Republicans, these days, are finding themselves feeling exactly like the parental character in some old-fashioned moralizing English novel. Americans worked hard and lived responsibly and produced as cherished offspring and heir, the liberal elite. Our child, the liberal elite which we shall refer to henceforward as “Algernon,” it turns out, has grown up not into the sturdy young hero we desired, but rather into a vain, irreligious, and totally irresponsible habituÃ© of the most extreme fashionable demimonde, a rake, and a spendthrift.
Inevitably, we learn that Algernon has exceeded his very generous allowance and run up massive debts. There is no possibility that Algernon can ever meet his obligations. Disgrace, dishonor, and debtors’ prison loom as gloomy prospects.
Young Algy has consequently returned to the family home he previously despised to beg his disappointed and estranged parent to intervene to save him. The scene is easily pictured. There is the sad, but still loving, grey-haired pater familias. There is the slightly crest-fallen, but still arrogant, young Corinthian. The father is theoretically willing to retrench and mortgage the estate and sacrifice for long years to come to save his son’s honor and keep him from prison, but he naturally considers himself obliged to make such assistance conditional upon genuine repentance and a complete break with the young man’s bad associations and pernicious habits.
It turns out, of course, that his life of iniquity in the fleshpots of the metropolis has coarsened young Algernon and fed his arrogance. Algy feels completely entitled to the life he has led, and has plans underway for even more ambitious forms of debauchery. Algy regards his father’s estate as already his own, and simply demands that his father assume responsibility for all his current debts and increase his allowance.
Sadly, the unhappy father explains that meeting even the current obligations Algernon has assumed is impossible with the income of the entire estate. To pay Algernon’s debts, land must be sold, the manor-house rented to strangers, tenants evicted and the commons converted to new enterprises to increase income. The entire family will have to curtail its expenses and live on a much more restricted scale for years.
But the wicked and ungrateful Algernon refuses to hear any of this. He bangs his fist on the table, abuses his father, and demands everything he asked for.
Sadly, the father explains that his son’s attitude, his hardened habits of iniquity, and his lack of responsibility make rescuing him impossible. As an alternative to prison, the father can only offer him a boat ticket to Australia and a small remittance for so long as he remains out of England.