B 0-0 K S.
MR. FREEMAN ON THE AMERICAN.*
*Tax book in which Mr. Freeman records his impressions of the 'United States will, no doubt, find many readers. The subject is one of abiding interest, and Mr. Freeman's treatment of it .cannot fail to excite attention. He tells us that his book is the fruit of a six months' visit to the United States, and surely to have observed so carefully, to have accumulated so many facts in so short a time, must be looked upon as no ordinary per- formance. Nor is it his industry alone that deserves praise ; Mr. Freeman desires to see the object fairly, and he reproduces the impression it makes upon him with much faithfulness ; the result is that the likeness of Brother Jonathan which is accepted in England as exact, is seen to be a mere caricature. So much must be said in justice to Mr. Freeman. Inasmuch, however, as -the political relations of the two countries make it important for us to see our Transatlantic kinsmen as they really are, the short- -comings of the book deserve notice. Now, these shortcomings are mainly due to the fact that Mr. Freeman has made it" some- -what of his business to set forth the essential oneness of the two peoples ;" in fact, the American is to him in all senses an Englishman. This confession is likely to astonish the readei ; it is as if one tried to describe a species of foreign oak by -enumerating and insisting upon the points of resemblance between it and the well-known• English tree. Yet when Mr. Freeman tells us that to him the thought of the true unity of the scattered English folk, is a thought higher and dearer than any thought of a British Empire to the vast majority of whose• subjects the common speech of Chatham and Washington, of Gladstone and Garfield is an un- known tongue, he seems, even if his political ideal be left out of the question, to have strengthened his position by an appeal to facts. It must be acknowledged that Mr. Freeman's portrait • does bear some resemblance to the original. Chatham, Wash- ington, Gladstone, and Garfield have all what is called a family likeness. One might, in fact, go further, and say that -the two Englishmen here mentioned could better stand for Americans, aud that the two Americans are quite peculiarly English. This is equivalent to asserting that there is a type of manhood as distinctively American as is our English type dis- tinctively English, and not German. Now, if thie be true, our
disagreement with Mr. Freeman is no mere formal one ; it results from a difference of stand-point. The facts, then, will bear a different reading to that which pleases him. We intend, accord- ingly, to draw attention to some distinctive features of the American, in order to correct Mr. Freeman's picture. This ought to be done by an Englishman, inasmuch as to insist upon differences may be to insist upon superiorities ; it, therefore, becomes an Englishman better than it does an American to lay stress upon peculiarly American traits.
• Some Impressions of the United S:atet. By E. A. Freeman. London : Long. Inane. Green. aid Co.
Mr. Freeman remarks that the Americans now speak of "Englishman," where they formerly spoke of "Britisher," and he seems to draw hope from the disitse of the contemptuous epithet that the Americans may yet come to call themselves Englishmen. This is one instance of how Mr. Freeman reads facts which must, we think, be differently interpreted. The Americans have passed from contempt to appreciation of the English people in like measure as they have become conscious of their own peculiar excellencies. They can now afford to recognise worth in others ; pride in their own national qualities moves them to give each race its due. Now, this pride owes much of its strength to the Civil War. The Southerner liked to dwell upon his English origin, be thought and spoke of himself as an aristocrat, and as this called forth sympathy in England, the Northerner was thrown upon the past of his own land, and came to pride himself moreand more upon his birthright as an Ameri- can as the Northern and Western armies gained ground. Each victory tended to define the national character more sharply, by making it more self•conscious. In fact, with the triumph of the North the American may be said to have reached manhood ; that is, just at the time when he first began to use the word " national " instead of "federal," which usage Mr. Freeman is content to condemn as " often inexact," without trying to explain its origin. With this pride in himself and in his nation came a natural revulsion against the braggartisin and restless self-assertion, which had been, till then, characteristic of the American. The passengers had not faith in Bludso's nobility ; no,—
" We all had trust in his cussedness, And knowed he would keep his word."
Now, this pride, this self-disparagement, is peculiarly an Eng- lish trait, and when the American also exhibits it, he seems but te have come nearer to us. Yet the pride of the American has, so to speak, a different root. An English reviewer recently noticed with some indignation that Mr. Howells and Mr. James depict Englishmen as rather stupid and the American as having more brains. In this opinion, these novelists are at one with their countrymen, who speak of the Englishmen in Canada as Kaunas. Even the average American feels that the Canadian is borne, is somewhat of a Philistine. For the American—and this is his characteristic feature—has a marked liking for intellectual power. "Old-fashioned," "slow," words which to an English ear seem rather complimentary than otherwise, convey to an American the most damning blame ; "wide-awake," "keen," on the other hand, are apt to inspire an Englishman with some fear lest the individual so characterised should be too shrewd to be honest, whereas these words only express praise or admiration when • used by an American. Now, this change of mental attitude has innumerable consequences. The American hopes all from energy rightly applied, the Englishman relies upon steady perseverance. The one abandons immediately what he sees to be a hopeless undertaking the other, believing " 'tis dogged as does it," sets his teeth hard, and is even more obstinate in the wrong than in the right. The American prefers thoughts, and is quicker to seize upon generalisations ; the Englishman loves facts, and believes in the logic of events. The one is more flexible, more sympathetic ; the other more constant, were it to rigidity. The reader can now see what we meant by saying that Chatham and Gladstone are more distinctively American than Washing- ton and Garfield. The characteristic trait in the first pairis intelligence, in the second, strong moral sense.
We now pass to modifications of character which are the result of a new social environment. Strangely enough, Mr. Freeman regards all the phenomena arising from this cause as accidental and isolated ; he is like a botanist who collects specimens with- out knowing any system of classification. Yet it must never be forgotten that the form of society in America is democratic, while in England it is ari,tocratic. Now, although Mr. Free- man is determined "to set forth the essential oneness of the two peoples," he yet acknowledges that "the American and the British daily papers must he set down as two essentially different things," and this because of a peculiar feature of the American journal, "Even the New York Tribune," he writes, "admits personal paragraphs which would certainly never find their way into the Times, the Dail y News, or the Standard;" and he accounts for this by asserting "that the American paper is clearly written for a class of readers inferior to the aver- . age reader of the English paper." Now, De Tocqueville goes deeper than does Mr. Freeman, for the Frenchman
saw that the public life of a democracy, representing as it does the feelings of the masses, is likely to fall be- low the standard of taste maintained in an aristocracy, which represents the feelings of a small and select class. Yet neither De Tocqueville nor Mr. Freeman explains the difference ; they both are content to see it as an inferiority. "The baby of Mrs. B. weighs, we are informed, 12 lb. The lady hopes to be about again soon." Such an announcement as this is common enough in an American paper. It is vulgar, silly, what you like, but the average American reader likes any piece of news which em- phasises the fact that all men are brothers, whereas the heart of the Englishman dilates with loyal pride when he reads that "the Princess B. rode in the morning, and dined in the evening." The parallel to personal paragraphs is to be found in the Times under the heading of "The Court." As regards manners, good- natured vulgarity is the failing of a democracy, as flunkeyism is the failing of an aristocracy. Without determining which failing is the more vicious, we pass to the corresponding social virtues. Mr. Freeman remarks that "the American ' Justice of the Peace' holds a position very inferior to the position of his English brother," and adds, "so does the American Sheriff." This he explains by the fact that "the one is a paid, and the other an unpaid functionary." Now, this fact, brought forward as an explanation, is a mere con- sequence of the form of society, and in itself explaius nothing. Mr. Freeman might have noticed that in America no dignitary stands apart from and above his fellow-man as does an English dignitary, and this less because the English digni- tary is superior in character and ability to the American, than because the average American stands in education and influ- ence far above the average Englishman. "Servants," "hands," " yokels," "paupers," are almost unknown in America; while these classes form here, if not the majority, at least a large minority of the nation. Had Mr. Freeman remembered that America was a democracy, he would not have been surprised, as he was, on finding that the murder of President Garfield was treated not as the murder of a President, but as the murder "simply of one James Abram Garfield." The italics are ours. The virtue of a democratic form of government is to be found in the natural, kindly feeling between man and man, as the virtue of an aristocratic form lies in dignity, and in a high sense of honour. Now, this dignity of the aristo- crat is often represented in America by the dignity of conscious worth of manhood, just as the kindly feeling between all men in a democracy is sometimes represented in an aristo- cracy by the kindness of the master to the servant. Before Mr. Freeman spoke of "inferiority," he should have called to mind that the lowest class of Americans (the negro and the emigrant are here excluded) compares favourably with the English middle. class. Nor are the heights in America uninhabited. Ralph Waldo Emerson was but the central figure of a group, the best representative of a large and constantly increasing class.
It would, indeed, be surprising that Mr. Freeman should have spent six months in America without noticing the one capital fact, viz., "the Jonathanisation of John," were it not that in considering quite ordinary facts, facts which "he who runs may read," Mr. Freeman shows himself equally at fault. Of a large class of phenomena his explanation is that in America "the tendency to stand still sometimes strangely contrasts with the tendency to go ahead?' For instance, the bad roads seem to Mr. Freeman to be due to this "tendency to stand still," whereas the true explanation must at once suggest itself. The roads are bad because distances are great, labour dear, the rate of interest on capital high, because other public works are more remunerative and more pressingly needed than well- paved roads. Again, the hire of hackney-carriages is in America very costly for similar reasons. But no such considerations occur to Mr. Freeman, and his explanation of this latter fact is so characteristic as to be amusing. Inasmuch as in the Eastern States Irishmen are generally the drivers, he couples Paddy with the "unreasonable cost," and asks, with some heat, "Why should transplanted Englishmen, or transplanted Dutch- men either, bow down their necks to this Irish bondage P" Now one might hint that in the Western States the drivers are Americans, and the cost of hiring still more unreasonable, but nothing would lessen Mr. Freeman's dislike of all things Irish. Yet here he could surely console himself with the reflection that the Irish " cabby " in Dublin, at any rate, is compelled to drive five or six miles for sixpence. The other day, an American—such is the difference of mental attitude—used
this fact to explain the readiness of "Skin the Goat" to assist the Invincibles. The remedy for "whatever is amiss in America would be," according to Mr. Freeman, "if every Irishman should kill a negro and be hanged for it." This joke (Mr. Freeman tells us that it is one) becomes serious, when we are told that Paddy is not a Teuton, and that Sambo is not even a Western Aryan. Here we touch the spring of Mr. Freeman's determination to set forth the essential oneness of the two branches of the English folk; in doing this, he confirms his appreciation of all things Teutonic. Well, as we, too, see- the limitless expanse of ether as a mere blue dome, we must not judge Mr. Freeman harshly, who sees the American as a. flaxen-haired, broad-built, phlegmatic Teuton. It is only as characteristic of this peculiarity of mental vision. that we notice Mr. Freeman's contempt for American scholarship_ Not that we altogether disagree with his estimate of American scholars ; we are not minded to break a lance in defence of professors of history who know nothing of the "original sources" of historical knowledge, nor can we agree with him on the point in question, for we are of' those who believe that these- fabled springs must rather be found in the mind of the historian, than, as Mr. Freeman asserts, on the shelves of his library. If, however, one would measure the whole difference between the scholar as conceived by an Englishman and the scholar as conceived by an American, let him take this,—that Mr. Freeman cannot understand "why any man should either pretend to know a thing that he does not know, or pretend not to know a thing that he does know," and put it beside this,. "translate, collate, distil all the systems, it steads you nothing,. for truth will not be compelled in any mechanical manner?'