We mustn’t prolong this discussion for ever, because while we agree about the facts (or should agree if I were better informed) we make a different diagnosis and have different expectations. You think the American baby was weak and puling for a hundred years because it had never cut its umbilical cord, when there were plenty of native green apples and native whisky on which it might have grown up healthy and vigorous; whereas I think that that umbilical cord (the genteel tradition) scarcely sufficed to keep its thin soul alive under the pressure of bleak winter and child labour. You speak of “American culture”: what is that? I have known American lack of culture, and American cultivated people: but they were Americans in their residence and in their persons, not in their culture. Their culture came in part through England, but ultimately rather from France, Italy, and ancient Greece: for there can’t be a native culture except where there are no known moral derivations or origins, as was practically the case in Greece, in Egypt, and in China. In the modern world, all nations have, and can’t help having, the same culture, communication and information being so permeating and relentless as they are.
From The Letters of George Santayana: Book Five, 1933-1936. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.
Location of manuscript: The New York Public Library, New York City.