Edward Everett Hale.

We, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day online

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the governor is a king with a different name, or
the president an emperor with a different name.
I have had an officer of the English government
talking to me of Grover Cleveland, calling him
the ruler of America. Grover Cleveland was
no more the ruler of America than I am the Shah
of Persia, and he knew that perfectly well. I
have heard an intelligent scholar abuse William
McKinley for carrying out the instructions of
Congress. Fortunately for Mr. McKinley, he

[ 177]


had read the Constitution of the United States.
He knew that in the matter of war and peace
he must obey the Congress of the United
States. Simply, it is "We, the People," who are
the sovereign of America. That principle
announced itself when the five-and-twenty sur-
vivors of the Mayflower met and voted how
many stripes each of them should receive if he
were lazy, and who should be the man to admin-
ister them.

What comes of this system? We can see in
two or three concrete examples. But first let
me meet the sneer of those who say they prefer
the "government by the best," such people as
Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold, Gov. Peter
Stuyvesant, and the Emperor of Germany. "We,
the People," are very ignorant, they say. So they
are, God knows ! There is not one in a hundred
of them to whom you would give your watch
to mend. That is true, God knows ! But what
they do know is what they want. And of a
democratic government, such as they established,
the merit is this : that the majority of the people
have what they want. The minority of the
people know that the law is supported by the
stronger side. And therefore they keep the
peace. The majority want to try the experi-
ment. If it succeed, well ! and the world makes


a step forward. If it fails, what matter? We
can change it at the next session. In ten words,
here is the history of Massachusetts and her leg-
islation from Winslow's time to the American
Revolution. They tried this and that and an-
other experiment. They tried the Mosaic law,
tried bounties for iron and for salt, tried catch-
ing whales on shares, tried exiling Baptists and
hanging Quakers. If these experiments failed,
why, they failed; and that was the end of them.
If they succeeded, they succeeded; and whoever
wanted to improve upon them might improve
upon them.

A convenient instance, because it is small
enough to be studied in some detail, is the estab-
lishment of a lighthouse. Here is the right arm
of Massachusetts! It is hospitable enough to
our Pilgrims. As Mr. Edward Everett says so
finely: "The little hills rejoiced when the May-
flower approached, and the mountains clapped
their hands. The mighty God stretched out His
right arm into the Atlantic, and received the
storm-tossed Mayflower in the hollow of His
hand." Yes, hospitable to the Pilgrims in the
day-time; but, when Captain Pierce in the John
and Mary makes the coast in February, when, like
Saint Paul, he sounds and has twenty fathoms,
then sounds again and has but fifteen fathoms,

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who is to tell him which way to steer? We, the
People, build for him the lighthouse and the
headland. We, the People, light for him the
beacon fires every night. We give the friendly
warning to him at night. He shortens sail or
he puts down his helm. The sun rises. "Lo!
land! and all is well!"

And how do feudal systems welcome him?
Has he a welcome there when he returns to
England? Yes; it is the welcome of the land-
owner, who has bought from a baron, who was
the grandson of an earl, who inherited from a
pirate the privilege of lighting a beacon on a
headland at the mouth of the Mersey. And,
before Captain Pierce can enter his harbor, he
must pay a fee to the light-keeper whose master
inherits this piratical claim. But We, the Peo-
ple, know that all the people are the better be-
cause the John and Mary arrived. We, the
People, welcome her on her arrival. And, in
historical fact, the free lighthouses on the Mas-
sachusetts shore, and all our free lighthouses
which mark on the maps of heaven the ocean
shores of half a continent, have been the
object lesson of the world. They have changed
and are changing the legislation of the world.
We gently reminded the government of Den-
mark that every Danish ship entered our harbors


without the annoyance of light dues; and for
the first time in a thousand years the ships of the
world passed into the Baltic free from the taxes
at Elsinore taxes which are older than Ham-
let's time.

A good instance in a matter which sooner or
later is of importance to every man is the system,
all but universal now in the really civilized na-
tions of the world, of the registration of deeds.
Even England has entered with spirit on such a
registration. Where was the registration in-
vented? It began, almost as a matter of course,
so soon as men were really governing themselves,
were making their laws for their own use, and
were making them, therefore, as they themselves
needed. This is to say, the system began in the
Old Colony. It began, I think, when there
were not twenty thousand people in the Old
Colony. But what is good for a few is probably
good for all. The Bay Colony borrowed it
from Plymouth. All civilized America bor-
rowed it from New England. And now, wher-
ever constitutional government has gone, the
public registration of deeds has gone. So far
that little candle sheds its beams. Or so far
does that mustard seed overshadow the world.

In a pure democracy, again, which means an
independent state, free from feudal traditions,


you have the best possible chance to have all
sorts of men bring forward their best sugges-
tions. You want a Benjamin Franklin; and it
proves that a hungry, runaway apprentice fills
the bill. You need Abraham Lincoln; and he
steps out of a log cabin, and says, "Here am I."
"A man's a man," and the man does not need
to wait on the direction of baron or squire or
knight of a shire. This is what you gain when
you listen to everybody and choose the best.


A BABY is born, and is laid in a crib.
I like to use the old Saxon word, be-
cause I was laid in a crib myself when
I was a baby. A sentinel saw the light
which shone out under a crack of the stable door.
That is Mr. Domett's pretty fancy as being the
first flash of the Light which has enlightened the

A generation after the birth of the child there
had clustered round him a few personal friends,
men and women. Of these the men forsook him
and fled when he was arrested in Gethsemane.
The women stood by his grave when he died.
But, after he died, the men and women got to-


gether, and the company of them was a hundred
and twenty. We "ten times one" people like to
remember that ten times twelve is one hundred
and twenty. Not long after, the Book of Acts
says that the number of people who believed that
this was the Saviour of the world was more than
three thousand.

Three hundred years afterward Constantine
believed that a fifteenth part of the people of
his empire were Christians. Seven hundred
years after that every king in Europe told his
people that Christ was his Master and theirs.
What works this increase in the number of Chris-
tian men and women ?

Is it learning? Is it scholarship? No.

I put down the pen with which I wrote these
words to look at the best biographical dictionary
which I know, and read with some care the names
of the poets, the preachers, and theologians of
the eight centuries between lamblichus and the
First Crusade. By far the greater part of these
were what are called Christian writers. I do
not believe that in five hundred of them there are
more than six names which are known to the aver-
age college graduate or intelligent reader of our
time. I think the names of both Augustines, of
Ambrose and Abelard and Athanasius, and
Chrysostom and Saint Jerome might be known


in the circles of most intelligence. But except-
ing a few passages from Augustine and except-
ing the hymn of Te Deum and possibly one or
two other fragments in the hymn-books, there
have not been ten words which belong to those
centuries which have been read in the year 1902
by anybody outside the theological schools. Yet
here in the eleventh century was a continent the
continent of Europe in which every man,
woman, and child was united absolutely in their
determination to honor Jesus Christ. They
took a poor way to show it, if you please; but
they took a way which involved personal sacri-
fice, which led thousands of them to death away
from home.

Counting nine or ten centuries more from the
First Crusade to our time, and you come out on
what we call Christendom. The word "Chris-
tianity" is now practically the same word as the
word "civilization." Thus a law is now tested
by the question of whether it is or is not a Chris-
tian law. In face of the blunders of the ecclesi-
astics, in face of ignorance and the worship of
the letter and the idolatry of things, the name of
Jesus Christ and the "Way," as Saint Paul calls
it, of Jesus Christ govern the words and the leg-
islation and the business of the world.

Yet, once more, when you look at the intel-



lectual work of these nine or ten centuries or at
the edicts of emperors or kings, you find that
these have really literally next to nothing to do,
perhaps nothing to do, with this present sway of
Jesus Christ as the leader of men.

Two millenniums nearly have gone by since
He lived and died. He sent out twelve apostles,
one of whom broke down before his work began.
Of the other eleven, we know a little of four or
five. We know almost nothing of the rest.
Since that time, when we come to speak of men
who are worth naming in the same minute with
Saint Paul or Saint John in any list of apostles,
we find ourselves very soon at the end of our
catalogue. It will be hard to name twenty lead-
ers in twenty centuries whose public work in the
fields of intellect or in the kindred fields of gov-
ernment, even with the magic of poetry or music,
has placed them in the rank of apostles. Yet
here are millions upon millions of men, women
and children of the world, making nearly half
the people now in the world, who really belonged
to the Christian Church. They were born into
the Christian Church. The baby born in North
Street yesterday was wrapped in a Christian
blanket, cared for with Christian love and Chris-
tian science, and protected by Christian law. The
hundred pounds of coal in her mother's base-


ment were left there because Jesus Christ in-
structed the teamster to carry them.

How did this come to pass ? It came to pass,
not because Ambrose sang the "Te Deum" in
Milan, not because Saint Augustine, sitting under
a pear-tree in Africa, heard God speak to him;
not because Gregory or anybody organized the
Church; not because Godfrey of Bouillon
stormed the city of Jerusalem. All these things
helped in their little way. But here is not the
mystery of mysteries.

The world breathes more and more of the
Holy Spirit; the world lives in a larger life day
by day, because some father and mother in the
Black Forest, or by the Guadalquivir River, or
in the marshes by the Elbe, taught their little
children to say "Our Father" when they learned
enough to pray. It is because the story of the
Prodigal Son was painted with clumsy art upon
the window of this church or that. It is because
some dying soldier refused the cup of cold water
that was brought him, because the man next him
needed it more. It was because some mother,
widowed because her soldier-husband had died
in the battle of Tiberias, called her children
around her and read them the Sermon on the
Mount, and told them that in a battle on that
mountain their father had been killed, and that


in a grave on that mountain he was buried. It
is the four Gospels. It is the religion of the four
Gospels which makes the world of to-day. And
such lessons are taught to-day, when John climbs
five flights of stairs at midnight with a stove and
the petroleum which are to heat the frozen attic.
Or when, in a drifting snow-storm, the fireman
on the engine shovels coal into his furnace, so
that your children may have milk for their
breakfast to-morrow. Or when this boy or that
girl have tried the great experiment of prayer,
and found that it succeeded. Or when a lazy
boy, who had disobeyed his father, remembered
a story which he had heard about such a boy,
and went back to his father as the boy in the
story did. Such lessons are taught when some
Dorcas in this village or that dressed the
wounds of a soldier, or lighted the winter fire of
a blind beggar, or cared for a despised deserter
in a soldier's prison. The old heathen reign of
each for himself was at an end. For the dawn
though it was only the dawn of the Sun of
Righteousness was beginning to dapple in that
black sky. Each for all; not he for himself,
nor I for myself. As it proves in every life,
a world of men and women, sons and daughters
of God, find the Way of Christ, the Son of God,
the Well Beloved, is the only way, and in that
way they chose to journey.


This change, or, if you choose, this beginning
of a change, does not come on the world as the
world is instructed in intellectual facts. It comes
by contagion. Love rules the court. Love
rules the camp, because a brave man makes
others brave. A just man makes others just. A
pure woman makes others pure. A faithful
woman makes others faithful. An industrious
woman makes others industrious. A hopeful
woman makes others hope, and a loving woman
makes others love. All this is said more simply
when the Saviour says, "The kingdom of heaven
is as a grain of mustard seed." You plant your
seed, and, lo! the world is overshadowed. Or
it is said, as Isaiah tells you, of a spark in the
tinder, that because no one extinguished the
spark the whole was in a blaze. By which I
mean to say that the religion of "Our Father
who art in heaven," the religion of Jesus Christ,
quickening the lives of John and Andrew and
Paul, of Mary Magdalene and Salome and Dor-
cas, worked its way in the glad contagion of life
upon life. It is not a king and his subjects. It
is not a general and his soldiers. It is not a
teacher and his pupils. It is not command and
obedience. It is not even discipline. It is life
enlivening life, love giving birth to love, truth
compelling truth. It is fair to say, as a modern


author has said, that, while the logic of Saint
Paul has never converted one sinner, the parables
of the four Gospels have saved a world.


IT is very interesting to see that with every
year the people who live in the world think
that the year which has just gone by has
been one of the most important years in
history. The truth is that, as John Sterling said
very well,

"Nature always gives us more than all she ever takes away."

Anyway, each of us is in the middle of a world,
and what he sees with his eyes and hears with his
ears affects him much more than what he reads in
a book, than what is told by a grandfather, or the
lesson which he received from his grandmother.
The reader and I and my brothers and sisters
and the reader's father and mother see and are
seeing and will see certain things about Caracas
and the canal across the isthmus and the coal
strike and the last blizzard which none of us
see about what happened in the last month of
1802 or in the first month of 1803. So we may
well hug to ourselves the opinion, which is for
us true that the end of 1902 and the beginning
of 1903 are the most important epochs in history.



To my mind the attention called by the sailors,
the soldiers, and the statesmen of the world to
peace as provided for in the two great peace
congresses of the last ten years, is the interesting
thing that is to say, is the thing of central
interest. The flies who ride on the carriage and
think themselves very important sneer and laugh
about the great congress at The Hague and its
permanent tribunal. Indeed, as they ride along
on the carriage and suppose that they drive it,
these same buzz-about flies could not see any-
thing about the great international congress in
Mexico which bound sixteen more states to sub-
mit their differences to The Hague tribunal.
But The Hague tribunal did not take much care
whether the buzz-about flies approved or did not
approve. The Hague tribunal went to work and
did what it was told to do. And just now, when
there is real danger of battle and fighting and
death, the public do care and a few of the leaders
of the world care that there is The Hague tri-
bunal, which has been arranged by the Christian
civilization of the world for precisely such cir-
cumstances. The men of sense find them-
selves where they always find themselves. As
Mr. Wordsworth says so well,

"And through the heat of conflict keeps the law
In calmness made, and sees what he foresaw."

[ 190]


If anybody would take the trouble to read the
three Hague conventions, he will find that
they provide first that before any fighting has
been, every case at issue shall be left to the

Second, they provide that if all the parties in
the case at issue agree, the questions at issue shall
be decided by the International Tribunal. Third,
they provide the rules by which war shall be
carried on if war must be carried on at all. At
the moment when I write these lines, we are just
in a position where Mr. Roosevelt is to deter-
mine whether he which means he and his ad-
visers will act as arbitrator. He may say yes,
or he may say no. But if he determines that
the questions at issue shall be submitted to the
court appointed by the common sense of the
world, the court is ready for any such submission.



Sunday and Home


DR. PRIMROSE was travelling from
North New Padua, which is his home,
to the City of Washington. He
thought they wanted his advice in the
coal commission, but he does not travel on Sun-
day, so he stayed over Sunday in Boston. There
he learned that the commission had gone to
Scranton, so he did not hurry on his journey,
for he did not think he should have any friend
at court who would admit him into the coal
mines. And so it happened that he spent the next
Sunday in New York.

Some of us met him on Monday morning,
and we asked Dr. Primrose what he thought of
Sunday life in cities. The dear old gentleman
was not displeased, and lectured at some length
on what he should do and what he should not do
about Sunday life in such cities as Boston and
New York, if it so happened that he had abso-
lute power given to him. As he had not that
power, he could only talk about it.



First of all, he said that he thought the
Church of Rome had gone one better than most
of the Protestant churches, by its care in having
early religious services. He said that in New
York, after his breakfast, he went round at eight
o'clock to one of the largest churches that he was
ever in in his life; he found it thronged with
earnest and intelligent worshippers. He is not
a Roman Catholic himself, but as he went across
from there to attend worship in the Protestant
church, he wondered why it was that the Protes-
tant churches of New York and Boston, so far
as he observed them, were not open for worship
before half-past ten. So the dear old gentle-
man went back, and thought of the praise meet-
ing he once conducted in Montana, when the
sun was rising, where the people did not know
what religious communion they did belong to.
He remembered his own Sunday-school in North
New Padua, where two hundred and seventy-
nine boys and girls met at nine o'clock every
Sunday morning and sang praises and repeated
Psalms, and he took comfort in those recollec-
tions. Then the old gentleman forgot that he
was discussing a great question about which the
ecclesiastics find it hard to come to a conclusion,
but he fell to talking about some things which
they do in North New Padua which interested
me, and I wrote them down.


Among other things, he said he had in
his parish a club, or society, of twenty young girls,
some of whom were twelve years old and some
of them were seventeen. It seemed they were
bound by their compact not to live for what is
called self-improvement or self-culture, but to
be of some use to other people. And as they
went and came, they had, half in joke at first,
but afterward in earnest, adopted a grand-
mother, and then they adopted another grand-
mother, and at the moment Dr. Primrose was
talking they had adopted six grandmothers.
This meant that in the country town like North
New Padua Alice coaxed papa to let her have
the carryall and Old White Face, and drove up
to grandmother's and took grandmother to ride.
Or Bertha carried up some cake and ice cream
from her mother's party of the night before.
Or Clara carried up a bunch of chrysanthemums
from her mother's garden. In each case, the
grandmother was a poor old woman who lived
two or three miles away from the village, and
if these nice girls had not kept her life bright
it would have been very stupid.

Dr. Primrose said that as he went and came
in his passage, he wondered how many of the
famous clubs in Boston were engaged in that sort
of work on a Sunday afternoon, and whether it

[ 197]


would not be as well if the Sunday-school teach-
ers, after they had explained the first chapter of
the Gospel according to Saint John, had quick-
ened the girls into some way by which they could
spend two or three hours of an afternoon in tak-
ing care of a grandmother perhaps, in visiting
that poor girl who burned her hand with kero-
sene last week, or in translating a letter for the
Frenchman who wanted to know what had be-
come of his brother's property. He said he
thought that if on Sunday afternoon people
could not make just the excuses they make on
other days, they could get acquainted themselves
with all sorts and conditions of men. Then
they all fell to talking about the supposed separa-
tion between business and religion, and Dr.
Primrose made a revelation about the condition
of affairs in North New Padua which made one
ask whether some similar arrangement could not
be made in New York and Boston. He said
that the people of his church were well in the
habit in that northeast section of Aroostook
County of going to two religious services every
Sunday. They had what they called a Nooning
House just outside the church. It was a cabin,
half logs, half slabs, where the women had a
cup of strong green tea, baked beans, and cold
pork with bread and butter. Now in this Noon-


ing House one hundred and fifty people spent a
part of the two hours between the services; but
there was a good hour which was not spent in
tea drinking. And the men and the women who
had any heads had got into the habit of meeting
there to talk over village affairs; whatever there
was in the life of the village that needed atten-
tion, like the planting of new trees, the laying of
water mains, or the drainage down at the com-
mon; what should be done with those French
Canadians, whether there was any danger of fire
when people burned their brush in the autumn.
This came to be a habit with the North New
Padua people; it was a sort of informal town
meeting once a week, which would straighten
things out which would otherwise have been left

It was clear enough that as the old gen-
tleman had made a sort of apostolic walk
through Boston streets, it had occurred to him
that if one hundred and fifty of the better men
of the ward, with one hundred and fifty of the
better women, could be got together on Sunday
afternoon, with a sort of conversational discus-
sion about the needs of the wards, the political
leaders would have to come to it, and the doctors
would have to come to it, and the cranks in gen-
eral would have to come to it, and some of the

[ 199]


reformers of society would come to it. He
thought that in New York or Boston a hun-
dred such meetings in a hundred local centres
would be a good occupation of the hour between
four and five o'clock Sunday afternoon. But I
would not let him talk about this. I prodded
him up to know what we had better do in New
York and Boston on Sunday evening. The old

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Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 10 of 15)