WHAT WE ARE TO THINK OF THE UNITED STATES.
We are not just towards the United States. Their civilization, so different from ours, wounds us in various ways, and we turn from them in the ill-humor excited by their real defects, without taking note enough of their eminent qualities. This country, which possesses neither church, nor State, nor army, nor governmental protection; this country, born yesterday, and born under a Puritanic influence; this country, without past history, without monuments, separated from the Middle Ages by the double interval of centuries and beliefs; this rude country of farmers and pioneers, has nothing fitted to please us. It has the exuberant life and the eccentricities of youth; that is, it affords to our mature experience inexhaustible subjects of blame and raillery.
We are so little inclined to admire it, that we seek in its territorial configuration for the essential explanation of its success. Is it so difficult to maintain good order and liberty at home when one has immense deserts to people, when land offers itself without stint to the labor of man?—I do not see, for my part, that land is lacking at Buenos Ayres, at Montevideo, in Mexico, or in any of the pronunciamento republics that cover South America. It seems to me that the Turks have room before them, and that the Middle Ages were not suffering precisely from an excess of population when they presented everywhere the spectacle of anarchy and oppression.
Be sure that the United States, which have something to learn of us, have also something to teach us. Theirs is a great community, which it does not become us to pass by in disdain. The more it differs from our own Europe, the more necessary is impartial attention to comprehend and appreciate it. Especially is it impossible for us to form an enlightened opinion of the present crisis, unless we begin by taking into consideration the surroundings in which it has broken out. The nature of the struggle and its probable issue, the difficulties of the present, and the chances of the future, will be clear to us only on condition of our making a study of the United States. A few details will, therefore, be permitted me.
Among the Yankees, the faults are on the surface. I am not one to justify Lynch law, whatever may be the necessities which exist in the Far West. Riots in the United States are cited which have performed their work of fire and devastation, and which no one has dared treat rigorously afterwards, for fear of incurring disgrace from the sovereign people; but I remember, I fancy, that similar things have been seen in Paris itself. We will not, therefore, lay too great stress on them.