In William Strauss and Neil Howe’s entertaining book, Generations, the authors characterize Americans born around the time of the Revolution as the “Compromise Generation."
“The lived an awkward lifecyle,” the authors wrote. “Compromisers were coddled in childhood, suffered little in war, came of age with quiet obedience, enjoyed a lifetime of rising prosperity, and managed to defer national crisis until most of them had died.” I chuckled when I read this summary; imagine, a lifetime of peace and prosperity, sandwiched between the Revolution and Civil War. Such awkwardness for this coddled cohort!
In 1792, the trading ship Benjamin departed Salem, Massachusetts, loaded with hops, saddlery, window glass, mahogany boards, tobacco and Madeira wine. The ship and crew would be gone for 19 months, traveling to the Cape of Good Hope and Il de France. All the while they bargained hard from port to port, flipping their freight several times “amid embargoes and revolutions,” naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison wrote, “slipping their cables at Capetown after dark in a gale of wind to escape a British frigate; drifting out of Bourbon with ebb tide to elude a French brig-o’-war.” In 1794, the Benjamin returned to Salem with a cargo that brought 500% profit to its owners.
The ship just happened to be captained by Nathaniel Silsbee, 19 years old when he took command. His first mate was 20 and his clerk 18.
Of course, these three daring (and soon-to-be wealthy) entrepreneurs were members of that awkward and coddled “Compromise Generation.”
Does it feel sometimes that we place too much emphasis on a
generational view of Americans? We seem
extraordinarily concerned, for example, that we now have four generations coming together in the workplace—Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials. There is a huge amount of ink
and pixels expended on defining the expectations of each cohort, and
recommendations for how we can all live together. (See here, here, and here for typical examples. A Millennial reflects here. A group of Gen Ys reflect here. Gen X traits defined here. Etc. Etc. Etc.)
|Just in case you are wondering how to feel|