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The national peril of the United States is hogs. Of the peculiar and subtle influences which have driven most Americans into the pig business I find it impossible to formulate any reasonable account. Of course, there is the fact that the pig business has large monies in it, and that America is a country in which it would seem you have only to tickle a little pig with a hoe to turn him into a fine fat porker.

There can be no doubt whatever that a very large percentage of Americans think, talk, and raise pig throughout the whole of their natural lives. This industry appears to be of such a fascinating character that when once you have got into it you cannot possibly get out of it. Even if you wax unrighteously rich and get elected to Congress and move your family to New York, you still stick to pork and lard as if they were your brother. I understand that many of the ball-rooms in the big brown stone mansions in Fifth Avenue are waxed with lard.

I do not know whether there were any pigs in America before the Pilgrim[102] Fathers landed. But it is certain that there are millions of them there now, and that they eat apples and grow wondrous frisky and have a good time of it—till killing day comes around. And it is precisely here that the frightful Americanism of the hog begins. For the wicked pig, like the wicked man, has a knack of finding his way to Chicago—which, as all the world now knows, is the most bloodthirsty, sultry, and unregenerate city on the face of the earth. In this place they kill pigs by the thousand daily. Hoggish shrieks rend all the air, the stores and warehouses groan with the pig’s dismembered parts, and the odour of his frizzling adipose tissue is in every nostril.

It seems to me more than likely that the pig owes the beginnings of his present supremacy in the United States to the Irish, who are pretty thick upon the ground there. An Irishman without a pig in one form or another would in all likelihood take cold, or die of heart-ache. In his own distressful Island, the Irishman and his pig live on terms of freedom and fraternity that put the American Constitution to the distinct blush. Not only does the pig pay the greater proportion of rent that gets paid in Ireland, but he is the friend and playmate of the family, and is invariably accorded a cosy[103] corner for himself on the domestic hearth.

It seems only natural, therefore, that in emigrating to the States, the Irishman who could manage it would insist on taking with him one or more pigs, probably as much for company’s sake as for any other reason. And behold the result! What was a simple and very human foible on the part of the Irishman, has become, with the American, a raging and soul-consuming obsession. Pork, pork, pork, pork, pork! That is the cry that rises daily and hourly to heaven from the greater part of the United-States-half of North America. Everybody is concerned in it; everybody has money in it; everybody wants to get more money out of it. The pig is rushed through his feeds, weighed every morning till he has assumed the right specific gravity, hurried off by car to his doom, killed and slain on the no-waiting-here principle, and turned into hams, sides, lard, brawn, and sausages for the delectation of a hungry world before he has a chance to say George Washington.

America as a country, and the Americans as a people, depend upon hogs for their prosperity to an extent that is appalling. Upon the dead weight of him in the warehouses, and upon his firmness, or want of it, in the markets, hangs the[104] stability of all sorts of stocks, shares, bonds, debentures, and general securities. If pig is “up,” America is a land of contented households and smiling faces. If pig is “down,” she is plunged forthwith into the deepest woe and the meanest irritability.

All of which affords one further striking evidence that the Americans are really a wonderful people, and that they deserve the generous tributes of praise that they so consistently and lavishly draw upon themselves.

A nation whose principal diet is pea-nuts, and whose principal profit is derived from the sale of pigs, is obviously pretty low down in the scale of civilisation. A hog tender cannot by any chance be the finest kind of man, neither can a pork butcher or a wholesale ham merchant. And every American who is not a member of a trust, or a pastor of a church, or a boss billposter, or a missionary, or a comic singer, is either a hog tender, a pork butcher, or a wholesale ham merchant. At any rate, so one gathers from the authorised reports.

And just as nut-chewing is responsible fo............
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