Benjamin Franklin Thomas.

Speeches in the second and third sessions of the Thirty-seventh Congress, and in the vacation (Volume 2) online

. (page 15 of 15)
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powers that be are ordained of God. Some of them
have substituted a diluted Platonism, or German panthe-
ism, for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and mutual admira-
tion for the worship of Almighty God. But these do
not represent the mind or heart of New England, its
material or moral forces. This condition of things with
us is not more the fruit of the activity of the radical,
than of the supineness and neglect of duty of the con-
servative men of New England. They have been
warned of the coming perils, and have either failed to
foresee and gauge them, or have shrunk from the con-
flicts necessary to avert them. We cannot now escape
without much tribulation and suff'ering ; nor is it just
that we should. We hold our institutions at a price we
would not pay; sleepless vigilance. We were not
faithful to our sacred trusts: we permitted visionary
theorists, sectional partisans, fire-eaters, and radicals,
North and South, to administer a government founded
in concession, conciliation and compromise ; and which
we knew, or ought to have known, could never be up-
held and maintained in any other spirit than that in
which it was founded. These men had power to raise


the storm : they have no pilot to weather it. The ship
is drifting, no firm hand at the helm, between anarchy
and despotism. Oh for the master-spirit to say to the
waves, " Peace, be still ! "

Mr. Speaker, the people of New England are, for the
most part, a law-loving, a law-abiding people. They
love liberty ; but they know it can be had only in obedi-
ence to law, obedience of those who make and those
who execute the laws. They have the largest possible
stake in the present Union of the States. They do not,
cannot fail to see, that, under any reconstruction of the
Government, they have nothing to gain, every thing to
lose. They will hear, reflect, give heed to the voice of
reason and duty. They cannot be moved by scoffs and
sneers ; they cannot be driven. They make part of the
Union. The largest sacrifices to win and secure it were
those of their fathers. Its priceless blessings are theirs,
in trust for their children. They will be faithful to that
trust. The attempt from other States to exclude them
from their inheritance would inaugurate a war, com-
pared with which all we have seen of this would be but
as ministrations of mercy. If those holding power in
New England shall use it, or try to use it, to sever us
from the Union, or to consent even to separation, they
will hear in every city, town, and village, on every plain
and hill-top, the cry which was rung out on the 1 9th of
April, 1775, "To arms !" The men of New England
have sworn, by the God of their fathers, that neither
secession nor abolition shall rob them of their bu'th-

Mr. Speaker, I have trespassed too long upon the


indulgence of the House, without having touched the
grounds of attack upon the social and personal charac-
ter of the Puritans and their descendants. It is scarcely
necessary. " By their fruits ye shall know them. Do
men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?" I
will, however, glance at one or two points, which, my
observation here has convinced me, have had their effect
upon those who have not been with us, and are not
familiar with our history.

Upon no point is attack more frequent, or error more
prevalent, than upon the social positioti, the culture and
manners^ of the Puritans. The association of Puritan-
ism with rudeness, and coarseness of taste and manners,
has really no higher source than the doggerel of Butler,
and the sneers of Hume and other apologists for the
House of Stuart. In birth, culture, manners and
wealth, the Puritans were among the best gentlemen of
England. Need I recall to your recollection Hampden
and Waller, the Earl of Essex, Manchester, Fairfax,
Harry Vane, and John Milton, not less the world's
greatest epic poet than the gentleman trained to all
the graceful arts of his time % Need I remind you of the
fact, that the aggregate wealth of the third House of
Commons of Charles I., a Puritan House, was estimated
to be three times that of the House of Lords ? Need
I refer you to the beautiful picture of a Puritan house-
hold in the Life of the young regicide. Colonel Hutch-
inson, by his accomplished and devoted wife % I may
even suggest, that the sober garb of the Puritans has
descended to the gentlemen of England, and the lace
and embroidery to his servant. If you desire further to


examine the subject (of little moment, I confess, in a
country so democratic as ours), I invite you to read an
admirable paper on this point in .S^ford's " Studies of
the Great Rebellion;" or the n^ fi chapter of the first
volume of Palfrey's " History o ew Er.gland ; " a
work worthy of its great theme,

Puritanism, like other movements political or reli-
gious, suffered from counterfeits. When its principles
had triumphed, coarse, vulgar, greedy men assumed its
garb, and debased and dishonored it ; as men assume
now devotion to the freedom of the slave, whose real
devotion is to contracts for spavined horses and rotten
vessels. Canters, self-seekers, wolves in sheep's cloth-
ing, men with long prayers and longer visages, followed
in the path of Puritan victory to clutch its spoils. The
true Puritan was sober, godly, self-denying ; feeling he
had a divine work to do, and doing it with his might.
To say that he did not attain to his own ideal of duty,
is to say that he was very like sensible and good men of
later times of larger light and larger pretension.

Another alleged obnoxious trait of character of tke
Puritan (and his descendant) is his love of money, and
craft in getting it. I meet the allegation at the thresh-
old; I take issue on the fact; I utterly deny it. I
have had opportunity to know something of the people
of New England in the different callings and paths of
life, and something of men on both sides of the water.
I have studied men, with some diligence, in history.
The New-Englander (" Yankee," if you please) loves to
get money. He wants success in every thing to which
he puts his hand; and he is very apt to succeed. He



has thrift vA provi^en. j.' He ^ays by for the ramy day
and shady slope o?^ Ii.t3. He abhors a vacant pocket,
and the de < iirleTAc '■- ;ftpn(ls it; but, as a race, no

men are m . - lo. ; n money, or more liberal

in the use iie meii of New England. Libe-

ral in theix ^\..i acu&eholds. and in every work of kind-
ness and Christian charity, no people live better, or give
more freely , or understand better, that, to do either, a
wise economy is necessary. Of course I am speaking of
the general rule, which, like every rule, has its excep-
tions. Every soil has its crop of hucksters and petty
craftsmen. Ours are peripatetic, and are very apt
to emigrate South or West. Some find their way to
Government agencies ; and a few half way back, — to

The New-Englander is said also to be an intermed-
dler. How far, politically, he has concerned himself
with the rights and interests of other portions of the
country, I have had occasion briefly to suggest. Upon
the matter of slavery, I cannot deny that a portion of
our people have trespassed beyond the just bounds
of State comity. But I cannot forget, that the bearing
of the slaveholders toward the people of the North has
naturally provoked hostility ; and that from the sparks
emitted in the collisions of extreme men, on either side,
the fires of civil strife have been kindled. As an indi-
vidual, the New-Englander has curiosity largely devel-
oped. He loves to know what is going on in the world.
He is inquisitive ; but these qualities are not peculiar to
him. They were found in the first man and woman,
and will be in the last. " But out of the rind of one


apple tasted," said John Milton, "the knowledge of
good and the knowledge of e ' leaped forth into the
world, as twins cleaving toget^ Vith all his interest

to know what is going on in 1, ^^^ horholod, he wor-
ships the god of boundaries, ant/ not '^remove the
ancient landmarks. No man respects more constantly
the division-line between his own and another's rights.

I conclude, Mr. Speaker, with a single suggestion.
It is, that, under our system of Government (many
States and one nation), differences of culture, manners,
domestic institutions, of climate and its productions, and
of forn s of industry, may be reconciled, if there be the
spirit of concihation. Nay, more : experience is rapidly
developing the truth, that in that diversity has been our

" All nature's difference makes all nature's peace."

Those differences all removed, the probable result would
be the absorption of the powers of the States in the
central Government, toward which our steps are tend-
ing. The States gone, or stripped of their most impor-
tant functions, the central power, call it republic or by
any other name you please, would be, in substance, a




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Online LibraryBenjamin Franklin ThomasSpeeches in the second and third sessions of the Thirty-seventh Congress, and in the vacation (Volume 2) → online text (page 15 of 15)