Diary in America: With Remarks on Its Institutions

By Frederick Marryat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLVII
Patriotism

This is a word of very doubtful meaning; and until we have the power to analyze the secret springs of action, it is impossible to say who is or who is not a patriot. . . . I consider that if, in most cases, in all countries, the word egotism were substituted it would be more correct, and particularly so in America. . . .

The fact is that the American is aware that what affects the general prosperity must affect the individual, and he therefore is anxious for the general prosperity; he also considers that he assists to legislate for the country, and is therefore equally interested in such legislature being prosperous; if, therefore, you attack his country, you attack him personally--you wound his vanity and self-love.

In America, it is not our rulers who have done wrong or right; it is we (or rather I) who have done wrong or right, and the consequence is that the American is rather irritable on the subject, as every attack is taken as personal. It is quite ridiculous to observe how some of the very best of the Americans are tickled when you praise their country and institutions; how they will wince at any qualification in your praise, and actually writhe under any positive disparagement. They will put questions, even if they anticipate an unfavourable answer; they cannot help it. What is the

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