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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

That whenever the Gipsy settles


will now consider the relative positions which the Jews and Gipsies occupy towards the rest of mankind. I readily admit that, in their original and wild state, the Gipsies have not been of any use to the world, but, on the contrary, a great annoyance. Still, that cannot be said altogether; for the handy turn of the Gipsies in some of the primitive mechanical arts, and their dealing in various wares, have been, in a measure, useful to a certain part of the rural population; and themselves the sources of considerable amusement; but, taking everything into account, they have been decidedly annoying to the world generally. In their wild state, they have never been charged by any one with an outward contempt for religion, whatever their inward feelings may have been for it; but, on the contrary, as always having shown an apparent respect for it. No one has ever complained of the Gipsy scoffing at religion, or even for not yielding to its general truths; what has been said of him is, that he is, at heart, so heedless and volatile in his disposition, that everything in regard to religion passes in at the one ear, and goes out at the other. There are, doubtless, Gipsies who will be "unco godly," when they can make gain by it; but it more frequently happens that they will assume such an air, in the presence of a person of respectable appearance, to show him that they are really not the "horrible vagabonds" which, they never doubt, he holds them to be. They are then sure to overdo their
part. As a general thing, they wish people to believe that "they are not savages, but have feelings like other people," as "Terrible" expressed it. This much is certain, that whenever the Gipsy settles, and acquires an incognito, we hear of little or nothing of the canting in question. As regards the question of religion, it is very fortunate for the Gipsy race that they brought no particular one with them; for, objectionable as they have been held to be, the feeling towards them would have been worse, if they had had a system of priestcraft and heathen idolatry among them. But this circumstance greatly worries a respectable Gipsy; he would much rather have it said that his ancestors had some sort of religion, than that they none. It is generally understood that the Gipsies did not bring any particular religion with them; still, the ceremony of sacrificing horses at divorces, and, at one time, at marriages, has a strange and unaccountable significance.

Then, as regards the general ways of the Gipsies. If we consider them as those of a people who have emerged, or are emerging, from a state of barbarism, how trifling, how venial do they appear! Scotch people have suffered, in times past, far more at the hands of each other, than ever they knowingly did at the hands of the Gipsies. What was the nature of that system of black-mail which was levied by Highland gentlemen upon Southerners? Was it anything but robbery? So common, so unavoidable was the payment of black-mail, that the law had to wink at it, nay, regulate it. But after all, it was nothing but compounding for that which would otherwise have been stolen. It gave peace and security to the farmer, and a revenue to the Highland gentleman, whom it placed in the position of a nominal protector, but actually prevented from being a robber, in law or morals; for, let the payment of the black-mail but have been refused, and, perhaps the next day, the Southerner would have been ruined; so that the Highland gentleman would have obtained his rights, under any circumstances. For Highland people, by a process of reasoning peculiar to a people in a barbarous state, held, as we have seen, that they had a right to rob the Lowlanders, whenever it was in their power, and that two hundred years after the Gipsies entered Scotland.


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