Thank you, David Chambers Mearns (1899 – 1981) for your foresight collecting more than 20 newspaper clippings from early 1868 that chronicle “Mark Twain in Washington,” now safeguarded by the LOC’s Manuscript Division. On your shoulders this book will stand.
In your honor, this first post from the clippings you gathered is classic iconoclastic Mark Twain. [Excerpts from the larger Column.]
February 19, 1868
There is plenty of it, but the two latest cases are peculiar. Night before last a negro man collided with a white man in the street; the negro apologized, but the white man would not be appeased, and grew abusive, and finally stabbed the negro to the heart. Yesterday, in open Court while Judge [Abram B.] Olin was sentencing a man named McCauley, the latter sprang at the principal witness, a boy twelve years old, and made a savage lunge at his breast with a knife. The Judge remanded him at once, of course, to be cited before the Grand Jury. What is your general opinion of the morals of the Capital now? When people get to attempting murder in the Courts of law, it is time to quit abusing Congress. Congress is bad enough, but it has not arrived at such depravity as this. This man who attempted the murder is not in any way connected with Congress. The fact is in every way creditable to that body. I do not deny that I am fond of abusing Congress, but when I get an opportunity like this to compliment them, I am only too happy to do it.
More Washington Morals.
On New Year’s morning, while Mr. George Worley’s front door was standing open, a cow marched into the house – a cow that was out making her annual calls, I suppose – and before she was discovered had eaten up everything on the New Year’s table in the parlor! Mr. Worley was not acquainted with the cow, never saw her before, and is at a loss to account for the honor of her visit. What do you think of a town where cows make New Year’s calls? It may be the correct thing, but it has not been so regarded in the circles in which I have been accustomed to move. Morals are at a low stage in Washington, beyond question.