« PreviousContinue »
THE BAD MEN OF AMERICA..
Americans, who have invented the saying that he almost wholly avoids it. most vivid slang in the world, know If writers could be persuaded to underthe value of occasional recourse to un stand it, crimes as daring and ruthless derstatement. This may be satirical, as those related in this book lose some or it may seem to English ears more of of their power to impress by every dean understatement than it really is be- parture from literal statement. As it cause words are used in their older and is, this book has given us shocks and unimpaired sense. Thus "a sick man" thrills of no ordinary calibre. If there may be a man dangerously ill; and “a are still people stupid enough to keep bad man" is the accepted phrase in the children quiet by frightening them, this West for the most dangerous kind or is the kind of book which would serve assassin America has produced. This their purpose. To think that a man book is a collection of short biographies like Murrell or Boone Helm or Billy of some of the most notorious scoun- the Kid was after you would be a perdrels who lived "out West" when the petual nightmare. West was more lawless than any part Rascality is not a province in which of the globe inhabited by men who any nation need wish to compete with ought to have been civilized. The great any other, but honesty compels us to merit of the collection is that it tries to say that Mr. Hough claims too much be historically exact. We confess that for his desperadoes. England had if the author were guilty of any postur- something very like them in her gentle. ing-of a kind of swashbuckling senti. men of the road, and Australia with ment, compounded of frothy writing her "bushrangers" came nearer still to and loose history, in favor of men who the type. The present writer rememdied "with their boots on," as the bers examining the armor made of secAmerican phrase is—we should have tions of large iron pipes which was no use for his book. There is a worn by Kelly, the famous bushranger; tendency to that kind of thing, not only the headpiece was a simple iron cylinin America but in England, among men der with an improvised visor, and who have never been in circumstances he wondered at the time whether that compelled them to keep a hand this was not the most perfect symnear their revolver, who never had oc- bol of outlawry which the world casion to "go after their gun," as they could show. "Rol, Boldrewod's" story, say in America. The explanation of it Robbery under Arms, owes its great sucis generally to be found in a sort of re- cess, to our thinking, not to any literary volt against the unromantic security of merit, but to the wisdom which led the our civilization, which, after all, they author virtually to transcribe Austracould easily escape from (with the lian Blue-books on bushranging. The goodwill of us all) if they cared to get conditions under which civilization on familiar terms with danger by other struggled to assert itself in the West means than pen and paper. We men- of America are sufficiently defined in tion this manner only because it is pos- the following passage:sible to describe Mr. Hough's book by
Turn the white man loose in a land • "The Story of the Outlaw: a Study of the
free of restraint-such as was always Western Desperado." By Emerson Hough. that Golden Fleece land, vague, shiftNew York: The Outing Publishing Company. ing and transitory, known as the Amer
ican West-and he simply reverts to the and was indeed the ideal imitation bad ways of Teutonic and Gothic forests. man. The civilized empire of the West has grown in spite of this, because of that We must give bere Garret's own deother strange germ, the love of law, an scription of how he shot Billy the ciently implanted in the soul of the
Kid:Anglo-Saxon. That there was little difference between the bad man and The Kid stepped up to the bedside the good man who went out after him and laid his left hand on the bed and was frequently demonstrated in the bent over Maxwell. He saw me sitearly roaring days of the West. The ting there in the half darkness, but did religion of progress and civilization not recognize me, as I was sitting meant very little to the Western town down. My height would have betrayed narshal, who sometimes, or often, was me had I been standing. "Pete, Quien a peace officer chiefly because he was €8?” he asked in a low tone of voice; a good fighting man.
and he half motioned toward me with
his six-shooter. That was when I The bad man of the genuine sort, looked across into eternity. It wasn't says Mr. Hough, rarely looked the part.
far to go. That was exactly how the
thing was. I gave neither Maxwell The long-haired blusterer, adorned with
nor the Kid time for anything farther. a dialect that never was spoken, serves
There flashed over my mind at once very well in fiction about the West, but
one thought, and it was that I had to he is not the real bad man. Billy the shoot and shoot at once, and that my Kid was outwardly a smiling-faced, shot must go to the mark the first time. amiable boy, and he had killed twenty I knew the Kid would kill me in a two men before he himself was twenty
flash if I did not kill him. Just as he
spoke and motioned toward me, I one. At that age he was shot dead by
dropped over to the left and rather the famous peace officer, Pat Garrett,
down, going after my gun with my who twenty years later has received
right hand as I did so. As I fired, the some of the rewards he deserved from Kid dropped back. I had caught him Mr. Roosevelt. Ollinger, on the other just about the heart. His pistol, alhand, is still remembered in the West ready pointed toward me, went off as as the doubtful type with which pic
he fell, but he fired high. As I sprang tures have made us familiar. He
up, I fired once more, but did not bit
him, and did not need to, for he was stepped over the narrow margin which
dead. I don't know that he ever knew divided the bad men who were against
no were against who it was that killed him. the law from the bad men who were nominally enlisted in the service of the The most ambitious of the bad men law, and he acted as a peace officer:- was John A. Murrell. Although he
transcends the type of his kind, we He wore his hair long and affected
must briefly take him as an example, the ultra-Western dress, which to-day is despised in the West. He was one
because as a figure in the early history of the very few men at that time
of the West he cannot be neglected. In twenty-five years ago-who carried a another walk of life he would have knife at his belt. When he was in been great. He had some personal such a town as Las Vegas or Santa Fé, "magnetism," he had patience, and be he delighted to put on a buckskin shirt,
art, was an artist in his devilish adaptaspread his hair out on his shoulders,
bility. At one time he pretended to be and to walk through the streets, picking his teeth with his knife, or once in
a Methodist and went about preaching, a while throwing it in such a way that and even, it is said, making converts; it would stick up in a tree or a board. at another he was the prop and stay for He presented an eye-filling spectacle, three months of an old Roman Catholic
gentleman, attending all the services of of administering the law. They were his church, and being devout and strict thus in the peculiar position of standin the performance of the most minute ing for the law against the law. They ceremonial; at another he practised as had their own miniature army, and the a doctor; and yet all the time he was law, having failed to upset their irregmurdering lonely travellers and horse- ular but fairly wholesome administrastealing and slave-stealing in the other tion, left them alone. When the need manifestation of his dual personality. for exceptional measures was past the He never robbed without killing. He Vigilantes laid down their office and thought a man who did so a fool. He the law resumed its sway. The interorganized a loosely knit band of rob- esting point about this singular affair bers some two thousand strong, and the is that it may be taken as the precedent most trusted and skilful of them were aud sanction for Lynch-law. We think known as the Grand Council of the the services of the Vigilantes were Mystic Clan. It has been said that probably necessary at their time and men of good position belonged to the place; but when Mr. Hough uses them Clan, and passed their whole lives with as an exact analogy for Lynch-law, out being suspected. The last genera- which he extols, we can only say that tion used to be startled occasionally he writes nonsense. Lynch-law, as at by rumors that some respectable pillar present understood, is an instrument alof the Republic had confessed on his most entirely directed against the nedeathbed that he used to be a member groes; it is a negation of law, because of Murrell's gang. We share the re- it dispenses with proper trial; and even serve with which Mr. Hough writes of if it did not, it would still be infamous, these stories, but the fact that they because it makes one law for the white existed at all shows the widespread and another for the black. Mr. Hough's character of Murrell's organization. philosophizing is the weak part of his Murrell's chief scheme was for a rising book. of the whole black population on We have not space to write of PlumChristmas night, 1835. All the whites mer, who was at the same time a were to be killed, and the blacks (so Sheriff, a cultivated man, and a murthey were told), headed by the Grand dering brigand,-another extraordinary Council of the Mystic Clan, were to example of dual personality. The most enter into free enjoyment of the riches valuable chapter in the book is that of the land. The plot was divulged by on the Lincoln County War, to the histhe spy Virgil A. Stewart, whom Mur- tory of which Mr. Hough adds many rell had trusted and admitted to the new facts. It was a war of families Grand Council.
about their cattle rights. No Border In a lesser degree there is a repetition feud ever had a higher percentage of in the United States to-day of the ditti- casualties. It may be said that venculty of dealing with scoundrels. The dettas have had much higher percenagents of the law are unequal to their tages; but vendettas are private, and task chiefly because they are unwilling. this astonishing affair involved troops It was the determination to have more and the Governor of the State, General protection than the law provided which Lew Wallace, and even the President caused the formation of the “Vigin of the United States. It seems almost lantes" of California. The men who too perverse to be true that a wellrefused to suffer from the anarchy of meaning Englishman, Tunstall, and a the gold-rush banded themselves to delicate, dreamy, mild-mannered Amerigether and took over the responsibility can lawyer, McSween, who happened to
LIVING AGE. VOL. XXXV. 1868
put their money into cattle, should have found themselves most unwillingly among the nominal leaders of this bloody war in which the pace was forced by bad men! Both were killed, rather, we should say, murdered.
When bad men were at last cornered and faced the "drop," they did not always display the same fortitude as in their careers. One begins to see that the brigand is served by his audacity for some purposes and not for others. It is something of an accident, and that, perhaps, is the kindest explana
tion of an abnormal phenomenon.
THE NAVIGATION OF THE AIR.
In these days when the talk if not the mythic pioneer of artificial flight to his actuality of human flight is in the air, son Icarus, "take your way"-le duce, it is interesting to look back at some carpe viam. And so he calls down the of the earlier attempts of man to emu- ages to the would-be birds of the preslate the bird. The classic myth of eut day, offering to show them how to Daedalus and his son Icarus shows accomplish their wish. Is there, then. that the problem occupied the minds of anything to be learned by present-day the ancients. We ask, in fact, is the navigators of the air from the work of story merely a myth? May it by any Daedalus of old? According to the possibility be a reflection of the fact story, Daedalus made for himself wings that man in early times really acquired like those of a bird, and there are many the art of flying? There is no shadow in modern times who have thought that without a substance, and the myth is the solution of the problem lay in imioften the shadow of a fact. The myth tating as closely as possible the fowls of Daedalus indeed must be the shadow of the air. Yet, on the whole, the presof some fact; there is the possibility that ent state of the theory and practice of it may be the projection on a later age aerial navigation seems to indicate that of the earlier triumph of man over the the pathway to success lies rather in air. Yet no Egyptian papyrus or As the attainment of lighter and more syrian brick cylinder records it; it is not powerful motors. figured in the picture writings of the an. At the beginning of the sixteenth cient Mexicans, nor scratched on bone century an Italian alchemist who had or horn by the cave-dwellers; no Chi- come to Scotland and been made Abbot nese claimant has yet come forward to of Tungland in Galloway made himprove that his countrymen had invented self wings of the feathers of various tlying machines while yet the now civil- birds. He started from the walls of ized nations of Europe had not emerged Stirling Castle to fly to France. The from barbarism; all history, in fact, wings failed him, however, and he fell, when interrogated on this point pre- breaking his thigh bone. The enterserves a stony and sphinx-like silence. prising Abbot explained his failure as
"With me your leader," says the due to a wrong choice of feathers. lu
bis wings were some feathers of the ing the descent of a balloon, he amuses common fowl, and their affinity for himself by meditating on the future of their native dunghill dragged him "airgonation.” He sees it gradually down; had they been entirely of perfected, displacing navigation and eagles' featbers these would have kept banishing ships to the limbo of things hini aloft. We do not learn, however, forgotten. Flourishing seaports become that another attempt was made with "deserted villages" as flying becomes wings of eagle-feathers alone. And more and more common. Salisbury while Daedalus safely soared over the Plain, Newmarket Heath, and all the ocean himself, his son fell into the sea, Downs, except the Downs where ships to which he gave his name, and was had been wont to anchor, become dockdrowned. The prospect of man ever yards for aerial vessels. He further being able to fly with wings like those imagines a new Shipping Gazette in of a bird is not very bright.
which the news would be of the followAbout the year 1784 the subject of ing nature: “The good balloon, Daedaaerial navigation was occupying a lus, Captain Wingate, will fly in a few prominent place in the public mind, days for China; he will stop at the Mon. and Horace Walpole discourses about uiment to take in passengers." "Founthe ways and doings of the "airgo- dered in a hurricane, the Bird of Paranauts," as he calls them, in a pleasant dise, from Mount Ararat.” Again in and gossipy way. One of the pioneers his "inind's eye" Walpole sees the rival of the art, the Frenchman Jean Pierre airgonauts, Blanchard and Lunardi, enBlanchard, had just made his first as gaged in an air-fight in the clouds like cent from Paris in a balloon. Blanch- a stork and a kite. The breaking up of ard seems also to have intended to at roads as now useless, and a consetempt actual flying, for he took up quent great increase in the land availwith him wings and a rudder. These, able for tillage, follows the further debowever, he found useless. Later he velopment of flying. crossed the Channel to England in his A hundred years earlier Bishop Wilaerial vessel. “You see," writes Wal. kins had written on the art of flying in pole, in allusion to these events, "the his Mathematical Magic, and he was also airgonauts have passed the Rubicon. the advocate of a "universal language.” By their own accounts they were ex- And this latter Walpole opined was cal. actly birds; they flew through the air, culated to prevent the want of an inperched on the top of a tree; some pas terpreter when the development of the sengers climbed up and took them in art of flying had carried him to the their nest." He opines, as indeed some moon! At the present day the labors have opined lately, that difficulties will of M. Santos Dumont and the Wright arise for the Customs House officials brothers, combined with the developwhen we all become birds: "The smug- ment of Esperanto, may serve a like glers I suppose, will be the first to im- useful end. The need of a universal prove upon the plan.”
language, indeed, will be more and The idea of an aerial voyage to Paris more emphasized as the practice of flyappeals to Walpole's fancy: "If there ing increases. In the near future it is no air-sickness, and I were to go to may be possible to pay flying visits to Paris again, I would prefer a balloon all the countries in Europe in the course to the packet-boat, and had as lief roost of a summer holiday! In the above in an oak as sleep in a French inn, Mathematical Magic Bishop Wilkins rethough I were to caw for my breakfast lates several cases, none of them perlike the young ravens.” After watch- haps very well authenticated, of suc