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WHO has not heard of the "City of Peking," that triumph of the shipbuilding art, that was to show the essential superiority of the American genius to that of every nation on earth? To be sure, it cost very much more than it would have done had it been built on the Clyde, or in Patagonia for that matter, but then it was strictly national. Every false bolthead was stuck (sic) on by an American citizen. An American citizen built it, and an American company paid - or, to speak more accurately, did not pay - for it. An American company mismanaged it too, and the writer was one of the unhappy victims.
On the 26th of September, 1874, this triumph of American genius set out from New York Harbor, bearing the precious freight of Rufus Hatch, lobbyist, director of the company, etc., together with several other directors and a few passengers, including three ladies, whom the vile conversation of the aforesaid directors of the P. M. S. S. confined to their rooms.
A glorious carnival of free rum was immediately declared, the natural consequence of which was that all these estimable gentlemen got very drunk. Scarcely had we got to Sandy Hook before the prize director had informed the prize first officer (whom it is needless to say was also drunk), a discharged servant of Secretary Robeson, the burning and shining light of the Navy Department, that "he was a - (what you please), and did not understand his business"; which was true, but unpleasant. The other replied, in the chaste language of the forecastle, to the purport that then great director "lied under a mistake," and then punched his eye.
This was an offence that Mr. Hatch was obliged to wink at, but, picking himself up from the scuppers, whither his majesty had rolled, he departed in high dudgeon to the captain's room, and thence degraded the pugnacious officer, putting in his place a retired New York policeman, whose sailing qualifications had been chiefly acquired in frequent trips (in a private capacity) to Coney Island, and, for aught I know, to the sweet repose of Mr. Blackwell's.
As evening drew on a tug-boat came alongside to take this jolly band of managers of the "greatest company on earth" back again to their fond wives, etc. Unfortunately, both for us and the "etc.," they were all too drunk to be got gracefully down the side steps, and so it was discovered that the compasses needed regulating, and they remained there that night and the next day, fixing the compasses (which, by the way, we afterwards found to be all wrong) and getting sober. The next evening we finally got rid of them, to the great sorrow of the stewardess who had hoped that "her Rufus" would stay a little longer. However, she did not miss him much. There were three New York Club men on board.
Behold us at sea. The second day out the great American Humbug broke her screw, and also sprang a leak, because one of the side plates had not been properly fastened on.
But why should I detail the various shameful scenes which disgraced this voyage? Does not Virgil say, -
"Ex crimine uno, disce omnia"?
And it is as applicable to these charming scenes as to the proceedings of the Greeks. One incident only, which may serve as a specimen, I should like to relate.
We carried on board a number of cattle, to be killed on the passage, and for this purpose we also carried a man who called himself a butcher, on the lucus a non lucendo principle. This butcher, having made several vain attempts with a knife on a bullock (which we shipped at Rio), and next danced around him for several minutes with an axe, - the animal looking up at him from time to time more in pity at his inefficiency than in anger, - came aft and announced his trouble to the captain, who, with the three sporting gentlemen from New York just mentioned, went forward and proceeded to practise with their guns on the animal as at a mark. The animal, weary at length of the unequal contest, consented to submit.
I believe that such scenes are far from uncommon on the ships of this line, though there are exceptions, notable among which will always be found the ship so fortunate as to have Captain Rathburn for a commander; but this is the general tendency of the company.
The "City of Peking," as I recently heard, has been condemned as unfit for sea in a little more than a year from the time of her launching, and is being rebuilt. If such is the condition of American companies, who can wonder that sensible men and women prefer to trust their lives with the English lines, who, at least, "assume a virtue if they have it not"?
AT the meeting of the Freshman Class, January 24, Mr. P. Grant was elected Captain of the Eleven; Mr. B. S. Blanchard, Secretary of the Eleven; Mr. J. A, Wright and Mr. H. S. Le Roy Captain and Secretary respectively of the Nine. A letter of resignation from the Captain of the crew read. The resignation was not accepted.
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