Dickens visited the US for nearly half a year in 1842 full of interest in the US democratic experiment and looking to see if US society was more egalitarian than class-conscious Victorian England was. After a good start in Boston, he quickly became dissapointed and disillusioned:
“The longer Dickens rubbed shoulders with Americans, the more he realised that the Americans were simply not English enough,” says Professor Jerome Meckier, author of Dickens: An Innocent Abroad.
“He began to find them overbearing, boastful, vulgar, uncivil, insensitive and above all acquisitive.”
Dickens was even more seriously dissapointed with the political system, however:
“As for the politicians, Dickens concluded that, like everyone else in America, they were motivated by money, not ideals.
“I am disappointed,” he wrote in a famous letter. “This is not the republic of my imagination.”
Washington, Dickens blasted in American Notes, was the home of: “Despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with public officers; and cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers”.
Fill in “IRS” or “US Government” for his description of American society during his visit and you have an excellent summary of how the US government is currently behaving: overbearring, boorish, vulgar, uncivil, insensitive…I particularly found it amazing that he noticed over 150 years ago the same issues in US politics that plague it today, but first and foremost his appraisal that US politicians and government were driven by money and not by ideals.
Has the “American Dream” been a scam even since before it became famous later on in the 19th century? Has it almost just been about getting rich and nothing else? Is every immigrant to the US inevitably let down by an over-hyped ideal that has never even existed?