Friday, December 01, 2017


Burrowing again into Walks and Talks of an American Farmer in England, I find Olmstead making an observation I had not known, but should have realised. Americans in 1850 had much more resentment and enmity toward England than England had for us. We had had no other military foes in our existence, so events of forty or seventy years previous still loomed large. Boys at games played at Americans versus the British; bad laws were assumed to descend from England.

The English rather liked us, regarding us as rowdy younger brothers.  Most agreed that the American colonies should have become independent, as King George was indeed wrong. Not one in a hundred even knew there had been a War of 1812. Britain had been at war with half the world by then, and were more focused on France, Spain, or Germany. "The uneducated, common people in general know no difference between America and Russia." They enquired about us with an eye to emigration, for themselves or their children. They approved of our form of government and wish they had more of it. Even among the wealthier - though Olmstead did not meet any aristocracy - this was so.

One thing they held against us, slavery, which they believed was equally practiced and shared in throughout the United States. They could understand such a thing occurring in more primitive places, but not in civilised lands. They believed only the worst of the exaggerated stories (Walks and Talks was written before The Cotton Kingdom, and Olmstead still thought the reports about the South to be one-sided), though that is always true of news from far-off places.

Another note:  Olmstead seldom if ever uses the name "United States," it is always "America." I wonder if that was more common in the North, where the concept of union, and commonality, was stronger.

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

I believe i grew up saying America, and only learned to switch to "The United States" as an adult.