The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.
did not prevent it from being shut off eventually from the high seas.  The military operations were a succession of blunders both in strategy and in performance.  On the northern frontier a series of incompetent generals led little armies of half-hearted soldiers to unnecessary defeats or at best to ineffectual victories; and the most conspicuous military success was won at New Orleans by the Western pioneers, who had no constitutional scruples about fighting outside of their own states, and who were animated by lively patriotic feelings.  On the whole, however, the story makes humiliating reading, not because the national Capital was captured almost without resistance, or because we were so frequently beaten, but because our disorganization, the incompetence of the national government, and the disloyalty of so many Americans made us deserve both a less successful war and a more humiliating peace.

The chief interest of the second English war for the purpose of this book is, however, its clear indication of the abiding-place at that time of the American national spirit.  That spirit was not found along the Atlantic coast, whose inhabitants were embittered and blinded by party and sectional prejudices.  It was resident in the newer states of the West and the Southwest.  A genuine American national democracy was coming into existence in that part of the country—­a democracy which was as democratic as it knew how to be, while at the same time loyal and devoted to the national government.  The pioneers had in a measure outgrown the colonialism of the thirteen original commonwealths.  They occupied a territory which had in the beginning been part of the national domain.  Their local commonwealths had not antedated the Federal Union, but were in a way children of the central government; and they felt that they belonged to the Union in a way that was rarely shared by an inhabitant of Massachusetts or South Carolina.  Their national feeling did not prevent them from being in some respects extremely local and provincial in their point of view.  It did not prevent them from resenting with the utmost energy any interference of the Federal government in what they believed to be their local affairs.  But they were none the less, first and foremost, loyal citizens of the American Federal state.

II

THE NEW NATIONAL DEMOCRACY

We must consider carefully this earliest combination of the national with the democratic idea.  The Western Democracy is important, not only because it played the leading part in our political history down to 1850, but precisely because it does offer, in a primitive but significant form, a combination of the two ideas, which, when united, constitute the formative principle in American political and social development.  The way had been prepared for this combination by the Republican acceptance of the Federal organization, after that party had assumed power; but the Western

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.