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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 21 July 1848

Quite a neat and appropriate way of testifying the public gratitude to our New York Volunteers, returned from the Mexican war, has been carried out in this city. The Corporation have had nearly four hundred large silver medals, struck from an appropriate design, and have given one to each of the Volunteers. The medals, themselves, are very beautiful, and their intrinsic value is about seven dollars a piece. On one side are the words—"Corro Gordo, Chapultepec, Cherubusco, Vera Cruz." And on the other—"Presented by the City of New York to the Volunteers of the 1st New York Regiment in Mexico."

The first-mentioned side has also a device of the Genius of Liberty, with a bundle of arrows, pointing to the Halls of the Montezumas. The other has the arms of New York. Take it altogether, this is a very liberal and well-arranged testimonial, and reflects honor on "him that gives and him that takes." Each Volunteer, it is to be hoped, will preserve his gift, and transmit it as an heir loom. Of course, the dead, too, are not forgotten. Their medals will be preserved as sacred indeed.

We are expecting the steamer Crescent City here by tomorrow, or the next day, at farthest. She brings us, I see by the telegraphic dispatch announcing her departure, a big lot of the ready rhino—an article much needed hereabouts. In every point of view, the establishment of a line of steamers, each equal to the Crescent City, would be prodigiously advantageous to New York, Havana and New Orleans, all and each of them.

Every body here is quite disgusted with the Congress of the United States and their dawdling, long-drawn-out style of legislation, or rather their no legislation. What good are they doing at Washington? What need is there that they should stay there ten days longer? Indeed, if they had possessed ordinary application and industry, two months ago would have seen them adjourned. The plain truth is, that nearly all of them—and one party is just as bad as another—are busy (at the people's expense) electioneering and President making. The people, it seems, are not capable of managing this matter for themselves, and must have their "public servants" do it for them. Indeed, this impertinence on the part of Hon. Senators and Representatives, is getting to be quite unbearable. In olden times, even, when the people (at least we moderns say so) were not half so intelligent and well-informed as now, such interference wouldn't have been permitted at all; it wouldn't have been permitted, however, in the days of Washington, Adams and Jefferson. Politicians think altogether too much of themselves and their influence. As a body, they are very corrupt and selfish, thinking more of "spoils" than any thing else. Gloomy would it be for this Republic, were there not an immense body of middlemen, uninterested in politics any further than to do right, or to have right done, who control political action. At Washington, now, nearly every member of both houses is engaged in this abominable game of injuring certain parties, or benefitting others—parties, as such, and not connected with any national question or political measure, in which any human being—except politicians—is interested! It is equally true, I hope, that the masses of the people, are beyond the effect of these improper influences.

Evening before last the performances at the Chatham theatre were for the benefit of Messrs. Kipp & Brown,1 who met with such a sweeping loss a couple of months since. The house was well filled, and the benefit must have been a substantial one. The pieces were light and lively. The Chatham, by the way, is making money at no small rate, though its prices are on the small rate.

If you remember much about New York, in the way of what places are, and what places are not "genteel," you know that the Park, around the City Hall, has for years past been in the latter category. Fashion, however, is proverbially whimsical, and, this summer, the ban has been taken off. From sundown to 9 o'clock, it is decided to be unexceptionable as a promenade. Though surrounded with the loudest sort of clatter, it certainly is one of the most agreeable places in its quarter of the city for a promenade, especially considering the fountain.

"Among the peculiar "features" of these times in New York, is the fact that more than half the houses and lots of the city, and of Brooklyn, Williamsburg, and the other suburban places, are for sale. The same may be said of the farming places within 60 or 100 miles of the city. We are a migratory people, that's a fact—every body wants to be moving—it makes no difference where, if they only move. With all the confusion, however, in trades, sales, etc., there seems to be very little evidence of real property—that is, comparatively, little, in our city. Folks appear gay and hearty enough, which is the true philosophy.



  • 1. Whitman is referring to Solomon Kipp and Abraham Brown, business partners and proprietors of Kipp & Brown's stages, as well as volunteer firemen. In May 1848, a fire in the stables belonging to Kipp & Brown destroyed twenty-seven of their stages and one hundred and thirty of their horses (George W. Sheldon, The Story of the Volunteer Fire Department of the City of New York [New York: Harper & Brothers, 1882], 227; 403). [back]
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