Well, maybe, but I have no proof of it. George MacDonald published The Princess and Curdie in 18831, so I doubt he was referencing America; however, it astounded me to see the relevance of this excerpt for our modern society. It will suffice for the reader to know that Curdie is a young teenager who has left his rural mountain village on a journey to the court of the king. He has just reached the royal city, and what follows is MacDonald’s description of it.

They came at last to a broad, beautiful river, up which they must go to arrive at the city of Gwyntystorm, where the king had his court. As they went the valley narrowed, and then the river, but still it was wide enough for large boats. After this, while the river kept its size, the banks narrowed, until there was only room for a road between the river and the great Cliffs that overhung it. At last river and road took a sudden turn, and lo! a great rock in the river, which dividing flowed around it, and on the top of the rock the city, with lofty walls and towers and battlements, and above the city the palace of the king, built like a strong castle. But the fortifications had long been neglected, for the whole country was now under one king, and all men said there was no more need for weapons or walls. No man pretended to love his neighbour, but every one said he knew that peace and quiet behaviour was the best thing for himself, and that, he said, was quite as useful, and a great deal more reasonable. The city was prosperous and rich, and if everybody was not comfortable, everybody else said he ought to be.

When Curdie got up opposite the mighty rock, which sparkled all over with crystals, he found a narrow bridge, defended by gates and portcullis and towers with loopholes. But the gates stood wide open, and were dropping from their great hinges; the portcullis was eaten away with rust, and clung to the grooves evidently immovable; while the loopholed towers had neither floor nor roof, and their tops were fast filling up their interiors. Curdie thought it a pity, if only for their old story, that they should be thus neglected. But everybody in the city regarded these signs of decay as the best proof of the prosperity of the place. Commerce and self-interest, they said, had got the better of violence, and the troubles of the past were whelmed in the riches that flowed in at their open gates.

Indeed, there was one sect of philosophers in it which taught that it would be better to forget all the past history of the city, were it not that its former imperfections taught its present inhabitants how superior they and their times were, and enabled them to glory over their ancestors. There were even certain quacks in the city who advertised pills for enabling people to think well of themselves, and some few bought of them, but most laughed, and said, with evident truth, that they did not require them. Indeed, the general theme of discourse when they met was, how much wiser they were than their fathers.2

The clarity, poignancy, and power of this passage should give a firm slap in the face to those who claim to be proponents of liberty, truth, and justice; those who claim to be conservative. Our battlements have been rusting for far too long; our hands and knees far too clean. Not only have we decided how much wiser we are than our forefathers, but have rejected and/or forgotten their foundation of life. A foundation built on the Bible, and some of the greatest minds in the history of the Western World. Time has come for us to stop listening to the peddlers of feel-goodness, comfort, and materialism. Society, specifically free society, takes work, education, and perseverance. These words are not normal in the American vocabulary, but a time for action has come. The freedoms granted us by our Lord and Creator and protect by our Constitution are slowly being eroded away, as we sit idly by either oblivious and complacent or moaning and apathetic. It’s time we returned to the very root of our being, the very reason we were created: to be in communion with God. We need to humble ourselves and pray to Him to move in this country, to clean the hearts of men and women, to bring those who are called by His name to the forefront and stand up against all that is false, evil, and injust. Our salvation, freedom, and joy do not lie in the hands of the state, but in the heart of God. Americans, we must awake and defend ourselves from the thief or sleep and perish in the night.

  1. Date from Wikipedia, so take with grain of salt.
  2. George MacDonald, Princess and Curdie, The http://www.gutenberg.org/files/709/709-h/709-h.htm#chap13
Posted in Cultural Critiques, Literature, Modern America | 3 Comments

Responses to MacDonald on America

  1. Joe says:

    first, that is a phenomenal book. i got into macdonald because of c.s. lewis (he has a book of quotes by him…you should definitely check it out.)

    second. amen. i thought the same thing when i read this passage. what a mournful thing our country has become.


    (i’ll comment on your facebook note tomorrow or tuesday…)

  2. A Friend says:

    While there is some debate about whether the founding fathers of America were in fact anything more than political deists or atheists, I won’t debate that here and now.

    Your suggestion to ‘wake up’ and not ’sleep and perish’ strikes me as a very interesting. To fall ‘asleep’ is often used to mean to ‘die’ in biblical terms. Idle thought, as well as rampant inaction seems to result in death.

    My question is as follows: is the problem that you see with conservatives that they do not act enough in the political realm, or is the problem individualistic. You seemed to initially answer that question with the former, but near the end of your post, seemed to suggest solutions based in the individual life. Does this mean you suggest the problem is social (as in, with the group as a whole), but that the solution begins with each individual?

  3. Kevin says:

    The analogy of waking up was taken from both the biblical standpoints of the thief coming to steal, kill, and destroy and equating sleep with death. I definitely agree that idle thought and inaction can eventually lead to death, but I also add that hasty, thoughtless actions are just as harmful.

    Now for your question:
    >is the problem that you see with conservatives that they do not act enough in the political realm, or is the problem individualistic.

    To separate the individual from the group creates part of the problem I believe exists. We (Americans) are not as completely autonomous as many seem to think. The entire group needs to understand, at least at a basic level, how politics and economics work. The typical American has become either too apathetic or too party-sided to actually search for the correct answers in the public realms. Instead, they simply parrot what they’ve heard or don’t care. Thus, the problem lies at both the social and individual levels simultaneously because the two are so closely linked. However, the group will never change without the change of individuals. It will take a leader that rises up in the conservative party and challenges them back to the heart of what it means to be conservative (Small government, free market economy, family as center-point of society, and Religion and Morality as the foundations of free civilization, just to name a few). This may or may not answer your question satisfactorily, but I’m working on a couple more blog posts that may help clear it up more.

    I really appreciate the comments and questions. Thanks!