Friday, July 7, 2017

The American Spirit - According to Benjamin Rush

I'm currently taking a short sabbatical from the Aubrey-Maturin series to go back to my sweet spot of reading history books. I started Washington's Crossing on the Fourth of July, and I'll probably finish it this weekend while at the beach. So far, it's very good.

I'm currently reading through the part of the darkest time for the Americans in the Revolutionary War. It's right after the British have captured New York, Rhode Island, and have driven almost to Philadelphia. The Cause is beginning to look lost. It is the winter of 1776, when Thomas Paine publishes his famous pamphlet "The American Crisis" following the bitter defeats and a period where victory looked remote.

I was struck by this paragraph:
"Doctor Benjamin Rush, who had a major role in the event, believed that this was the way a free republic would always work, and the American republic in particular. He thought it was a national habit of the American people (maybe all free people) not to deal with a difficult problem until it was nearly impossible. 'Our republics cannot exist long in prosperity,' Rush wrote 'We require adversity and appear to possess most of the republican spirit when most depressed.'"
Perhaps this is still true today. Perhaps our peace and prosperity have sapped our republican (small r) spirit.

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