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Salomon de Rothschild Tours America (1861)

The Baltimore Incident

New York, May 27, '60.

Let us leave politics aside and let me tell you a story about the Baltimore police. One day [when I was in Baltimore] I dined out and was returning home around 1L00 a.m. It was one of those pitch black nights when you are afraid you're going to step into the gutter. To make a short cut, I went into a little street even darker and narrower, if this is possible. Suddenly I saw, or rather felt, that I was being followed by a...huge figure. I quickened my step...but when I stopped there was my companion crossing the street right in back of me. He was about to put his hand on my shoulder when I turned around and seized him with my arms, holding back his hands so that he couldn't use them. As loud as I could I shouted: "Police!" The fellow struggled a moment, then finally said: "But what are you hollering like that? I am an officer."

Hereupon a half dozen policemen, attracted by the noise, ran up and asked what had happened. The fellow rubbed his hands and said, "I had seen that man very near a store and thought that he had bad intentions." They questioned me and I answered that it was a shame to touch a peaceable foreigner in a free country, as he was re-entering his own house. Those policemen couldn't believe it when I told the man who had arrested me: "You have gone beyond your duty, and I shall have you suspended. Give me your number." To these words they replied: "Sir, you can go." I didn't wait to be told again.

I'm lucky I left my leaded cane at home, for with one blow I would have dismembered a public officer and would have spent the night in the station house.