The preceding observations lead naturally to a few observations upon American character in a national point of view; for in treating of so exceedingly varied a community, combining as it does nearly every nation of the Old World, it would be beyond the limits of a work like this to enter into details on so complicated a subject.
As I prefer commencing with the objectionable points, and winding up with the more favourable, I shall first name Vanity as a great national feature. The fulsome adulation with which the Press bespatters its readers, throughout the length and breadth of the Union, wherever any comparisons are drawn with other nations, is so great that the masses have become perfectly deluded; and being so far removed from the nations of the Old World, and knowing, consequently, nothing of them except through the columns of a vanity-feeding Press, they receive the most exaggerated statements as though they were Gospel truths—little aware how supremely ridiculous the vaunting which they read with delight makes them appear in the eyes of other people.
I insert the following extract from the Press, as one instance among many of the vain and ridiculous style of some of their editorial leaders. It is taken from the New York Herald—one of the most widely-circulated papers in the Union, but one which, I am bound in justice to say, is held in contempt[CK] by the more intelligent portion of the community. Speaking of Mrs. B. Stowe’s reception in England, he says:—“She proves herself quite an American in her intercourse with the English aristocracy. Her self-possession, ease, and independence of manner were quite undisturbed in the presence of the proud duchesses and fraughty dames of the titled English nobility. They expected timidity and fear, and reverence for their titles, in an untitled person, and they found themselves disappointed. Mrs. Stowe felt herself their equal in social life, and acted among them as she felt. This, above all other things, has caused a great astonishment in the higher circles in favour of American women, for in fact it is a quality peculiarly distinguishing an American woman, that she can be and is a duchess among duchesses.”