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WHILE the turbulent struggles of public
life in the United States startle or astound
the observer; while election riots, civil war,
and bloody personal encounters shock the
European sense of all that is stable and
secure; there are small analogous traits in the
quieter pursuits of the American mind that
stamp it as the most unsteady of all human
combinations. Among these, none is more
striking and few are so absurd,
independent of political or party versatility, as
the mania for the changing of names; not
merely of surnamesa thing rarely effected
in England, and then only as a necessity,
attended by the acquisition of property, by
bequest, inheritance, or marriage,—but of
christian names also, changed at will, and
on the payment of a small fee; not always
from dishonest designs, but often from
mere caprice, good or bad taste, or love of
varietyfrom any motive, in short, that
might induce an individual elsewhere to
change a house, a horse, or a picture.

This very common custom, besides leading
to infinite confusion as to personal identity,
the verification of facts, and the titles to
property among a people so wandering,
affords a painful illustration of the little real
respect as yet generally prevalent among our
cousins for family records or family associations.

In Europe, attachment to a family name is
a sacred sentiment. If it has been rendered
eminent by an individual, or even reputable
by a succession of honest bearers, few would
change it, even if they could. It may not
be euphonious; yet we are endeared to it
for the sake of those by whom it was borne
before us. It may not be celebrated; but we
hope to preserve it unsullied. It may have
been disgraced; and, in that case, we resolve
to redeem it from the stain. Even when its
change for some other brings an increase of
worldly wealth, we feel that the donor who
has coupled his gift with the hard condition
of displacing our own patronymic by his has
"filched from us our good name," and we
think that we pay a high price for our good
fortune. In fact, it is only in very rare instances
of some gross individual infamy, that families
abandon their cognomen, except in
compliance with the condition of some valuable
bequest that forces the change upon an heir
or a legatee.

But who in the (old) world would ever,
under any circumstances, think of changing
his christian name for any other whatever?
Many an Englishman dislikes his familiar
appellation, wishes his godfathers and
godmothers had had more music in their names,
or more forethought for his sensitiveness;
but, however harsh or ignoble his christian
name may be, he is usually satisfied with it,
and cherishes iteven as a parent does an
ugly childin honour of old associations,
and as a part of himself.

The general subject of the invention or
adaptation of surnames in England is amusing,
and instructive too. It has been calculated
that there are, in existence among us,
between twenty and thirty thousand
surnames, derived from almost every possible
combination of personal qualities, natural
objects, occupations and pursuits, localities,
and from mere caprice and fancy. But
once established, they are handed down
from generation to generation, with respect if
not reverence; occasional changes in
orthography taking place to hide their original
meanness; or, as Camden says, "to mollify
them ridiculously, lest their bearers should
seeme villified by them." In America,
however, these changes are not confined to slight
alterations in spelling, but are adopted bodily
and by wholesale.

Levity and conceit are the undoubted chief
causes for this perpetual ringing of the
changes on names. It would be scarcely
possible, in most cases, to trace the custom to any
reasonable or respectable motive. The changes
themselves are, in the majority of instances,
abundantly ludicrous; but the forwardness
with which the commonest persons thrust
themselves (by implication) into known and
well-considered families, and endeavour to
identify themselves with eminent individuals,
is equally remarkable.

Here are a few examples from the yearly
list published by the legislature of
Massachusetts. I should like to have each
individual's head subjected to a phrenological
examination, to ascertain if it would bear
out my notion of the respective characters
of those name-changers. The following eight

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