Diversities of American Life
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Diversities of American Life


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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Certain Diversities of American Life by Charles Dudley WarnerThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: Certain Diversities of American LifeAuthor: Charles Dudley WarnerRelease Date: December 5, 2004 [EBook #3111]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CERTAIN DIVERSITIES OF ***Produced by David WidgerCERTAIN DIVERSITIES OF AMERICAN LIFEBy Charles Dudley WarnerThis is a very interesting age. Within the memory of men not yet come to middle life the time of the trotting horse hasbeen reduced from two minutes forty seconds to two minutes eight and a quarter seconds. During the past fifteen years auniversal and wholesome pastime of boys has been developed into a great national industry, thoroughly organized andalmost altogether relegated to professional hands, no longer the exercise of the million but a spectacle for the million,and a game which rivals the Stock Exchange as a means of winning money on the difference of opinion as to the skill ofcontending operators.The newspapers of the country—pretty accurate and sad indicators of the popular taste—devote more daily columns in aweek's time to chronicling the news about base-ball than to any other topic that interests the American mind, and themost ...



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The Project Gutenberg EBook of CertainDiversities of American Life by Charles DudleyWarnerThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere atno cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under theterms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.netTitle: Certain Diversities of American LifeAuthor: Charles Dudley WarnerRelease Date: December 5, 2004 [EBook #3111]Language: English*E**B OSTOAK RCT EORFT ATIHNI SD IPVREORJSIETCITE SG OUTF E**N*BERGProduced by David Widger
COEF RATMAEINR IDCIAVNE RLISFITEIESBy Charles Dudley WarnerThis is a very interesting age. Within the memoryof men not yet come to middle life the time of thetrotting horse has been reduced from two minutesforty seconds to two minutes eight and a quarterseconds. During the past fifteen years a universaland wholesome pastime of boys has beendeveloped into a great national industry, thoroughlyorganized and almost altogether relegated toprofessional hands, no longer the exercise of themillion but a spectacle for the million, and a gamewhich rivals the Stock Exchange as a means ofwinning money on the difference of opinion as tothe skill of contending operators.The newspapers of the country—pretty accurateand sad indicators of the popular taste—devotemore daily columns in a week's time to chroniclingthe news about base-ball than to any other topicthat interests the American mind, and the mostskillful player, the pitcher, often college bred,whose entire prowess is devoted to not doing whathe seems to be doing, and who has become thehero of the American girl as the Olympian wrestlerwas of the Greek maiden and as the matador is ofthe Spanish senorita, receives a larger salary for afew hours' exertion each week than any college
president is paid for a year's intellectual toil. Suchhas been the progress in the interest in educationduring this period that the larger bulk of the news,and that most looked for, printed about thecolleges and universities, is that relating to thetraining, the prospects and achievements of theboat crews and the teams of base-ball and foot-ball, and the victory of any crew or team is a bettermeans of attracting students to its college, a betteradvertisement, than success in any scholasticcontest. A few years ago a tournament wasorganized in the North between several colleges forcompetition in oratory and scholarship; it had acouple of contests and then died of inanition andwant of public interest.During the period I am speaking of there has beenan enormous advance in technical education,resulting in the establishment of splendid specialschools, essential to the development of ournational resources; a growth of the popular ideathat education should be practical,—that is, suchan education as can be immediately applied toearning a living and acquiring wealth speedily,—and an increasing extension of the elective systemin colleges,—based almost solely on the notion,having in view, of course, the practical education,that the inclinations of a young man of eighteen area better guide as to what is best for his mentaldevelopment and equipment for life than all theexperience of his predecessors.Idni sttihnisg upiesrhioedd,  bwy htihceh  ydoeusi rwei llf onr otthe ei sa cmcourmeulation of
money than far the general production of wealth,the standard of a fortune has shifted from a faircompetence to that of millions of money, so that heis no longer rich who has a hundred thousanddollars, but he only who possesses property valuedat many millions, and the men most widely knownthe country through, most talked about, whosedoings and sayings are most chronicled in thejournals, whose example is most attractive andstimulating to the minds of youth, are not thescholars, the scientists, the men of, letters, noteven the orators and statesmen, but those who, byany means, have amassed enormous fortunes. Wejudge the future of a generation by its ideals.Regarding education from the point of view of itsequipment of a man to make money, and enjoy theluxury which money can command, it must bemore and more practical, that is, it must beadapted not even to the higher aim of increasingthe general wealth of the world, by increasingproduction and diminishing waste both of labor andcapital, but to the lower aim of getting personalpossession of it; so that a striking social feature ofthe period is that one-half—that is hardly anoverestimate —one-half of the activity in Americaof which we speak with so much enthusiasm, is notdirected to the production of wealth, to increasingits volume, but to getting the money of otherpeople away from them. In barbarous ages thisobject was accomplished by violence; it is nowattained by skill and adroitness. We still punishthose who gain property by violence; those who getit by smartness and cleverness, we try to imitate,
and sometimes we reward them with public office.It appears, therefore, that speed,-the ability tomove rapidly from place to place,—adisproportionate reward of physical over intellectualscience, an intense desire to be rich, which isstrong enough to compel even education to grind inthe mill of the Philistines, and an inordinateelevation in public consideration of rich men simplybecause they are rich, are characteristics of thislittle point of time on which we stand. They are notthe only characteristics; in a reasonably optimisticview, the age is distinguished for unexampledachievements, and for opportunities for the well-being of humanity never before in all historyattainable. But these characteristics are soprominent as to beget the fear that we are losingthe sense of the relative value of things in this life.Few persons come to middle life without someconception of these relative values. It is in the heatand struggle that we fail to appreciate what in theattainment will be most satisfactory to us. After it isover we are apt to see that our possessions do notbring the happiness we expected; or that we haveneglected to cultivate the powers and tastes thatcan make life enjoyable. We come to know, to usea truism, that a person's highest satisfactiondepends not upon his exterior acquisitions, butupon what he himself is. There is no escape fromthis conclusion. The physical satisfactions arelimited and fallacious, the intellectual and moralsatisfactions are unlimited. In the last analysis, aman has to live with himself, to be his own
companion, and in the last resort the question is,what can he get out of himself. In the end, his lifeis worth just what he has become. And I need notsay that the mistake commonly made is as torelative values,—that the things of sense are asimportant as the things of the mind. You make thatmistake when you devote your best energies toyour possession of material substance, and neglectthe enlargement, the training, the enrichment ofthe mind. You make the same mistake in a lessdegree, when you bend to the popular ignoranceand conceit so far as to direct your collegeeducation to sordid ends. The certain end ofyielding to this so-called practical spirit wasexpressed by a member of a Northern Statelegislature who said, "We don't want colleges, wewant workshops." It was expressed in another wayby a representative of the lower house inWashington who said, "The average ignorance ofthe country has a right to be represented here." Itis not for me to say whether it is represented there.Naturally, I say, we ought by the time of middle lifeto come to a conception of what sort of things areof most value. By analogy, in the continual growthof the Republic, we ought to have a perception ofwhat we have accomplished and acquired, andsome clear view of our tendencies. We takejustifiable pride in the glittering figures of ourextension of territory, our numerical growth, in theincrease of wealth, and in our rise to the potentialposition of almost the first nation in the world. Amore pertinent inquiry is, what sort of people havewe become? What are we intellectually andmorally? For after all the man is the thing, the
production of the right sort of men and women isall that gives a nation value. When I read of theestablishment of a great industrial centre in whichtwenty thousand people are employed in theincrease of the amount of steel in the world, beforeI decide whether it would be a good thing for theRepublic to create another industrial city of thesame sort, I want to know what sort of people thetwenty thousand are, how they live, what theirmorals are, what intellectual life they have, whattheir enjoyment of life is, what they talk about andthink about, and what chance they have of gettinginto any higher life. It does not seem to me asufficient gain in this situation that we areimmensely increasing the amount of steel in theworld, or that twenty more people are enabled onaccount of this to indulge in an unexampled,unintellectual luxury. We want more steel, nodoubt, but haven't we wit enough to get that and atthe same time to increase among the producers ofit the number of men and women whose horizonsare extended, who are companionable, intelligentbeings, adding something to the intellectual andmoral force upon which the real progress of theRepublic depends?There is no place where I would choose to speaktmheo rSe opultahin, lya nodf  oatu rt hnea tUionnivael rssiittuya toifo tnh teo dSaoyu tthh;a inn intshtaet eS, oautnhd,  abt etchaeu sUen iivt eisr simtyo roef  tphlaei nSlyo iunt ha,  tbreacnasiutisoeniot fi st hhee rhieg ahnerd  oinr  lsoiwmielra rp ilnasnteit uotfi olifnes  itnh tath et hSe oquuthe sitsi otonbe determined.
To a philosophical observer of the Republic, at theend of the hundred years, I should say that theimportant facts are not its industrial energy, itswealth, or its population, but the stability of thefederal power, and the integrity of the individualStates. That is to say, that stress and trial havewelded us into an indestructible nation; and not ofless consequence is the fact that the life of theUnion is in the life of the States. The next mostencouraging augury for a great future is themarvelous diversity among the members of thisrepublican body. If nothing would be more speedilyfatal to our plan of government than increasingcentralization, nothing would be more hopeless inour development than increasing monotony, thecertain end of which is mediocrity.Speaking as one whose highest pride it is to be acitizen of a great and invincible Republic to thosewhose minds kindle with a like patriotism, I can saythat I am glad there are East and North and South,and West, Middle, Northwest, and Southwest, withas many diversities of climate, temperament,habits, idiosyncrasies, genius, as these namesimply. Thank Heaven we are not all alike; and solong as we have a common purpose in the Union,and mutual toleration, respect, and sympathy, thegreater will be our achievement and the nobler ourtotal development, if every section is true to theevolution of its local traits. The superficial foreignobserver finds sameness in our different States,tiresome family likeness in our cities, hideousmonotony in our villages, and a certain commonatmosphere of life, which increasing facility of
communication tends to increase. This is a viewfrom a railway train. But as soon as you observeclosely, you find in each city a peculiarphysiognomy, and a peculiar spirit remarkableconsidering the freedom of movement andintercourse, and you find the organized action ofeach State sui generis to a degree surprisingconsidering the general similarity of our laws andinstitutions. In each section differences of speech,of habits of thought, of temperament prevail.Massachusetts is unlike Louisiana, Florida unlikeTennessee, Georgia is unlike California,Pennsylvania is unlike Minnesota, and so on, andthe unlikeness is not alone or chiefly in physicalfeatures. By the different style of living I can tellwhen I cross the line between Connecticut andNew York as certainly as when I cross the linebetween Vermont and Canada. The Virginianexpanded in Kentucky is not the same man he wasat home, and the New England Yankee let loose inthe West takes on proportions that would astonishhis grandfather. Everywhere there is a variety inlocal sentiment, action, and development. Sit downin the seats of the State governments and studythe methods of treatment of essentially thecommon institutions of government, of charity anddiscipline, and you will be impressed with thevariety of local spirit and performance in the Union.And this, diversity is so important, this contributionof diverse elements is so necessary to the complexstrength and prosperity of the whole, that one mustview with alarm all federal interference andtendency to greater centralization.
And not less to be dreaded than monotony fromthe governmental point of view, is the obliterationof variety in social life and in literary development.It is not enough for a nation to be great and strong,it must be interesting, and interesting it cannot bewithout cultivation of local variety. Better obtrusivepeculiarities than universal sameness. It is out ofvariety as well as complexity in American life, andnot in homogeneity and imitation, that we are toexpect a civilization noteworthy in the progress ofthe human race.Let us come a little closer to our subject in details.For a hundred years the South was developed onits own lines, with astonishingly little exterior bias.This comparative isolation was due partly to theinstitution of slavery, partly to devotion to theproduction of two or three great staples. While itscommercial connection with the North was intimateand vital, its literary relation with the North wasslight. With few exceptions Northern authors werenot read in the South, and the literary movement ofits neighbors, such as it was, from 1820 to 1860,scarcely affected it. With the exception ofLouisiana, which was absolutely ignorant ofAmerican literature and drew its inspiration andassumed its critical point of view almost whollyfrom the French, the South was English, but mainlyEnglish of the time of Walter Scott and George theThird. While Scott was read at the North for hisknowledge of human nature, as he always will beread, the chivalric age which moves in his pageswas taken more seriously at the South, as if it wereof continuing importance in life. In any of its rich