Monday, August 27, 2012
Literature: Of Sailors Old and New
The European sailor navigates with prudence; he only sets sail when the weather is favorable; if an unfortunate accident befalls him, he puts into port; at night he furls a portion of his canvas; and when the whitening billows intimate the vicinity of land, he checks his way and takes an observation of the sun.
But the American neglects these precautions and braves these dangers. He weighs anchor in the midst of tempestuous gales; by night and day he spreads his sheets to the winds; he repairs as he goes along such damage as his vessel may have sustained from the storm; and when at last approaches the term of his voyage, he darts onward to the shore as if he already descried a port. The Americans are often shipwrecked, but no trader crosses the sea so rapidly. And as they perform the same distance in a shorter time, they can perform it at a cheaper rate.
As Benjamin Franklin once noted, the Americans - as de Tocqueville would call us - had become an entirely different race of people. And that went for sailors, too.
Header: Alexis de Tocqueville by Theodore Chasseriau c 1850, just six years prior to his death, via Wikipedia