The entire culture was far more intelligent back then.
As technology has advanced forward, the standard for what is deemed "educated" has marched backward. In the Eighteenth Century, educated people spoke not only proper English, but often Latin and French as well. In fact, their wives often did too. (Despite supposedly being 'unliberated' by comparison to modern women.)
As technology advances, the mean IQ and educational level of the average college graduate declines...dumbing down is a very real phenomenon.
Study the "letters to home" from young soldiers in the War Between the States--the average modern American's eyes would glaze over trying to red them...too many big words.
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