But from the moment American fiction came upon the scene, it brought a change.
Peasant virtue vanishes when the peasant is a possible president, and what takes its place is individual manhood, irrespective of social position.
The heroes who successively conquered Europe
in the hands of American authors were of low estate,—a backwoodsman, a pilot, a negro slave, a lamplighter; to which gallery Bret Harte
added the gambler, and the authors of ‘Democracy’ and the ‘Bread-Winners’ flung in the politician.
In all these figures social distinctions disappear: ‘a man's a man for a‘ that.’
And so of our later writers, Miss Wilkins
in New England
, Miss Murfree
, Mr. Cable
, Mr. Howe
, Dr. Eggleston
, Julien Gordon
in New York, all represent the same impulse; all recognize that ‘all men are created equal’ in Jefferson
's sense, because all recognize the essential and inalienable value of the individual man.
It would be, of course, absurd to claim that America
represents the whole of this tendency, for the tendency is a part of that wave of democratic feeling which is overflowing the world.