Thursday, November 08, 2018

Still the greatest danger

[Henry] James must have felt somewhat misplaced among the Americans at Surrenden in the summer of 1898. Far from sharing their zeal for the conquests of Cuba and the Philippines, he looked at the war and saw "nothing but madness, the passions, the hideous clumsiness of rage." 

Like his psychologist brother William, who believed that Theodore Roosevelt was "still mentally in the Sturm and Drang period of early adolescence," Henry James was deeply suspicious of the brand of patriotism exalted by the most famous of the Rough Riders. 

The same week the United States declared war on Spain, the novelist had reviewed American Ideals, Roosevelt's collection of manifestoes on "The Manly Virtues," "True Americanism," and kindred matters. A hopeless puerility muddled Roosevelt's thinking, James said, and he frostily observed that in a task as momentous as the shaping of national character, "stupidity is really the great danger to avoid."

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