Norfolk VA newspaper, The Norfolk Post, was established shortly after the Civil War. (You knew that already from the last blog, right?) Once again, an article from that newspaper is featured here-this one published on Saturday, June 24, 1865. Once again, it’s also a piece of history that is helpful to be aware of in 2016. Transcribed for easier reading (but honestly, it’s still not the easiest thing to read), it’s well worth the few minutes, and you may find yourself reading it twice. When you finish, don’t forget to click “follow the duck” to receive notification of new blog entries via email, like our facebook page, and/or register for our newsletter and occasional email updates at the end of this entry. Oh, and if you agree that history should not be ducked, please pass this along!
Now that the American people have established their nation as a first-class power, and placed it in a leading position before the world-thus securing a standing at once dignified and unequivocal-we think that national self-respect demands that some alteration should be made in the language of our orators, our people, and the press, when speaking of ourselves as a nation. We have long thought that it sounds very silly in us to be continually singing our own praises. We scarcely take up a paper, or listen to an orator, but we meet with something in regard to our greatness. “we are a great people;” “the greatest the sun ever shone upon;” “the most enterprising, ingenious, industrious, intelligent, warlike, liberal, and free, that now exists, ever did exist, or ever will exist on the face of the earth.” “No nation in ancient times ever equaled us in any respect-no country at present can compare with us in any of the elements of national greatness, social and political grandeur, or in the arts of war and peace. We are the nation par excellence, and we know it and intend to impress the world with the fact by its frequent reiteration. Such wars as we have waged were never waged before; such wisdom as we have displayed in counsel has been hitherto unheard of in the world.” This is the language of the boaster and braggart, a creature laughed at for his folly, and generally detested and shunned by all sensible persons. He is forever prating of his own powers or abilities. In whatever field of knowledge or path of life he may be found, he is eternally boasting of his own superiority, and depreciating the talent and capacities, and actions of his neighbors. His bluster becomes offensive, and although he may really be endowed with all the qualities, the possession of which he so immodestly boasts, good people come at length to hate and avoid him as a public nuisance, and refuse to give him credit for any ability whatever. We many sum it up in one idea: men of sense despise a silly “blower,” and avoid him as they do any other intolerable bore. The practice, besides, is very vulgar, highly indecent, and shows bad breeding. It proves that the individual who indulges in it is not sure of his position, and thinks that by puffing himself, he can convince the world of his worth, when in fact he only succeeds in convincing it of his worthlessness.
In a general way let us apply this theory to our country. We have surely done enough to convince the world that whatever role we may choose to adopt, we have the ability and strength of purpose to carry it through to a successful issue-whether it be in the quiet pursuits of peace, or on the sanguinary fields of war. We have arrived at that period in our national history when we can afford to dispense with such ad captandum as frequent allusions to our national greatness, the invincibility of the American eagle, and the vast superiority of our people over every other people in the known world-and the frequent insults to the sensibilities of our susceptible neighbors in other portions of the world, which we are wont to indulge in. We ought now to be sure of our positon; and we hold it to be a departure from dignity to boast of that fact so frequently as to convey the impression that we have still some lingering doubts as to whether we are a great nation or not. The merchant who has fully established his name and character and attained to wealth and position, never goes forth into the marketplace to bid for custom, nor does he post large handbills at the street corners to tell the world, “I am the great John Jones, the wealthiest, most reliable, ablest, and most honest and upright merchant in the world, and all others are cheats and swindlers.” The established physician or lawyer never heralds his own praise, as the quack and pettifogger are compelled to do. The statesman does not go among the people and say to them, “I alone understand the true principles of government, and all others are but fools and demagogues, and will mislead you.” The great author does not place in the preface of his work, “I am the greatest writer of this or any other age.” The minister of the Gospel, who has established his reputation by his works, does not find it necessary to shout his qualifications each Sabbath from the pulpit; the editors of newspapers, recognized for ability, do not usually occupy half their space with puffs of their prosperous condition. It is an old and true saying that actions spead(sp) louder than words-and this is the fact as well in the case of nations as of individuals. No country or person who has gained a true position in the world has any necessity to become the trumpeter of his own glory and renown. –They feel sure of their position, maintain a dignified reserve, and leave to others who observe their actions and recognize their worth, the work of bestowing praise when found to be well-deserved.
We trust that this evil-this growing disposition on the part of our fellow-countrymen, and especially of our brethren of the Press-may be speedily reformed. Reform it altogether. Modesty, dignity, and self-respect alike demand at least some modification; if not a total abolition of the vulgar and ill-bred practice.