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The American Sycophant
by [?]

AN AMERICAN newspaper holds this opinion: “If republican government had done nothing else than give independence to American character and preserve it from the servility inseparable from the allegiance to kings, it would have accomplished a great work.”

I do not doubt that the writer of that sentence believes that republican government has actually wrought the change in human nature which challenges his admiration. He is very sure that his countrymen are not sycophants; that before rank and power and wealth they stand covered, maintaining “the godlike attitude of freedom and a man” and exulting in it. It is not true; it is an immeasurable distance from the truth. We are as abject toadies as any people on earth–more so than any European people of similar civilization. When a foreign emperor, king, prince or nobleman comes among us the rites of servility that we execute in his honor are baser than any that he ever saw in his own land. When a foreign nobleman’s prow puts into shore the American shin is pickled in brine to welcome him; and if he come not in adequate quantity those of us who can afford the expense go swarming over sea to struggle for front places in his attention. In this blind and brutal scramble for social recognition in Europe the traveling American toady and impostor has many chances of success: he is commonly unknown even to ministers and consuls of his own country, and these complaisant gentlemen, rather than incur the risk of erring on the wrong side, take him at his own valuation and push him in where his obscurity being again in his favor, he is treated with kindly toleration, and sometimes a genuine hospitality, to which he has no shadow of right nor title, and which, if he were a gentleman, he would not accept if it were voluntarily proffered. It should be said in mitigation that all this delirious abasement in no degree tempers his rancor against the system of which the foreign notable is the flower and fruit. He keeps his servility sweet by preserving it in the salt of vilification. In the character of a blatant blackguard the American snob is so happily disguised that he does not know himself.

An American newspaper once printed a portrait of her whom the irreverent Briton had a reprehensible habit of designating colloquially as “The Old Lady,” But the editor in question did not so designate her–his simple American manhood and republican spirit would not admit that she was a lady. So he contented himself with labeling the portrait “Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria” This incident raises an important question.

Important Question Raised by This Incident: Is it better to be a subject and a man, or a citizen and a flunkey–to own the sway of a “gory tyrant” and retain one’s self-respect, or dwell, a “sovereign elector,” in the land of liberty and disgrace it?

However it may be customary for English newspapers to designate the English sovereign, they are at least not addicted to sycophancy in designating the rulers of other countries than their own. They would not say “His Abracadabral Humpti-dumptiness Emperor William,” nor “His Pestilency the Speaker of the American House of Representatives.” They would not think of calling even the most ornately self-bemedaled American sovereign elector “His Badgesty.” Of a foreign nobleman they do not say “His Lordship;” they will not admit that he is a lord; nor when speaking of their own noblemen do they spell “lord” with a capital L, as we do. In brief, when mentioning foreign dignitaries, of whatever rank in their own countries, the English press is simply and serviceably descriptive: the king is a king, the queen a queen, the jack a jack. We use “another kind of common sense.” At the very foundation of our political system lies the denial of hereditary and artificial rank. Our fathers created this government as a protest against all that, and all that it implies. They virtually declared that kings and noblemen could not breathe here, and no American loyal to the principles of the Revolution which made him one will ever say in his own country “Your Majesty” or “Your Lordship”–the words would choke him and they ought.