Friday, March 02, 2012

An Englishwoman in the Antebellum South

David's comment on my Charles Murray post linked to his own most recent post over at Chicago Boyz.  It is a wonderful piece about the books and journals of the actress Fanny Kemble, with copious quotes from those works.  Though long, it is so good that I want to give it more play than it would get as a link from a mere thread, and so highlight it here.  She was a shrewd observer and vivid writer about Americans in general and the antebellum South in particular.  If you have read de Tocqueville, her writing is an excellent compare-and-contrast of the American character as seen by an outsider.

David's interspersed comments are valuable as well.  It pays to remember, in all discussions of human nature, American exceptionalism, whether we are a "Christian Nation" or not, and what we have brought to the world, that America really was, and is, an experiment, an entirely new item upon the scene; in no way perfect or in all areas superior, but an enormous leap forward for all of humanity.  Not only did the rest of the Anglospheric colonies imitate us, rather than Britain (and certainly not continental Europe!) as they grew into maturity, but England itself imitated us and our freedoms.  As our parent country, they found ways to do us one better at times, of course.  Kemble's writing is unsparing in its criticism of the evils of slavery, even in theory.  But she, and independent observers in general, very quickly adopted the American notions of freedom as the norm.

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