Wednesday, December 8, 2010

America and the Individual... excerpt from the Civil War novel The Killer Angels

He believed in the dignity of man. His ancestors were Huguenots, refugees from a chained and bloody Europe. He had learned their stories in the cradle. He had grown up believing in America and the individual and it was a stronger faith than his faith in God. This was the land where no man had to bow. In this place at last a man could stand up free of the past, free of tradition and blood ties and the curse of royalty and become what he wished to become. This was the first place on earth where the man mattered more than the state. True freedom had begun here and eventually it would spread all over the earth. But it had begun here. The fact of slavery on this beautiful new clean earth was appalling, but more even than that was the horror of old Europe, the curse of nobility, which the South was transplanting to new soil. They were forming a new aristocracy, a new bread of glittering men, and Chamberlain had come to crush it. But he was fighting for the dignity of man and in that way he was fighting for himself. If men were equal in America, all these Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere; there were only freemen and slaves. The American fights for mankind, for freedom.
-Michael Shaara