The lover of scenery who expects to see a Jungfrau float into his ken before he has lost sight of a Mte. Rosa; the architect who expects to find the railway time-table punctuated at hourly intervals by a venerable monument of his art; the connoisseur who hopes to visit a Pitti Palace or a Dresden Picture Gallery in every large city; the student who counts on finding almost every foot of ground soaked with historic gore and every building hallowed by immemorial association; the sociologist who looks for different customs, costumes, and language at every stage of his journey;—each and all of these will do well to refrain his foot from the soil of the United States. On the other hand, the man who is interested in the workings of civilisation under totally new conditions; who can make allowances, and quickly and easily readjust his mental attitude; who has learned to let the new comforts of a new country make up, temporarily at least, for the loss of the old; who finds nothing alien to him that is human, and has a genuine love for mankind; who can appreciate the growth of general comfort at the expense of caste; who delights in promising experiments in politics, sociology, and education; who is not thrown off his balance by the shifting of the centre of gravity of honour and distinction; who, in a word, is not congealed by conventionality, but is ready to accept novelties on their merits,—he, unless I am very grievously mistaken, will find compensations in the United States that will go far to make up for Swiss Alp and Italian lake, for Gothic cathedral and Palladian palace, for historic charters and time-honoured tombs, for paintings by Raphael and statues by Phidias.
Perhaps, in the last analysis, our appreciation of America will depend on whether we are optimistic or pessimistic in regard to the great social problem which is formed of so many smaller problems. If we think that the best we can do is to preserve what we have, America will be but a series of disappointments. If, however, we believe that man’s sympathies for others will grow deeper, that his ingenuity will ultimately be equal to at least a partial solution of the social question, we shall watch the seething of the American crucible with intensest interest. The solution of the social problem, speaking broadly, must imply that each man must in some direction, simple or complex, work for his own livelihood. Equality will always be a word for fools and doctrinaires to conjure with, but those who believe in man’s sympathy for man must have faith that some day relative human justice will be done, which will be as far beyond the justice of to-day as light is from dark. And it would be hard to say where we are to look for this consummation if not in the United States of America, which “has been the home of the poor and the eccentric from all parts of the world, and has carried their poverty and passions on its stalwart young shoulders.” We may visit the United States, like M. Bourget, pour reprendre un peu de foi dans le lendemain de civilisation.