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be apt to feel that, according to this test, such men of family are few.
You do not often find Copleys and Stuarts in the same dining-room. When you do, one or the other have generally got there either by purchase or by intermarriage. The Copleys and the Stuarts usually bear different names; they rarely represent direct ancestral lines. A little inquiry will generally reveal another fact about them. As likely as not the Stuart portraits represent people whose fortunes still persist; in general, the Copleys are pathetic survivals of fortunes which went down in the general economic crash of revolutionary times. For at least in New England the American Revolution not only shook to its foundations the structure of fashionable society, but it so disturbed business that hardly anybody was able to pay his debts. The men whom Copley painted were mostly ruined by the Revolution ; the men whom Stuart painted were those who, as the country subsided into peace, were able to establish fortunes which have lasted.
This new generation of New England aristocracy, however, many of whose leaders were born in the country and came to Boston in search of fortune, was in many ways sounder and more characteristically native than the generation which it supplanted. To speak of it as if it were a commonplace lower class which had emerged from a great political convulsion, would be totally to misunderstand the situation. In the first place, the men of whom it was composed would have been recognised anywhere as remarkably able; in the second place, if generally descended from families for the moment less conspicuous than those whom Copley had painted a generation earlier, they were generally people who had inherited the sturdiest traditions of New England manhood. Many of them could trace descent from the “ quality” of a century or so before; and at least until after the Revolution, even the lower classes of native New England had never so far departed from the general native type as to resemble a European populace or mob. So the New England gentlemen who came to their best when Stuart was painting were mostly people who retained, in rather more purity than the provincial aristocracy which for a while had been more fortunate, the vigorous traits of the original native character. Coming to prominence and fortune, too, with the growth of our new national life, they combined with the vigour of their untired blood a fine Aush of independence.
At the same time the society of which they found themselves leaders was one in which fixed traditions had prevailed; and whatever the patriotism of these gentlemen, they were far from radical in social temper. Finding themselves in the position which before the Revolution had been maintained by the people whom Copley painted, they instinctively copied many of the best external characteristics of the elder aristocracy. A petty but significant indication of this tendency may be found in their general habit of assuming coats of arms. Yankee heraldry has never been punctilious. Long before the Revolution people who found themselves prosperous were apt to adopt armorial bearings, often far from grammatical, which are still reverently preserved on silver, tombstones and embroidered hatchments. Till well into the nineteenth century, this innocent vanity remained a general trait of prosperous New Englanders. Just as the new and stronger gentry imitated such harmless foibles of their forerunners, too, they imitated their manners. The chief difference between the two classes seems to have been a distinct improvement in minor morals. The extreme propriety which has marked the surface of Boston life since 1800 seems far less evident in the records of society there before the Revolution. The rise of the gentry whom Stuart painted, in short, meant a maintenance of all the better traits of the elder time, together with a distinct improvement in vigour among the ruling classes of New England, and with a somewhat more rigorous code of social conduct. The traditions which come from this period
may be a bit priggish; they are not a bit weak. And the rise of this generation to power marked in New England the beginning of a new era.
Materially this new era declared itself in several obvious ways. The first was a development of foreign commerce, particularly with the East Indies. This brought our native sailors and merchants into personal contact with every part of the world where they could make trade pay. The consequent enlargement of the mental horizon of New England was almost incalculable.
Incidentally this foreign trade helped develop that race of seamen which so asserted the naval power of the United States in the otherwise ignominious war of 1812. The embargo which preceded that war, and which brought into being the first poem of Bryant, considerably diverted the more energetic spirits of New England from foreign commerce. Before long there ensued that development of manufactures, particularly on the Merrimac River, which remains so conspicuous a source of New England wealth. And at just about the time when these manufactures were finally established, railways at last brought Boston into constant and swift communication with all parts of the New England country, — with Salem and Newburyport, with Fitchburg, with Worcester, with Providence, and with various parts of the old Plymouth colony.
For almost two hundred years New England, with its intensely serious temper, its rigid social traditions, and its instinctive belief in absolute truth, had been not only an isolated part of the world, but had itself consisted of small isolated communities. Now at a moment when, at least relatively, its material prosperity was not only greater than ever before, but probably greater than it will ever be again, the whole region was suddenly Aashed into unity. It was during this period that Boston produced the most remarkable literary expression which has yet declared itself in America. To say that this resulted from social and economic causes is too much; what can surely be asserted is that the highest development of intellectual life in New England coincided with its greatest material prosperity. From the time when Benjamin Franklin left Boston, where Cotton Mather was still preaching, until the days when Unitarianism broke out there, while cotton mills sprung up on the Merrimac, Boston even in America was hardly of the first importance. At this moment it has probably ceased to be so. But during the first three quarters of the nineteenth century its economic importance was pronounced ; and intellectually it was superior to any other city which America has yet known.
What happened there economically and politically, is not our immediate business. What does concern us is the intellectual outburst; and this, as we shall see, took, on the whole, a form which may best be described as renascent. In all sorts of intellectual life a new spirit declared itself; but this new spirit was more like that which aroused old Italy to a fresh sense of civilised antiquity than like a spontaneous manifestation of native thought or feeling. In a few years New England developed a considerable political literature, of which the height was reached in formal oratory; it developed a new kind of scholarship, of which the height was reached in admirable works of history ; in religion it developed Unitarianism ; in philosophy, Transcendentalism; in general conduct, a tendency toward reform which deeply affected our national history; and meantime it developed the most mature school of pure letters which has yet appeared in this country. To these various phases of the New England Renaissance we may now devote ourselves in turn.
THE NEW ENGLAND ORATORS
In the seventeenth century, the literary expression of New England had been chiefly theological. In the eighteenth century this expression, at least in the region of Boston, became chiefly political and was on the whole less important than the political writing produced to the southward. In each case the dominant phase of New England expression had been decidedly serious, and had been concerned with one of the ideals most deeply associated with our ancestral language. These ideals we have broadly called those of the Bible and of the Common Law; the former incessantly reminds us that we must do right, the latter that we must maintain our rights. And they have in common another trait than either their deep association with the temper of English-speaking races or their pervasive seriousness; both are generally and most characteristically set forth by means of public speaking.
From the very beginning, then, the appetite for public discourse in New England had been keen. In the seventeenth century a minister who preached or prayed well was sure of admiration and popularity ; in the eighteenth century a similar popularity was the certain reward of a lawyer, too, who displayed oratorical power. Some early records of Yankee appetite for oral discourse are surprising : Sewall somewhere records, for example, that having begun to pray at a devotional meeting, where he lost sight of his hour-glass, he continued an unbroken petition to the Lord for something like two hours, nor did he remark on the part of his hearers any distracting manifestation of fatigue. For two hundred years, Sunday