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England. All the same, an isolation, socially palpable to any one who lives there, really characterises not only the city, but the whole region of which it is the natural centre.

This physical isolation was somewhat less pronounced when the English-speaking settlements in America were confined to the fringe of colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. Even then, however, a man proceeding by land from Boston to Philadelphia had to pass through New York; and so one proceeding from New York to Virginia or the Carolinas had to pass through Philadelphia ; but the only people who needed to visit Boston were people bound thither. It had happened, meanwhile, that the regions of Eastern Massachusetts, although not literally the first American colonies to be settled, were probably the first to be politically and socially developed. Sewall's “ Diary,” for example, is an artless record of busy life in and about Boston, from 1674 to 1729. In spite of the many archaic passages which make it so quaintly vivid, it has few more remarkable traits than the fact that the surroundings and in many respects the society which it represents are hardly yet unfamiliar to people born and bred in Eastern New England.

In the first place, the whole country from the Piscataqua to Cape Cod, and westward to the Connecticut River, was almost as settled as it is to-day. Many towns of Sewall's time, to be sure, have been divided into smaller ones; but the name and the local organisation of almost every town of his time still persist; in two hundred years the municipal outlines of Massachusetts have undergone hardly more change than any equal space of England or of France. In Sewall's time, again, the population of this region, though somewhat different from that which at present exists, was much like that which was lately familiar to anybody who can remember the New England country forty years ago. It was homogeneous, and so generally native that any inhabitants but born Yankees attracted attention; and the separate towns were so distinct that any one who knew much of the country could probably infer from a man's name just where he came from. So isolated a region, with so indigenous a population, naturally developed a pretty rigid social system.

Tradition has long supposed this system to have been extremely democratic, as in some superficial aspects it was.

The popular forms of local government which were early established, the general maintenance of schools in every town at public expense, and the fact that almost any respectable trade was held a proper occupation for anybody, have gone far to disguise the truth that from the very settlement of New England certain people there have enjoyed an often recognised position of social superiority. This Yankee aristocracy, to be sure, has never been strictly hereditary; with almost every generation old names have socially vanished and new ones appeared until it is now asserted that only one family of Boston has maintained itself without marked vicissitude from the settlement of the town to the present day. Until well into the nineteenth century, however, two facts about New England society can hardly be questioned : at any given time there was a tacitly recognised upper class, whose social eminence was sometimes described by the word “quality ;” and although in the course of time most families had their ups and downs, the changes in this respect were never so swift or so radical as materially to alter the general social structure. Names may have changed, but not traditions or ideals; and no matter how fallen in fortune, people who had once been of good stock rarely forgot the fact and rarely suffered it to be forgotten.

In the beginning, as John Cotton's old word “theocracy” asserted, the socially and politically dominant class was the clergy. Until 1885, indeed, a relic of this fact survived in the Quinquennial Catalogues of Harvard College, where the names of all graduates who became ministers were still distinguished by italics. In the same catalogues the names of graduates who became governors or judges, or in certain other offices attained public distinction, were printed in capital letters. These now trivial details indicate how the old social hierarchy of New England was based on education, public service, and the generally acknowledged importance of the ministry. When the mercantile class of the eighteenth century grew rich, it enjoyed in Boston a similar social distinction, maintained by pretty careful observance of the social traditions which by that time had become immemorial. And as the growing complexity of society in country towns developed the learned professions of law and medicine, the squire and the doctor were almost everywhere recognised as persons of consideration. From the beginning, meanwhile, there had been in New England two other kinds of people, tacitly felt to be of lower rank; the more considerable were those plain folks who, maintaining personal respectability, never rose to intellectual or political eminence, and never made more than enough money to keep decently out of debt; the other comprised those descendants of immigrant servants and the like whose general character resembled that of the poor whites of the South. Just as the local aristocracy of fifty years ago provided almost every Yankee village with its principal people, so this lowest class contributed to almost every village a recognised group of village drunkards.

The political forms which governed this isolated population were outwardly democratic; the most characteristic were the town meetings of which so much has been written. The population itself, too, was nowhere so large as to allow any resident of a given town to be a complete stranger to any other; but as the generations passed, the force of local tradition slowly, insensibly increased until, long before 1800, the structure of New England society had become extremely rigid. Sewall, as we have seen, preserves an unconscious picture of this society in the closing years of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth. In more deliberate literature there are various more conscious pictures of it later. To mention only a few, Mrs. Stowe's “ Oldtown Folks” gives an admirably vivid account of the Norfolk County country about 1800; Whittier's “SnowBound"

preserves in “ Flemish pictures” the Essex County farmers of a few years later; and Lowell's papers on “Cambridge Thirty Years Ago" and on “A Great Public Character” – Josiah Quincy –

- give more stately pictures of Middlesex County at about the same time. The incidental glimpses of life in Jacob Abbott's Rollo Books are artlessly true of Yankee life in the 40's; Miss Lucy Larcom’s “ New England Girlhood” and Dr. Edward Everett Hale's more cursory “New England Boyhood” carry the story from a little earlier to a little later. Miss Alcott's c Little Women ” does for the '60's what « Rollo” does for the '40's. And the admirable tales of Miss Mary Wilkins and of Miss Sarah Orne Jewett portray the later New England country in its decline. In all these works, and in the many others of which we may take them as typical, you will find people of quality familiarly mingling with others, but tacitly recognised as socially superior almost like an hereditary aristocracy.

A characteristic example of the family discipline which ensued is preserved in the diary of a Boston merchant who was born before the Revolution and died at about the time when the “Knickerbocker Gallery” enriched the literature of New York. After the good old Yankee fashion, this gentleman had a very large family. One of his younger sons had fallen out of favour; and five of his elder children, all married and in respectably independent positions, desired to intercede for their erring brother. They were afraid, it appears, to broach the subject in conversation ; so meeting together with their husbands and wives, they drew up a paper signed by all ten, praying in diplomatically formal terms for parental leniency. This paper was gravely presented without comment to the head of the family. He received it with

. dignified surprise, and kept it under prayerful consideration for a number of days. Finally, having deliberately made up his mind that paternal authority must not be questioned even by adult children, he sent for the signers one by one, to demand that the signatures be separately erased; and apparently all but one of the signers regretfully but dutifully obeyed. Doubtless an excessive incident of the patriarchal rigidity of New England life about 1830, this is not unique; and it is clearly a thing which could have occurred only in a society of which the structural traditions were immemorially fixed.

Such fixity of social structure, developed during two centuries of geographical and social isolation, could not help resulting in characteristic ways of thinking and feeling. There can be little doubt that the deepest traits of Yankee character had their origin in the intense religious convictions of the immigrants. The dominant class of pristine New England were the clergy, whose temper so permeated our seventeenth-century literature. Their creed was sternly Calvinistic; and Calvinism imposes upon whoever accepts it the duty of constant, terribly serious self-searching. The question before every individual who holds this grim faith is whether he can discern within himself the signs which shall prove him probably among the elect of God. The one certain sign of his regeneration may be found in spontaneous consciousness of ability to use his will in accordance with that of God; in other words, the elect, and no one else, can be admitted by unmerited divine grace into something like spiritual communion with God himself. God himself embodies absolute right and absolute truth. What the strenuously self-searching inner life of serious Yankees aimed to attain, then, was immutable conviction of absolute truth.

This it sought under the guidance of a tyrannically dominant priestly class. Till long after 1800, the orthodox

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