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  • Aug. 19, 1871


    A girl who is now called a "beautiful blonde," would a few years ago have been termed "a tow head." Such is life.

     When a Chicago girl quarrels with her lover, she communicates the important fact to her friends in the remark that she "isn’t on squeezing terms with that fraud no more."


    "Men must work, women must wee," is not cheery doctrine. Yet it seems true. The investigation into the steamboat accident results in no satisfactory solution of the problem. The opinions of experts are as wild and as inconclusive as the opinions of "experts" always are. Indeed, experts seem specially designed, not to elucidate, but to befog. The boiler was good and it was bad; it was cracked and it was sound; it rent from the top to the bottom, although it rent from the bottom to the top. It is perfectly sure that there was too little water, if it were not equally certain that there was a sufficiency of water. One thing is certain and no one contradicts that. The boiler exploded. The second point of accord is that gauges are, like some other inventions, "mighty onsartain." Thirdly, that the engineer is, as a third-class man, incompetent at all times, and off his post at the time in question. Lastly, that steam generates very rapidly, and that if there be one moment more than another when care is specially required, it is when the boat is standing still getting up steam for a new start. Were the owners to blame? Owners are always to blame in case of accident. As common carriers all railroad and steamboat owners promise to carry the passengers safe and sound, and to deliver them at their journey’s end in good order and condition. The legal responsibility is beyond all doubt or cavil. The moral responsibility is that everything that can be done ought to be done, both by proprietors and employes, for the comfort and safety of passengers; instead of which passengers are usually considered as freight—goods, cattle or humans—it is all one to the carrier; it’s only freight. Human souls or bodies, their pleasure, their comfort or their awful agony is of no account to the carrier. If a third-class engineer or a patched boiler or a rusty gauge will do as well as the better article, let it go. The easiest way is the best way. It’s the passenger’s lookout. If he don’t want to be smashed he needn’t go by this route; if he dislikes being scalded or burned or crushed to death he can take the other boat or stop at home. We owners are only traders and dealers. We sell the goods we have at the best profit we can get. Let the purchaser look out.

    No amount of money will compensate for the infliction of torture, and most likely the owners of the Westfield would go down under the mass of damages they will have to pay, as they certainly ought under the weight of public opprobrium for miserable parsimony and indifference to their public duty. But it is a very great pity that the law, instead of making them answerable in money damages, should not make them responsible to the people as criminals. A petty theft of a pound of steak would subject the miserable, hungry offender to months of imprisonment; the infamous dereliction of the most solemn civil duty perpetrated by men of intelligence and position in the pursuit of wealth and self-aggrandizement leaves them intact, except to the nominal penalties of commercial insolvency.

    Over and above the question of owners’ responsibility comes the question of official and supervisory responsibility. Of course, now all the inspectors will rush to inspect all the hulls and boilers and to regulate everything. Every neglectful delinquent shakes in his boots lest his name should be published for being off his post. But after the flurry we shall all go to sleep again, until awakened by the next accident; and so on until we have a new regime of government, in which duty done will be of more account in public estimation than duty shirked or money made.

    The people have it in their own hands, but they prefer occasional accidents to the perpetual bother of popular vigilance and official responsibility.




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    Webmaster's Note: Except for some headings, these are actual extracts from the Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. Some spelling and punctuation has been changed. If an article was too long, some sentences were removed. Sentences or paragraphs that have been removed are indicated with the ellipsis (....)