Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 6: No 2) >> The Philosophy of the Omnibus >> Page 15

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Reviews/Essays | 1998
Transcription The Omnibus, therefore, indicates an era! Who shall question this truth?
Not the philosopher not he, who, looking through the surface, beyond effects,
and up to causes, may trace the nature, the character, and the claims of a people,
in their domestic habits and exercises. Let us look to causes. A single glance wil
prove what we assert. The Omnibus could never have been known to the
ancients. It was the fruit of a philosophy warring with, and in the very teeth of,
theirs. It could only be the creature not of general equality in the people—but of
a general passion for equality—of a time of increasing accommodativeness in the
popular spirit—of a diffusion of hoarded wealth—of a long repose from war—of
a mercantile and money-loving condition of things. The mere seeker after
amusement would never have craved it the utilitarian would hold it the very best
vehicle in the world. It might have belonged to Carthage, had she been permitted
to survive, to pursue her old occupations, and, instead of colonizing other
countries, to continue blessing and beautifying her own. Yet it could not have
been invented in the time of Hanno and Hamilcar. Hannibal would have
disdained it, unless, mounted on the back of his elephants, its inmates were
willing to carry spear and javelin for the destruction of their neighbors. With th
crafty Greek it could not have J,een tolerated, or if known, would have rapidly
fallen into disuse. He is too much the individual he goes only on his own
account, and is in a blessed condition of ignorance on the subject of joint-stock
companies. Persuade him to enter with the rest, and it will only be to cut their
throats, and be off with their purses. The Omnibus suits another order of people.
It is Yankee all over it accommodates him, who, however selfish he may be in
other respects, is never exclusive—who is never willing to be much alone. It suits
nobody half so well. Give the Englishman his stanhope, the Yankee his omnibus,
and the comets have no terrors the world goes right.
We say the Omnibus marks an era and what era? It follows, in the
negative, from a knowledge of those which it would not suit, of those which it
will. It must indicate a social condition of mankind. By social we do not merely
mean the living together in communities. The barbarians did so, yet were not
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