April 1961 | Volume 12, Issue 3
America is a wonderful country, endowed by the Omnipotent with natural advantages which no other can boast of; and the mind can hardly calculate upon the degree of perfection and power to which, whether the States are eventually separated or not, it may in the course of two centuries arrive. At present all is energy and enterprise; every thing is in a state of transition, but of rapid improvement—so rapid, indeed, that those who would describe America now would have to correct all in the short space of ten years; for ten years in America is almost equal to a century in the old continent. Now, you may pass through a wild forest, where the elk browses and the panther howls. In ten years, that very forest, with its denizens, will, most likely, have disappeared, and in their place you will find towns with thousands of inhabitants; with arts, manufactures, and machinery, all in full activity.
In reviewing America, we must look upon it as showing the development of the English character under a new aspect, arising from a new state of things. If I were to draw a comparison between the English and the Americans, I should say that there is almost as much difference between the two nations at this present time, as there has long been between the English and the Dutch. The latter are considered by us as phlegmatic and slow; and we may be considered the same, compared with our energetic descendants. Time to an American is everything and space he attempts to reduce to a mere nothing. By the steam-boats, rail-roads, and the wonderful facilities of water-carriage, a journey of five hundred miles is as little considered in America, as would be here a journey from London to Brighton. “ Go ahead ” is the real motto of the country; and every man does push on, to gain in advance of his neighbour. The American lives twice as long as others; for he does twice the work during the time that he lives. He begins life sooner: at fifteen he is considered a man, plunges into the stream of enterprize, floats and struggles with his fellows. In every trifle an American shows the value he puts upon time. He rises early, eats his meals with the rapidity of a wolf, and is the whole day at his business. If he be a merchant, his money, whatever it may amount to, is seldom invested; it is all floating—his accumulations remain active; and when he dies, his wealth has to be collected from the four quarters of the globe.
Now, all this energy and activity is of English origin; and were England expanded into America, the same results would be produced. To a certain degree, the English were in former times what the Americans are now; and this it is which has raised our country so high in the scale of nations; but since we have become so closely packed—so crowded, that there is hardly room for the population, our activity has been proportionably cramped and subdued. But, in this vast and favoured country, the very associations and impressions of childhood foster and ripen the intellect, and precociously rouse the energies. The wide expanse of territory already occupied—the vast and magnificent rivers—the boundless regions, yet remaining to be peopled—the rapidity of communication—the dispatch with which every thing is effected, are evident almost to the child. To those who have rivers many thousand miles in length, the passage across the Atlantic (of 3,500 miles) appears but a trifle; and the American ladies talk of spending the winter at Paris with as much indifference as one of our landed proprietors would, of going up to London for the season.
We must always bear in mind the peculiar and wonderful advantages of country , when we examine America and its form of government; for the country has had more to do with upholding this democracy than people might at first imagine. Among the advantages of democracy, the greatest is, perhaps, that all start fair: and the boy who holds the traveller’s horse, as Van Buren is said to have done, may become the president of the United States.
But it is the country , and not the government, which has been productive of such rapid strides as have been made by America. Indeed, it is a query whether the form of government would have existed down to this day, had it not been for the advantages derived from the vast extent and boundless resources of the territory in which it was established. Let the American direct his career to any goal he pleases, his energies are unshackled; and, in the race, the best man must win. There is room for all, and millions more.