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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 74

III.   The Period of Growth

1. Character of the New Nation
  The English of the United States thus began to be recognizably differentiated from the English of England, both in vocabulary and in pronunciation, by the opening of the nineteenth century, but as yet its growth was hampered by two factors, the first being the lack of a national literature of any expanse and dignity and the second being an internal political disharmony which greatly conditioned and enfeebled the national consciousness. During the actual Revolution common aims and common dangers forced the Americans to show a united front, but once they had achieved political independence they developed conflicting interests, and out of those conflicting interests came suspicions and hatreds which came near wrecking the new confederation more than once. Politically, their worst weakness, perhaps, was an inability to detach themselves wholly from the struggle for domination then going on in Europe. The surviving Loyalists of the revolutionary era—estimated by some authorities to have constituted fully a third of the total population in 1776—were ardently in favor of England, and such patriots as Jefferson were as ardently in favor of France. This engrossment in the quarrels of foreign nations was what Washington warned against in his Fare-well Address. It was at the bottom of such bitter animosities as that between Jefferson and Hamilton. It inspired and perhaps excused the pessimism of such men as Burr. Its net effect was to make it difficult for the people of the new nation to think of themselves, politically, as Americans. Their state of mind, vacillating, uncertain, alternately timorous and pugnacious, has been well described