Classics on America: Charles Dickens

… she had learnt it from … her fellow countrymen, who in their every word, avow themselves to be as senseless to the high principles on which America sprang, a nation, into life, as any Orson in her legislative halls. Who are no more capable of feeling, or of caring if they did feel, that by reducing their own country to the ebb of honest men’s contempt, they put in hazard the rights of nations yet unborn, and very progress of the human race, than are the swine who wallow in their streets. Who think that crying out to other nations, old in their iniquity, `We are no worse than you!’ (No worse!) is high defence and ‘vantage-ground enough for that Republic, but yesterday let loose upon her noble course, and but to-day so maimed and lame, so full of sores and ulcers, foul to the eye and almost hopeless to the sense, that her best friends turn from the loathsome creature with disgust. Who, having by their ancestors declared and won their Independence, because they would not bend the knee to certain Public vices and corruptions, and would not abrogate the truth, run riot in the Bad, and turn their backs upon the Good; and lying down contented with the wretched boast that other Temples also are of glass, and stones which batter theirs may be flung back; show themselves, in that alone, as immeasurably behind the import of the trust they hold, and as unworthy to possess it as if the sordid hucksterings of all their little governments–each one a kingdom in its small depravity–were brought into a heap for evidence against them…

The great English master of letters himself, apparently at work or just thinking

…`What an extraordinary people you are!’ cried Martin. `Are Mr. …. and the class he represents, an Institution here? Are pistols with revolving barrels, sword-sticks, bowie-knives, and such things, Institutions on which you pride yourselves? Are bloody duels, brutal combats, savage assaults, shooting down and stabbing in the streets, your Institutions! Why, I shall hear next that Dishonour and Fraud are among the Institutions of the great republic!’…

….Why, I was a-thinking, sir,’ returned Mark, `that if I was a painter and was called upon to paint the American Eagle, how should I do it?’

`Paint it as like an Eagle as you could, I suppose.’

`No,’ said Mark. `That wouldn’t do for me, sir. I should want to draw it like a Bat, for its short-sightedness; like a Bantam, for its bragging; like a Magpie, for its honesty; like a Peacock, for its vanity; like an ostrich, for its putting its head in the mud, and thinking nobody sees it –‘

`And like a Phoenix, for its power of springing from the ashes of its faults and vices, and soaring up anew into the sky!

Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

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