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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

I meet with Scotchmen in the New World


with reason to say, that a

Scotchman should be rated as standing at the bottom of all the various "packs" and "nests," simply because he has Gipsy blood in his veins? Yet, I meet with Scotchmen in the New World, who express such a feeling towards the Gipsies. This quarrelling about "folk" reigns supreme in Scotland; and, what is worse, it is brought with the people to America. It is inherent in them to be personal and intolerant, among themselves, and to talk of, and sneer at, each other, and "cast up things." In that respect, a community of Scotch people presents a peculiarity of mental feeling that is hardly to be found in one of any other people. When they come together, in social intercourse, there is frequently, if not generally, a hearty, if not a boisterous, flow of feeling, and, if the bottle contributes to the entertainment, a foam upon the surface; but the under-tow and ground-swell are frequently long in subsiding. Even in America, where they are reputed to have the clanishness of Jews, we will find within their respective circles, more heart-burnings, jealousies, envyings, and quarrellings, (but little or no Irish fighting, for they are rather given to "taking care of their characters,") than is to be found among almost any other people. At the best, there may be said to be an armed truce always to be found existing among them. Still, all that is not known to people outside of these circles; for those within them are animated by a common national sentiment, which leads them to conceal such feelings
from others, so as to "uphold the credit of their country," wherever they go. It will be a difficult matter to get the Gipsies heartily acknowledged among such elements as equals; for it makes many a native Scot wild, to tell him that there are Scottish Gipsies as good, if not better, men than he is, or any kith or kin that belongs to him.

And yet, it is not the Scottish gentleman--the gentleman by birth, rearing, education, mind, or manners--who will be backward to assist in raising up, and dignifying, the name of Gipsy. No; it will be the low-minded and ignorant Scots; people who are always either fawning upon, or sneering at, those above them, or trampling, or attempting to trample, upon those below them. It is very apt to be that class which Lord Jeffrey describes as "having a double allowance of selfishness, with a top-dressing of pedantry and conceit," and some of the "but and ben" gentry, who will sneer most at the word Gipsy. It is the flunkey, who lives and brings up his family upon the cast-off clothes and broken victuals of others, and out for whom such things would find their way to the rag-basket and the pigs; 'tis he and his children who are too often the most difficult to please in the matter of descent, and the most likely to perpetuate the prejudice against the Gipsy tribe.

I have taken some trouble to ascertain the feelings of Scotchmen in America towards the Scottish Gipsies, such as they are represented in these pages; and I find that, among the really educated and liberally brought up classes, there are not to be discovered those prejudices against them, that are expressed by the lower classes, and especially those from country places. It is natural for the former kind of people to take the most liberal view of a question like the present; for they are, in a measure, satisfied with their position in life; while, with the lower classes, it is a feeling of restless discontentment that leads them to strive to get some one under them. No one would seem to like to be at the bottom of any society; and nowhere less so than in Scotland. A good education and up-bringing, and a knowledge of the world, likewise give a person a more liberal cast of mind, wherewith to form an opinion upon the subject of the Gipsies; and it is upon such that I would mainly rely in an attempt to raise up the name of Gipsy. Among the lower classes of my own countrymen, I find individuals all that could be desired in the matter of esteeming the Gipsies, according to the characters they bear, and the positions they occupy in life; but they are exceptions to the classes to which they belong. Here is a specimen of the kind of Scot the most difficult to break in to entertaining a proper feeling upon the subject of the Gipsies:


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