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THE LAST ARISTOCRATS | 2002-03-30

In a book called "Who Killed Society?," Cleveland Amory wanted to see if there were any aristocrats left in America. Amory, who was a Northern liberal, found that all the old Northern "upper crusts" no longer had any clout or even much self-respect.

Looking at today's sham aristocrats, Amory laughed at the series of books called "The Four Hundred." The "Four Hundred" series had started in New York and listed the top four hundred families there. Soon there was a "Four Hundred" book in every major Northern city.

So the "Four Hundred" publisher sent a representative to Charleston. He called on an old lady on the Battery. He told her about his project, to list the top four hundred families in Charleston.

"Why?" She asked.

"So people will know who they are," he replied.

She looked surprised and answered, "We already know who they are."

With this and numerous other examples, Amory said that the only aristocracy left in America was in Charleston.

National Review and the Four Hundred types identify with Europe and with "sophistication." Charleston's aristocrats are very much Charlestonians. Unlike Northern Four Hundreds who try to keep their views "hip," our real aristocrats look at the world as other South Carolinians do.

Unlike the pitiful French "aristocracy" under Louis XIV, the best of the Charleston upper crust maintained its ties with, and therefore the respect of, the people of their own land.