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I do not claim for this book any literary merit, except that borrowed or quoted from others, for, when Cushing could mark 5000 mistakes in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (saying that for the size of the book it had as few errors as could be expected), and when newspaper and other writers have to browse so largely from the genius and labor of others, that editorials are frequently copied bodily as their own (so that it is often difficult to know who produced some piece of intellectual work and the gems of genius that they print), it would therefore be presumptuous for an unlettered homebuilder on the border, alone to attempt anything very fine and glittering in building his book; and though the most practical, valuable and expensive education in the world is that gotten by struggling hard and long against fiends and fate, for life, liberty and home, such a life permits of no leisure or condition of the mind for the culture of any of its latent literary genius.
While the mere kid-gloved hired critic will smile over the stacks of humbug effusions of his professional brethren, he will sneer at this ill-favored thing; and ring-black-legs will detest it, as they do truth itself and equality before the law. But when my case was so cruelly lied about and I was so persistently and corruptly held in a secret bastile to be tortured, looted and maligned, (as I found it to be the case with others also), and was always denied any hearing, or defense, or trial, I was left no alternative by the mongrel gang, but was forced to write my life, and theirs also-wherein it imperils the life, liberty and homes of the people.
As to its truth, every point and assertion of mine is (in one place and another) shown to be so very evidently and positively true, that none but brazen members or tools of the black conspiracy will ever question it.
In the language of Josephus: "Some apply themselves to this part of learning to show their great skill in composition, and that they may therein acquire a reputation for speaking finely; others there are who of necessity and by force are driven to write history, because they were concerned in the facts, and so cannot excuse themselves from committing them to writing for the advantage of posterity. Nay, there are not a few who are induced to draw their historical facts out of darkness into light, and to produce them for the benefit of the public, on account of the great importance of the facts themselves with which they have been concerned....I was forced to give the history of it because I saw that others perverted the truth of those actions in their writings. However, I will not go to the other extreme out of opposition to those men who extol the oppressors, nor will I determine to raise the actions of my own too high; but I will prosecute the actions of both parties with accuracy. Yet shall I suit my language to the passions I am under, as to the affairs I describe, and must be allowed to indulge in some lamentations upon the miseries undergone by my own....
"But if any one makes an unjust accusation against me when I speak so passionately about the tyrants, or the robbers, or sorely bewail the misfortune of our country, let him indulge my affections herein.... Because it had come to pass, that we had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than others, and yet at last fell into the sorest calamities again....But if any one be inflexible in his censures of me, let him attribute the facts themselves to the historical part, and the lamentations to the writer himself only.... And I have written it down for the sake
of those that love truth, but not for those that please themselves with fictitious relations."
"If all the scoundrels who now bask in the smiles of San Francisco society were to receive their just deserts for their infamous deeds, the accommodations at San Quentin and Folsom would be entirely too restricted.
We have before taken occasion to define the crime of personal journalism." It is never perpetrated except against a rich scoundrel. A journal may with perfect safety hold up to scorn the actions of water front bummers, or the despised hoodlum. Turn to your paper any morning and evening and see how often crime in low places is exposed and made odious in a hundred different ways. Does any one suppose that distinguished lawyers would be found to rail at the practice so long as it was confined within these limits? Bah! The inquiry excites a smile of derision. Any Tom, Dick or Harry in the city might be mentioned, and columns of contempt and derision hurled at them without a protest being raised. But, as we have said before, let a man with a million or two of money commit the most unpardonable outrages, and be referred to ever so gently, and the pack start out in full cry yelping "personal journalism."
Without personal journalism vice and roguery would be sure to get the upper hand in modern times. Personal journalism is the bulwark reared against its encroachment. Personal journalism is only another term for the "rascal's scourge." It will be a sorry day for society if the assassin's pistol or the rich man's coin ever prove effective enough to stop the hand engaged in the work of making crime odious by pointing out to the public their enemies. Crime cannot be checked with a parable. Its perpetrators must be held up to public scorn."
San Francisco "Chronicle."