americanism being

*this is a continuation of notes/ excerpts from the pages earmarked while reading A History of Civilizations by Fernand Braudel...

on America:

 “ The growth of a taste for retrospective nostalgia accompanied the slow decline of traditional faith. When competition and enterprise were rapidly growing, Americans thought about the future; when they were flourishing, they thought about the present. Now, in the age of mergers, of giant corporations and monopolies, which reduce the scope for competition and the opportunities to be seized, they turn with regret to the golden age behind them.” – Richard Hofstadter, 1955

 on the Constitution:

It has long been said that the founding fathers based their constitution ‘on the philosophy of Hobbes and the religion of Calvin’. For them too, man was “a wolf to man” and his “carnal spirit” was far removed from God.

The Declaration of Independence proclaimed both the right to rebel and equality before the law. But the great idea which preoccupied and motivated these landowners, businessmen, lawyers, planters, speculators, and bankers- these “aristocrats”- was to safeguard property, wealth and social privilege.

“ The crowd is beginning to think and reason. Poor reptiles! They warm themselves in the sun, and the next moment they will bite… The gentry is beginning to fear them.” – Gouverneur Morris

“ We have been too democratic… Let us beware of going too far to the opposite extreme.” – James Murray Mason

“ We should uphold as a principle the fact that the Government derives from the people, but oblige the people to realize that they are not fit to govern themselves.” – Jeremy Belknap

The Presidential campaign of 1896 was partly a struggle between opponents of the trusts, led by William Jennings Bryan, and their supporters, led by the successful candidate William McKinley. 

Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914

American Socialist leader Daniel de Leon– “ The ladder that humanity has climbed towards civilization is progress in working methods, more and more powerful means of production. The trust is at the top of the ladder, and around it modern social storms are raging. The middle class is trying to break it, and turn back the march of civilization. The proletariat is trying to preserve it, improve it, and open it to everyone.”

on American Literature:

 the American novel was “literature made by and for the cinema, coloured by the habit of “hot news” and the detective story… brutal, passionate, feverish and frenetic, without an ounce of refinement, literature like a blow of the fist, enjoyed despite of or because of that, according to taste. It is fast and hard: there is something healthy, lively, and strong about it which at present is found nowhere else.” – French critic

 “ There are no second acts in American lives.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896- 1940)

 Characteristically, the American writer is an asocial being who is not content merely to express his revulsion or his unease at the world around him, but lives out his rebellion and constantly pays the price in pain and solitude. So the evolution of the American novel faithfully reflects that of America’s social tensions.

 Babbitt (1922)- Sinclair Lewis.  Many of the “lost generation” saw Socialism as a hope of salvation for the society of their day.


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