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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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 20 of 39)
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the Council of York, which demanded the execution of Strafford
and the King, and which always held to the ** Petition of Right '*
as a palladium of English liberty ? Where is that spirit of par-
liamentary courage which arrested the attempt of the King upon
the Commons when he strove to suppress Wentworth and to
arrest Hampden, Pym, Hollis, Hasselrig, and Strode for high
treason, because they spoke for the great charter — the Petition
of Right and the privileges of the Commons ? Where is the Pur-
itan nerve and spirit which resisted the attempt of the King
when he came to the Commons to demand the five members,
with his guard of pensioners and tories, exclaiming that he
would not break their privileges, but that treason had no privi-
lege ? He found his birds had flown, and retreated ignominiously
from the Commons, saluted with the cry, " Privilege ! privilege ! **
This was at a time, too, when the ax hung over the heads of
outspoken Puritans.

I would not derogate from the Puritan character nor unduly
exalt it. It has been said that the Puritans who came to this
country had not the heroism of those who remained at home to


fight for freedom against the King. It is known that many of
them became more intolerant here than their persecutors had
been in England. It is not for me to praise their burning of
witches, their persecution of Catholics, their cutting out the
tongues of Quakers, and their exile of the Baptists. Nor would
it be proper to refer to their trade in slaves or their treatment
of the Indians. Enough remains of the history of the Puritans of
New England during the many years preceding our own Revolu-
tion to show that the spirit of Pym, Hampden, and Wentworth
was instinct and alive in the Warrens, Adamses, and Hancocks
of our elder day. But, alas, how have their descendants degen-
erated! They cannot read the history of these their own test
oaths placed on our statute by them, even on " Revision,'^ and
the laws for the use of the army to control civil affairs and
override by force local rights, without a blush. They were not
merely the passive instruments of their enactment and execution,
but the active instruments as well.

When Macaulay describes the Puritans of old England as
<' looking down upon the rich and the eloquent, upon nobles and
upon priests, with contempt, esteeming themselves rich in a
more enduring treasure, and eloquent in a more sublime lan-
guage — nobles by the right of an earlier creation, and priests
by the imposition of a mightier hand,'^ could he have dreamed
that out of a civil war in this land this domineering element, so
proud and great, would fall so far as to keep on the statute tests,
pains, and penalties which France, Turkey, Russia, and even
Asiatic and African barbarians would be ashamed to defend ?

Thus, when we follow this quasi- Puritan of this latter day,
we find nothing of heroism to worship. It is like going into the
old Egyptian temples; its priests are of grave aspect; its porticos
and vestibules and groves beautiful; its walls resplendent with
paintings, gems, silver, and amber; its adyta shaded with gold;
but its god is a cat, a crocodile, or serpent, rolling upon purple
coverlets. What history has not been written, what poems not
sung, in praise of the heroic Puritan element, yet how ignoble
their descendants seem when their proscription and bigotry are

One of the peculiar features of the Ironclad is that it com-
pels a person to swear that while he is taking the oath he is not
forswearing himself, i. e., that he has no mental reservations, that
he is playing no sleights with his conscience, no thimblerig with


words; or, in other words, he is sworn that while he is swearing
he is not lying! I have here an illustration of a peculiar mode
of swearing. It is an oath which reserves so many conditions
and qualifications that it nullifies itself. Carlton publishes it of
one of his Celtic characters. Being urged by his good priest to
take a pledge against intemperance, the affiant went to the
schoolmaster of his village and had the following drawn: —

Oath against liquor made by me, Cornelius O'Flaherty, philomath,
on behalf of Misther Peter Connell, of the Cross-Roads, merchant, on
one part, and of the soul of Mrs. Ellish Connell, now in purgatory,
merchantess, on the other.

I solemnly, and meritoriously, and soberly swear that a single
tumbler of whisky punch shall not cross my lips during the twenty-
four hours of the day, barring twelve, the locality of which is as fol-
loweth: —

Imprimis — Two tumblers at home 2

Secundo — Two more ditto at my son Dan's 2

Tertio — Two more ditto behind my own garden 2

Quarto — One ditto at the Reverend Father Mulcahy's i

Quinto — Two more ditto at Frank M'CarroU's, of Kilclay ... 2

Sexto — One ditto wid ould Bartle Gorman, of Cargah i

Septimo — Two more ditto wid honest Roger M'Gaugy, of Nurchasey 2


N. B. — I except in case any docthor of physic might think it right and
medical to ordher me more for my health; or in case I could get Father Mul-
cahy to take the oath off of me for a start, at a wedding, or a christening, or
at any other meeting of friends where there's drink. [Applause and laughter.]

I do not know whether Congressmen would make these ex-
tensive reservations. [Laughter.] How would it affect my col-
league [Mr. Chittenden] from the City of Churches? [Laughter.]
He is our swearing member. [Laughter.] He could not take
this oath after his orthodox apology. [Laughter.]

Gentlemen here know how recruits were sworn, and how they
were prepared for the battles of the Republic, No customhouse
officer ever administered a stressless oath with more haste and
nonchalance than do some of our courts. Who feels their bind-
ing force ? Who is not shocked by the irreverence and frivolity ?
When the captain of the Pinafore, in a hasty fit of temper, says
" damme,** the chorus of good sailors is horrified. The burlesque
is equally applicable to other oaths. Such trivial and frequent


swearing is no swearing at all; and by extremes, it comes near
the Bible command, ^^ Swear not at all. *^ They remind one of
the man who was swearing loudly to Hercules. His companion
said: ^^ Do not call so loud or the god may hear you.^* [Laugh-
ter.] Our statutes groan with oaths at every page, and, like the
ghost in Hamlet, moan: "Swear! Swear! ^* They should evan-
ish with the dawn. Governments condemn thugs, carbonari, ku-
klux, nihilists, and secret societies generally, for their mystic
oaths. Let government set an example and abolish the custom.
The wisest writers, like Bentham, hold them repugnant to the
Christian religion. He wonders why, under such a religion,
oaths should be so common. The answer is not complimentary
to our civilization. In earlier days society was cemented by
oaths. Liberty was assured, as in Switzerland, by an oath. Pa-
triotism, perhaps, is nerved and obligations sanctified by it, when
the bonds of society become loose and require tightening. But
now what a farce is this constant swearing! . . .

I doubt if all the oaths ever recorded in sacred or classic
lore, or propounded in any land, for political, religious, judicial,
martial, or festive purposes; whether for jurors, witnesses, or
officials; whether at customhouses or at marriage rites; whether
to suspected patriots or supposed traitors; from Noah, who took
the first oath, down to the cloud of investigation committee wit-
nesses, can compare for one moment with what is known as our
" Ironclad Oath ^* for the ridiculousness and variety of its applica-
tion. There is one exception; and that, too, is in our country.
It is to be found in the Missouri constitution made by the Re-
publicans just before the end of the war.

That oath illustrates that there are some laws and some men
who defy the everlasting order and congruity of things to carry
out their grudges. It is enough to damn the party which made
it to an eternity of infamy. Luckily the Supreme Court of the
United States cut it up by the roots. Although it remained five
years to blot the organic law of a great and growing State, and
although its provisions again and again were used to give a
small minority of the people of Missouri the ruling power, yet at
last its authors hid from public execration, and the oath was
stamped out by the decision of Mr. Justice Stephen J. Field, in
an opinion which adds to his fame as an enlightened and liberal-
minded jurist.


The decision was made in the case of Cummings versus The
State of Missouri, 4 Wallace, page 277. The plaintifE was a
Catholic priest. He was indicted and convicted of the crime of
teaching and preaching the Christian religion without having first
taken the oath required by the amended constitution of April
1865. He was fined $500. Refusing to pay it, he was commit-
ted to jail, and, like St. Paul, would not come out until by due
process of the law which placed him there.

The Supreme Court of Missouri had the effrontery and ignor-
ance to confirm that judgment. That oath was divided into
more than thirty distinct tests. Some of the tests were never
even offenses by the laws of the State, and some of them were
not even blameworthy, but grew out of charity and affection.
The affiant was required on oath to affirm not only that he had
never been in armed hostility to the United States, but never by
act or word manifested his adherence to the enemy or his desire
or sympathy with those in rebellion, and had never harbored or
aided or countenanced any person so engaged, and had never
come into or left Missouri to avoid enrollment or draft or to
escape his duty in the military service of the United States or
the militia of the State, and had never indicated in any terms
his disaffection.

Those who could not or did not take this *'oath of loyalty,*
as it was called, within sixty days, were ousted from office, if in;
and incapacitated from holding office, if out. They were debarred
from all kinds of offices, even of corporations, pubHc and private;
they could not be supervisors, or even teachers of schools, nor
hold real estate or property of any kind, in trust for any purpose.
All such offices of trust became ipso facto vacant on the failure
to take this many-headed, many-clawed oath. Nor could any one
practice law, or be bishop, priest, deacon, elder, or other clergy-
man of any religious sect; neither could he teach, preach, or
solemnize marriages. This oath is without precedent in history.
This oath is without semblance among gods, prophets, saints,
soldiers, men, women, or devils, and yet it remained five years!
Besides, it required the fiat of our Supreme Court to tear it from
the body-politic of Missouri.

The fourteenth section contained the penalty in which Cum-
mings was amerced, as well as another penalty for false swear-
ing. These were the devil-fish tentacula, grappling the people of
4 — 14


Missouri, while toiling in the caverns of doubt and despair. In
England and France the old test oaths which were so odious
were limited to an opposition of the predominant government or
religion. Their oath was directed against overt acts of hostility.
It never reached the humiliation of punishing men for their
heart-throbs and kinship.

Judge Field placed his heel upon this oath as if it were a
viper. He found it not only to be in every sense a bill of at-
tainder, but an ex post facto law. It was a law which imposed
a punishment for an act not punishable at the time it Vv'^as com-
mitted. He held that a deprivation of such offices and duties in
life was in all senses a punishment, nor was it less a punishment
because a way of escape from it was opened by an oath.

Well did those vile bigots of Missouri understand that whole
classes would be unable to take the oath prescribed, and thereby
become incapable of jury or any other duty to society or to the
State. Hence, comforted and protected by the proscriptive big-
otry and hate of Congress, with its ** Ironclad, ^^ they disfranchised
the majority of the State.

How was this law — if it were a law — executed? Certainly it
was not in the ordinary sense a law. It had not the excuse of
legfislative inconsiderate haste. It was in the fundamental consti-
tution of a great State. It had not even the flimsy excuse of
Protestant bigotry against the Catholic faith. In some counties
Methodists as well as Catholics were indicted, tried, and convicted
for preaching Christ's gospel of love; because, like Richard Bax-
ter, they would not commit perjury or conform to the oath.
These men had been preaching for years; but no amount of
work in the vineyard of the Lord saved them from the remorse-
less clutch of these self-righteous loyal Pharisees. True, this
constitutional clause was not directed against the body. It did
not use torture, rack, and thumbscrew. It was a radical ukase
against the sacred conscience of men — a torture of the soul — a
devilish plot against the ministrations of all religions and the
teachings of all classes of mind. It was worse than barbaric.

In the recent wars of Europe the red-cross flag of Geneva
upon the white ground of charity gave immunity to those who
cared for the sick. It alleviated suffering and saved life. It
earned the blessings and gratitude of all. It gave laws of kind-
ness to war. But this infamous oath which stopped the physician


in his round of duty to the sick and dying-, and the priest in his
consolations, and that under the pressure of an oath to Almighty
God, would have hauled down the red cross of Geneva. When it
did not imprison the clergyman in his home, it did worse; it
consigned him to the common jail. It was worse than the * five-
mile act ^* of Episcopal bigotry against the Dissenters.

How was it executed ? Let one instance illustrate. The rad-
ical ghouls of Cape Girardeau County, under this law, indicted
the Sisters of Charity who taught in a convent. Three of these
angels of mercy were dragged into court several times, indicted,
and tried; and even the foreman of the grand jury sent his own
child to the convent to be taught, so as to get proof of the
teaching and so as to convict. They had not taken the oath.
In their case, however, public opinion revolted, and the Titus
Oateses of Missouri hid their heads for a time from public opin-
ion, but not until they left for us lessons of their proscriptive
meanness which, in degenerating from the days of Pym and
Hampden, Baxter and De Foe, left imperishable evidence of their
unfitness to live as generous co-workers for good in human so-
ciety. Ah, if those Sisters of Charity and Mercy, the Florence
Nightingales of our conflict, have passed from earth and found
their beatitudes in the yonder azure sheen, where they walk
white-handed in celestial light, singing the praises of the good
Savior they served here among men, — with what pitying eye do
they look down upon the foolish and spiteful human craftiness
which sought to break the blessed utility and unity of their lives
by relentless persecution. Language has no vehicle of expres-
sion, the mind no idea, fit to tell the burning shame which should
blister forever the cowardice and cruelty of a test so odious and
hateful. [Applause. ]

Sergeant Talfourd in his * Ion * exquisitely describes the sol-
ace and comfort of those who by benevolent endeavor mold their
lives into benevolence: —

«'Tis a little thing
To give a cup of water; yet its draught
Of cool refreshment, drained by fevered lips,
May give a shock of pleasure to the frame
More exquisite than when nectarean juice
Renews the life of joy in happiest hours.


It is a little thing to speak a phrase

Of common comfort which by daily use

Has almost lost its sense ; yet on the ear

Of him who thought to die unmourned 'twill fall

Like choicest music. '^

But these radical constitution-makers and executors of infa-
mous statutes would arrest and imprison the Sisters of Charity
who have gladdened our sad world by their merciful ministra-
tions. The names of this sisterhood are not sounded by the
brazen trumpets of publicity, nor mingled with the notes of sec-
tarian discord; but they are found on the criminal records of
radical Missouri — the disgrace of our generation. [Applause.]

What execrations are not due to those who persecuted these
loving laborers. From the earliest centuries after Christ when
the noble Roman lady, Paula, took up her residence in Bethle-
hem to care for and comfort the sick; from the time she ^4aid
their pillows aright,* as the old chronicle tells us, and felt that
the less service she did to the sick the less she did to God; from
the time of this first sister of mercy down to our day, when the
kind S<£urs HospitaWeres of France, Beguines of Flanders, and
the Sisters of Elizabeth in Germany, in their black gowns and
white hoods, their complacent sweetness and holy living, gave
to the striken their self-devotion so nobly illustrated by Florence
Nightingale and her company of noble women, whose only prayer
was to go where suffering and perils were greater, no one ever
dared to lay secular or rude hands upon this sisterhood.

It was to have been hoped that, at the close of our Civil War,
when the bugles had sounded the long truce, and war-broken sol-
diers were left stranded in the hospitals, there was no one in
human shape who would be so regardless of those gentle and
superior beings of the other sex — who had shown such self-
abnegation — as to persecute them as outlaws of society. Had
they not bent over the wounded and sick ^* when pain and an-
guish wrung the brow," and whispered low the words of peace,
patience, and divine hope, while smoothing the pillow and hold-
ing the cup to the parched lip ? Had they not aided the healing
power with moral cheerfulness, and by their softening and puri-
fying presence given good impulses and holy thoughts to the
sick and dying ? Why, even the Robespierres and Dantons and
the very devils of the French Reign of Terror respected this


sisterhood. They were recalled by a special decree of the repub-
lic, which recited their boundless love and charity; and their
faithful head, Citoyenne Duleau, was given new authority to
practice that beautiful vocation, — as described in * Lucille,* — the
poetical counterpart of Florence Nightingale: —

"The mission of genius on earth! To uplift,
Purify, and confirm by its own gracious gift
The world, in despite of the world's dull endeavor
To degrade, and drag down, and oppose it forever.
The mission of genius : to watch, and to wait.
To renew, redeem, and to regenerate.'*

But had this sisterhood lived in Missouri and given their fac-
ile sympathy and good offices to the wounded rebels, fine and im-
prisonment would have been their punishment. The very fiends
of the Reign of Terror put to shame these bigots of our day
and generation! Spenser tells the story of three brothers; when
one died he did not go to join Pluto's grizzly band, but his spirit
entered into his brother, and when that brother died the joint
spirit entered into the survivor. The. Republicans of this Con-
gress seem to have inherited the spirit of their brother radicals
of Missouri. How long will they live ?

(Peroration of the Speech of July 3d, 1879, in the House of Representatives)

Mr. Speaker: —

IT MAY be a fancy, but I sometimes think that the loftiest and
purest thoughts come down to us from the mountain.

" But in the mountains we do feel our faith.
All things responsive to the writing there
Breathed immortality, revolving life,
And greatness still revolving; infinite;
There littleness was not; the least of things
Seemed infinite.**

I hope it may not be presuming to say, Mr. Speaker, that I
have been something of a traveler, and have been upon many
mountains of our star. I would that my observations had been
better utilized for duty. I have been upon the Atlas, whose



giant shoulders were fabled to have upheld the globe. I have
learned from there, that even to Northern Africa the Goths
brought their fueros or bills of right, with their arms, from the
cold forests of the North to the sunny plains and rugged mount-
ains of that old granary of the Roman world. I have been
amid the Alps, where the spirit of Tell and liberty is always
tempered with mercy, and whose mountains are a monument
through a thousand of years of republican generosity. I have
been among the Sierras of Spain, where the patriot Riego —
whose hymn is the Marseillaise of the Peninsula — was hunted
after he had saved constitutional liberty and favored amnesty to
all, — the noblest examplar of patriotism since the days of Brutus.
From the seven hills of Rome, down through the corridors of
time, comes the story which Cicero relates from Thucydides;
that a brazen monument was erected by the Thebans to cele-
brate their victory over the Lacedaemonians, but it was regarded
as a memento of civil discord, and the trophy was abolished, be-
cause it was not fitting that any record should remain of the
conflict between Greek and Greek. From the same throne or
ancient power, come the words which command only commemor-
ation of foreign conquests and not of domestic calamities; and
that Rome, with her imperial grace, believed that it was wisest
to erect a bridge of gold, that civil insurgents should pass back
to their allegiance. From the Acropolis at Athens, there is the
story of the herald at the Olympic games, who announced the
clemency of Rome to the conquered, who had long been sub-
jected to the privations and calamities imposed by the conqueror.
The historian says that the Greeks, when the herald announced
such unexpected deliverance, wept for joy at the grace which
had been bestowed.

All these are but subordinate lights around the central light,
which came from the mountain whence the great sermon was
spoken. Its name is unknown; its locality has no geography.
All we know is that it was ^^set apart. ^^

The mountains of our Scriptures are full of inspiration for
our guidance. Their teachings may well be carried into our po-
litical ethics. But it was not from Ararat, which lifted its head
first above the flood and received the dove with its olive branch;
not from Sinai, which looks proudly upon three nations and
almost three countries and overlooks our kind with its grea-j
moral code; not from Horeb, where Jehovah with his fearful


hand covered his face that man might not look upon his bright-
ness; not from Tabor, where the great transformation was en-
acted; not from Pisgah, where Moses made his farewell to the
people he had delivered and led so long; not from Carmel, where
the prayer of Elijah was answered in fire; not from Lebanon,
whose cedars were the beauty of the earth; not from the Mount
of Olives, which saw the agony of the Savior; not from Calvary,
at whose great tragedy nature shuddered and the heavens were
covered with gloom; not from one or all of these secular or
sacred mountains that our best teaching for duty comes. It
comes from that nameless mountain, set apart, because from it
emanated the great and benignant truths of him who spake
as never man spake, [Applause.] Here is the sublime teaching:

* Ye have heard in the aforetime, that it hath been said, Thou shalt
love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.

* But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse
you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despite-
fully use you and persecute you.

« That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven :
for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send
eth rain on the just and on the unjust. ^^

The spirit of this teaching has no hospitality for test oaths,
and asks no compensation for grace. [Applause.] Along with
this teaching and to the same good end, are the teachings of his-
tory, patriotism, chivalry, and even economic selfishness. Yet
these teachers are often blind guides to duty. They are but
mole-hills compared with the lofty mountain whose spiritual
grandeur brings peace, order, and civilization!

When these principles obtain in our hearts, then our legisla-
tion will conform to them. When they do obtain their hold in
these halls, there will arise a brilliant day-star for America.
When they do obtain recognition, we may hail a new advent of

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 20 of 39)