‘"Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us, To see ourselves as others see us,"’ &c., is an aspiration which might be uttered as becomingly by nations as individuals.
Of all studies, the study of self is most neglected.
Men do not like to look inwardly upon the springs of their own action, nor can they, if they would, behold the image of themselves which exists in other people's visions.
Of all self-conceit, that which is national seems the hardest to dispel.
It finds a pretext in the virtue of patriotism, and there is no limit to its exaggerations.
have always been remarkable, individually and nationally, for the ‘"God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men."’ Religiously, they were Puritans, which is Pharisaism under another name, which believes that it is the elect, the chosen people of God, and that all others are reprobates.
Their political and religious framework were parts of the same edifice.
Church and State were even more closely united among the primitive Puritans than they now are in any European
Upon their settlement in American they passed the following resolutions: ‘"Resolved,
That the earth belongs to the Saints.
That we are the Samts." ’ Upon the strength of these self-evident truths, the Saints proceeded at once to steal everything they could lay their hands on. They killed the Indians, cheated the Dutch
out of their possessions, chased the Baptists to Rhode Island
, and hung the Quakers and witches, believing, perhaps, that they were doing God service, and quite sure that they were advancing their own interests.
It is not matter of surprise that a nation founded by such progenitors became a proverb among other nations for its self-conceit and self-love.
The most boastful people on the face of the earth was the population of the late United States
.--Its unexampled prosperity gave plausibility and intensity to its assumptions.
The truth is, a new continent, settled by an enterprising people, and with free institutions, the product of British experience, philosophy and laws, had sprung up, with the aid of foreign emigration, like Jonah's gourd, in a night.
This new country possessed certain remarkable staples, nowhere else on the earth to be found in such perfection, which yet were essential to the wants and comforts of mankind, and which could only be cultivated by slave labor, and the Providence
which had provided the peculiar staple had also provided peculiar labor.
In fine, it was to the most extraordinary combination of providential circumstances that ever occurred in all the tide of time that the United States
owed its unparalleled growth, and not to any superhuman merit or excellence of its people.
We are aware of the toils and sacrifices of the American Revolution
, or, rather, we suppose we are; for, after reading the astounding lies which the Yankees
tell about the present war, we know not exactly how much to believe what we have read of the old. All that we have from original Southern sources, we are disposed to credit.
The rest we look upon as apocryphal.
It was a war undertaken on the part of New England
from pecuniary motives, and whatever labors and sacrifices she endured proved a profitable investment.
But for George Washington
, the Virginians, and the vast extent of territory which the British
found it impossible to ‘ "hold, occupy and possess,"’ the Revolution would have been a failure.
As to any superior valor of Yankees over Englishmen, that is one of the numerous self-conceits of the most egotistical of people.
One nation is as brave as another, always provided that it has a cause.
There are some nations which, like the French
for example in the time of Bonaparte
, suffer from paroxysm of national vanity.
But the achievements of the Corsican were enough to turn the heads of any people.
Self-esteem, however, was not a paroxysm of Yankeedom; it was its natural condition, as peculiar and pervading as its nasal intonations.
It always looked upon itself as the most Christian
, the most humane, the most free and enlightened of mankind.
What it is the present war has shown.
It looked down with sublime compassion upon the ignorant and benighted subjects of European
That high-sounding phrase, ‘"The United States
and its Mission,"’ and ‘"Manifest Destiny
,"’ shewed its exaggerated conception of its own character and importance.
Its real ‘"mission"’ was to make money; its ‘"manifest destiny"’ to go to pieces in a man's life-time, but nothing could have been further from its own expectations.
In stead of being competent to Christianize the rest of mankind, it is itself one seething mass of irreligion and infidelity; instead of the civilizer of nations, it is only the rebuker of European
civilization, which have prevented this war from becoming professedly, as it is really, one of the most brutal and barbarous in human history; instead of engulfing in its ‘"Manifest Destiny
"’ the rest of America
, it has swallowed itself, and made its decline even more rapid than its rise.
Patriotism is one of the noblest of virtues and national pride essential to national dignity and greatness.
But these are very different sentiments from the vain-glorious and boastful spirit of Yankeedom.
The nationality of which the Yankee
boasts is a love of the country for what he can make out of it. His self-sufficiency is based upon a good fortune which was not the product of his own virtues.
It is but the self-complacency of a millionaire, who has accidentally come into the possession of immense wealth, and who looks down with vulgar scorn upon poorer and better men than himself.
If the Yankees
would acquire the inestimable gift of seeing themselves as others see them, the present war affords them an opportunity which they may avail themselves of with signal advantage.
They have only to read the European
papers, or to listen to the accounts of their own travelers in the Old World, to discover that they are held in no great esteem by any of the civilized nations of the earth.--Instead of being regarded as better than other men, they are looked upon as a good deal worse.
Their boasted Republic is considered an abominable military despotism; their vaunted freedom of thought a sham and a cheat; their free press, except as a sewer of licentiousness, destitute of every spark of manly independence; their national wealth, such as it was, the product of Southern industry; their greatness a thing of the past.
Let them learn a lesson of hostility, and it will improve both their morals and their manners.
Henceforth, if they cannot bring themselves to comprehend that they are worse than other savages, let them not delude themselves with the idea that they are better.