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REASONS WHY THE ASPECT OF SOCIETY IN ENGLAND AND
THE UNITED STATES MUST BE RADICALLY AND PERMANENTLY DIFFERENT.
We must unavoidably form an incor- general state of society in England, rect judgment upon the general aspect and then advert to that of our own of English and American society, un- country, perhaps we shall best compass less we know the reasons which cause the end at which we aim, illustrate a difference in their respective customs, our views by facts and the light of conhabits, and manners. A transient ob- trast, and bring out the characteristic server, no matter how great his ge- features of both. nius, how classic his pen, how brilliant In England the feudal system, that his imagination, bastening through a tremendous military power, which, foreign country, with no standard on with a rod of iron, reduced the British his mind but that of his own nation, nation to a vast army, and held the lays hold of things at random, as they population in the most inexorable bondare presented to his view, and without age, is abolished. But the spirit of any clear conception of their fitness, that system in all its most essential and without tracing the effect to the proportions as they bear upon modern cause, is apt to condemn and ridicule society, still remains in full vigor. Inwhat he does not comprehend. I shall deed, the various classes of the comendeavor to place the subject in such a munity are more distinctly marked off, clear point of view, that every En- and each assigned to its specific rank, glishman may feel that he is right in now, than they were under the feudal believing, that there is no government system itself. in the world so wisely adapted to pro In those remote ages the mass of the mote his interests and secure his hap- people of England were absolute slaves piness as his own; and every American captured in war, sold as bondsmen, inthat there is no government so well capable of holding any property, subcalculated to guard his liberty, secure ject to the entire control of the barons his rights, and consolidate his happi- in peace or war, and transferable with ness as the one of his choice; and that the soil, precisely in the same manner consequently the manners, habits, and that Africans, or any other slaves, are customs of each are just such as natu- at the present day. But interesting as rally flow from the respective systems this subject is, and bearing directly of government, and although diverging upon the point in band, it is not my in contrary directions from a common intention to trace it through its succesceptre, show, nevertheless, an equal sive meliorations, from its introduction justpess and fitness. There is no solid into England by William the Conground for condemnation, still less for queror to its final abrogation at Runnyridicule; and, therefore, he who sets mede. A reference to it only, as conhimself up as judge and arbiter, and stituting the basis on which ihe whole shapes his decrees by the exclusive structure of English society rests, and standard of his own country, places as affording a clue for the development himself in a false position, and deserves of many traits of character and habits the humiliation of seeing his judgment of life which would otherwise appear overruled. These two fundamental to an American singularly absurd and principles being settled, all the differ- incongruous, will be sufficient. But ences of national character will be re our attention may well be directed to cognized as exactly appropriate to the the consideration of the spirit of the system to which they belong, and cannot feudal system, entwining itself around be removed or taken down without every branch of society, and holding destroying the frame-work of society in one compact body the component and dissolving its elementary principles. parts of a mighty nation.
If we consider, in the first place, the The hereditary claims of birth, the
deference paid by every subject to his daily intercourse, and are more fully superior in rank, and the promptitude and more mechanically organized than with which he takes and occupies his they were when the feudal system appropriate station in the general sys- bore its intolerably oppressive hand tem, all flow from the spirit of feudal- upon the population of the country. ism, and are perfectly agreeable to the Those accustomed to this aristocratical mind, and congenial with the feelings state of society feel it neither grievous of an Englishman. It will be per- nor degrading to yield submission to ceived that rank is not confined to the those above, seeing they receive the nobility. Every individual in the em same homage from all below them. pire holds rank-is a peer in his own Having pointed out this general clascircle—and just as tenacious to main- sification as nearly as practicable withtain it as if he sat upon the throne. out pretending to perfect accuracy, but
The crown, as head of the mon- sufficiently near for our purpose, we archy, and conservator of the Church, may direct our attention to its consethe centre of power, the source of quences. emolument, and the arbiter of honor It is true, no class is confined to its able distinction, necessarily claims the appropriate orbit by any physical force, first and only rank without a peer.— but there is a moral influence, ten thouTo be alienated from the crown is to sand times stronger, that never ceases be an outlaw. In the eyes of an En- to act, which binds the system in one glishman, everything that is great and compact indissoluble union. glorious, and venerable, clusters around Born, educated, and marshalled under the name of majesty.
such an influence, Americans cannot be The hereditary nobility of the coun- surprised that Britons regard king, try, the great landed proprietors of the lords, and commons as the perfection kingdom, sharing in the administration of government, and that they proudly of government, and consequently the sustain it, individually and collectively, most prominentdefenders of the throne, as the only form worthy of their supstand next in rank.
port. Of course they must look upon The legal profession, whence recruits every other form as weak and defective, are most usually drawn to strengthen incapable of upholding and defending and invigorate the power of the nobility, the rights and privileges of the suband to supply the defects of time and ject, and the legitimate object of their imbecility, may be considered, in con- ridicule and contempt. junction with the Church establishment, Under the active influence of such a as holding the third rank in the state. system, without the practical means of
The army, navy, and literary classes judging of the effects of the supreme the fourth.
power of the state lodged in the hands The merchants and bankers the fifth of the people, and incapable of appreThe manufacturers the sixth. ciating the advantages of a delegated
The warehousemen and wholesale authority, is it not just and reasonable dealers the seventh.
to conclude that the government of The shopkeepers, retail dealers, and England is better adapted to the taste, brokers the eighth.
humor, and affections of Englishmen The mechanics and master trades- than any other? A free representative men the ninth.
government, like our own, cannot exist The laborers, (agricultural, manu in England, and never did exist, por facturing, and all other descriptions,) in any part of Europe to any considerthe tenth.
able extent. The middle and subordiThese are the general divisions of nate classes of society have precisely English society, with shades of differ- the same feelings of attachment to ence and occasional intermingling of their government and to the respective contiguous classes, as they exist at the ranks in which they move, as their supresent time in Great Britain, and, with periors. The face of society, under some local distinctions, over the face of the rule of such a system, must, in Europe.
the nature of things, take its general All these distinctive grades of soci- features from the higher ranks of the ety, walled off, the one from the other, community, and not at all from the by common consent, are recognized in humbler walks of life. The compari
son, therefore, when made in reference forsake him. They would consider to our own country utterly fails. There themselves insulted, and would decline are no points of similarity. The same a future invitation. standard of measurement cannot apply The same principle of exclusion runs to monarchial and republican manners, through all the various ranks I have and the error lies in attempting to specified. I do not mean with an uncombine principles which have no affin- deviating uniformity never to be deity. I do not make these remarks with parted from, but as a general rule by a view of derogating in the slightest de- which English society is governed. gree from that reciprocal homage due Upon national festivals, as Christfrom one British subject to another, mas, or any other gala day, it is combut to show the inconsistency of that mon for the lords of the soil to invite acrimonious spirit too often manifested their tenants, the wealthy merchupon both sides of the water, the ants, bankers, and manufacturers, their working of a system fundamentally clerks and servants, to their festive different from our own, and the influ- halls; but they dine in the kitchen or ence which that system must bave some other equally appropriate apartupon the mind and character of indi- ment-seldom with their host. viduals, and of consequence upon the There is not a man in England who aspect of society.
is not aristocratical in feelings towards No person in England, below the all below him. It is an impossibility rank of a peer, presumes to hold fa- that it should be otherwise, and any miliar intercourse with a peer; it would pretence to the contrary is sheer debe to carry war into the entrenched ception. Hence, you will perceive. camp of the most privileged order, and that the scattered fragments of the to break down the barriers of aristo- feudal system still float upon the curcratic society. I remember a case in rent of society, and carry with them point which occurred a few years ago the most ample testimony of the origiin the neighborhood of London. A nal wreck. It is upon this principle friend of mine, a mercantile gentle- that one can easily account for the fire man, and a bank director, invited a co of indignation which blazed in the director, who happened to be a baron, bosom of the author of “ American to dine with him. He accepted the in- Notes,” whose name it is well enough vitation. When dinner was announced, to forget, and made him ashamed to my friend reserved for the baron the acknowledge his own countrymen honor of handing his own lady to the whom he happened to meet in his dining room. To his signal mortifica- journey from Philadelphia to Washingtion, the honor was declined, upon the top. He speaks of their having settled ground that she was not a titled lady, in America—of their gross and barand the baron bad the honor of walk- barous familiarity of daring to address ing into the dining room by himself. him by way of question and answer,
The baron acted agreeably to the and of demeaning themselves as if they etiquette of court. But as he accepted were his equals. Here one sees the an invitation to dine with a commoner, feudal spirit developed in all the brilit may well be doubted whether he liancy of its native hues, emanating, it acted agreeably to the etiquette of a must be admitted, from a very subgentleman. At all events the incident ordinate cast, but, nevertheless, just serves to illustrate my views of the as strong and unbending as if he were distinction of rank, and to show the born to command. All that rampant pertinacity with which that distinction self-estimation, engraved upon the bone is maintained. My friend, himself, and nursed in the flesh, broke from its would not accept an invitation to dine moorings the moment he met with with a tradesman, nor would he, under those from whom he expected reverany circumstances, invite a tradesman ence and submission, and which from to dine with him. In fact, he dare the same family feeling would undoubtdot. The customs of the country will edly have been rendered in their own not admit of it. Were he to make country. But they had resided in such an assault upon the spirit of feu- America a sufficient length of time to dalism and the etiquette of his rank, neutralize their national sympathies.all his friends, of equal standing, would They were not themselves aware of the
slightest rudeness. They may have made subserviency as much a universal been landed proprietors, cultivating law as if it were sanctioned by legislatheir own farms, independent in their tive acts. I am quite aware that it is a circumstances, judging of mankind by common and a fashionable thing for my their mornl worth and personal excel- countrymen to attribute the thoughtfullence, and in po respect inferior to the ness and reserve and distance observauthor, nay, perhaps, of two, the better able in the English character to pride
In them the spirit of feudalism and haughtiness. Nothing can be more had evaporated. In the author it still
It is a part of the system. held sovereign sway. He brought his The manners of the people are the monarchial pack with him, and had not natural and necessary result of the form discernment enough to discover that he of government under which they live. had strayed from the market.
From the remarks already suggested, Lady Montague, writing from Vi- it must be evident that the very exisenna to her friends in England, notices tence of the ruling principle of aristothe fastidious manner in which points cracy depends upon the exclusiveness of rank were maintained at the Aus- of rank and class; and the strict maintrian court. In the narrow streets of tenance of that principle resolves itself that capital, where it was impossible into a moral and civil duty, and is no to pass each other, two coaches driving evidence of pride or haughtiness, notin opposite directions met; each of the withstanding it has all the appearance ladies in the two coaches claimed the of being both, in the view of one who prerogative of rank, and consequently has not been taught to see the reason each refused to back out and give place why it is necessary. to the other. There they sat until two Undoubtedly that kind of demeanor o'clock in the morning, and resolved to in a republican would justly be concontinue sitting rather than give up the sidered as undeniable evidence of the point of precedence, until death should highest arrogance and supercilious step in and settle the controversy. bearing, for just the same reason in its
In order to clear the street, encum inverse application, that he has no ex. bered with two such loads of dignity, clusive rank to sustain by the requirethe emperor sent his guards to part ments of the society in which he moves, them. The ladies, however, refused and no inferior artificial ranks against to move an inch, until the ingenious whose encroachments he is bound to expedient was hit upon of taking them guard. both out of their carriages at the same Whether or no such a system is detime, and in the same manner, and sirable in the abstract is not the quesconveying them away in chairs. Thus tion we are considering, but whether the honor and rank of both were most it be consistent with the civil rights, signally vindicated. The passion for habits, and enjoyments of those who order is so omnipotent, especially among choose to live under its sway, and bethe ladies, that they mourn upon the lieve it to be the only one suited to their death of their husbands, and are ready social wants and national happiness. to break their hearts out of pure grief, Surely there need be no more pride because that fatal event puts an end to and arrogance in an aristocrat maintaintheir rank.
ing aristocracy than there is in a repubThe moral influence of the various lican maintaining republicanism. The co-existing and yet mutually indepen- thing is the same, working through dent ranks of the social condition of different channels, and combining with England is inconceivably great and pow- different elements. I do not suppose erful. The idea of reverence for rank, there is one whit of difference in referirrespective of personal merit, descends ence to the nature of pride in the whole from the crown to the lowest stratum human family; but the forms of society, of society.
Wealth in all countries the course of education, and the moral carries a modified influence, but is no discipline of all kinds of religion, give ground for the distinction of order.- different directions to its current, as it One of the most remarkable features Sweeps along within more contracted in this arbitrary system-arbitrary in or more extended embankments. our republican view of the subject, is The moral discipline of aristocracy the fact, that the custom of ages has is an every-day affair, and plies itself
upon every individual in the state ; so religious toleration, are fruitful topics that the strangest of all things would for•untempered wit and sarcastic debe that of being jostled out of his rank clamation. But whilst we see and feel and brought to a level of equality with all this, it may be well to consider one beneath him. That would be a whether we, ourselves, are entirely degradation—an exilement from every- exempt from the indulgence of the same thing held most dear, a stripping off censorious spirit which we so promptly and wrenching away the golden liga- condemn in others. tures that bind him to the social com We choose a republican form of pact.
government, and demand what right We may therefore conclude that the have other nations to interfere with service and voluntary discipline of aris- that choice ?-to launch, with an untocracy are regarded by Englishmen scrupulous hand, their envenomed aras such extraordinary privileges, that rows from the quiver of wit and ridino charms of popular allurement, no culo against institutions of which they promise of equalized greatness, and no have at best but a theoretic knowledge ? hopes of public plunder, will ever in England chooses a monarchy, and duce them to relinquish. The govern- what occasion have we to object to that ment is exactly suited to the people, choice, and to storm the fortress of her and the people to the government. aristocracy with congressional artillery, The wheels move with singular har because incompatible with our notions mony, without forcing the will of the of a wise and popular government ?subject, impairing his liberty, or en. So long as we are satisfied with our dangering the public security. No choice of system, ought we not to almarvel then that a nation, thus charm- low other nations to be satisfied with ed with royalty, and attached to all its theirs? The mutual asperity which details, always rises instinctively as one pervades the public mind, and disturbs man at the thrilling melody of “God the tranquillity of society, on the ground save the King."
of a difference in the form of governEvery sensible man condemns a ma ment and its consequences, discovers a lignant and acrimonious sptifit, because diseased intellect, and must result in it betrays a want of benevolence and reciprocal alienation and the blotting of that delicate sensibility of Christian out of every particle of Christian beneprinciples which ought to lead the mind volence and amiable sentiment. The to make another's woes or another's only good point of humanity which wrongs, whether real or imaginary, its survives “the loss of Paradise,” and own. We justly complain of the taunt- the richest fragment of that blissful ing, vituperative and contemptuous spirit state, is sacrificed. which breathes in European publica In my next communication I purpose tions, and which comes to our shores to take a short view of the aspect of floating upon every breeze. “ The Model society in the United States, and to Republic” is the target of ridicule;—the show why the manners of the people manners of the people, the peculiarities are and ought to be essentially different of our institutions, and even universal from those of a monarchy.