Quote of the Day – John Taylor Gatto (Pt. 3)

Another excerpt from The Underground History of American Education:

By standards of the time, America was utopia already. No grinding poverty, no dangerous national enemies, no indigenous tradition beyond a general spirit of exuberant optimism, a belief the land had been touched by destiny, a conviction Americans could accomplish anything. John Jay wrote to Jefferson in 1787, “The enterprise of our country is inconceivable”—inconceivable, that is, to the British, Germans, and French, who were accustomed to keeping the common population on a leash. Our colonial government was the creation of the Crown, of course, but soon a fantastic idea began to circulate, a belief that people might create or destroy governments at their will.

The empty slate of the new republic made it vulnerable to advanced utopian thinking. While in England and Germany, temptation was great to develop and use Oriental social machinery to bend mass population into an instrument of elite will, in America there was no hereditary order or traditional direction. We were a nation awash in literate, self-reliant men and women, the vast majority with an independent livelihood or ambitions toward getting one. Americans were inventors and technicians without precedent, entrepreneurs unlocked from traditional controls, dreamers, confidence men, flim-flam artists. There never was a social stew quite like it.

The practical difficulties these circumstances posed to utopian governing would have been insuperable except for one seemingly strange source of enthusiasm for such an endeavor in the business community. That puzzle can be solved by considering how the promise of democracy was a frightening terra incognita to men of substance. To look to men like Sam Adams or Tom Paine as directors of the future was like looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, at least to people of means. So the men who had begun the Revolution were eased out by the men who ended it.

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