Can we get beyond or above the “clash of opinions” in politics (or religion)?
In 1821, a young woman from Scotland visited the still relatively New Republic and published letters of her experiences in Views of Society and Manners in America. Frances Wright was a radical freethinker who would soon put down roots here, create a community with freed slaves, open a “Hall of Science” in an old church in NYC, and give lectures to large audiences in major cities.
What Wright wrote on American attitudes toward each other and the government offers much to reflect upon for our time. Can we say we have “outlived all the tempest” of party divisions, for the sake of what we have created?
“To speak in short from my present confined observations, I should say that it [would be] impossible for a people to be more completely identified with their government, than are the Americans. In considering it, they seem to feel, it is ours; we created it, and we support it; it exists for our protection and service; it lives by the breath of our mouths, and, while it answers the ends for which we decreed it, so long shall it stand, and [nothing] shall prevail against it. If I may trust the report of all my American friends and acquaintances, confirmed by my own limited observation, there appear to be few remains of those party animosities which divided the community at the close of the revolutionary struggle … . It says much for the good sense of the people, and the wisdom of their institutions, that one generation should have outlived all the tempest of passion and bitterness of party, occasioned by the clash of interests and opinions in a great national revolution.”