Conquer and the Rivals barely draw enough to pay expenses. No wonder the minds of young theatre-goers are poisoned with immorality when it is sung and played at them in the cheap shows that are more plentiful than clean concerts, lectures and legitimate drama.


          The forestry of Hamilton was its beauty in the early days of the town. When Hugh B. Wilson laid out part of his own farm into streets, he had planted rows of shade trees on the three avenues – West, Victoria and East avenues – and today they are among the handsome streets in the city. The designers of the light, telephone and telegraph companies make periodic visits to every street in town and what has taken years to grow and spread out in leafy beauty is cut and hacked by the tree butchers. Down at the east end of Main street, the city is cutting down about two hundred forest trees that have been growing half a century or more, and the probabilities are that others will not be planted in their stead except some lover of trees who owns property on the street may plant new trees. “If I had my way,” said the governor of New York, the other day, when discussing an appropriation bill for forestry growth in the state, “I’d make every man in the state plant a tree every month. I have always planted trees, and when I was a boy on the farm, every rainy day, when there was nothing else to do, was spent in the woods. My father taught me to dig up little trees and plant them along the road. When people pass that farm today, they exclaim of the beauty of the elms and maples. That was practical forestry, and if the people in Canadian towns and who own Canadian farms would follow out that plan, the timber supply of Canada would never be exhausted.


          There is one to the credit of the male sex, no matter in what station of life the boy or man belongs, when a lady enters a crowded street car, the gallantry of the male sex prompts them to courteously tender their seats to her. On the other hand, let the same conditions exist as to the other sex, the woman or girl will spread out so that she covers two seats instead of one, and if her neighbor gets up to leave the car, she will hunch a little to get more space for herself and never thinks of making room for a woman who may be standing in front of her. This occurs every hour of the day on the street cars. It may be absent-mindedness or it may be sheer hoggishness, very likely the latter, but it shows a want of consideration and courtesy that one would naturally expect from a lady. Probably if the attention of the dear creatures was called to this lapse of courtesy, they might hunch up closer to each other and give the standers a chance.

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