Here is a man who is a perfectly natural product of an infamous system in this city--a charge upon the lax patriotism in this city of New York that this thing can exist. You have encouraged him, in every way you know how to overcharge. He is not the criminal here at all. The criminal is the citizen of New York and the absence of patriotism. I am not here to avenge myself on him. I have no quarrel with him. My quarrel is with the citizens of New York, who have encouraged him, and who created him by encouraging him to overcharge in this way."
The driver's license was suspended. The case made a stir in the newspapers, and it is not likely that any one incident ever contributed more to cab-driving morals in New York City.
But Clemens had larger matters than this in prospect. His many speeches on municipal and national abuses he felt were more or less ephemeral. He proposed now to write himself down more substantially and for a wider hearing. The human race was behaving very badly: unspeakable corruption was rampant in the city; the Boers were being oppressed in South Africa; the natives were being murdered in the Philippines; Leopold of Belgium was massacring and mutilating the blacks in the Congo, and the allied powers, in the cause of Christ, were slaughtering the Chinese. In his letters he had more than once boiled over touching these matters, and for New-Year's Eve, 1900, had written:
A GREETING FROM THE NINETEENTH TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
I bring you the stately nation named Christendom, returning, bedraggled, besmirched, and dishonored, from pirate raids in Kiao- Chou, Manchuria, South Africa, and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and towel, but hide the looking- glass.--[Prepared for Red Cross Society watch-meeting, which was postponed until March. Clemens recalled his "Greeting" for that reason and for one other, which he expressed thus: "The list of greeters thus far issued by you contains only vague generalities and one definite name--mine: 'Some kings and queens and Mark Twain.' Now I am not enjoying this sparkling solitude and distinction. It makes me feel like a circus-poster in a graveyard."]
This was a sort of preliminary. Then, restraining himself no longer, he embodied his sentiments in an article for the North American Review entitled, "To the Person Sitting in Darkness." There was crying need for some one to speak the right word. He was about the only one who could do it and be certain of a universal audience. He took as his text some Christmas Eve clippings from the New York Tribune and Sun which he had been saving for this purpose. The Tribune clipping said:
Christmas will dawn in the United States over a people full of hope and aspiration and good cheer. Such a condition means contentment and happiness. The carping grumbler who may here and there go forth will find few to listen to him. The majority will wonder what is the matter with him, and pass on.
A Sun clipping depicted the "terrible offenses against humanity committed in the name of politics in some of the most notorious East Side districts "--the unmissionaried, unpoliced darker New York. The Sun declared that they could not be pictured even verbally. But it suggested enough to make the reader shudder at the hideous depths of vice in the sections named. Another clipping from the same paper reported the "Rev. Mr. Ament, of the American Board of Foreign Missions," as having collected indemnities for Boxer damages in China at the rate of three hundred taels for each murder, "full payment for all destroyed property belonging to Christians, and national fines amounting to thirteen times the indemnity." It quoted Mr. Ament as saying that the money so obtained was used for the propagation of the Gospel, and that the amount so collected was moderate when compared with the amount secured by the Catholics, who had demanded, in addition to money, life for life, that is to say, "head for head"--in one district six hundred and eighty heads having been so collected.