Page images
PDF

of History. The Americans, so far as the majority is concerned, are still what in every European country would be considered foreigners. That is, if we leave out the negroes, the mass of white men in America are unable to trace their family beyond the grandfather as coming from American stock. Such people in Europe still rank as foreigners, and in this sense the majority of Americans are foreigners and still participate naturally in the characteristic energy and vitality so peculiar to the foreigner. We now come to the third great difference between America and Europe, and that is the American woman. In Europe despite the numerous attempts at feminism—a movement which might be more aptly termed defeminisation of the woman—the woman has still kept with more or less success and grace her position as a mother, ruler of the household, and wife—that domestic Trinity which is the chief credo of her life. In her attitude towards the man she does indeed recognise that he is from certain points of view of the social economy and of social ethics her master, and the mastery she wants to exercise over him she naturally seeks to win not by superior masterfulness but by greater grace and womanliness. The greatest European poets have long typified her in the poetical forms of Penelope, Marguerite, Ophelia, and a few others that attach man both physically and mentally with an unshakable passion by means of the most naive womanliness proper. Had Homer made Ulysses fall the victim of the charms of Calypso, or had Goethe made the love of Faust a haughty hyper-educated princess, both would have spoiled their masterpieces for ever. We can now turn our attention to what constitutes the third great difference between America and Europe. We find that in the United States the attitude of woman to man is essentially altered. The American woman, especially in the course of the last fifty years, has assumed an outward tone and an internal attitude diametrically opposed to what it is customary to esteem feminine in Europe. The old-world naïveté of Europe appears to her quite out of date, the retiring dignity, the restraint, the self-effacement of the European woman is repugnant to her. Her ambition is to win the recognition of her bright intelligence ; she likes to pass for a person of energetic nerve, ready at a moment's notice for action of every description. The incessant craving for movement has taken hold of her even more strongly than it has taken hold of the American man. She cannot stand being stationary. We have often heard in America the singular remark that the Americans are attached to family life. The incredible host of boarding-houses with which

the land is eaten up, would seem but a poor proof of that state-
ment. There is probably little exaggeration in saying that the
burthen of latent contempt heaped by the gentry in England
upon the middle class, is in America heaped by woman upon
man. In both cases we meet with the same passive acceptance,
the same absence of all spirit of revolt. The brighter the Ame-
rican wife, the more overwhelming her conversation, the greater
her anxiety to augment her knowledge, the more joyous is her
submerged spouse. He is proud of her superiority and submits
thereto unquestioningly, not to say with satisfaction. But the
evils of this over-mentalisation of the American woman, of this
hyper-galvanisation of her energy are now no longer the theme
of foreign inveighings alone. Of late years they have been
pointed out in condemnatory spirit by American women them-
selves. It must indeed be feared that this cultivation of a
fierce energy is beyond the rôle of woman, and bids fair to cul-
minate finally in her absolute physical breakdown. It also misses
its mark, for nothing is shown more clearly by statistics than that
the number of distinguished women-workers in America in the
domains of art, letters, and science is ludicrously small compared
with the number of brilliant women-authors and women-
painters of Europe. We cannot fail to note the vast dispro-
portion between the all but frantic passion with which the
humanities and arts are cultivated in America, and the number
of successes produced. Even among the Americans themselves
the number of their really great women is confessed to be
exceedingly restricted. They have not yet had their Sophie
Germain, their George Eliot, their Georges Sand, their Madame
de Staël. -
One of the most serious questions which clouds the already
threatening future of America, is the breakdown of American
maternity. The problem is of too painful a nature here to be
discussed, but statistics reveal that the United States can in no-
wise depend for its future prosperity upon the offspring of its
own women. We speak of course of American women bred
and born. The recent immigrant does not form part of the
question. But it is already well known that America depends
for the increase of its population upon a continuous inflow of
alien immigration, without which the population would already
be certainly stationary and would in the future most assuredly
decline. In Europe the great problems have been what we
may well call vertical problems. They have, as a rule, depended
upon some difference between the upper and lower strata of
society. Where these differences could not be amicably settled,
they have given rise to social revolutions. In America the

[ocr errors]

problem is on the contrary horizontal, it is the problem of the antagonism between man and woman, and cannot be solved by an appeal to force. Only the educational means of solution remains, and this offers only the most dubious prospects of success. From the European standpoint it is quite clear that the American woman has taken up her whole attitude owing to the absolute want of all class-systems in America. In Europe the triple division into nobility, bourgeoisie, and peasantry gives the women her distinct sphere of action mental and moral. In America there being no such class division, the woman has lost all means of social perspective. She is rooted upon no broad basis whatever ; she has no concrete foundation beneath her feet, and it is, to say the least of it, most problematical whether education can furnish that basis, that sense of position without which woman is incapable of finding her social bearings. It is hopeless to attempt to offer any solution of this grave and immense problem. Many a state has been brought to ruin by its women. The Spartan married woman, a typical example of feminism in the worst sense, certainly contributed as much or more to the downfall of her country as did the hetaerae to the collapse of Athens. We have now to consider, if somewhat rapidly, the salient characteristics of the American man. It is needless to show, having pointed out as we have, the three fundamental differences which must of necessity render every organ of American social life different from that of Europe, that the American man differs essentially from the European man. His energy and push are well known, his readiness for constant change, his quickness in grasping practical facts, his eagerness in collecting knowledge; these are general and certain facts. If the American is un-European, he is certainly to a far higher degree un-English ; this is already marked by his un-English love of system and method. He has the deepest respect for knowledge ; we know it from the immense sums of money lavished in America upon educational benefaction ; we know it from the crowds of American students who flock east to fill the German universities. From Germany the American has imported much of the Germanic systemisation of learning ; he has brought home and to some degree acclimatised the German scientific monograph. His passion for ordered system is borne out in the immense output of bibliographical publications, and the elaborate indexes which accompany every American work with the slightest pretence to serious interest. On the other hand the American man is lacking in natural completeness. We may say that each nation has the women it merits. The Americans

have been unable to create that form of womanhood which in Europe is esteemed best. The American consequently lacks many of the influences which such women alone can bring to bear. His development is far too rapid. He springs into manhood far too quickly, and jumps out of it again with too great rapidity. This same rapidity characterises all his doings. His patience even is rapid ; it is, as Alphonse Karr has so wittily said, immense, “mais pas pour longtemps.” To summarise, he lacks that great regulator of our inner steadiness, a well-balanced emotional life; and this renders him incapable of applying all his heart or all his intellect to any one thing for any considerable time. He is indeed sensation-ridden to an extreme, and his individuality is, with the exception of many a high-strung New Englander, really poorly developed. This latter affirmation, we are well aware, cannot fail to be most indignantly combated by most Americans. It is, however, to the impartial observer, quite clear that two types alone have developed, and can possibly develop, in the United States —the politician and the commercial man. Of literary and artistic individualities there is very little trace indeed, once we except such Americans as have by long sojourn on the eastern side of the Atlantic become partially or completely de-Americanised. We need only mention such names as Henry James, Whistler, and Marion Crawford. Literature is the make of intense personalities, and it is to the lack of such personalities, and not to the youth of the Union, that America's failure to accomplish great things in art and letters is due. It is also exceedingly doubtful whether a nation having no native language of its own can rise to a first place in literature. As Austria has not surpassed Germany in letters, as Scotland has not surpassed England, so America has not surpassed Europe. We have pointed out the three great differences which for ever mark the American as a nation apart. It must have been clear to the reader that these are not the peculiarities of a supposed Anglo-Saxon “race,” but the outcome of the peculiar circumstances under which the American nation and civilisation have developed. In many respects the Americans are more antipathetic to England than to the rest of Europe, a fact to which we shall revert in considering the political prospects of America. For once and all the reader must sacrifice the theory of race with which all, or almost all, the modern popular works on history are indissolubly blended. America, as we have seen, owes infinitely more, in fact everything, to the constant influx of foreigners than to any supposititious strain of semi-Teutonic blood among its original settlers. The absence of individuality is due not to the unoriginal character of the Anglo-Saxon race—England certainly cannot be said to be deficient in strong personalities —but to the complete isolation in which America finds herself from all hostile foreign intercourse. It would be easier for America to establish a filial relation with any other European nation than to maintain her cousinship with the English. Perhaps, save for the chance identity of language, no two nations are more absolutely and irreconcilably dissimilar than are the Americans and the English. Let us pass on, now that we have pointed out the principal social features of America, to a very brief consideration of what may possibly await her upon her political career. The ever-increasing exploitation of the Far East, the rapid rise of the Japanese to the position of a first-class naval and industrial Power, the awakening of the Chinese from their recluse-like slumber of two thousand years to fresh economic activity, which is now confidently predicted, are circumstances which may profoundly modify the present political geography of the globe. America will certainly be the first country to feel the effects of the change. She will be in very much the same position in which England stood at the close of the fifteenth century. That is to say, she would become the centre of all the economic movement of the world, of a world much more extensive than it was in the days of Columbus, and of far keener commercial activities. America would become the focus of trade, very possibly she might, with rising prosperity, become the focus of the hatred of many rivals, a hatred which would save her from the intellectual stagnation which we have seen to be the invariable concomitant of riches which have been easily won without struggle or strife. We see in this that America would certainly have greater reasons for incurring the enmity of England, whose geo-political position would be vastly impaired by the increasing welfare of America. We should then have additional proof of how easily the fictitious bond of consanguinity would be broken asunder, when real and tangible interests come into play. England would be opposed to America both in the Atlantic and in the Pacific. The same struggles which England had to sustain against Holland, France, and Spain, America will have to sustain upon a far grander scale. When Panama becomes the centre about which the whole world gravitates, America, we may be convinced, will not be left to enjoy the possession of the isthmus in peace and to reap therefrom advantages at the cost of all the other European Powers. If she should come into contact with the whole of Europe, into hostile contact, the result would hardly

« PreviousContinue »