August 25, 2010
Sickly Fear

Below is an August 26, 1875, letter to the Bristol (Connecticut) Press. For the word “tramps” may be substituted, depending on the period, French, Irish, Negroes, Catholics, Polish, Germans, Czechs, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Muslims, illegal immigrants, or an oppressed, defenseless minority of your choice. Tea Partiers will want to choose themselves…

There would appear to be no immediate prospect of abatement of the tramp nuisance. Rather, the tramp seems to have become ubiquitous and the growth of his order is only equaled by his capacity for villainy and “general cussedness.) The few mild measures taken in some sections for the suppression of this dangerous class have proved wholly inoperative, thus far. How long the community at large will continue to bear the afflictions before resorting to a more vigorous and wholesome treatment is difficult to determine.

From the way in which people permit themselves to be imposed upon and cowed into acquiescence with all that these rascals insolently demand, we should judge that this is sort of a tramps’ millenium and is to be of indefinite duration. At any rate the tramps are increasing and with their multiplication, robbery, incendiarism, intimidation, rape and murder in like ratio become more and more common.

This tramp nuisance will continue just as long as people submit to it and no longer. The remedy is within reach. It is a simple remedy, easily supplied. It may appear to some to be harsh, but if people would be rid of the evil, they must first make up their minds that harsh measures are the only ones that can be made effective.

In the first place, stop feeding tramps. Secondly, let every man, woman, and youth learn now to use a revolver and have one or more of these useful articles in every house, especially if in an isolated situation. Then whenever a tramp appears, peremptorily refuse him food or shelter and escort him off the premises at the muzzle of a cocked revolver and if he isn’t easily scared and attempts force, shoot.

A trusty weapon in every house and a disposition to use it on very slight provocation, will do more to squelch this abomination than any other means possible to use. And when people drop their squeamishness and sickly philanthropy and all other classes of criminals with that promptness and fidelity which is possible only by taking the law into their own hands, the moral atmosphere will improve wonderfully and life, property and virtue will be properly respected.



Posted by Jerome Doolittle at August 25, 2010 01:38 PM
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Yes, indeed. The "moral atmosphere" will improve when people shoot the hungry and the homeless. I'd like chapter and verse on that one.

Posted by: Joyful on August 25, 2010 3:36 PM

I should have mentioned that the picture is of Leatherman, a mysterious figure who walked the roads of Connecticut and New York for many years in the late 1800s, never speaking more than a word or two. He was on a strict schedule, showing up year after year in the same places on the same dates. He slept in a string of shelters, mostly caves, along his route. His clothes were handmade from the uppers of discarded boots he found along the way. He finally vanished, as mysteriously as he had appeared.

Posted by: Jerry Doolittle on August 25, 2010 7:08 PM

They found a prayerbook on Leatherman's body after his death.

But in French! I ask you! Would the Lord Above speak French?! After all, the Holy Bible was written in American English, right?

Posted by: Peter on August 26, 2010 11:45 AM
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