This chapter begins with a question by Elihu Hubbard Smith, a young man living in New York City in the mid-1790s: “What are the mutual influences of beings on beings: how far is the wellbeing of each, consistent with that of every other?” Like many admirers of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, Smith hoped that Americans would ponder exactly how they could exercise their newfound liberty without infringing on the liberty of others. The dilemma was acute in the vast, diverse, and loosely organized Republic because so many American men saw the pursuit of self-interest as their birthright. They wanted to make their fortunes, not discuss limits on their independence. Instead of love for one another, the “love of gain peculiarly characterizes the inhabitants of the United States,” lamented theologian Samuel Miller. Education was “superficial,” and wealth “the principal test of influence.”
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