« 上一頁繼續 »
compatriots. Of this symptoms may be found on all sides. Professor Tyler shows, more definitely than has ever been shown before, what extraordinary power of political pamphleteering developed here during the revolutionary period. In the contemporary England, of course, there was plenty of such pamphleteering. Those masterpieces which were signed by the name of Junius were hardly a dozen years old; and Dr. Johnson himself was, among other things, a writer of political pamphlets. In native English literature, however, the most salient period of political pamphleteering is probably the reign of Queen Anne, when, to go no further, so much of the work of Arbuthnot, of Defoe, and of the masterly Swift took this form. If one looks further back, too, one may find England Aooded with political pamphlets during the civil wars of Cavaliers and Roundheads. The political pamphlets of revolutionary America, of course, like the impassioned outbursts of Otis and of Patrick Henry and of the other orators whose names are preserved in our manuals of patriotic elocution, were phrased in the style of the eighteenth century. Whatever their phrasing, nevertheless, these pamphlets indicate in our country a kind of intellectual activity which in England had displayed itself most characteristically a hundred years earlier. More and more, one begins to think, the secret of the American Revolution may be found in the fact that while under the influence of European conditions the English temperament had steadily altered from that of spontaneous, enthusiastic, versatile Elizabethans to that of stubborn, robust John Bull, the original American temper, born under Elizabeth herself, had never deeply changed.
What the difference was, to be sure, may long remain a matter of dispute; but before the end of the eighteenth century, native Americans had begun to feel it. Francis Hopkinson, a remarkably vivacious and spirited writer, was among the first to specify the fact. A Philadelphia gentleman born in 1737, he saw something of good society in England
between 1766 and 1768. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence ; and he died United States District Judge for Pennsylvania in 1791. His only familiar work is his satirical poem, “The Battle of the Kegs;” but his writings in general are entertaining; and in the posthumous collection of his works is a passage, apparently written during the revolutionary period, which shows beyond question that he felt as distinctly as people feel to-day how different the temperaments of England and of America had become:
“This infatuated [English] people have wearied the world for these hundred
years with loud eulogiums upon liberty and their constitution; and yet they see that constitution languishing in a deep decay without making any effort for its recovery. Amused with trifles, and accustomed to venality and corruption, they are not alarmed at the consequences of their supineness. They love to talk of their glorious constitution because the idea is agreeable, and they are satisfied with the idea; and they honour their king, because it is the fashion to honour the king. ..
“ The extreme ignorance of the common people of this civilised country can scarce be credited. In general they know nothing beyond the particular branch of business which their parents or the parish happened to choose for them. This, indeed, they practise with unremitting diligence; but never think of extending their knowledge farther.
“A manufacturer has been brought up a maker of pin-heads; he has been at this business forty years and, of course, makes pin-heads with great dexterity; but he cannot make a whole pin for his life. He thinks it is the perfection of human nature to make pin-heads. He leaves other matters to inferior abilities. It is enough for him that he believes in the Athanasian creed, reverences the splendour of the court, and makes pin-heads. This he conceives to be the suntotal of religion, politics and trade. He is sure that London is the finest city in the world ; Blackfriars Bridge the most superb of all possible bridges; and the river Thames, the largest river in (the) universe. It is vain to tell him that there are many rivers in America, in comparison of which the Thames is but a ditch; that there are single provinces there larger than all England ; and that the colonies formerly belonging to Great Britain, now independent states, are vastly more extensive than England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, taken all together — he cannot conceive this. He goes into his best parlour, and looks on a map of England, four feet square ; on the other side of the room he sees a map of North and South America,
not more than two feet square, and exclaims; How can these things be? It is altogether impossible.' He has read the Arabian Nights' Entertainment, and he hears this wonderful account of America ; he believes the one as much as the other. ...
“It is not so in America. The lowest tradesman there is not without some degree of general knowledge. They turn their heads to everything; their situation obliges them to do so. A farmer there cannot run to an artist upon every trifling occasion. He must make and mend and contrive for himself. This I observed in my travels through that country. In many towns and in every city they have public libraries. Not a tradesman but will find time to read. He acquires knowledge imperceptibly. He is amused with voyages and travels and becomes acquainted with the geography, customs, and commerce of other countries. He reads political disquisitions and learns the great outlines of his rights as a man and as a citizen. He dips a little into philosophy, and knows that the apparent motion of the sun is occasioned by the real motion of the earth. In a word, he is sure trat, notwithstanding the determination of the king, lords, and commons to the contrary, two and two can never make five.
Such are the people of England, and such the people of America.”
It is worth while to compare with this sketch of Hopkinson's a passage concerning Americans written a little later by a Frenchman, named Crèvecæur, who resided near New York from 1754 to 1780:
“What then is the American, this new man? He is either a European or a descendant of a European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.
“ Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. Americans are the western pilgrims, who are carrying along with them that great mass of arts, sciences, vigour, and industry which began long since in the East; they will finish the great circle. The Americans were once scattered all over Europe ; here they are incorporated into one of the finest systems of population which has ever appeared, and which hereafter will become distinct by the power of the different climates they inhabit. The American is a new man, who acts upon new principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas, and form new opinions. From involuntary idleness, servile dependence, penury, and useless labour, he has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. — This is an American."
The contrast between these two passages is sharp. Hopkinson's American is, after all, a human being; Crèvecæur's American is no more human than some ideal savage of Voltaire; and yet, in Crèvecæur's time and since, it has been the fashion to suppose that the French understand us better than our true brothers, the English.
For this there is a certain ground. Englishmen are not accessible to general ideas; and they are not explosive. The French are both; and so, like the subjects of Queen Elizabeth, are the native Americans. Since 1775, then, America has often seemed more nearly at one with France than with England. Suggestive evidence of a deeper truth may be found in the career of the national hero whom the French cherish in common with ourselves, – Lafayette. Stirred by enthusiasm for the rights of man, he offered his sword to those rebellious colonies whom he believed to be fighting for mere abstract principles; and he had warrant for his belief, in the glittering generalities of the Declaration of Independence. He saw our Revolution triumphant. He went back to France, and saw the Revolution there end in tragic failure. To the last he could never guess why the abstract principles which had worked so admirably in America would not work in France. The real truth he never perceived. Whatever reasons the revolutionary Americans gave for their conduct, their underlying impulse was one which they had inherited unchanged from their immigrant ancestors; namely, that the rights for which men should die are not abstract but legal. The abstract phrases of the American Revolution, deeply as they have affected the surface of American thought, remain superficial. By 1775, however, the course of American history had made our conception of legal rights different from that of the English. We had developed local traditions of our own, which we believed as immemorial as ever were the local traditions of the mother country. The question of representation, for example, was not abstract ; it was one of established constitutional practice; but when we came to discussing it, we did not understand each other's terms. Misunderstanding followed, a family quarrel, a civil war, and world disunion. Beneath this world disunion, all the while, is a deeper fact, binding America and England at last together at heart, — each really and truly believed itself to be asserting the rights which immemorial custom had sanctioned. Revolutionary France, on the other hand, tried to introduce into human history a system of abstract rights different from anything which ever Aourished under the sun. Naturally it came to grief. And Lafayette, who never even in his dreams suspected the force and vitality of that Common Law tradition which is instinctively cherished by every English-speaking race, never understood what either revolution really signified.
Slight, vague, and cursory as our consideration has been, we can now perhaps begin to see what the American Revolution means. By 1775, the national experience which had been accumulating in England from the days of Queen Elizabeth had brought the temper of the native English to a state very remote from what this native temper had been under the Tudor sovereigns. In that same year the lack of economic pressure to which we have given the name of national inexperience had kept the original American temper singularly unaltered. When at last, on the accession of George III.,
. legal and constitutional questions were presented in the same terms to English-speaking temperaments on different sides of the Atlantic, these temperaments had been forced, by mere historic circumstance, so far apart that they honestly could not understand each other. Neither of them, then, would have been true to the deepest traditions of their common race, had anything less than the Revolution resulted.