What is he worth?

October 28, 2003

What is he worth?

Baron de Montlezun, Voyage fait dans les annees 1816 et 1817, (Paris: Gid Fils, 1818) p 8

"Dans ce pays plus qu'en aucun autre, l'estime se mesure sur la fortune. Le talent est foulé aux pieds. Combien vaut ce homme? dit-on: How much is he worth?". The italics and English are his.

Translated, he says "In this country more than in any other, status comes from wealth. Talent is trampled underfoot, `How much is he worth?' they ask instead." Montelzun inserted these words in his travel narrative while describing his first arrival in the United States; he landed at Norfolk, Virginia in 1816.

I am using these words as the opening phrase for today's class on the early nineteenth century. It will be a strange class - on Thursday as I went to put the class together I realized that I had no memory of what I had originally intended to do today. I had to make up a new class based on that quote from the class reader, on the textbook chapter I had assigned for today, and on the things we had left out of our discussion on the Early Republic.

I will be focusing on the second generation, and will touch on Hamilton's duel, the cotton gin, the Erie Canal, Cane Ridge, mobile populations, and the mental situation of the people who grew up in a republic. Joyce Appleby did an interesting prosopography of this generation a few years ago; I doubt that I will lean on it much.

Improvisatory teaching is a lot of fun, I just hope I can make it worthwhile for the kids. (I do have 2 pages of notes, I just don't have a good narrative for the day yet.)

And so to prep

Posted by Red Ted at October 28, 2003 07:36 AM | TrackBack