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ference being that it is more modest among the poor, more ostentatious among the rich. Drawing-room, dining-room, and bedrooms, are arranged precisely the same everywhere. At the same spot where the sofa or rocking-chair stands in New York, you find it again in St. Louis or St. Francisco. The walls are decorated with the same traditional engravings, the floors covered with the same indispensable carpet. Each man wishes to arrange his own nest exactly as another has done his, and he has no taste of his own. As there are no originals in America, no peculiarity in the furnishing of the houses need be expected: the Horatian adage, "Show me your friend's house and I will tell you what he is," is not applicable in America, for in their houses there is nothing but a wearisome equality of tastes and feelings, wants and their satisfaction.
This grand uniformity could be carried further into the smaller details of the kitchen and cellar arrangements, which offer a rich and remarkable field for study. It is again to be found in the plan on which their cities are built, for these are so alike that a stranger often feels confused. The monotony of the scenery and soil is perhaps partly to blame for this, but even if they stumble on a picturesque bit of landscape, they do not, like our forefathers, scatter their houses over the hill-sides and through the valleys, but go on levelling the ground, till they have rendered it perfectly flat, and stripped it of every atom of romance.
If, when wandering in the labyrinth of any large American town, you stop at a street corner and gaze at the general appearance of the houses, you might swear that your kind-hearted friend Mrs. P., of New York, resides here. "Is not that her house? it looks exactly like it, and is of the same colour. There are her steps, surely; those curtains she used to have before her windows, and the same trees stand before her door. The neighbours' houses are also grouped in precisely the same way, and the streets here run in the same direction, and offer a similar prospect." You fancy yourself brought, as if by magic, into the vicinity of a friend; you feel inclined to knock at the door and pay your respects to the lady. But then you reflect that you are hundreds of miles from New York, in one of the suburbs of St. Louis, and only owe this pleasant, but unhappily short illusion, to the comprehensive genius for uniformity of the
Our politicians frequently observe that the majority in the United States exerts the same despotic tyranny as the autocratic czar in Russia. When they say so, they have only in view the political tyranny of this victorious majority, which forces its president, its senators, its judges, even its postmasters and mail-cart drivers, on the conquered and thoroughly dispossessed minority: the majority, which in a most wonderful manner blinds or gags the press, and suffers no opposition to its party views. But more remarkable is the consequence of their democratic tendencies, which carry along the entire nation, as the trade winds do the dust of the desert. A similar tyrannising majority has gained the upper hand in unpolitical matters, and, as we have shown, even sways manners and customs, and moulds body and mind so thoroughly, that they grow as like each other as pebbles rolled about by a stream. It seems as if this political and moral majority passed through the whole body of the American nation, as the mighty Gulf Stream does through
the ocean. Fashion, the majority, the spirit of the age-call it as you will-has not yet produced among us such a Gulf Stream, that carries everything away and sets all wheels in motion. Among ourselves there is a number of counter, side, and under-currents: even when the tops of the trees are bent, or the waves break in foam, there is a quiet undergrowth, or deep water below. The Americans, who possess no such protection, whom every change of temper affects to the furthest extremity, naturally run a greater risk of degenerating into savageness than we Europeans, who are provided with so many natural counterpoises and active obstacles.
When the Americans praise to a European the political constitution of their country, and prove how cleverly calculated the power of their authorities is, how the action of congress is checked by the president, how in some states the parliaments exercise a control over the governor, and vice versâ, and how each man has a right of resistance to protect himself against others, they generally end their panegyric with the exclamation that it is a most wonderful system of checks and balances. But they forget that they have not introduced any counterpoise against the Gulf Stream of the majority, and that their whole constitution floats in the air like a balloon, which, in spite of all its ballast, is driven along by the blast of the national spirit. Could they but improve this spirit, they might again secure an anchorage for their constitution.
What did the Americans obtain from Europe? They are not, to any great extent, the cause of their being what they are: we may say that their character, and all the qualities and peculiarities that distinguish them, are the very natural and almost necessary product of their history and position. They could not have become other than what they are: perhaps, too, they can do little towards their amelioration, for destiny placed them on an inclined plane, down which they travel at a great pace, but it will be a matter of difficulty to climb up it again. As, however, the hope of improvement should not be given up either in a nation or an individual, the causes and historic progress of this degeneration may be sought with advantage.
The task of deducing national peculiarities from historic and geographical events is proportionally nowhere so easy as among the Americans. The first beginnings and origin of our old European nations are hidden in the obscurity of age; we cannot accompany them at their first migration, or decide what they brought with them, and what they derived from the land on which they settled. Who can say, for instance, whence the Germans obtained their phlegm and slowness, the French their impetuous temper, or their lively and brilliant esprit ? Who can prove how or where this or that habit, peculiarity, or custom, was implanted in the Italians or Spaniards? Such things are generally buried in oblivion, and stand beneath us like old ruins of which no one knows who built them.
All this is different with the thoroughly new American nation, for when its foundations were laid history had long had its eyes open, and had set hands and presses in motion. Their constitutions and states were not Dei gratiâ, if we may use the expression, but were made and formed by man, and with such superabundance, that, for instance, the written laws of such young states as Illinois already fill libraries. We know not only
the date of the foundation of each colony, but the names, descent, and character of their individual founders; while accounts have been kept down to our time of the number of immigrants, their nationality, &c. Hence, we are enabled to divide all that is imported from the native article, and gauge the merits of both.
As the Americans did not enter on their territory like the nomadising Magyars, as thoroughly raw barbarians and pagans, but as descendants and offshoots of nations that had long been civilised, we may seek the foundation of their character on this side the ocean, especially in certain classes and provinces of those kingdoms from which the American population was principally drawn. They obtained their main strength from England, and hence we find the chief features of our national character among them. Generally regarded, we may consider them a branch of the Anglo-Saxon stem. From England, those persons oppressed by the aristocracy, the Church, and the king, the plebeians, the persecuted sectarians, and the discontented, fled in masses to the New World. They took with them their dissenting and sectarian observations and church institutions, and these have spread in a rank crop over the new soil. The plebeians took with them also their plebeian manners, mode of speech and trades, and made them predominant in the new land. When the nobility of England were the persecuted party under Cromwell, a good deal of aristocratic blood certainly passed over to America, principally to the Southern States; but it was so insignificant that it could not give a tone to the entire nation, as was the case with the German colonies founded in Livonia and Courland, where the nation assumed the manners, character, and feelings of the upper classes of Germany. Nearly all those who afterwards proceeded from England to America belonged to the working and industrial classes, and inoculated the new people with their active, industrious, and speculative temper. Work, self-exertion, and moneymaking things which had secured to these people the highest aim of life in England-hence became the ruling principle in America. The Americans, as a people, stand in the same relation to the English nation as our lower plebeian classes to the aristocracy. An English nobleman recognises in the New York character all the peculiarities, instincts, and dialect of his own lower classes, combined with the manners of his upstarts.
Of the British provinces, not one has increased the American population more than Ireland, whence millions have emigrated, so that it would not be going too far to assert that one half the Americans are descended from the Irish. These Irish-mostly of the Celtic race and Catholic confession-have been absorbed by the more energetic Anglo-Saxon race, and they have entirely forgotten their Celtic tongue. They only remained faithful for a while over there to their Catholic Church, and many of them went over, and are still going over, to Protestantism, and thus become entirely blended with the Protestant or Anglo-Saxon race. But, for all that, the strong admixture of the Irish element has added many of its features to the portrait of the American character, which has received a very strong Celtic colouring. They obtained from the Celts a certain activity and rapidity which distinguishes the American from the real old Anglo-Saxon, though it is far from equalling the elegance of the Parisian Celts.
The passion of all Americans to play the gentleman is peculiar to the Irishman in rags, and that these American gentlemen should often act in so ungentlemanly a way by appealing to the "knock-him-down" argument, and be so fond of fighting, may be the result of the passionate nature with which the Irish blood inoculated them. It seems as if the Irish planted a sprig of shillelagh in American soil, which grew splendidly, and produced an infinity of cuttings. We fancy that the celebrated Virginian "Lynch," from whom a peculiar American institution has derived its name, was of Irish descent. The hatred and suspicion the Americans display towards England, which did not disappear even after all cause for it was removed, may also be kept alive by the constant influx of the Irish element. In their language, mode of expressing themselves, in their orthography, and poetry, the Americans distinctly display this Irish influence. In their dictionary a great number of Irish words have crept in, and in their literary style the Americans have a high-flown, ornate manner, which is not at all English. American poets often play upon words, like the Irish and other Celts, while true English poetry sets sole value on an energetic and concentrated expression of deep and earnest feelings and thoughts.
The many Highlanders and Welsh, too, who went to America, may have helped to maintain the Celtic element. Of other European nations which have assisted in the formation of American manners and peculiarities, we need only mention the French, Dutch, and Germans. French manners, tone, and customs are still kept up to a certain extent in some old towns founded by the French in the Mississippi country, and have been partially accepted by Americans of Anglo-Saxon and Irish origin who have migrated thither. The good society of New Orleans, indeed, speak still both English and French. Nearly the same may be said of the influence of the Dutch in New York. In this state, which they formed, there are not only many old families that have not yet forgotten Dutch manners and language, but practical observers assert that a Dutch colouring is unmistakably present in the manners and temper of the two million inhabitants of that state. Several Dutch customs-as, for instance, keeping up Christmas as in Holland, St. Nicholas-day, New Year congratulations, &c.—have been retained there, and are now kept up by the Americans in magnificent style.
The Germans denationalise themselves as rapidly in America as they do elsewhere. But they have retained their manners and language at those spots where they are strongly represented, and in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and a few other states, there are entire districts inhabited by Germans. In such states the political weight and character of the Germans exercise at times an undoubted influence. Hence you may often hear go-ahead Yankees complain that Pennsylvania, through its population being so strongly composed "of slow, phlegmatic Dutchmen," who act as a drag, is difficult to set in motion. As merchants, tradesmen, artisans, agriculturists, and servants, the Germans certainly play a great part in America. With the vineyards along the Ohio and Mississippi, with the beer-breweries they establish in every town, with their public gardens, their gymnastic and singing societies, they indirectly alter the manners of the Americans to a considerable extent; but their influence,
after all, is as nothing compared with that of the Anglo-Saxon and Irish element.
Had the fugitives and colonists from England found the New World unpopulated, and had they only been forced to contend against nature, it is probable that their national character would have been greatly modified. The savage, hunting peoples they found there, and with whom they soon came into constant collision, and have remained so to our days, assuredly exerted a continuous influence over the development of their character. Unfortunately, we are compelled to say that the two races, white and red, did not work beneficially upon each other. The Indians have rarely learned anything good from the Europeans, and this has been still less the case with the latter.
At the outset, the Indians were richer than the arrivals from Europe. They were the lords and owners of the soil: they alone knew how to chase those animals whose furs fetched a high price in Europe. They were acquainted with all the roads, rivers, and mountains, productions and treasures of the land, and from them the colonists could learn and acquire everything. The Indians, moreover, were at first superior to the colonists in savage strength and numbers, for the latter entered the country as pilgrim fathers, without soldiers or weapons, and having no Cortez or Pizarro to lead them. These pilgrims began by treating the Indians most kindly and affectionately; they obtained land from them piecemeal by treaties and bargains, and not by violence and conquest, and in the same way purchased from them for a mere song the peltry and other small wares, which they disposed of at a high figure in Europe. Before all, cunning and cleverness must be employed against the savages, and it was not till the small communities felt sufficiently strong that they suddenly appealed to force, and expelled or exterminated the Indians. We may say that from the beginning of their existence the American state and nation have developed themselves under the influence of constant treaties and acts of violence, negotiations and combats with the Redskins.
The bold, enterprising, cunning, and half-savage people, who now live in the rear of the American states and cities, the backwoodsmen, furhunters, beaver-trappers, and so-called Indian traders, are now celebrated or notorious throughout the world. But such a belt of spying pioneers and advanced posts, constantly waging a guerilla warfare with the Indians, has existed from the beginning in America. American life began with beaver-trapping and bargaining for peltry: these men constantly preceded agriculture or the building of the towns, of which the destroyers of the Indians became citizens. There is scarce a town in America which was not formerly a hunting station or a fur mart, or a family which did not count among its ancestors people who lived on the toil and plunder of the Indians. The qualities these men assumed in their incessant collision, either warlike or peaceful, with the Indians were necessarily permanently engrafted in the manners of the nation, and we may probably explain in this way most of the qualities contained in the name of Yankee. From these pioneers and hunters came the rapid walk, the great activity, the ever attentive and sharpened senses of the Yankees; hence, too, that quality which the Americans praise in