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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

Before attempting to reform the Gipsies


[292] I cannot agree with Mr. Borrow, when he says, that the Gipsies "travelled three thousand miles into Europe, _with hatred in their hearts towards the people among whom they settled_." In none of the earliest laws passed against them, is anything said of their being other than thieves, cheats, &c, &c. They seem to have been too politic to commit murder; moreover, it appears to have been foreign to their disposition to do aught but obtain a living in the most cunning manner they could. There is no necessary connection between purloining one's property and hating one's person. As long as the Gipsies were not hardly dealt with, they could, naturally, have no actual hatred towards their fellow-creatures. Mr. Borrow attributes none of the spite and hatred of the race towards the community to the severity of the persecutions to which it was exposed, or to that hard feeling with which society has regarded it. These, and the example of the Spaniards, doubtless led the Gitanos to shed the blood of the ordinary natives.

As regards the improvement of the Gipsies, I would make the following suggestions: The facts and principles of the present work should be thoroughly canvassed and imprinted upon the public mind, and an effort made to bring, if possible, our high-class Gipsies to own themselves up to be Gipsies. The fact of these Gipsies being received into society, and respected, as Gipsies, (as it is with them,

at present, as men,) could not fail to have a wonderful effect upon many of the humble, ignorant, or wild ones. They would perceive, at once, that the objections which the community had to them, proceeded, not from their being Gipsies, but from their habits, only. What is the feeling which Gipsies, who are known to be Gipsies, have for the public at large? The white race, as a race, is simply odious to them, for they know well the dreadful prejudice which it bears towards them. But let some of their own race, however mixed the blood might be, be respected as Gipsies, and it would, in a great measure, break down, at least in feeling, the wall of caste that separates them from the community at large. This is the first, the most important, step to be taken to improve the Gipsies, whatever may be the class to which they belong. Let the prejudice be removed, and it is impossible to say what might not follow. Before attempting to reform the Gipsies, we ought to reform, or, at least, inform, mankind in regard to them; and endeavour to reconcile the world to them, before we attempt to reconcile them to the world; and treat them as men, before we try to make them Christians. The _poor_ Gipsies know well that there are many of their race occupying respectable positions in life; perhaps they do not know many, or even any, of them, personally, but they believe in it thoroughly. Still, they will deny it, at least hide it from strangers, for this reason, among others, that it is a state to which their children, or even they themselves, look forward, as ultimately awaiting them, in which they will manage to escape from the odium of their fellow-creatures, which clings to them in their present condition. The fact of the poor travelling Gipsies knowing of such respectable settled Gipsies, gives them a certain degree of respect in their own eyes, which leads them to repel any advance from the other race, let it come in almost whatever shape it may. The white race, as I have already said, is perfectly odious to them. This is exactly the position of the question. The more original kind of Gipsies feel that the prejudice which exists against the race to which they belong is such, that an intercourse cannot be maintained between them and the other inhabitants; or, if it does exist, it is of so clandestine a nature, that their appearance, and, it may be, their general habits, do not allow or lead them to indulge in it. I will make a few more remarks on this subject further on in this treatise.


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