Edward Everett Hale.

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

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what they mean when they say "God is," "God
is here," "God is now." Men know what they
mean when they say: "The kingdom of God is
at hand." Philosophy, poetry and science have
vied with each other in proclaiming the imma-
nent presence of God: that God is on our side;



that He works with us, and we with Him. We
share His omnipotence when we choose, as we
share His eternity. For man knows now (what
he said he knew before) that he is a child of
God, who can enter into His harvest-field and
can work with Him. When half the people of
the world cry out in their daily prayer, "Give ue
our daily bread," God bids His children answer
the prayer. His child ploughs the prairie, and
God sends the sunshine. God melts the snow on
the mountains and His child distributes it in fit
channels through the arid plains. They work
together, and together they lay the rails and
build the engine. Together they lay the keel of
the steamship ; together they drive her across the
seas. Humbly and proudly the child repeats his
elder brother's word: "My Father worketh and
I work." And as some poor old widow in the
Grampians thanks God to-night for the bread
which a farmer's boy in Dakota has sent to her,
the Infinite Father of the widow and boy is well
pleased. Faith, Hope, and Love the three in-
finite attributes which man, the child, inherits
from God the Father these have wrought the
victory of omnipotence. The promises of in-
finite love are fulfilled.

Now, what are you going to do about it?


That is the question of Commencement Day. I
have a right to say, it is the only question.

All these young men and women, with diplo-
mas which say that they have attained here in
Columbus the best education their country knows
how to give ! They know they are children of
God as well. They can be partakers, if they
will, of the divine nature. They sway the moral
forces. They can borrow omnipotence, because
they are God's children. What shall they do?

I believe there are five central visible duties
before the century.

How I wish that the men and women I ad-
dress would select from the five yes, before
this day is done each of them, the special duty
of these threescore years opening before them

Of the five hundred colleges of America, how
I wish that each young American who graduates
this year would make the like grand decision !

How good a thing it would be if at Harvard,
at Yale, at Columbia, and Princeton in the East ;
if here in the centre of the empire, at this univer-
sity, at Ann Arbor, at Madison, at Minneapolis,
and at St. Louis; if far on the Pacific slope at
the Pacific University in Salem, at Berkeley Uni-
versity, at the Leland Stanford University, the
thousands of young men and young women who



are to graduate this summer would tell us this
year what is their high determination; and if at
the smaller colleges, at Berea, at Oberlin, at the
college at Liberty Four Corners, at the college
at Cranford Centre, at whatever institution of
learning they are permitted to send men and
women forth, with the privilege publice praele-
gendi, or publice profitendi; if in five hundred
colleges of this land, twenty thousand young men
and women all pledged themselves to one or
another of the five great duties now before the
world. I could wish that at each of the five
hundred colleges some chamberlain, some master
of ceremonies, were ready with five sets of
badges which should distinguish these decisions.
If we had here upon the stage badges of white,
badges of blue, badges of gold, badges of
crimson, badges of purple, the wearing of
which should to-morrow distinguish those who
had to-day chosen each one duty as a special
duty, from those who had chosen another ! Per-
haps some gracious lady connected with the gov-
ernment of Ohio, connected with the Cabinet at
Washington, perhaps the wife of a president,
or the daughter of a governor, would herself
pin the badge upon the breast of the young aspi-
rant. How good a thing it would be to-morrow
if as one went across half a continent in the train,



among the thirty or forty young men or young
women whom he would see around him at every
station or in every car, he could tell which duty
of the five this young man had chosen, which
duty this charming woman had chosen, that it
should be their life work; as Saint Mark said he
would carry the Gospel to Egypt, as Saint An-
drew said he would carry the Gospel to Parthia,
as Saint Thomas said he would carry the Gospel
to India, if we here had given last year to high
thought and study as to the want of the twentieth
century, and in the ceremony of to-day, in noble
rivalry, we presented ourselves as belonging to
this legion or that of God's great army.

"I am for the engineers, I am for the infantry,
I am for the artillery, I am for the cavalry, or
I am for the pioneers."

Whether we have a badge or not, whether
we divide the ribbons or no, it is for all of you
when you "commence" to make the great deci-

What, then, are the five largest enterprises
for the century? I mean, what are the visible
enterprises in which the whole world is engaged ?
What can we do to answer the Saviour's prayer
"That they all may be one?"

I take it for granted that every one who hears
me wishes to extend over the world these glad



tidings: "I am a child of God. I am glad of it,
and I mean that the rest of the world shall know
that they are His children." If there is anybody
here who is interested only in himself, "What
is good for me?" "What can I save?" he had
better take his hat now and leave our festivities.
Let him pursue those studies of A by himself A;
Me by myself Me; I by myself I, on the loneliest
desert which is left between New Mexico and
Arizona. He who stays is here for another
motive: "All for each, and each for all." We
have prayed God this morning that His kingdom
may come; that His will may be done on earth as
it is in heaven. And this prayer was not a
matter of the tongue; it is a matter of life. We
are partners with him in that business. Because
this is so, his world must be one. Paul says it
is of one blood. We say it is to be one world.

If we are all to be one, we must know each
other; we must be able to put ourselves, every
man in the other fellow's place; we must bear
each other's burdens.

Paraguay must not say to Canada, "I have
no need of thee." Nor again must Cape Col-
ony say to Sweden, "I have no need of thee."
The world's life is to be a common life. Races
and nations must come to look each other in the


And we cannot say this now. There are
brave exceptions; but, all in all, on the whole,
nations do not look each other in the face. It
would be even fair to say that great races turn
their backs upon each other. I could ride to-day
in our own country three hundred miles through
the richest land in the world, where I should not
see twenty people all told in ten hours. And
yet I return to Boston to take the oversight there,
as a working minister, of many a street where a
thousand people are living on one acre of land.

Although we have made a real advance in the
last hundred years, our present system is still
antiquated and semi-barbarous. One would like
to know now, how Hengist and Horsa took their
Saxons across from the mouth of the Elbe to
England. One would like to know how the
"Mayflower" was fitted for the voyage, and how
the hundred and one passengers of eternal
fame were packed away in her berths and state-
rooms. Every year five hundred thousand men,
women, and children are brought across the
Atlantic from Europe to America. And one
asks why do they cross the ocean to come to
America ? Half Asia is vacant, and there is the
magnificent country unimproved between the
Ural Mountains and the Pacific. Why is it that
Russian peasants, to be counted in tens of thou-



sands, are working their way westward to the
United States?

With the well - nigh perfect opportunities
which nature gives to the work of men on the
waters of the Paraguay and the Uruguay and the
La Plata, why is it that no Abraham plants his
tent there? Or, take our own domain; why is
it that, as I said, in the southern wards of Boston,
or of New York, so many people are crowded
together on an acre, while within five hundred
miles of the great Mississippi you may ride for
an hour without seeing the smoke of a chimney
or a stack of hay, in the most fertile regions of
God's earth?

It is because we have thus far confined our
triumphs in the union of climates and of nations
to a few sections of the world, and have left the
rest outside in the cold. What Europe needs,
cursed as she is by the remnants of feudalism,
is an open passage for her people to regions
where every man shall hold his farm in fee-sim-
ple, and where freedom shall breed the sort of
men and women whom freedom always raises.
And, therefore, one solution of our immediate
problem will come when the crowded hordes of
northern Chinamen, who are at this moment
starving because they are crowded, shall have
easy access to those fertile, wheat-raising regions


which are now empty in Asiatic Russia. Those
regions are worthless now, as all land is worth-
less where there are no men.

To open this statement a little more into de-
tail, the three great physical enterprises of the
next quarter century are to be : One railway line,
at least, from St. Petersburg eastward to the
Pacific, equipped for the cheapest and best travel.
At once, to speak of our present facilities, these
lines should be of four tracks of the heaviest
metal, provided with convenient trains for the
transportation of men and women who are
moving to their new homes, of their cattle
and "stuff," as the Bible says.

With all the facilities for commercial inter-
change, the hordes of Europe must retrace the
steps of Tamerlane and Attila, and the march
of empire must face eastward. The same thing
is to be said of the railway lines from Cairo to
the Cape, and probably from Tunis and Tripoli
to the Cape, that the men and women of the
tribes of Central Africa may know what the rest
of the world is and what it is doing. Then
these miserable, bitter feuds which are disgracing
England and the world to-day in the South Afri-
can colonies shall be overruled by the larger civ-
ilization of the united world. And these two
are simple analogies or prototypes of what



America needs, and will have, in that great line
of railway which is to run from Quebec at least
to the northern limit of Patagonia. Probably
within the life of those who are now hearing me,
its engines will be even farther south. They
will be snorting on the bluffs above the straits
of Magellan, and the passengers will be looking
across those straits to the land of fire.

These are the three physical enterprises for
the world, for all mankind. Now, for our own
country, there is the great necessity, which is
indeed the test of whether we be a Christian
people or no. Can the United States so outlive
the bitter prejudices of barbarism as to overrule,
as to overawe, the hatred of race against race?
Can the dominant white race of the United
States of America lift up and renew and strength-
en the subject race, the vassal race of negroes?

Can it find out what the diplomatists call the
modus vivendi for the little handful of the red
race, the men whom it found scattered about,
all but lost in these forests and valleys, when
we came here ? And can it interpret the Gospel
of God so as to know how to deal with those
millions upon millions of the Asiatic races who
look across the Pacific eastward, who came across
the Pacific eastward a thousand years ago, and
which have scratched the surface of the inhab-



ited continent? White men, black men, red men
and yellow men will the twentieth century know
how here between the Atlantic and the Pacific
these four races shall live and move and have
their being in one nation?

And to begin with, how shall we bridge the
gulf of fire, how shall we bring the superior
white race and the black race, still our inferior,
into accord ? I do not say how shall their voices
rise in unison, but I do say how shall their lives
unite in harmony?

This for young America is one of the great
problems. Does young America ask how young
America shall use its power? For what end
shall it borrow from God His omnipotence?

I need not say more of the infinite moral
power with which you and I are to attach these
duties. The nineteenth century has taught the
world its lesson : the lesson that every man might
have learned in the first century. You and I
are children of God, and we know we are. We
share Hisnature when we choose His infinite pow-
er, and we know that. We can proclaim these
glad tidings; the century has taught us that. If
we choose I And for such omnipotence as He
lends us we have such work at our hands work
which may be finished while men and women live
to whom I am speaking. If the young men and


young women choose, who enter upon life in this
blessed 1901, those feuds of race will be at an
end which frighten godless men to-day. With
one mission and for one great end no less than
the reign of God upon the earth the strong
races and the weak races of America will live and
move and have their being as one.

Our Anglo-Saxon blood will assert itself in
the life of a united people, in its passion for
freedom and its devotion to law. The Celtic
and Latin races will instil into the whole nation
their quickness of perception, their subtleties of
thought, the old Roman secret of victory, and
the old Greek love of beauty. The African
race, as thousands of years have proved, has its
special contributions to the harmony of the
whole in tenderness, in affection, in arts of
expression which the whole requires. And if
what are left of the red men can teach the toil-
worn Saxon that the most elegant mansion is
a prison compared with the blue arch of the tem-
ple of God, why, he will teach him something
which the poor Saxon sadly needs to-day.

In such work, the first steps are already taken
in the schools at Manassas, at Calhoun, at Snow
Hill, and fifty other such places, and on a larger
scale at your own Xenia, at Fisk University,
at Atlanta, at Tulane, and, most distinguished


of all, at Tuskegee and at Hampton. As one
visits these schools, as one talks with the prophet
pioneers who carry them on, he shares the pil-
grim life of Bradford and Brewster. He under-
stands the thrill in the veins of Martin and of
Judson. He goes into the wilderness as St.
Bernard went with the twelve apostles who
made modern Europe. Had not Bernard
and his men created Clairvaux, in the
Valley of Wormwood, France would not be
France to-day, nor England England, nor Amer-
ica America. We should not be here, but that
such Christian fanatics gave themselves to the
work of civilizing western Europe.

It is with such enthusiasm, with such devotion
to the establishment of the kingdom of God
among all the races of America, that those of
you will pledge yourselves who consecrate your
lives to the duty, infinite in all its relations, which
I have described.

Here are four of the great duties from which
young America selects, each woman her own,
each man his own. First, there are the three
physical necessities, which shall relieve the crowd-
ed wildernesses, and carry their people to the
fertile deserts. Then, for us young Americans
there is the great enterprise, moral, physical and
spiritual, by which the great American races shall



live together in harmony. "That they may all
be one, as thou, Father, with me, and I with thee,
that they may all be perfected in one."

You have anticipated me in the immediate
thought, that all this requires permanent peace
among the nations of the world. This must be
the great determination which includes and is
necessary for the other four.

As the forty-five States of America make up
the United States, because they submit their dif-
ferences to one Supreme Court, so the fifty-one
great nations of the world must submit their dif-
ferences to one permanent tribunal. All our
proposals for harmony of races, for international
emigration, for international commerce, are vain
if these fifty-one nations are to continue the fol-
lies which have lasted for sixteen hundred years,
since the great peace of the early Christian cen-

I do not think that the world chooses to remem-
ber, as it might, that from the time of Trajan
for two hundred years all the world of which
we know anything was at peace. "No war nor
battle sound was heard the world around." I
do not think the world chooses to remember that
to that period of peace, in what men call the
Roman Empire, we owe the civilization of to-
day. I should not have this coat on my back,



I should not have this linen that is in my shirt,
we should not have this bread which is upon our
tables, but for the protracted peace of these
reigns of Aurelius and the Antonines. It was
then that the flax of Italy worked its way into
the desert wastes of Britain, of Sweden, and of
Gaul. It was then that the peach-trees of Persia
seeded themselves in the gardens around Paris.
It was then that the barbarian Celts and Teutons
and Iberians heard the voice of the Gospel.

It was then that civilization, as we call civili-
zation, was born. What those two centuries of
peace then wrought for Europe, Asia, and north-
ern Africa, this victory multiplied a thousand-
fold is to be the victory of the age of peace if
the twentieth century chooses to take for itself
that honor.

And so it is that the enterprise of enterprises
which sums up all the other four is the duty and
privilege before the young man and young
woman of the world to-day, of bringing in the
reign of peace among the nations. The armor
of chivalry, whether offensive or defensive, has
been sent back to the museums and the stage of
the opera; and the armor of Greece and Rome,
whether offensive or defensive, is also only mat-
ter of curious study of the past. Even the naval
armor, whether offensive or defensive, of our



Civil War, is now matter of yesterday studied
only as a curiosity by your admirals and mid-
shipmen. Just so in the new century must all
this military machinery be laid by as a matter
of past history. They say the people of Mars
have been able to open magnificent watercourses
which unite their Arctic with their Antarctic
zones for the irrigation of their torrid deserts.
They do this simply because in Mars they do not
know what war is. There nation does not draw
sword against nation. And so our civil engi-
neers of to-day assure us that the burden with
which Europe alone oppressed herself in the last
year for ships and cannon and powder and shot
and soldiers makes a treasure which will build
the great railway lines of Europe, Africa, and
America ; it will complete them and equip them,
and it will do the same thing again if it were
necessary. The demand for bloodshed of one
single year is more than enough to fulfil all the
greatest requests of peace for a century.

There is no place in America where one says
this with the pleasurable feeling with which I
speak now, standing where I stand. It is im-
possible not to remember here who was the first
Christian man who ever stood on American soil.
When we speak of the Gospel of Glad Tidings,
the Gospel of Peace, the Gospel of Jesus Christ,


planted as a seed from the Garden of Paradise,
from which was to spring the tree which should
overshadow this western continent, one remem-
bers that October morning when the "Santa
Maria Saint Mary, "the Mother of Christ"
came to anchor and lowered a boat. With the
first rays of the sun the stout oarsmen pulled her
to the beach. From the bow there sprang to
the new-blessed, happy land, Christopher, he
who bears Christ, he who bears the Gospel.
And standing here, one remembers that his other
name was Columbus.

For me this memory is all twined in with
another memory. I remember that three years
ago, when the Emperor of Russia, the command-
er of the largest armies in the world, proposed
permanent peace to the nations of the world, it
was the city of Columbus, fitly named, which
first publicly welcomed that dove of peace and
recognized its message. One day in August,
1898, the minister of the First Congregational
Church of Columbus read from his pulpit the
peace manifesto of the Czar of Russia. At his
motion, the First Congregational Church of
Columbus sent to Emperor Nicholas its approval
of his design, its sympathy with his motive, and
promised co-operation in his effort. There is
no nobler or finer incident in history. A Con-



gregational church is the best visible type of the
purest democracy. And here it joins hands with
him who is the accepted type of autocratic rule.
It is said, I believe truly, that this expression of
democratic sympathy was the first official
response which the Emperor received to his pro-
posal. You know that the church received at
once from him the expression of his cordial grat-

I know that this city had earned its honorable
place on the page already as the capital of the
Empire State. But I am so far a prophet that
I venture to say that the poets and prophets of
the future will name that August day as the cen-
tral day in your celebrations. It is the day in
which this city, true to democracy, looking far
into the future, reading well the past, confirms
its right to its great name. He who bears Christ
in His arms, He who proclaims the gospel of
glad tidings, He gives you His name. And for
a motto this :





IT is Commencement Day. Well named!
For you really begin on life the day of

Do you remember the fine cartoon in
Punch, where Bismarck, the pilot, passes down
the ship's gangway to the sea, and the young
Emperor, who is to take command, waves his
hand of good-by to him?

You shake hands to-day with your Bismarcks
here, and you take command, each woman of
her own vessel, not even a frigate yet, nor a
launch, far less a ship of the line, only a canoe,

But "it is your own," as Touchstone says in
the play.

You have passed your last examination. You
have written your last thesis. Yes, young
women, and the vacation which begins this after-
noon is your last vacation. Once on the ocean
of life there are no more vacations for conscien-
tious men and women.

Up to this time there has been the contrast
between what Oxford calls "Town and Gown."

*An address delivered at Smith College, Northampton,



"There's some of them college girls." That
has been your title, as you pass a group of news-
boys or bootblacks in the street. And you know
better than I do, what are the select phrases by
which Smith College designates the denizens of
the town. Let one hope that you do not speak
of the people as cavalierly as Shakspere does,
as if they were the dregs of the town described
by Sallust.

In an old novel, forgotten before any of you
were born, five seniors are talking together the
day before Commencement, and Horace says to
the other four:

"We have had the best education our country can afford,
and at the end of our four years we are smoking and
laughing, with no more idea what we can do with the
best education our country can afford than we had the
first day we saw each other."

I am, naturally, the only person living who
remembers these words, and that is because I
wrote them. Now, I am fancying that some of
you are in the condition of Horace of my story.
From the fortunate position of a graduate of
sixty-three years' standing I have the advantage
that I look now upon the other side of the canvas.
I am not going to give advice to any one. But
I can bring together some observations which
I have made in these two generations which you


ought to bear in mind, as you answer Horace's

What is the place in American life which
those men and women ought to take who have
had the best training America can give, as you
have? Let me say in passing, that I hope you
are all to live in America. Indeed, if there are

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Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 13 of 15)