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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

In the British Gipsy prejudice


reader may ask: Is it possible that there is a race of men, residing in the British Isles, to be counted by its hundreds of thousands, occupying such a position as that described? And I reply, Alas! it is too true. Exeter Hall may hobnob with Negroes, Hottentots, and Bosjesmen--always with something or other from a distance; but what has it ever done for the Gipsies? Nothing! It will rail at the American prejudice towards the Negro, and entirely pass over a much superior race at its own door! The prejudice against the Negro proceeds from two causes--his appearance and the servitude in which he is, or has been, held. But there can be no prejudice against the Gipsy, on such grounds. It will not do to say that the prejudice is against the tented Gipsies, only; it is against the race, root and branch, as far as it is known. What is it but that which compels the Gipsy, on entering upon a settled life, to hide himself from the unearthly prejudice of his fellow-creatures? The Englishman, the Scotchman, and the Irishman may rail at the American for his peculiar prejudices; but the latter, if he can but capitalize the idea, has, in all conscience, much to throw back upon society in the mother country. Instead of a class of the British public spending so much of their time in an agitation against an institution thousands of miles away from home, and over which they have, and can expect to have, no control, they might direct their attention to an evil laying at their own doors--that social
prejudice which is so much calculated to have a blasting influence upon the condition of so many of their fellow-subjects. It is beyond doubt that there cannot be less than a quarter of a million of Gipsies in the British Isles, who are living under a grinding despotism of caste; a despotism so absolute and odious, that the people upon whom it bears cannot, as in Scotland, were it almost to save their lives, even say who they are! Let the time and talents spent on the agitation in question be transferred, for a time, into some such channel as would be implied in a "British Anti-Gipsy-prejudice Association," and a great moral evil may disappear from the face of British society. In such a movement, there would be none of that direct or indirect interest to be encountered, which lies on the very threshold of slavery, in whatever part of the world it exists; nor would there be any occasion to appeal to people's pockets.[294] After the work mentioned has been accomplished, the British public might turn their attention to wrongs perpetrated in other climes. Americans, however, must not attempt to seek, in the British Gipsy-prejudice, an excuse for their excessive antipathy towards Negroes. I freely admit that the dislike of white men, generally, for the Negro, lies in something that is irremovable--something that is irrespective of character, or present or previous social condition. But it is not so with the Gipsy, for his race is, physically, among the finest that are to be found on the face of the earth. Americans ought also to consider that there are plenty of Gipsies among themselves, towards whom, however, there are none of those prejudices that spring from local tradition or association, but only such as proceed from literature, and that towards the tented Gipsy.

[294] Among the various means by which the name of Gipsy can be raised up, it may be mentioned, that beginning the word with a capital is one of no little importance. The almost invariable custom with writers, in that respect, has been as if they were describing rats and mice, instead of a race of men.

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