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Lccesstinh by merosos and
sake of money. The war was virtually carried on by the moneyed men, the business men, of the North. They furnished its "sinews”; and this they did for their own purposes and in their own interests. Many of them grew rich by means of the war; most of them saw that in its successful prosecution lay their future prosperity. The war time was a money-making time, and the war was a money-making process. The Federal Government was victorious simply because it had the most men and the most money on its side; and it had the most men because it had the most money. The Confederate cause failed simply because its men and its money were exhausted; for no other reason. Inequality came to an end in the South; equality was established throughout the Union; but the real victors were the moneymakers, merchants, bankers, manufacturers, railway men, monopolists, and speculators. It was their cause that had triumphed under the banner of freedom. General Grant has been roughly handled by caricaturists and paragraphists as a beggar. Verily, his reward has been small at the hands of those to whom he rendered his chief service. If the business men of the North had given him an income of one thousand dollars a day, and General Sherman one of five hundred, they would have insufficiently acknowledged what those stubborn soldiers did for them.
After a comparatively brief period of dull reaction, the country started again upon its interrupted course of prosperity with an impetus that was like the force of a continuous explosion, and with results the semblance of which the world till then had never seen. The exhaustless material wealth of the country, and the rapid increase of its population (the influx of immigrants keeping, on one hand, production strained to its utmost, and augmenting, on the other, the productive power); the failure of Europe, and particularly of England, to supply its own demands for food; with other forces which need not be here set forth, combined to pour a flood of riches into the United States so vast, so diffusive, so splendid, and at the same time so solid, that we became the Dives of nations. History records no such swift, substantial growth in material prosperity as that of the United States during the last fifty years, and chiefly since the civil war. Men who twenty years ago had nothing have now hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions, tens of millions. And the numbers of those thus suddenly enriched are not hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands; while around them are thriving millions in a condition of firm
an instarted again natively brief born soldier
comfort. Upon such a spectacle the sun of prosperity never shone before. Of these men, and of the women who belong to them, very few, in proportion, would be regarded in any other country as educated, still fewer as persons of intellectual or social culture. They have money; nothing more. The result of the forces which have been in operation in this country during the last generation has been to give to this vast multitude two things- unprecedented wealth with absolute equality, likewise without precedent.
It is not in human nature that such a course of events, with such consequences, should be without effect upon the social bearing and seeming of the people among whom it has occurred. And in the present case, the effect of such a sudden increase of wealth has been greatly enhanced and much modified by the influence of foreign example. Europe comes in as a factor in our social problem. It is quite within the limits of truth to say that, for ten “Americans” who visited Europe fifty years ago, a thousand have done so within the last ten years. The effect of this intercourse has been in some respects advantageous; in others, rather deplorable and even ridiculous. For, of these purse-filled tourists, the number who were by nature or by education prepared to receive the benefits of European travel was so very small that in the great mass they were of no account. And, unfortunately, what they sought in Europe was not that instruction and that refinement of taste which Europe is qualified to give: they went either “to have a good time" or to rush through picture galleries and cathedrals and scenery, that they might come back fitted to set up as people of travel and of culture. But whatever they may have failed to acquire of Europe's long-stored social and mental wealth, few of them failed to learn to imitate the least admirable of the manners and customs of Europe—those which lay upon the surface; those which might be gathered from a superficial observation of the most pretentious and most frivolous society, the only society in Europe to which such casual travelers or such transient sojourners would be admitted. The pitiable spectacle of the American colony in Paris during the Second Empire may be passed over here without remark;* but the effect of these and their like upon society in the United States has been deplorably debasing and vulgarizing. The observation of “high life" by such spectators, so transient, so ignorant, so incapable of thought, reveals to them nothing which may not be obtained by an expenditure of money; and, briefly (for I must be brief), this vast increase of wealth, this democratic equality, and these skippings over the surface of European society, working together, have produced as their resultant a social monster called in the newspapers “Society," or "World of Fashion.” Now society and fashion (singular, inexplicable word thus used) are no new things here; but not this society, this fashion. Some money is necessary always for the formation and maintenance of a cultivated society; some exclusiveness must be practiced, or your society becomes a general bear-garden. But this society rests upon money only: not upon property, possessions, estates; but upon sheer money, that may be put in a box and carried about, got one day and lost another, like a watch or a toy, and with no more social disturbance; and this exclusiveness excludes only those who have little money, and as to the bears, shuts many of them not out, but in. Let any man who chooses so to spend time and trouble read the highly interesting paragraphs under the “World of Society" and “ Circle of Fashion” headings, in three or four of our leading newspapers, and if he has any particular knowledge of society, and a knowledge which extends backward beyond the war, he will see that quite seven-tenths of them relate to people who, at that time, would themselves not have dreamed of themselves as persons of gentility (to use an obsolescent word), not to say of consideration or fashion ; people without breeding, without education; whose every word and every tone (surest evidence on such a point) betrays the inferior associations in which they grew up; whose language, whether they speak or write, would be put to shame by that of a well-bred upper servant in England ; and whose notions of politeness are confined to the observance of etiquette, which can be taught to a monkey and poured into a man, and yet more easily into a woman, as liquor can be poured out of one vessel into another; who have, indeed, generally a sort of formless, insipid good-nature, but of courtesy, inborn or inbred, no conception whatever. *
* It has received incisive comment from the competent pens of Mr. George William Curtis, in his “Potiphar Papers," and Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, in his recent paper, “Colonialism in America."
* The working classes can secure a great addition to their present enjoyments by cultivating among themselves a more refined society and gentler manners. There has been already a noticeable improvement in this respect among our native workingmen especially; and the manners of many of them: will now compare favorably with those of the business classes; though it must be added that the manners of the business classes themselves admit of no little improvement. But among a certain portion of the working class, very abundant in the city of New York, manners seem to be an unknown art, while society, in any proper sense of the term, would appear to be an impossibility.-" The Century," July, 1883.
They have simply money,– money which they are ready to spend for their own coarse pleasures; money which they are even willing to give away- for their own aggrandizement; money which they are anxious to use in every mode which will enable them to “get on” and make a figure. Besides these, who are hundreds and thousands, there are others not so prominently rich, who are tens and hundreds of thousands, that are of like origin and social history, and who all more or less affect elegance and “aristocracy," and talk of society and fashion. Most, but not absolutely all, of these, like most, but not absolutely all, of the others, are wholly, utterly lacking in any claim to distinction from the crowds that swarm to Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth, except money,-money gotten quickly, and in too many cases not honorably, although not illegally. But because of their money and their gross and selfish expenditure of it, they, or rather (it is but right and fair to say), very many of them, seem to think that they have a position in this country corresponding to that of the leaders of society in Europe; for example, the nobility and gentry of England. They keep their fathers and their mothers hidden away,-in closets upstairs, or in the waste places and remote corners of the land,—and set up for people of fashion upon fine clothes, bric-à-brac, and champagne.
Ignorance is in a great measure the cause of this pretension. The pretenders are so absolutely void of elemental knowledge of the constitution and the history of society as to assume that, because the higher classes of other countries have money and live expensively, therefore money and expensive living make higher classes —an aristocracy. The same ignorance and the same inversion of the order of reason leads them to assume that, because the movements and the entertainments of eminent people in really aristocratic societies are chronicled in the news. papers, if they can have their doings recorded in the newspapers for the mere gratification of an idle public curiosity, they become in like manner eminent. Within the last ten years
it is hardly so long-the outbreak of this folly has been at once a saddening and a ridiculous symptom of our diseased social condition. The doings and the family arrangements, marriages and the like, of grandees in aristocratic countries are published, because all that relates to such people, from the monarch down, is of more or less public importance. Those people are the governing classes of those countries, and they represent, either by inheritance or some sort of succession, the people who have stood in like positions for many generations. They hold the greater part of the land; they are the chief owners of the countries in which they live. If a prince or a duke is ill, or if his son is about to marry, it is a matter of somemore or less-real public interest. But if a man who has made ten millions of dollars in honest trade, or by doubtful speculation, and who has done nothing else, is ill, or has a daughter married, or gives an entertainment, of what public importance is it, or of what conceivable interest, outside of his private circle of acquaintance, except to snobs, quidnuncs, gossips, and curiosity-mongers? That such doings of such people should be dignified by publication as part of the news of the day is a pitiable exhibition of pinchbeck flunkeyism, worthy only of human apes and parrots.
When Americans who have become rich by trade or speculation assume the position, and affect, to the best of their blundering ability, the customs of an aristocratic class, it must be with utter lack both of memory and of common sense. Memories, very short ones, would tell them what they themselves were only a few years ago; common sense would teach them that, what they were, some unlooked-for turn of fortune's wheel might easily make them again, making at the same time others just what they are now. While I am writing, a paragraph comes before me recording the fall, the lamentable fall, of a man who, but a few years ago, was one of the millionaires of a great western community, and as such duly "honored." He was driven to take a place as salesman in a large trading house in another city, and there, by misconduct, which showed that he must have been always without principle, ruined himself in reputation as before he had been ruined in fortune. The transitory, shifting nature of our newly gotten wealth is one of its most striking and characteristic features. It is not like that of a true aristocracy stayed upon the land, or inwrought with the