Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Evolution of American Etiquette

The early struggle for existence was a great leveler of castes and classes, and everyone worked together for the general good.



During the early colonization (in America) etiquette was negligible, of course. The early struggle for existence was a great leveler of castes and classes, and everyone worked together for the general good. There was a wholesome simplicity, an inspiring generosity, a kindliness and thoughtfulness toward one another.

Before the colonies declared their independence there was an influx of French and other foreign ideas. From France, Italy, Holland, England emanated much that we ourselves are. After the Revolution, peculiarly enough, the social ideas and ideals of the United States were distinctly English. The Colonial style was the English style; the young nation could break away from the power of the older nation, but not from the influence of its manners and customs.

Washington set the pace for diplomatic simplicity in the United States, although there was a certain courtliness. A contemporary of France, visiting the young nation, reports of Washington: "He was as gracious as a king."

During the first hundred years of its existence, United States was the forcing house for the customs, whims, fantasies, fashions of all the world. We imported are customs with her clothes and food-stuffs, although we pride ourselves upon being absolutely free from the Old-World influence.
The Southern colonies, before the Civil War, however, had a certain style and chivalry all their own. There was a careful regard for dress and for table service. The simplest dinner was served faultlessly. Gallants were ready to draw their swords at a moment's notice to protect (or amuse) the ladies of their fancy. All of this chivalry and extreme etiquette appears to have gone out when slavery went out.
The Northern colonists, the New Englanders, were of sterner stuff – truer English than their Southern cousins. Braving the rigors of the northern climate, the Puritans determined to live up to their ideals of independence, simplicity, and freedom. – From Lillian Eichler's, "The Customs of Mankind"

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia