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

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tional and genteel thing about The Hague con-
ference, you say, "Of course, we knew it must
go through." In fact, you say you had told the
world it would go through; but, really, that the
conference did not go near far enough, and left
undone what it ought to have done.

This change of base in England, and the con-
trast to-day between their work and the Amer-
ican indifference in this matter, show that they
understand better there than most people do here
how close is the relation between general peace
and general prosperity. Indeed, the whole



"WE, THE PEOPLE*



British Empire is occupied at this time by an ob-
ject lesson which keeps public opinion well up to
certain decisions on that point, which it might
not have made without daily reminders. If a
little war with a little nation which has no army
or navy or arsenals costs three hundred million
pounds a year, how much would a large war
cost ? It is a simple sum in arithmetic, but prac-
tice in it makes perfect, when you come to work-
ing it out with the larger figures.

That the real direction of affairs is now in
the hands of the men of affairs in America was
proved well enough by Mr. Cleveland's great
experiment in war. Mr. Cleveland chose, for
reasons which have never been quite understood,
to throw in three lines at the end of a dispatch,
which was not belligerent as originally drawn.
In these three lines he suggested the possi-
bility of a war between England and America.
Both countries, at the moment, were in profound
peace with a promise of unequalled prosperity.
In forty-eight hours all this was changed. As a
black thunder cloud rises on a summer sky, the
black threat of war chilled all this prospect.
Every man of business had to take in sail. En-
gagements for the future had to be cancelled.
Contracts were thrown up ; and it would be fair
to say that the nation lost a step which till this
year it has not regained.



THE NEW CENTURY



At that moment a little committee of men of
affairs in the City of New York called together
a convention of men of business of the country.
They did not wait to have the men chosen ; they
named their four hundred leaders of the country,
from all the forty-five States, and even from the
Territories. These men were called to consider
the necessity of peace and the possibilities of
arbitration. They were called and they came.
They spent three days in a meeting at Washing-
ton, and when they went home the world of
affairs knew that the business men of this country
did not mean to have any war with England.

Such an uprising of men of affairs does the
world a great deal of good. The announce-
ment in 1898 by the capitalists of London that
they meant to stand by the Czar, and by anybody
else who believed in peace, did a great deal of
good. It created The Hague conference, and
we owe to such an announcement the three
Hague Conventions, which are now the law of
the world.

M. De Bloch, the author of "The War of
the Future," understood that the business of the
pacification of the world is changed from what
it was. It is no longer a matter of Sunday. It
is a matter of week-days. It is no longer a
theme for speeches to the galleries. It is the

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, THE PEOPLE"



foundation for the commerce, the manufacture,
the business, in a word, of mankind. And his
last published word to the world was an answer
to the question, "How to widen the plan." He
addressed it to the men who met at Glasgow
last spring.

It should be on the desk of the new Secretary
of Peace, and on the desk of every banking house.
There is no sing-song in it, and no sugar candy.
It tells the hard, square truth about war and the
changes which have come to armies and soldiers.
It tells the square truth about peace, and the
chances for peace and against it. If the peace
societies do not care to go into such work as
M. De Bloch assigned to them in his dying
words, why, the Chambers of Commerce, the
Boards of Trade, will take it out of their hands.

AROUND HOME.

N r OTHING has done so much good for
the sturdiness and success of American
life as the pride of our people in their
own homes. And this is right it is
just as it should be. Long before the Declara-
tion of Independence the people of Paxton, as
the people in fifty other towns in New England,
declared war against George III.

[158]



THE NEW CENTURY



That is, in town meeting they ordered their
selectmen to order powder enough and bullets
enough for all the men of those towns to use
when the time should come for fighting George
III.

An English traveller said to me one day that
in passing from Boston to San Francisco and
back again nothing amused him so much as the
number of home celebrations. It was the anni-
versary of that battle, or it was the anniversary
of the laying of the cornerstone of the church.

People got together and stroked each other's
hair and congratulated each other that they were
born in Lexington, or in Lawrence, or in Denver.
It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of this or the
one hundredth anniversary of that.

If this traveller had but known it, it is such
pride in one's home which has made America a
different place from Europe, and makes it
worth while to live in America. If in any city
outside of Paris, in France, I should ask the gen-
tleman at whose home I was visiting how they
arranged for the health of the community, how
they kept the water supply from contamination,
or how they arranged the sewage, he would say :
"Oh, they settle that for us in Paris; they send
down the proper man, who arranges it all. I
really cannot tell you about it. If it is necessary

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"WE, THE PEOPLE*



for you to know I can give you a note to head-
quarters."

If I put the same question in a town here my
host himself is able and reliable; he has served
on the Board of Health; if in New England, he
has been one of the selectmen. He has been a
county supervisor ; at the very least he has voted
for this policy or that policy in the supply of
the water or in the drainage of the town.

As one knocks about, going over the country,
he sees the necessity of preserving this local feel-
ing, of interesting people in what they have at
home.

The teacher of every school, public or private,
ought to call the attention of the children to their
local history, to their local advantages, and so
make them proud that they live in that particular
place. "The company that saved the day at
Bennington or at Herkimer was formed on the
green in front of the church. Walter, your
grandfather was there, and you must make your
father tell you the story, and next Wednesday
you shall tell it to the school."

Or there is some peculiarity in the vegetation
of the neighborhood. "How many of the chil-
dren know that such and such ferns grow here
which grow nowhere else in New York? Last
August there was a gentleman here who came
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THE NEW CENTURY



all the way from Washington to see those ferns
at the right season."

In some of the newer States of the West they
have what they call the "Country's Day," or
"Patriot's Day," that the children who have
come from Norway or Sweden, or Bulgaria or
Arabia, may know that it is a good thing to live
in America, and that it is a different thing from
living in countries governed as those countries
were governed.

I know of schools where at the end of the
autumn term and the winter term and the spring
term there is a regular celebration, in which the
boys and girls "speak pieces" taken from our
best public speakers. They sing patriotic songs,
they buy a new flag, if the old one is worn out,
they make a sort of holiday of the day, so that
those children may grow up with some knowl-
edge of the privileges and duties of the country
which they are to govern.

There is not one of those boys but will be
glad to give his first vote when he is twenty-one
years old. There is not one of those girls but
will be glad to sew a button on his coat for him
if he should go out with the Forty-ninth Regi-
ment or the Fiftieth. And the people who run
those schools mean that when that time comes
the boys and girls shall know what they are
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, THE PEOPLE"



going to vote for and what they are going to
fight for.

A well-informed man said to me in Chicago
that the resolution and pride with which a Chi-
cago man speaks for his city and works for his
city can be compared with nothing but the sim-
ilar pride with which in the best days of Athens
an Athenian lived for Athens.

I think this pride and the determination to
improve the city is a very valuable part of the
make-up of Chicago. Every man wants to
maintain his pride in his country, his pride in his
State, his pride in the town to which he belongs.

Everything that the schools can do, and the
pulpit and the journals, ought to be done, that
the boys and girls may be proud and glad that
they live where they do and work where they do,
and that they know why.



[162]



ANNIVERSARIES



History

OCTOBER TWENTY-ONE WHAT?

I AM fond of puzzling my younger friends
on this day and saying, "To-day is the
most important day in Modern History:
What is it?" And in eleven times out of
twenty, they do not know.

All the same, "The Admiral upon the castle
of the poop of the ship at ten o'clock at night,
on the eleventh of October, 1492, saw a great
light. After he spoke of it to Pedro Gutierrez,
the light was seen once or twice. The Admiral
was certain that it was a sign of land."

In a judicial examination which determined
the award of a prize offered to the first person
who saw the New World, that prize was awarded
to the Admiral himself, Christopher Columbus.
He was not in his berth that night, you may be
sure of that. "He was on deck," as our fine
American proverb has it; and he was "looking
forward and not back." He saw a light and
reported what he saw to the others. A light in
the darkness, that is the token, or what the
Indians call a "totem," of this New World.



, THE PEOPLE"



In 1790, or thereabouts, the Academy of
Lyons in France offered a purse of one thousand
Louis d'or for the best essay on the advantages
which the great discovery had brought to man-
kind. Francs, observe, were not known, nor
Napoleons. We still offered prizes in Louis
d'or.

To tell the whole truth, the thinking world of
Europe, excepting the political enthusiasts, didn't
take much stock in America just then. The gen-
eral opinion of the "respectable classes," who
have money in their pockets, or of that larger
class who wish they had, was against America.
America was always the cause of war. The per-
petual influx of gold and silver into Europe
steadily reduced the value of money. All debts
were always paid in a lower currency than that
in which they were made.

The Academy never gave any prize, but Ray-
nal had proposed it, and several essays were writ-
ten in competition. Chastellux, the man who
supplied brains to Rochambeau, wrote for it, and
a man named Genty printed his own paper. He
was a French censor who gave the government
permits to print books or journals. I believe I
am the only person alive who ever read his book.
I found it worth reading. He thinks he has to
admit that the influence on trade and politics
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HISTORY

thus far had been bad. But at the very end of
his dark picture, he says the independence of the
Anglo-Americans is the event most likely to
accelerate the revolution which is to renew the
happiness of the world.

Within three months of the anniversary, poor
France had beheaded her King and the Reign of
Terror was begun. They had but little chance
then to inquire whether Jesuit bark or Peruvian
silver did them good or harm.

In the hundred and ten years which have
passed since, it has proved that the poor forgot-
ten Abbe Genty knew what he was talking about.
It has proved that the great political, social,
moral, and religious lesson which this half of
the world has taught to the other half is worth
a thousand times as much to it as all the commer-
cial benefits which the essayists of that time
wrote about. It has proved that commerce, as
always, is companion of civilization and religion.
And, at the same time, it has proved that civili-
zation and religion direct commerce and the
handiwork of men.

What with imperial government and different
forms of paganism, some of which take very
fine names; what with feudalism and "barons and
squires and knights of the shires," the Old World
could not work out the great experiments of the

[167]



, THE PEOPLE"



Christian religion. But it also proved that
whenever feudalism landed on what man
thought the most barren part of America the
seashore between Labrador and Florida feu-
dalism died in half an hour. It has proved that
government of the people, for the people, by
the people would work out the salvation of the
people, not only in petty villages, but in the man-
agement of a great nation. And this great gift
America has given to the world. God wanted
white paper for His Gospel, and when Columbus
landed on San Salvador that white paper was
unrolled.

Give me white paper !

This which you use is black and rough with smears
Of sweat and grime and fraud and blood and tears,
Crossed with the story of men's sins and fears,
Of battle and of famine all these years,
When all God's children have forgot their birth,
And drudged and fought and died like beasts of earth.

Give me white paper!

One storm-trained seaman listened to the word;

What no man saw, he saw ; he heard what no man heard ;
In answer he compelled the sea
To eager man to tell
The secret she had kept so well.

Left blood and guilt and tyranny behind,

Sailing still west the hidden shore to find;

For all mankind that unstained scroll unfurled,

Where God might write anew the story of the world.

[168]



HISTORY

DANIEL WEBSTER.

IT is fifty years ago to-day since Daniel Web-
ster died. His last words, "I still live,"
may be well remembered after all the
years of half a century.

His own college celebrated the centennial of
his commencement a year ago. I do not remem-
ber any other such celebration. Few men, in-
deed, are remembered in the same way. We live
in to-day, as we ought to live. And few men live
for to-morrow so successfully that they may ex-
pect that the world will stop after a hundred
years to remember the date of a commencement.

But Webster's life made its mark. A distin-
guished officer who served as a young man in
the Civil War, said to me when he had just come
home, "I will tell you what sent me into the
army. It was speaking Webster's speeches at
school. "Liberty and union, now and forever,
one and inseparable." Nobody can even guess
how many Northern boys would say the same
thing. And now that the United States is a
nation, it is hard to make anybody believe that
there were times when such lessons were needed.

There is a queer if in Webster's history, which
tempts some curious questions. He began the
practice of law in his own State, New Hamp-

[169]



, THE PEOPLE'



shire. His first speeches in Congress were made
when he represented a New Hampshire district.
I think he was in Washington when a fire de-
stroyed his home and his valuable library in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Should he re-
build? It was to be a turning-point of his life.

And he knew then as well as he knew in 1852
that New York is the Empire State. He went
to Albany, to consider the question whether he
would not go to Albany to live.

Were there perhaps too many promising law-
yers there for a young New Hampshire attorney
of thirty-three years to venture to put up his
shingle there? At all events, Mr. Webster
turned down Albany, and went to Boston.
From that time, one might say fairly, he directed
the politics of Massachusetts for thirty years,
not longer.

But as I say, if he had come to Albany, what
then?

Be it remembered that the "Missouri ques-
tion," the first anti-slavery question, loomed up
just afterwards. Be it remembered that when
every Northern representative who voted for
Mr. Clay's compromise was thrown out of the
line by his constituents, Mr. Webster headed the
opposition to slavery in Massachusetts. In
1 822 he was sent to Congress purely on Northern



HISTORY

grounds. The philosopher Emerson, not long
out of college, wrote in triumph:

"By dint of much electioneering, the good
cause has succeeded, and we are sending our
giant down among you false Sothrons. We are
proudly anticipating the triumph of the North-
ern interest to be gained or to be achieved by
Mr. Webster. ... I think Mr. Webster had
about two-thirds of the whole number of votes."

What would have happened to the country
IF, IF in his office in Albany, Daniel Webster
had taken up the sceptre which Rufus King was
laying down? Perhaps some of the young gen-
tlemen or ladies will write for us, "The Apoc-
ryphal Daniel Webster;" as a bright Frenchman
once wrote "The Apocryphal Napoleon."

It seems queer enough to any one who grew up
in a school of old-time Abolitionists to speak of
Mr. Webster as a possible leader of theirs. But
the passage above shows the feeling in 1822.
People did not talk much about slavery. But
they did begin to know that there was a North
and a South. And Mr. Webster was already
recognized as a great Northern leader. When
"nullification" was asserted as right and duty,
Mr. Webster appeared as the great Union lead-
er. When Andrew Jackson coolly informed
Mr. Calhoun that if he did not look out he would



, THE PEOPLE"



be hanged, when he gave his famous toast, "The
Federal Union, it must be preserved," Mr.
Webster and he were in accord. Men even said
that Webster wrote one of "Old Hickory's"
messages. And when, only a few years after
Massachusetts had given Jackson but a fourth
part of her popular vote, he made a "progress"
in Massachusetts, and was received with the
utmost enthusiasm, because he and Mr. Webster
had "saved the Union."

It is, I suppose, an open secret, that after
General Harrison's death, when Webster was
still Secretary of State, he still wished to lead the
North against the South. It is believed that in
1841, when he was still in the Cabinet, he laid
before the party leaders of the Whigs of New
England his conviction that they must take dis-
tinctly the Northern view as against the Southern
encroachments. He tried to persuade them to
do so. The "Conscience Whigs" said "Yes."
But the "Cotton Whigs" said "No." Mr. Web-
ster found that his own party leaders disowned
him. He went back to Washington a disgusted
and disappointed man. And he obeyed in his
fashion his tried counsellors. But to support
him he had always that passion for union which
had been his ruling passion since he was a boy.
And he had the wish for peace which every lover

[ 172]



HISTORY



of his country has. And when he gave his un-
willing assent in his March yth speech, on the
Compromise of 1852, all men knew that the
issue was yes or no on the matter of the Civil
War.

This determination to maintain the Union is
what men remember of Daniel Webster. They
do not sit in judgment on this or that question
of method or detail.



FOREFATHERS' DAY.

THE celebration of the Forefathers' land-
ing falls very naturally into ecclesias-
tical hands, because the Plymouth
Church gives the first visible, concrete
illustration in English history of the establish-
ment of a church absolutely independent. I like
to remind my ecclesiastical friends of what they
do not like to be reminded of. They are very
glad to say that here was a "church without a
bishop," taking Mr. Choate's fine epigram of
fifty years ago. So it was. But they are not
apt to to say that it was a church without any or-
dained minister. There had been no laying on
of hands by anybody. William Brewster, who
preached to them, preached to them because he



, THE PEOPLE"



was a good man and could preach. If they cel-
ebrated the Lord's Supper and 1 think they did
the Lord's Supper was simply the repast of
brethren and sisters who passed the bread and
wine from hand to hand. No one of them was
in any sort or sense or pretence the superior in
authority to any other. When I say this to my
ecclesiastical friends, they say, "Yes" very
much obliged to me for saying it ; and then they
turn the conversation in another direction. And
all the same it is true.

What is important to observe when we study
the history of that first generation, and the his-
tory nearly parallel of the first thirty years of
the settlers in the Bay, is this: the ecclesiastical
independence led directly to political independ-
ence, pure and simple.

The five-and-twenty men from Leyden who
survived their first winter in Plymouth went to
a religious meeting or to a political meeting with
just the same warrant. Equals before God, they
were equals in the State. Ecclesiastical tyranny
had compelled them to consider the rights of
men in their worship of God. And they had
come out on the conclusion which all Protestant
Christendom has come out on to-day that one
man's right in this business is as good as an-
other's. After three centuries we understand

[174]



HISTORY

what perhaps they did not comprehend, that we
are all of the nature of God Himself not sim-
ply His creatures, but His children. They had
crossed the water, they were literally in a new
world, because in the Old World they could not
maintain this absolute equality of the children
as they nestled in their Father's arms, and their
absolute independence of all power excepting
His power. If anybody cares, they added that
word "independence" to the English language,
because under the feudal system nobody had ever
wanted any such word before their time. Here
they got what they wanted. Nobody chose to
follow them, so that they were, of course, inde-
pendent.

I do not suppose they expected what followed.
Literally, as Mr. Emerson said, they builded
better than they knew. Independence in wor-
ship had been worth coming for. And, lol as
always happens to those who sought first the
kingdom of God, all the things of earth were
added added, if you please, to their own sur-
prise. Everything was added which is worth
more than a straw or a feather. Equality before
the law was added. This means education of
each and all. It means open promotion for each
and all. Yes, it means equal duty for each and
all, because it means equal privilege for each and

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WE, THE PEOPLE 1



all. I must do my part. You must do yours.
If the reader is in the State called Massachu-
setts, and while he reads, men should rush in and
tell him that the block of buildings were on fire,
if he should hurry into the street, and the officer
in charge thought he needed him in the high
story of the burning block to carry a leading
hose or to carry an order, he must go. Because
he is a citizen of the State, he is a servant of the
State. That is to say, the American citizen does
not obey the law given by any superior. He
obeys the law made by himself and the rest of the
people. "All for each, and each for all." This
principle laid itself down when those twenty
weavers and dyers and spinners and printers met
together in their first town meeting : equality in
duty, the equality of privilege, the equality of
right before the law.

Observe, then, that these twenty or twenty-
five men meet at the call of the governor whom
they have themselves appointed. It is not any
King Egbert or King James who calls his faith-
ful commons together to consult or to advise
him. It is John Carver or William Bradford,
whom they have themselves appointed to sum-
mon them on whatever emergency. Certain
necessities have shown themselves. Perhaps a
pier must be run out from the Plymouth Rock
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HISTORY

for the shallop. Perhaps a bridge must be built
across the brook; or shall it be a furlong farther
up ? Or matters must be decided for the future.
If some lazy dog refuses to work, shall he be
flogged and shall he be set in the stocks? Who
shall flog him? Who shall lock the padlock,
and who shall unlock it? See, from the begin-
ning, how different this is from feudal law. It
is no longer I, the baron, will flog you, John
Doe, or will tell my tip-staves to do it. It is
"We, the People, in this storeroom, determine
that, if any one of us refuse obedience to any
one of our laws, our officer shall flog that man or
shall imprison him." This distinction of origin,
purpose, and method, runs down to the present
time.

It is queer enough that the European writers
cannot be made to understand it. They think


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Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleWe, the people : a series of papers on topics of to-day → online text (page 9 of 15)