Crane, "Love and Merit in the Maritime Historical Novel: Cooper and Scott"

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Sullen Fires Across the Atlantic:
Essays in Transatlantic Romanticism

Love and Merit in the Maritime Historical Novel: Cooper and Scott

James Crane, Loyola University Chicago

  1. Because two of the earliest Anglophone maritime historical novels feature seafaring characters whose manliness proves their suitability to command, they provide a useful field of inquiry for historians of gender and genre-making. In the 1820s, James Fenimore Cooper and Walter Scott invented manly heroes who exercise authority through a personal charisma that operates ineffably upon other men. Both Scott’s The Pirate (1821) and Cooper’s The Pilot (1823) cast socially isolated men in lead roles, but the various affectionate pairings of sailors in The Pilot contrast sharply with an emphasis on manly disinterestedness in The Pirate.[1] The American mariners in The Pilot are not anti-social like they are in The Pirate, because Cooper’s concern with the republican possibilities of historical romance led him to represent the pleasurable camaraderie among American gentlemen as a social symptom of the representative government being constructed by hardy colonials.

  2. Cooper portrays legitimate political authority by highlighting the manly characteristics of the Revolutionary-era naval officers, and contrasting their plucky heroics to the fruitless efforts of loyalists to preserve traditional notions of fealty. His tale promotes the view that a republican government creates social conditions that naturally engineer meritocracy, ensuring the cultivation of subjects who will form an elite governing class. For Cooper, meritocracy bridges the historical and social rupture between traditional and republican governments—a gap in which conservative thinkers from Hobbes to Cobbett envisioned destructive social leveling, violent anarchy, and the eventual dissolution of the protective authority of the state. In contrast, Scott’s 1821 novel The Pirate celebrates paternal government, and conflates democracy with piracy. Cooper’s strategic fictional response to the association of virtue with traditional monarchical authority attributes improved values to the exemplary democratic citizens that serve in the Revolutionary-era Navy. To dramatize the way these improved values develop, Cooper treats friendships between men as productive sites for collective social activity. The emotions produced in these relationships bring out the best in men, and ensure that the group selects the most able for positions of leadership.

  3. By focusing on how men among men faithfully recognize the merit of one another because—as good citizens—they feel love, Cooper challenges disparaging views of early US culture and institutions. His depiction of meritocracy, manliness, and intimate friendship in The Pilot affirms a republic that did not become less civilized by breaking with the British Empire. The romantic story of naval adventure Cooper tells in his inaugural sea-novel stages the innate capability of exceptional individuals, who are recognized and rewarded by a well-organized republican society. According to this theory, meritocracy guarantees stable strata within the social hierarchy by ensuring the continued primacy of cultivated white males. Therefore love and merit take the place of traditionally exercised authority in Cooper’s idealized democratic republic.[2]

  4. This essay compares the patriots in The Pilot to the adventurers of The Pirate, examining in particular the ways that experiences of emotion do or do not enable the social construction of legitimate authority. For both writers, political authority inheres in the body of the genteel white male; however, in the process of transforming the American Revolution into the subject of romance, Cooper revises Scott’s attitude toward the emotionally autonomous hero. In Cooper’s response, caring friendships provide charismatic military heroes with emotionally charged, institutionally interpolated sites to socialize subordinates, to make good collective decisions, and to romance women.

  5. Scott sets The Pirate at "the end of the 17th century" in the environs of a remote, dilapidated "earl’s mansion" situated on a "neck of land" in the archipelagos stretching northeast of Scotland (Scott 6). High-minded buccaneer captain Clement Cleveland wrecks near this mansion, the adopted residence of his estranged father. Of course, Cleveland does not find out that the wealthy recluse and reformed pirate is his father until the climactic final chapters. After he is rescued by his half-brother, the dashing but amoral seafarer takes up residence with local aristocrat Magnus Troil and his two beautiful daughters. Munificent Troil holds his land according to the pre-colonial traditions of the island’s Scandinavian population. Though Troil and other ethnic Scandinavians resist outside influence, Scott makes it clear that by the end of the seventeenth century more than two centuries of occupation has nearly succeeded in securing the cultural ascendancy of nearby Scotland.

  6. In the 1849 "Preface" to The Pilot, Cooper narrates how his dissatisfaction with the representation of technical knowledge, nautical language, and seafaring life in The Pirate by Walter Scott prompted a literary response that dramatizes the patriotic exploits of mariners led by John Paul Jones in a raid off the coast of Britain during the Revolutionary War. But in addition to nautical verisimilitude, the nature of legitimate political authority is at stake in both works, and so in The Pilot Cooper adapts a scene from The Pirate that enacts a central problem of democracy—in popular governments factions form, and sap a state’s ability to function as a collective unit. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century critics of democratic ideas often argued that without clear standards set by an exemplary aristocratic class, civil society must inevitably fracture into cliques motivated by regional prejudice and special interests. Factions, according to this line of reasoning, obviate the communal good that was the desideratum of much eighteenth- and nineteenth-century republican thought.[3]

  7. To reckon with this critique of representative government, in The Pilot Cooper imagines that republican meritocracy can keep participative politics from degenerating into a chaotic, drunken brouhaha. Concentrating on representations of manhood, affect, and status, I show how the council scenes in these maritime romances comprise a transatlantic dialogue on issues of individual autonomy and political authority.[4] Different representations of manliness in these works demonstrate that the history of British and American republicanism is a history of efforts to manage ideas about manhood as well as race, class, nation, and commerce. In critiquing the reverence for a centralized political authority that Scott encourages, Cooper uses the manly sailor to legitimize his romantic version of republican meritocracy.

  8. The Pirate council scene in The Pirate equates democracy with disorder. After the enigmatic buccaneer captain Clement Cleveland returns to his cronies after a long stay with Troil and his daughters, the leadership of this group of brigands is hashed out by two competing captains. The men’s bodies narrate the difference between their characters and styles of command, and between the different sources of authority to which each can lay claim:

    Black-haired, bull-necked, and beetle-browed, his [Goffe’s] clumsy strength and ferocious countenance contrasted strongly with the manly figure and open countenance of Cleveland, in which even the practice of his atrocious profession had not been able to eradicate a natural grace of motion and generosity of expression. (403)

    As the contending commanders face off, the crew naturally divides into two factions according to partisan lines. In this drama of democratic feeling, the young men are attracted to the manly vigor exhibited by genteel Cleveland, while their more experienced peers favor the older Goffe’s seniority. Operating outside the prescriptive procedures of an established civic order, the buccaneer crew cannot establish a clear order of merit; the captains therefore advance their respective claims of precedence before the entire crew in a democratic fashion.[5]

  9. The hallmark of socio-political chaos in The Pirate is this unsavory, unregulated contact among members of discrete social classes. Unlike commanders in the Royal Navy, buccaneers in The Pirate must exercise their authority without the protective veneer of esteem that legitimate state power affords to those with elevated status:

    When Cleveland . . . found himself once more on board the pirate vessel, his arrival was hailed with hearty cheers by a considerable part of the crew, who rushed to shake hands with him and offer their congratulations on his return; for the situation of a buccanier captain raised him very little above the level of the lowest of his crew, who, in all social intercourse, claimed the privilege of being his equal. (402)

    Here Scott stages the vulgarizing effects of social leveling, for the disintegration of hierarchy wreaks havoc upon the orderly functioning of the collective. Instead of giving authority to the truly meritorious, an egalitarian society distributes a little ineffectual bit of power to every man, and as Cleveland takes the hand of each of "the lowest" men in his grasp republican social relations transgress the genteel boundaries that protect privileged bodies from the invidious touch of a "clumsy and ferocious" class of men—in other words, those without manly merit (402).

  10. Eventually the boatswain motions for "a general council in the great cabin" to decide the contest of authority; meanwhile the drunken revels of the greater part of the crew demonstrate that the formal structures of majority rule elicit base behavior (405). During the proceedings that will determine the fate of the pirate vessel, most of the ordinary outlaws take advantage of the "unlimited quantity of liquor" ostensibly provided in order to facilitate free expression. Lacking both the education and character necessary for self-government, they soon grow too intoxicated to participate and the consultation of the interested players takes place without any real public discussion. The narrator describes how the election process degenerates into mayhem and oligarchy:

    But a few amongst the adventurers, who united some degree of judgement [sic] with the daring and profligate character of their profession, were wont, at such periods, to limit themselves within the bounds of comparative sobriety, and by these, under the apparent form of a vote of general council, all things of moment relating to the voyage and undertakings of the pirates were in fact determined. (405)

    Despite the customary provisions for a general vote, on Scott’s pirate vessel the actual decision-making is confined to the work of a select "senate" formed of the most interested or privileged individuals (405).

  11. Meanwhile "inebriation in all its most brutal and disgraceful shapes" takes its moral toll upon the masses in the form of vile oaths, imprecations, naughty songs, and pervasive "ribaldry"; thus procedures that are intended to facilitate public participation actually create an "earthly hell" on the deck of the outlaw vessel (405). Since some few of the crew realize that only the appealing Cleveland can persuade local merchants into provisioning their ship, they make him acting captain. Later, gentlemanly generosity leads Cleveland to insist that the crew reinstate boorish Goffe as commander.

  12. In The Pirate, the democratic form is merely nominal, because the individuals who comprise the public are unsuited to—and uninterested in—political participation. Because these men are not fit to govern themselves, on the buccaneer vessel power becomes concentrated in the hands of a few uncouth men who achieve positions of authority through brute force rather than true manly merit. The group subordinates the claims of cultivated individuals to partisan feeling and self-interest, while the historical absence of statutory hierarchy leads inexorably to frighteningly chaotic political conditions. Scott’s depiction of a rough pirate council confirms the social degeneration effected by majority rule, and empties political authority of meaning outside the structural mandates of the traditional monarchical state.

  13. In contrast, in The Pilot the doctrine of charismatic manliness allows Cooper to locate political authority in deserving individuals, instead of attributing legitimacy solely to inherited institutions. The novel chronicles how youthful naval officers Ned Griffith and Dick Barnstable sail to the coasts of England during the Revolutionary War and discover their patriotic paramours housed in a crumbling Abbey with an aging uncle, a Carolina Tory, who represents an earlier age’s devotion to England and to the defense of British imperial power. The adventure plot of The Pilot hinges upon the relationships these young naval officers—thoughtful Griffith and hotheaded Barnstable—form with the mysterious Pilot, John Paul Jones in disguise, who conducts a daring prisoner-taking expedition in order to bring the conflict in the North American colonies home to Britain’s shores.

  14. Cooper enacts the administrative logic of republican meritocracy most vividly in the council of war that follows the entrance of an enigmatic pilot into the shipboard community. Captain Munson gathers together the officers and warrant-officers of the frigate for a conference in the republican style; as suggested by the frontispiece to the chapter (drawn from Addison’s Roman drama Cato "Sempronius, speak"), the council scene accentuates the policy-making procedures unique to republican hierarchy. Positing a hierarchy based upon individual merit at work on the frigate, Cooper intends to demonstrate how republican government cultivates personal worth, creating qualified leaders and a just social hierarchy to effectively manage the free exchange of ideas.[6] On the American frigate, the officers gather around the conference table in descending order of rank. Some legible personal quality accounts for the position each man holds in the scheme. Commencing with the pen-chewing, plebian sailing-master—aptly named Boltrope—the captain gives each officer an opportunity to speak in an institutionally prescribed order that indicates the seamless correspondence of manner and skill with rank in each participant. Beautiful young Ned Griffith is, by reason of his many virtues, near the top of the chain of command aboard the frigate, and eventually the officers acknowledge the tactical superiority of the plan he proposes.

  15. Therefore the war-conference on board the American frigate models how republican political procedure engenders meritocracy, not anarchy; with careful attention to prominence the mariners and soldiers act out civic exchange of ideas, culminating in the selection of the best plan of action by those officers with the most expertise. Because of the irresistible draw of meritorious individuals with institutionally validated authority, republicanism regulates the social and occupational worlds on the ship so well that the palpably genteel character and measurable professional skills of each man are directly proportional to his social and economic status. Democratically, Captain Munson proposes that "by comparing opinions, we may decide on the most prudent course"; and, in fact, the thoughtful first lieutenant suggests a course of action somewhere between the two tactical extremes recommended by Barnstable and Manual (Cooper, 77).

  16. After the lower-ranked warrant-officers offer their views, "The opinions of the others grew gradually more explicit and clear, as they ascended in the scale of rank" (75). Meritocracy and mutual respect make the correspondence of rank with ability entirely seamless. This council scene reveals the ways that republican ideals engineer the novel’s fantasy of just statehood, of community formation, and of privileged male power by demonstrating how, in a republic, the system allows every man a voice. Moreover, in the institutional processes wherein constituents freely express their ideas, the group can readily single out for recognition those men with the best ideas. In The Pilot, Cooper imagines a system in which authority and merit coincide smoothly, so that society automatically recognizes and rewards manly merit.[7]

  17. Manly affect holds the corporate group together securely, because each man perceives the worthiness of a leader like Griffith. As a result, charismatic leadership energizes the hierarchy engendered by the unique features of republicanism.[8] After the meeting, Griffith feels compelled to question Captain Munson’s unwavering trust in the pilot—a stranger they have plucked from an isolated stretch of coast. The aging commander responds by recurring to his professional seniority, saying "I have not your pretensions, sir, by birth or education, and yet Congress have not seen proper to overlook my years and services" (82). At this point the pilot intervenes, acknowledging Griffith’s doubts and then dramatically relieving them by producing "a parchment, decorated with ribbands and bearing a massive seal, which he opened, and laid on the table before the youth" (82). Once Griffith realizes that the seemingly innocuous stranger is in fact the infamous tactical genius John Paul Jones," a glow of fiery courage flitted across his countenance" and he instantly swears allegiance to the legendary warrior, pledging "Lead on! I’ll follow you to death!" (82). The pilot and his protégé exit arm in arm, leaving "Old Moderate" to his private musings, the very picture of disinterested liberal authority.

  18. The scenario whereby the pilot wins the allegiance of the young lieutenant is reproduced along the chain of hierarchy, linking superiors, peers, and subordinates in a series of institutionally proscribed partnerships validated by experiences of intensely personal emotion. The pilot’s virtuoso technical knowledge signals one form of merit, but due to the programmatic niceties of institutional conduct Griffith may require additional credentials as proof of the worth and status of the mysterious interloper. The token the pilot produces—it seems to be the endorsement of the French crown—alleviates the anxieties about power, position, and hierarchy that prompt challenges from Griffith. Manly merit, therefore, is irreducible to professional talent. Meritocracy depends upon charismatic qualities and the resultant legitimacy afforded to those who exercise power. Charisma engenders sympathy; since affection makes authority more palatable, the most approved leaders are those whose charismatic leadership cements the community of individuals into one feeling whole.[10]

  19. In The Pilot professional ability provides one obvious signifier of manly merit, but in addition to his technical skills, a bosun or coxswain in Cooper’s revolutionary navy must possess those manly qualities that catalyze group affect within the unique conditions provided by maritime life, and according to genteel thinking the hard-working, moral, rustic characteristics of the regional type make such individuals well-suited to providing a unifying focus for social relations. The physical imagery Cooper employs in vivid descriptions of Long-Tom and David Boltrope, the sailing master, indicate that this charismatic capacity is another prerequisite for authority. Nevertheless, they lack an inherent quality of charismatic commanders—an ability to bodily convey an authority that other men will recognize and experience as legitimate.

  20. In The Pilot, men learn to sympathize by emulating those they admire. When Long-Tom Coffin goes down with his ship, the entire crew mourns the loss of their beloved cockswain, but none with more feeling than his commander. As tears overcome poor Barnstable, Merry "sat respectfully watching the display of feeling that his officer, in vain, endeavored to suppress" (293). The lieutenant’s tears elicit sympathy:

    Merry felt his own form quiver with sympathy at the shuddering which passed through Barnstable’s frame; and the relief experienced by the lieutenant himself, was not greater than that which the midshipman felt, as the latter beheld large tears forcing their way through the other’s fingers, and falling on the sands at his feet. (293)

    Republican manliness is not at odds with such unguarded displays of affect, for the "loftiness" and "pride" of genteel manhood are linked to virtuous performance of emotion.[11]

  21. Most importantly, the didactic exchange enacted through expressions of shared feeling cements the already strong relationship the midshipman shares with his commander:

    Merry had often beheld the commanding severity of the lieutenant’s manner, in moments of danger, with deep respect; he had been drawn towards him by kindness and affection, in time of gayety and recklessness; but he now sate [sic], for many minutes, profoundly silent, regarding his officer with sensations that were nearly allied to awe. The struggle with himself was long and severe in the bosom of Barnstable; but, at length, the calm of relieved passions succeeded to his emotion. (293)

    The attraction Merry already feels toward Barnstable—who not coincidentally is engaged to Merry’s cousin Katherine—increases to something near "awe" through the throbbing pulse of sympathy. Silently the midshipman gives himself up to the "sensations" provoked by a combination of his admiration for and desire to emulate his superior officer. In this fashion, The Pilot depicts how love among men shores up hierarchy. This scene enacts the principle whereby men learn to negotiate rank and status by managing their emotions in accordance with institutionally prescribed standards; needless to say, if an institution enforces standard practices for the experience and expression of feelings, it likewise manifests a code of manliness that uses emotional behaviors to index the social and institutional values of behavior associated with sex and gender.

  22. In The Pilot, bodies stimulate recognition of merit, whereas intimate friendship verifies its presence. Griffith and Barnstable are fast friends from early childhood, and the twists and turns in their affectionate but occasionally competitive relationship provides the work with several of its characteristically melodramatic plot movements. Both men carry a mercantile culture’s version of pedigree. Additionally, Griffith is "gifted with an experience beyond his years" (18) and endowed with a natural authority that operates "like a charm" (338); he also appears "haughty" and exults in a fervent "native pride" (72). Barnstable, likewise, radiates that "calm authority, that seamen find it most necessary to exert, in the moments of extremest danger" and readily exhibits "that collectedness of manner, and intonation of voice, that were best adapted to enforce a ready and animated obedience" on the part of a trusting crew (273). The Pilot, however, is the penultimate manly authority in the novel; combining consummate professional skill and a "muscular form" with commanding mien to which others respond "involuntarily" (338), Mr. Gray successfully asserts himself as "One who has a right to order, and who will be obeyed!" (345).

  23. No single or central source of authority confers power and status in The Pilot. Instead, social relationships each produce unique conditions in which authority plays all kinds of constitutive roles. Like Mr. Gray or Griffith in The Pilot, Magnus Troil and Clement Cleveland in The Pirate are charismatic centers of authority; however, the brusque yet "honest Udaller" eschews most displays of emotion, while circumstances force the pirate captain to suppress his finer feelings and cultivate an appearance of ferocity. Despite very different political perspectives, manliness is the common ground for power and authority in both maritime romances. Cooper and Scott treat the charismatic male as the catalyst through which both collective identity and social hierarchy take form. And in both novels, affection may sustain hierarchy; intimate attachments to worthy representatives of power solidify allegiance to the abstract principles embodied in leaders. Yet for Scott, only avaricious self-interest provides incentive for The Pirate crew to follow their dashing, fearless commander. Troil holds the fealty of his tenants through tradition as well as force of personality; although his ample country feasts and paternalistic administration do secure the devoted adherence of his constituents, the power he exercises arises from the legal and cultural conventions that underpin his position in the local hierarchy.

  24. But in The Pilot, representations of the complex network of relationships on board the frigate and the Ariel contradict the Hobbesian doctrine of natural competition among males in Scott’s narrative. Because this view of manly charisma discounts intimate affiliations among men as binding social forces, a character such as Cleveland cannot stand being indebted to Mordaunt Mertoun, the youth who has saved his life; "there is a natural dislike" between them, he avers, "a something like a principle of repugnance in our mutual nature, which makes us odious to each other" (Scott, 209). Of course, it turns out that the two men share a father, but they never achieve any kind of friendly relation or brotherly intimacy. For Cleveland, display of refined manly emotion proves troublesome and exerts no improving influence. While the picturesque work of the deep-sea fishermen occupies the residents of Burgh Westra, the elegant Cleveland reveals his history to his impressionable paramour, Minna Troil. Though drawn inexorably into the adventurous world of the unregulated West Indies, young Cleveland assures Minna that "my natural disposition has been controlled, but not altered, by the untoward circumstances in which I am placed" (217). While barely pubescent, undaunted Cleveland becomes commander of a privateering crew of "desperate fellows" bent on wreaking havoc on Spanish vessels. But his refined moral sense inconveniences his crew, so they maroon the principled buccaneer on an uncharted Caribbean islet.

  25. In isolation Cleveland learns to adopt an "iron mask" of manly imperturbability as a "chief security against treason, or mutiny of my followers" (216). In order to safeguard the innocent and restrain his ignoble companions, he endeavors to appear even more terrible and inhumane than his subordinates by showing no emotion. Seclusion gives him time to acquire thoughtful insight into the character of the vulgar class of pirates:

    I thought over my former story, and saw that seeming more brave, skilful, and enterprizing than others, had gained me command and respect, and that seeming more gently nurtured, and more civilized than they, had made them envy and hate me as a being of another species. I agreed with myself, then, that since I could not lay aside my superiority of intellect and education, I would do my best to disguise, and to sink in the rude seaman, all appearance of better feeling and better accomplishment. (216)

    This ruse permits Cleveland to more effectively enforce his will:

    I foresaw then what has since happened, that, under the appearance of daring obduracy, I should acquire such a habitual command over my followers, that I might use it for the ensurance of discipline, and for relieving the distresses of the wretches who fell under our power. (216)

    Cleveland disguises his superior "mind, morals, and manners" because only the threat of savage reprisal can contain the depredations of his savage crew. In The Pirate, displaying "better feeling" will anger the mass of men rather than producing any refining influence.

  26. In contrast, Barnstable and Griffith are sensitive to their crews. Exemplifying manly fortitude, they enforce discipline by winning the devoted admiration of their subordinates. No self-respecting seaman, hints The Pilot, could be anything but brave faced with the example of these worthy commanders; by this means republican institutions improve upon Hobbesian models of charismatic authority. In his writings on civil government, Thomas Hobbes claims that a society requires a single figurehead to organize individuals into a community. But in The Pilot, manly merit engenders intimate friendship, and affiliation among citizens becomes the cornerstone of authority in a republic. Therefore, Cooper treats the experience of being commanded as pleasurable; the powers of the US Navy to control and coerce are made legitimate by representing authority as the product of intimacy. Because it relies on love among good citizens, republican meritocracy readily provides ethical justification for democratic revolution. In the world of The Pirate, on the other hand, demonstrated worth might just get you stranded on a deserted island by jealous plebeians.

  27. The Pirate portrays the provincial political structure of the seventeenth-century Orkney and Shetland islands nostalgically. It depicts the slow mainstreaming of the Norwegian ethnic majority, while The Pilot evokes the revolutionary transformation of a British colony into an independent state. In The Pilot, expressions of affect indicate the revisions to political subjectivity that accompany republican revolution because conditioned emotional response on the part of the citizen is a requirement for political participation. Sympathy and sentiment have political uses, not least because they allow men to explain the ties binding citizens to one another without exclusively locating those ties in the realm of economic expedience. For Cooper, the very reasons for communal identification and collective action reside in the affective drives and physical needs of politically empowered subjects.

  28. The staging of sympathy in The Pilot may seem familiar to readers of Adam Smith.[12] Unlike earlier thinkers, such as Shaftesbury, Smith does not treat sympathy and sociality as innate human faculties; for him, "fellow-feeling" arises through "excited" "fancy" and is therefore a product of the imaginative mind of the civilized subject (Smith, 48). It is also social, because "sympathy" is shared experience not of feelings, but "of the situation which excites" feelings (51). Potentially, "mutual sympathy" confers both pleasure and the power to perform concerted action since a man who seeks the aid of others "rejoices when he observes that they adopt his own passions, because he is then assured of that assistance" (54). The virtuous man with "proper motives" for his actions automatically

    Is in friendship and harmony with all mankind, and looks upon his fellow-creatures with confidence, and benevolent satisfaction, secure that he has rendered himself worthy of their most favorable regards. In the combination of all these sentiments, consists the consciousness of merit, or of deserved reward. (165)

    Merit, therefore, is present in the individual who inspires the regard of others. This is why Cooper ties merit to the love engendered by manly sympathy.

  29. Smith sees recognition of individual worth arising in the social configurations that sympathetic situations create: "our sense of . . . merit arises from . . . an indirect sympathy with the gratitude of the person who is . . . acted upon" (148). Meritocracy, then, is about the emotions charismatic individuals elicit in other subjects. For this reason the "Grateful affection" of others is the best evidence of manly merit (148). Because mutual regard is the hallmark of fellow feeling, friendship both indexes personal merit and images the bonds that organize men into societies. In fact, according to Smith sympathy makes meritocracy possible: "Our whole sense, in short of the merit and good desert of such actions [those of Scipio, Camillus, Timoleon, and Aristides], of the propriety and fitness of recompensing them . . . arises from the sympathetic emotions of gratitude and love, with which, when we bring home to our own breast the situation of those principles concerned, we feel ourselves. . ." (149). Conversely, according to Smith patriotism originates from self-interest: "The state or sovereignty in which have been born and educated" naturally includes the self and also "comprehends" family, friends, and other attachments to loved ones (372).

  30. Applying many of the same ideas, in The Pilot Cooper shows how republican meritocracy cultivates patriotism. The proof, the novel suggests, is in the heroes. Unlike the typical man Smith describes, the mariners of The Pilot revere "wisdom and virtue" and not "wealth and greatness"; therefore Cooper’s Americans bestow their "respectful attentions" according to merit and not display of affluence or status (Cooper, 126). Like friendship and other virtues, love of country proves merit by exemplifying the virtuous exercise of human capacities for emotional attachment. When authority figures exhibit affect in The Pilot, their subordinates learn virtuous practice of emotion. In a culture wherein "male" and "female" designate different regimes of feeling, these displays teach proper practices of gender because they also teach proper practices of emotion. As scholars of US literature have argued in the context of the American family, love turns out to be an especially effective mechanism for socialization and for the reproduction of hierarchical power relations. Manly friendship in The Pilot illustrates how the disciplinary powers of love and affection can fashion subjects in institutional confines as well as in the domestic sphere.

  31. Thus admiration becomes the means for reproducing the system of rule among Cooper’s republican mariners, and the loyalty individuals feel for their leaders guarantees good discipline.[13] Through an admixture of love and submission that locates discipline and patriotism within personal experiences of emotion as well as in the institutional and cultural state apparatus, American men in The Pilot come to passionately follow authority figures. Genteel republican love for meritorious soldiers and seamen ensures the just administration of discipline on the part of the powerful, and secures for the elite the gratefully devoted service of their subordinates.

  32. Throughout The Pilot Cooper is especially skillful at scripting the affective basis for authority. Intimate friendships demonstrate how a combination of attachments both to individuals and to principles solidifies and legitimates power in its patriarchal, institutional forms. Central to his view of the affect of authority is the charismatic male figure—physically arresting, knowledgeable in his field, and thereby in a position to secure the devoted admiration of others, Cooper’s powerfully attractive hero can use his body as a focus for the emotions of a lot of people, whose attachments to one another are solidified by shared devotion to the hero and his principles. The mutual emotional attachments the charismatic man produces can thereby signal membership in a community of shared values and reciprocal affinities. From the isolated Pilot to the garrulous Barnstable, each hero exercises his authority largely because of the devoted love he engenders in the tenderly receptive bosoms of both comrades and subordinates.[14]

  33. Because of the way that manliness grounds power for both Cooper and Scott, manly friendship provides a metaphor for US/British relations in The Pilot. The best example of Cooper’s view of the relation of the US to Britain is the domestic pairing of an American and a British soldier who lead opposing armies during the period of border disputes with British-held Canada in the late eighteenth century. The Pilot ends with an epilogue describing the camaraderie of two characters, the marine captain Manual and British infantry commander Borroughcliffe, who eventually shack up together in a makeshift hut on an island in the St. Lawrence River. In England, the two men wound each other in a pointless duel that ends not with rancor, but with friendly feelings and vows of shared regard instead.

  34. Years later, as their respective nations duke it out, the two men meet again and revive a military friendship based upon institutional values, affectionate respect, and a shared taste for Madeira wine. The comic parody of heterosexual domesticity represented by these two codgers implies the simultaneously contiguous and divergent nature of American and British institutions. The romance of maritime power in The Pilot works though the implicit suggestion that development of improved manly virtues among Americans signals the eventual doom of gendered principles of allegiance articulated according to inherited British models. However, while it stages the superiority of American manhood, The Pilot also points to the debt the young republic owed to metropolitan culture for acquired models of manliness. The politics of manliness in these maritime historical novels indicates that attitudes toward gender and sexuality permitted early architects of transatlantic white culture to represent the relations of the US with Britain dialectically. Ideas about gender and emotion that were widely shared allowed Anglophone writers paths into debates about more factious issues, like individual rights or the nature of political authority.

  35. Recent studies of the interdependent concepts of race and nation in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction illustrate how narratives of racial difference helped writers to invent a symbolic cultural and political heritage for the new nation. For instance, Jared Gardner has described how, in the Leatherstocking novels, Cooper reconciles the republic with the culture and institutions of Britain by staging the disappearance of natives and African-Americans into an imagined past. However, in his maritime novels of the 1820s, Cooper uses manhood to depict the traditions and truisms of Old World politics succumbing to the irresistible force of republican pluck. Cooper’s representation of the relationship between Old and New worlds hinges upon notions of masculinity as well as of race because enterprise and vigor are portrayed as key features of republican manliness. Cooper self-consciously presents a revised version of manhood and gender relations in order to justify the claims of his Revolutionary heroes not only to integrity, but to some degree of superior manliness over their British foes, who may be valiant but whose dedication to tradition prevents the public recognition of merit in enterprising individuals like John Paul Jones. In The Pilot, when men recognize worthiness in other men, the loving friendships that arise supposedly create a stronger, more stable state.


1 The Pirate was published in Edinburgh and London November, 1821; authorized editions of The Pilot were published in New York and London in January, 1824.

2 The variety of republican attitudes at work in the 1820s suggest that republicanism was a highly adaptable approach to theorizing the relationship of persons and communities to the state—one signaled by certain recurring themes rather than a system or set of beliefs. I use "republican" to refer to political ideas that both value representative government, elite or democratic, and emphasize a need for communal identity. In early nineteenth-century American culture, republican ideologues tended to understand political power as embodied in representative males who are endowed with authority by a constituency comprised of elite white property-owners, who in turn represent the aggregate body of society. For example, in no. 39 of The Federalist Madison sums up the "republican complexion" of government (242) as that endowed with authority "from the great body of the society" it governs (Rossiter, 241).

3 In a recent study informed by the history of the book and by the history of ideas, Mark G. Spencer has described how Hume’s ideas about factionalism influenced James Madison’s Federalist No. 10.

4 The careers of individual maritime workers in the ages of sail exemplify the contingent nature of "the Atlantic world," for many served or sought profit in both Pacific and Atlantic spheres, and many more employed their skills in smaller local communities. The narratives of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century seafarers suggest that Atlantic rim culture is as constructed as local and national geo-political terms for cultural contiguity. Since maritime workers were a historical locus of transatlantic cultural exchange, then narratives about sailors provide an especially useful archive for excavating embedded concerns with the shifting configurations of citizenship and international relations. For foundational research on seamen of African descent and the spread of political ideas, see Julius Scott, "The Common Wind: Currents of Afro-American Communication in the Era of the Haitian Revolution," diss., Duke U, 1986.

5 By the nineteenth century, the British popular imagination had long associated piracy with democracy; both could be seen as unruly systems without any established moral foundation. Christopher Hill notes that in the seventeenth century pirate "Captains were often elected, and were answerable to their crews; decisions on policy and disciplinary punishments were democratically taken. This contrasted very sharply with the despotism of naval captains, the rule of the lash, the ultimate possibility of a death sentence for mutiny" (Hill, 117).

6 Notably, Cooper’s fantasy of revolutionary adventure imagines a maritime power the republic did not possess in the Revolutionary era or in the 1820s, although the US would achieve considerable sea power by the end of the century.

7 Anthony Rotundo’s American Manhood: Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era is a useful overview of changing ideas about manhood in the United States. Rotundo shows that in the later eighteenth century, intimate friendship between men was the norm in genteel circles. Recent studies of manhood and US print culture have applied the insights of Rotundo’s work to more specific textual sites for the construction of masculinity. Most notably, in American Sympathy, Caleb Crain examines the relationship of sympathy to manhood in the early republic, and in the process shows how critics might productively view friendship among men as a site of possibility and complex negotiations of affect, rather than a reflection of the competitive relations of the market. My purpose here is to show how, for writers like Cooper, the dialectical emotional exchanges between friends also suggested one way to re-imagine the relationship of Britain to the US.

8 Regarding the early republican fascination with charismatic males, Mark Kann writes that "Ultimately, the founders’ faith in the Heroic Man completed their grammar of manhood by promoting a patriarchal discourse that lifted up a few great men over the democratic masses and played down women’s political potential as citizens and leaders" (Kann, 130-1). In A Republic of Men political scientist Kann analyzes the ways in which cultural concepts of gender, and especially white manhood, were deployed in federalist print of the early national era. Positing a cultural "grammar of manhood"—comprised of "the hegemonic norms, language, and rules they employed to promote public quiescence and justify leadership" (3)—Kann assesses the effect of cultural notions of threatening (non-heterosexual) manly disorder, family stability, civic virtue and heroic individuality on the development of citizenship and doctrines of political authority.

9 In this manner, my argument differs from Margaret Cohen’s examination of "know-how" in The Pilot.

10 My analysis of the feelings of the hero draws from the theory of charisma and institutional bureaucracy articulated by Max Weber. According to his sociology of the individual as political fetish, the modern state routinizes gender inequalities through a "workaday" bureaucracy located in the mundane structural demands of economic activity; in the civic arena created by official bureaucracy, patriarchal social patterns formalize commercial relations and enforce the domination of a perceived "natural leader" in the home, the marketplace, and the sphere of civic activity. Weber’s description of patriarchal authority emphasizes the historical connections of patriarchal authority to economic forces and statutory bureaucracy. In the Western political scenarios that Weber describes, a social group recognizes the quality of "charisma" in a man; this act of ascription legitimizes the privileged positions of charismatic individuals within the prescribed hierarchy of the "social strata" (Weber, 39). Weber claims that under the conditions of modern capitalism, most social institutions in the West authorize these forms of individual—almost always a male individual—empowerment by managing the system of social status and access to capital.

11 Showing how later eighteenth-century poets used the "imaginative domain" of the "Atlantic theater" to represent "the connection between emotion and history," Julie Ellison argues that "the Age of Sensibility can by defined by its focus on the moments when consciousness dilates to historical horizons and when history is compressed into consciousness" (Ellison; 124, 141, 142). In a similar manner, maritime historical novels such as The Pirate and The Pilot relate individual consciousness to grand historical narratives through shared experience. In the romantic worlds imagined by Cooper and Scott, each man’s affective capacities engineer his position within social and political hierarchies, and his intimate attachments to peers, subalterns, and authority figures become the basic components of manly historical enterprise.

12 It may also be recognizable to scholars of nineteenth century US sentimental fiction. For literary scholars like Elizabeth Barnes, Julia Stern, and Lori Merish, in the eighteenth century philosophies of sympathy set the precedent for sentimental forms and rhetoric—a nineteenth century middle class phenomena with a unique incarnation in the US. In her examination of the ways that familial love intersects with seduction plots, Elizabeth Barnes illustrates how doctrines of sympathy could collapse a variety of emotional relations into the same forms in nineteenth-century novels. Stern uses her readings to describe the psychological underpinnings of connections between emotion, gender, and national violence in US writing, while Merish emphasizes attitudes toward the political and national subject status of middle-class women that make commodity consumption into a gendered practice. Following Nancy Armstrong, most feminists examining literary form in the early US emphasize the acculturation of British forms associated with the white middle class; for many of these scholars the literary relations of the US with Britain illustrate the relevance of British culture and especially print culture to gendered, political, and material practices in later nineteenth-century America.

13 According to Enlightenment thinkers, this process of empowerment requires properly socialized national subjects, because the public must willingly recognize charisma in the men who exercise power.

14 Interrogating the literary-critical tendency to idealize narratives of interracial male pairing, Robyn Wiegman has shown how these popular bonding narratives operate by "transmuting the narrative of racial difference into a scenario of the mutuality of gender" (Wiegman, 172). Despite the prevalence of this narrative convention in popular fiction and film, "critical discussions of the American [canonical] tradition have nonetheless debated, for almost half a century, the meaning, centrality, and utopian possibilities inherent in the image of closely bonded men" (172). Wiegman’s thesis on the obsession of twentieth-century narrative with "symbolic marriage among men" is relevant to my study because her close readings highlight the ongoing relevance of theses about manliness, affinity, and sympathy in Enlightenment-era political thought. My point is that the cultural work assigned to same-sex friendship in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century historical fictions eventually produced the discourse of sexual correspondence that allowed twentieth-century critics like Leslie Fiedler to theorize "democracy" in US fiction by pointing to scenarios that displace women and heterosexuality, and that use same-sex bonds to dissolve the historical and political problem of racial difference (149).

Works Cited

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