David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

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gulf, and have looked down on the continent when it shall have
developed the capacities of its soil as fully as Europe now has
those of hers. He should have asked what our population can
be, and, therefore, probably will be. He should have seen how
numerous and corrupt great cities may become — a London on
the Hudson, a London on the Lakes, a London at the mouth of
the Mississippi, a London on the Pacific Coast, tossing up, it may
be, and playing with commonwealths in the giant arms of capi-
tal, as a conjuror tosses up and plays with his flying balls. He
should have inquired how wide may ultimately become the sepa-
ration between rich and poor, when the larger part of New
England is a factory and half the West a rented farm, and the
Pacific, on a hundred new lines of commerce, is vexed with un-
accustomed keels. He should have estimated how far commercial
and political vices will spread, and how much school and Church
will do for the healing of the average millions, whose intelligence
and virtue will probably not be, as they are now, in proportion
to their political power. He should have breathed the air of the
marshes as well as of the highlands and of the peaks with ever-
lasting snowy tents in the spiritual landscapes of a new world,
in which the formation of mountains and of marshes has but just
begun. He should, in short, have taken counsel with Orion, as
that constellation shall stand in the zenith, shaking his locks of
sidereal fire above the Amazonian palms, when the stars have
v/heeled and burned above our good and evil another ten hun-
dred years; for then, and then only, would he have seen Ultimate
America !

When Edmund Burke was a young man he wrote a letter to
a friend, stating that he had a plan of taking up his residence in
Massachusetts for life. His reasons for this purpose were, that,
in his opinion, the Western Continent was sure to have a great
future; that it was in the infancy of momentous changes; and
that it was, therefore, undoubtedly that quarter of the world in
which right efforts, put forth early, would be the most certain of
usefulness on a gigantic scale. Would this statesman and polit-
ical philosopher hold a different opinion if alive to-day and
young ?

The Roman eagles, when their wings were strongest, never
flew so far as from Plymouth Rock to the Golden Gate. The


longest straight line that can be drawn inside the limits of the
old Roman Empire will not reach from Boston to San Francisco.
Neither Caesar's empire nor Alexander's had the vast and
multiplex physical opportunity possessed by America. Gibraltar
and London, Thebes and the frosty Caucasus were the four cor-
ners of imperial Rome, and Alexander ruled from the Adriatic
to the Indus; but stretch your compasses on the globe from
London to the Egyptian Thebes, or from Gibraltar to the Cau-
casian summits, or from the Macedonian Adriatic to the Indus at
the foot of the Himalayas, and you have not opened them as far
as you must separate them to span the green fields and steepled
cities between the surf of the Bay of Fundy and the waterfalls
of the Yosemite, or to touch, on the one side, the Florida Keys,
and on the other, the continuous woods,

* Where rolls the Oregon and hears no sound
Save his own dashings.'^

On the British Empire the sun never sets. In the short
summer nights it never sets on the American Republic. San
Francisco is the middle city in our territory. It is literally true
that in August the sunset has not ceased to flash on the spears
of the fishermen in the Aleutian Islands before it begins to glint
and blaze on the axes of the woodsmen in the forests of Maine.

Roll up the map of New England! Unroll that of your
whole country ! How large is Texas ? You could bury in it the
German Empire, and have room enough left for England and
Wales. How large is California ? You could bury in it Eng-
land, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and have room enough left for
Switzerland and Belgium. How large is Colorado ? You could
bury in it Norway and have room enough left for Denmark.
How large is Iowa ? You could bury in it Portugal and Switzer-
land. How large is Lake Superior ? You could sink Scotland
in it. How large is New York ? You could bury in it Belgium
and Switzerland and Greece. How large is the estimated area
of arable land in the American Union ? Half as large as the
United States. How fully is this occupied ? In 1880 the area
occupied by the corn crop made a region only about as large as
Kansas; that occupied by the wheat crop a space only as large
as Alabama; that occupied by the cotton crop, a region less than
half the size of Ohio.


How many countries of Europe must be put together to make
a region equal in extent to that of the good arable soil of the
United States ? Austria, Germany, and France ? These and
more. Spain, Sweden, and Norway added ? These and more.
England, Scotland, and Ireland in addition ? These and more.
Portugal, the Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland, Denmark, and
Belgium ? All these sixteen regions must be thrown together to
cover, not our territory as a whole, but that half of it which is
good . arable soil. These countries, with their good and poor soil,
maintain two hundred millions of people. The good land of the
United States will certainly sustain as many people as their good
and poor land taken together.

In 1870, the pivotal point or centre about which all the popu-
lation of the United States would balance was a little east of
Baltimore. It has been moving westward; in the year of Lin-
coln's election, for a divine sign it had crossed the Ohio and
obtained secure lodgment on free soil; in 1870 it was near Cin-
cinnati; and it is now in Indiana. If its position were, as it
should be, marked by a blazing star at the summit of a monu-
mental shaft, carried from time to time toward the setting sun,
that shaft would move westward more than fifty feet in every
twenty-four hours.

It is a narrow outlook that pauses at a time when a continent
that can sustain a larger population than the Old World shall
have one hundred million people. But at that date the popular
imagination stops. North and South America will probably have
one hundred millions of people before the twentieth century,
whose upstretching auroras, already appearing at the rim of the
sky, shall rise above the horizon of history. At the place where
the popular foresight pauses I would begin. Daniel Webster said,
when we had but twenty millions of people : ** I do not know
whose imagination is fertile enough, I do not know whose con-
jectures, I may almost say, are wild enough, to tell what may be
the progress of wealth and population in the United States. ^^

England and Prussia, two of the most thickly populated parts
of Europe, now increase at the rate of more than one per cent,
annually. But let our immigration fall away, let wars storm over
our territory from time to time, who shall say that our rate of
increase, now three per cent, annually, will, in a hundred or two
hundred years, not be at least equal to that of suffocated Eng-
land and Prussia to-day ? Call it less, or only one per cent, an-



nually after the year 2000. Even at that percentage of increase,
we should double once each hundred years. Stand on this ocean
shore. We see the curvature of a part of the surface of the sea;
we know the law of the curve. Carry on the arc which we can
measure; steady the imagination on the reason; project the ma-
jestic meridians, and bend them in and in, until they meet, eight
thousand miles beneath your feet, and you feel the globe swim
beneath you, afloat in the bosom of Omnipotence. This is the
privilege and sublime duty of exact science.

Even at the far too cautious estimate that, after the year
2000, our population will increase only one per cent, annually, or
less rapidly than that of England and Prussia to-day, and that
in the year 2000 all America now having, or soon to have, 100,-
000,000 will possess only 200,000,000 of inhabitants, we should
have in 2100, 400,000,000; in 2200, 800,000,000; in 2300, 1,600,-
000,000; in 2400, 3,200,000,000.

The capacity of the continent is supposed to be equal to the
support of 3,600,000,000.

These figures, you say, represent a peculiarly American ex-
travagance of hope. They represent German plodding. They
are the outcome of Scotch sagacity. They are justified by
haughty English condescension. It is certain that these calcu-
lations fall short of those which average German, Scottish, and
English scholarship is now making as to the future of America.
For thirty years the Encyclopaedia Britannica has summarized
the best investigation Europe has given to this topic by these
amazing words : " If the natural resources of the American con-
tinent were fully developed, it would afford sustenance to 3,600,-
000,000 of inhabitants, — a number nearly five times as great as
the entire mass of human beings now existing upon the globe!
What is even more surprising, it is not improbable that this pro-
digious population will be in existence within three, or at most
four centuries.'* I think these numbers are not wisely chosen,
but they represent the highest statistical authority. As early as
1853 the Encyclopaedia Britannica said: ^^ The great grandsons of
those now in existence may live to see the New World contain
a greater mass of civilized men than the Old.*

I am aware of but three methods of estimating the future of
our population. We may take as a standard of judgment either
the capacity of our soil, or the law of growth ascertained by our
own experience, or the law of increase exhibited by other parts


of the world. Two of these methods I have already used. But
take the last, and to what astonishing results it leads! This was
the standard employed by De Tocqueville. Europe, under the bay-
onet and the cannon wheel and the hoofs of war, charging in squad-
ron after squadron; Europe which sent half of the population of
Germany to death in the Thirty Years' War; Europe, staggering
under a thousand impediments, inherited from the Middle Ages,
and unknown and likely to remain unknown in America; Europe,
from Charlemagne to Napoleon, smitten, seared, peeled, and
sliced, has yet attained an average population of eighty inhab-
itants to the square mile. Will America have a harder fate in
the next than Europe has had in the last ten centuries? What
shall hinder all America from ultimately having as large an
average population as all Europe ? But we have fifteen millions
of square miles and Europe only three. Look forward, then, to
a population in the whole New World equal to the average of
that of Europe; that is, to twelve hundred millions.

With whatever telescope I sweep the horizon I, for one, stand
in awe. I set no dates; I seek to establish approximately no
definite numbers. I assert only that America can sustain a
larger population than Europe, Asia, and Africa taken together;
that, since it can, probably, it ultimately will; that we may ex-
pect as large an average population as Europe now possesses;
that America is, therefore, yet in its infancy; that for these im-
mense numbers of the human family we stand in trust, and that
the age, therefore, has not yet ceased to be a crisis.

It would have been worth something at Thermopylae to have
foreseen Salamis; and at Austerlitz, Sedan; and at Runnymede,
America. It would have been worth something to Paul, when
he went out of the Ostian gate to die, to have foreseen Constan-
tine and Augustine and Luther, and churches on which the sun
never sets. It would have been worth something at the parting
from Delft Haven, or among the secreted graves on Plymouth
Hill, to have foreseen the savages shut up behind the Mississippi,
and church bells mingling their murmurs with the Pacific seas.
But, undoubtedly, God's plans for the future are as majestic as
those for the past; and so it ought to be worth something now
to foresee what can be in America, and, therefore, probably will
be, and to go out far in the dark beneath the wing under which
infinities and eternities brood; for we know that the wing is there
even in the dark. ...



The American system of equality is the source of astonishing
energy, and also of audacious and unscrupulous greed. Our
greatest virtues and our greatest vices are both fostered by

<< Through spaces stretched from sea to sea,
Our Maker and our Victim she.*>

Vastness of commercial opportunities and the value of success
even in short courses tempt individuals, and especially corpora-
tions in America to unscrupulousness.

The absorption of citizens with their own exacting private
enterprises leaves law with too lax execution. The preoccupa-
tion of the good is the opportunity of the bad. Plato said that
there will be no ideal state until kings are philosophers and phi-
losophers, kings. There will be no ideal Republic until active
citizens are active Christians, and active Christians are active

Plutarch and Cicero take notice of a law of Solon which
declared every man infamous who in civil discussions continued
neutral. The able American citizen, however, except on great
occasions, is absorbed in his personal business, and leaves that of
the public to the political machine.

In America everything stimulates the will, and by no means
everything the conscience. Our national character exhibits at its
best the Anglo-Saxon strength and the Anglo-Saxon infirmity.
But the American climate is producing a Latinized American
temperament, and with the Latin temperament always goes

The magnetic pole of the world is in Boothia Felix, in the
forehead of the North American Continent. Boston and Berlin
are on the same climate line; but Berlin and Mexico are on the
same magnetic line. On the American side of the Atlantic the
auroral arch of the north rises higher and flames more intensely
in electrical storms than on the European. Between the Old
and New World is no contrast of physical conditions subtler in
its influence than that of the electric. Our dry and stimulating
climate has produced a distinctively American face, in which, as
yet, I, for one, find more acuteness than elevation, more venture-
someness than veracity. But join Latin finesse to Anglo-Saxon
daring, and you have the audacities of modem Anglo-Saxon dis-

j5q Joseph cook

The ostrich buries her thin, willful head in the sand, and
thinks her whole body covered. In circles, only half educated in
morals, but aspiring, great is the American eagle, greater is the
American peacock, and greatest is the American ostrich!

Charles Dickens wrote to his friend in England that a man
with seven heads would attract less attention in Boston than a
man who could not read and write. I wish the day to come, in
American politics and average commerce, when a man with
seven heads will attract less attention than one with seven

" There are two nations in England, '^ says Gasparin, * con-
scientious England and unscrupulous England.**

The humiliations of the American Church in the conflict witb
slavery should make forever clear the fact that, under the volun.
tary system, the vices of the powerful part of society easily
spread into the Church, and that most easy of all is the infection
of the commercial vices.

But while there are fears, there are hopes. In 1800 the pro-
portion of Church members to our whole population was as one
to fifteen; now it is as one to five.

Competition encourages pretense, and also the exposure of
pretense. In this work the higher American press, the best rep-
resentative of the American people, has earned a good name for
itself at home, and almost given the nation a bad one abroad.
Publicity, in America, is the chief penalty of meanness and \
crime, not easily visited by legal punishment. Democratic man- '
ners are not dignified; but they are tolerably transparent, whether '^
good or bad. We have carried our civilization more rapidly ',
toward the setting sun than any nation has ever done before. In '^
her settlements the question is whether a man is efficient, rather -
than whether he has blameless antecedents. Thus, standards of
judgment as to character have been made lax while we have
conquered the wilderness. Undoubtedly, when America is older,
and the land fuller, society will be more exacting, for it will cost
more to let thieves run.

The mobility of the upper and lower ranks in American so-
ciety is such that, in our great cities, the dangerous classes do
not become fixed and hereditary as in Europe. The United
States has no ignorant peasantry in its rural districts. Aspiration
marks the middle and lower orders of the American population,
and this to a degree unknown among the middle and lower

JOSEPH cook: j6i

classes in Europe, and such aspiration favors religious and all
other culture.

Church and State being separate from each other, the people
do not hate the Church for political reasons as in Europe.

The Puritan religious ideals have established their national
supremacy in a great civil war, abolishing the chief sin of the

America has left behind it, in its passage over the ocean, the
feudal system, hereditary aristocracy, primogeniture, entails, and
the Established Church.

"There is nothing- in the world, '^ said Goldwin Smith, * so
sound as American society, with its intimate union of all classes,
its general diffusion of property, its common schools, and its free

" Every American, '^ said John Stuart Mill, " is in some sense
a patriot and a person of cultivated intelligence. No such wide
diffusion of the ideas, tastes, and sentiments of educated minds
has ever been seen elsewhere or even conceived of as attainable."

" The people at large, " Aristotle wrote, " however contemptible
soever they may appear, when taken individually, are yet, when
collectively considered, not perhaps unworthy of sovereignty.
. . . The people at large are allowed to be the best judges of
music and poetry.'*

Supply follows demand in history. As in recent ages, there
has been a demand for the diffusion of liberty, property, and in-
telligence, there will be soon a demand for the diffusion of con-
scientiousness; and there will come slowly, and through much
anguish of the ages, a supply! I foresee a great day for a scien-
tific, biblical, and practical church. Wordsworth talked of an
aristocracy. It will not come. Carlyle talks of a government of
the best. It cannot be elected. Soon the Church and a true
Church will be all the hope of the world. It will save the world
by goodness and by truth; by practice and by doctrines also.

The Church needed by the American future must be scien-
tific, biblical, and practical.

It must be scientific by a reasonable theology; by the absorp-
tion of all established science; by intellectual supremacy over
rationalism; by mental primacy in literature and art; by indis-
putable authority in all philosophical research; by incisive tri-
umph over popular crudity; by the courage to think syllogistically
and on its knees and to the thirty-two points of the compass

4 — IT


It must be biblical by the spirit of the founder of Christianity;
by finding in the Holy Spirit a present Christ; by a sense that
the nations are a theocracy and our Lord the world's Lord; by
the doctrine of sin; by the doctrine of atonement; by the hope
of immortality; by a far and fixed gaze on an eternal judg-

It must be practical by carrying vital piety to every death-
bed, every hearthstone, every cradle; by enlisting all believers
in religious effort; by sleepless religious printing; by schools
saturated by devout science; by making human legislation a close
copy of natural law; by leadership in all just popular reforms;
by righteousness as a river; by every-day integrity and holiness
to the Lord, written on the bells of the horses, on bank vaults,
and on the very dust of the streets, and by making of all secu-
lar pursuits spiritual avocations.

Cromwell and Hampden were once on shipboard in England
for the purpose of coming to America for life. Their spirits
seem to stand among those of our later martyrs.

Once in the blue midnight, in my study on Beacon Hill, in
Boston, I fell into long thought as I looked out on the land and
on the sea; and passing through the gate of dreams, I saw the
angel having charge of America stand in the air, above the con-
tinent, and his wings shadowed either shore. Around him were
gathered all who at Valley Forge and at Andersonville and the
other sacred places suffered for the preservation of a virtuous
Republic; and they conversed of what was and is and is to be.
There was about the angel a multitude whom no man could
number, of all nations and kindreds and tribes and tongues; and
their voices were as the sound of many waters. And I heard
thunderings and saw lightnings; but the face of the angel was
above the brightness of the lightnings and the majesty of his
words above that of the thunders.

Then came forth before the angel three spirits whose gar-
ments were as white as the light; and I saw not their faces, but
I heard the ten thousand times ten thousand call them by names
known on earth, — Washington and Lincoln and Garfield. And
behind them stood Hampden and Tell and Miltiades and Leon-
idas and a multitude who had scars and crowns. And they said
to the angel: "We will go on earth and teach the diffusion of
liberty. We will heal America by equality.*' And the angel
said: ^^ Go. You will be efficient, but not sufficient.*


Meanwhile, under emigrant wharves, and under the hovels o£
the perishing poor, and under crowded factories, and under the
poisonous alleys of great cities, I heard, far in the subterranean
depths, the black angels laugh.

Then came forward before the angel three other spirits, whose
garments were white as the light; and I saw not their faces, but
I heard the ten thousand times ten thousand call them by names
known on earth, — Franklin and Hamilton and Irving. And be-
hind them stood Pestalozzi and Shakespeare and Bacon and Aris-
totle and a multitude who had scrolls and crowns. And they
said to the angel : " We will go on earth and teach the diffusion
of intelligence. We will heal America by knowledge,'^ and the
angel said: "Go. You will be efficient, but not sufficient.*^

Meanwhile, under emigrant wharves and crowded factories,
and under Washington, and under scheming conclaves of men
acute and unscrupulous, and under many newspaper presses, and
beneath Wall Street, and under the poisonous alleys of great
cities, I heard the black angels laugh.

Then came forward before the angel three other spirits whom
I heard the ten thousand times ten thousand call by names
known on earth, — Adams and Jefferson and Webster. And be-
hind them stood Chatham and Wilberforce and Howard and the
Roman Gracchi and a multitude who had keys and crowns.
And they said to the angel : " We will go on earth and teach
diffusion of property. We will heal America by the self-respect
of ownership.'* And the angel said, "Go. You will be efficient,
but not sufficient.**

Meanwhile under emigrant wharves and crowded factories,
and beneath Wall Street, and under the poisonous alleys of suf-
focated great cities, I heard yet the black angels laugh.

Then came, lastly, forward before the angel three other spir-
its, with garments white as the light; and I saw not their faces,
but I heard the ten thousand times ten thousand call them by
names known on earth, — Edwards and Dwight and Whitefield.
And behind them stood Wickliffe and Cranmer and Wesley and
Luther and a multitude who had harps and crowns. And they
said to the angel: "We will go on earth and teach the diffusion
of conscientiousness. We will heal America by righteousness.**
Then the angel arose, and lifted up his far-gleaming hand to the
heaven of heavens, and said: "Go. Not in the first three, but
only in all four of these leaves from the tree of life, is to be


found the healing of the nations, — the diffusion of liberty, the
diffusion of intelligence, the diffusion of property, the diffusion of
conscientiousness. You will be more than very efficient, but not

I listened, and under Plymouth Rock and the. universities
there was no sound; but under emigrant wharves and crowded
factories, and under Wall Street, and in poisonous alleys of great
cities, I heard yet the black angels laugh; but, with the laughter

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 15 of 39)