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pieces and our actors deserve nothing better. If so, the critics should at least avow this in excuse for the slightness of their work, and should support their avowal by greater care whenever the merits or demerits of play or performer justify it. The elevation of the standard of theatrical criticism is one of the indispensable conditions, and most powerful means, towards the improvement of our stage.
The preceding remarks may appear harsh : at all events they are honestly meant. It seems to us inevitable, that any
writer on the present aspect of theatrical matters who entertains respect for the dramatic art should dwell more on the blemishes than on the beauties, on the failings than on the felicities, of our contemporary theatre. That any isolated piece of criticism, such as this, will have much effect, is not to be hoped. We must be satisfied with having pointed out some of the chief reasons why the stage has so far ceased to be an art, while it continues to be so favourite an amusement; and we will conclude with an expression of our hope that we may live to see it more of the one, without being less of the other.
Art. VII.-THE POLITICAL TENDENCIES OF AMERICA. Things as they are in America. By William Chambers. Edinburgh
and London, 1854. Life of Horace Greeley, Editor of the New-York Tribune. By
J. Parton. New York, 1855. Notes on Public Subjects, made during a Tour in the United Stutes
and in Canada. By H. Seymour Tremenheere. London, 1852. The Constitution of the United States compared with our own. By
H. Seymour Tremenheere. London, 1855. Private Correspondence of Henry Clay. By C. Cotton, LL.D. New
York, 1856. In the whole range of political and social questions there are none surpassing in speculative interest or urgent practical importance those involved in the relations between Great Britain and the United States; and these have rarely been more critical or more interesting than at the present moment. The actual excitement may, and we doubt not will, pass away; the menacing danger of a quarrel, artificial in its origin and almost ludicrously insignificant in its ostensible pretext, may be averted by tranquil patience on the one side, and the subsidence of effervescing feeling on the other : but the real and fundamental causes which have led to both are deep-seated and abiding, and as long
as they remain undiminished and uncomprehended, the passion and the peril may at any instant be renewed.
There are no two countries on the earth a thorough and perennial cordiality of friendship between whom is so essential to their own comfort or to human progress. Bound together heart and hand, each would be invulnerable; a close and confiding union might enable them not only to defy the world and to control it, but—what is incomparably more important—to point its course, to aid its development, to guide and uphold its footsteps to a destiny as noble and a position as enviable as our own. Severed from one another, divided by mutual suspicions, harassed by mutual animosity, weakened by mutual strife secret or avowed, we can never be any thing else than a drag upon each other's progress, a thorn in each other's side, a tool for the interests and passions of other states to work with, a scandal to the cause of popular government, and a barrier to the spread of liberty and peace.
No nations, it would seem, ought to understand each other so thoroughly or to love each other so well. Our blood is closely allied ; our institutions are very similar ; our language and religion are almost identical ; our pursuits and our character present far more points of resemblance than of difference, and far more than we have in common with
and our commercial relations are on a scale of magnitude and intimacy such as the world has never yet witnessed in any age or in any quarter. Yet, in spite of all this, there exist causes of dislike, distrust, ill-appreciation, and hostility, which it appears almost impossible to eradicate--which keep us constantly asunder, and frequently embitter and exasperate our intercourse to a degree which reaches nearly to the boiling-point. Unlucky historical antecedents; one war in which America was signally successful; another in which England was unquestionably in the wrong; contiguity of frontier; the tone of quiet and domineering superiority not unreasonable in a nation which has grown old amid centuries of grandeur; the jealous and irritable susceptibility not unnatural in a nation young, vain, and ambitious of distinction, conscious of vast energies, and confident in a mighty future, but fretted by misgivings lest its position should not be fully recognised, and therefore on the watch for every semblance of a slight; the usual restless inclination of an adolescent athlete to measure himself with a champion of established fame; a certain steady degradation in the Transatlantic institutions, which makes them year by year less in harmony with our own; the perpetual augmentation of the population of the Union by discontented and turbulent emigrants from Europe, whose hatred to England is at once a passion and a creed; and, finally, the
existence of a special “domestic institution” in America, which we regard with condemnation and abhorrence, and which they themselves in secret feel to be a danger, an embarrassment, and a reproach, but in public think it necessary to defend with the vehemence and anger with which men always defend their vulnerable points ;-all these things are perpetual sources of irritation and misunderstanding, which operate powerfully to "separate chief friends,” and to make “ a man's foes those of his own household,” or at least of his own race.
Yet there is no nation on the earth whom it so much imports us to study and to read aright as the American. We may
learn from them many things in the way of warning, and some things also in the way of stimulus and of example. We see in them a sort of caricature or exaggeration of what we once were, and of what we may possibly become. We may trace in their conduct, their character, and their tendencies, some of our past vices and many of our future dangers. They are proceeding at full swing in a course which we are just entering with hesitating and reluctant footsteps, but along which a numerous and energetic party are anxious to hurry us with accelerated pace. They have already made many changes in their institutions which we are just beginning to contemplate as possible. They are now feeling, by ample and sad experience, some of those mischievous results which we as yet see only as speculative consequences, or of the first faint actual pressure of which we are barely beginning to be sensible. They are trying constitutional experiments which their singular social condition enables them to try with inconsiderable risk, but which England could not venture on except at the hazard of her very existence. It behoves us, then, to watch them with the most vigilant attention; to make the results of their experience our own, without incurring its hazards; to use them as vicarious sufferers; and to profit alike by their trials, their achievements, and their failures. Seventy-five years ago they had a political constitution not very dissimilar from our own, but very dissimilar from what theirs now is : since then, all their movements have been, as all ours now are, towards a more and more unmodified democracy. Have the results in the United States been such as to afford matter for congratulation to them, or matter of beckoning encouragement to us ?
With regard to the state of feeling between the people of England and of the United States a misconception exists on both sides of the water, which it is most important to clear up. Americans who come over to this country for the first time are commonly surprised at the frank cordiality of their reception, and express their agreeable disappointment with a naïveté which shows what a very different welcome they anticipated. Here and
there, indeed, a spoiled Yankee of inordinate conceit and offensive manners meets with the same ridicule or the same repulse in society as he would have done had he belonged to any other country, or been a native of our own : he sets down as an insult to his nation the rebuffs which his own individual arrogance or vulgarity has brought upon him, and returns, soured and malignant, to his own shores, to console himself by spreading misrepresentation and ill-will. But, these rare exceptions apart, the feeling of Americans, on landing in England, is that we have described. They find every where the greatest interest felt as to the progress of their wonderful country; profound admiration of its energy; and a somewhat excessive disposition to hold it up for envy, and to use it as an instrument for depreciating ourselves. They find every American author of real eminence read here nearly as widely as there-applauded quite as generously, appreciated quite as justly; they find Longfellow the most popular living poet next to Tennyson; they find Channing ranking among our most valued divines, Kent and Story among our most eminent jurists, Prescott among our first-rate historians, Cooper and Washington Irving among our most universally read authors in the lighter paths of literature. They meet, too, on all hands, with the most earnest and genuine expressions of a wish for cordial amity and alliance, and the deepest regret at any subject of dispute or alienation that may have arisen between the nations. And if they are gentlemen by education and breeding, they experience no diffculty-quite as little, certainly, as an Englishman would do-in gaining access to the best society which the old country can produce.
A similar agreeable surprise awaits the Englishman who visits the United States. He was prepared, perhaps, by the perusal of American newspapers and American history, as well as by books of travels, to be received with some roughness, and not a little suspicion and dislike. He finds every house most hospitably open to him, a willingness to show him every kindness and to do him all honour. He observes an almost over-anxious desire for the good opinion of England—a sort of unavowed and perhaps unconscious feeling that America can scarcely trust her own estimate of herself and her achievements till the stamp of English appreciation has been set upon them. In discussing political matters, he finds always great shrewdness and usually great fairness and candour—a willingness to admit what is regret. able, perilous, or culpable in their own institutions and pro. ceedings—and a disposition to do full justice to whatever is admirable and stable and dignified in the character and constitution of Great Britain. He finds, too, among those whose society he frequents, an entire neglect or condemnation of the often unwarranted language of the government and of the press of the United States, an earnest belief that the friendship of the two countries never will be broken, and a resolute determination that it never shall. His surprise and perplexity at the seeming discrepancy between the language of the nation and that of its ostensible organs is natural; and, no doubt, it needs an explanation.
The truth, and the explanation, is simply this. Between the upper and the educated classes of the two nations—between tłose Americans and those English who know and visit one another—between their merchants, their proprietors, their cultivated men—there is unfeigned cordiality and sympathy. Between the masses of the two people—between the two nations which reside at opposite sides of the Atlantic, which do not know each other, which do not visit each other, which look at each other only through their respective governments and journalsthere is misunderstanding, coldness, mistrust, dislike—and on one side a feeling of jealousy amounting to absolute hostility. The reason—the main reason, for there are several subsidiary ones—may be thus broadly stated. They read us through the
medium of our history, or what they are taught of it, and through the distorted prejudices and passions of the immigrants who crowd their shores; and we read them through the language of their newspapers, their officials, and their political orators : the truth being that neither party could well draw their impressions of the other from more unfaithful or misleading sources. We will speak first of the American notion of Great Britain,
There prevails a very general notion across the water that we are a dictatorial nation. “England,” they say, "is always wishing to dictate; and America will not be dictated to.” We confess that there is some justification-some colour of excuse, at least—for this charge. Our history is against us. It is difficult to get rid of a bad character. It sticks by a man long after he has ceased to descrve it; and few will believe in the depth or sincerity of the repentance of one who has been once a sinner. We must admit that England used to be given to interference and dictation. She often meddled where she had no business, and spoke in a tone she had no right to assume. Unfortunately, too, the great mass of Americans—and we must ever bear in mind that with them it is the great mass (and not, as with us, the more highly educated few) who decide the national feeling and influence the government action—are only slightly acquainted with any history but their own, and with English history so far as it is interwoven with their own. Now it cannot be denied, that on the two principal occasions when this interweaving took place England did appear in the character of an