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Colonial Thought-Lines #7: Fear of Failure

FEAR OF FAILURE


1. A Polite and Commercial People

   Paul Langford's volume of the New Oxford History of England  has the title A Polite and Commercial People (1989). Langford says this phrase was coined by the eighteenth-century judge William Blackstone in his magisterial Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769). It is an expression that characterizes the English nation in the Age of Enlightenment as "a society in which the most vigorous and growing element was a commercial middle class". This middle class were purposeful and energetic. They were also anxious. In Langford's perceptive definition, this new and dynamic element in English society occupied the tenuous ground between "the court and the spade" - those who had, by their industry, skill and luck, "succeeded in raising themselves above the ruck of the labouring poor", but "who dreaded nothing more than descent [back] into the ranks of the truly poor". 

The squatters who occupied …