The Land of Contrasts eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 289 pages of information about The Land of Contrasts.
of Contrasts”—­the land of stark, staring, and stimulating inconsistency; at once the home of enlightenment and the happy hunting ground of the charlatan and the quack; a land in which nothing happens but the unexpected; the home of Hyperion, but no less the haunt of the satyr; always the land of promise, but not invariably the land of performance; a land which may be bounded by the aurora borealis, but which has also undeniable acquaintance with the flames of the bottomless pit; a land which is laved at once by the rivers of Paradise and the leaden waters of Acheron.

If I proceed to enumerate a few of the actual contrasts that struck me, in matters both weighty and trivial, it is not merely as an exercise in antithesis, but because I hope it will show how easy it would be to pass an entirely and even ridiculously untrue judgment upon the United States by having an eye only for one series of the startling opposites.  It should show in a very concrete way one of the most fertile sources of those unfair international judgments which led the French Academician Jouey to the statement:  “Plus on reflechit et plus on observe, plus on se convainct de la faussete de la plupart de ces jugements portes sur un nation entiere par quelques ecrivains et adoptes sans examen par les autres.”  The Americans themselves can hardly take umbrage at the label, if Mr. Howells truly represents them when he makes one of the characters in “A Traveller from Altruria” assert that they pride themselves even on the size of their inconsistencies.  The extraordinary clashes that occur in the United States are doubtless largely due to the extraordinary mixture of youth and age in the character of the country.  If ever an old head was set upon young shoulders, it was in this case of the United States—­this “Strange New World, thet yit was never young.”  While it is easy, in a study of the United States, to see the essential truth of the analogy between the youth of an individual and the youth of a State, we must also remember that America was in many respects born full-grown, like Athena from the brain of Zeus, and cooerdinates in the most extraordinary way the shrewdness of the sage with the naivete of the child.  Those who criticise the United States because, with the experience of all the ages behind her, she is in some points vastly defective as compared with the nations of Europe are as much mistaken as those who look to her for the fresh ingenuousness of youth unmarred by any trace of age’s weakness.  It is simply inevitable that she should share the vices as well as the virtues of both.  Mr. Freeman has well pointed out how natural it is that a colony should rush ahead of the mother country in some things and lag behind it in others; and that just as you have to go to French Canada if you want to see Old France, so, for many things, if you wish to see Old England you must go to New England.

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The Land of Contrasts from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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