Edward Everett Hale.

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

. (page 14 of 15)
Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 14 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

any who do not, my word is not for them. They
may leave the hall now, so far as I am concerned.
I once asked a Middletown boy, in the Wesley-
an University, what became of the student who
was not in a Greek letter society. "Oh, God
be with him !" was his prompt reply.

Reverently and gladly we will make the same
prayer for those who are forced to live in any
feudal nation. We who are more fortunate will
consider what are the daily duties of well-educa-
ted men and women in America.

Do not make the mistake, then, which almost
all foreigners make of supposing that you work
in a nation of feudal classes. Dr. McCosh once
came over to our Exeter, to our old academy
there, and told those open-mouthed and wonder-
ing Yankee boys that the educated men of Amer-
ica are to be the "Aristocracy of America," a
kind of House of Lords without coronets.
Absolutely ignorant of America and what her
"classes" classes! are. Every now and then


we see the same nonsense in a newspaper, always
written by some imported pen, whose poor prat-
tling has escaped the midnight blue pencil of the
better informed night editor in charge. Such
prattle only echoes the notion of all the Euro-
pean writers, who suppose that the great major-
ity of people work only as oxen work, with their
dead muscle and weight, and that only a little
superior handful well, "you know, like you and
me, you know" only we who bring mind or
spirit to the control of matter. This notion, in
America, is all wrong.

Let me say in passing that if we used the two
words "labor" and "work" carefully, as the
Bible uses them, we should greatly clear away
all this nonsense. In good English "labor"
always means what its Latin root means that
which wears away, that which fatigues. On the
other hand, "work" means what its root means
the sway of spirit over dead matter. Only man
and beast and things labor. God works. It
would be irreverent to speak of God as a "labor-
er." It was only by a carelessness in translation
that men were once spoken of as "fellow laborers
with God." In the revised version of the New
Testament we are "fellow workmen," as we
should have been always.

"How is the engine going, Mr. Engineer?"


"She labors badly, sir," or "She works well."
At death "men cease from their labors, and
their works do follow them."

To use these accurate and convenient defini-
tions, the unskilled people, the drudges, the
"laborers," the groundlings of Shakspere's wit,
make only a little more than three per cent of
our population less than eleven per cent of the
active force of working America. Count in all
the unintelligent hands on farms in New York
and New England ; count in street laborers, steve-
dores, sewer and gas pipe diggers ; count in wash-
erwomen and floor scrubbers, and you have not
eleven per cent of the human forces. The other
eighty-nine per cent are not drudges, they are
not people who hire out their muscle. They are
work men and work women. They use their
minds. They use mind and soul to control
matter. And when you hear some demagogue,
ranting before an audience more intelligent than
he is, say that he also is a "laboring man" that
he labors in his office for their good you know
that he does not know the language he is using.
"Two men I honor," says Carlyle, in a famous
passage, "and no third. First, the toil-worn
craftsman." Yes, it is the craftsman who leads
modern life, the man who applies mind to
handle matter. And the craftsman is an "edu-


cated man" as much as you are. He is a child
of God, as you are; at work with God, as you
are; using the godly powers, as you do.

Remember, as you go about your life work
after Commencement Day, that eighty-nine per
cent of the men and women with whom you
have to work are in this way your fellows, your
mates, your comrades. You are all in one com-
mon enterprise creating, as God creates, sub-
duing the world, as God sent you to subdue it,
each in his own place, "a fellow-workman with

The first lesson of life, of course, one which
need not be dwelt upon here and now, is that
every one shall live in the open air all he can.
Next to this and above all other rules is this
great necessity of which I have been speaking
that you keep up your comradeship with the
other workmen; all for each, and each for all.

Apart from the moral and spiritual quickening
which a man gains from this intercourse with
such mankind, and which he cannot gain with-
out it, the experience of the race proves that
there are experiments which can only be tried
by all the people, and results which the people
only can attain. As dear Garfield, the good
President, said, "All the people know more than
any one of the people." This is due to what



the philosophers call the law of selection. A
colony of the people land on Plymouth Rock.
Year by year their legislatures meet. They try
their experiments. Each man who has a plan
proposes it urges it. If it seems sensible, it
is tried. How if it fails? Why! it fails and is
forgotten. If it succeeds ah, then ! you count
one on the great tally sheet. That little State
gains one step, and, in the end, the world gains a
step by the great experiment. Because you gave
each man a chance to say what was in him, you
made this step. Because you highly resolved
that you would have no inglorious Miltons nor
village Hampdens.

Wrong fails because it is wrong. The wrongs,
the untruths, are inconsistent with each other.
They clash against each other and confute each
other. They neutralize each other and are lost.
Only the truths are consistent; they arrange
themselves in one system, and under that system
the State moves forward as God would have it.
Thus it is, that if you give time enough, and
a fair opportunity to each and all, in the long
run you have a right to say with reverence, and
with the confidence bred of reverence, that "The
voice of the people is the voice of God !"

This means that there is no success for any
one if he try to live for himself and by himself.



He must live in the common life, or he dies.
He must enjoy with the joy of others; he must
sorrow in their sorrows. If he is a student, he
must, so far as he can, study with them; and
what he has acquired, he must, so far as he can,
teach them. In all true literature and science,
there are no secret medicines or private paths.
Everything is really patent. Noblesse oblige,
and what a man discovers, he ^-covers. He
opens it for the universal good. All this was
perfectly stated by St. Paul when he declared
that we must bear each other's burdens, and,
in that noble illustration of which he is so fond,
declared with very passionate exclamation that
while we are many members, we are but one

The class of scholars, or "clerks," as feudal-
ism called them, has the knack it is nothing
more of putting things. But unless men can
observe, unless they can wring from Nature her
secrets, unless they have something to tell, how
useless are their nominatives and their predicates,
their subjunctives and optatives. Do not say
anything unless you have something to say.
That is the great rule. And the gift and genius
of America have been and are, that she shall so
scatter the priceless gifts of such institutions as
this, that all men shall be observers; and on the


other hand, that all the observers can express
themselves. When the clerks and the other
workmen do not join in hand, nothing goes well.
Of course you will be engaged in education.
You may be principal of a college or not. In
either case you are educating the young men and
women of America. If one of the graduates
of Amherst yonder is running a railway line
through a village of North Dakota, he is edu-
cating the boys and girls who run after him, to
wonder at his theodolite, to thank him for his
courtesy and to question as to his purpose. If
you are underdraining a piece of tillage land in
the Aroostook Valley, you are educating every
half-breed, or Canadian, or Italian who lays the
pipe or watches the flow of the water. For
aught I know one of you is going to be married
to-morrow morning and is going up to the newly
built log cabin there to establish her new home.
From the wedding present which your uncle
Horace gave you you have picked out ten good
dollars, which you have spent for seeds, bulbs,
and a little hoe of your own and a rake of your
own. As you carry on your pretty garden on
the south side of the house, you are educating
everybody within ten miles of you, and this means
that you are educating the rulers of this land.
According as you welcome them at the door,



according as you speak with them at the pro-
vision shop, you are forming the public opinion
of this land. That is, you are educating the
rulers of this land. You are forming the public
opinion before which all mere officers of admin-
istration bow. For these men are not to be
drudges always. Their children are not to be
drudges or helots or slaves to toil. Higher and
higher, larger and broader, are to be their lives.
It is you who are to lift them. You are to en-
large them. You are training the American

And the American people is the sovereign of

There shall be no upper class in education,
and no lower. God and His world are for every-
body. John Adams said that every one in his
State shall have a liberal education. What he
said of his State shall be true of the nation. It
shall be true of everybody.

How shall we train our Prince? To love his land,
Love justice and love honor. For them both
He girds himself and serves her, nothing loath,
Although against a host in arms he stand.
Ruling himself, the world he may command.
Trained to serve her in honor and in truth,
Baby and boy and in his lusty youth
He finds archangels' strength on either hand.



The best the land can teach him, he shall know;
The best the land can teach him, he shall see;
Trace all the footsteps where his fathers trod,
See all of beauty that the world can show,
And how it is that Freedom makes men free,
And how such Freemen come to love their God.

Wherever the people are, the scholar must be
also, if he is to carry on this work. D'Artagnan
and Aramis and Quentin Durward had to go
to Paris, to the capital, to seek their sovereigns,
if they would serve the State. But, with us,
the sovereign is working in the mines of Lake
Superior. The sovereign is herding cattle in
Colorado, he is feeding the world from the wheat
plains of Dakota. The empire of this country
is not in the hands of the large cities, though the
writers in the large cities try to think so and to
make you think so. It is in the hands of those large
country towns, where the best men lead the town
and direct its education, its local government,
and give tone and courage to its people towns
without rings, towns not governed by bar-rooms.
It is the men from these towns who are pushed
forward into important public life, and loyally
sustained by the American people. Emigrants
from Europe, still blinded by European preju-
dices, settle in clans in our large cities, and are
led blindly by other men. But the American
people is still true to that enthusiasm for local




government which so surprised De Tocqueville,
and which, to this hour, not one foreign writer
in ten understands. Find for me the States or
parts of States which, on the whole, direct the
American policy in her public affairs, and you
find the States or parts of States which are under
the empire, not of the few large cities of Amer-
ica, but of her numerous smaller cities and towns.
Literally, it does not matter, for the sway that
you are to have over the next half century,
whether you go to the wilderness of Lake Su-
perior or to the most crowded ward in New
York. A leader is a leader. If you have in you
the stuff of which leaders are made, you will lead.
That is, if you rely on the Idea; if you make
yourself an ally of the Almighty, speak His word
and do His deed, you will, of course, take place
and authority among men.

So much for the question, Where?

As to the question, When you shall take this
direction, there is never but one answer Now.
To-day. Now is the accepted time. I trust
that your four years at college are not to be
flung away like an old garment. I think you
have just whetted your appetite in literature, in
art, in science, in philosophy. As Paul Jones
said, you are just ready to begin. You are not
to stay here longer. No. But you are to go

[ 270 ]


on in just those studies which please you most,
with the freedom of womanhood joined to the
training of youth, and to carry them on, in one
direction or another, until you die. You are,
I trust, enthusiastic about Alma Mater. I hope
you are always going to say that Smith College
is the best college in the world. Do not be sat-
isfied with saying so. Show it, wherever you go.
Show what a woman of liberal education is by
the eagerness with which you pursue that educa-
tion. Any woman of you can secure, and ought,
two hours a day for generous reading and study.
And no man or woman needs more to keep up
bravely and well the line of education which he
has selected for his own. Make it your duty,
then, to carry, wherever you go be it to the
ranch, be it to the mill town, be it to the busy
city the thoroughness, even the elegancies, of
this college. Why, Bernard civilized western
Europe by sending out from Clairvaux two hun-
dred and fifty swarms of educated men, who
made two hundred and fifty other centres of
faith and of knowledge in countries then bar-
barous. More than this is in the power, nay,
more than this is to be the future, of Smith
College in the next thirty years.

Thus, it is the duty of every one of you to
level up from the first moment the public edu-
[271 ]


cation of the place where you shall live. The
village school, the high school, the county acad-
emy or college, the public library, these live and
grow, or starve and die, according as you deter-
mine you and those others who have received
what you have received from the lavish love of
the State and of the nation. We have all seen
what we call ideal communities, where effort in
this line has been crowned. One comes to a
village of Friends, sometimes of the people
called Quakers where there was never a pauper,
where every child receives what we call a high
school education, where to every family the pub-
lic library supplies the last and best in literature.
And this is possible everywhere. One need not
be on the board of supervisors to do it. I met,
the other day, a learned judge, who told me that
for more than twenty years he had met every
winter, in his own library, once a week, a club
of his neighbors men and women who came,
and came gladly, that he might guide them in
the study of history. "And all those people,"
said he, laughing, "there are three or four hun-
dred of them now scattered over the world; they
all know what to read, and how to read it."
You see that village is another place because that
one man lived there. Yet there is only one man
who chose to make himself so far an apostle to


carry forward the light which his Alma Mater
had kindled.

Or consider for a moment how the great
national pulpit might be improved, that pulpit
to which ten men listen for one who sits in
church or chapel on Sunday. I mean the daily
and weekly press of the land. If every man
and woman of liberal culture, in any humblest
village of the land, saw it was their part and
privilege to hold up the hands of the spirited
printer who has carried into the wilderness a
few pounds of type, who prints the legal notices
and advertisements of the country stores. What
folly to hold back from him and ridicule him!
What a chance, if you will only make friends
with him and help him! He does not want to
make a bad newspaper. He wants it to be as
good as the London Spectator. What gradu-
ate does not want the same thing ! What might
not the local press be, if the educated people of
this country came loyally and regularly to the
duty and privilege, I do not say of making it
the mouthpiece of their convenience, but the
educator and enlivener of the community in
which they live ! Do not let such a prophet be
undeserving of honor in his own home.

Such victories are possible to him or her who
accepts the great alliance, who in the phrase of



Paul, the omnipotent sage, is willing to be a fel-
low workman together with God. That man,
that woman, in accepting the universe, takes infi-
nite power as an ally. For this, this apostle of
the highest manhood and womanhood keeps
himself pure. The wisdom that is from above
is first pure. And it is the pure in heart who
see God, and they only. Character is the foun-
dation stone on which this City of God is to be
built; and you build as of straw and stubble if
that foundation is not first laid !

You spring from men whose hearts and lives were pure,
Their eye was single, and their walk was sure.
See that their children's children in their day
May bless such fathers' fathers when they pray.

"Who is sufficient for these things?" Does
any one ask that question in a certain tone of
despair? Here is the answer. Every child of
God is sufficient for them, because she shares
her Father's almightiness. Every daughter of
the King is sufficient for them. For such a
woman is the infinite child of an infinite God.
It is in His love in which she loves. It is with
His strength that she moves. It is His life in
which she lives. And she uses this consecrated
life, not for herself, but for all whom she sees
or hears ; for all who see her or hear her. Fellow



workmen, as St. Paul says so well, together with

For this does America train the women of
America as well as she knows how. If her
soldiers go to war, the women of America do
their part in relieving the sufferings of armies
and bringing in the reign of peace. America
receives every year at her seaports half a million
of the starving and naked of every race, every
country and every faith. The women of Amer-
ica have more to do than the men in welcoming
those exiles. How often it falls to them to feed
the hungry, to clothe the naked, to bring good
tidings to those who are cast down more than
any others, to teach the ignorant and to give life
to the dying! No one who is not a stark fool
speaks of a woman's education as finished. No !
Every day is a new Commencement Day, as such
women forget the things that are behind as
they stretch forward to the things that are

Each hand is trained every day to more deft
handiwork. Each eye is trained each day to
keener distinction of color, each day the memory
is schooled to more accurate recollection. The
reason is trained to judgment of truth more sure.
The body is controlled and the mind by the
living child of a loving Father.

[275 1


She lives and moves and has her being in her

There needs but one caution for an enterprise
so grand. It is a caution for the handling of
this mind, of whose achievements we are so proud,
as we should be. Even the mind, queen-like and
imperial, is beneath your own control, if you
choose early to assert that control. It shall not
think of mean things or bad things unless you
permit it. You are its mistress ! No ! And
for this control, the first direction is that of the
practical and sensible, but always enthusiastic
St. Paul: "Let no one think of himself," and
Paul adds with a certain humor which never
leaves him long, "more highly than he ought to
think." Here is a condition which to most of
us leaves the range of thinking which is per-
mitted on a plane ludicrously low.

Of which disease the remedy also is offered
by the same physician: "Let a man think sober-
ly," he says; and in another place, "Whatsoever
things are pure, whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things
are lovely, whatsoever things are of good re-
port, if there be any virtue or if there be any
praise, think on these things." Now this in-
struction is practical; not meant for rhetoric or
poetry, but as a direction for an intelligent man



to pursue in the conduct of life. You can keep
impure thoughts out of your mind by thinking
of that which is pure. You can keep yourself
out of your mind by thinking of other people.
And, to train the mind in generous and large
thought, so that it may not fall back to mean
thought and small, is the most important duty
you have in this part of life, which has to do
with making ready your weapons.

The creation of such character is the object
and result of all true education, of all bodily
training, of all mental discipline, of all spiritual
exercises. Or, to say all in one word, it bids
you offer yourselves wholly, body, soul, and
mind, to your GOD.

Does this seem a pulpit phrase next to noth-
ing because ecclesiastical? It means this: Do
not separate your religion from the rest of life,
but soak your life in your religion, and your
religion in your life. You ought not to be able
to separate the two. You are not God's child
on Sunday and a child of the world on Monday.
You are God's child all the time. It is not
God's law which you obey when you eat the
bread of communion, and the world's law which
you obey when you give your order to the baker.
It is all God's law; and you can make the one
duty as sacred as the other. You can sit at the



piano and practise your scales humbly, patiently,
and with the same steady determination with
which an archangel goes about his duty. You
can do it to the glory of God. God is pleased
when you make the endeavor. You can take
your baby brother to ride. You can lift his
carriage gently over the curbstone, you can meet
the perplexities of that care as truly as Uriel
met his perplexities when he stood before the
sun to keep watch and ward. The charge may
be as true, as pure, and as grand.

To make this world a temple, as we make
life a joy this is the effort for you and me. To
glorify common care, that daily duty may be
divine this is the beginning, the middle, and
the end.


WHEN I was a boy, there was a very
edifying and entertaining book,
called "The Book of Trades."
Mine had a red morocco cover,
but for us boys its value was much more in the
inside than in the color of the outside.

The book really told you how hatters made
hats, how shoemakers made shoes, how printers
set type and printed books, and went into similar


details for all the callings of men. And if you
read a story-book, the "virtuous Frank" or the
"good Harry" went into a real blacksmith shop
and saw a real blacksmith make a real horseshoe
and nail it upon the hoof of a real horse.

Such were the methods of a hundred years
ago. They were the methods in England,
whose modest hack writers wrote the children's
books of that day; and they were the methods
of America, which imported those children's
books. For in those days the American boy
knew about bullfinches and robin redbreasts, and
nobody taught him that there were such realities
as mocking-birds and orioles.

All this is changed. A man who made mil-
lions by his mechanical inventions, a man whose
inventions have changed the daily life of every
American, told me that he had asked fifty boys
what handiwork they would prefer; and that, in
every instance, the boy replied that he would like
to be a plumber. The curious truth was that
plumbing was the only mechanical art which
these boys, trained in our modern life, had seen
in practice. The average boy of to-day cannot
go into a blacksmith shop, he cannot go into a
carpenter shop, he cannot see a printer at his
work; we do such things in another fashion now.
We do them on a scale quite too large to admit



of "virtuous Harrys" or "thoughtful Franks"
walking in and conversing with the "operative."
And with the movements which change a work-
man into an "operative" many other changes

What I want to talk about is the condition of
the workman now, as he advances in years. The
hatter in the picture, or the "joiner" in the pic-
ture, or even the weaver, was of more or less
use in the last years of his life. He need not
stand so many hours a day in making his hats,

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14

Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 14 of 15)