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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/864

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844
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

coal will be delivered to ships. If the Chinese prefer to consume the coal in their own vessels, instead of selling it to the foreign steamers, it will not take long to wipe out the foreign service, as the cost of the coal will be so much less than that now used by all steamers.

Butler is a leading man in this magnificent enterprise in China.

I have related this incident because it bears on the question of the "color-line," and I write this from a city where the presence of twenty-six different nationalities has obliterated all color-lines. There is a lesson in Butler's life. He fought for his position and won it. He did not sulk for it, or cry for it, or beg for it; he commanded it. He made himself the peer of men about him, and they acknowledged it, as all men will admit, when forced to meet the matter. Men sought him, as they always seek men who have advantages, either in brains or experience. Interested as I am in the negro question, it was to me a most important incident to meet, on the seaboard of the great Chinese Empire, an American negro, educated, capable, doing his work well, and a leader among men.

Several weeks after meeting Butler, I was with the King of the Hawaiians on board the royal yacht of the King of Siam, on the river Menam. On the way to the capital of the country, Bangkok, the yacht stopped for a moment at the custom-house, in order to take on board some officials. I noticed a negro sitting in the stern of a boat, and inquired about him. A merchant said to me: "He is at the head of the custom-house on the river. It is a very responsible place. This negro is a man of considerable education, is honest and capable; so he was appointed to the place, and discharges the duties well." I had no opportunity to speak to this man, but I counted it as another incident of my trip that I had met another negro who was doing credit to himself. I have written this letter for the sole purpose of presenting these facts to the younger colored people in America, that they may know that their race can hold itself if it will.

[Mr. Armstrong adds to the above valuable information a few notes on travel, which we are sure will interest our readers:]

The city of Bangkok contains about four hundred thousand people. Through the center of it flows a large river; from the river canals are cut in every direction; and, while most of the people live on land, very many thousands live on the water entirely. A raft is made of bamboo, and tied to the river-bank. A house is then built on the raft. In it one or more families live. The back part of the house, or the part toward the river-bank, is used for living purposes, while the front part, facing the river, is used for stores or manufacturing purposes. One wishing to do some shopping hires a canoe, rowed by two men. This canoe is moved along the river, and stops in front of the houses. The passenger, sitting in it, leans over the side and inspects the articles in the house on the raft; when the trade is over the canoe moves off to another place. It is, in fact, a river-carriage. These water houses extend for three miles up and down the river. They rise and fall with the tide. In rowing the canoes or boats, the men stand up, facing the bows. The oar is fastened to a stake in the boat, and the rower dips the oar in and pushes it while standing.

About one year ago the Queen of Siam, while passing up the river in a royal barge, was run down by a steam-tug. There were numbers of people standing by, but none of them dared to rescue her, because she was sacred, and could not be touched; so the poor woman went to the bottom. Just before we arrived at Bangkok she was cremated; a vast temple was built for the occasion, and an altar of sandal-wood was erected in the center of it. In this the body was placed, and burned to ashes. Festivities continued for ten days. The total cost of the cremation was above one half million dollars. Cremation is universally practiced in Siam. In many cases the bodies are taken to a temple and exposed in the open air; vultures and carrion birds come down in dense flocks, and consume the flesh in a few moments. The bones are then burned, and the ashes are scattered in the waters of the sacred river Menam.

The Siamese are a pleasant people, but very lazy. Rice and fish are cheap, and if the people can get this food they will not work. Few of them are forehanded. The consequence is, that the Chinese come in, get the best lands, and do the best part of the business. In the end the four million Siamese will pass away, and the country will be in the hands of the Chinese entirely. It is a case of the "survival of the fittest."

The Chinaman is the New-Englander of the Pacific in his energy and pluck. The Chinaman of the northern part of the empire docs not emigrate. Though he is poor, he prefers his mud-hut and his associations to foreign lands; no inducements so far have brought him out of his home. The southern Chinese, living along the coast, in the vicinity of Canton, are the people who emigrate. All who have left are, however, but a fraction of the people in only one province. California holds seventy-five thousand of these people; Australia, perhaps, as many more. What are these numbers to the forty millions of one province alone in south China?

I do not despise their religion. Let no