I am officially a chapter behind the other participants, from what I can tell, but I’m plugging away nonetheless. This is truly a great book, and I have decided that, unless something else comes along over the years, we’ll use it as a spine for Government in high school. It just seems ideal to use it that way.
There were a couple things that stuck out to me in chapter 9, the first being characteristics of the American gentleman, and the second being Jonathan Edward’s comments on the affections.
The American Gentleman
I found the qualities of what Kirk called “the American gentleman” to be fascinating. The idea is that we still have an aristocracy here in America, but it isn’t an artificial one, inherited by unqualified characters. Instead, it is the natural aristocracy which occurs when we compare one man with another. As Kirk said,
The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
[O]ne man is not as good as another, and a society without sound social distinctions is a miserable society, and a republic requires leaders with a sense of honor.
The gentleman, then, was the best sort of man. He was the embodiment of the ideal, in many ways. I decided I’d draw up a bullet list of his qualities, and share them later with my son:
- Good breeding: good and tasteful manners
- Honorable: would not lie or cheat
- Valorous: would not flee before enemies
- Dutiful: would serve as a representative of his king or country as required
- Charitable: good steward of his wealth, using it for the common good
- Not prideful: especially about his inheritance, if he has one
- Diligent student: at the university level (meaning uncommon achievement, I think)
- Knowledge of laws: studied the law
- Rides his horse well: What would be the modern equivalent of this, do you think?
- Accepts public office: if given to him (it has always been interesting to me how many of the Founders seemed to serve their country out of duty rather than desire–a far cry from the modern politician!)
- Severe but just: judged meditatively, but acted swiftly when the matter was clear
- Prepared: used peacetime to prepare for war (didn’t waste his time, prepared well for the future)
- Known: his generosity, his dress, and his companions are remarkable
- Courteous: well mannered, flexible, truly generous in attitude toward others
“The word ‘gentleman’ has a positive and limited signification. it means one elevated above the mass of society by his birth, manners, attainments, character and social condition. As no civilized society can exist without these social differences, nothing is gained by denying the use of the term.
Jonathan Edwards on the Affections
With the best frosting, I might add.
Lots of it.
True religion in a great measure consists in holy affections. A love of divine things, for the beauty and sweetness of their moral excellency, is the spring of all holy affections.
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