New York City And Scotland
( Originally Published 1924 )
Statistics show that there are some fifty-four thousand people of Scotland in this city. According to the number of people of Scotch origin one meets here, there, and every-where, there seem to be fully ten times that number. But they have been here so long, and having been in long association with the Anglo-Saxons and being near kin to the other Celtic races, they have been assimilated much easier with many other peoples. Except in their small organizations and societies exclusively for Scots, they do not live in special groups in the city. The new-comers are somehow engulfed here and there, living according to the professions they are in so as to be nearer their work-places, instead of seeking their own kin to live nearby.
One is very frequently surprised with Scotch parades of kilted men and kilted women. The bagpipe is heard frequently enough, but still somehow there is no Scotland in New York City, no single place of which one could say, "Here the Scots live."
Like the Jews, the Scots have always been with us. The first Highlanders to arrive in New York were the survivors of the ill-fated colony founded by William Paterson, the founder of the Bank of England. Twenty-five hundred Scots, with a capital of over a million dollars, set sail from Leith in two expeditions for the Isthmus of Darien, being nearly mobbed by crowds of men anxious to be taken along. But the colony was a failure. Most of the colonists died of fever, or were shot by the Spaniards, or starved trying to escape from the swampy jungle in which they were left.
Probably the first Scot in America to become famous was Captain Kidd, who was hanged for piracy on a technical charge, protesting to the last that he was innocent and the victim of foul play; the site of his house on Liberty Street was for years a fascinating spot for small boys in search of treasure. Philip Livingston, the first president of the St. Andrews Society of New York, was one of the several Scots to sign the Declaration of Independence. Alexander Hamilton was a Scotch Frenchman from the West Indies.
During the Civil War the Seventy-ninth New York, organized by Scots, was one of the most famous volunteer regiments. And J. J. McCook of this city was the youngest brother of the "fighting McCooks," all of whom, including Daniel McCook of Ohio, with his nine sons and his five cousins, were Northern officers.
And, in mentioning but a few, one must not omit Frederick MacMonnies, the gifted sculptor, who modeled the Nathan Hale statue in City Hall Park and the three decorative angels for St. Paul's Church, and who at the age of ten painted a creditable portrait of his father. James Gordon Bennett, who first brought out the "New York Herald" nearly ninety years ago in a Wall Street cellar, was a thorough Scot; and in our own day every one knows of Arthur Brisbane, the editorial writer, of Scottish ancestry.
There are many Irish settlements but not one distinctively so, not one that has a life different from the lives of other peoples. The independence of the Irish has been fought for and won as much in New York as elsewhere; and the Irish, even more than the early Dutch, are the most thoroughly absorbed of the nationalities of New York City.
There are some sixty thousand Swedish and some forty thousand Norwegians and seventeen thousand Danish and some fifteen thousand Finlanders and eleven thousand Hollanders, in all a hundred and thirty thousand Dutch and Scandinavians, living in this city. But my journey is at an end. They do not live anywhere in such groups that I should have been able to visit them. Or is it because there is something in me so alien to them that I could not discover them anywhere?
The Finlander is slow to anger. Near upper Fifth Avenue there is a cooperative apartment-house built by Finnish socialists. When the Socialist party was divided, some of these Finns joined the Left wing and some remained with the Right. They promptly resorted to the law-courts, seeking control of other properties they had hitherto held jointly, but the apartment-house remained, with its tenants on the best of personal terms.
This book is the result of fifteen years of observation and study, done during long peregrinations. I have tramped streets and sat in old coffee-houses and meeting-places. I have listened to foreign languages, some of which I understood, some of which I only guessed. I have followed strange funerals and danced at still stranger wed-dings. I have hovered about charitable institutions, mission-houses, wharves, police courts and churches and synagogues. I have during these fifteen years seen consider-able changes in the aspects of the streets and watched the continual shifting of the nations from one place to another to adjust themselves to new conditions. I have seen changes of attitude toward people, transformations of districts from residential into industrial places. It is possible that in finally putting down the things I have erred in many details. Things have changed since I first saw them and noted them down. New York is very much like a huge sieve into which everything is thrown as soon as it disembarks from ships and railroad-cars. There is a continual sifting and resifting, before the melting-pot begins its work. And then, even after this is done, nothing has been settled definitely. That, too, is thrown in another crucible and still another one. The Great War has somehow succeeded in giving cohesion to many elements, but it has fortunately not been long enough to do more than it has done. Time and trials, which are undoubtedly as much ahead of this country as they are of others, will do their work.
I have set things down as I have seen them. It is the privilege of the traveler to see things differently than they are seen by the natives themselves. Like the wind and the bee, the traveler carries the pollen from one place to the other.