"The manners and customs are those of a working, busy society. At fifteen, a man is engaged in business; at twenty-one he is established, he has his farm, his workshop, his counting-room, or his office, in a word his employment, whatever it may be. Twenty-one is also the age at which he gets married, and at twenty-two his is the father of a family and consequently has a powerful stimulus to excite him to industry. A man who has no profession and- which is nearly the same thing- who is not married enjoys little consideration; he who is an active and useful member of society, who contributes his share to augment the national wealth and increase the numbers of the population, he only is looked upon with respect and favor. The American is brought up with the idea that he will have some particular occupation, that he is to be a farmer, artisan, manufacturer, merchant, speculator, lawyer, physician, or minister, perhaps all in succession, and that if he is active and intelligent he will make his fortune. He has no conception of living without a profession, even when his family is rich, for he sees nobody about him not engaged in business. The man of leisure is a variety of the human species which the Yankee does not suppose to exist and he knows that, though rich today, his father may be ruined tomorrow. Besides the father himself is, as is customary, engaged in business and does not think of passing on his fortune; if the son wishes to have one at present, let him make it himself!
The habits of life are those of an exclusively working people. From the moment he gets up, the American is at his work, and he is absorbed in it till the hour of sleep. He never permits pleasure to distract him; public affairs alone have the right to take him for a few moments."
In the 21st century we descendants of those work-driven Americans hardly recognize those qualities that a visiting European chose to brag about, hoping his own countrymen would catch the fire. Chevalier described an American culture all but free of leisure and playing games.
We'll visit again with Chevalier as he takes up on a Steamboat ride and gets into the weeds of pre-Civil War American politics. Watch for these in future blogs.