Chapter Five — Proximate Anti-Utopia

Allan M. Axelrad (University of Pennsylvania)

Norwood, PA: Norwood Editions, 1978. Limited to 200 Copies.

Copyright © 1978, Allan M. Axelrad.

Placed online with permission of the copyright holder.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

America’s proximate utopia was but a fond memory for Cooper when he began his literary career in 1821 with the publication of The Spy. Yet he repeatedly returned to that memory in his prose as a standard of excellence against which to test and judge subsequent changes in the cycle of American civilization. According to his immutable rule of history, proximate utopia was past and gone. The prospect was bleak. The course of American civilization was undisguised and irreversible. Only with the completion of a full cycle of history could America return to the happy enchantment fast being left behind in the journey from proximate utopia to proximate anti-utopia. His depiction of the Skinners in The Spy provides a telescopic glimpse into the nation’s future, anticipating a future day when the moral and institutional fabric of the land would become so unravelled that it would no longer guarantee individual liberty or the sanctity of property. The later fiction became increasingly more preoccupied with the effacement of basic American values as Cooper became increasingly haunted by the premonition of an approaching total inversion of the garden, equivalent to the fourth painting In The Course of Empire, the vicious state.

The completed inversion of the garden is proximate anti-utopia. In his envisionment, proximate anti-utopia is the wicked state incarnate. Its context is moral anarchy. In it individual liberty and human dignity are forfeit to an all-powerful state, controlled by self-serving aristocrats. In the 1831 novel, The Bravo, Cooper provided his countrymen with a full portraiture of proximate anti-utopia as a warning of the dreadful future in store for a republic that systematically transgresses the ethos of proximate utopia. The novel provides an excursion into a labyrinth of moral incoherence, marking the reign of the antiChrist. The society pictured is the negative model of what America might become. Like proximate utopia, proximate anti-utopia serves as a standard against which to assess contemporary society. The closer the likeness to proximate anti-utopia, the more ideologically aberrant the society is in Cooper’s {166} world view. He was never an optimist. But as he got older, the tone of his prose became more caustic and polemical. This change of tone was a reflection of his belief that society was increasingly deviating away from the positive standard of proximate utopia, toward the negative standard of proximate anti-utopia.

In The Crater moral decline begins once the physical environment is tamed and the external enemy repulsed. So long as the people were forced to cooperate collectively in order to survive, proximate utopia endured. But life became easy and with no challenges to the community, decadence set in. Concurrently, the community’s collective apathy was exploited by demagogues who, finding little popular resistance, usurped power, subverted the law, and entered into a reign of oppression. In The Ruins, Volney explains that in the early stages of society the collective attentiveness of the citizenry is necessary to repulse outside threats. But after the pressure is removed that forced the people to remain alert and work for the common good, the internal enemy asserts itself, unchallenged by a now lethargic and unconcerned citizenry. 1 Such is the case in the cycle of American civilization. Once the French were driven from North America, the British thwarted in two wars, and the Indians expelled far from the centers of civilization, the cycle of history turned away from its proximate utopian phase.

Cooper shows no surprise at the dissolution of the New World proximate utopia, though he is saddened it happened so quickly. He has a tragic view of profane history. But however personally tragic the loss of proximate utopia, it is the inevitable consequence of the primal tragedy — the eviction of Adam and Eve from the Garden at the beginning of time. “It is a painful admission, extorted by truth,” he declares, “that in human institutions, the intention is never long respected.” 2 Due to his fallen nature, “Whatever man touches, he infallibly abuses.” 3 Institutions lose vitality when the moral fiber of the people weakens. And since human nature is inherently corrupt, institutions invariably become corrupted. “The spirit of the institutions is their intentions,” he explains, while “their tendencies are the natural direction they take under the impulses of human motives, which are always corrupt and corrupting.” “The ‘spirit’,” he writes, “refers to what things ought to be; the ‘tendencies,’ to what they are, or are becoming.” Through all history, “The ‘spirit’ of all political institutions” has been “to place a check on the natural propensities of men, to restrain them, and to keep them within due bounds; {167} while the tendencies follow those propensities, and are quite often in direct opposition to the spirit.” 4 It is the “spirit” of institutions to “restrain” man from his “natural propensities.” So long as this “spirit” maintains, so will proximate utopia. But in the dialectical struggle between “spirit” and “tendencies,” the “tendencies” will finally prevail. So institutional restraint is but a temporary check upon man’s generic nature, which is “always corrupt and corrupting.” It is his reading of history and understanding of the meaning of man’s Fall from Grace, which informs that “he that was once free is not necessarily free always, any more than he that was once happy, is to consider himself happy in perpetuity.” 5 Because profane history is deterministic, the cyclical outcome is invariably tragic.

When individuals or families violate the pastoral ethos, not only are they punished, but so are their descendants. For, as Cooper repeatedly warns in his works, “the sins of the fathers” are “visited on the children to the latest generations.” 6 In The Headsman Gaetano Grimaldi contends that “every principle would seem to say that each must stand or fall by his own good or evil deeds, that men are to be honored as they merit.” But Melchior de Willading rejects his free will argument, saying, “the commandments of God tell us, Gaetano, that the sins of the father shall be visited on the descendants from generation to generation.” 7 Family history is deterministic. Noble-minded families produce noble-minded descendants. Ignoble families likewise reproduce their own kind. In the Littlepage saga this principle is demonstrated through four generations of high-minded Littlepages and four generations of unprincipled Newcomes. Community history is also deterministic. “It is one evil of crime, where it penetrates masses, that numbers are enabled to give it a gloss, and a seeming merit, that unsettle principles,” he explains, “rendering the false true, in the eyes of the ignorant, and generally placing evil before good. This is one of the modes in which justice vindicates itself, under the providence of God; the wrongs committed by communities reacting on themselves, in the shape of a demoralization that soon brings its own merited punishment.” 8 A deterministic mechanism exists within the process of history, such that when a people begin to go bad, the entire cycle of history must come to fruition before the evil committed in a community’s distant past can be exorcized.

The final act, bringing down the curtain on the drama of a cycle of history, is the catastrophic denouement of the immoral, old order. {168} Such is the harsh manner of providential exorcism. He believes “analogies ... exist between inanimate nature and our own wayward inequalities,” citing “those tempests which sometimes lie dormant in our systems, like the slumbering lake in the calm, but which, excited, equal its fury when lashed by the winds.” 9 Excitement, in nature or in society, is destructive. Yet there is more than mere analogy between natural tempests and the tempests that overwhelm corrupt societies, for when man’s “wayward inequalities” become too pronounced, then cataclysmic events in nature are providentially induced. For Plato, like Cooper, cycles of time end in violent natural catastrophe — a flood, perhaps, which is one of the most universal archaic myths. 10 In The Crater, the sea itself swallows the decadent society. According to the Christian construction placed on the catastrophe paradigm of natural history that was popular in his day, these periodic purges were necessary to cleanse the earth of accumulated evil. At “the last great convulsion,” he writes, “the earth was virtually destroyed, and animal life may be said to have taken a new commencement.” The Biblical story of the Flood is merely the most familiar account of nature’s violence directed against the reign of antiChrist. Cooper even suggests that “a remarkable comet” might “have struck the earth about the time of the Deluge, causing that phenomenon. 11 In advancing this speculation, he draws upon a catastrophist view of natural history, which provides him with a scientific basis for his belief that human history cyclically recurs.

Given his deterministic view of history, and also the grim manner through which Divine recrimination finally brings a cycle to its close, it is no wonder his prose frequently takes the tone of a jeremiad, reprimanding an errant people for their transgressions. In his dark view of human nature, good fortune, far more likely than ill fortune, causes people to stray from the pastoral ethos. In his words, “prosperity is notoriously more apt than adversity to lead the heart astray.” 12 Once the American people had conquered “adversity” with the repulsion of the British in the War of 1812, and lacking challenges to their collective energy, the cycle of good fortune, indolence, and decline commenced. Nisbet states, “Whether for Greek or for Christian, the conception of moral and spiritual decline is inextricably tied up with man’s possession of faculties which are crucial to his material and cultural progress on earth .” Such “faculties” as “flaw of pride” and “covetousness of gain” are usually associated with this downward turn of the cycle of history. 13 As will {169} be seen, it is precisely such “faculties” that Cooper blames for the plight of American civilization.

In The Pioneers, the Reverend Mr. Grant warns of the fate in store for a people who ignore the ethos of proximate utopia. He refers to the hand that has “swept mighty nations from the face of the earth,” and asks, “Where now are the Philistines, who so often held the children of Israel in bondage? or the city of Babylon, which rioted in luxury and vice, and who styled herself the Queen of Nations in the drunkenness of her pride?” 14 Babylon “rioted in luxury” and was drunk with “pride,” the two “faculties” that brought her down. In the sequel to The Pioneers, Home As Found, John Effingham tells his cousin Ned that “no country has so much altered for the worse in so short a time.” John cites “unequalled pecuniary prosperity” as the cause of this degeneracy” 15 — and, as the reader learns, Americans are fast becoming modern “Philistines.” In the span of time from The Pioneers to Home As Found, in less than two generations, a previously humble but industrious people were rapidly acquiring the damning “faculties” that will prove their undoing.

In Home As Found a huge fire occurs in the commercial section of New York City, burning down 800 buildings. Cooper employs this incident as a parable of what happens to a decadent people whose lust and greed blinds them to moral values. Sir George Templemore says, “Here is a fearful admonition for those who set their hearts on riches.” He then exclaims, “What, indeed, are the designs of man, as compared with the will of Providence!” And John Effingham responds, “I foresee that this is le commencement de la fin.” 16 The fire, as an “admonition” to the rich, will be of little consequence. But Effingham is right, it does mark the beginning of the end of a cycle of history. Cooper interjects — “That Exchange, which had so lately resembled a hustling temple of Mammon, was already a dark and sheeted ruin, its marble walls being cracked, defaced, tottering, or fallen.” 17 Here the ruins-of-time motif is inserted in anticipation of the fall of civilization. The “smoldering ruins” look “like a slumbering volcano,” he writes, bringing into the parable an allusion to the catastrophe theory of natural history, and also an allusion to the age-old belief that catastrophes are providentially unleashed on people “who prided themselves on their possessions,” demonstrating a “rapacious longing for wealth.” 18 So the two tragic “faculties” the Reverend Mr. Grant warned of in The {170} Pioneers are dangerously endemic in Home As Found — “longing for wealth” and ‘pride’ of ownership. 19 In reaction to the providential conflagration in Home As Found, “A faint voice was heard from the pulpit, and there was a moment when those who remembered a better state of things, began to fancy that principles would once more assert their ascendency, and that the community would, in a measure, be purified,” However, this was a false hope, says Cooper, “this expectation ended in disappointment, the infatuation being too wide-spread and corrupting to be stopped by even this check, and the rebuke was reserved for a form that seems to depend on a law of nature, that of causing a vice to bring down with it its own infallible punishment.” 21 Symbolic fires cannot purify a corrupt society — only the real thing can do that. So the “law of nature” must take its course, bringing “with it its own infallible punishment.”

During his thirty year career as a professional writer Cooper wavered in his assessment of American civilization. At times he seemed to believe the nation was just approaching maturity in the cycle of history, and at times he seemed assured that it was already on the downward course. Whatever the exact location of the country was in the cycle matters less than the specter of proximate anti-utopia he constantly raised in his jeremiads, forewarning of the peril ahead for a people who strayed from the ethical imperatives of proximate utopia. It was toward this diabolical future that the rapidly accruing contemporary wrongs all pointed.

The same year he wrote the Home novels, 1838, he also wrote The American Democrat, stating in the introduction, “Notions that are impracticable, and which if persevered in, cannot fail to produce disorganization, if not revolution, are widely prevalent.” 21 In a letter to Thomas Warren Field he speaks of the “fearful progress” of America “towards anarchy and its successor tyranny,” and warns, “Another such half century will, in my judgment, bring the whole country under the bayonet.” 22 It is social “disorganization” which he fears; the disjunction of the organic community threatens “anarchy,” “revolution,” and finally “tyranny.” This the people will bring upon themselves. In The Redskins he suggests that even if half the world were united against the States, it would “not threaten this nation with one half as much real danger as that which menaces it at this moment, from an enemy that is now in possession of many of its strongholds, and which is incessantly working its evils under the cry of liberty, while laying deeper the foundation of a most atrocious {171} tyranny.” 23

In proximate utopia the natural and legal rights of the community’s membership is assured (slaves excepted). Individual liberty is guaranteed. But in the cyclic movement away from proximate utopia toward proximate anti-utopia, this most cherished and esteemed of all human possessions is abused by demagogy, “incessantly working its evils under the cry of liberty. Crafty demagogues hold up the banner of liberty to the masses as a rationalization and justification for the acts they commit, while in actuality they trample upon natural rights and pervert justice. In the inner dynamic of Cooper’s world view there is a fine but important distinction between true liberty and an excess of liberty or license. There is a golden mean at which point true liberty is maximized but beyond which it becomes license. Excessive liberty produces anarchy which, in turn, produces tyranny. It was impossible for him to conceive of a political system in which true liberty could be perpetuated indefinitely, for the authority to do so would, by definition, curtail liberty. So there is an unfortunate dynamic at work in the historical process in which liberty inevitably leads to license and to the destruction of liberty. Man’s sinful nature would always turn liberty into license. The best that could be hoped for was strong institutions, and a strong executive, whose character and office might discourage and retard the inevitable.

But in America vital institutions were rapidly being compromised. He thinks “the worst symptom of our system is the gradual decay of justice among us.” 24 The preservation of individual liberty and uniform justice is integral to his conception of proximate utopia. The opposite side of the cycle is characterized by inequity, by a favored class, the aristocracy, meting out justice to suit its own ends. Human liberty ceases at the borders of proximate anti-utopia. What had previously distinguished the New World from the Old, was its lofty evaluation of the individual, whose legal rights were inalienable and sacred. But with the passage of time “abuses” were “fast creeping into the administration of justice, rendering the boasted freemen of” the New World “little more likely to receive its benefit from an unpolluted stream than they who live under the worn out and confessedly corrupt systems of the Old World.” 25 In his opinion, “ill-considered laws are unhinging society in many of its most sacred interests.” 26 What he perceives happening is the rationalization of traditional legal institutions, with abstract reason modifying and {172} effacing historically sanctified practices such that the institutions are no longer effective guarantors of individual liberty and justice. Here “the pedestal of reason” has been placed “in open opposition to the ancient accessories by which the Law asserted its power.” He grants that imperfections existed in the legal system, but fears “that in throwing away the useless vestments of idle parade those necessary to decency were cast aside with them.” 27

“We are like a vehicle on the top of a hill,” he explains in a little conceit in Home As Found, “which, the moment it is pushed beyond the points of resistance, rolls down of itself, without the aid of horses. One may follow with the team and hook on when it gets to the bottom, but there is no such thing as keeping company with it until it arrives there.” 28 Such is the verdict of Cooper’s historical determinism. When liberty turns to license, when capitalism replaces the neo-feudal economy of proximate utopia, when the landscape is dwarfed by urban construction, when gentlemen are supplanted by aristocrats, when historic institutions give way to rational innovations, when decline begins — there can be no reversing the process and returning to the previous state of things. Once decay sets into the bastions of liberty and justice, there can be no shoring up the rotten timber. History is deterministic — and change, immutable.

The speed with which social change was occurring was rapidly blurring the distinctions between the Old World and the New. A. N. Kaul thinks Cooper “finally abandoned the implications of his own myth and in his last fragment [The Towns of Manhattan] denied that the New World would turn out to be in any way different from the Old.” 29 Yet there is no evidence in Cooper that he ever believed America would, in its final stages, turn out particularly different from Europe. That would be contrary to his paradigm of history. And he did not have to repudiate the myth of the New World in The Towns of Manhattan; he had already done so in the final novel of the Leatherstocking cycle, The Prairie, which was written twenty-five years earlier. The Towns of Manhattan is certainly pessimistic, with Cooper concluding, “The downward tendency can hardly proceed much further with the smallest necessary security to the rights of civilized men.” 31 But carefully read and considered within the context of his world view, his works were never optimistic about the lasting success of the American republican experiment, and he continued to worry about its extinction throughout his literary career. His view of profane history was necessarily cloaked in tragedy; the {173} only thing exceptionally and discretely tragic about the American experience was the rapidity of its journey through the cycle. He died before finishing The Towns of Manhattan, and he died with the unhappy conviction that proximate anti-utopia would soon obtain.

In The Towns of Manhattan he declares, “we do not believe any more in the superior innocence and virtue of a rural population than in that of the largest capitals, perfectly conscious of the appalling accumulation of vice, and sin, and crime that is to be found in such places as London and Paris, and even in New York. We cannot shut our eyes to the numberless evils of the same general character of disobedience to the law of God, that are to be found even in the forest and the most secluded dales of the country.” 31 From this passage an argument has been constructed that Cooper’s attitude toward the city changed “from hostility to accommodation.” 32 He was at work on The Towns of Manhattan when he died in 1851. Yet as late as his last novel, The Ways Of The Hour (1850), he had written, “God made the country; man made the town.” 33 The Towns of Manhattan is a posthumously published fragment, begun shortly after The Ways Of The Hour; and the suggestion that he abandoned his lifelong view of the world in it is highly suspect. Language such as “appalling accumulation of vice, and sin, and crime,” and endemic “disobedience to the law of God,” is hardly indicative of a desire of “accommodation” by the highly moralistic and deeply religious writer. A more likely construction of that passage from The Towns of Manhattan is — America as a whole has so far transgressed the ethos of proximate utopia and has so far declined on the downward are of the cycle of history, that nowhere in the land, neither in town nor country, are ethical norms still vital.

Throughout his writings the city is the obverse of proximate utopia. 34 It is no coincidence that when he drew a full portraiture of proximate anti-utopia in The Bravo, he set the tale in a decrepit, immoral, and despotic city. In The American Democrat he says, “An undue proportion of the dissolute, unsettled, vicious and disorganizing, collect in towns.” 35 More than that, cities are commercial centers, and Cooper consistently identified commerce, business activities of all sorts, and the pursuit of money, as morally debilitating, as damaging to the individual and to the society. Commerce, he declares; “drags after it a long train of low vice.” 36 Wealth not obtained from the redemptive soil is unsanctified and corrupting In an 1840 letter to William Branford Shubrick, he says, “The growth of {174} the towns, and the consequent concentration of wealth is fast bringing about a change in our institutions, and it will be fortunate if it do[es] not bring about a civil war.” 37 In his world view the growth of urban centers and the accumulation of wealth by the few upsets the locus of power in the nation. The leadership of the rural gentry is undermined by urban businessmen, who buy power with ill-gotten money, and subvert the institutional structure of the land, replacing the best interest of the nation with the best interest of the commercial aristocracy. In an early 1840s letter to William Gilmore Simms he had written, “We are going from bad to worse daily, and God only knows where it will end. My time will be up soon, and all I can do is to leave a warning to my children.” 38 His is a conspiracy theory of history. He wholly believed that aristocratic demagogues had conspired to undermine sacred traditions and values, and that the liberty he so prized would soon be forfeit. In his later years especially, his prose was filled with jeremiads warning Americans that a vituperate Deity would not tolerate their sinful ways. His vehement and often vitriolic denouncements worked to alienate him from his readers. The more isolated he became, the more he felt that his was a prophetic role, and the more he came to believe that he was a lone voice in a wilderness of corruption, crying out the word of righteousness to a deaf and blind people.

D. H. Lawrence suggests that Cooper “hated democracy. So he evaded it, and had a nice dream of something beyond democracy.” 39 There is a good deal of truth to this suggestion. Cooper hated democracy as it was being practiced in Jacksonian America. He hated majoritarian rule, where it meant that the masses of people literally govern themselves. But properly understood, as he saw it, democracy did not place power in the hands of the people at large. What democracy meant to him was representative government, wherein the people elect gentry to provide guidance and leadership, not to do their constituents’ bidding, but to set policy, establish tone, and affirm community values. He used republic and democracy interchangeably. In his usage he was a good democrat, by which he meant a good, late-eighteenth-century republican. The republican form of government, in his estimation, was at least coequal and possibly superior to monarchy, the only other palatable mode of government. The advantage of the republican mode over monarchy is, in his opinion, its wide base of support, but its great disadvantage {175} is the ease with which abuse renders it into an aristocracy. Monarchy, on the other hand, is more stable and less likely to be undermined by wily aristocrats.

The most elusive term in the Cooper lexicon is aristocrat. Scholars have seldom understood his use of the term, and none have grasped its full significance within his world view. 41 What made him particularly livid was his detractors labelling him an aristocrat, and this particular misappellation has been perpetuated in modern scholarship. 41 In addition to misrepresenting the world as he saw it, a degree of confusion arises when aristocrat is not defined in accordance with his usage. For example, one scholar cites Cooper calling tenants aristocrats; at the same time he calls Cooper an aristocrat, without defining the word in either case. 42 So Cooper laments, “not one in a thousand knows the meaning of the word” aristocracy. 43 “To call a man who has the habits and opinions of a gentleman, an aristocrat,” he declares, “is an abuse of terms.” 44 Over and over he complains, “This cant about social aristocracy, even in a state of society in which the servant deserts his master with impunity in the midst of a dinner, is very miserable stuff! Aristocracy, forsooth! If there be aristocracy in America, the blackguard is the aristocrat.” 45 As he defines it, “Aristocracy means exclusive political privileges in the hands of a few: and it means nothing else.” 46 “An aristocracy,” he says, “is a combination of many powerful men, for the purpose of maintaining and advancing their own particular interests.” 47 It is to the sense of these definitions to which he remained consistently true throughout his works. Aristocrats are upstarts, pretenders, ‘blackguards;’ they are motivated by self-interest, and are inimical to the real interests of the community.

As he conceives it there are three forms of government — “Aristocracy, monarchy, or democracy.” 48 These are not, however, the three classical forms Aristotle delineated. 49 Strictly and correctly speaking, he envisions only two legitimate forms of government — monarchy and democracy. 51 The reason for this is that aristocracy is the decadent form of either monarchy or democracy. Placed in the context of Cooper’s world view, this means that on the upward arc of the cycle of history, especially in the proximate utopian stage, one of two modes always prevails — either monarchy or democracy. But once the cycle surpasses zenith and decay enters into the body politic, government invariably degenerates into aristocracy. Former republics, such as Rome and Venice, upon decline were transformed {176} into aristocracies. 51 The English monarchy, in his opinion, was subverted by aristocracy in 1688. 52 The French Revolution was also a conspiracy perpetrated by aristocrats to overthrow the monarchy. 53 And the reconstituted French monarchy, as of 1828, was once again drifting into the threes of aristocracy. 54 In his words, “The most insidious enemy of monarchy is aristocracy, which destroys while it pretends to support.” 55 The American Revolution likewise fits into his schematic of cyclic governmental mutation. It was a Revolution against aristocracy. In his reading of history, when the legitimate English monarchy of the Stuarts was overturned in 1688, the aristocrats in Parliament attempted to assert illegitimate authority over the colonies, which was repudiated in the rebellion. 56 He believed that all over Europe by the early middle years of the nineteenth century, aristocrats were conspiring to betray and subvert monarchs, and soon, in his estimation, aristocracy would become the only existing mode of government found anywhere in Europe. 57

However widespread the conspiracy to turn monarchies into aristocracies, he was even more fearful of aristocratic encroachment in republics. He has no illusions that “a republican form of government is ... necessarily a free government.” In fact, he says, “Aristocracies are oftener republicks [sic] than any thing else, and they have been among the most oppressive governments the world has ever known.” In aristocracies, “The ruled are depressed in consequence of the elevation of their rulers.” 58 But consistent with his preference for powerful executives — whether monarchs or strong presidents like Andrew Jackson — he insists “it is better to have one tyrant than many.” 59 Among a variety of factors conducive to the inception of a New World aristocracy, two factors seemed to him particularly threatening. For one, aristocracy is more likely to develop in “metropolitan” regions than in agricultural regions, where people live in close proximity to the redemptive soil. 61 So he worried about the urbanization of America. When he conceptualized proximate anti-utopia, the geography was a city-state. Secondly, since the English aristocracy was the product of legislative usurpation, he feared a similar occurrence here, resulting from a combination of the commercial/banking community and Congress.

In Autobiography Of a Pocket-Handkerchief he pokes fun at the aristocratic pretensions of the newly monied and upwardly ambitious through his protagonist, “an exceedingly aristocratic pocket-handkerchief.” 61 Put it is also clear that he considered the {177} threat of aristocracy in America no laughing matter. Aristocracy is the antithesis of the intimate, humane, paternalistic, proximate utopian community. Aristocracy exhibits “the irresponsible nature of corporations;” it is “soulless, possessing neither the personal feelings that often temper even despotism,” nor “the human impulses of popular bodies.” 62 The motivating impulse among aristocrats is “love of money, which,” he submits, “there is divine authority for believing to be ‘the root of all evil.’” 63 If was his belief that the threat of aristocracy in America came mainly from the business community, particularly from the commercial sector. Had he lived into the post-Civil War era, or had he been more perceptive of the new economic direction of the country, he would have been doubly fearful of the industrial establishment. “It is a mistake,” he declares, “to suppose commerce favorable to liberty. Its tendency is to a monied aristocracy,” which, he insists, has throughout history been the governmental mode “of every community of merchants.” 64 Merchants and businessmen, he thinks, of necessity are gamblers in a generally risky milieu. They are perfectly capable of violating any and all ethical and legal norms to insure the safety of a transaction. 65 “As a class, and as politicians,” in his words, American merchants “are aristocrats.” 66 In an 1836 letter to Horatio Greenough, he exclaims,

Alas! my good Greenough, this is no region for poets, so sell them your wares, and shut your ears. The foreigners have got to be so strong, among us, that they no longer creep but walk erect. They throng the presses, control one or two of the larger cities, and materially influence public opinion all over the Union. By foreigners, I do not mean the lower class of Irish voters, who do so much at the polls, but the merchants and others a degree below them, who are almost to a man hostile in feeling to the country, and to all her interests, except as they may happen to be their interests. 67

The real foreigners to the American polity and its ideals, then, were not the Irish, but the merchants, the businessmen, and the bankers. In their conspiracy to turn the country into an aristocracy of self-interest, these plutocrats were fast accumulating power and influence. With this specter of aristocracy before him, and the impending subversion of the Constitution, he filled reams of paper with urgent {178} warnings of distress in the form of letters to his friends and family, letters to the editor of The Evening Post, and he polemicized the danger both in his fiction and non-fiction.

The biggest threat to the Constitution and American liberty from the political sphere, in his analysis, issues from Congress because it represents the business community. In his letters, particularly, he frets over Congressional hunger for power to promote its own interests, the interests of the business establishment. Earlier it was suggested that in The Crater the chief executive’s office combines that of monarch and president. Because the president is elected, the fiction of power emanating from the people is maintained. But because the term of office is for life, popular pressure, the pressure of special interest lobbies, and the pressure of electioneering are eliminated. Equally important, the Congressional menace Cooper perceived in his own government is easily alleviated by simply not building a legislative body into the governmental design. The important fact about government in The Crater is that it is composed of gentlemen and self- consciously designed to keep government remote from the people, and most importantly, remote from business interests.

Where in a South Seas fantasy one might merely wish the legislative peril away, in the humdrum everyday world it had to be coped with realistically. Monarchs and presidents had to have the power to override the legislative body, otherwise economic special interests would command. In a letter to The Evening Post he explains that it is the natural inclination of legislatures to usurp executive power. “There is scarcely an instance,” he believes, “in which such bodies have not trespassed on Executive authority. In England it has completely perverted it; and in France, short as has been the representative career of that nation, we see the legislative branch of its government openly invading the constitutional right of the King.” In America, too, “there are many additional reasons why this peculiar form of danger to the institutions should exist, and our legislative history is already replete with legislative abuses.” 68 Congress, he thinks, is “totally without responsibility,” so it requires “checking far more than any other branch of the government.” 69 He saw that the English aristocracy gained power as the King’s royal prerogative weakened, 71 and felt the sustenance of American liberty depended upon firm and authoritative presidential deployment of the veto. He admired the courage with which Andrew Jackson wielded the veto, and was particularly delighted by his veto of the bill to recharter the {179} Bank, which he interpreted as a setback for aristocracy. In his letters to The Evening Post he insists it is not the executive branch of government that is overstepping its constitutional limitations, but the legislature. 71 By projection, there was a conspiracy afoot in America, combining business interests and Congress, which, although temporarily checked by Old Hickory, was nonetheless leading the country toward a proximate anti-utopian aristocracy, such as depicted in The Bravo, where the business elite and the government are one and the same, securely entrenched in a self-perpetuating, all-powerful legislative body.

Much like its companion novel The Heidenmauer, The Bravo was little understood in Cooper’s day and is still frequently misconstrued. 72 Cooper said very little about his novels in the way of self-criticism. As a general rule he left the task of interpreting them to others. But he made an exception of The Bravo. It was important to him that the novel be properly understood. So because the critics were misinterpreting the novel, he proceeded to interpret it for them. From what he said about the novel it is unmistakable that he intended it as a warning to Americans of dangers inhering in their own government and society. As he explains in a letter to Rufus Wilmot Griswold, “au reste, the Bravo is perhaps, in spirit, the most American book I ever wrote.” 73 The novel, “in spirit,” is about the New World, not the Old. The main point of The Bravo is not, as critics and scholars often maintain, to indict European government, thereby placing American government in a good light. Instead, it is to inform Americans that throughout history republics have been transformed into aristocracies, and that they too must be alert lest their republic, like Venice, deteriorate into a vicious aristocracy.

In A Letter To His Countrymen he says of The Bravo, “That some of the faces of this picture were peculiar to the Venetian polity, and to an age different from our own, is true; this much was necessary to the illusion of the tale; but it was believed that there remained enough of that which is eternal, to supply the moral.” 74 His “moral” was — what his contemporaries and ours refuse to concede — that the American republic could — in fact in accordance with the cyclical motion of history surely would — become “an irresponsible, soulless, arbitrary, political power” such as Venice was in the early eighteenth century at the time of the tale. 75 In his words, “the main object of the work was to show the manner in which institutions that are professedly created to prevent violence and wrongs, become {180} themselves, when perverted from their legitimate destination, the fearful, instruments of injustice.” 76 And this, he loudly proclaims, could happen here.

“I had an abundant occasion to observe that the political contest of the age was not, as is usually pretended, between the two antagonistic principles of monarchy and democracy,” he explains in A Letter To His Countrymen,

but in reality between those who, under the shallow pretence of limiting power to the élite of society, were contending for exclusive advantages at the expense of the mass of their fellow-creatures. The monarchical principle, except as it is fraudulently maintained as a cover to the designs of the aristocrats, its greatest enemies, is virtually extinct in christendom; having been supplanted by the combination of those who affect to uphold it with a view to their own protection. 77

Because “The monarchical principle” is “virtually extinct,” the conflict of political philosophies in the nineteenth century is between democracy and aristocracy, not “monarchy and democracy.” The great challenge to American democracy, in his opinion, comes not from foreign aristocracies, but from home-bred aristocrats wishing to reconstitute the American political system to better serve their personal, monetary designs. He wrote A Letter To His Countrymen, he says, “to check a practice that has already existed too long among us; which appears to me to be on the increase, and which, while it is degrading to the character, if persisted in, may become dangerous to the institutions of this country.” 78 A Letter To His Countrymen complements The Bravo; both caution Americans to take heed, to be alert, to not take American institutions for granted because there is already a conspiracy underway to turn the republic into an aristocracy. Within the context of his world view, he warns that if Americans do not take notice the cycle will soon be on the downward incline; decay will erode the institutional structure, and the vicious state will quickly obtain.

In The Bravo it is plain that the Republic of Venice long ago passed out of its youth and is, at the time of the tale, far advanced into the fourth stage of the cycle of history, with the Venetians themselves fearing “the final consummation of their artificial condi{181}tion.” 79 Even though “the bank flourishes with goodly dividends,” indicative of a thriving commercial aristocracy, the signs of decay are rampant; and Cooper loses no opportunity to inform his readers that the Venetian “days of glory and greatness exist no longer.” 81 Venice is “waning,” and he speaks of its “downward course,” its “fading circumstances,” its “fallen fortunes,” and suggests that like other “states which have crumbled beneath the weight of their own abuses,” Venice is approaching its end. 81 Biological metaphors tell the story of Venice. In one character’s words, “The republic is a little aged, care, and years need rest.” 82 Cooper writes that like the empire of China “it is certain that he who is old was once young,” and Venice, like China, suffers “from decrepitude which is a natural companion of its years.” 83 Venice shows many “symptoms of decay” — of that “incipient lethargy which marks the progress of a downward course, whether the decline be of a moral or of a physical decay.” Indeed, the State exhibits “increasing feebleness” and is “tottering with its years.” 84

Venice is proximate anti-utopia. It marks the completed inversion of the garden, and is comparable to Cole’s fourth painting, the vicious state. The epigraph to the opening chapter, from Byron, sets the mood of the novel:

I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,  A palace and a prison on each hand;  I saw from out the wave her structure rise,  As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand;  A thousand years their cloudy wings expand  Around me, and a dying glory smiles  O’er the far times, when many a subject land  Look’d to the winged lions’ marble piles,  Where Venice sate in state, thronged on her hundred isles. 85

In its “dying glory,” Venice is characterized by its “palace” and its “prison,” two symbolic structures which are repeatedly placed before the reader. Ironically the two most prominent architectural features of the so-called Republic represent royalty and servitude. But even legitimate royalty in the person of the Doge, like the Republic itself, is an illusion and a sham. 86 The Doge is chief of state in name only. Like the King of England, his real power was long ago usurped by cunning aristocrats, who, in Venice, secretly wield power {182} from the legislative body, the Senate.

The plight of the individual in this vicious, proximate anti-utopia is both noxious and frightening. Donald Ringe speaks of “the operations of an impersonal power” in Venice “that pries relentlessly into the lives and thoughts of the people,” and suggests that Venice, as depicted in The Bravo, has a remarkable likeness to a modern “totalitarian state.” 87 Venice is a police state. The State, in wielding power through fear of its officials, is aided by the duplicity of the masses who spy upon one another. By one character’s “tally, every second man in Venice is well paid for reporting what the others say and do,” while another suggests that “every fifth eye” belongs to a government informant. 88 And still another whispers, “they say that the very images of stone in Venice have ears, and that the horses of bronze will kick if an evil word is spoken against those up above.” The people live in a numbing state of mistrust and uncertainty — for, as a gondolier rhetorically asks, “who can tell what ear is open, or what ear is shut in Venice?” 89 Don Camille Monforte, the romantic hero, summarizes the totality of the State, saying, “It would be easier to escape the toils of sin than to elude the agents of the police.” 91 None can escape its reach. “The senate hath a long arm; and it hath a thousand secret hands,” and it has the means with which to “pry into the privacy of all!” 91

The family and domestic household, an inviolable sanctuary and the “core” unit in proximate utopia, lies prostrate and impotent before the all-powerful, proximate anti-utopian state. Jacopo Frontini, the Bravo, tells Don Camillo, “You have been cozened, Signore, in a state whose very prince dare not trust his secrets to his wife.” And Don Camillo replies, “This undermining of the security of families is to destroy society at its core!” 92 Nothing is sacred in Venice. Even the most venerable, indeed, the primal institution, the family unit, falters under the duress of the omnipresent state. “A system like this of Venice,” muses Don Camillo, “leaves none of us masters of our own acts. The wiles of such a combination are stronger than the will. It cloaks its offences against right in a thousand specious forms, and it enlists the support of every man, under the pretence of a sacrifice for the common good.” 93 Individual freedom ceases at the boundaries of proximate anti-utopia — “none” within its confines are “masters of their “own acts.” Even independent thought is suppressed in a state which is “stronger than the will” The State, operating under the familiar fiction of “the common good,” has {183} made concepts such as justice and freedom superfluous. Much like a modern totalitarian regime, the Venetian State has dispensed with all historically sanctified, institutional buffers between the people and the central government.

Cooper’s envisionment of the elimination of liberty and justice in proximate anti-utopia is nightmarish. Trials and execution are secret, except when it suits the purpose of the State to make them public. Jacopo is selected for one such exception. Although secretly tried and pronounced guilty, he is condemned to public execution. Father Anselmo, a Carmelite priest, intercedes on the Bravo’s behalf with irrefutable proof of his innocence. Even when the Bravo’s head is placed on the block a twelfth-hour reprieve is still expected, since the authorities have been assured of his innocence. When a signal comes from the palace, Gelsomina, the Bravo’s sweetheart, “uttered a cry of delight, and turned to throw herself upon the bosom of the reprieved.” But instead of the anticipated reprieve, “the head of Jacopo rolled upon the stones, as if to meet her.” 94 It is only at this moment, near the conclusion of the story, when every romantic expectation is to the contrary, that Cooper finally fully brings home to the reader the “total terror,” to use Hannah Arendt’s phraseology, that underlies the totalitarianism of proximate anti-utopia. 95 Not only is justice meaningless, so is human life. Even the Church, personified in the Carmelite priest, is powerless and impotent. There are no intermediaries between the individual and the totality of the State. Arendt writes, in the totalitarian state “Guilt and innocence become senseless notions; ‘guilty’ is he who stands in the way of the natural or historical process.” 96 The Bravo served his purpose. The State used him as a scapegoat for its crimes. When the State felt the need for public expiation of its numerous secret crimes, the Bravo’s execution served this end. The execution appeased an angry populace, providing a semblance of release from tensions built up over the murder of a popular fisherman, old Antonio, whose body had recently surfaced in the lagoon.

Old Antonio, described as presenting “the image of dogged turbulence and discontent, healthfully repressed by the hand of power,” 97 had shortly before publicly rebuked the State for depriving him of his grandson, which is why the State had him eliminated. For interfering with the machinations of the State, he paid the ultimate penalty. His was but one of untold numbers of State-directed, clandestine executions. Assassinations, Cooper explains, {184} are commonplace in Venice — the “canals are convenient graves for sudden deaths!” 98 Frequent disappearances and rumored assassinations magnify the scope of the State’s effectiveness, through its principal weapon, terror. “Terror” under totalitarianism, in Arendt’s words, “eliminates individuals for the sake of the species, sacrifices the ‘parts’ for the sake of the ‘whole.’” 99 Cooper is quick to point out that it is not random terror or random injustice that underlies the State’s policy. “Justice,” he says “was quick enough in those instances in which the interests of the government itself were not involved.” 101 As Arendt establishes, “total terror leaves no arbitrary lawlessness behind it and does not rage for the sake of some arbitrary will or for the sake of despotic power of one man against all, least of all for the sake of a war against all.” 101 Anarchy or random criminality is not the State’s way, but carefully considered criminality and terror, calculated for its effect in solidifying the total power of the State over its inhabitants.

So far as the Venetian State is concerned, the Venetian people at large lack individual, subjective identities as sacred, discrete persons. Human beings are merely objects, used and manipulated in the interest of the State. Don Camillo tells the romantic heroine, Violetta, “They think to dispose of thee, as if thou wert worthless merchandise, to their own advantage.” 102 Even more than individuals, the State is particularly adept at manipulating crowds to its own advantage. Frequently in his American novels Cooper shows his concern over the duplicity of the masses in the hands of demagogues; and in The Bravo he studies the facility with which practiced manipulators can channel a crowd’s bias in a desired direction. 103 “There are few artifices so shallow,” he writes, “that many will not be their [the State’s] dupes.” 104 The Venetian aristocracy is also skilled in the utilization of what Arendt calls “Systematic lying,” a fundamental technique of modern totalitarianism for creating fictions to appease or direct the masses. 105 Yet in Venice the masses appear to have developed defense mechanisms, such that they live decadently but not too uncomfortably in a malaise of lying, deceit, and violence. Consistent with what Arendt discovers in totalitarian regimes, “The body politic of the country is shock-proof because of its shapelessness.” 106 At the conclusion of the novel, immediately following the Bravo’s decapitation, Cooper scrutinizes the crowd and reports, “The porticoes became brilliant with lamps, the gay laughed, the reckless trifled, the masker pursued his hidden purpose, the cantatrice and the grotesque acted their parts, and the million existed in that vacant {185} enjoyment which distinguishes the pleasures of the thoughtless and the idle. Each lived for himself, while the state of Venice held its vicious sway, corrupting alike the ruler and the ruled, by its mockery of those sacred principles which are alone founded in truth and natural justice.” 107 Living in a society shorn of meaningful historic institutions, the Venetian “body politic” has degenerated into “shapelessness.” Deprived of morality bestowing institutions, the Venetians have become amorphous, inane, “shock-proof,” and lack substance as moral beings.

Yet for all its totalitarian qualities, this proximate anti-utopian city-state is not fully a totalitarian regime in its twentieth-century meaning. It lacks a fundamental component of modern totalitarianism — it lacks a formulated ideological design through which to perpetrate its policies and justify its existence. 108 In Cooper’s proximate anti-utopia there is no transcendent purpose or historical meaningfulness to the State’s policies. The Venetian State has no extramundane mission, it merely retains power for the benefit of its small ruling class, the aristocracy. In addition, the State lacks an external enemy, such as Jews or capitalists, to give it meaningful cohesion. The Jews in Venice are a despised minority who are at times made into scapegoats by the government, but there is no systematic policy or program behind their persecution, just occasional expediency. The aim or end of the proximate anti-utopian state, in Cooper’s view, is self-preservation for a small financial aristocracy and the perpetuation of their vicious yet indolent rule. Unlike modern totalitarians, the masses of Venetians have no profound ideological commitment to the preeminence of their specious polity. Not having been ideologically inculcated, they are not true believers, and, accordingly, are not as menacing as true totalitarians.

It is no wonder that Cooper was unable to fully conceive a twentieth-century totalitarian state. When The Bravo was written in 1831, there were no historical models to draw upon; in fact, the term totalitarian was yet to be coined. In conceptualizing proximate anti-utopia, he drew upon history and upon his imagination to conjure up the most undesirable society he could conceive of within temporal limitations. Still it is to the credit of his telescopic imagination that the proto-totalitarian State of Venice in The Bravo exhibits many characteristics of modern totalitarianism, particularly the relationship of the totally abject individual to the totally powerful, elitist government. Where proximate utopia shows a genuine patriarchal {186} concern for the well-being of the inhabitants of the community, proximate anti-utopia shows no concern whatsoever for the individual as a discrete human being. As Jacopo says of the Venetian government, “there is not a rock on the coldest peak of yonder Alp, with less humanity, or a wolf among their valleys more heartless!” 109

In 1833, two years after the publication of The Bravo, Cooper left Europe for home. He was disenchanted with what he found upon arriving in New York. It seemed to him that American society was on a cyclical course that, all too soon, must carry it into the throes of proximate anti-utopia. It was exactly the sort of society pictured in The Bravo which he feared America would become in the not too distant future. Indeed, his fictive rendering of the Republic of Venice provided the negative model for all his domestic economic and political criticism from the time of his return until his death in 1851. The worried novelist time and again reached back to the conceptual language contained in the Old World novel and applied it to the New World economy and its government. His post-1833 letters, non-fiction, and fiction are filled with criticism of developments at home; and whenever he looked out upon his own land and saw unpleasant trends, his criticism consistently remained within the linguistic framework first fully articulated in 1831 in The Bravo.

Cooper was dismayed that commercial interests were steadily increasing their control of the United States Congress. If the trend continued a monied aristocracy would soon be master of the land. In a matter of time the American Republic would be no different than Venice. Venice, in The Bravo, is ruled by a “luxurious and affluent aristocracy.” 110 The aristocracy is hereditary. It possessed “high and exclusive privileges, which were guarded and maintained with a most selfish and engrossing spirit. He who was not born to govern,” he explains, “had little hope of ever entering into the possession of his natural rights; while he who was, by the intervention of chance, might wield a power of the most fearful and despotic character.” So “Distinctions in rank, as separated entirely from the will of the nation, formed the basis of Venetian polity.” 111 Genealogy is destiny. For the great masses of Venetians born outside the aristocracy, there is no recourse even to the most basic “natural rights.”

A small, hereditary aristocracy comprises the entirety of the Venetian ruling body, the Senate. The senators are plutocrats. In {187} every sphere — commerce, finance, government — they are omnipowerful, Venetian overlords. Cooper says of Signor Gradenigo, “A senator, he stood in relation to the state as a director of a moneyed institution is proverbially placed in respect to his corporation; an agent of its collective measures, removed from the responsibilities of the man.” In Venice the business interests and the government are one and the same. Senator Gradenigo is “an aristocrat,” which, for Cooper, is synonymous with “money-getting.” 112 The State is a self-serving “corporation” for its favored few, its aristocracy. As a “corporation” it is uncaring and irresponsible. This is the vision of proximate anti-utopia that prompted Cooper to continually warn his fellow Americans of the dangerous direction in which the nation was drifting. And it is this vision that informed much of his critical commentary on American civilization.

Consistent with his conspiracy theory of history, the Venetian State is directed by an inner council of three senators who hold office on a rotating basis and whose identity is an absolute secret. “The Council of Three,” he writes, “met in secret,” issuing “its decrees without communicating with any other body, and had them enforced with a fearfulness of mystery and a suddenness of execution that resembled the blows of fate.” 113 “They rule,” he explains, “like the unseen influence of mind over matter, and form, as it were, the soul of the state, whose seat, like that of reason, remains a problem exceeding human penetration.” 114 Although the Council has awesome power, it is an enigma, a dark “mystery,” totally separated from the people whose lives it controls. The satanic powers of the Council exceed “human penetration;” from its inviolable sanctum and in its unknowable way, its decrees and their enforcement resemble “the blows of fate.” As “the soul of the state,” the Council personifies the demented, proximate anti-utopian society it oversees. With such a prospect before him, no wonder Cooper worried about the secret commercial/financial cadre that he thought already existed in the United States, providing a covert link between Wall Street and Congress.

Despite its grim and oppressive reality, at first glance the Venetian social system appears not too different in principle from the social system of proximate utopia. Each are paternalistic and hierarchical. Signor Gradenigo says, “St. Mark [the State’s patron saint] suffers his love and parental care to overlook the vain ceremonies of form. It is thus the parent dealeth with the child.” 115 The {188} State’s paternalism transcends institutional guidelines and restrictions; the “parental care” of the State overlooks “the vain ceremonies of form.” As a senator explains to the humble fisherman Antonio, “The ignorant and the low are, to the state, as children, whose duty it is to obey and not to cavil.” 116 And when Antonio continues to petition for his grandson’s release, Senator Gradenigo harshly reprimands his impertinence, saying, “the paternal care of the senate cannot see discontent planted in the bosom of a class it is their duty and pleasure to render happy.” 117 So, in order that Antonio’s discontent will not infect others, in its paternalistic wisdom the State has him clandestinely executed, and publicly casts the blame on the Bravo.

This is a different kind of paternalism from the patriarchal mode of proximate utopia. One character in The Bravo, for example, “believed that a representation of the most prominent and brilliant interests in society was the paramount object of government, and, faithful to the seductive, but dangerous error, she mistook to the last, collective power for social happiness.” 118 This is wrong Cooper says, it exhibits the fallacious reasoning “of all corporations, in which the responsibility of the individual, while his acts are professedly submitted to the temporizing expedients of a collective interest, is lost in the subdivision of numbers.” The Venetian system “has the merit of substituting things for men,” he notes, “but unhappily it substitutes the things of a few men for those of the whole.” Thus aristocracy produces a distorted and ultimately false paternalism, different in kind from the republican or monarchical paternalism of proximate utopia, for “aristocracy must ever want the high personal feeling which often tempers despotism by the qualities of the chief, or the generous and human impulses of popular rule.” 119 The governing principle underlying the paternalism of proximate utopia, entirely absent in proximate anti-utopia, is noblesse oblige. Cooper believes “there is no policy secure which is not bottomed on the good of the whole.” 121 The “paternal government” of proximate anti-utopia is not legitimately paternalistic because policy is dictated by the self-interest of the aristocracy — and “The soulless, practised, and specious reasoning of the state had long since deadened all feeling” for the common good of the people.” 121 Proximate utopia, on the contrary, is “bottomed on the good of the whole.” Its paternalism is based on the premise that the best qualified and most able, the gentry class, knows better than the masses {189} know themselves what is good for them, and so governs for the benefit of all.

The gentry, like the aristocracy, stand atop their social hierarchy. But here, too, there is a difference. Cooper placed great emphasis on the distinction between the legally inherited station of proximate anti-utopia, and the naturally acquired station of proximate utopia. In proximate utopia, although the better families tend to reproduce their own kind, there nonetheless is opportunity for a few exceptionally able people each generation to transcend their birthright and enter the gentry. Even more important, in proximate utopia the “ceremonies of form” are not considered “vain.” Institutions are protected and revered. Where in proximate anti-utopia the aristocracy deny the masses their “natural” and institutional rights, in proximate utopia the gentry assure the commoners of their rights and are their zealous protectors. Also, it should not be overlooked that the elite in proximate utopia dwell on the morally uplifting soil, while their counterparts in proximate anti-utopia do not.

The inhabitants of proximate anti-utopia live in a city with no recourse to the regenerative potency of the pastoral landscape of proximate utopia. Like their rulers, the masses of Venetians in The Bravo are morally debilitated for want of contact with the restorative soil. In the previous chapter it was shown that Cooper was struck by the unhappy probability that the New World garden would be overcome by technology. He had a presentiment that the machine would soon become the dominant moral and esthetic force in America. In early eighteenth-century Venice the machine, in its literal meaning, is not a real factor. Yet Cooper’s ideological antipathy to the machine is covertly suggested in the language he employs to describe the Venetian system. The Doge is “a tool of the aristocracy.” 122 The State is a “terrible machine,” and he speaks of its “engines of despotism.” 123 He reports that “A political inquisition, which came in time to be one of the most fearful engines of police ever known, was the consequence” of this proximate anti-utopian system. 124 The aristocrat, Senator Gradenigo, unabashedly says, “There is a beauty and a harmony in the manner in which the social machine rolls on its course, under such a system, that should secure men’s applause!” 125 Such are the esthetics of proximate anti-utopia. Cooper hardly ever, in the vast body of his works, uses the imagery of technology in a positive, approving way. In The Oak Openings, for example, he speaks of a messianic Indian uprising in deploring terms, writing that {190} its leader, Peter, “resembled most of those who, under the guise of reform or revolution, in moments of doubt, set in motion a machine that is found impossible to control.” 126 The machine cannot be controlled or contained; it is impervious to the moral order of proximate utopia. It is an implement of the antiChrist. It overcomes and destroys or dehumanizes. In describing a proximate anti-utopia of the past, he employs the language of technology to manifest his forebodings about the menace of technology to American civilization. The only check on the malevolent power of technology is the immutable, cyclic law of history. In the end, he explains, the Venetian “social machine is liable to interruption from its own movement, and eventually to destruction from its own excesses.” 127

For Volney, Cole, and Cooper, the vicious state is the inverse of the pastoral state — its polar opposite. Consistent with his world view, it is Cooper’s ideological conviction that young, dynamic states are morally superior to old, declining states, and much more closely approximate utopia. Throughout his life America was clearly a dynamic civilization. Yet the verve, the drive, the vigorousness of American life plainly made Cooper uncomfortable. The energy Americans displayed was disconcerting to the conservative author; and their materialism, if anything, was more pronounced than his fictive rendering of early eighteenth-century Venetians. Ideologically he admired the zest and strength of dynamic nations — qualities characteristic of proximate utopia — but emotionally he was ill at ease and discontent when actually living in one. So he created a pleasant fantasy — a fantasy which he fully believed, and which might be likened to the myth of the Old South — about what New York was like in the years following the Revolution, ignoring the materialistic drive that was one of its pronounced features. Only in the first of his proximate utopian tales, The Pioneers, does some of the crassly materialistic qualities of the period emerge.

The separation between the reality of late eighteenth-century New York and Cooper’s proximate utopian fantasy does not impinge upon the integrity of his world view. World views need not accurately reflect reality to retain their integrity. But they should be internally consistent. He was consistent in his portrayal of the second stage in the cycle of history. But the attraction-repulsion to dynamic nations, which he successfully resolved in his proximate utopian fantasy about pastoral New York, recurs in his response to decadence {191} — to countries located in the fourth stage of the cycle — and this tension remains unresolved in his writings. On an ideological level he was consistently antagonistic toward decadent societies, but on an emotional level he did on occasion affirmatively embrace them. Though he deplored vicious decadence, such as portrayed in The Bravo, he thoroughly enjoyed benign decadence, such as he discovered during his sojourn in Italy in the late 1820s. Thus his literary legacy contains evidence of two vastly different conceptions of the nature of decadent civilizations; toward one he was attracted, toward the other he felt repulsion.

“Berne,” he says, for example, “is not rich enough, and has too little call for taxation, to render its aristocracy particularly oppressive.” 128 Lacking the severe intolerance of a truly vicious, declining regime, Berne is not an unpleasant place. But Italy was first in his heart. He loved its leisurely pace, its delightful decadence. As Eve Effingham tells Paul Powis in Home As Found, “In one thing, however, you will have me on your side, and this is in giving the past to delicious, dreamy Italy!” 129 In The Redskins he writes, “I believe it to be true to a certain extent, that countries on the decline, supposing them to have been once at the summit of civilization, make pleasanter abodes for the idler than nations on the advance.” 131 In his Italian travelogue, he explains,

There is a sleepy indolence in the Italians, that singularly suits my humour. They seem too gentlemanlike to work, or to be fussy, but appear disposed to make a siesta of life, and to enjoy the passing moment. The Tuscans seem full of sentiment, and though the poor, as is the case all over the continent of Europe, are very poor, the class immediately above them have as much satisfaction, I fancy, as they who dream dollars and talk dollars from “the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same.” If you ask me if I would exchange populations and habits, I shall answer, we cannot afford it. ... I fancy that nations in their decline enjoy more true happiness than nations in their advance.” 131

Italians “seem too gentlemaniike to work;” the Tuscans are “full of sentiment.” These are significantly different sentiments than he expressed in The Bravo and The Crater about the livability of declining societies; and had these sentiments been the only surviving record {192} of his attitude toward decadence, one might well wonder why he was so apprehensive about the decline of American civilization. He thoroughly enjoyed the “sleepy indolence” of a people who do not “dream dollars and talk dollars” from sunup to sundown. Italians are a happier people than the ambitious Americans. In Florence “Every one appears to be at leisure, and the demon money seems to be forgotten.” 132 Italy is beyond “the money-getting mania” of New England, he writes, “the time of her wealth has gone by, leaving in its train a thousand fruits, that seem to be the most savory, as the stem on which they grew would appear to be approaching its decay.” In declining countries “men cease to dwell so much on riches in their in their inmost souls.” 133

To the imagination of the Hudson River esthete, whose sensibility was trained to admire the kind of crumbling ruins so noticeably absent in the New World, old and decadent countries were far more picturesque. In his novels, travelogues, letters, and journals, he constantly shows his admiration for old buildings and ruins. In his Italian journal, for instance, he records that he saw “an ancient and crumbling wall” in Sorrento, and he writes that his walk along the wall was “one of the most beautiful things immaginable [sic].” 134 Later on, in a letter to an American friend, he writes, “The imagination can scarcely conceive a more Picturesque residence, than that of ours at Sorrento. The mountains are intersected with bridle paths, in every direction, and almost every height is crowned with the ruin of some watchtower, some castle, or some convent.” 135 In Home As Found Eve Effingham looks out upon Lake Otsego and says, “Fancy the shores of this lake lined with villas,” and, she continues, with “church-towers raising their dark heads among these hills; each mountain crowned with a castle or a crumbling ruin, and all the other accessories of an old state of society, and what would then be the charms of the view!” 136 Without doubt the esthetics and the unmaterialistic ethos of decadence greatly appealed to a more emotional, less ideological side of Cooper’s personality.

Actually, this sleepy, polite side of decadence is not entirely incompatible with his proximate utopian construct. He liked the courteousness and graciousness of the Italians. The grand villas of the nobility and the respectful deference of their peasants was very appealing. The class structure and uncommercial character of Italian civilization had a parallel in proximate utopia. He found life in Italy unhurried, peaceful, rustically charming, and perfectly genteel; {193} indeed, quite similar to what he imagined New York pastoral life to be like in the years following the Revolution.

The peaceful indolence of Italy in the first half of the nineteenth century and the vicious decadence of early eighteenth-century Venice in The Bravo are as nearly antipodal as proximate utopia and proximate anti-utopia. Yet both represent the fourth stage in the cycle of history. The emotional appeal of Sorrento does not correlate with his ideological revulsion to Venice. But nowhere in his writings, Eve Effingham’s not seriously intended flight of imagination excepted, does Cooper intimate that when America reaches the fourth stage in the cycle of history it will exhibit the benign decadence of which he was so enamored in Italy. For his ideological pronouncements about his own country, he used the vicious side of decadence as portrayed in The Bravo as the negative model, the proximate anti-utopia. The conceptual basis of the jeremiads that fill his fiction, non-fiction, and correspondence is drawn straight out of his fictional study of early eighteenth-century Venice. It was the prospect of a commercial aristocracy in America, and the deprivation of basic constitutional rights, that informed his pessimistic envisionment of the future of his country. Ideologically in this respect he remained steadfastly true to the view of the world delineated in The Crater.


[Footnote numbers restart with each chapter.]  

1 Constantin François de Chasseboeuf, Count de Volney, The Ruins: Or A Survey Of The Revolutions Of Empire. To Which Is Added, The Law Of Nature (London: Edward Edwards, I822), p. 56. Of this principle in The Crater, Charles O’Donnell writes, “Repeated attacks from the outside cannot destroy the new civilization, but corruption within does destroy it” (“Progress and Property: The Later Cooper,” American Quarterly, 13, Fall 1961, p. 408). And Donald A. Ringe earlier notes that after the islanders conquer “all physical difficulties, however, the society begins to decay” (“Cooper’s The Crater And The Moral Basis of Society,” Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts. and Letters, XLIV, 1959, p. 372.

2 James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat Or Hints On The Social And Civic Relations Of The United States Of America (New York: Minerva Press, 1969), p. 107.

3 James Fenimore Cooper, The Redskins Or Indian And Injin (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 30.

4 Cooper, The Redskins, p. 29.

5 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 44.

6 James Fenimore Cooper, The Headsman Or The Abbaye Des Vignerons (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 30.

7 Cooper, The Headsman, p. 183.

8 James Fenimore Cooper, The Chainbearer Or The Littlepage Manuscripts (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 233.

9 Cooper, The Headsman, p. vii.

10 Robert A. Nisbet, Social Change and History: Aspects of the Western Theory of Development (London, Oxford, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969), p. 37.

11 James Fenimore Cooper, Excursions in Italy (London: Richard Bentley, 1838), II, pp. 22-23.

12 James Fenimore Cooper, Excursions In Switzerland (London: Richard Bentley, 1836), I, p. 216.

13 Nisbet, pp. 94-95.

14 James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers (New York: The New American Library, 1964), p. 136.

15 James Fenimore Cooper, Home As Found (New York: Capricorn Books. 1961), p. 224.

16 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 107.

17 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 108.

18 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 109.

19 In The Redskins he also alludes to business greed fomenting providential catastrophe, in speaking of the people who “doze over this volcano, which is raging and gathering strength beneath the whole community, menacing destruction to the nation itself, which is the father of stocks”, (p. 380).

20 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 109.

21 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. vii.

22 James Fenimore Cooper, The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, ed. James Franklin Beard, V (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1968), p. 388.

23 Cooper, The Redskins, p. 506.

24 Cooper, The Redskins, p. 13.

25 James Fenimore Cooper, The Ways Of The Hour (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 217.

26 Cooper, The Ways Of. The Hour, pp. 443.

27 Cooper, The Ways Of The Hour, pp. 293-294.

28 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 56.

29 A. N. Kaul, The American Vision: Actual and Ideal Society in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 1963), p. 320.

30 James Fenimore Cooper, New York, Being an introduction to an unpublished manuscript, by the author, entitled The Towns of Manhattan (New York: Payson, 1930), p. 50.

31 Cooper, The Towns of Manhattan, pp. 56-57.

32 Thomas Bender, “James Fenimore Cooper and the City,” New York History, LI (April 1970), p. 287.

33 Cooper, The Ways Of The Hour, p. 40.

34 As Howard Mumford Jones says, “For Cooper, the city is artificial, the country normal, and he believed that nature can give opportunity for a closer walk with Deity” (James Fenimore Cooper And The Hudson River School,” Magazine of Art, XLV, Oct. 1952, p. 246).

35 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 135.

36 James Fenimore Cooper, Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896), p. 156.

37 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, IV (1964), p. 98.

38 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, IV, p. 439.

39 D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (New York: The Viking Press, 1961), p. 53

40 In Cooper’s Americans (Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press. 1965), Kay Seymour House grasps the sense of Cooper’s use of the term “aristocrat,” writing, “an aristocrat is any person who obtains special powers and privileges,” p. 9. Donald A. Ringe, in The Pictorial Mode: Space & Time in the Art of Bryant. Irving & Cooper (Lexington: The Univ. Press of Kentucky, 1971), also recognizes that Cooper gave a special meaning to the term “aristocrat,” writing, “Cooper had little use for aristocrats at all, including those in England, because of the political power they could wield. Landed gentlemen in America, however — Cooper was always careful to note — were not really aristocrats in that they did not possess exclusive political power,” p. 192. See also Donald A. Ringe’s Introduction to James Fenimore Cooper’s The Bravo (New Haven: College & Univ. Press, 1963), p. 11. Likewise, see James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1949, p. 76). In “James Fenimore Cooper and the Economic Age,” American Literature, 26 (May 1954), Marius Bewley observes, “Cooper ardently believed in inherited wealth as the basis of a cultural elite which would be the dispensers of civilized values, but he saw no such function being performed by the pretentious upstart financial aristocracy which was so largely the result — the end product — of Hamilton’s financial program,” p. 171.

41 Scholars who label Cooper an aristocrat are incorrect on two scores. In its European usage, aristocrat identifies someone of recognized title, who, in the nineteenth century, often possessed legally defined privileges and responsibilities; and in Cooper’s usage, aristocrat refers to a member of a decadent ruling elite. Yet scholars persist in using the word aristocrat in a third way, as a pejorative, meant to identify Cooper’s snobbery. Dixon Ryan Fox, in “James Fenimore Cooper. Aristocrat,” New York History, 22 (Jan. 1941), writes, “The truth is that Cooper was a whole-hearted and vociferous aristocrat ... one of the last among well-known Americans to take an unequivocal stand for aristocratic principles,” p. 20. Jesse Bier, in “The Bisection of Cooper: Satanstoe as Prime Example,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 9 (Winter 1968), complains that his “aristocratic bias is either heavily condescending or crass in its arrogance.” p. 513. In “The Novel as a Religious Tract: James Fenimore Cooper — Apologist For The Episcopal Church,” Historical Magazine of The Protestant Episcopal Church, 40 (1971), William M. Hogue states. “He was convinced that a republic needed an aristocracy, and that many of the infelicities of the American way of life were due to the stifling of aristocracy,” p. 22. For further examples of the misapplication of the word aristocrat to Cooper, his characters, or the political order he desired, see: Nina Baym, “The Women of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales,” American Quarterly, 23 (Dec. 1971), p. 700; Charles O’Donnell, “The Moral Basis of Civilization: Cooper’s Home Novels,” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 17 (Dec. 1972), p. 273: Henry Seidel Canby, Classic Americans. A Study of Eminent American Writers from Irving to Whitman (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1931), p. 117; Thomas R. Lounsbury, James Fenimore Cooper (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882), p. 82; H. Ludeke, “James Fenimore Cooper and the Democracy of Switzerland,” English Studies, 27 (1946), p. 34; John F. Lynen, The Design of the Present: Essays on Time and Form in American Literature (New Haven and London: Yale Univ. Press, 1969), p. 186; Robert E. Spiller, James Fenimore Cooper (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1965), pp. 11, 30, 32.

42 Henry Christman, Tin Horns And Calico: A Decisive Episode In The Emergence of Democracy (New York: Henry Holt, 1945) pp. 39, 244.

43 Cooper, The Ways Of The Hour, p. 316.

44 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 88.

45 Cooper, The Ways Of The Hour, p. 316. On the next page he explains the confusion of one of his characters, saying, “It was easy to see that Timms confounded a gentleman with an aristocrat; a confusion in ideas that is very common, and which is far from being unnatural, when it is remembered how few formerly acquired any of the graces of deportment who had not previously attained positive, exclusive, political rights,” p. 317.

46 Cooper, The Ways Of The Hour, p. 117.

47 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 53.

48 James Fenimore Cooper, Autobiography Of a Pocket-Handkerchief (Evanston: The Golden-Book Press, 1897), p. 202.

49 In Political Justice in a Republic: James Fenimore Cooper’s America (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: Univ. of California Press, 1972), John P. McWilliams, Jr. writes, “like Aristotle, Montesquieu, and Adams, Cooper envisions only three forms of government,” p. 22. But for Aristotle each of the three forms had a degenerative form. For Cooper there are only two forms, monarchy and democracy, and both share the identical degenerative form, aristocracy.

50 Cooper writes, “It is to be regretted the world does not discriminate more justly in its use of political terms. Governments are usually called either monarchies or republics” (The Bravo, New Haven: College & Univ. Press, 1963, p. 17).

51 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 10.

52 James Fenimore Cooper, Homeward Bound Or The Chase (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 421. In A Letter To His Countrymen (New York: John Wiley, 1834), Cooper writes, “England has changed its form of government, from that of a monarchy to that of an exceedingly oppressive aristocracy,” p. 88. It was after “the revolution of 1668 [1688]” that England began the rapid transformation into an aristocracy, p. 65.

53 Cooper, Excursions In Switzerland, I, pp. 217-218.

54 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, I. (1960), p. 244.

55 Cooper, Excursions In Italy, I, p. 244.

56 Cooper, Homeward Bound, p. 421.

57 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, 1l (1960), p. 95.

58 Cooper, The American Democrat, pp. 19-20, 59.

59 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 60. In Pages And Pictures, From the Writings of James Fenimore Cooper (New York: W. A. Townsend, 1861), Susan Fenimore Cooper writes, “It was the opinion of Mr. Cooper that an aristocracy must, from its very nature, be a dangerous form of government; as a general rule, he believed a prolonged aristocracy more likely to prove coldly selfish, tyrannical, and treacherous, than either a monarchy or a democracy. And this danger he believed to flow from its irresponsible character, united to the great strength to which such a form of government may attain by the concentration of talent, wealth, legislative and executive power, within a circle sufficiently narrow for the most decisive action, while, like all corporate bodies, it is lacking in the restraints of individual responsibility. Even in an absolute monarchy, he held that there would be a greater hope, during an evil hour, from change of counsel, and from the responsibility inevitably connected with a single head,” p. 249.

60 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 54.

61 Cooper, Autobiography Of a Pocket-Handkerchief, p. 201. In this spoof on aristocratic pretensions, Cooper traces the career of a fancy lace handkerchief from Europe across the Atlantic to America, poking fun at the ridiculous extremes to which the American nouveau riche go in order to ape European aristocrats.

62 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 59.

63 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 60.

64 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 160.

65 Cooper, The American Democrat, p. 160.

66 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, III (1961), p. 143.

67 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, III, p. 220.

68 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, III, p. 132. In The Redskins Cooper faults the Senate in particular, p. 312. But generally he faults both houses of Congress.

69 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, V, p. 378.

70 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, V, p. 377.

71 Cooper wrote numerous letters to The Evening Post in defense of President Jackson, in defense of the executive branch of government, and in defense of the veto. In one 1835 letter he writes, “The Senators call General Jackson a tyrant, usurper, Nero, and all sorts of pretty names, and the Senate resolves that his acts are illegal and unconstitutional, but the action of the entire government is a minor question, as compared to the action of the two houses of Congress” (The Letters and Journals, III, pp. 104-105). In another letter he writes “I cannot believe that the principal cause of apprehension is to be found in the power of the Executive. On the contrary, I think that all theory and all practice go to prove that it exists in the power of the legislative branch of the government” (The Letters and Journals, III, p. 132). And in A Letter To His Countrymen, he states, “I see far less apprehension of executive than of legislative usurpation in this country,” p. 90.

72 One of the reasons why Cooper wrote A Letter To His Countrymen in 1834 was to counteract the confusion registered by the reviewers of The Bravo. In it he explains what the novel is really about and what its message is. The following are two representative misconstructions placed on The Bravo by twentieth-century interpreters. Spiller assumes Cooper “drew his moral in favor of the future of democracy,” p. 26. And Emilio Goggio, in “Cooper’s Bravo In Italy,” Romanic Review, 20 (July-Sept. 1929), believes the novel is an attack on Old World government, p. 226. But the novel’s message is aimed at the American Republic. It forewarns of an unattractive future in store for American democracy once the social and political and ethical stipulations of the garden have been fully compromised.

73 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, IV, p. 461.

74 Cooper, A Letter To His Countrymen, p. 14.

75 Cooper, A Letter To His Countrymen, p. 27.

76 Cooper, A Letter To His Countrymen, p. 13.

77 Cooper, A Letter To His Countrymen, pp. 11-12.

78 Cooper, A Letter To His Countrymen, p. 3.

79 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 274.

80 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 278, 167.

81 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 20, 107, 145.

82 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 28.

83 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 273-274.

84 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 107, 20.

85 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 19.

86 Cooper writes, “The jealousy of the Venetian patricians, on the subject of their doge, is [a] matter of history. He was, by situation, a puppet in the hands of the nobles, who only tolerated his existence because the theory of their government required a seeming agent in the imposing ceremonies that formed part of their specious system” (The Bravo, p. 366).

87 Ringe, Introduction to The Bravo, pp. 12, 13.

88 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 98, 203.

89 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 220, 55.

90 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 182.

91 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 204, 203.

92 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 226-227.

93 Cooper The Bravo, pp. 231-232.

94 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 381.

95 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (Cleveland and New York: World Publishing Co., 1958), pp. 465-468.

96 Arendt, p. 465.

97 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 92.

98 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 99.

99 Arendt, p. 465.

100 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 352.

101 Arendt, p. 456.

102 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 181.

103 In The Bravo Cooper shows that the aristocracy is very effective at manipulating the crowd to its own ends. In one scene the crowd is stirred to patriotism by an “improvisatore, secretly employed by a politic and mysterious government.” Thus “Shouts of approbation succeeded each happy allusion to the national renown, and bravos, loud and oft-repeated, were the reward of the agents of the police, whenever they most administered to the self-delusion and vanity of their audience,” p. 104.

104 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 300.

105 Arendt, p. 413.

106 Arendt, p. 409.

107 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 382. The italics are mine.

108 Arendt assesses the ideological basis of totalitarianism, pp. 470-474.

109 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 192.

110 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 104.

111 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 146.

112 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 91.

113 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 148.

114 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 86.

115 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 207.

116 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 74.

117 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 79-80.

118 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 145.

119 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 146.

120 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 298.

121 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 323, 76.

122 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 367. The italics are mine.

123 Cooper, The Bravo, pp. 337, 246. The italics are mine.

124 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 147. The italics are mine.

125 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 80. The italics are mine.

126 James Fenimore Cooper, The Oak Openings Or The Bee-Hunter (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 383. The italics are mine.

127 Cooper, The Bravo, p. 146. The italics are mine.

128 Cooper, Excursions In Switzerland, I, p. 51.

129 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 287.

130 Cooper, The Redskins, p. 402.

131 Cooper, Excursions In Italy, I, pp. 41-42. Grossman writes, “The energetic American loved the Italians for their indolence, their seeming ‘too gentlemanlike to work, or to be fussy’; he delighted in seeing the beggars at his door increase from one to ninety-six as the days passed. Nations in their decline, living off the accumulations of past energies, were happier, he learned, than nations busily accumulating in the present,” p. 72. In James Fenimore Cooper (New York: The Century Co., 1931), Henry Walcott Boynton writes, “From Italy alone he carried a full eye and a full heart. He liked the warm Southern manner, so different from his own. He liked Italy’s sun, her picturesqueness, the true humility of her ‘lower orders’ as contrasted with the obsequiousness of British underlings. He loved to fling coins to her swarming beggars. He loved her decay, her ruined grandeur, so flattering to the scion of a country new born, with its glory all to come,” pp. 193-194.

132 Cooper, Excursions In Italy, I, p. 46.

133 James Fenimore Cooper, The Sea Lions Or The Lost Sealers (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1895-1900), p. 237.

134 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, I, p. 382.

135 Cooper, The Letters and Journals, I, p. 425.

136 Cooper, Home As Found, p. 136.