Category Archives: Germany

Item of the Day: Essays, Political, Economical, and Philosophical (1800)

Full Title: Essays, Political, Economical, and Philosophical. By Benjamin Count of Rumford . . .  Volume I. Fifth Edition. London: Printed by A. Stahan, for T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, Strand, 1800.

 

 AN ACCOUNT

OF AN

ESTABLISHMENT FOR THE POOR

AT MUNICH.

Together with

A Detail of various Public Measures, connected with that Institution, which have been adopted and carried into effect for putting an End to Mendicity, and introducing Order, and useful Industry, among the more Indigent of the Inhabitants of Bavaria.

CHAP. I.

Of the Prevalence of Mendicity in Bavaria at the Time when the Measures for putting an End to it were adopted.

Among the various measures that occurred to me by which the military establishment of the country might be made subservient to the public good in time of peace, none appeared to be of so much importance as that of employing the army in clearing the country of beggars, theives, and other vagabonds; and in watching over the public tranquility.

But in order to clear the country of beggars, (the number of whom in Bavaria had become quite intolerable,) it was necessary to adopt general and efficacious measure for maintaining and supporting the Poor. Laws were not wanting to oblige each community in the country to provide for its own Poor; but these laws had been so long neglected, and beggary had become so general that extraordinary measures, and the most indefatigable exertions were necessary to put  a stop to this evil.

The number of itinerant beggars, of both sexes and all ages, as well foreigners as natives, who strolled about the country in all directions, levying contributions from the industrious inhabitants, stealing and robbing, and leading a life of indolence, and most shameless debauchery, was quite incredible; and so numerous were the swarms of beggrs in all the great towns, and particularly in the capital, so great their impudence, and so persevering their importunity, that it was almost impossible to cross the streets without being attacked, and absolutley forced to satisfy their clamorous demands. And these beggars were in general by no means such as from age or bodily infirmities were unable by their labour to earn their livelihood; but they were for the most part, stout, strong, healthy, sturdy beggars, who, lost to every sense of shame, had embraced the profession from choice, not necessity; and who, not unfrequently, added insolence and threats to their importunity, and extorted that from fear which they could not procure by their arts of dissimulation.

These beggars not only infested all the streets, public walks, and public places, but they even made a practice of going into private houses, where they never failed to steal whatever fell in their way, if they found the doors open, and nobody at home; and the churches were so full of them that it was quite a nuisance, and a public scandal during the performance of divine service. People at their devotions were conintually interupted by them, and were frequently obliged to satisfy their demands in order to be permitted to finish their prayers in peace and quiet.

In short, these detestable vermin swarmed every where; and not only their impudence and clamourous importunity were without any bounds, but they had recourse to the most diabolical arts, and most horrid crimes, in the prosecution of their infamous trade. Young children were stolen from their parents by these wretches, and their eyes put out, or their tender limbs broken and distorted, in order, by exposing them thus maimed, to excite the pity and commiseration of the public; and every species of artifice was made use of to agitate the sensibility, and to extort the contributions of the humane and charitable.

Some of these monsters were so void of all feeling as to expose their own children, naked, and almost starved, in the streets, in order that, by their cries and unaffected expressions of distress, they might move those who passed by to pity and relieve them; and in order to make them act their part more naturally, they were unmercifully beaten when they came home, by their inhuman parents, if they did not bring with them a certain sum, which they were ordered to collect.

I have frequently seen a poor child of five or six years of age, late at night, in the most inclement season, sitting down almost naked at the corner of a street, and crying most bitterly; if he were asked what was the matter with him, he would answer, “I am cold and hungry, and afraid to go home; my mother told me to bring home twelve creutzers, and I  have only been able to beg five. My mother will certainly beat me if I don’t carry home twelve creutzers.” Who could refuse so small a sum to relieve so much unaffected distress? –But what horrid arts are these, to work upon the feelings of the public, and levy involuntary contributions for the support of idleness and debauchery!

But the evils arising from the prevalence of mendicity did not stop here. The public, worn out and vanquished by the numbers and perservering importunity of the beggars; and frequently disappointed in their hopes of being relieved from their depredations, by the failure of the numberless schemes that were formed and set on foot for that purpose, began at last to consider the case as quite desperate; and to submit patiently to an evil for which they saw no remedy. The consequences of this submission are easy to be conceived; the beggars, encouraged by their success, were attached still more strongly to their infamous profession; and others, allured by their indolent lives, encouraged by their successful frauds, and emboldened by their impunity, joined them. The habit of summission on the part of the public, gave them a sort of right to pursue their depredations; –their growing numbers and their success gave a kind of eclat to their profession; and the habit of begging became so general, that it ceased to be considered as infamous; and was, by degrees, in a manner interwoven with the internal regulations of society. . . .

In the great towns, besides children of the poorer sort, who almost all made a custom of begging, the professional beggars formed a distinct class, or cast, among the inhabitants; and in general a very numerous one. There was even a kind of political connection between the members of this formidable body; and certian general maxims were adopted, and regulations observed, in the warfare they carried on against the public. Each beggar had his particular beat, or district, in the possession of which it was not thought lawful to disturb him; and certain rules were observed in dsposing the districts in case of vacancies by deaths or resignations, promotions or removals. A battle, it is true, frequently decided the contest between the candidates; but when the possession was once obtained, whether by force or arms, or by any other means, the right was after considered indisputable. Alliances by marriage were by no means uncommon in this community; and, strange as it may appear, means were found to procure legal permission from the civil magistrates for the celebration of these nuptials! The children were of course trained up in the profession of their parents; and having the advantage of an early education, were commonly great proficients in their trade.

And there is no very essential difference between depriving a person of his property by stealth, and extorting it from him against his will by dint of clamorous importunity, or under false pretence of feigned distress and misfortune; so the transition from begging to stealing is not only easy, but perfectly natural. That total insensibility to shame, and all those other qualifications which are necessary in the profession of a beggar, are likewise essential to form an accomplished thief; and both these professions derive very considerable advantages from their union. A Beggar who goes about from house to house to ask for alms, has many opportunities to steal, which another would not so easily find; and his profession as a beggar gives him a great facility in disposing of what he steals; for he can always say it was given him in charity. No wonder then that thieving and robbing should be prevalent where beggars are numerous . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, Beggars, Europe, Germany, Poor, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reform

Item of the Day: Twain’s Tramp Abroad (1880)

Full Title:

A Tramp Abroad; Illustrated by W. Fr. Brown, True Williams, B. Day and other artists–with also three or four pictures made by the author of this book, without outside help; in all Three hundred and twenty-eight illustrations. By Mark Twain, (Samuel Clemens.) (Sold by subscription only.) Printed in Hartford, Conn. by the American Publishing Company, 1880.

Chapter I

One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Europe on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878.

I looked about me for the right sort of person to accompany me in the capacity of agent, and finally hired a Mr. Harris for this service.

It was also my purpose to study art while in Europe. Mr. Harris was in sympathy with me in this. He was as much of an enthusiast in art as I was, and not less anxious to learn to paint. I desired to learn the German language; so did Harris.

Toward the middle of April we sailed in the Holsatia, Capt. Brandt, and had a very pleasant trip indeed.

After a brief rest at Hamburg, we made preparations for a long pedestrian trip southward in the soft spring weather, but at the last moment we changed the program, for private reasons, and took the express train.

We made a short halt at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, and found it an interesting city. I would have like to visit the birthplace of Guttenberg, but it could not be done, as no memorandum of the site of the house has been kept. So we spent an hour at the Goethe mansion instead. The city permits this house to belong to private parties, instead of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor of possessing and protecting it.

Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have the distinction of being the place where the following incident occurred. Charlemagne, while chasing the Saxons, (as he said,) or being chased by them, (as they said,) arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog. The enemy were either before him or behind him; but in any case he wanted to get across, very badly. He would have given anything for a guide, but none was to be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young, approach the water. He watched her, judging that she would seek a ford, and he was right. She waded over, and the army followed. So a great Frankish victory or defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate that episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there, which he named Frankfort,–the ford of the Franks. None of the other cities where this event happened were named from it. This is good evidence that Frankfort was the first place it occurred at.

Frankfort has another distinction,–it is the birthplace of the German alphabet: or at least of the German word for alphabet,–Buchstaben. They say that the first movable types were made on birch sticks,–Buchstabe,–hence the name.

I was taught a lesson in political economy in Frankfort. I had brought from home a box containing a thousand very cheap cigars. By way of experiment, I stepped into a little shop in a queer old back street, took four gaily decorated boxes of wax matches and three cigars, and laid down a silver piece worth 48 cents. The man gave me 43 cents change.

In Frankfort everybody wears clean clothes, and I think we noticed that this strange thing was the case in Hamburg too, and in the villages along the road. Even in the narrowest and poorest and most ancient quarters of Frankfort neat and clean clothes were the rule. The little children of both sexes were nearly always nice enough to take into a body’s lap. And as for the uniforms of the soldiers, they were newness and brightness carried to perfection. One could never detect a smirch or a grain of dust upon them. The street car conductors and drivers wore pretty uniforms which seemed to be just out of the bandbox, and their manners were as fine as their clothes.

In one of the shops I had the luck to stumble upon a book which has charmed me nearly to death. It is entitled “The Legends of the Rhine from Basle to Rotterdam, by F.J. Kiefer; Translated by L.W. Garnham, B.A.”

All tourists mention the Rhine legends,–in that sort of way with quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar with them all his life, and that the reader cannot possibly be ignorant of them,–but not tourist ever tells them. So this little book fed me in a very hungry place; and I, in my turn, intend to feed my reader, with one or two little lunches from the same larder. I shall not mar Garnham’s translation by meddling with its English; for the most toothsome thing about it is its quaint fashion of building Engilsh sentences on the German plan,–and punctuating them according to no plan at all.

In the chapter devoted to “Legends of Frankfort,” I find the following:

“THE KNAVE OF BERGEN.”

“In Frankfort at the Tomer was a great mask-ball, at the coronation festival, and in the illuminated saloon, the clanging music invited to dance, and splendidly appeared the rich toilets and charms of the ladies, and the festively costumed Princes and Knights. All seemed pleasure, joy, and roguish gayety, only one of the numerous guests had a gloomy exterior; but exactly the black armor in which he walked about excited general attention, and his tall figure, as well as the noble propriety of his movements, attracted especially the regards of the ladies. Who the Knight was? Nobody could guess, for his Vizier was well closed, and nothing made him recognizable. Proud and yet modest he advanced to the Empress; bowed on one knee before her seat, and begged for the favor of a waltz with the Queen of the festival. And she allowed his request. With light and graceful steps he danced through the long saloon, with the sovereign who thought never to have found a more dexterous and excellent dancer. But also by the grace of his manner, and fine conversation he knew to win the Queen, and she graciously accorded him a second dance for which he begged, a third, and a fourth, as well as others were not refused him. How all regarded the happy dancer, how many envied him the high favor; how increased curiosity, who the masked knight could be.

Also the Emperor become more and more excited with curiosity, and with great suspense one awaited the hour, when according to mask-law, each masked guest must make himself known. This moment came, but although all others had unmasked, the secret knight still refused to allow his features to be seen, till at last the Queen driven by curiosity, and vexed at the obstinate refusal; commanded him to open his Vizier. He opened it, and none of the high ladies and knights knew him. But from the crowded spectators, 2 officials advanced, who recognized the black dancer, and horror and terror spread in the saloon, as they said who the supposed knight was. It was the executioner of Bergen. But glowing with rage, the King commanded to sieze the criminal and lead him to death, who had ventured to dance, with the queen; so disgraced the Empress, and insulted the crown. The culpable threw himself at the feet of the Emperor, and said,–

“‘Indeed I have heavily sinned against all noble guests assembled here, but most heavily against you my sovereign and my queen. the Queen is insulted by my haughtiness equal to treason, but no punishment even blood, will not be able to wash out the disgrace, which you have suffered by me. Therefore oh King! allow me to propose a remedy, to efface the shame, and to render it as if not done. Draw your sword and knight me, then I will throw down my gauntlet, to every one who dares to speak disrespectfully of my king.

“The Emperor was surprised at this bold proposal, however it appeared wisest to him; “You are a knave he replied after a moment’s consideration, however your advice is good, and displays prudence, as your offense shows adventurous courage. Well then, and gave him the knight-stroke, so I raise you to nobility, who begged for grace for your offence now kneels before me, rise as knight; knavish you have acted, and Knave of Bergen shall you be called henceforth, and gladly the Black knight rose; three cheers were given in honor of the Emperor, and loud cries of joy testified the approbation with which the Queen danced still once with the Knave of Bergen.

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Filed under 1880's, Culture, Germany, Language, Modern Language Translations, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Travel, Travel Literature

Item of the Day: Travels through Germany. Vol. I. (1768)

Full Title: Travels through Germany. Containing observations on customs, manners, religion, government, commerce, arts and antiquities. With a particular account of the Courts of Mecklenburg. In a series of letters to a friend, by Thomas Nugent. Embellished with elegant cuts of the palaces and gardens of the Dukes of Mecklenburg. Vo. I. London: Printed for Edward and Charles Dilly, 1768.


ADVERTISMENT.

The following letters were committed to the press, exactly in their native simplicity. This, perhaps, has occasioned a few repetitions, and a recital of particulars, which may appear uninteresting to some readers. The author, however, on submitting them to public view, did not chuse to make any alteration in their dress; this would have too much the appearance of art; and letters to a friend, such as these, should discover none. They are the effusions of a heart warmed with sentiments of affection. The taste of readers is various; and what appears minute and trifling to many, is to others, at least, a matter of entertainment. The author’s design in going abroad, was to improve his History of Vandalia, by investigating things at the fountain-head. This has induced him carefully to study the various scenes of life, and the humours and characters of men, from the prince to the cotager; agreeably to the words of a very ingenious female traveler*, Pour connoitre au vrai le moeurs des pais, nous examinons les cabanes. If we view things in a philosophical light, are not the occupations of the farmer, the gardener, and the artificer, as instructive and interesting a subject, as plays, operas, and other fashionable entertainments? These the author, however, has not omitted, when they came in his way, merely in compliance with the prevailing taste. A traveler generally makes himself the hero of his piece, by reciting his hardships and sufferings . . . the author has followed the example of his predecessors; and if this has sometimes rendered him too personal, he humbly hopes for the reader’s indulgence. Though no poet, he is an admirer of the Muses, and has been naturally led to intersperse these Letters with several passages from our best writers, which helped to sooth some toilsome scenes, and, perhaps, will contribute to enliven the narration. This is all he thinks proper to mention by way of apology; the necessity of any farther preface is superseded by the beginning of the first letter.*Madam de Boccage.

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Filed under 1760's, Germany, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel