51. An American
Massachusetts Centinel, 10 November 17871

Mr. RUSSELL, A certain Dean TUCKER, of England, in a English news-paper, some years since, exposes to the ridicule of the world, the capriciousness, restlessness, and inconstancy of the Americans, as a nation, states several advantages attendant on a separation from us—and proceeds thus:—“After a separation from the colonies our influence over them will be much greater than ever it was, since they began to feel their own might and importance”—“The moment its operation takes effect, intestine quarrels will begin”—And “in proportion as their factious republican spirit shall intrigue and cabal, shall split into parties, divide and subdivide; in the same proportion, shall we be called in, to become their general umpires and referees.”

Now, Mr. Printer, to balance accounts with the said Dean, and to shew, if the Americans as a nation, are capricious, they are not the only people that are so; I wish you to insert a short character of the English nation—which must be considered more authentick than the Dean’s, as it was wrote by an Englishman, who certainly had a better opportunity of delineating the character of his own nation, than he of pourtraying one situated three thousand miles from him.—The character begins thus:—“The people who inhabit these kingdoms, are such inconsistent, capricious animals, that one would imagine they were created for the purpose of ridicule. Their minds are in continual agitation, like a shuttlecock tossed to and fro, in order to divert the demons of philosophy and folly. An Englishman, without the intervention of any visible motive, is, by turns, merry and pensive, superficial and profound, generous and illiberal, rash and circumspect, courageous and fearful, benevolent and cruel. They seem to have no fixed principle of action, no certain plan of conduct, no effectual rudder to steer them through the voyage of life; but to be hurried down the rapid tide of each revolving whim, or driven, the sport of every gust of passion that happens to blow. An Englishman will sing at a funeral, and sigh at a wedding; he will this hour talk ribaldry with a prostitute, and the next immerse himself in the study of metaphysicks or theology. In favour of one stranger, he will exert all the virtues of hospitality; against another he will exercise all the animosity of the most sordid prejudice: One minute sees him hazarding his all on the success of the most extravagant project; another beholds him hesitating in lending a few guineas to his friend on undeniable security. Today, he is afraid of paring his corns; to-morrow, he scruples not to cut his own throat. At one season, he will give half his fortune to the poor; at another, he will not bestow the smallest pittance to save his brother from indigence and distress. He is elated to insolence by the least gleam of success; he is dejected to despondence by the slightest turn of adverse fortune. One hour he doubts the best established truths; the next he swallows the most improbable fiction. His praise and his censure is what a wise man would chuse to avoid, as evils equally pernicious: The first is generally raised without foundation, and carried to such extravagance, as to expose the object to the ridicule of mankind; the last is often unprovoked, yet usually inflamed to all the rage of the most malignant persecution. He will extol above Alexander the great, a petty officer who robs a hen-roost; and damn to infamy, a General for not performing impossibilities. The same man whom he yesterday flattered with the most fulsome adulation, he will to-morrow revile with the most bitter abuse; and, at the turning of a straw, take into his bosom the very person whom he has formerly defamed as the most perfidious rascal.

The Englishmen value themselves much upon their constitution, and are very clamorous about the words liberty and property; yet, in fact, the only liberty they enjoy is to get drunk whenever they please, to revile the government, and quarrel with one another. With respect to their property, they are the tamest animals in the world; and, if properly managed, undergo, without wincing, such impositions, as no other nation in the world would bear. In this particular, they may be compared to an ass, that will crouch under the most unconscionable burthen, provided you scratch his ears, and allow him to bray as much as he pleases. They are so tracticable, that they have suffered their pockets to be drained, their veins to be emptied, and their credit to be cracked by the most bungling administrations, to gratify the avarice, pride, and ambition, of the most sordid and contemptible sovereigns, that ever sate upon a throne.”

1. Reprinted: New York Morning Post, 22 November.