CHAPTER XIV. NEW YORK.
In all such matters, however, New York is pre-eminently great. All through the States suffering humanity receives so much attention that humanity can hardly be said to suffer. The daily recurring boast of "our glorious institootions, sir," always provokes the ridicule of an Englishman. The words have become ridiculous, and it would, I think, be well for the nation if the term "Institution" could be excluded from its vocabulary. But, in truth, they are glorious. The country in this respect boasts, but it has done that which justifies a boast. The arrangements for supplying New York with water are magnificent. The drainage of the new part of the city is excellent. The hospitals are almost alluring. The lunatic asylum which I saw was perfect - though I did not feel obliged to the resident physician for introducing me to all the worst patients as countrymen of my own. "An English lady, Mr. Trollope. I'll introduce you. Quite a hopeless case. Two old women. They've been here fifty years. They're English. Another gentleman from England, Mr. Trollope. A very interesting case! Confirmed inebriety."
And as to the schools, it is almost impossible to mention them with too high a praise. I am speaking here specially of New York, though I might say the same of Boston, or of all New England. I do not know any contrast that would be more surprising to an Englishman, up to that moment ignorant of the matter, than that which he would find by visiting first of all a free school in London, and then a free school in New York. If he would also learn the number of children that are educated gratuitously in each of the two cities, and also the number in each which altogether lack education, he would, if susceptible of statistics, be surprised also at that. But seeing and hearing are always more effective than mere figures. The female pupil at a free school in London is, as a rule, either a ragged pauper or a charity girl, if not degraded, at least stigmatized by the badges and dress of the charity. We Englishmen know well the type of each, and have a fairly correct idea of the amount of education which is imparted to them. We see the result afterward when the same girls become our servants, and the wives of our grooms and porters. The female pupil at a free school in New York is neither a pauper nor a charity girl. She is dressed with the utmost decency. She is perfectly cleanly. In speaking to her, you cannot in any degree guess whether her father has a dollar a day, or three thousand dollars a year. Nor will you be enabled to guess by the manner in which her associates treat her. As regards her own manner to you, it is always the same as though her father were in all respects your equal. As to the amount of her knowledge, I fairly confess that it is terrific. When in the first room which I visited, a slight, slim creature was had up before me to explain to me the properties of the hypothenuse, I fairly confess that, as regards education, I backed down, and that I resolved to confine my criticisms to manner, dress, and general behavior. In the next room I was more at my ease, finding that ancient Roman history was on the tapis. "Why did the Romans run away with the Sabine women asked the mistress, herself a young woman of about three and twenty. "Because they were pretty," simpered out a little girl with a cherry mouth. The answer did not give complete satisfaction, and then followed a somewhat abstruse explanation on the subject of population. It was all done with good faith and a serious intent, and showed what it was intended to show - that the girls there educated had in truth reached the consideration of important subjects, and that they were leagues beyond that terrible repetition of A B C, to which, I fear, that most of our free metropolitan schools are still necessarily confined. You and I, reader, were we called on to superintend the education of girls of sixteen, might not select, as favorite points either the hypothenuse or the ancient methods of populating young colonies. There may be, and to us on the European side of the Atlantic there will be, a certain amount of absurdity in the Transatlantic idea that all knowledge is knowledge, and that it should be imparted if it be not knowledge of evil. But as to the general result, no fair-minded man or woman can have a doubt. That the lads and girls in these schools are excellently educated, comes home as a fact to the mind of any one who will look into the subject. That girl could not have got as fair at the hypothenuse without a competent and abiding knowledge of much that is very far beyond the outside limits of what such girls know with us. It was at least manifest in the other examination that the girls knew as well as I did who were the Romans, and who were the Sabine women. That all this is of use, was shown in the very gestures and bearings of the girl. Emollit mores, as Colonel Newcombe used to say. That young woman whom I had watched while she cooked her husband's dinner upon the banks of the Mississippi had doubtless learned all about the Sabine women, and I feel assured that she cooked her husband's dinner all the better for that knowledge - and faced the hardships of the world with a better front than she would have done had she been ignorant on the subject.