Edward Everett Hale.

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

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the calculations on their shirt cuffs, they found
out that this was true. For we tax every man
in Massachusetts with a poll tax of $2 a year.

We begin when he is eighteen. By the time
he is seventy he has paid fifty-two times multi-
plied by two dollars into the treasury of the
State of Massachusetts, that is, $104.

If anybody who is fond of calculation will
work up the compound interest on these fifty-two
payments, he will find to this man's credit there
is a great deal more than $104.

Anybody who studies the laws of mortality
will find out that of one hundred men who began
to pay their poll tax in the year 1850 only about
fifteen men are alive in 1902.

Those who are alive may have credited to
them, for their life-insurance money, all the taxes
which have been paid by the other.

Once more, Massachusetts people have a sort
of passion for moving away, and when they are
seventy, if they are in this world, they turn up
in Hawaii, or in Tokio, or in the diamond dig-
gings of South Africa, or at Auckland in New

Massachusetts does not propose to pay their
old-age pensions there, and all that they have
paid into her State treasury, with all its accumu-


lations at compound interest, can be credited to
the fund of the old gentlemen who are still here.

My life-insurance friends began to listen to
me when I got as far as this. And when they
went home they took these truths in their pipes
for smoking, and so they found out that this
was no almsgiving which we propose when we
talk of old-age settlements.

It is simply returning to men what each re-
quires for befriending the Commonwealth in the
days when Massachusetts was not as strong as it
is now.

They did not know it, perhaps, but they were
paying money to a larger insurance company
than any which has been separately incorporated,
and the name of that company is the Common-
wealth of Massachusetts.


I HAD the pleasure of making the first ad-
dress before the Forum, as Mr. George
Litchfield calls the Sunday afternoon as-
sembly which is to consider from the peo-
ple's point of view the conditions of social order,
not so much historically as prophetically. That
is to say, the Forum seems to exist for the pur-
pose of seeing how Boston can be made a better

[ 137]


Boston, and Massachusetts a better Massachu-
setts. Mr. Benjamin F. Mills directed a similar
meeting at the Parker Memorial in the year when
he was with us here in Boston. The new Forum
is to hold its meetings in Morgan Chapel, and
Morgan Chapel could not be better introduced
into the public of its neighborhood than by thus
lending itself to the public spirit of those who
are interested in social improvement. What
the Forum hopes for and offers is an opportunity
for men and women to speak who take a real
interest in the improvement of our social life,
and who can discuss together the methods for
its improvement.

We had a very interesting assembly at the
opening meeting of people who are in earnest
in the various proposals for the improvement of
life, as the new century looks forward. I had
been asked to make the opening address; and I
selected the subject, intricate and difficult at the
best, of "Municipal Ownership." I prepared
myself as well as I could to speak, and had the
careful and thoughtful attention of an intelligent

I am not writing with the least feeling of
complaint. But it was interesting to me to ob-
serve that in the speeches which followed mine,
all of them by persons who spoke extremely well,


hardly any allusion, if any, was made to the sub-
ject assigned for the meeting of the day. We
had a charming poem on the life work of the
Saviour. We had a very interesting temperance
appeal, and we had a good statement of the po-
sition of women in the matter of universal suf-
rrage. We had a petition for the relaxation of
the tariff on coal. But the one subject of the
time, which was scarcely alluded to by any one
but myself, was the subject assigned for the
meeting. This omission was not unnatural in
the first meeting, particularly in a meeting or
assembly which is all but pledged not to give
itself over to the cut-and-dried methods of politi-
cal causes. I only allude to this circumstance
because it illustrates the difficulty of all such

I have lived to see a dozen such attempts in
Boston which have failed, and I am very desirous
that the Forum shall not fail in the same way.
If a railroad company should call its stockhold-
ers together to consider whether they would or
would not build a branch railroad, and they
should give the whole time to the consideration
of new patents for engines and new fuel, and the
discussion of the change of the old road-bed,
whether in stockholders' meetings or directors'
meetings, why, that railroad company would go


to the dogs, and that very soon. There is not
a legislative meeting in the country which does
not hold their speakers very strictly on any occa-
sion to the subject which is before the house.

If anybody cares anything about history, the
failure of the French Revolution at its very
opening was due to the fact that the States Gen-
eral and the National Assembly declined to gov-
ern themselves by such rules. Everybody who
wanted to speak spoke ; and he spoke about any-
thing that interested him. The consequence
was that the National Assembly went to its own
place, and one looks back upon its history with
little more than regret.

Now, if the Forum will highly determine, at
an early meeting, that at successive meetings it
will stick to the text of each, it will elevate itself
above the plane of many such organizations as
have gone before it, and have gone where the
French National Assembly went.

There are plenty of subjects where the people
interested can bring forward very curious infor-
mation, and where great objects will really be
set forward by careful discussion. It will be
an excellent thing, for instance, if a dozen fathers
and mothers of children now in the public
schools would tell us how far the children profit
by what they are taught, and where the failures



are, as they appear to parents. We hear a good
deal said about the absence of moral instruction
or moral education in the schools. I have never
seen anywhere any statement by ten persons as
to how much their children gained or how much
they lost, from the effect, moral or immoral, of
the public schools. Is an intermingling of all
classes injurious or not injurious? Is it possible
or not to introduce on Saturday afternoons the
religious teachers of the several churches for
the religious instruction of the pupils in those
schools? That was the system in the State of
New York for many years. It has been a good
deal discussed by people who had no children.
What was really thought of it, or what is
thought of it now by people who have chil-

Perhaps I may venture on another piece of
advice. The Forum will find that just in pro-
portion as it has people speak who know what
they are talking about, just in that proportion
will its meetings meet the popular need. I said
one day to a person high in rank in the public
eye that I observed with interest such and such
a statement on a very important matter of social
economy. It had been made by my friend in a
large public assembly. I asked what was the
authority for this valuable statement, and she



said in reply, "Oh, did I not see it in a news-
paper somewhere?" Now it is that sort of talk
which brings public meetings into the contempt
with which they are held even in republican
communities. It has come round to this: that
the public thinks that men, and, still more,
women, say things from the platform which they
would not say if they were testifying in court.
The impression has gained ground that talking
to Buncombe is one thing and talking as a person
with responsibilities of government upon him is
another. If at the present moment one could
get the real statement of fact which twenty-five
thoughtful leaders of Boston could give us as
to what is called Sunday closing in Boston, that
statement would be of the very first value. But
it is a statement which must be made by persons
personally acquainted with the results of the
present legislation, and persons who know what
is and what is not the custom of the police, by
persons who know what appears at the municipal
courts on Monday mornings. And one has to
confess rather sadly that, if a public meeting
were called at Faneuil Hall to consider such a
proposal as that just now made in the city of
New York, we should have very few facts
brought to us. We should have the theories
brought to us of bad people and good people.



But we should leave the meeting with little more
information than we had when it began.

Our friends of the Daily Argus and the Daily
Thunderer will say at this point that a vigilant
press with its thousand eyes, which see every-
thing, gives all the necessary information on such
subjects. Like every other practical reader, I
have to observe with regret that this is exactly
what the Argus-eyed press does not choose to do.

On the other hand, my newspaper to-day
quotes with approbation Jules Verne's witty
statement, that the historical novel will die out
in the next half century because the daily press
will have taken its place so completely. The
editor does not see the humor of the expression,
nor its bitter satire. The statement of a leading
New York journalist corroborates exactly Mr.
Jules Verne's bon mot. "Newspapers," said he,
"are not meant for history."


WHEN poor Judge Sewall hanged the
witches, and when Governor
Phipps slapped the sea-captain in
the face, Massachusetts was a clus-
ter of little towns hugging the shore of an ocean
which even seamen did not like to cross in winter.



As the frosts cut down the corn, and the ground
began to freeze, the people of these hamlets had
less and less to think about and to talk about.
We must not blame them too much if they looked
in when they should have looked out; no, nor
if they went crazy in consequence of their count-
ing their own heart-throbs, inquiring about their
own sins, or studying the action of their own

A careful and wise observer of New England
life, in the first half of the last century, used to
say that the missionary movement which began
with Judson's enthusiasm should be gratefully
remembered by us here, not simply for the good
it did in India, but by its enlargement of our life
at home. It was a good thing to have a map
of India or of Asia Minor hang up in the back
part of the pulpit. It was a good thing then,
and it is a good thing now, to have people's eyes
and ears and hearts and hands occupied by some-
thing larger than their own working machinery.
The historian of the century cannot fail to see
that, side by side with such interest in other lands
thus exited, there came in the healthy gospel of
self-forgetfulness. Boy or girl learned what the
Saviour meant when He rebuked the selfishness
of those who were satisfied in trying to save their
own lives. It would not be dangerous to say

[ 144]


that the A. B. C. F. M. has done more in this
way to uplift the religion of America than its
must successful apostles have done to uplift the
followers of Buddha.

Who reads thoughtfully the sad story of the
victims of the witchcraft madness does not won-
der that a few hundred people went mad. The
wonder is rather that they did not all go mad.
The fishing fleet came in from the Banks, and
the boats were dismantled. No winter fishing
then. Heavy snowstorms banked up the high-
ways, and communication was cut off, perhaps,
even between village and village. An "arrival"
from Ipswich brought Salem several days later
news from that hamlet, as an "arrival" in Bos-
ton used to bring us the news of Europe. When
people came together on Sundays, the oracle in
the pulpit delivered a melancholy and oppressive
message. They all deserved to be damned,
were damned, in short. There was but a chance
that a few of them might escape on the raft of
which he told them. Every man and woman
was thus set on the torture of self-examination.

"There is a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I His, or am I not?"

Who can wonder if one or another of the


poor creatures came out in the belief that they
were sold to the devil, and confessed that they
were, even to the preachers who had told them
so already?

I like to contrast such introspection, which one
would call "damnable" if that word were toler-
ated in good society, with an experience of my
own in travelling in the less settled parts of our
country. I met an intelligent stranger, who did
not even tell me her name. She had a right to
speak to me, because of the public errand which
I had in hand. Would I make an appointment
with her? which, of course, I was glad to do.
I had professional experience enough to guess
that she wanted to gain my advice on some mat-
ter of self-discipline advice which it would be
my duty, indeed my privilege, to give.

So I withdrew from the group with whom I
was, so soon as I might, to accompany her on a
walk in which she might open her question to

So soon as we were out of the ear-shot of
others she proposed her question.

What did I think was the most important
result in history of the fall of Constantinople in
1453? This was the question.

I think the story is worth repeating for the
illustration it gives of the larger life of to-day.


I have had the curiosity, as I write, to look in
the census at the population of the hamlet in
which she lived. There were within the range
of forty square miles only one thousand and
ninety-six persons of all ages and conditions.
Yes. But in that forty square miles there were
children of God who had learned to share
His infinite interests. They had their reading
clubs, their library, their frequent meetings in
which they asked and answered questions which
very likely extended as far as Arcturus, which
ran back beyond 1453, an d ran forward who
shall say how much further ? And, because they
had such training, no one of those people was in-
quiring whether Jane Smith should have bought
a new bonnet or re-trimmed the old one, nor
the other question, whether the inquirer him-
self rightly understood the book of Revelation
or the ninety-ninth Proverb.

Such suggestions as to the larger life have an
important place in these new discussions as to
the enlargement of our Sunday-school training.
The class of boys which is restive when you ask
them to follow the track of Saint Paul will take
new interest when John reports that the express-
man has brought him a bow and arrow from an
Indian. The little boy who has been snubbed
at school because he could not give the rules for



dividing a vulgar fraction into its components,
wakes up into an intelligent fellow-worker with
God when you tell him that the box he nailed up
last January came out among some Eskimos for
whom Dr. Grenfell was caring at Ungava.
The larger life of all sorts and conditions of men
has a stimulus for him which he did not suspect
when he was told that he was the dunce of the


IN the "Reconstruction of the World," the
purpose is that it may be one world instead
of four or five worlds; one America in-
stead of two; Europe and Asia helping
each other, and refusing to perpetuate the old
Trojan feud of Priam against Agamemnon; one
Africa, with the Mediterranean as close to the
Cape of Good Hope as New York is to San
Francisco. These three enterprises must be set
forward at once. It is foolish to leave them to
private speculations or the mere greed of de-
mand and supply. Europe, for instance, which
needs relief on the east for the crowded peas-
antry, who ought to be freemen, and to find food
on the rich wastes of Siberia. But it is absurd
to ask the starving German peasant to "chip in"



from his penury to build the railway on which
he and his shall be carried to Siberia.

Our part in this business is to create the Inter-
national Railway, which shall carry all comers
and all goers from Hudson's Bay to Patagonia,
if they choose to go so far or, if they choose,
from Patagonia to Hudson's Bay.

As long ago as the first Pan-American Con-
gress, the first steps were taken for this great
work of nations. The reports of the engineers
who have been surveying the routes are now in
most instances completed, and we can speak with
more confidence of the future.

The railway must be built with four tracks,
to give assurance from the beginning that it shall
be equal to all requisitions. In many instances
it will follow lines now existing, at least at first.
But this is no matter of local corporations, to
be managed at the whim of local politics or local
profit. It is an enterprise for the benefit of
mankind ; and the nations concerned, as they have
watched over the beginning, must hold a com-
plete control in the daily management of the

The object is the easier intercourse between
man and man. It involves the better mutual
understanding of different races. In the case of
the American railway, it reveals to us of the

[ 149]


North that of which we know so little of the
life of the South. The beauty and wonder of
the scenery of South America, the infinite abun-
dance of the natural resources there, are quite
unknown to us now.
The curtain is to rise.

Take the people who are reading these words.
A quarter part of those who are of age have
travelled in Europe within the last twenty years.
But has one-twentieth part of these ever been
in South America ? There are mountains in the
Andes ranges far higher than the Alps. Has
one American seen Chimborazo out of twenty
who have pictures of the Matterhorn in their
apartment? Mrs. Reader could take the train
for Mexico next Monday morning, and drive to
her hotel there on Saturday, without sullying a
white satin slipper; she need not leave her palace
car more than two or three times on the way.
Yet Mrs. Reader and Miss Spellman and fifty
of their friends have within the last five years
spent a month each in going to Rome and back,
for one of them who has spent February in

All this will change when we have our Inter-
national Railway.

If the past is to be repeated, no one need be



afraid to prophesy. Here is an intelligent and
experienced English traveller in South America,
who is certain that the basin of the Amazon
River is to be the centre of the world's civiliza-
tion, as the ^Egean Sea was the heart of an older
civilization, as the Mediterranean was the heart
of a later civilization, and as London, Paris and
Berlin have been the centres of civilization for a
century or two past.*

I am afraid that dear Mrs. Reader and Miss
Spellman, perhaps and our old friend Mrs. Wise-
man, will say that the English prophet is a fool.
Perhaps he is ; I do not know. What I do know
is that ninety-nine years ago Robert Livingston,
when he had bought from Napoleon the better
half of North America, wrote back to President
Jefferson to say: "I have told them that we
shall not send an emigrant across the Missis-
sippi in one hundred years." That is what the
wisest American of his time thought of the val-
ley of the Mississippi then, and the valley of the
Mississippi means a smaller basin than this val-
ley of the Amazon.

What if the English prophet had gone into
detail? What if he had said: "Before a cen-
tury is over there will be a commercial city of
three hundred thousand people at the mouth of

*Baker, the friend and companion of Tyndall.


the Amazon. A thousand miles up the river
there will be a city of more than half a million
people. The tributary rivers water the prairies,
where, before a hundred years pass, there shall
be twenty cities, each of which shall have more
than a hundred thousand people. They shall
maintain libraries and museums and universities,
such as are not now known in the world at the
moment I am writing." This is what Living-
ston could have said of his valley in 1803, if
he had dared to prophesy the truth.

Well, just now the average American has the
use of the powers of unconscious Nature which
he has been harnessing in the last century. It
is quite within bounds to say that the average
American commands one thousand times as
much force wooed or won from Nature as he had
a century ago. Thus far is a good God ready
to help him, a God whose child he is and of
whose nature he partakes.

Who dares to say, with the experience of the
nineteenth century, what the twentieth century
may not do with the basin of the Amazon?

Will the International Railway perhaps point
to some energetic Toussaint, or Douglas, or
Washington, the tropical homes of ten or twenty
millions of men of the African race, whose an-
cestors were torn from their own tropical Africa
one or two centuries ago ?



IT is difficult to make the men of affairs in
America understand that the establish-
ment of international courts is a part of
the business programme of the new cen-

This is perceived in Europe by statesmen,
jurists, bankers, and merchants, not with una-
nimity, indeed, but with a common consent and
a desire for action which is not appreciated in
America and is not shared here.

For our apparent indifference there are two
causes : First, that it is thirty-seven years, more
than a generation of men, since we were involved
in any serious war. The hundred days' war of
1898 was not long enough nor on a scale large
enough to derange commerce, manufacture, agri-
culture, or finance, which is so inter-linked with
commerce, agriculture and manufacture.

Second, the cause of peace, simply because of
its appeal to every tender sentiment, has been rel-
egated into the inferior position of what the na-
tional phrase calls a side show. And the fact
that poets and preachers and little children and
women dislike war, with the other fact that they
have been very apt to talk very foolishly
in what they have said about it, has consigned



what is called the peace cause in the general
mind to a sort of outside limbo. The leaders
of the press would say frankly that it is
what they call a back number. The news-
boys, and older boys not their equals in intelli-
gence, would say squarely that there is no money
in it. The men of affairs, it is true, know better.
Any powder maker will tell you that more pow-
der is used in five years of peace than in five years
of war. Any experienced banker will tell you
that the speculations which hinge on victories
and defeats are much more dangerous in war
times than the speculations of prosperity.
Every man who studies social progress knows
that peace leads to plenty. But, while men of
sense and leaders of finance and students of soci-
ology make the public opinion of a century, it
is not they who make the public opinion of a
given forenoon, or the other opinion of the after-
noon of the same day. And so is it, that the
indifference of the newsboy class does not con-
form with the conviction of the men who think
and contrive and decide, the conviction of the
men of affairs.

The last ten years have shown that this is all
different in Europe. The press of Europe was
more or less languid regarding international
courts, but the men who direct finance, the men



who watch with personal interest the great move-
ments of commerce, have shown no such indif-
ference. Thus, when the Emperor Nicholas
issued his famous rescript, the English press was
at first coy, or, at best, doubtful. "Was the
Czar fooling the world? Did the Czar lie?
Did anybody care?" These questions were
tossed about a little, before the daily readers.
But so soon as the great bankers expressed them-
selves, as the corporations of the great cities
expressed themselves, Lord Salisbury and the
Government expressed themselves with great
definiteness, and England was in the fore-front
of the combination which forced through the
three conventions of Brussels.

Indeed, now, if you wish to say the conven-

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Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 8 of 15)