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are single miles between the latter. If you want to understand America, you must try and picture to yourself how the ordinary Englishmen you know would act under circumstances analogous to those existing across the Atlantic; and it is highly to Mr. Dixon's credit that he has appreciated this simple truth, and acted on it.
There is something absolutely ludicrous, if it were not a matter of grave import, in the conventional comic way of regarding all American subjects adopted by our literary men. Mr. Dickens, for instance, has travelled in America, and has seen much of Americans in Europe. Yet only the other day in "Mugby Junction," he describes a Yankee traveller as addressing a lady at the Mugby refreshment counter in these
"I tell Yew what 'tis ma'arm, I la'af. Theer! I la'af. I Dew. I oughter ha' seen most things, for I hail from the Onlimited side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I haive travelled right slick over the Limited, head on through Jee-rusalemm and the East, and likeways France and Italy, Europe Old World, and am now upon the track to the Chief European Village; but such an Institution as Yew, and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's, solid and liquid, afore the glorious Tarnal I never did see yet! And if I hain't found the eighth wonder of Monarchial Creation, in finding Yew, and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's, solid and liquid, all as aforesaid, established in a country where the people air not absolute Loonaticks, I am Extra Double Darned with a Nip and Frizzle to the innermostest grit! WheerfurTheer!-I la'af? I Dew, ma'arm, I la'af!"
Mr. Dickens must know as well as I do that you might travel through the United States for years, and never hear such a speech uttered out of a lunatic asylum. A duller or less humorous body of men than American railway travellers it was never my misfortune to meet; and yet the public who read his works and know nothing of America, believe that this Yankee, making a little allowance for comic license, is a fair type in language of his countrymen. How can we wonder Americans do not love us,
when, as Hawthorn said with too much truth. "Not an Englishman of them all ever spared America for courtesy's sake or kindness. Happily Mr. Hepworth Dixon has had the good sense and good taste to write about Americans as we do about other nations, fairly and respectfully. Possibly if he had written an ill-natured work he might have had more readers, but he would not have contributed, as he has done, a very valuable addition to our knowledge of our Trans-Atlantic kinsmen.
So people who want delineations of the typical Yankee we meet with anywhere except in America, had better eschew the "New America." Mr. Dixon. has had the shrewdness to see that the subject of expectoration was, to use an Americanism, "played out;" and that there was not much more fun to be got out of the almighty dollar. Moreover, odd as the statement may appear, he went to America with the conviction that the subject he proposed to write about was a very grave and serious one. The time he could afford to pass away from England was necessarily short, and, therefore, he resolved to devote his attention to one single subject out of the many which the New World presents to the thoughtful observer. The true topic of the "New America" consists in the strange developments of religion which. have manifested themselves upon the soil of the Western Continent; and the few portions of Mr. Dixon's work which bear upon other subjects might, I think, be omitted, with advantage to the general interest of the work. This remarkable book is so sure to be extensively read, that I should be repeating what most of my readers are probably acquainted with if I tried to epitomize Mr. Dixon's views on the Mormons, the Shakers, the Freelovers, and the other strange sects which abound in America. All I wish to do is to point out, if possible, some of the causes which, in my judgment, account for these religious eccentricities—causes which Mr. Dixon has treated of somewhat too sparingly. There is a tendency in the English mind to regard Americans as belonging to what I once heard described as the "regiment of God's own unaccountables ;" and this tendency is likely to be strengthened, if these anoma
lous manifestations of religion, on which Mr. Dixon dwells, are regarded as nothing but spasmodic exhibitions of Yankee oddness.
Even a very superficial observer, while traveling in America, can hardly avoid being struck by two remarkable and apparently inconsistent facts. Wherever you go, you see places of religious worship; every little town has meetinghouses, chapels, churches, conventicles by the score; the newest settlement, where houses are sufficiently numerous to form the semblance of a street, has some rough edifice of planks devoted, in one form or another, to spiritual purposes; the newspapers are filled with advertisements of sermons, chapel-feasts, prayer-meetings, and revivals; Sunday is observed with a more than English strictness; and, as far as outward signs go, the Americans would justly be set down as a very religious people. Yet, at the same time, you hear, I think, less about religion than you would in England. Everybody chooses his own religion,-it is thought right and proper for a man to be attached to some religious community; but, having made his selection, he is left undisturbed by his neighbors. Partisan religious controversy is therefore almost unknown in the form it is so common amongst us. Each sect is anxious enough to make proselytes and increase its numbers; but, under the voluntary system, all sects stand on exactly the same footing, and have a common interest in the universal toleration which protects them all. Thus religion is not an element in the political problem, as it is here. During a long period throughout which I have been in the habit of reading American newspapers, I can hardly recollect an instance where religious considerations have been introduced into the discussion of political matters. In this country, the creed professed by a public man is, to say the least, an important item in his success or failure. The religious persuasions to which our leading statesmen belong are as well known as the political principles they profess. That Mr. Bright is a Quaker, Sir George Bowyer a Catholic, Mr. Beresford Hope a High Churchman, Mr. Newdegate an Evangelical, and so on, are all facts which are, as it were,
the A B C of political knowledge. But ninety-nine Americans out of a hundred could probably not tell you, to save their lives, the religious persuasions which owned the different members of the United States government. In all the countless attacks which have been poured on President Lincoln, Johnson, Seward, Jefferson Davis, Wendell Phillips, and Charles Sumner, whoever heard an attack based upon their religious views? Yet I believe that one and all of these gentlemen would, in England, be called religious men, that is, men to whom religion is professedly a matter of deep interest and importance. The truth is, that religion has grown to be considered in America entirely a matter appertaining to the individual, with which the State has no more concern than it has with his literary tastes or scientific pursuits. The only occasion in which religious partisanship was ever brought into a Presidential canvass was at the time of Fremont's election, when a cry was sought to be raised against him on the ground of his being a Catholic. But the apparent exception proves the rule; the only two religious denominations which have been in any sense made the objects of popular intolerance in the States are Roman Catholicism and Mormonism; and both these forms of faith are objected to, not on abstract grounds, but from a conviction, whether true or false, that their tenets are inconsistent with the principles on which the American Constitution is based. Thus, if my observation is correct, we have to account for the two somewhat contradictory facts that America is the country where religion flourishes in the greatest profusion, and yet where it has the least obvious connection with the public life of the population.
I should premise that the remarks I have made, and shall have to make, apply especially, if not exclusively, to the West. It is there, in the great Mississippi valley, that, in my judgment, the true America-the America of the future -has its abode. Hawthorne once said to me, in talking about the new Backwoods States I had then recently visited, "After all, we Yankees are but the fringe on the garment of the West;" and the remark always appeared to me to contain the clue to all real comprehension of the
new Trans-Atlantic world. The old Seaboard States, and notably New England, are to a very great extent England across the ocean. Settled from the old home, united to the mother country by ties constantly renewed, they have been established on English principles, and retain to the present day, though in a modified form, the tastes, prejudices, weaknesses, and virtues of an English character. The men of Massachusetts and Maine, and to a less degree of New York, are to a very great extent English settlers still. Both for good and evil, they have preserved the old type, and have not developed much of new institutions, or new tones of thought, or new national character. It is in the West that the different conditions of climate, atmosphere, political government, social life, and native thought operate to create a new nation, untrameled by the powerful influences of old associations. Of course this, like all other generalizations, must be taken rather as the expression of a tendency than a distinct statement of fact. What I wish to express is my conviction, that in the West, not in the East, you must study the characteristics of the nation which ultimately will claim the title of American. If, as we may reasonably expect, the great Anglo-Saxon nation now growing so rapidly in the Western hemisphere, is to enrich the world with a new polity, a new literature, a new development of faith, it will be in the West that we must look for their manifestation. And it is this fact which, I believe, has contributed perhaps more than anything to falsify our judgments about America. Our travelers, with scarcely an exception, have based their impressions, whether favorable or unfavorable, upon the old Anglicised States instead of on the new dominions, where the process of reconstruction is really being carried out.
If ever there was a sort of tabula rasa on which the story of mankind might be written out anew, it is that vast region of the West. From the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains there stretches a well-nigh unbroken plain, which, in physical and geological characteristics, is positively more absolutely uniform than any other area of the same size on the surface of the globe. Put an American
suddenly down in any unsettled portion of that immense district enclosed by the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Ohio, and their confluents, and he would find it almost impossible to say, from external observation, whether he stood in Kentucky or Colorado, in Minnesota or Arizona. Everywhere there extends the same dead flat, everywhere there is the same rich fertile soil, everywhere the same boundless horizon. Everywhere, too, there are much the same social conditions, the same lack of traditions, the same absence of poverty, the same uniformity of class. One man in the West is as good as another, not as a matter of theory, but as an accident of fact. Nobody has any special claim to distinction in respect of his state, or township, or family, or birth, or nationality. Individual success or ability is about the only thing which raises one man above another. I am not now saying whether such a state of things is beneficial or otherwise. I only assert that it cannot fail to exert a marked influence upon the national character. M. Laugel, in his very able work on the United States, points out, with great truth, how Abraham Lincoln's nature was affected by the circumstance of his Western birth and breeding. "The life of the fields," he says, "and the open air of the Western plains, formed this robust nature for the struggles it was to undergo. The great rivers and the prairies taught him more than books. It is from the wilderness, among the woods, the wild flowers, and the newly-planted fields, that he took his love of independence, his contempt of etiquette, his respect for labor. His ruling passion, and, so to speak, his only one, was found to be that of the nation. . . . Nowhere has the national sentiment penetrated the souls of men so deeply as among the people beyond the Alleghanies. The inhabitant of Massachusetts may take pride in his little State. The greater part of the States washed by the Atlantic have traditions and memories; but Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, have as yet no history. The inhabitant of those vast regions, who feels himself irresistibly called to such high destinies, is above all an American. He is, and is determined to be, the citizen of a great country. He is determined to measure its powers by the immensity of
its prairies, and his patriotism literally knows no bounds."
The sort of influence which is thus portrayed, with truth, as having moulded Lincoln's character, operates upon all members of the community to which he belonged. These Western men have a moral, as well as a material elbow-room not vouchsafed at all to other nations, and to a far less degree to their Eastern fellow-countrymen. In politics, religion, and social fashion everybody is at liberty to do what he pleases in the West; and space there is so plentiful that one man's action interferes comparatively little with that of his neighbors. If you like to walk about with bare feet, or dwell in a house without windows, or eat uncooked meat, or eschew soap and water, or commit any other departure from the ordinary rules of social life, you can do so in the West, not only with more freedom, but with infinitely less attention being drawn to your conduct, than in any other civilized region. Till within a few years ago, to wear a beard or moustache in Boston, was to place yourself outside the pale of society; and even to the present day, a man who did not go to church in a New England village, would find his pecuniary credit suffer. But the idea of objecting to anybody, politically or so cially, on account of his dress or creed would scarcely be intelligible to the true Western mind.
Some appreciation of the social condition of the West is necessary to understand the luxuriance of what I may call the religious vegetation of America. Every town, in that immense area, has sprung up in the same fashion. Half a dozen settlers have encamped themselves on a particular spot, have run up houses, and then collected other settlers around them. At first they had no religious ministration whatever, except what they got from the chance visit of some itinerant preacher. The original founders of the settlement were, probably, men of different creeds-Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Unitarians, Baptists, or what not; it is almost a matter of certainty that they did not in any case all belong to the same form of faith. As the hamlet grew into a village some wandering preacher squatted down there himself, or some settler took to preach
There is, to a very
ing, or some two or three zealous individuals ran up a chapel, and obtained a minister belonging to the peculiar creed they happened to profess. But thus it depended, and depends, entirely upon hazard what especial sect first established itself in any settlement. When once a chapel was established, that portion of the settlement who had religious convictions or appetites of any kind generally attached themselves to the chapel, even if the form of worship was not what they professed, until such time as the village grew large and populous enough to have more than one chapel, and then each settler began to choose his own place of worship. This, in substance, is the religious history of every settlement in the West; and so it may be seen that there are probably few places where it is so much, humanly speaking, a matter of chance what religion a child is brought up in as in the West. There is no prima facie reason why any Western man should belong to one church more than another. Not only is there no State religion, but there is not, as in the East, any dominant sect. large class of minds, a great attraction in belonging to the faith professed by the majority of the people among whom your lot in life is cast. Persons who are actuated by this feeling would naturally be Independents in New England, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Catholics in Louisiana, Methodists in the other States of the South. But what form of faith they would gravitate towards in the West it is impossible to say. Yet, though the religious instinct is thus left undirected, it is developed by the circumstances of Western life. The life of the settler is necessarily a solitary one. In a thinlypopulated country the towns and villages and cottages which dot the surface of those boundless plains lie far apart from each other. Men, and still more women, are thrown much upon their own resources. Of the social occupations of lands where people live close and thick together they have but few; and the sermon or prayer-meeting is about the only intellectual excitement that the week offers them. Moreover, I cannot but think that the constant aspect of the sea of land which stretches everywhere, far as the eye can reach, predisposes the mind
somehow to religious contemplation. The sense of immensity which attaches to the prairie is oppressive in its nature; and the soul seeks for some sort of counterbalancing protection against the feeling of being, as it were, lost in space. Men who live upon the sea, it has always been observed, are given to devotion or superstition, or by whatever name you choose to describe the religious instinct, and they would be, I think, still more so inclined if instead of sailing in company they sailed mostly alone; and the settlers of the West are, after all, a sort of dryland sailors, anchored each in their own bark at their several moorings.
Thus, if my view is correct, you have in the Western States all the conditions required for the development of new religious sects. You should also take into account the fact that education of a kind sufficiently high to interest its possessors on questions higher than those of mere food and raiment is almost universal in the West, and that, on the other hand, there is no large class of highly educated minds powerful enough to lead the tone of public thought; and then you will understand why new prophets should have extraordinary facilities afforded them in the West for the propagation of their creeds.
The remarks that I have made are, I hold, true, to a considerable extent, of the whole of the United States. After all, America as a nation has hardly yet emerged from the settler phase of civilization; but, just as students of optics choose a blank wall whereon to study effects of reflection and refraction, so I think students of religious problems in America should select the West to watch the working of religious influences. There are fewer disturbing causes to be taken into account-less allowance to be made for the action of accidental forces. As a qualification, however, of what I have said, I should observe that, for the sake of convenience, I have spoken of the West almost as if it were a distinct and different country from the East. But, in truth, it is impossible to say with any preciseness where the East ends or the West begins. You pass imperceptibly from one to another, and each in turn constantly operates upon the other. But I think it will be found that, though most
of the new teachers have come from the old States, and in many cases have found their first adherents among the dwellers in those States, their real permanent success as founders of new sects has been in the half-settled Western regions. Along the sea-board society is growing too prosperous, too settled, too educated for any large body of men to leave all and follow prophets, whether false or true.
Of all the various sects of which Mr. Dixon treats, Mormonism is by far the most important. About the only unfavorable literary criticism I should feel inclined to make about his book is, that he fails to convey any distinct estimate of the relative importance of the different religious bodies about which he discourses so ably and so pleasantly. There is nothing to indicate, to a reader unacquainted with the subject, that, while the Mormons are a body whose importance can hardly be overrated, Mount Lebanon is hardly, if at all, more influential than the Agapemone, near Taunton, of which Brother Prince was, or is for aught I know, the Messiah. I may remark, too, that I think Mr. Dixon falls into a serious blunder in estimating the Spiritualists of America at three millions. I have had several friends amongst this body, and I never knew men who were more prone to deal in sensation statements. It was their fashion to set down anybody who ever had, could, or would take part in a spiritual seance, as a believer; but my own impression is, that the number of persons in America who belong to the Spiritualistic congregations which exist in some cities of the Union, or who, in any true sense of the words, could be called adherents of the creed in question, would not exceed ten thousand at the outside.
Mormonism I think to be a genuine Western production. It is true that the disciples of Joseph Smith are probably more numerous even at the present day on this side of the Atlantic than they are in Utah; but they belong to precisely that class which furnishes the West with a perpetual stream of emigrants. The superior success of Mormonism to that of other American sects of a similar character I take to arise from the fact that it is grafted upon a system of emigration. The founders of the faith had the wit to